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C2E2: Interview with Nightwing Writer Benjamin Percy

Benjamin Percy is a multitalented writer, who excels in a variety of mediums. He has written four novels, a book about creative writing called Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, was a contributing editor for Esquire and taught at the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Along with screenplays and short stories, Percy has written quite a few comic books since 2014, including DC Rebirth’s Green Arrow and Teen Titans. His next project is a run on Nightwing, beginning with issue 44, and I had the opportunity to chat with him about Dick Grayson’s role in the DC Universe and Bludhaven, collaborating with artist Chris Mooneyham, and of course, Dick’s most famous asset…

Graphic Policy: I first saw your name in print in a review of Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012) for Esquire. I was wondering how your work as a critic and arts writer influenced your work as a writer of superhero comics.

Benjamin Percy: I write novels. I write for magazines. I write comics. I write screenplays. I write essays. And let’s not forget the erotica too, which I’m celebrated for. What I love about writing in different mediums is I’m always challenging myself aesthetically. So, I’m writing comics and learning things from the medium that make me a better novelist. I’m serving as a book critic or a film critic and as a result, I’m looking more sharply at my own work and holding myself to the same standards as these artists I’m putting on the chopping block.

In every single case as I leap from genre to genre, I’m not only keeping myself excited at the keyboard because it’s always fresh. I’m also hopefully becoming a better storyteller.

GP: One thing I enjoyed about your Green Arrow run was that you returned the character to his Bronze Age roots as a “social justice warrior”. What social issues do you plan to explore in Nightwing?

BP: I was part of the Rebirth era of Green Arrow and that meant looking to his legacy and recognizing that in the O’Neil/Adams era, he was a hotheaded liberal. That’s something that had fallen away from the series. I brought that back, and I channeled the zeitgeist. I was making direct reference to the headlines on the page. There were storylines that resembled what was going on at Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline. There were stories that bore some resemblance to what was going on with Black Lives Matter.

This is Nightwing. I’m not taking the same approach. But I am thinking about what makes us anxious right now. I think that’s something that comics do very well. They channel cultural unease. They give you a cracked mirror version of reality. There’s a lot of things we should fear right now. Cybercrime is chief among them.

If you look at what’s happened with Cambridge Analytica. If you looked at what happened with the election results and the possibility of Russian meddling. If you think about how many times a day you turn your face towards a screen, maybe you think about how every time you tap a mouse or swipe your hand across a tablet or click a link that’s feeding into an algorithm that’s following you and profiling you. If you think about how every time your computer makes that carpenter ant sound, or every time your phone glitches, you’re wondering, “Has it already begun? Is a Trojan worming its way through the guts of my hard drive?”

I want to realize those fears on the page. I think it’s especially apt for Nightwing to be taking on these threats.

GP: Why is he the perfect fit?

BP: For a few different reasons. One, I wouldn’t say that Nightwing is a Luddite, but unlike Batman and Batgirl, he doesn’t surround himself with a lot of gadgets. He’s got his batons, and he’s got his acrobatics. I love an antagonist that really challenges a hero. Nightwing is facing a villain he can’t punch.

Nightwing is also interestingly situated in this storyline because he’s incredibly vital to the whole DCU and adaptable. He knows everyone. He’s served as a follower, and he’s served as a leader. He has connections to the Teen Titans and the Titans and the Justice League and the Bat-group. If you think about vulnerable data as being one of the greatest weapons of this time, he is a vault of vulnerable data. If he’s compromised, everyone’s compromised.

So, he’s facing the the dark web, but he’s at the center of his own web, which makes him the perfect person to take on this challenge and the most worrisome person to fail.

GP: Yeah, he’s definitely the heart of the DC Universe. So, one thing I liked about Tim Seeley and Sam Humphries’ runs on Nightwing were that they brought Bludhaven back with its own personality and history. How do you plan to build off this in your own run?

BP: I want to give props to Tim and Sam who did a kick ass job. I also love what Tom [King] was doing with Spyral in his Grayson run. Right now, Bill Gates is funneling 80 million dollars into a plot of land in Arizona to create a smart city. Right now, off the shore of China, they’re building islands. They’re expanding their country and building these “smart islands”.

I’m taking this real world situation and putting it in Bludhaven, a city that has always been in need of rehab. So, a tech mogul has moved there and is trying to rehabilitate the place. Something else might be going on beneath the surface of his intentions. Not only are buildings being demolished and neighborhoods rebuilt within a 5G network, but every address in Bludhaven has a package arrive on their doorstep. Inside that package is a device known as the “Phantasm”. This Phantasm device is a VR unit that bears some resemblance to Alexa, and Alexa, as you know, is always listening.

GP: She’s so scary. I’m never getting one.

BP: I’m taking Bludhaven, and how it’s been established as a city of ruins, a city of scandal, a city that has seen better times. I’m applying to it the same sort of thing you’re seeing on the East Coast with gentrification, except this is sort of tech-laced gentrification.

GP: So, one thing I love about reading Nightwing comics is that he has this exuberant, acrobatic type of fighting style. How do you choreograph his fights differently in the scripting process versus Damian Wayne’s in Teen Titans or Oliver Queen in Green Arrow?

BP: There’s a lot less yelling since Damian isn’t involved. Far fewer insults being hurled. I’m thinking carefully about every action setpiece and trying to create staging that takes advantage of his particular skill set. If you look at the first scene in Nightwing #44, there’s a subway sequence that involves his batons and also involves, I won’t exactly say what happens yet, a kind of high wire act.

