Hi all! Drew here, interrupting our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a special announcement about a comics anthology I’ve spent the past several months putting together. It’s called MASKS: An Anthology, and it collects comics and essays about comics, all dealing with the theme of masks. It features writers and artists from all over the world, including our very own Patrick Ehlers and Spencer Irwin, who are both contributing essays. Patrick is also writing and drawing his first ever comic, which you’re not going to want to miss. It’s up on kickstarter now, where digital and physical copies are available alongside a number of other exciting rewards. I’m obviously a bit biased, but I think this is a project that will appeal to most of our readers, as it features innovative and varied comics alongside in-depth analyses. It’s a project I’m very proud of, and hope you’ll consider supporting. The kickstarter ends on November 22nd, so be sure to act fast! (Check out a few samples from the book after the break!) Continue reading
Today, Scott and Patrick are discussing Rocket Raccoon 1, originally released July 2nd, 2014.
Scott: I have something of a sidekick complex. As the youngest of three brothers, I typically wound up as the Robin to someone else’s Batman (often literally). As a kid, my favorite athlete was Scottie Pippen, perhaps the most famous ‘sidekick’ in sports history. (I liked his name.) There was one other Scott in my high school class, and he was the prom king, so for the most part I was the other Scott (which probably makes me more of a second-fiddle than a sidekick, but hey, I needed a third example to solidify my argument, so play along). Of course, we’re each the main character of our own life, so being the overly sentimental kid I was, I often wondered how it made the various sidekicks feel to be relegated to a secondary role in everyone else’s eyes. Chewbacca, Mr. Smithers, Gromit — these are great characters, and they deserve their share of the spotlight. The Guardians of the Galaxy are a team, so Rocket Raccoon might not be a sidekick in a strict sense, but he’s never had a strong story of his own to carry in Brian Michael Bendis’ title. Honestly, this story by Skottie Young (I like his name!) probably could have been chopped in to smaller pieces and told as a B-story in Guardians, but I’m all for the little guy getting his shot at the big time. Continue reading
Shelby: On the surface, the phrase “fight fire with fire” doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. I mean, what are you going to do, set the fire on fire? That’s not going to get you anywhere. While it’s come to mean “taking extreme measures in the face of extreme threat,” its origin is actually fairly logical. As an early fire-fighting method, people would set small, controlled fires to burn up potential fuel and prevent larger, far more damaging fires from spreading. It’s logical until you consider how easy it is for a controlled fire to turn on you, however. In the end, no matter how you use the phrase, ultimately you’re just going to end up getting burned, a lesson learned by General Lane and Wraith in the latest installment of Superman Unchained.
Reverend Anderson, Outcast 1
Scott: Faith is a complicated word. On it’s own, it’s almost inseparable from religious connotation. But I use the word frequently without giving any thought to God or the doctrines of any church. I ask people to have faith in me. I proclaim my faith in baseball teams and film directors. I advocate being faithful in relationships, and I refer to my morning coffee — and the trip to the bathroom it induces (indeuces?) — as “Old Faithful” (I think because of this). Sometimes there’s weight behind the word, but often there isn’t. It’s a word that probably suffers from overuse. Like Reverend Anderson suggests in this first issue of Outcast, I want to have faith in everything, but maybe that’s foolish. Writer Robert Kirkman is determined to make everyone think about faith, to examine the forces behind what they believe and why they believe it. With the help of artist Paul Azaceta, he’s crafted a compelling start to this story, as thought-provoking as it is creepy. Continue reading
Drew: When I was five years old, I told my then four-year-old cousin that he was adopted. Nobody had told me that he was, and certainly nobody told me that I wasn’t supposed to tell him, but he was immediately distraught, running to his mother to assure him I was lying. A young kid’s relationship to his parents is his whole world, and the thought that there might be something unusual about it is understandably upsetting. Totally unintentionally, I put my aunt in an incredibly awkward position, forcing her to confront a truth outside of her terms, when her son was already distressed by the idea. Complicating the issue was that his brother is not adopted, which only creates more potential for feelings of alienation. Superman has long been the poster child for adoption, but what if his adopted home had its own “last son” that seemed to be every bit as “super” as he is? Might Clark grow a chip on his shoulder about being “the adopted one”? These are exactly the questions Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. set up in Superman 32, stopping just shy of showing us the answers. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Sex Criminals 6, originally released June 18th, 2014.
