Friday, February 24, 2006

Hey Kids: Comics!

Yesterday I was over at The Comic Bug and had an interesting chat with Mike Wellman. I confessed that I’ve recently come to realize that the whole superhero thing is officially out of my system.

What I mean is that as a READER, I seem to have lost interest in all of the beloved tight-wearing heroes of my youth. Finally.

The last mainstream superhero title that I’ve followed was Daredevil. Sometime in 2005—I think nearly a year ago—I missed a couple of issues of the book, and never went back. I was a big fan of the Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil, but once I broke the “habit” of reading those monthly issues, I just did not miss them. To be fair, I also know that these issues will be collected into trade-paperbacks, and I probably will read them someday.

I made this break without really thinking about it. I still purchase comics fairly often, but no superheroes. Only recently have I given it any thought. What’s the deal?

I guess they just aren’t relevant to me anymore--at least, not as a READER. As a CREATOR, I have plenty of ideas in the genre that I would like to pursue. The difference is that I would not be writing for ME, but for kids. Too many creators working in comics today write for themselves instead of for the audience. I don’t know if that is appropriate for Spider-Man.

I guess I’m sick of all the “adult” superhero books. I wish those standards like Spider-Man,Supermanand Batman were really geared towards kids. Of course I loved Watchmen and Dark-Knight when they came out, but I was a teenager then. I think the post-modern, deconstruction of the superhero genre has been officially done to death. Like, ten years ago.

Besides, there are so many REALLY GOOD comics available today that are maturely written for an adult audience. What do I read? Well, on a monthly basis, I still read only ONE regular, monthly book. I still read 100 Bullets, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. That book continues to be the “monthly fix” that took the place of Preacher, when that book ended.

I’ve also been enjoying the work of Brian Wood lately. DMZ, by Wood and Riccardo Burchielli has been awesome. Wood’s work on Local with Ryan Kelly and Demo with Becky Cloonan are both well worth picking up.

My old pal, Mark Chiarello, who I know from back in the glory days of at Epic Comics has been producing an awesome book over at DC. If you are unfamiliar with Solo, you really are missing a wonderful series. Each issue spotlights a different comic book creator with all-original short stories. My personal favorites (so far) are the issues by Jordi Bernet, Paul Pope, Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale. Mark is getting some of the industry’s best talents involved with this book. Quite a feather in DC’s cap.

I adore Paris, by Andi Watson and Simon Gane. Please buy it.

There are a few monthly comics that I don’t read on a monthly basis, but instead choose to wait until they are collected in trade-paperbacks. The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn is a wonderful, dramatic take on the whole “zombie” craze. I also prefer to read Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai in the collected format. I also like them on my shelf!

There are many more worthwhile books out there that I read and recommend. Top Shelf had been publishing many of them (have you read Blankets yet?). I wish that people like Dan Clowes, Frank Miller and Adrian Tomine produced more. I wish European Albums were easier to come by here in the US. What can you do?

I’m rambling now, and getting away from my point about superheroes. In fact, today I’m not sure what the point is! I just found out that Paul Pope has a new Batman book out. I may have “regress” for a minute and pick that up…!

Recommended Reading:

I can keep going, but I won't! Happy reading!

News Blues

Ugh. The world news is just more and more depressing. This is not a political blog, though, so I will leave it alone here. Still, in the subject of “recommended Reading,” I’d like to point people to a very illuminating article from last week’s Washington Post. Have you seen this? It’s an editorial by Flemming Rose, the editor of that Danish newspaper that started the ruckus with those infamous Mohammed cartoons.

Regardless of your position on the subject, this is a thoughtful and articulate article that really clarifies the issues and offers much-needed back-story on how and why the cartoons came to be published.

Friday, February 17, 2006

What To Read????

What to Read???

Holy Crow! After months of inactivity: two blogs in one day. I ought to pace myself.

I was just sitting here procrastinating and contemplating the piles of crap around my desk. I’ve been reading some good stuff lately, and I thought I share my good fortune with the population of the Internet.

I just started reading Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. I haven’t read much, but I can tell it’s gonna be DAMN GOOD. It’s one of those great non-fiction books that reads like a good novel. The setting is the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the two main characters are the Fair’s chief architect and a serial killer. How bad can that be? The amazing thing is that the author claims NOTHING in the book has been invented for dramatic purposes. Even all the dialogue has been drawn from historical documents.

