- Posted by Johanna on October 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm
- Category: Comic News
With the Comics Code in the news lately, what better time to explore the censorship effects the Authority had on comic production?
Alter Ego #105, due out October 26 (84 pages, $7.95), promises to document how the 1954-55 establishment of the Comics Code Authority “changed comics greatly … with comic art and script before and after the CCA got hold of them, with art by SIMON & KIRBY, DITKO, BUSCEMA, SINNOTT, GOULD, COLE, STERANKO, KRIGSTEIN, O’NEIL, GLANZMAN, ORLANDO, WILLIAMSON, HEATH, and many others!” (Cover shown by Josh Medors.)
I love those kinds of stories, pointing out the silly things censors often object to, although I’ve never heard any specifics about comics before. (Most of the stories I’m familiar with come from TV or movies.) TwoMorrows Publishing has posted a 20-page PDF preview.
That same day sees the debut of the newly full-color Back Issue #52 (84 pages, $8.95) with another timely subject: Bronze Age mystery comics! (“Mystery” is code for “horror”, due to Comics Code restrictions.)
The cover is by Bernie Wrightson, one of the interview subjects. The magazine will also feature coverage of “DC’s Horror Hosts and Ghosts, Charlton Comics’ chiller anthologies, and damsels of darkness Black Orchid and Madame Xanadu.”
TwoMorrows has posted a PDF preview of this issue as well.
On the book front, this month’s release is Modern Masters: Frazer Irving, the 26th volume in that series. I know Irving’s art from Klarion the Witch-Boy (collaborator on that title Grant Morrison provides the one-page introduction) and the recent Xombi, but he’s also contributed significantly to Batman titles, 2000 AD, and Gutsville.
This entry follows the same, successful format of other Modern Masters volumes: a book-length interview covering the basics, illustrated throughout with art samples from throughout the subject’s history, followed by a gallery section. In Irving’s case, there’s a lot of information on digital creation, since he’s done so much on computer over the length of his career, as well as discussion of how he prefers to color his own work.
TwoMorrows has posted a 26-page PDF preview of the book that they say serves as a “good sampling of the other various interviews, articles, and art from the issue.”
- Posted by Johanna on April 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: by Eric Nolen-Weathington
- PUBLISHER: TwoMorrows Publishing; $15.95 US
The usual Modern Masters subjects are most famous for their superhero work, with volumes on such well-known names as George Pérez, Alan Davis, John Byrne, and more recently, Chris Sprouse, Mike Ploog, and Mark Buckingham. While there have been fantasy artists featured in the past (see book 11, dedicated to Charles Vess, for example), the artists covered are still best-known to denizens of comic shops, with success within the direct market.
This volume on Jeff Smith is thus something of a departure for the TwoMorrows audience, as explained in the introduction by editor and interviewer Eric Nolen-Weathington. It reads a tad defensively, as though the text was taken from a memo justifying the proposal for the book to a superhero-centric editor:
Jeff Smith is an anomaly. … He became a success in the comic book field long before he drew a single page for DC or Marve. That is a rarity in this day and age, though it is becoming somewhat less so.
… So what makes Bone so special? There aren’t any superheroes, and the main characters are weird looking. … The art is so cartoony. In other words, it has every ingredient that typically kills the sales of a comic book in the direct market. And yet Bone sold quite well in the direct market.
It goes on to talk about how many kids know and love Bone, Smith’s signature work, and how popular it is. (Another piece of evidence, not covered in the introduction, is that it’s become its own franchise, with other people now working with the characters and their world.) Later in the book, they go into more detail on how Bone broke through: as books, especially once it was picked up and republished by Scholastic.
I’m curious to know (although it’s none of my business) how well this book does. Smith is an unusual choice for the series and may indicate a more diverse direction (which I’d welcome). He’s very talented, and it’s always a pleasure to look at the pictures he creates, but do his readers want to know more about him and his other work? Or do they just want more Bone? Is focusing on his art going to satisfy the TwoMorrows audience, who may not be as familiar with the basis of his success? (Note the volumes are numbered, driving the obsessive to collect them all.)
