Author Archives: Logan Dalton

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Image result for into the spider verse

Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman  serve up one of the more unique visual feasts of the holiday film season with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is the first big animated superhero theatrical film since 1993’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. More importantly, it is the big screen debut of Miles Morales, the Afro-Latino teenager who succeeded Peter Parker as Spider-Man in Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli’s (Who is credited as an animator on the film.) 2011 Ultimate Comics Spider-Man series and is still Spider-Man in the mainstream Marvel Universe. The film chronicles Miles’ (voiced by Shameik Moore) origin story as Spider-Man as he teams up with Spider-People from other dimensions, including Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) to fight crime lord the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), who has gone from threatening just Hell’s Kitchen to all of the multiverse.

Beginning with a flashing Ben-Day dot take on the traditional Sony/Columbia/Marvel opening credit sequences, Into the Spider-Verse‘s animation style and color palette take center stage. The film’s presentation is an intoxicating blend of 3D animation, pop art, some photorealism (Like in the classroom scenes.), traditional animation, and of course, classic comic book storytelling motifs like sound effects and text boxes. The animators make what would be rote sequences in other films, like interdimensional portals or web slinging, imaginative like using stop motion animation to show when another dimension has crossed over into the main one. In a way, Into the Spider-Verse does remind me of  the great stop motion animation work done by Aardman (Wallace and Gromit) or Laika (Coraline), but with a slick big city sheen that matches the glossy sound quality of the music in Miles’ headphones in the first scene of the movie.

However, writers Rothman and Phil Lord (Co-director of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street) don’t just rest on the laurels of the engrossing animation style, kick-ass action sequences featuring an inventive riff on a classic Spider-Man villain, and scene stealing voice work from Nicolas Cage’s Spider-Man Noir and Mulaney’s Spider-Ham. They take their time establishing a world where the tropes of Spider-Man and superheroes are well-understood and give Miles himself a compelling heroic journey. 

But it’s not all superhero stuff for Miles. Rothman and Lord spend some time in the film exploring his other interests, like street art and music, and his complicated relationship with his school, Brooklyn Visions and family. Miles would rather stay with his friends and community at Brooklyn Middle instead of going to a charter school, and so he sneaks out and fails quizzes on purpose. He feels a bit awkward at Visions, and this connects with his growing pains as Spider-Man.

And every scene he spends with his dad NYPD officer Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry), mother Rio (Luna Lauren Velez), and uncle Aaron Davis (Mahershala Ali) is to be cherished. Ali and Shameik Moore have an easy chemistry in a pivotal early scene where Uncle Aaron shows Miles the ropes of transforming his emotions into street art. He is a real rock for Miles as he struggles with school, his new powers, and growing up, and Miles is truly at ease around him.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a lot of things. A superhero origin story, a coming of age tale with an unlikely mentor figure, a crazy crossover, and a rare case of visual experimentation in a big studio animated film. (Those Rico Renzi pinks when Spider-Gwen first showed up rocked my world.) Persichetti, Ramsey, Rothman, and Lord also use the film to show the universality of Spider-Man, and that anyone of any race or gender could be under the mask as long as they help the helpless, take responsibility for their actions, persevere in the toughest situations, and maybe make a joke or two.

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10

Review: Die #1

Die #1 is a strange beast. It’s part love letter to the fantasy genre, and it’s part puking revulsion and wanting to move on with your life. Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ story begins in 1991 when a teenager Sol decides to run a custom fantasy RPG for his and his friend Ash’s 16th birthday and invites Ash’s sister cyberpunk obsessed Angela and their friends Chuck, Isabelle, and Matt to play. Sol makes a big deal of how the RPG isn’t your run of the mill Dungeon and Dragons clone with the interesting gameplay mechanism of having a character roll a certain “die” depending on their personality. However, once the dice are rolled, scary unseen things happen to the party, Sol goes missing and is presumed dead, and the story jumps to the characters in their forties.

Gillen writing middle aged characters is quite a treat, and Hans’ art is both immersive and tragic. She shows some amazing depths as a cartoonist that I noticed most not in the rain swept vistas or introduction to the RPG turned real life fantasy world, but in the not so pretty faces of characters like Chuck. Up to this point in her career, Hans has drawn badass lesbian angel bounty hunters, problematic white girls dressing up like Japanese deities, Norse trickster gods, and the Father of Lies himself in Vertigo’s Lucifer, but Die #1 shows that she gets ordinary people too while still displaying amazing command of light and atmosphere. Every time a die is thrown, the page is vivisected into points of light, and the barrier between our world and the fantasy one is non-existent. People talking in shadow filled rooms is nice, but Die really reaches another gear when Hans gets to draw panel after panel of fantasy environment and put the main characters into their in-game “costumes”.

However, she doesn’t skimp on the kids in a room talking shit about a game part either, and Gillen definitely takes his time in Die #1 establishing the ensemble of characters and the mystery of the Grandmaster and this RPG world before a big time final page cliffhanger. From his work on well-crafted series like WicDiv and Journey into Mystery, he knows that giving away too much about the world and the underpinnings could lead to disinterest so Gillen leaves out much of the world-building minutia and spends time on the interactions between the main cast of characters and using the game to fill it out like Sol’s pretentious girlfriend Isabelle, who creates a way too cool for school character and chides him for not reading the Mervyn Peake novel she lent him.

Thankfully, knowledge of table top RPG and high or portal fantasy (Think Chronicles of Narnia) ephemera aren’t required for Die #1, which has a simple and accessible core centered around childhood friends who have grown apart and are trying to reconnect after experiencing a tragedy at a young age. It’s like Stand By Me 20 Years Later, but more DnD, or Stranger Things if the main young male cast plus Eleven experienced the events of the show, but no one else did. But, unlike this slowly improving TV show, Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans aren’t really beholden to any kind of nostalgia except for the long lasting kind of the first time you dip into an epic fantasy series, roll a D20 during your first DnD campaign, or wander around an open world fantasy RPG.

Die #1 is a book where you kind of geek out about the formerly drably dressed kids/40-somethings in full epic mode with swords, cool hair, and jewelry and then realize that they’re only in this world because they were transported by an object with the blood of their long lost friend. Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Han don’t treat the fantasy elements of Die like an adventure, but more like a mystery or something freakier. What happened to them at Ash and Sol’s 16th birthday is something so traumatic that they haven’t spoken about it in decades, and it shows even though we only get the slightest of details about what went on towards the end of the comic.

