Tag Archive for comic

The Walking Dead Weekend

If you’re like me, you haven’t seen all of The Walking Dead yet. There could be any number of reasons. For example, AMC premiered the show on Halloween. Home haunters were a little preoccupied with keeping trick or treaters from dying in their yards to watch the premiere live. I know I fell behind instantly. At this point, I’ve seen most of season one and the last few minutes a few season two episodes.

There is officially no excuse not to catch up before Season 3 premieres. AMC has announced that 7-8 July is The Walking Dead Weekend. They will be airing a marathon of all 19 episodes so far. The event caps off with a one-two punch of never before seen content.

walkingdeadweekendfanservice The Walking Dead Weekend

It's what you've already seen, only in stylish black and white

First is the one time only airing of a live Talking Dead special. Chris Hardwick hosts a rotating panel of guest commentators who do recaps of The Walking Dead after the episode airs. What I’ve seen of Talking Dead is the kind of nerdy analysis I specialize in over here at Sketchy Details.

More important is the special black and white cut of the original pilot. The episode has been edited to match the look and style of The Walking Dead comic. That’s a genius move to pull fans back in. Season 2 was criticized for losing focus on the story. Why not buy the fans back with pure comic fan baiting?

Will you be tuning in? I’ve already blocked out my schedule. Sound off below.

TinTin in The 1.6Million Dollar Auction

The TinTin comics are a worldwide phenomenon. Just look at the international receipts for Steven Spielberg’s TinTin movie. The film only did in $78million in America, but took in $297million internationally. That’s almost four times as much overseas than in the States.

tintininamericapost TinTin in The 1.6Million Dollar Auction

The original artwork shows TinTin and Snowy being tracked

Is it any wonder then that the rarest of rare TinTin originals took in a staggering 1.6million dollars in auction this weekend? According to Comic Riffs, the cover art to TinTin in America is only one of five surviving original cover pieces by Herge. This auction broke the record for most expensive comic art piece by almost $700,000.

The current record for most expensive comic book auction is $2.16million for an original Action Comics (Superman’s debut) last November. The older the medium gets, the more attention these originals will receive.

It doesn’t hurt that comics are central in the pop culture zeitgeist right now. The Avengers just passed The Dark Knight to be the third highest grossing film of all time. Marvel announced the wedding of two gay X-Men and DC announced that the current Green Lantern is gay.

Everything old is new again and TinTin visiting the Old West is now a million dollar property.

What comic art would you want for your collection? I could go for some X-Men The Dark Phoenix Saga original boards, myself. What about you? Sound off below.

Marvel Does Good: The Story of The Blue Ear

Marvel Comics has never been a company to shy away from teaching moments in its comic books. In the 1970s, Marvel published a trio of Spider-Man comics as part of an anti-drug campaign. New characters are constantly introduced in the X-Men universe to reflect social trends and storylines inspired by real life events continually pop up. They explore death, corruption, and–broad strokes here–people with different abilities.

This is why I’m not surprised by the origin of The Blue Ear. When Marvel gets the chance to do good things, they do good things.

The Blue Ear is inspired by a four year old boy named Anthony Smith. Anthony is hearing impaired and decided one day that he did not want to wear his hearing aids to school anymore. He told his mother, Christina D’Allesandro, “superheroes do not wear blue ears (the brand of hearing aid he uses).”

theblueearcomic Marvel Does Good: The Story of The Blue Ear

The Blue Ear springs into action with his super powered hearing aid

His mother decided to look into the matter. She contacted Marvel and was told all about the series of Hawkeye comics where the hero was deafened in an accident and had to wear hearing aids. That alone could have been enough to get Anthony Smith to start wearing his to school again.

Marvel couldn’t stop there. Marvel editor Lauren Sankovith forwarded Christine’s letter to artist Nelson Ribeiro and asked if he could do something for Anthony. He took the blue ear brand, added “the” in front of it, and came up with The Blue Ear. The Blue Ear’s superpower comes from his hearing aid that lets him pick up distress calls and help people.

Ribiero has sent two illustrations to Anthony Smith so far and explains the entire experience at his blog.

I’m interested in finding out if there are any plans to expand upon The Blue Ear mythology. This story blew up over the weekend, being covered everywhere from Bit Rebels to Gawker and even TV news stations. There’s an interest in the hero and a clear use for children all over the world to learn about hearing impairment. Will they capitalize on this momentum or will this peak as a small act of kindness for a Marvel fan?