This is all quibbling, mainly because I don’t have much to say about the meat of the book. If you’ve seen any of the Modern Masters volumes, this is another strong entry in the series. Typical of the format, it contains a lengthy interview that focuses mostly on facts — biography, schooling, technique, inspirations, career path — accompanied by previously unseen art. Smith’s work on Captain Marvel and his new title, RASL, are also covered, plus there’s a 32-page art gallery, eight of which are in color. There’s nothing controversial or opinionated here, because it’s intended to be a reference and a visual treat, not something that provides new insight into what makes Jeff Smith tick.
I’m still not sure who the audience is for this. The younger Bone fan will be bored by all the copy. The type I think of as the usual TwoMorrows reader (which is likely unfairly limiting on my part) may not care about Smith as a person. They might enjoy hearing Smith’s stories about how he treated his work as a business, and the steps he took to build it, but all that, informative as it is, is no longer relevant to the market today.
I’m probably overthinking it. Like Bone itself, this is a unique story, capturing the making of a modern classic. Smith’s a very strong cartoonist with worthy inspirations, and his work is worth learning more about. If nothing else, the book is a time capsule about one of the direct market’s last individual success stories. (The publisher provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on March 31, 2010 at 5:45 pm
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: by Eric Nolen-Weathington
- PUBLISHER: TwoMorrows Publishing; $14.95 US
Out this month are two new volumes in the TwoMorrows Modern Masters interview/art book series, both by Eric Nolen-Weathington, the series editor.
The first is dedicated to Mark Buckingham, whose credits include Death: The High Cost of Living, Fables, and Miracleman. Note that he did not, as I first thought, draw Ultimate Spider-Man. That’s a different Mark B., Bagley. Obviously, I need the education this volume provides.
Neil Gaiman’s introduction starts things off with praise for Bucky’s skill and versatility. The following long interview covers the basics of his career and key works, accompanied by art either rare or representative. That’s the first 70-some pages. The remaining 38 pages, 8 of which are in color, are simply art — reproductions of his penciled pages or sketches.
I found myself wishing that the interviewer was a little more willing to follow unexpected paths. There’s an early comment, when discussing Buckingham’s academics, where he talks about being willing to vary his style and be a “chameleon of comics”. The very next question is “How long were you in university?” I wanted them instead to continue the discussion of styles and whether having a distinct one was good or bad. Instead, we read about how important it is to know the right people when you’re interested in getting discovered, which is true, but a different direction. (I had no idea that Buckingham was inking Hellblazer and talking about working on Miracleman while he was still in college.) The topic of style does come up again later, but in this disjointed fashion, it’s hard to follow and doesn’t get to be as meaty as it could have been. I still, after finishing the book, don’t have a good idea of how he’d describe his work or what, artistically, makes his style distinctive. Maybe if I had more of an eye for visuals, the art reproductions would better answer that question for me.
Many of the questions are of the form “and then you did (particular comic issue)” or “you used (art technique or tool) on that story”. Thankfully, the responses are more interesting than the questions, either talking about a co-worker or mentioning artistic approaches or influences. Buckingham sounds like a great interviewee, with lots of interesting stories and large chunks of response. With art on every page, there are lots of examples of his work, too.
Many of the questions are also generic, in that they could be asked of any artist: “What’s a typical working day? What do you listen to when working?” If this book is setting out to be the standard reference on the artist covered, that approach is understandable, since the basics should be covered, even if the questions aren’t specific or particularly inspired. The bits of information I found most interesting were Buckingham’s hopeful statements about getting to finish his run with Neil Gaiman on Miracleman, now relabeled Marvelman, at Marvel. (He’s more optimistic than I am, since the section starts off by saying he wasn’t even aware Marvel was announcing their (partial) acquisition of the property. That’s not a good sign when it comes to valuing the creators, in my opinion.) I also liked the stories about working with Chris Bachalo and getting in trouble with Vertigo and then redeeming himself.
I wish that these books weren’t so much “preaching to the choir”. If you already know Buckingham’s work, the chronological following of his life and work makes sense. For those of us who want to learn more, it would be helpful to have an opening section that talks about what the artist is known for, what makes his work unique, and what makes him worthy of having a dedicated book, to set the stage for what follows. As it is, these books are usually best suited to already-existing fans who want to learn more. Much of it is most meaningful for those who’ve read the stories or issues referenced, since the text assumes you already know about their content.
