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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

 
Abhay Khosla's Bram Stoker's Dracula -- You will not read a better comic book this week. Or ever. Abhay Khosla's Bram Stoker's Dracula.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

 
The Insight Not To Work With Them -- In the comments to my previous post, reader Rick said this:
Aren't there contracts signed that would indicate who owns what property? Generally speaking, doesn't Marvel/DC have the primary rights to anything published under their banner? It's an unfair system but it isn't a secret either. I don't know the details of Moore's relationship with the Big Two, but maybe he should have had the insight not to have worked with them in the first place... right? Or are contracts being blatantly disregarded?
The issue Rick raises, and the attitude behind it, is too important to let this discussion sit in the comments. Here's my response to Rick, and to anyone who thinks this might be a valid point of view:

The history of the "Big Two," is a history of lies, betrayals and broken promises. It's very easy in 2009 to say "maybe he should have had the insight not to have worked with them in the first place," about Alan Moore and a thousand other creators who have been screwed, blewed and tattooed (as Mom used to say), but the fact of the matter is that it's far more complex than that, and if you truly have an interest in the subject, then you owe it to yourself to do some research.

Just one example, relevant to this post: Are you aware that, prior to Watchmen, no superhero graphic novel (and there were few enough of those anyway) was ever kept permanently in print? And that DC's contract with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons said that the rights to the work would revert to Moore and Gibbons once the book had (as all superhero graphic novels had in the past) gone out of print?

Then the work proved to transcend all previous precedent, and instead of keeping with the spirit of the written contract (there was absolutely NO historical reason at the time not to think Moore and Gibbons would not be given ownership of the work under this contract: it's what Moore and Gibbons AND DC all expected to happen), the company kept the book in print, so far, quite permanently. To the extent that that goes, that's understandable enough; it's a hugely popular work. Where DC falls down in this example is in not somehow compensating Moore and Gibbons for the unexpected success of the work that changed the conditions under which the contract was written. Legally, of course, DC had the right to do what they wanted. But from a business and ethical standpoint, what they did was monumentally stupid: They permanently soured Moore on working for them (through this and many other actions -- look up the "promotional" Watchmen watches, or the pulping of an issue of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or the Tomorrow Stories story that Top Shelf had to publish because DC didn't have the courage -- which I believe is how Moore ended up there; anyway, LOOK STUFF UP AND FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF).

Dig out some old Comics Journals, Google creators rights, read some interviews with the injured parties, find out for yourself what those of us who have been watching the industry for decades are talking about.

Find out what happened to Marv Wolfman when he made a claim to ownership of Blade. Find out how vague and meaningless the idea of "Copyright," in comics was, especially prior to 1974. Do you know about the back-of-paycheck agreements the companies made creators sign in order to get paid? Did you know some of them regularly crossed it out, because they didn't agree with it? I could go on all day.

A lot of injustice and malfeasance has been committed by corporate comics companies against the very people who make it possible for them to exist, but if the readers who enjoy their product would make an effort to understand the long and thorny history of corporate comics and creators rights, maybe those readers would think twice about blindly supporting the large corporations that have done so much harm to the people who created the very product in question.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

 
Marvelman: What's the Worst That Could Happen? Wait, It Just Did -- Anyone interested in creator's rights, or even just good superhero comics, must have thrown up in their mouths a little bit, like I did, with the news that Marvel Comics has acquired the rights to Marvelman.

Marvelman, which was published in the States in the 1980s by Eclipse as Miracleman is one of, if not the, most compelling superhero stories ever created, by some of the most gifted creators in superhero history, including Alan Moore, Alan Davis, and John Totleben. Due to a monumental kerfuffle of rights issues and confusions, the series has been (ironically, if you've ever read it) in limbo seemingly forever, and I'm sure most "fans" will see this as the happy ending they've long waited for.

Uh, no.

Marvel Comics has a long history of not doing right by creators, and of screwing up the creative properties they control. That's not a recipe for the happy ending we should all be rooting for, which would mean that the series comes back into print with the blessing and cooperation of Alan Moore and everyone else that worked on it. (I'm not discussing the pre-Moore era or the rights of creator Mick Anglo because I don't care about the former, and while I am glad Anglo is getting compensated, he's not the man who created the stories anyone involved cares about, most especially Marvel Comics.)