What do you think? Would you read The Blue Ear? Sound off below.

Film Review: The Avengers (2012)

Is this what Joss Whedon is like when he gets to control everything on his productions? If so, I love this side of him. The Avengers could have easily been a catastrophe. Instead, under his steady hand, it might actually be the superhero movie that plays the most like a living comic book.

theavengershatred Film Review: The Avengers (2012)

Spoiler Alert: They all hate each other.

Loki has returned to Earth to steal The Tesseract–a glowing blue cube of pure energy–from S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters to take over the world. The S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives convince the members of the disbanded Avengers project to come back together, reclaim the cube, and save the Earth. However, their egos are so huge that they refuse to cooperate. Tony Stark/Iron Man tries to make Bruce Banner transform into The Hulk. Thor uses any opportunity he can to attack Captain America. And nobody trusts the S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives, Black Widow included.

Though the exposition starts out slow (many of the flashier scenes in the first forty minutes could have been trimmed down to flow better), The Avengers regains its footing when the heroes finally assembly. From there, it’s a joy to watch.

Joss Whedon captures the essence of the characters while softening their speaking patterns to mesh in the same universe. Thor still speaks in antiquated English, but he’s no longer performing like he’s at a poetry reading. Tony Stark is snarky, but not the unbeatable wit. Bruce Banner is self-effacing without self-pity and Captain America is out of touch with modern times but able to hold a conversation. Black Widow and Hawkeye are given strong, clear character traits that balance out the dynamics of the team.

theavengersblackwidowhulk Film Review: The Avengers (2012)

The action is almost as impressive as the drum tight story.

The fight scenes–verbal and physical–are some of the best to appear in a comic book movie. Some of the arguments are more thrilling than the big budget effects. Whedon wisely puts a lot of focus on Black Widow and Hawkeye’s hand to hand combat skills to demonstrate their worth to the team. Yes, it’s still silly when Black Widow pulls out a hand gun to fight an alien invasion, but at least you know she can best anyone in close range combat.

Everything, from the performances to the staging to the storyline, comes back to Joss Whedon. The man understands how comic books work. He also understands that you could never just film a comic panel by panel and make a good movie. Whedon plays within the film framework established in The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and the two Iron Mans rather than source the story entirely from the comics.

It’s pretty well known at this point that Joss Whedon was told Loki would be the main villain. Everything else was up to him. He succeeded. There’s no other way to say it.

The only real failing of The Avengers is having to reintroduce all of the players in the movie. That’s the source of the minor pacing problems at the start but it is unavoidable. If he didn’t reintroduce everyone, the film would be inaccessible to non-comic/superhero fans. If he did reintroduce everyone, it would be a retread of all the other movies the comic/superhero fans watched. To Whedon’s credit, it didn’t feel like a brick of exposition dropped down for the first act of the movie. I just think it could have moved a little quicker.

theavengershawkeye Film Review: The Avengers (2012)

Good news! Hawkeye actually has scenes and dialogue and everything.

That’s honestly the one bad thing I can say about this film. The Avengers is the kind of blockbuster you wish Hollywood would consistently make. It’s smart, it’s funny, and it’s planned out down to the last detail. No plots are dropped. No characters are relegated to nothing roles. Everyone who is introduced plays an important role in the story and every scene fits into the plot like a puzzle piece.

There are times that The Avengers tips its hand to silliness. Even that fits. It is a comic book movie. Frankly, more people would be disappointed if someone didn’t say “Hulk smash” or if Iron Man didn’t get beat up due to technical flaws in his suit.

If you like superhero movies, you won’t be disappointed. I can’t even imagine someone genuinely hating The Avengers if they actually watch it. It’s just fun.

Rating: 8/10

Thoughts? Love to hear them.

Comic Book Obscenity Laws; or, the Case of Brandon X

What do you use to read when you’re traveling? Do you pack up magazines and books or go all digital on your laptop or eReader? Do you ever stop at a shop in the bus station, airport, or train station and pick up a comic to read? An act as benign as carrying a comic book at an international border can be enough to get you in some serious legal trouble.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) had a table set up in the main hallway of the MangaNEXT convention. They had stacks of raffle tickets, artwork, pins, and pamphlets to raise awareness and raise money for this very issue. I spent a little bit of time talking to the workers at the table throughout the weekend to find out what was happening.