Stephanie Hans shows these unspoken moments through silent panels of people walking, rain falling, and keeps her color palette low before going a little dream world for the die throwing sequences and bright for the scenes in the fantasy world. The group of friends might exchange friendly small talk when they meet up to discuss Sol and the bloody D20, but there is a strain to their relationship that is revealed through Kieron Gillen’s caption boxes and the shadows in Hans’ art. It’s the awkwardness of meeting with people who once meant a great deal to you, but not for some time combined with the dredging of old trauma.

I’m here for Stephanie Hans’ fantasy world construction in Die and Kieron Gillen’s tempering of the joy of fantasy with the horror of loss. Die #1 makes a smart choice by presenting character dynamics in the foreground and cool, scary fantasy world-building in the background. But Hans’ memorable visuals is what will stick with me the most. Never has the casual roll of dice had so much power.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Stephanie Hans Letters: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + The Divine #40

It’s crazy to think that we’ve almost reached the end of the saga of the ascended, then descended  and part of a millennia cycle of goddesses killing each other fangirl, but it’s true. And Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson are in beautiful form in The Wicked + the Divine #40 that centers around Baal’s final gig at the O2 Arena where he hopes to summon and defeat the Great Darkness with the help of some Dio-esque (RIP) hive mind shenanigans and human sacrifice. It’s a little complicated.

But WicDiv #40’s strength is that Gillen and McKelvie don’t get caught up in plot mechanics and use both the in-story and real world time gap between the rise of the Pantheon and their swan song to brilliant effect. With the exception of some diagram/specs pages, until the literally explosive end of issue climax, McKelvie and Wilson keep the visuals dialed down. The comic is presented like a handheld documentary film or more appropriately a YouTube vlog with close-up’s and awkward angles intermingled with moments of truth and self-awareness. The comic opens with fanboys, Tom and Nathan, doing an “unboxing video” for their Baal gig tickets, and you can almost hear the obnoxious tones of their voices in McKelvie’s loud facial expressions.

But the over-the-top Gen Z parody gets replaced with real emotion as the comic progresses, and you get to know them, especially Tom. He gets more self-aware and successfully reads a situation where his former crush is getting hit on by some strangers and also has a profound understanding on who Persephone/Laura is. Not a destroyer, but a human being. (And so are you.) This empathetic tone flows throughout WicDiv #40 (Except when scheming Minerva has her little long con asides while still playing the child victim.) from Baal struggling to balance the deaths of 20,000 people with the destruction of the entire universe, including his family, and inspiration in general to little fan vignettes of worshipers at Baal’s gig before they “go under”. These scenes return to WicDiv ‘s initial exploration of the relationship between fan and artist/performer although the critic (i.e. Urdr) is not present. The comic begins with the more materialistic side of fandom (expensive tickets, waiting in line) before turning to its inspirational side right before Gillen’s plot hits the big moments.

WicDiv #40 is also yet another opportunity for formal experimentation as Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson lay out the issue in the style of a confessional running the gamut from Shakespearean soliloquy (Baal before his performance) to vlog (The aforementioned Tom and Nathan show.) with reality show and person on the street thrown in for good measure. Even if all the gods, except for Baal and Minerva, are dead or appear on the margins of the story until the very end, McKelvie and Wilson’s visual adaptation of the confessional to the comic book medium allows for quick identification with characters and their emotions plus some honest and soul searching dialogue from Gillen, including a rare look at the interaction between male bisexuality and toxic masculinity. Ultra bi fanboy Tom has conversations about this topic and identity that I had five years ago, and it’s cool to see that reflected in fiction when male bisexual characters are either coded gay or straight except for a bit of innuendo, winking at another man, or a stray line of dialogue. (See most representations of John Constantine.)

Talking heads are usually the kiss of death in comics and are either a chance for the writer to go overboard with their dialogue skills or give an artist on a tight monthly schedule a breather. However, with Jamie McKelvie’s well-documented knack for facial acting and eye for interesting details like the ever shifting, cheap blue blanket that drapes Tom while he waits for the Baal show, they’re never dull. And as the story progresses to the actual Baal gig, Matthew Wilson plays with color strength and situation going from a complex palette when fans talk about their connection to members of the Pantheon to a flat one when the mind control takes hold. The light effect he gives the worshipers is quite “eerie” and spirals the narrative into hopelessness before it takes a turn for the unexpected. And Wilson also gets to play with bold, brash colors thanks to the central role that Baal takes in the narrative.

WicDiv #40 is part jaw dropping arena show and vulnerable singer song writer gig with Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson spending plenty of time developing and exploring the personalities of the fans of the Pantheon, and how the gods have an effect on their lives. With Minerva’s master plan subbing in for the murder mystery, it’s a throwback to the original arc where Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson slowly revealed the gods’ personalities and action through the POV of ultimate fangirl, Laura. There are murderous Minerva asides and heartfelt Baal self and family confessions, but WicDiv #40 gives a fresh non-insider perspective on the Pantheon before things get all opening sequence of recent Zack Snyder films. (This is not a complaint.)

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie
Colors: Matthew Wilson Letters: Clayton Cowles 

Story: 9.0 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Batman: Damned #1 Has Gorgeous Visuals, Overwrought Narration

Batman: Damned #1 is 50 pages of glorious and sometimes creepy Lee Bermejo as well as 50 pages of John Constantine yapping about theology, heaven and hell, religious things, and the like and occasionally displaying his snarky wit courtesy of writer Brian Azzarello, who returns to the character almost two decades after being the first American to write Hellblazer in 2000. Batman: Damned has the tailor made for an elevator pitch premise of the Joker mysteriously being wounded, and Batman mysteriously having no idea what happened to him and teaming up with John Constantine to get to the bottom of things. It’s equally parts gritty and Gothic thanks to Bermejo’s art and works best when it’s reveling in its spookiness and disorienting atmosphere instead of trying to be deep or give Bruce Wayne a screwed up childhood before his parents were murdered.