For that reason, I enjoyed the Guy Davis volume more, since I’d read more of his work (specifically on Hellboy-related series, but also Baker Street). Plus, the introduction here was particularly cool — it was a two-page comic by Stan Sakai!
Instead of almost instantly working on recognizable properties from big-name publishers, Davis came up through small-press publishers in … well, I’m guessing the early 90s, because there’s a remarkable lack of actual dates in this interview. That’s before he moved to Vertigo for Sandman Mystery Theatre and became known for his grotesque images and monsters.
I noticed, following the “and then I worked on this” flow, that there wasn’t much about Davis beyond what he was drawing. The interview is about career (including how they got started, early training, etc.), but I wanted to know more about whether he was holding down other jobs, family situation, the kinds of details that give a sense of the artist as a person. I think that’s just a distinction between what these books aim to do and what I’m looking for; I can’t criticize them for having a different purpose than what I want to see.
But I am going to gripe about something else. One particular art credit in the first book is labeled “Miracleman TM respective owner. Story (c) 2010 Neil Gaiman. Artwork (c) 2010 Mark Buckingham.” All of that is either wrong or just plain useless. For one thing, a work of art is copyright when it’s put into fixed format. The art and story would be copyright 1990, when it was created. You don’t put on the date you reprint it. And “respective owner” just says “we don’t want to get in trouble or take a stand on a troubled issue”. Which I understand — TwoMorrows doesn’t want anyone preventing publication of the book. But that makes the label, which is supposed to notify users of the protected ownership, pointless. These statements already appear on the indicia page, so I don’t know why they bother reprinting them per art piece.
Note that Buckingham is Volume 22 and Davis is Volume 24. Volume 23 will cover Darwyn Cooke (and thus is highly anticipated by me), but has run into scheduling conflicts that knocked it off the release list for now. (The publisher provided review copies.)
- Posted by Johanna on March 2, 2010 at 10:37 pm
- Category: Books and Prose
- CREDITS: by Todd Dezago and Eric Nolen-Weathington
- PUBLISHER: TwoMorrows Publishing; $14.95 US
I’m still waiting for TwoMorrows to deem a woman worthy of inclusion in their Modern Masters line of interview books, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this Chris Sprouse volume, co-written by our friend Todd Dezago. (The other writer is nice guy Eric Nolen-Weathington.)
I find Sprouse’s clean art lovely in its simplicity, and he works incredibly hard to achieve that appearance. As with the other Modern Masters books, the text is a lengthy interview in which the subject talks about his life and work, how he got into the field, key points in his career, and his love of comics. It’s accompanied by all kinds of art samples, including early and rare work, such as pieces for his high school paper and summer jobs. Plus, there are sketches, character designs, and page layouts.
They did a nice job actually connecting the images to what’s being talked about in the text. I’ve had problems with some of the company’s magazines before, talking about things that they never show, but that’s not the case here. I say “they” because I don’t know whether to credit authors, editor, or someone else, but whoever’s responsible, thank you. Nice caption job, too, providing full identification so I’m not guessing at what an image is or where it’s from.
I also appreciated “hearing” Sprouse address the struggles he’s had, his learning curve, and his issues with perfectionism and how it affects a work schedule. He comments briefly on many of his co-workers, but the part that really struck a chord with me was when he talks about emotional impact, how looking back at certain pages reminds him of major changes in his life going on when he drew them, and how difficult it can be to keep enthusiasm going after a while.
Sprouse also walks through the full creation of a page from Ocean before the book switches to pure art gallery, including a short color section of full-page images. I’d forgotten just how much I loved his work on Legionnaires, around the time I first began reading the series. I really enjoyed this volume, going over his career and understanding better what makes Chris Sprouse the talented artist he is.
- Posted by Johanna on July 18, 2006 at 8:45 am
- Category: Books and Prose, Movies/TV
- PUBLISHER: TwoMorrows, $29.95 US
This DVD is a companion to the similarly named book. It’s a great idea — there’s nothing like seeing an artist work for learning more about him and his craft.