That kind of authenticity is impressive, but I’m a sucker for good “historical fiction,” anyway. Books like Caleb Carr’s, The Alienist seem to have been written just for my taste. I love the mixing of true historical fact with compelling fictional characters. A good example I’ve read recently is Forever, by Pete Hamill. Hamill is a reporter and a Historian of New York City. His novel Forever tells the story of an Irish immigrant who, in 1741, comes to New York and becomes gifted with immortality—so long as he never leaves Manhattan island. This is a great story, and Hamill weaves the personal tale of Cormac O’Connor with the history of New York City up until 9/11. Great stuff. Hamill’s other books are also well worth a look. I loved his memoir, A Drinking Life even more.

I think I mentioned in a previous blog that I’ve been on a “New York” kick lately. The Pete Hamill books were part of that, so I should also mention that his recent book, Downtown: My Manhattan was also quite good. In a way, it picks up where A Drinking Life left off; telling Hamill’s life story along with that of the streets he walked.

Still, the best “New York” book I’ve read has to be The Power Broker, by Robert Carro. This book is really an epic tale about the amazing life of Robert Moses and the awesome power and influence he wielded over the landscape of the city. Really amazing, but a huge commitment; this sucker is 1100+ pages, not including notes. For an abbreviated look at Robert Moses’ life, I recommend that you watch the PBS Series New York, Directed by Ric Burns. It’s a great documentary available on DVD, and Moses figures prominently in the last couple of episodes. It was this documentary that made me want to read The Power Broker.

Before I jumped into the Chicago book (last night), I was reading about yet another metropolis: Bombay. Maximum City is another fascinating read by author, Suketu Mehta. I bought this book on a whim, knowing nothing about it. I just picked it off of a shelf at random in the bookstore and read a couple of pages. I was hooked instantly. Mehta is a Bombay native who, after living much of his life abroad, returned to write this portrait of a complex and shadowy city. He tells the story from different perspectives; befriending criminals in the city’s underworld and the police that hunt them, becoming a player in the “Bollywood” film scene and entering the secret world of “bar dancers.” It’s an inside look at a world I never new existed, but one I’d like o know more about.

SO, I guess I’ve been reading about cities. Maybe my next blog will be about the comics I recommend. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many. Guess that will be an easy one to write! ;)

Here are some handy links if you wanna buy any of these. Let me know what you think!

What To Blog????

Hey, it’s February already and this is my first blog entry of 2006. What gives?

Methinks I cursed myself back in September when I promised to only post blogs of “substance!” I have just been unable to decide what to write about.

Not that there isn’t plenty going on in the world. I could wax intellectual/political on the “Cartoon Riots” like everyone else. Except that everyone else IS doing that and I don’t really have much to add on the subject. Yes, I’m full of opinions on the subject but, frankly, I’m tired of hearing half-baked ideas and rhetoric from all sides of the political spectrum. Maybe I’ll just link to one of the best articles I’ve read on the subject. Leave it at that. Much easier than writing something myself!

Yes, the news is depressing. Almost as depressing as the way it is covered in the media. At least we have an abundance of Dick Cheney jokes to keep us amused (now there's an important issue...groan!).

So, it’s 2006! The macro may suck, but the micro isn’t so bad from where I sit. The holidays were quite nice this year and except for some issues with our son’s babysitter, things have been okay.

I am pleased to report that I’ve been really busy lately. Besides the usual coloring for DC Comics and my regular J-14 Magazine gig, I’ve recently started two BIG projects that will keep me exhausted for most of this year! Unfortunately, I have been unable to talk about them in detail, but one of them was just announced, so here’s where I start the “buzz!”

The first of these big projects is a Graphic Novel Biography of Ronald Reagan, written by Andy Helfer and drawn by yours truly. Here’s a link to a Publishers Weekly article about this new line of books by Hill & Wang. This is one HARD job. I never imagined I would be drawing the life story of Reagan, but I guess you never know what opportunities will arise. This 100-page book is really dense. Much research & reference to be done. It’s a real challenge.

The second book is even bigger, and I can’t really say anything about it yet. But here’s a one-word hint: MANGA.

Never thought I’d be doing Manga either. Go figure. I’m learning a lot these days! More on that soon.

Happy Presidents Day! Speaking of which, here's a mock-up of the cover to the Reagan book...

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