At times, Azzarello and Bermejo seem to be working at counter purposes in Batman: Damned #1. The comic is filled with brilliant and sometimes shocking imagery from Bermejo and then kind of ruined with the overwrought narration from Azzarello. Brian Azzarello definitely is having a fun time writing Constantine narration, and the lettering has a nice storybook flow to it, but it undercuts the art sometimes by describing what is on the page instead of creating an interesting juxtaposition or adding layers to characterization like in Watchmen or Kingdom Come, for example. Azzarello and Bermejo do nail Constantine’s character in a single panel when he’s smoking and refers to himself as “the unreliable narrator”, which fits the non-linear, yet non-confusing nature of Batman: Damned’s plot whose supernatural elements keep it from being a cut and dried “What If Batman killed the Joker” story.

Honestly, the most unsettling part of Batman: Damned #1 are the flashbacks to Bruce’s childhood that go beyond the typical Zorro, pearls, Crime Alley, Waynes getting shot, and I’m not talking about Lee Bermejo’s creepy girl from The Ring take on The Enchantress. There’s a scene where young Bruce is out with his father Thomas and his mistress and entertaining himself by spitting off a tall building and counting, and he almost falls off the building when his dad throws a penny for his spit to “race”. A lot of orphan superhero’s parents were at least some kind of moral paragon, like Uncle Ben or Battlin’ Jack Murdock refusing to take a dive for a mob boss, but despite being super rich, Thomas Wayne doesn’t come across as a great dad or husband. Having a near death experience while your dad is cheating on your mom is definitely traumatic and adds more tragedy to the Batman mythos.

Batman: Damned #1 is at its finest when Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo go away from the theological narration and hurl the reader forward in a story about Batman being on the ropes with a gritty, supernatural tinge to it like Zatanna being a street musician or an eerie, invasive take on the body possessing Deadman. The comic’s opening sequence is a perfect example this beginning with a nine panel grid of an EKG and cutting to a full page image of Batman bleeding out before having him beat up cops, EMTS, and random passerbys while being disoriented and falling into the open arms of Alfred, er, John Constantine. There’s a real feeling of peril like the guy who has extensive notes and solutions for each Justice League member’s weaknesses has finally screwed up and could actually die or fail. It reminds me a lot of the Batman: Arkham video games when your health is dwindling, and the world is all cloudy and blood filled.

As shown in a scene where he’s crouching naked in front of a Batsuit (A page or so after the famous full frontal nudity.), Batman is definitely in pain throughout Batman: Damned #1 as he spends the entire comic trying to retrace his steps and figure out if he’s responsible for killing the Joker. Brian Azzarello’s incessant John Constantine is both parts annoying and hilarious, insightful and overbearing, but Lee Bermejo’s gorgeous image composition and aforementioned Gothic grit make the first DC Black Label book worth a read.

Story: Brian Azzarello Art: Lee Bermejo
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

Story: 6 Art: 9.5 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read

DC Comics/Black Label provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Iceman #1

Iceman is back from writer Sina Grace with new series artist Nathan Stockman and colorist Federico Blee. In the first issue of the new series, Grace and Stockman indulge in a little team-up action (and jog down memory lane for X-Men fans of the late 1980s) as Iceman and Bishop work together to prevent a new mutant massacre of the Morlocks. They have a really quirky dynamic with Bishop playing the serious focused on several possible futures, and Iceman being the one with the bad jokes and clunky Kanye references. However, Grace gives Bobby a little more self-awareness than the previous volume where he was just coming into his own as both a gay man and omega level mutant and trying to balance coming out to his parents and his first real boyfriend. In Iceman #1, he’s still developing as a person, but is a little more self-assured, which makes the book a little more fun.

Speaking of fun, Iceman #1 has some seriously action-packed setpieces courtesy of Nathan Stockman and Federico Blee beginning with a literal cold open where Bobby saves an old lady from a homophobic bad guy in Hell’s Kitchen while trying to meet a cute guy. (Oops, I have to put a dollar in the clunky dad joke jar.) One thing I love about heroes like Spider-Man is the intersection between their personal life, especially romance, and superhero action, and Grace and Stockman really get that dynamic with a gay superhero. It’s also seriously empowering to see a queer superhero kick a homophobic bad dude’s ass by completely encasing him in ice. And as a humorous cherry on top, pulling out an ice “glass” slipper on the dance floor made me laugh and cringe. Northstar really needs to give him dating lessons. This opening sequence really sets the tone for the first issue with Grace and Stockman, who seamlessly transition from fight scene to conversation without losing momentum handling everything from a main villain reveal to a text message conversation between Bobby and Kitty with style and grace.

Iceman #1 shows again why having an actual gay writer on an X-Book makes the X-Men as LGBTQ people more nuanced and powerful. In this case, there is the Morlocks. Sina Grace uses them as a metaphor for LGBTQ folks who don’t want to pass as straight or assimilate into a patriarchal, heteronormative society. That’s totally cool as Bobby begins to understand after a short conversation about why they don’t join the revolving door of the Xavier School. I also like how Grace refers to the Morlocks home as a “safe space” instead of creepy tunnels or whatever like previous writers.

However, in the context of the story, the Morlocks’ separatism and non-conformity leads to them being targeted by Mr. Sinister and the Marauders, who think they are hampering upward mutant mobility. At best, they’re the Marvel Universe version of Log Cabin Republicans, and at worse, they’re the “no fats, no femmes” guys on Grindr. To give them a little more real world relevance, Grace even makes the new look Marauders organize via the not so nice parts of the Internet like real hate groups. And Mr. Sinister is kind of a perfect villain for Bobby because he’s all about finding the perfect genetic potential, which Bobby kind of is as an ice golem creating omega level mutant.

Just like its protagonist at times, Iceman #1 is a highly confident start to Sina Grace, Nathan Stockman, and Federico Blee’s new series. It gives Bobby both a personal life as well as integrating him into the X-Men as a team, has well laid out action, and the most groan-worthy of dad jokes plus quirky banter between him and Bishop. As an added bonus, Grace writes the Morlocks with respect and empathy transforming them into badasses, who fight for their home and friends and won’t conform to society’s standards instead of empty cannon fodder like in the original “Mutant Massacre” story.

Story: Sina Grace Art: Nathan Stockman
Colors: Federico Blee Letters: Joe Sabino

Story: 8.8 Art: 8.2 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Wicked + the Divine #39

I check my look in the mirror. I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face…”- Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing in the Dark”

I have a confession to make. I don’t really read The Wicked + the Divine for the cycle of birth and death, Ananke/Minerva/Persephone, Woden machine, talking heads, Great Darkness overarching plot; I read it for Laura Wilson/Persephone’s personal journey, and these feelings have definitely intensified in the “Mothering Invention” arc and reached a fever pitch in WicDiv #39. Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson personify character development as Laura rejects godhood (Or does she??.) in a story that visually and content-wise goes back to the salad days of its first two arcs, “Faust Act” and “Fandemonium”, especially the breathtaking final page.