Brandon X, as he’s being called, is facing serious legal trouble in Canada over comics. Specifically, he had a collection of manga on his laptop. Customs officials in Canada asked to see his cellphone, iPad, and laptop. It is within their rights and jurisdiction to search electronic media at customs. When the customs official saw the wide-eyed child-like style of manga, they interpreted it as child pornography. The CBLDF is not releasing the names of the titles in question, but they plainly state that these were not pornographic titles.

 Comic Book Obscenity Laws; or, the Case of Brandon X

The logo for the CBLDF's work on the Brandon X case

Now, Brandon X faces a minimum sentence of one year in prison and having to register as a sex offender for having manga on his laptop. Let that sink in for a minute. A twenty-something guy could have a black mark follow him the rest of his life because a customs official wasn’t familiar with manga art. I can only hope that the trial makes it quite clear how absurd the charges are and Brandon X gets out unscathed.

There are a few takeaways from this incident. One, it is not isolated. Comic artists Tom Neely and Dylan Williams had books they were carrying over the US/Canadian border confiscated last May due to allegedly obscene material. One book featured two first year art students kissing–they looked too much like children–and the other book featured dark humor bordering on horror used as satire–naughty things with corpses. The books were seized and shipped to Ottawa to be examined for an official ruling on whether or not books already published in Canada were obscene material.

The second point is the nature of obscene material. It’s not enough at the US/Canadian border to explain how the wide-eyed characters of traditional manga art are not children. You have to prove, in context, the age of the characters. If they do anything even remotely romantic in nature (like kissing, as Neely and Williams learned), you will face problems caused by the allegedly obscene content. It’s not just child-like characters that can raise eyes of customs agents. Anything that can be deemed obscene–violence, sex, depravity of any kind–can result in legal problems.

The third point is a major one. Until last weekend, I had no idea this happened. Comics are comics, book are books, and so long as they’re published legally, there shouldn’t be a problem, right? Obviously, I was wrong.

initiationofsarah4 Comic Book Obscenity Laws; or, the Case of Brandon X

Is this image from The Initial of Sarah obscene because of the lack of context?

I took a look through my own laptop while working on this piece. In my screengrab folder alone (where I keep all images for online media writing), I found a picture of Homer Simpson tarred and feathered in his underwear, a handful of images featuring the young leads of Super 8 in tight quarters, a composite image of Nicki Minaj that looks childish on one side and overtly sexual on the other, and an entire folder of images of the animated opening sequence of The Happiness of the Katakuris in full eyeball ripping glory. How much of the content on my computer would be deemed obscene when I travel with my work?

What about the volumes on extreme horror and B-movie advertising that accompany me on all but weekend excursions? Are those obscene too? What about the webcomics in my bookmark folder or the archives of my own comic work? Some of those characters look like children even when they aren’t. Would I be facing obscenity charges if I crossed over into Canada today?

What we have with the story of Brandon X are two ways to help change this situation. First, you can give everyone you know a heads up about this issue. Share the CBLDF site, this post, or any information you find on issues of content censorship gone haywire. Knowledge is power and this subject is under-represented all over the place.

Second, you can consider joining to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The money won’t just be going to Brandon X’s trial costs. It’s used for all aspects of their work. The goals of the CBLDF are to fight censorship and raise awareness of censorship issues facing comic creators and fans alike. The funds are split between legal and educational efforts. Memberships start at $25. You can also donate directly to the CBLDF for a minimum of $5 or purchase donated items from artists and writers in their shop.

The case of Brandon X is not an isolated incident. Unless we work to raise awareness of censorship issues and fight against genre bias, he won’t be the last person to get in trouble for owning a comic book.

Thoughts? Love to hear them.

DC Universe and the Watchmen Prequels

DC Comics have decided to expand the Watchmen universe. Alan Moore’s famous short run series about a group of vigilante superheroes are forced to rejoin together to stop doomsday. It’s dark, it’s driven by character development instead of action, and is filled with twists that keep the story going in unexpected directions. It is a brilliant self-contained narrative that did a lot to help comics gain more respect as literature.

Alan Moore has no interest in revisiting Watchmen. It’s a rarity when he revisits any of his old work. Unfortunately for him, he does not own the rights to the Watchmen franchise. DC does.

DC unveiled its plans yesterday to release seven short run series for seven different characters in the Watchmen universe. Each one will be written by a different author and focus on a specific character’s origin story.

watchmenprequelsilkspectre 195x300 DC Universe and the Watchmen Prequels

Silk Spectre Revisited

Here’s my one concern with this decision. Didn’t Alan Moore already cover most of this territory in Watchmen? We know Silk Spectre is the daughter of the original Silk Spectre and The Comedian. We know that Ozymandias was a competitive gymnast with superior intellect who turned his superheroism into a massive corporation. We know all about the Minutemen, the original superhero alliance that spawned Silk Spectre II and changes to the laws regarding superheroes.

