Here we are again, another year of comics, movies, and music to inspire! As in Years Past, I like to compile a list of some of the art that I enjoyed throughout the year. It’s a good reminder for me to remember what inspires me, but also a chance to share great stuff with others. I found that this year’s list got pretty big, so I am dividing it up into 3 parts: Comics, Movies, & Music. Also note, I try not to recycle stuff from previous years, as those lists are still out there to see. Even though many of those things are still awesome (like Space-Mullet & Prophet). Now, of course, I’m going to start with Comics!
The Wrenchies, by Farel Dalrymple
This is a what comics are all about. Farel operates on a different plane with The Wrenchies. The dreamlike storytelling is punctuated by stand-out moments of sadness and introspection. The inked/watercolored art is absolutely gorgeous. I was lucky to catch an exhibition of original pages from the book and was dumb-founded by how good they looked in person. There is no digital trickery here, Farel’s just THAT GOOD. Shea Hennum over at This Is Infamous wrote a great article about Wrenchies that will do the book more justice than I can, so check that out. If Wrenchies doesn’t sweep the Ignatz and Eisner awards, I might lose all faith in comics. GET THE WRENCHIES
Death of a Crow, by Liam Cobb
Pay attention folks. Liam is one to watch. He posted Death of a Crow on His Tumblr and it spread across the net like wildfire. And it’s easy to see why. Wonderfully illustrated and full of symbolism and pathos, it’s a great example of the power of comics. The reader is drawn in and led to think and draw conclusions about the world presented. Liam has done quite a few striking short comics on his tumblr so go dig in.
Ritual #3: Vile Decay, by Malachi Ward
Malachi must be Rod Serling re-incarnated. His scifi/fantasy/speculative fiction has been an invigorating addition to the comics scene for a few years now. Vile Decay really hits on all cylinders. Malachi’s illustrations are detailed, while still maintaining a cartooned iconic feel. Vile Decay explores character relationships through surreal landscapes and violent riots. The limited color palette and spot-on paper decisions all add up to a book with a unique feeling that enhances the themes within. GET VILE DECAY
Half Asleep #2-3, by Beth Hetland & Kyle O’Connell
Beth & Kyle turned comics up to 11 a couple years ago with Cycles, which I loved. Initially, Half Asleep was a hard swallow for me. But as the series has progressed, they have really found their voice. O’Connell’s manic concepts spew forth while Hetland uses the tricks of the comics trade to deftly translate the unreal to real. Characters are expertly developed through their actions rather than drawn out dialogue. On top of that, each book sports artful screen-printed hand-cut covers. I’m really excited to see where these two go with Half Asleep next year. GET HALF ASLEEP
Pax Americana, by Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison
Frank Quitely is an illustration god. He pushes the limits of the medium with each new book, without alienating mainstream sensibilities. I barely have an understanding of what’s happening in this beautiful book, but I will enjoy digging into it and deciphering the puzzle for months to come.
In the Sounds & Seas: Volume 2, by Marnie Galloway
It was a long time coming, but SO worth the wait. Marnie’s work has progressed wonderfully since volume 1. Her illustration style lends itself to the story’s themes of interconnectedness and myth. She has also grown as a panel to panel storyteller, finding clarity in the small moments portrayed, while still including beautiful stylistic flourishes in each drawing. In the Sounds & Seas it not like anything else out right now and it showcases a unique voice in the medium. GET IN THE SOUNDS & SEAS
Gardens of Glass, by Lando
Lando is another example of a creator with a strong voice. Gardens of Glass is a collection of the stories Lando has published through the always trippy scifi collective anthology Decadence Comics. Seeing the stories side by side, you find that Lando has been building not only a style, but almost a complete world-view. Each piece compliments the next, re-inforcing ideas and visual queues. The drawings themselves are beautiful and delicate as well, with clear influences from manga and french comics . Gardens of Glass was published by Breakdown Press, who are also doing super cool stuff with comics. GET GARDENS OF GLASS
Time Capsule #2, Peow Studios
Much like Breakdown & Decadence Comics, Peow is working with immensely talented artists in creating beautiful book objects. Time Capsule is one of the best looking Risograph printed comics I’ve come across to date. The Riso has quickly become a mainstay in indy comics, but no one has quite harnessed the potential of the press like Peow. Featured in this issue are Stathis Tsemberlidis (of Decadence Comics), Wren Mcdonald, and Matt Sheean (regular collaborator with Malachi Ward & Prophet alumni). Stathis and Matt’s pieces stand out to me the most, as they both have less focus on traditional narrative. Stathis shows a figure as it accelerates through time and space, (literally) smashing through touchpoints of human existence. Matt gives us a strange story featuring children in the woods of a new planet. Matt has a way of presenting visual and text information that is almost rhythmic and inseparable from eachother. Love it. GET TIME CAPSULE
Prophet: Strikefile #1-2, Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, & The Prophet All Stars
Ok it should be obvious from all my other picks, as well as previous year’s picks, that I’m going to be ALL ABOUT Prophet Strikefile. As with the series itself, Brandon & friends have taken a concept (the sourcebook comic) and elevated it to something a little smarter, a little prettier, and a lot awesome-r.