Free will and freedom of choice is the refrain that rings out, or mostly hums, in WicDiv #39. Gillen doesn’t frame these big ideas in philosophical discourse or even witty banter, but in action. Laura chooses to no longer be a god, and she chooses to have an abortion. After latching onto almost every WicDiv cast member, either platonically, sexually, or romantically, she takes ownership of herself even if that means sitting in the dark. She changes. McKelvie draws her in an vulnerable way with a plain, shorn hairstyle, face with just a touch of shadow to it that signifies her status as the Destroyer. There’s a real humanity in this simplicity, and the even palette that Wilson chooses for her panels compared to the ostentation, guns, crazy pink colors, and EDM womp womp of Woden’s new Valkyries aka Beth and her fan army. (Wow, fuck nerd culture.)  They represent the empty show and lights of the Pantheon’s displays earlier in the series (i.e. the fights in “Rising Action”) while Laura is feeling and truth cutting to the quick like the sharp internal monologue that Gillen writes for her.

But WicDiv #39 isn’t about all the big ideas, it’s rooted in some big character development for Laura – arguably the most significant bit of her personal arc since WicDiv #11 when she became Persephone and was “murdered” by Ananke. The girl who dressed up like the gods and desperately wanted to be one and even took on the moniker of “ascended fangirl” rejected her godhood and chose a simple, desperate existence like the rest of the world even if that meant dancing, er,  sitting in the dark. But she’s not like that any more and chooses to opt out of the 39 or so issues of drama that has been her life with breaks for flashbacks. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie also handle her abortion with sensitivity and even have one of the Valkyries empathize with her. It’s a choice that Laura made for herself, she’s not ready to be a mom, and that’s that. Like the Tara story in WicDiv #13 that dealt with online harassment of women, the plot point doesn’t feel like a PSA, but something that is part of her character and respected as such.

Sure, WicDiv might have millennia spanning long cons, magical contraptions, and flame sprouting finger snapping, but this is still a story about young adults and the choices they make. And Gillen and McKelvie explore these choices in a non-condescending way and even poke a little bit of meta-fun at poor writers in the first pages where Minerva tries to unpack the middle aged man, Woden, pretending to be a teenager for the most of the series. Woden has been one of the creepiest characters in the series, and Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson find new ways to make him even creepier as the series progresses while keeping him fairly pathetic and not up to Big Bad status.

Speaking of Big Bad, WicDiv #39 is also the final transformation of Minerva into an amazing long con baddie complete with furtive glances drawn by Jamie McKelvie and using Woden and the Valkyries as the ultimate cannon fodder. (Even though Woden just thinks the Valkyries are cannon fodder.) She still looks young, but there’s something ancient in the facial expressions that she pulls after putting up with Woden, or to herself in the mirror as she reminds herself of her big, bad plan to knock out the rest of the gods, collect the final head, and continue the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. And Gillen writes her as quite genre-savvy (Living for thousands years is definitely a perk on this front.) as she never underestimates Laura although Woden just wants to snuff her out or leave her alone thinking she’s an emo nobody. The stage is definitely set for an all out showdown between them in the final arc like a present day incarnation of the eternal battle between them shown in previous issues of the arc.

In The Wicked + the Divine #39, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson go for the pivotal character moment over mass character slaughter (There aren’t many left.) and deliver callback heavy payoff for fans who have followed Laura Wilson/Persephone’s journey over the past four years. The closing moments where Laura muses on her decision to no longer be a god have some of Gillen’s most insightful writing, have simple, yet elegant visuals from McKelvie and Wilson, and are a reminder of why character growth is one of the biggest assets of a serial medium like comics.

Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.6 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Jessica Jones: Blind Spot #2

In Jessica Jones #2, the new creative team of Kelly Thompson and Mattia De Iulis bring a great new energy to one of Marvel’s best characters by simply giving her a compelling case to solve and letting her do her P.I. thing as she follows the trail of a serial killer, who is offing “D-list” female Marvel superheroes and supervillains. Like the previous issue, Jessica Jones #2 is divided into two parts with the first chapter being more about physical ass kicking and tracking down leads and with chapter two being more personal and psychological. Artist Mattia De Iulis is game to draw both kinds of plots, and he excels at everything from Elsa Bloodstone and Jessica Jones using axes to kill green blood oozing sea monsters to more subdued, noir scenes like Jessica snooping around Dia Sloane’s house, who was the first “victim” of the serial killer and has an incredibly power set that is both and blessing and a curse.

Kelly Thompson understands that Jessica Jones has such an engaging and complex personality, and her skills as a private eye and background as a superhero and strained relationships with them and more traditional authority figures like the NYPD add emotional stakes and sometimes dark humor to a murder mystery case. Thompson creates an immediate bond between Elsa Bloodstone and Jessica as they are both no-nonsense ass kickers, who protect people while not being particularly good at interacting with them. However, in the flow of action, Jessica learns more about Elsa’s connection to Dia while also trying not to get all navel gaze-y with Elsa thinking about how all humans are monsters.

Sticking an edged weapon into a squicky, gross thing over and over as your job probably gets repetitive so self-reflection keeps things interesting, I guess. And having an exciting action scene with acrobatic poses and panels from De Iulis is a way more entertaining way to do an “interrogation” scene than reusing panels and using a grid with talking heads and placing all the storytelling weight on dialogue, which is really fun too and gets a little poignant as Elsa really had a great bond with Dia. Elsa Bloodstone has some creative ways of swearing, and the pulpy, horror vibe meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer turned cynic would make a great Marvel MAX book.