Here’s an excerpt from the back cover copy:
… gives you a personal tour of George’s studio, and lets you watch step-by-step as the fan-favorite artist illustrates a special issue of Top Cow’s Witchblade. Also, see George as he sketches for fans at conventions, and hear his peers and colleagues — including Marv Wolfman and Ron Marz — share their anecdotes and personal insights along the way.
I was most interested in the peer commentary, myself, since I’m not very interested in Witchblade. I picked this up at Heroes Con, where I spoke to DVD Narrator and TwoMorrows Editor Eric Nolen-Weathington about it. He informed me that there would have been rights issues involved if they’d shown too much DC or Marvel work, so they selected a title where they could more easily come to an agreement.
The DVD opens with Eric taking us into George Pérez’s studio. I noticed right off some fuzziness in the picture as the camera moved, but once they’re inside, that goes away. (And really, who cares about walking into the house? It’s just setting the stage.)
The two spend some time looking at the artwork on the walls. What’s shown is mainly pinups of scantily clad female characters; again, the DC/Marvel issue may be in play here. There is an amazing copy of the poster from History of the DC Universe, signed by many classic creators, and a Legion of Super-Heroes character sheet. Oddly, when they’re explaining the history of Crimson Plague, focusing on how everyone was based on real people, they don’t show the item that George is pointing at and talking at length about except in a brief cutaway, probably because it’s surrounded by DC items.
After that, it’s off to MegaCon, where a wordless sequence establishes that he sits at a table and has fans lining up for him. I can’t imagine someone buying this DVD who isn’t already familiar with Pérez, so I’m not sure what purpose this serves. After a slow start, though, the disc gets into its promised meat, with scenes in the studio alternating with footage from other venues, a good choice to keep viewers interested. Much of the time features George pencilling a page (on CrossGen-branded boards, heh) and talking about his artistic choices.
He draws much more slowly than I expected, by the way, but it was interesting to hear him briefly mention the conflict between Witchblade as a “warrior woman” and her sexy costuming.
Technically, I had some problems with the disc. The Scene Selection screen didn’t work at all on my DVD player (a two-year-old Panasonic), and the text on the Biography screen was near unreadable. It looked as though it had been vertically squished (or horizontally stretched). The Pictures section was navigable, but only if I used the Enter key. On movie discs, I’m usually able to use the left and right arrow keys to navigate through similar sections, a feature I missed. As with the Bio section, text was painful to try to read online.
The Pictures consist of cover roughs for the four JLA/Avengers comics, a Crimson Plague pinup, 12 pages of the unpublished Crimson Plague #3 (that appears to be all that was done), a mislabeled sequence showing three stages of a JLA/Avengers page from pencils to inks, and a handful of pages of very early work. I didn’t check to see if these pieces are duplicated in the book (because I can’t find it right now).
Jim McLaughlin shows up in one of the MegaCon segments delivering a public service announcement for ACTOR. Turns out George is one of the organization’s Board of Directors and has done an incredible amount of fundraising for them, but I spent several minutes wondering what the connection was before it was explained. There’s also a full interview with Ron Marz, the writer of the Witchblade issue George is illustrating.
Mark Waid appears in the convention scenes. Bless him for starting by introducing himself and providing context for everything he says for those who don’t recall all the details of George’s career themselves. (Marv Wolfman, on the other hand, seems to assume a great level of knowledge on the listener’s part.) Waid is also animated and fun to listen to.
Phil Jimenez appears last, talking about how to balance his fan love of George’s work with the need to be professional while now working with him. He nicely explains some of the key points in George’s career. Jimenez is in a unique position, being the artist who most obviously has been influenced by George’s style, and his ability to coherently explain his thoughts about that result in a segment that’s my favorite on the disc and an excellent choice for a conclusion.
Some might dismiss this as “two hours of George muttering to himself”, but it’s a valuable attempt to provide information about an artist and his process in a different format. It requires a lot of patience and a high level of interest in his work to not fast-forward some of it, though. I also wish that they’d shown the final piece we’ve seen George working on all this time.