Ghost Fleet, Don Cates & Daniel Warren Johnson
Don’t get me wrong, Ghost Fleet is amazing. I just have a feeling it’s really going to shine next year. Daniel is an artist on his way up I’m privy to what he’s cooking up in future issues of Ghost Fleet. And Donny’s story is pretty bananas. You need to jump on board now, because Ghost Fleet will blow your mind in 2015.
I’m positive I’ve missed some great books this year. Please let me know what you think I should check out from 2014! I’ll be back soon with Part 2, discussing my favorite movies of the year.
Been a while. Sorry about that, but I assure you I’ve been busy. So let’s get to it!
8 THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE MORE OF IN COMICS
I became aware of this topic via a tweet by Brandon “I will use my comics powers for good” Graham, then followed up on a couple other bloggers thoughts on it…
And immediately I was thinking about how I always complain about comics, but rarely do I say what we really need more of to improve the medium as a whole. All of the above gents make great points, so I’ll try not to just list the exact same things as them (though some of mine are similar). In no particular order:
1. Stylistic Diversity in Artwork
I’d like to see more artists who don’t just ‘look like (name other artist)’. Mainstream comics are like that movie Wrong Turn. They have been inbreeding so long that you end up with deformed characters drawn by artists with no sense of real anatomy and proportion. It’s like an exaggeration of an exaggeration. I don’t want to see a comic and immediately think of another comic book artist. Artists should strive not only to stand out from each other, but to make each work feel unique from the previous one.
Positive Example: Katsuhiro Otomo. We all know him for Akira, but the dude’s short stories span all genre’s and styles.
2. Influences from mediums outside of comics
We need to reach outside of the medium for influence, reference, and inspiration. If you are working on a new project and the only thing you are looking at is other comics, you are failing. We have 100’s of years of art, music, and literature to look back on, so why is it that every sci-fi comic looks like Blade Runner and every Superhero comic looks like Superman? I want to see comics influenced by Davinci! By the Venus of Willendorf or the Lascaux cave paintings! By Brahm’s Requiem and Jackson Pollock!
Positive Example: Reid Psaltis takes a very direct influence like natural history illustration and runs with it!
3. Hand Lettering
The lettering of a comic is not something that should feel pre-packaged. It’s another aspect that gives a creator a chance to literally make their mark. Hand lettered speech, thoughts, and sound effects should feel unique to the story being told and unique to that specific artist. We use hand-writing to identify people in court cases, for crying out loud! What’s more YOU than your handwriting?
Positive Example: Sam Alden (see above) uses a variety of fonts, balloons and sound effects which are tailored to each story.
4. Diversity of genres
Comics should not be a section of the book store next to Romance, History, Philosophy. Romance, History, Philosophy should be sections IN THE COMIC BOOK STORE! We all want to be taken seriously, but the extremely narrow amount of genres and topics covered in mainstream (and indie) comics is absurd. When’s the last time you read a comic about philosophy? Or religion? Or Australian Aborigine tribes? Or history that didn’t involve zombies? AND WHY ARE THERE NO ROMANCE COMICS ANYMORE?
Positive Examples: Rinko Endo makes comics about mental health issues (pictured above). They are absolutely stunning.