But Jessica Jones #2 isn’t all guest stars and ass kicking even those make a great garnish for this story. Kelly Thompson and Mattia De Iulis craft an original, new villain that gets his power by siphoning it from women because he has no powers of his own. He’s not like Killgrave; it’s all just murdering them and bringing them back to life, and towards of the end of the comic, there is a real Tyler Durden/Narrator thing going on with him. Because this is a second act, Thompson and De Iulis don’t reveal everything about him, but just enough that he is the power of toxic masculinity in relationships weaponized. He is the guy who will lash out at a woman and then build her back up, but add a Marvel twist on that. Thompson and De Iulis also deal with this theme of toxic masculinity in a more true to life way when Jessica is doing her investigation at the Menagerie, the bar of the murdered female supervillain White Rabbit. She’s pumping the bartender for info, and a guy hits on her and then grabs her butt because he thinks he is entitled to her body because she is wearing leather pants. Of course, she sends him flying and walks out, but it is s ad and painfully realistic to see real world harassment in a Marvel comic and a benefit of having a female writer on the book, who writes one of Jessica’s best lines yet, “I’m goddamn sick of dudes just putting their hands wherever they want. Dudes thinking they can do whatever they want”.

In that scene and others, De Iulis is fantastic at drawing Jessica’s strength and tenacity, and an almost successful “superhero landing” seems like visual character development for a character whose secondary power is that she can fly, but not land. The aforementioned bar scene has a whoosh of wind as Jessica clocks the creep, and that same energy continues when she runs out to chase a new lead on Dia and get away from Misty Knight while almost “breaking the sidewalk” outside Alias Investigations in a hilarious scene. Like Michael Gaydos before them and in a more visually sharp manner, De Iulis has a certain skill for keeping his art in Jessica Jones grounded in a detective story while adding more fantastical elements in a matter of fact way like a big time superhero showing up in the second chapter to not team up and fight bad guys, but having an emotional breakdown. He handles that scene so well, and it’s a reminder that what makes the Marvel superheroes great is their flaws and humanity.

The first arc of Kelly Thompson and Mattia De Iulis’ Jessica Jones run has been a master class in three act storytelling with issue one introducing Jessica’s case, premise, and putting in her dire straits, Jessica Jones #2 doling out information about the serial killer revel and putting her even more dire straits, and who knows what issue three will bring. As well as being a compelling mystery, Jessica Jones #2 explores its title character’s guilt, acumen for detective work, and continued fight against toxic masculinity that happens to involve superpowers. It also has enjoyable scenes of humor and action, especially when Elsa Bloodstone is involved.

Story: Kelly Thompson Art: Mattia De Iulis Letters: Cory Petit
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

FlameCon 2018: Artist Kris Anka Talks Runaways and Gert’s Redesign

Kris Anka is one of Marvel’s superstar artists making a splash drawing some of the X-Books before moving onto titles like Captain MarvelStar-Lord and his current series Runaways with Rainbow Rowell of Fangirl and Eleanor and Park fame and colorist extraordinaire Matthew Wilson (The Wicked + the Divine, Paper Girls). He also redesigned Jessica Drew’s Spider-Woman costume and has a keen eye for character design and fashion.

I had the opportunity to chat with Kris Anka at FlameCon about his work on Runaways, approach to storytelling and costume design, and more.

Graphic Policy: Let’s address the elephant in the room. Why are your characters of all genders drawn so sexy? Why are they so attractive?

Kris Anka: It feels like in superhero comics that it’s always been part of it. If it’s people with powers, why not make everyone hot? Everyone can enjoy it. You’ve got something for everybody. It’s fun to make everyone hot, and they’re hot in different ways. Mostly, it’s just a lot of fun.

GP: One thing I like about your art is that the character clothing reflects their personality. What’s your favorite outfit that you’ve drawn in Runaways, and what are your inspirations for the outfits?

KA: Addressing the second question and specifically talking about Runaways, a benefit is that they’ve been around for a while. Hopping into the book, Rainbow [Rowell] and I know these kids. We kind of equate our run and the original run. The original run was looking for them, and now we know them. So, we’ve hit the ground running, and there’s not a lot of questions in our head of who these kids are.

Inspiration is fairly easily, especially since I’m from L.A. I was a freshman in high school when Runaways #1 came out. I was the same age. I went to high school with all of these kids so I knew them. It’s really easy for me to equate what their looks are and who they are in kind of a 2018 vibe.

Inspiration comes from life, and I can sort of string it all together and combine it into who they are. Because they’re growing and hitting their later teens. Chase is 20. That’s kind of the age where people start changing. We can grow with and kind of experiment a little bit. It’s kind of fun with Karolina where she used to be so young hippie. She was a vegetarian and health conscious. And, in L.A. now, people who are health conscious are fitness conscious. She’s part hippie, but she’s also a festival kid. There’s also athleisure, and she’s very active.

We’re kind of able to grow them into new looks that still feels like them. That helps narrow and specify your focus on them. It’s really fun building wardrobes and all these things. There’s not a lot of guesswork. I know exactly where to go.

In terms of a favorite outfit, it’s in [Runaways] #12, and one of them you can see on the cover for issue 13, which is Karolina’s dress. That dress took me eight hours to design. When you see issue 12, it took me so long to draw these pages. But it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had.

GP: What do you think sets apart the Runaways from the other Marvel superhero teams, who might get more buzz or bigger movies?

KA: The Marvel Universe has always prided itself on being the world outside your door. The Runaways is even more specific where it feels like kids you might actually know. On a superficial level, the fact that it’s West Coast already sets it way far apart. That kind of allowed Runaways to live in its own world. In a lot of ways, it feels like a creator owned book that just happens to be in a world where you understand the powers.

It’s got this different of these feel like actual teenagers you may know. I think that’s what it’s survived on. The personalities are so specific, and it never forced them to be a big superhero book. Because Teen Titans and Legion [of Superheroes] and all those teen superhero books have that to them, but also have the huge, overarching superhero plot. We kind of don’t, and this allows it to be much more about them as people than things they have to deal with.

So, you get a lot of melodrama, a lot of teen heartthrob drama when you’re 18 and all the bad decisions you make. It makes the Runaways feel more whole because we don’t always have to figure out, “Who’s punching this issue?” We can spend a whole issue just crying and look at what they’re going through.

GP: Speaking of crying, the big Karolina/Julie Power breakup in Runaways #10 tore at my heart strings. How do you get in the mindset to draw such a big emotional beat that rips the Internet in half?

KA: That was a big one because Rainbow and I had talked about it for months. We needed to be very clear on what it was, especially in a world where there’s so many kinds of media with bad queer relationships, especially with how messy sometimes breakups can be. We didn’t want to sugarcoat it and not make it real because they’re also eighteen. Eighteen years old don’t make exactly the easiest decisions. They’re pretty damn rough about things. We wanted to ground it in who they are and what they’re going through.