- Posted by Johanna on December 2, 2007 at 7:49 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel News
Last month, TwoMorrows offered all their magazines at 50% off. This month, they’re extending the sale until December 15 and adding the following book titles published this year:
Image Comics: The Road To Independence by George Khoury
John Romita… And All That Jazz by Roy Thomas and Jim Amash
Brush Strokes With Greatness: The Life & Art of Joe Sinnott (standard edition) by Tim Lasiuta
Working Methods by John Lowe
Comics Introspective: Peter Bagge by Christopher Irving
Comics Gone Ape! by Michael Eury
That brings them all under $20, including postage. Their stated reason is that it’s “due to overwhelming response”. But selling more items cheaper isn’t the usual response to popularity; usually, increased demand means higher prices. Does higher response to the sale mean that their regular prices are too high to maximize profit?
Does TwoMorrows need to raise a bunch of money before the end of the year for some reason? They’re now selling direct to consumers at the same rates, roughly, they sell to retailers. Do comic stores care? I suspect many don’t carry a full line of books, especially titles like these, which are more specialty publications.
- Posted by Johanna on March 26, 2006 at 12:52 pm
- Category: Comic News
I’m not sure why TwoMorrows is sending out solicitation information this early — we just got the March Previews for books due in May, so we’re two months away from this being able to be acted on by buyers, and the risk is this will be forgotten by then — but I couldn’t resist highlighting a couple of their upcoming publications.
The next Modern Masters book, volume 8, focuses on Walter Simonson. I only know him as a wonderful guy, always friendly and welcoming, so I’m looking forward to seeing more of his classic work to expand my education. It’s written by a friend of KC’s from his Westfield days, Roger Ash, and I know he’s doing a terrific research job. $15 for 128 black-and-white pages.
Continuing in their series of books by fans for fans, The Krypton Companion focuses on Superman’s Silver and Bronze Ages. Interesting that they didn’t or couldn’t call it “The Superman Companion”, but I can imagine that that might attract unwelcome attention from the Time-Warner lawyers, given the timing of the movie. Among the many promised features are “a roundtable discussion with modern-day creators (including JOHN BYRNE, JEPH LOEB, and ALEX ROSS) examining Superman’s influential past.” Warning, fogey alert! I expect lots of “it was better when…” but maybe editor Michael Eury will be good about keeping them focused on the positive instead of slamming current-day work.
It’s $25 for 224 black-and-white pages, which seems a bit high. It’s in keeping with the price on the previous book I mentioned, but for a moderately sized non-color book, I would have hoped for a price under $20.
Since it’s convention season, just about all of their magazines have new issues, but I have to quote the copy for this one:
It’s ladies’ night in BACK ISSUE #17 as the Super Girls of the ’70s and ’80s take center stage! Track Supergirl’s solo adventures from her hot pants days to her dramatic death–with a ’70s Supergirl art gallery featuring BRIAN STELFREEZE, CULLY HAMNER, DAN PARENT, ALEX SAVIUK, and others. Flash back to the early days of Spider-Woman, Flare, and Tigra the Were-Woman, and relive the exploits of the powerless Diana Prince, Wonder Woman. “Greatest Stories Never Told” digs up DC’s Double Comics starring Supergirl and Superboy, with previously unpublished EDUARDO BARRETTO and CARMINE INFANTINO art, and MARV WOLFMAN and PHIL JIMENEZ are interviewed about the Teen Titans’ Donna Troy. Female comics pros from DIANA SCHUTZ to JILL THOMPSON gather at the “Pro2Pro Roundtable” to discuss their favorite super-heroines, “Backstage Pass” recalls TV’s Animated Super Chicks, and Fred Grandinetti’s “Off My Chest” guest editorial laments Batwoman’s unfortunate fate. Plus: Rare and classic artwork by MIKE SEKOWSKY, BOB OKSNER, GEORGE PÃƒâ€°REZ, ADAM HUGHES, DICK GIORDANO, RICK LEONARDI, and a bonus 8-page Super Girls COLOR ART GALLERY by the one-and-only BRUCE TIMM–who provides our heart-stopping Tigra cover! Edited by MICHAEL EURY.
Given the time period the magazine typically covers, it’s not surprising to see a lack of female creators featured, because there weren’t many working then, especially on female characters. I appreciate the inclusion of their opinions on the subject through the roundtable. And given the target audience of the direct market, many of the potential buyers want to see sketches of pretty girls instead of understanding the historical problems of the characters, anyway. 100+ pages for $7.