Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy Two Years! -- In addition to wishing all of you a happy new year, I want to say CONGRATULATIONS to one of my favourite comics people, Fred Hembeck. Fred began his site two years ago today (January 1st -- why the hell didn't I think of that?!?), and has been providing his highly personal views on comics, current events and his family life ever since. His site is a daily stop for me, and I hope for you, too.

When I first made the journey from my childhood love of corporate comics (Marvel/DC/Archie/Harvey/Charlton pretty much defined my comics world from the ages of 6 to 14, and yes, they were on sale everywhere) into the greater comics universe of independents, alternatives and undergrounds, one of my most-loved guides was the work of Fred Hembeck, then being published by FantaCo, an Albany, New York retailer/publisher that did some great, visionary stuff in its time, that was truly ahead of its time in many ways. The Hembeck comics FantaCo published were packed cover-to-cover with the cartoonist's unique restylings of my childhood heroes, giving me perhaps for the first time an insight into the malleability of superheroes -- how they can be used for more than just mindless (and these days, mostly joyless, too) slugfests.

In those and other comics, Hembeck used his cartoon versions of Marvel and DC's icons to comment on comics history, providing both entertainment and education in a way that few other cartoonists have ever managed to do. His stuff was a seminal revelation for me, and it's a delight now, over two decades later, to not only be able to read new stuff from him on an almost daily basis, but also to have established a friendly e-mail relationship with him. He's exactly as decent and witty a guy as his comics suggest, and I'm very happy to see that his site is not only surviving, but thriving. (I bet some of you even remember that Comic Book Galaxy carried Fred (and Neil Polowin's) The Hembeck Files for a time, too!).

So, anyway, on to year three. Give 'em hell, Hembeck!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


Quite Exclusive -- The Pulse is posting a DC press release to the effect that artist Frank Quitely is now exclusive to DC for the next two years.

Quitely -- not his real name, which I didn't believe when Barry Windsor-Smith first told me that back in the late 20th Century -- but anyway, the guy is definitely one of my favourite artists, having provided exquisite illustration for JLA: Earth 2 with writer Grant Morrison. That puts me in mind of the best part of this "exclusive" business, that Quitely will more than likely be teamed with quality writers like Morrison on All-Star Superman. Their creative partnership on the afore-mentioned Earth 2, as well as Flex Mentallo, We3 and the early part of Grant Morrison's New X-Men resulted in some of the best-looking and most entertaining superhero stuff of the past couple of decades, so I am hoping we see more than the five or six issues that a two-year span of "Quitely Time" unfortunately implies.

Yes, the guy seems to have trouble keeping a schedule. Ultimately, though, I would rather DC give him the time to do what he does best. The latter Quitely stuff on Grant Morrison's New X-Men "with Avalon Studios" seemed, at best, digitally inked from layouts, and at worst, very probably ghost-pencilled by others working in the Quitely style. And the thing of it is, really, only Quitely can draw in the Quitely style.

His style always seems to draw both praise and detractors, but I am firmly in agreement with Warren Ellis when he says "People dislike [Quitely's] art because he draws people as they are, not as we want them to be."

In my mind, Quitely is in a special set of artists with Bryan Hitch and Tom Raney, the trio comprising the very best artists to work on Stormwatch and The Authority, the first title morphing into the latter in the end days of the 20th century. Quitely and Hitch always seem to get partnered with good writers, while poor Tom Raney, a truly great superhero artist, has usually been saddled with dreck-peddlers on disposable crap like Mutant X and The Outsiders (where they couldn't even bother to pay an inker to make his art look right), or this week's quickly-to-be-forgotten What If issue about Magneto and the X-Men.

So I'm hopeful the Quitely exclusive will result in some nice-looking, well-written books, and a bit fearful of what might be done to get more than a handful of issues out with Quitely's name on them in that two-year period. Here's to hoping that instead of digital tricks and ghost artists, Quitely has somehow disciplined himself to draw more than three or four issues a year. Because when he's doing his best -- check out his first few Authority issues with Mark Millar, for example -- no one can draw superhero books better.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Finding Soda -- I should mention my buddy Brian's Sodafinder website.

Brian literally drives around the country looking for odd and hard-to-find sodas, then offers them up online at rock-bottom prices. I visited his apartment the other day, and was astounded at the variety of stuff he has in his (yes, it's really called the) Soda Room.

If you like the soda pop or are looking for a fun gift for a friend or loved one, click over to his site and see what he has to offer. Tell him I sent ya.

Best of 2004 Redux -- Ian Brill delivers a terrific year-end wrap-up that is worth your attention.

Essential 2004 -- Former Galaxy contributor Marc Mason has a fantastic column today at Movie Poop Shoot on what he considers essential reading of the past year. It's a bit of a different spin from the usual "Best of the Year" approach, and his choices are unimpeachable. Take a look.

Included on Marc's list of essential reading is Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's Street Angel, which is just about my favourite comic in the world right now. And if you head over to their website, they've posted a preview of Street Angel #5 that makes it look very much like the best issue yet. One of the great things about Street Angel is that you can jump in with any issue and understand what's going on and enjoy the hell out of it. So please tell your retailer right now that you want to order #5, whether you've read any previous issues or not. You're in for a treat.

Also noteworthy today is former Poop Shoot contributor AK's look at John Byrne's Next Men. Which got me once again rambling on about my Unified Theory of Byrne.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Pittsburgh Cartoonist Cabal -- Tom Spurgeon pointed today to a great profile of Pittsburgh-area cartoonists, including Street Angel's Jim Rugg, Gypsy Lounge's Jasen Lex and others. Wouldn't you love to sit in on one of their weekly meetings?

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