I'll be happy to be wrong if Marvel announces that Moore, Totleben and the rest are being fairly compensated for their landmark work, so much so that they are behind the revival effort 100% and the clouds part and the angels sing.

But that's very likely not going to happen. Chances are, based on observing Marvel and Moore for the past, oh, most of my life, that Marvel is doing this in part because it's a backdoor method of publishing some of Moore's best and most-loved work without actually having the ethics and decency required for Moore to be willing to partner with you in a mutually-beneficial publishing arrangement that serves well the needs of the publisher, the creators, the characters and the readers.

See also Marvel's previous reprints of Captain Britain; see also, over at DC, well, anything of Moore's, these days, from Watchmen to Swamp Thing to Absolute Promethea.

Alan Moore's publisher of choice for his comics work these days is Top Shelf. I point this out not because they advertise on this site (but hey, thanks, Chris and Brett!), but because it's a stone-cold motherfucking fact: Marvel and DC have both screwed, and screwed with, Alan Moore, many times in the past. DC much more so than Marvel, admittedly, but this may be the event that allows Marvel to catch up.

No, unless Alan Moore and the other creators involved in Marvelman's most vital and important stories are all on-board with this revival attempt, unless everyone involved is fairly compensated and given a proper say in how things go forward, then whatever Marvelman "product" issues forth from Marvel is no more valid or significant than Todd McFarlane's misbegotten Man of Miracles action figure, or Checker Publishing's hideously-reproduced Supreme collections. If you wonder why Alan Moore hates the comic book industry so much, man, you're just not paying attention. From the largest to the smallest, almost every publisher has tried to hook on to his coattails without earning the right, and this strikes me as just the latest attempt, even if it is the splashiest one in quite some time.

This is all a bunch of bullshit, people, and nothing short of a joint Alan Moore/Joe Quesada press conference in which they shake hands and Moore smiles a lot will change my mind.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

 
Time is Running Out -- Send me your entry for the Game Fuel Giveaway before midnight tonight! Details here.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

 
Game Fuel Giveaway -- Mountain Dew is teaming up with folks over at World of Warcraft to release two limited-time-only flavors inspired by the hit video game, Alliance Blue and Horde Red. And three lucky Comic Book Galaxy readers are going to win some of these great flavors free!

The Scoop: Mountain Dew and WOW have created an interactive microsite where you can earn points to win gaming gear, product and trial memberships to WOW. Choose Your Side with Alliance Blue (Mountain Dew with a punch of wild fruit flavor), or Horde Red (Mountain Dew with a blast of citrus cherry flavor).

Visit WARCRAFT.COM/DEW to register for your chance win great gaming prizes every 15 minutes, including Alienware notebooks, Razer peripherals and cool World of Warcraft gear. Only from Mountain Dew Game Fuel, get a free 14-day-trial of World of Warcraft, or an in-game battlebot pet. Log onto WARCRAFT.COM/DEW to experience the world of Azeroth.

For your chance to win free Mountain Dew Game Fuel Alliance Blue and Horde Red soda, simply email your name and mailing address to me before 11:59 PM Friday, July 24th. One entry per household, please.

The Grand Prize winner gets a limited edition t-shirt and six (6) bottles of Game Fuel, three (3) Alliance Blue and three (3) Horde Red.

Two (2) runners-up will each get a pack of game fuel soda.

Good luck, from Comic Book Galaxy, Mountain Dew and World of Warcraft!

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

 
Spurgeon's Must-Read Gary Spencer-Millidge Interview -- GSM is the creator of Strangehaven, one of my favourite comic books ever, and he's also the author of the brilliant new Comiic Book Design, published by Watson-Guptill. Gary's the subject of today's Sunday interview at The Comics Reporter, and it's absolutely mandatory reading if you're at all interested in how comics are designed and put together. Go give it a read, and make sure you pick up Comic Book Design, too.

(Tom asks Gary about the current status of Strangehaven, too, by the way, and I am really, really ready for that incredibly complex and rewarding story to resume.)

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

 
CA on AP -- That's critic Christopher Allen writing about Asterios Polyp, one of the best releases of the year. Get outta here already and go look.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

 
Now Beginning His Sixth Fantastic Year -- Congratulations to Jog the Blog, celebrating its first five years yesterday and beginning Year Six today. Jog's a Galaxy alum, a damn good guy, and one of the very best writers about comics to be found anywhere. Always fun and enlightening, and one of those guys whose insights frequently make me say "Damn, I wish I thought of that."