Even if people don’t like the decision, they can understand why these two characters are in that same place and why this is happening. [Rainbow and I] talked about this scene a lot to get the right kind of nuance for it. This thing is happening, but they both have an agency to this decision rather than someone just getting thrown under the bus. I like Julie and Karolina together, but [the breakup] also felt right with this overarching story of bringing the family back together. How messy it got made sense with all the buildup.

So when we got there, it was kind of tough, and it worked with the rest of the story. It wasn’t something where we were like, “We gotta do this.” It felt right.

GP: Yeah, it didn’t feel like the comics version of a sweeps week plot twist. So, I was a big fan of Gert’s new look in Runaways #11 and her walking through L.A. What was your thought process in designing her new look?

KA: We had been talking about the Gert look since I started on issue one. When I signed back onto the book, one of the things that Rainbow really wanted to do was: A- bring Gert back. B was the fact that there’s this huge important factor of (The timeline stuff with her is so strange with the Marvel Universe and sliding timelines.) when Gert debuted in 2003, the idea of having crazy hair colors was so counter culture and a little taboo.

Gert’s whole character was about acting taboo. The guys’ clothes to hide her, having purple hair, and cynical and crabby. She wanted to be the antithesis to all the other girls around her. Now, that we’re in 2018, and [dying hair] is so commonplace, all these things that she had that were countercultural are common. What does that do to someone who is also coming back from the dead and seeing all her friends grow up without her.

Rainbow always wanted [to change Gert’s look], but I don’t remember the beginnings of that conversation. The big thing was that this allowed us to do the lost character arc that she was going through, superficially. Where she’s like, “What do I look like now?” We wanted to have a scene where she sees all these people with purple hair, and she’s like, “Shit, this thing I did to spite the adults and be this kind of rebel, everyone has”. [She’s] no longer a rebel in this world.

We wanted to have Gert refocus on herself where she doesn’t need to be this counter to everybody. She can kind of calm down. She’s still Gert, but we can have it where she doesn’t need to be so loud any more. [Colorist Matthew] Wilson also wanted to hint at the future Gert [who leads the Avengers] so a lot of that first outfit based on design cues from future Gert like the green corset top and the grey skirt. We wanted to allude to all of that, and the fact that she goes back to her natural hair color. It’s kind of fun to go in the middle of [her timeline] and find something that still feels Gert, but doesn’t feel like she’s trying. Because one thing we did in our whole run is that Gert doesn’t have her own clothes. For the entirety of the first two arcs, she’s wearing Chase’s clothes or hand-me-downs because she doesn’t have a wardrobe.

That’s part of it. She never was herself yet. She’s still looking. That’s our first moment. We spent a long time thinking about what Gert’s look was going to be. It took us a year. I remember one day that we arrived at the same thing where [Rainbow Rowell] saw a photo of Chadwick Boseman with this t-shirt with kind of a military button pattern. She saw that, and separately, I thought that Gert seems like someone who would see Hamilton and get really into Hamilton and dress like that. We both brought military jackets to the table and said that should be the Gert look. Also, that’s her parents’ look too: these steampunk military time travelers. We alluded to that, she would definitely be a Hamilton fan, and this was the look that Rainbow wanted so it all fit. That’s new Gert.

And stylistically, it also keeps her separate from all the other girls on the team. She doesn’t look like Karolina. She doesn’t look like Nico. She doesn’t look like Molly. There’s a lot for the individual, but not in a forced way any more. It’s only on one page, but that one outfit took 11 months of work.

GP: It’s cool. I love hearing about behind the scenes stuff. I have one final question not related to Runaways. I’m a big fan of the WicDiv Christmas Annual that you worked on, especially the Baal and Inanna male nudity part. How did you get onboard with that unique project?

KA: I had done the Baal cover of him getting out of the pool [for WicDiv #19], and it kind of became a thing. When [Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie] were coming up with the idea for a Christmas issue, they said one of the stories was about Baal and Inanna doin’ it. They were like “We should get Kris to draw it.” It was all very nonchalant. The amount of nudity that showed was up in the air, and they said, “As much as you want and whatever you’re comfortable with.”

We didn’t want to go super over the top with it, but we wanted to just get some dicks in there. It was very chill job. Let’s just draw these two guys having a good time and draw some dicks because there’s never dicks in comics. It was all fairly easy.

Runaways #12 is out on August 29, 2018.

Follow Kris Anka on Twitter

When the Anti-Harassment Bodyguard is the Harasser

One of the most omnipresent images of this year’s San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) wasn’t a big comic book announcement or a still from a movie trailer. It was the fact that Eisner Award winning Batman writer Tom King needed a bodyguard because of death threats about his handling of the wedding between Batman and Catwoman in the recently published Batman #50. This bodyguard was David Wray, who has provided security for Stan Lee in the past. Wray became somewhat of an Internet darling during SDCC posing for pictures with King and other creators, and some fans even wanted his autograph or for him to have a cameo in Batman or another Tom King comic.

Wray has been a managing partner at the Cincinnati Comic Expo since 2013. According to Expo administrator, Matt Bredestege, he also has had the position of Comics Guest liaison and travels to conventions to personally invite guests to Cincinnati Comic Expo. This role gives him a good deal of authority in choosing guests for the Expo.

However, Wray has exhibited behavior towards women online that could be considered harassment and allegedly refused to invite a prominent female comic book creator to the Cincinnati Comic Expo because she was a “feminist.” He has also made a homophobic joke about Tom Hiddleston at an Expo executive committee meeting implying that he was gay because of the way he looked.

I spoke with Megan Goodier on the phone about David Wray’s actions and her interactions with him both online and offline. Goodier was a volunteer at Cincinnati Comic Expo from 2011-2015 and a member of its executive committee in 2015 until she stepped down because of health reasons. She has known Wray since 2013 and worked closely with him on the executive committee.

At an executive committee meeting, Goodier brought up the fact that the Expo had not invited many female comics creators as guests. Guests are paid an appearance fee and have their travel and lodging covered by the Expo whereas artist alley creators pay for their tables/exhibition space at the convention. She brought up writer Gail Simone (Batgirl, Wonder Woman) as a possible guest, but this was immediately shot down because she talked about being a feminist a lot. Goodier mentioned that she self-identified as a feminist, and Wray responded by saying, “I will never book her for my show.”