These backstories were not insignificant to the plot of Watchmen. They defined the book. The conditions in the world that led to these superheroes joining together against an unknown enemy were caused by their backstories. They’re heavily detailed and given enough weight to be memorable. The characters in the present respond to each other in specific ways because of the actions in the past that Moore chooses to write about.

watchmenprequelminutemen 195x300 DC Universe and the Watchmen Prequels

The Minutemen Assemble

This does not mean that these Watchmen prequels are doomed to fail. I actually look forward to them. Writers come and go all the time in comics. That doesn’t mean that there is an absolute decline in quality or intentions as a property grows and changes. The risk here is not creating a new Watchmen series but in choosing to retread ground that Alan Moore covered in great detail.

Yet it is Moore’s own writing that gives me hope for the project. He created a rich universe to explore. While Moore’s Watchmen is a complete package, that does not mean the cast of characters he created do not have more stories to tell.

Even more encouraging is Moore’s own work in other well-known universes. In 1988, DC put out a self-contained Batman story written by Alan Moore called The Killing Joke. Moore took four of the major characters in the Batman universe–Batman, the Joker, Commissioner Gordon, and Barbara Gordon–and created a twisted but faithful slant on the world of Gotham. The Joker sets out to drive Commissioner Gordon insane to prove that anyone can be forced into madness.

thekillingjokealanmoore 195x300 DC Universe and the Watchmen Prequels

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

Moore’s comic is a prequel for The Joker and a contemporary story in the Batman universe. In The Killing Joke, we learn that The Joker was once an engineer at a chemical plant. He quits his job to become a stand-up comedian but fails miserably. His wife encourages him to work with two criminals to rob the chemical plant. The criminals tell him before the heist that his wife is dead, throw him in a costume so he’ll be blamed as the mastermind of the crime, and put him face to face with Batman. That one day turned him into the criminally insane Joker.

Just think about the implications of this. Moore gives the Joker a strange but fitting new backstory that lines up well enough with what we knew about the character. He shakes up the lives of the Commissioner and his daughter forever by paralyzing her from the waist down. He reveals his dark origins to Batman and forces the hero to think like him for just one moment. DC comics ran with the changes as Batman continued.

Obviously, there is a difference between doing one issue of a long-running series and thirty new comics in a universe that only existed for twelve issues. While Moore himself does not support new Watchmen, his previous work in inserting his own ideas into pre-existing universes can act as a template for how this should go down.

The new writers need to stay faithful to Moore’s tone and content. They can’t just randomly change personalities and existing stories to do something new. A character wounded by a bullet can still be used. A character subjected to a personality transplant and all new abilities cannot be maintained.

I can only hope the Watchmen prequels stay true to the work of Alan Moore. The original run is well-respected for a good reason. I can only hope nothing will spoil that.

Thoughts? Love to hear them.

Follow: Hashtag the Planet

Hashtag the Planet is a one pane webcomic from artist Ann Merritt. Meritt works in a very different style from a lot of other webcomic creators. Her comics are not narrative or sight gag driven. She develops an idea inspired by her life into simple representational text and imagery.

hashtagtheplanet 1024x768 Follow: Hashtag the Planet

I had the chance to briefly meet the woman behind Hashtag the Planet at New York Comic Con last weekend. Her display was one of the more eye-catching ones in Artist Alley. The simple booth was framed with twin metal photography trees holding wrapped versions of her one pane comics. Her large black and white banner, candy-colored artwork, and bright demeanor were enough to draw a crowd for a very different style of art.

“I don’t have a set publishing schedule,” she said. “I try to get at least one a month, but sometimes can do one every two or three days. It really depends on if I’m inspired.”

Hashtag the Planet is, of all things, a product inspired by Twitter.

Fresh Ink Online is Offering Free Comics

Fresh Ink Online is G4TV.com’s weekly web series about what is happening in the world of comic books. Blair Butler takes you through the most notable new releases in her local comic shop. It’s a well-produced segment and Butler knows her stuff.

Check out last week’s video that includes the latest Walking Dead and G.I. Joe.

I have found so many interesting graphic novels and comic books to read because of this web series. Now G4TV is partnering with Graphicly, an computerized comic-viewing application, to make this search even easier.