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Monday, July 13, 2009

 
Five for Contrarianism -- On Friday, Tom Spurgeon asked readers to name five "Five for Friday" categories that would be difficult to populate.

I have picked the responses that stood out to me as ones actually able to be fully filled-out.

List Five Really Excellent Comic Book Shops You've Personally Been To

1. Million-Year Picnic (Cambridge, MA)
2. Modern Myths (Northampton, MA)
3. Earthworld (Albany, NY)
4. The Beguiling (Toronto, ON)
5. Crow Books (Burlington, VT)

Name five comics writers you consider at least on par with whoever you consider to be the top five writers in prose, film or television

1. Alan Moore
2. Dan Clowes
3. Jaime Hernandez
4. R. Crumb
5. Renee French

Name five writers on comics you could see writing for the New Yorker if the magazine introduced a regular comics section next week

1. RC Harvey
2. Tom Spurgeon
3. Christopher Allen
4. Christopher Butcher
5. Timothy Callahan

Name five good comics shops within reasonable traveling distance

1. Earthworld (Albany, NY)
2. Electric City Comics (Schenectady, NY)
3. Comic Depot (Greenfield Center, NY)
4. Excellent Adventures (Ballston Spa, NY)
5. Aquilonia Comics (Troy, NY)

Name five five-for-fives for which you would have to be one of the answers

1. Name five people blamed for evangelizing about Street Angel during the blowback resulting from the initial spread of positive word about the title.
2. Name one of the five people who contributed to the introduction of Barry Windsor-Smith's Young GODS and Friends collection.
3. Name five comics bloggers approached by Marvel Comics to pitch to write a series for them in the early part of this decade.
4. Name five people who thought Kramers Ergot #7 might have been priced a bit too high and had the unparalleled gall to say so publicly, and therefore should be killed.
5. Name five early Comic Book Galaxy contributors who have not gone on to be a famous comic book creator or editor-in-chief of a top-five comic book publishing company.

List five readable comics based on television properties

1. IDW's Star Trek efforts.
2. DC's Babylon 5 series.
3. The Prisoner
4. DC Star Trek comics written by Peter David.
5. OK, you got me, I can only think of four for this one.

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I Read Asterios Polyp -- I wish I could say more than that, but I don't have much. Timothy Callahan wrote a fantastic review of the book, which is your best bet if looking for intelligent discussion of David Mazzucchelli's new work.

I loved it, I loved the design of it, the duality of the mythological and the mundane at work in the characters, the wordplay, the obvious labour-of-love feel of the entire thing. At once, it recalls Mazzucchelli's work on Paul Auster's City of Glass, and the stylings and brilliance of Kirby, Krigstein, Toth and others, all harmonizing together to create a sustained lyricism and beauty, held together by the petty arrogance and eventual open heart of the title character.

It's an awesome book, certainly one of the two or three best graphic novels of this year. Read it before you delve into any reviews, and then check out Callahan's review, linked above. It'll give you food for thought and signposts to look for on future re-readings, of which I am guessing there will be many.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

 
Uptight #3 -- This comic book made me nuts. Go look at the info and ordering page at the Fantagraphics website. Look how goddamned beautiful that cover is. Jordan Crane is selling prints at his website. Gorgeous.

That cover illustrates the first part of a new story Crane is working on, "Vicissitude," and Holy Jesus it is one of the best stories I've read this year. I'm a tough sell when it comes to out-and-out fiction in comics, but the unbelievably compelling artwork totally drew me into this fantastic story.

Then it ends after just a few pages -- a satisfying start, to be sure -- and the rest of the issue (right to the back cover) is concerned with the characters from Crane's great graphic novel The Clouds Above.

But I don't want that, I want more "Vicissitude." And I apologize for being so unreasonable, but damn if that cover and those first few, tantalizing pages aren't like some new, more addictive form of crack cocaine you ingest through your eyeballs. By looking at this comic book.

God DAMN, I want more "Vicissitude."

Don't let another day go by without making sure you're getting Uptight #3.

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I Picked Up Asterios Polyp -- A book I feel like I've been waiting for half my life is finally on my nightstand, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli.

David "Can Do No Wrong," "Batman: Year One," "Daredevil: Born Again," "Rubber Blanket," Mazzucchelli. Hell, David "I Even Pre-Ordered His Batman Statue," Mazzucchelli. My love for his work is like a sickness. Let the record show I purchased my copy from Comic Depot in Greenfield, Center, New York sometime last night.