5. Odd shaped and non-traditional comics
Comics don’t have to be ‘standard’ sized. Especially independent comics! Why are most comics the same size as the latest issue of X-men? Why are most comics rectangles and squares? Why don’t comics fold out in multiple directions? Why are they all on paper? If a standard size comic can be read on an ipad, why should I buy the physical copy? Comics should be unique objects whenever possible, to give the potential reader a reason to buy a physical object that will take up space in their home.
Positive Examples: Beth Hetland’s ‘Hay!’ comics are unique objects AND choose your own adventure comics
6. Special Features
I love to see the process behind any piece of art. It’s interesting and gives insight into the artist’s thought process. Seeing how others make or struggle to make their work inspires me to continue on in my struggle as a creator. I’m not just talking about some sketches in the back of a trade paperback (though that’s a start). I’m talking blogs that explain how my favorite book of the year was lettered. I’m talking audio commentaries for the comic that can be downloaded and listened to while you read it. I’m talking video time-lapses of the pages being created. There are some folks that do give peeks into their process, but it’s rarely project specific and isn’t usually tied to the release or post-release of the work.
Positive Example: Kenan Rubenstein has a SLICK interface for his webcomic Last Train to Old Town, which shares insight into each pages creation and allows for readers to interact.
7. Digital Comics that take advantage of being digital
Most ‘motion comics’ are absolutely terrible. Just the worst thing that could possibly be done to a comic book. I want to see artists that choose to work in the digital medium take full advantage of it. The tablet devices are full of functionality and features. I want the digital comics to show me that they can ONLY exist digitally. Colors that change in panel. Word balloons that pop in or out depending on where you tap. Sound! And I don’t mean cheesy sound effects, I mean ambience and music.
Positive Example/s: Kenan (mentioned above) and the now-extinct Double Feature from Four Star Studios are both good examples. But my favorite digital comic is hands down Ezra Clayton Daniel’s Upgrade Soul (see above). It’s a tour-de-force in digital comics!
8. Cross-promotion between creators
Comics should feel like a community. Just like anything else we buy, you’re more likely to pick something up if it’s recommended to you by someone you trust or respect. All the advertising in the world won’t help niche weirdo comics (like everything I’m asking for above) get into a reader’s hands. But if they are at a convention, speaking with a creator, and that person is aware of the rest of the community, they can point the potential reader in the right direction. People buying ANY COMICS is good for everyone MAKING comics. So what if they don’t want to buy my book about a serial killer? They might be really interested in Gina Wynbrandt’s Tiger Beat Exclusive. So SEND EM OVER TO HER! We need to promote eachother, not just ourselves.
Positive Example: Brandon Graham is constantly pimping cool creators on his blog and in backup stories in Prophet. Can you imagine if all high-profile creators were taking time to show us the new people whose work they love?
That’s my thoughts on what we need more of. What do YOU think?
NEW BACK ISSUES PODCAST
Justin and I sat down to analyze Sam Keith’s The Maxx on the latest Back Issues. This dude was on the edge at Image, with a bizarre book that took on rape, dreams, and comics industry tropes. Oh… and there was the Crappon. We loved it. Please listen:
VICTUS #2 & SIMON: PUGILIST UPDATES
Still Plugging away at Victus #2, but getting closer every day. Here are some sneak peeks:
And Simon: Pugilist has made some great headway, with my bro really stepping it up on the writing. PEEKS:
Here are some random things I looked at lately:
Got some cool comics over the last couple weeks. Have had ZERO time to actually read them. Kirby’s 2001, Reid Psaltis Panic, Pope’s Battling Boy, Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warhedz, Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy, Sam Bosman’s Fantasy Basketball, and some Grendels I got from DWJ.
Found this acorn nut thing on one of my walks.
Had some delicious Sukiyaki from one of my all-time favorite places, Sunshine Cafe.
That’s all for now folks!