Scott: Have you ever been surprised at your own emotional response to something? It happened to me last summer, when my grandfather died. It was unexpected, or at least as unexpected as the death of an 88 year old man could be. I was shocked and saddened by the news, but I was very aware that my reaction felt muted. I knew my grandfather very well and loved him dearly, so why wasn’t I more emotional? I started to wonder if I was incapable of truly grieving. It seemed like another step in a progression I had noticed in recent years, a general softening of my emotional responses, and the thought that I might be dead inside scared the crap out of me. A couple months ago, my entire family reunited for a memorial service and I was again surprised when, while speaking about my grandfather, I could hardly get through a sentence without bawling. Discovering that I was capable of such an emotional outpouring was a huge relief, as the thought of a lifetime of even-keeled reactions seemed dreadful. I realize I can’t always control how I will react to major life events, but I’m thankful that I can at least be comfortable with my emotions. As Sex Criminals 6 illustrates in painstaking detail, not everyone is so lucky.
Drew: The realization that there are other people with feelings and motivations separate from our own is a key moment in child brain development. As early (and often) as that lesson comes, we’re still pretty bad at understanding that people have different perspectives. We want different things, value different things, and believe in different methods for how to achieve our goals, yet it’s still hard to understand why someone would disagree with you. It’s obvious they’re wrong! Why can’t they see it? Those differences of perspective tend to correlate to differences of experience — middle aged Russians are likely going to agree with each other more than either would with a teenaged Australian — but it’s the differences within those groups that can lead to the biggest failures of understanding. That’s exactly the kind of failure Matt is confronted with in Daredevil 4, where Kirsten needs to remind him that not everyone is quite as resilient (or noble) as ol’ horn-head. Continue reading
Patrick: When all’s said and done, ‘Doomed’ will have made its way through four different series: Superman (before Johns takes it over next month), Action Comics, Batman / Superman (both of which are written by Greg Pak), and this series, Superman/Wonder Woman. The supporting casts featured in each chapter of this event vary a bit depending on the series — naturally, Wonder Woman and her supporting cast will feature more heavily here, just as Batman plays a bigger role in the series that bears his name. The slightly less visible connections come from what our authors are familiar with, or excited about writing about. Superman 31 found Super Doom trading blows with the Teen Titans, but only because they share a common writer: Scott Lobdell. Even Pak — who seems to be leading the charge here — has focused his issues on the Phantom Zone and Ghost Soldier and Mongul, all spun out of his own titles. The same things happens in this issue, as Super Doom gets a chance to beat down Soule’s other babies — Guy Gardner and the Red Lanterns. All of these developments are strange, and you can almost hear Lobdell, Pak and Soule glancing around the room, muttering “what else, what else, what else?” This reinforces their sadly generic vision for Man of Tomorrow. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing Manifest Destiny 7, originally released June 11th, 2014.
Scott: As a culture, we love making predictions. The more impossible something is to predict, the more tempting it is to venture a guess. A quick search on Google yields dozens of 2015 Oscar predictions and NFL mock drafts, despite the fact that many of the films mentioned haven’t been released yet and nobody knows which college football players will declare for the draft until next January (or which players will improve markedly, get injured, etc.). Making such predictions is an exercise in futility. And yet, we do it anyway. We talk at length about what we think will happen next on our favorite TV show, knowing full well the show’s writers are working hard to subvert our expectations. Unpredictability breeds anticipation, and anticipation is fun. Predictability, on the other hand, is a near sin. It’s capital “B” boring. Even knowing full well that writer Chris Dingess is likely trying to subvert my expectations, Manifest Destiny is starting to feel predictable, which is the beginning of a very slippery slope towards boring. I predict he’ll need to spice things up fast if he wants his readers to hang around.
Drew: Last month, Shelby compared Detective Comics to a well-executed magic trick. Specifically, she was referring to the way Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul wield misdirection, but I think the similarities between magic and art are manifold. Both rely on deceptively simple techniques to create effects that are greater than the sum of their parts. For me, the only real difference is how we value being “fooled” by those effects. If we see the strings, a magic trick is ruined, but understanding exactly how a scene was painted or filmed or carved can enhance our appreciation of a work of art. I personally enjoy knowing how a magic trick is performed, too — I think it gives me a deeper appreciation for exactly how skillful the magician is — but then again, I’ve always liked knowing how the sausage is made. Many folks would rather never know how the lady gets sawed in half, or how a painter simulates sunlight peaking through the clouds, or how a composer strings harmonies into a coherent musical idea. It’s an attitude I can’t fully support, but I do understand it: a little magic is lost when you can spot every palmed card. Manapul and Buccellato have long been a team that rewards digging beneath those effects, but this issue found me wishing that I wasn’t so aware of what they were doing. Continue reading