In response to the claim of not booking Gail Simone because she self-identifies as a feminist, Matt Bredestege stated that:

We have never disqualified any guest for their personal beliefs or ideals… No one’s thoughts and opinions on sexuality, religion, politics, science, or whatever has ever been a factor in having them appear or not appear at the Cincinnati Comic Expo.

He followed up by saying that Simone had been invited as a guest to the Expo on “several occasions” and that would he “would provide copies of the communications of the communications between (them).” However, when I asked for these emails, my request for comment was not returned. We followed up with Gail Simone’s agent, Ari Lubet, and asked if she had ever attended or been invited to Cincinnati Comic Expo, but did not get a response.

In 2016, the Cincinnati Comic Expo booked actor Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Chuck) as a media guest even after, in 2014, he helped popularize the phrase and Twitter hashtag “Gamergate” and participated in the harassment of female game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu and journalist Anita Sarkeesian. Baldwin’s actions and the mobilization of his large Twitter following to attack these women definitely went against the Cincinnati Comic Expo’s conduct policy of “providing a safe and harassment-free experience for everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, or religion“.

According to Matt Bredestege, the Cincinnati Comic Expo organizers were “not aware” of Adam Baldwin’s connection to Gamergate and booked him in “late 2015/early 2016” because fans wanted actors from the popular 2002 science fiction show Firefly to attend the show. After the announcement, a fan did bring “the allegations to [the Expo organizers’] attention” online, but they “….already had a binding legal agreement with [Baldwin] and his agency” and kept him as a guest.

As well as booking a known enabler of online harassment towards women and saying he would not book a prominent comics creator because she was too feminist, David Wray has also made unwanted advances toward multiple women over Facebook Messenger. (See below image gallery.) In a 2015 Facebook conversation, Wray told Megan Goodier that he “would do everything I can” to get comics creators Matt Fraction (Hawkeye) and Chip Zdarsky (Jughead) to attend Cincinnati Comic Expo if she got him a date with a woman on her Facebook friends list that was much younger than him.

Goodier said that she had not contacted the woman in years and told Wray to back off, but he still messaged the woman even though he admitted that it made Goodier “uncomfortable.” He even mentioned Goodier to the woman although they hadn’t talked in a while. Along with admitting he messaged the woman after Goodier told him not to, Wray threw in some additional creepy comments about the “crazy/hot scale” and turning down strippers.

Following this up, Wray contacted another woman on Goodier’s friends list, who she had volunteered with at Free Comic Book Day and whose picture he had found on her Facebook profile. Again, Goodier told him to back off and even mentioned that “she is even more feminist than me”. This led to a rant a rant criticizing “radicals” and “shit stirrers”, including those who protested Rafael Albuquerque’s 2015 Batgirl variant cover, which was an homage to Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke where Barbara Gordon was crippled and sexually assaulted by the Joker. Albuquerque later requested that the cover be cancelled because those protested it were getting “threats of violence and harassment”.

Even though Cincinnati Comic Expo has a strict anti-harassment policy, its own managing partner David Wray harasses women online. Megan Goodier also states:

There are other women in the area who have had bad experiences with him, who have chosen not to step forward or say anything. I don’t have receipts. These women don’t want to publicly step out  about what happened to them. I know of them, but I cannot prove it. You mention the name David Wray to women who have worked, especially in the convention industry or even in the comics shops in town, they know exactly who you mean. And he does not have a good reputation.

Matt Bredestege, an administrator at Cincinnati Comic Expo, responded to these accusations towards David Wray via email by saying:

We have no comment on these allegations at this time. The allegations are new to our attention. We have reached out to see the alleged messages and no copies have been provided to us.

However, Megan Goodier provided another Facebook Messenger conversation from July 26, 2018 where Cincinnati Comic Expo founder and director Andrew Satterfield and “marketing partner” Jackie Reau offered to talk with her either in person or over the phone about David Wray’s actions. Goodier said she was “not comfortable having any meeting that would create further my word against his situations…” and offered to send screenshots of her chats with Wray that are in this article. Both Satterfield and Reau read her message and didn’t respond.

FlameCon 2018: Writer Sina Grace Talks Iceman, Dad Jokes, and Li’l Depressed Boy

Sina Grace is a veteran L.A. based comic book writer, artist, and former editor whose body of work ranges from graphic memoirs like Not My Bag, Self-Obsessed, and Nothing Lasts Forever to an Iceman ongoing series for Marvel Comics. He has also done the artwork for the cult Image comic The Li’l Depressed Boy, which is written by Shaun Steven Struble. Self-Obsessed was made into a webseries starring Grace as himself and co-starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Amber Benson and Adam Busch.

At FlameCon, I had the opportunity to catch up with Sina Grace and chat about his upcoming Iceman miniseries and some other projects.

Graphic Policy: You’ve got the new Iceman coming up. What sets apart this miniseries from your initial run on the character?

Sina Grace: I’m really excited that I get to come back to the series after a passage of time. So, Bobby’s sort of done with the chapter of growing he went through in those first eleven issues, and in this one, we get to see him a little more settled in his skin. The reader will have so much more fun watching him do what he wants to do now that he’s like, “I am an omega level mutant. I am awesome.” He’s finally settling in.

With that comes a lot more fun and also some new challenges.

GP: What are some of those challenges?

SG: I’ve always thought that if you’re known for being an omega level mutant that means people with good and bad intentions are going to be paying more attention. Their eyes are on you. I’ve made it no secret that Mr. Sinister is the bad guy, and he kind of realizes that there’s something special about Bobby. Because Bobby is realizing there’s something special about Bobby. And you don’t want Mr. Sinister to be obsessed with you, I’ll leave it at that.

Then, similarly, we see Emma Frost come back into the fold, and their relationship is so rife with tension. I think one of the last times they had a very big talk about him, she seemed to be disappointed by his immense potential and how he never lived up to it. This series is really going to focus on him living up to his potential and being around people who can bring more out of him.

GP: I’ve talked to a lot of Iceman fans online, and they’ve wanted him to have more romantic and definitely more sexual relationships. What is Bobby’s dating and romantic life going to be like in the new series?