Holy cow, folks! What a weekend! Stumptown Comics Fest was fantastic! Thank you to everyone who came by to show support or purchase some books from the amazing artists exhibiting. Before I launch into Stumptown details, a couple quick announcements:
I have started a (hopefully) ongoing podcast with Justin Fah of In This Issue Podcast, where we analyze older comics that we find interesting or declare “must read’s”. The first one was released this week. Check it out as we discuss Green Lantern: Willworld, drawn by one of my favorite artists, Seth Fisher. Click below or subscribe to In This Issue podcast on iTunes:
REVIEWS & SUCH
Those fine folks over at Spandexless saw fit to finish up the Gary series with another kind review:
They also took the time to explore one of my older Simon comics, “Mercy”
Now on to the wacky exploits at STUMPTOWN…
Manning the table with me was my trusty sidekick (and younger brother) Logan.
He also helped create the newest Simon comic, which we had available at the show.
I did a few throughout the weekend, including this Simon piece.
I’d like to think this is just our first collaboration.
Speaking of Brandon Graham, I geeked out at how he one-upped Simon Roy’s signature on my
Prophet TPB. Farel Dalrymple also added his own touch. Dirty fellows.
including Mr. Jack Bracken, who did this wonderfully racy poem for me.
Reid Psaltis took a time out to show me around Portland’s very own IPRC. Cool joint!
And of course, there was much food and drink to be had. From left to right/top to bottom:
Broder, Pacific Pie (x2), Little Big Burger, Biwa, Blue Star Donuts, Lardo’s, Teardrop, more Blue Star.
Not pictured: Bunk, Luc Lac, Pine State Biscuits, Wurst
I’m not great about taking pictures, so you’ll have to look through the Stumptown Tumblr to find more shots of me and other exhibitors.
In the 11th hour, I was invited to participate in the famous Art Battle at the Stumptown afterparty, hosted by Ezra Clayton Daniels! My team was doomed to lose as we were the ‘away team’ vs. the Portland home team. But we gave it our best shot, fighting through language barriers (I’ve never had to explain auto-erotic asphyxiation to a frenchman before), shake-weights, and insults. Really, I thought including Robocop in our G.I. Joe team drawing would ensure our win. But hey, it was all in good fun.
I had an awesome trip. Special shout out to The Con Crew: Josh Shalek, Neil Brideau, Reid Psaltis, Kenan Rubenstein, & Jack Bracken. Finally all of us in one place! Couldn’t ask for a better group of creators to share a convention with. Also it was great to see the incorrigible Beth Hetland, the lovely Nomi Kane, and the edgy Ezra Clayton Daniels.
I have some BIG announcements coming in my next post. So stayed tuned next week for the details!
This weekend is the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo! This is shaping up to be an awesome show and I’m excited to be a part of it. You can find me at O2B:
If you are in Chicago, please come on down and say hi! I’ll have all my work for sale, plus some new cube prints!
In the meantime, I wanted to share some recommendations for comics you should be reading:
PROPHET by Brandon Graham & Simon Roy: Not much I can say about this one that hasn’t been said already. It’s fantastic. Who knew this terrible terrible character could be used for good? Even better, they have been running back-up stories, featuring some awesome indy guys. Speaking of…
EXPANSION by Matt Sheean & Malachi Ward: I’ve mentioned this book before. It is the best science fiction comic out right now. You get flavors of Twilight Zone, Bradbury, and Kirby in this gorgeous book. I must be onto something, as these gents are contributing a back-up story to the aforementioned Prophet! You can find Expansion on the above linked blogs.
CYCLES by Beth Hetland & Kyle O’Connell: This book is not out yet, but can be pre-ordered through Hetland’s website. Apparently, this is what I think about it: “Hetland and O’Connell have crafted a comic as funny and thrilling as it is smart and skillful. Cycles is a deftly told tale of whimsical machinations that entertains from the first panel to the thrilling climax. Read this now!”
FLEX MENTALLO by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely: OK this is an older book, but they just released a gorgeous deluxe edition about a week ago. I’m betting it’ll be scarce soon. This book is the wacky-type of Morrison (think Seaguy), with some early Quitely art. Quitely is easily one of the best artists working in mainstream comics in the last ten years and he’s totally free to draw craziness here. Thanks to Sean Dove for putting this book on my radar back in the day.
So I don’t want to hear anyone say “there’s nothing good out right now”! I also guarantee that if you come down to C2E2 this weekend, you’ll discover some more amazing comics!