I swear to you, I am almost afraid to even open it up. I've avoided every review, wanting to come into it clean and innocent and new. The only opinion I have, based on the design of the book and the few panels I've seen online, is this: "Has David Mazzucchelli been reading Dash Shaw recently?" There seems to be a shared aesthetic at work somehow.

By the way, bloggers, Mazzucchelli: it's two Zs, two Cs and two Ls. (And if you think that last sentence is missing three apostrophes, man, I really can't fucking help you.) It's very strange to me that I have never had a problem remembering how to spell Mazzucchelli, Hornschemeier, Straczynski or Sienkiewicz. But I do apoligize to David, Paul and Bill for putting them in the same company with the other guy.

If I keep rambling like this I guess I could put off opening up Asterios Polyp for hours. Like, I just noticed d. emerson eddy has taken down his most recent blog. He had some pretty grim thoughts on there. I hope he's okay. I bet he will read Asterios Polyp. Probably already has, he was always way ahead of me when it came to quality music, quality comics, quality writing. Drop me a line, d., if you're reading this.

Me, on the other hand, I should be reading Asterios Polyp.

And, sometime this weekend, I imagine I will be.

Friday, July 10, 2009

 
Star Trek Quote of the Day -- Here's Leonard Nimoy on old versus new Star Trek:
"[I]f we cannot accept the future we are in trouble. Ben Cross is playing Spock's father. Mark Lenard has passed away. Winona Ryder is playing Spock's mother and Jane Wyatt has passed away. Simon Pegg is playing Scotty and James Doohan is gone. DeForest Kelley is gone. Majel Barrett is gone. We have to be real about this. I am a nostalgic guy -- I love thinking about the past. I think about it often. I think about the great times I have had and the difficulties and the exciting moments. But I think it is healthy to live in the "here-and-now" and deal with the reality of the present. I see it, not as a negative thing but as a positive thing. These beloved characters are being given a whole new life."
More at Trekweb.com.

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

 
Captain Canuck -- I can remember finding my first issue of Canadian superhero series Captain Canuck (probably #9) on the stands of a 7/11 in St. Augustine, Florida at the time of its original publication (1978 or '79). It looked like the superhero comics I was used to, but it wasn't published by DC, Marvel or Charlton, the three publishers I was used to buying superhero comics from at that time.

The art, by George Freeman (colours by Claude St. Aubin), was gorgeous and dynamic, if not quite as polished as what I expected from artists like John Byrne, George Perez or Gil Kane. But what it lacked in polish it made up for in enthusiasm.

IDW has published a hardcover collection of issues #4-10 (the first half of the Freeman era, basically -- earlier issues were drawn by creator Richard Comely, who also does some art in this collection, but not much), and it is spectacular. In the introduction, Comely says that he was able to scan the original art for the re-release, and I can believe it -- only the covers look like they were shot from the actual comics and not the art itself. The reproduction throughout is extraordinary, given the age of the material, and the paper stock and presentation are ideal for this sort of project.

The stories are about as I remember them -- energetic, Canada-centric (that's a good thing, mind you) and with very engaging and promising art by Freeman and vivid, way-ahead-of-their-time colouring by St. Aubin (Comely talks a little about the colour process in his introduction).

I was lucky enough to score a copy for less than ten bucks on eBay, but even at full, $24.95 cover price, this book is a no-brainer for anyone interested at all in the history of superhero comics and especially the momentous, oddball era in which Captain Canuck was originally released, the same era in which Elfquest, Cerebus and The First Kingdom were also blazing their own trails. I'm thrilled to have these stories in my possession again, and I'm salivating over how good this Freeman/St. Aubin art looks. Congratulations, and thanks, to IDW and the creators for bringing this material back to light, and I look very much forward to the next volume.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

 
Hey, Look: Spurge Calls for an End to the Harvey Awards -- In one of the most unusual and compelling pieces of writing he's done, Tom Spurgeon calmly, rationally and convincingly calls for an end to the Harvey Awards. I especially agree that there's a need to pay better tribute to Harvey Kurtzman's legacy than the diminishing returns the awards that bear his name have delivered in recent years.

This is important stuff to anyone interested in the bigger picture of the comics industry. Go look.

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