SG: I’m excited to keep Bobby single for a while. I think it’s going to be really fun to have him be single in the Marvel Universe and sort of show what that whole world looks like. How easy or how hard is it to be a mutant and in the X-Men and looking for romance. Usually, with all these other X-Men, they can date within the pool, but aside from Pyro, who they just wanted it to be what that evening was, there aren’t a lot of suitors out there.

He is dating. We get to see what that looks like for him. It’s adorable, but I’m not ready to have him fall in love just yet.

GP: You’re working with a new artist on the series, Nate Stockman (X-Men Blue). What has collaborating with him been like?

SG: Nate Stockman, and I’ve been so lucky because I’ve been saying this about the other artists, is really collaborative and so open minded in terms of taking notes from a writer who knows how to draw and has drawn comic books. Nate is injecting this level of humor that we didn’t quite hit with the previous artists, and I’m so happy because again and again I will say that this arc is a celebration. We got the book back. Bobby is a happier person. We’re just here to have a blast. It’s like a bonus round.

Nate really brings that energy. He’s just so happy and kind, and that’s all you can ask for in a collaborator. He also has really good insights as a storyteller and has helped me become a better writer in the end too.

GP: I saw Bishop on the cover of Iceman #1. What role is he going to play in the series?

SG: He’s mainly in issue one. He does show up at the end of the arc. I wanted a character where it’s the same thing as Bobby Drake. He’s always kind of around. But he’s always in the periphery. Bishop is like that too. There’s a lesson to be learned in the first adventure with them preventing the Mutant Massacre together that I felt he was able to speak to Bobby in a different way and help him understand things. I’ve always been drawn to the character, and I wanted to spend some time with him and see how his brain works. He’s cool.

GP: Yeah, wielding that big gun in X-Men Legends was when I fell in love with him.

SG: He’s also lived out the thing he needed to do in this timeline, and again, he’s in the periphery and on a similar, but different journey. So, I wanted to have these two personalities next to each other for that adventure.

GP: One thing that stands out about your Iceman is that he makes a ton of dad jokes. Why did you decide to make that a big part of his personality?

SG: It’s one of the consistent things about him. If you go through all these books, he makes really dumb jokes. His humor is a little stale, but I had to lean into as a writer because if you only do one or two, people think you can’t write a good joke. So, I kind of had to write 10 or 15 so readers would understand this is about the character kind of cracking wise.

Also, we talk a lot about how Bobby had been hiding a part of his identity from everyone. He’s filling the air. He’s nervous. These are nervous jokes. We’re going to be massaging that in the story talking about that, and how he changes on a micro-interaction level. Maybe, he’s gonna fill the air a little less with dumb jokes, or maybe his jokes will just be good. We shall see.

GP: Yeah, they’re a big part of his character. So, the X-Men have been used as a metaphor for LGBTQ themes for years. What experiences do you as a gay man bring to these characters that a straight writer couldn’t?

SG: I talk a lot about how the power of diverse storytelling lies in the details and specificity. On the way to the interview, we were talking about how opening up the restrooms at FlameCon and making them gender free opened my eyes to “Now I can’t just pop in and pop out. I have deal with a line.” But, cool, I’m aware of my privilege.

There’s no way you can have insight into a story so it’s not even in your eye line. But we bring the specifics of what the experience feels like. Case in point, in issue six of the first series, he falls head over heels with a guy he meets in L.A., Judah Miller. And he thinks about wanting to move to L.A. Resisters, and people who didn’t the like book as a whole, thought that was dumb, and gay Twitter had my back and was like, “No, girl, listen. This is what happens when you just come out, and you’ve spent your whole life thinking you can’t have something.”

You do latch onto the first person who gives it to you and make very questionable decisions about moving across the country. I almost moved to Seattle for love. So, the thing I bring where I can have a character do something that works for the sake of dramatic storytelling, but is still rooted in a reality. I think if a hetero, cis writer did this, it would come off more problematically.

GP: Speaking of your experience, you’ve written a lot of autobio comics, like Self-Obsessed and Not My Bag. How do you switch gears from writing so personally about yourself to writing about a corporate property?

SG: I think actually switching back and forth makes doing both easier for me. I have a space where I can be myself and talk about myself and reconcile questions about the world that I have that may not be interesting to everyone. I have a space for that with an audience that is willing to watch me go down these paths. And, then, because I have this safety valve, I can really look outside myself when I’m speaking to an audience that is 10,000 to 20,000 readers, and I can think about stuff that a larger group of people would want to have explored.

I like that I have both. What’s awesome is that Marvel readers aren’t like, “Let’s go look at your slice of life tales.” They love action books so it’s very safe space to go down some deep ends.

GP: In those autobio books, you have playlists, and I low key got into Jenny Lewis because of Nothing Lasts Forever. Do you have playlists for Iceman?

SG: I create playlists for any character with a big speaking role in my comics because I find music to be a fascinating look into someone’s psyche. On a very surface level, it’s a good way for me to be like “My brain is different from his brain.” So, Bobby listens to stuff I don’t listen to.

I joke that I don’t much care for The Weeknd, but Bobby likes him. He likes the War on Drugs a lot. I don’t mind them. They’re actually good. But I wouldn’t have pursued them. They’re in his wheelhouse. They’re what he likes. I was dating a guy, and we spent the date joking about what he would listen to versus us. The great debate is if Bobby Drake listens to Coldplay. I don’t have the answer yet.

It’s a good exercise. Like for Daken, I was listening to a lot of dark, nihilistic, and loud music like Health and Nine Inch Nails. Dirty Beaches too. He’s a very swagger-y guy. It’s a cool tip to tell burgeoning writers. This is how you get into a different groove and force yourself into something: a different conversation.

GP: That’s good advice. I have one last question. I’m a big fan of The Li’l Depressed Boy. Any news on that front?

SG: Our only goal with this new series of The Li’l Depressed Boy is to have the entire arc done before we put it on the calendar. I don’t think anyone likes when a book ships late, and the series comes from a personal place for both [me and Shaun Steven Struble]. We’re just letting it take the time it needs. But there are pages drawn. There is a ton of script written out.

Shaun and I are lifelong friends and partners so as long as we’re in love with each other and the book, it’s always going to be on our minds and always going to be made. Having the book come out on time and having it be the best it can be is more important than anything. No rushing for us.

Iceman #1 will available from Comixology and local comic book stores on September 12, 2018

Follow Sina Grace on Twitter.

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