Right away, in a really dramatic fashion, I’m trying to say, “This is Nightwing” with an exclamation mark.

GP: Kind of like a Bond cold open. Speaking of James Bond, which you wrote a little bit for Dynamite, are you bringing any kind of spy elements to Nightwing?

BP: We’re starting off in Bludhaven, but the story is not staying there. Arc after arc, it’s getting bigger and bigger.

GP: That’s what I like to hear. Chris Mooneyham (Five Ghosts) is the artist on your first storyline. Why was he the perfect choice for Nightwing?

BP: He’s the second coming of David Mazzucchelli. If you look at the first few pages [of Nightwing #44], which have been released, you will see parallels in Batman Year One and Daredevil Born Again in what we’re doing. It’s shadow soaked, neo noir, intricately detailed, and he takes advantage of every centimeter of the panel. There’s a beautiful grit at work, classic staging, and a more mature sensibility.

GP: I have one last question. Dick Grayson is perceived both in the DC Universe and by fans as a sex symbol. How will you portray that in your run on Nightwing?

BP: I make a crack about it right away. On page 2, panel 6, if you look at the top right corner of the subway station, there’s some graffiti that says “Butthaven”. I’m winking right there at how Dick has been portrayed. There will be romance to come, and I’ll also say that Batgirl plays an essential role in this story. He needs someone who is tech savvy. I’ve always loved their relationship.

Nightwing #44 will be released on May 2, 2018.

Follow Benjamin Percy on Twitter.

C2E2 2018: Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz talk Archival Quality, the new graphic novel from Oni Press

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At C2E2, I had the pleasure of chatting with writer Ivy Noelle Weir (Princeless) and artist Steenz (Elements) about some of themes and characters in their debut graphic novel, Archival Qualitywhich was recently released by Oni Press.

The book follows the life, work, and relationships of Cel, the new archivist at the macabre Logan Museum, which is a medical archive that used to be a sanatorium and is run by the little too young to be a curator Abayomi and a mysterious board of directors. It’s part ghost story, part exploration of mental health issue and full of empathy, spookiness, and humor.

Graphic Policy: I’m going to start out with a big picture question. What are some of the strengths of the comics medium in telling a story about mental health like Archival Quality?

Ivy Noelle Weir: I’m just a writer, a lowly writer, and I don’t draw. Part of the strength of this project was the collaboration between Steenz and I because I was able to tell a story that I wanted to, and maybe prose would have fallen short in some of the emotional factors.

Because Steenz is so good at rendering human expression, I feel like [her art] gave [the story] more weight. There are moments where I’m able to have no dialogue happen in my script that Steenz is able to evoke a really strong reaction by the way she draws the characters. In prose, you get bogged down by description, and you’re prescribing more for people. You can’t just show something. Film works too for discussing this kind of thing.

Steenz: When you think about mental health in general, I feel like if you’re reading [about] it, it doesn’t humanize it as much versus if you actually see it and how it is on people’s faces. Putting a face to something you’re unfamiliar with makes it a lot easier to understand. Being able to draw that out for somebody is a little better than reading. Not that prose sucks… That’s not what I’m saying [laughs]

GP: One thing that I loved about Archival Quality were that the characters, not the ArchivalInterior.jpgGothic mystery story were at the forefront. Why did you guys decide to focus on the characters instead of twist-y plot things?

INW: I’ve always written like that. And I think it’s because people are interesting. When I was in high school, I was in this short fiction writing workshop. This shows the lasting effect a teacher can have on your life, and a teacher said to me, “You write empathy and pathos really well. It’s your strength. You should play  to that.”

And I’m like, “Alright.” I’m gonna do that for the rest of my life, I guess. I thought that was the way to tell it. And when you’re writing about something as personal as mental health, it does not look the same on everyone. Everyone’s experience of anxiety and depression is different. Having the story focus on a very three dimensional character makes it more personal, and not like you’re prescribing one way of thinking or being to everyone.

S: Also, I feel like characterization is as much of a setting as plot is. You can have something that’s super plot heavy, and the characters can be super flat, but it could also still resound with you as much. So, I think they have equal weight. You can play with what works best for the project.

GP: Steenz, I love your art style. How do you balance the adorableness of your art with telling a story with weighty topics like lobotomies and mental health? Especially the flashbacks.

S: I don’t think about it. I don’t let any kind of genre stop me from drawing the way I want to draw. When I’m reading Ivy’s stuff, I let color play into the mood because I can draw things as bright or exciting or super action-y like it was a sports anime or something.

But I can also do something that’s a little more somber or morose. It just has to do with color because the style of characters I draw never changes at all.

ArchivalArtGP: How did you develop that style? It’s very distinct.

S: When I talk to people about style development, I always tell them that it’s not something that you do intentionally. Your muscle memory will create something for you. If you’re looking at a lot of Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon) and only Chris Sanders, your work is going to start to look like his. But it won’t look like his because you’re not him, it’s going to look like a “you” version of Chris Sanders.

So, the more kinds of styles that you look into and practice and see what you’re interested in, the more it’s going to combine and create this amalgamation of style mixed in with your own personal attachment to it. That will create your style for you.

GP: Ivy, I know you have a background as a librarian. Did any personal experiences you had as a librarian have an influence on Archival Quality at all? Any crazy stories?

INW:  I was a public librarian for the majority of my career so not as many because the scariest thing that happened to me was somebody returning a book soaked in Axe body spray. Or white ladies driving up in a Porsche demanding that I give back their 25 cent late fee. People saying, “My taxes pay your salary” and all that.

I did my undergrad studies in art history, and then I focused on the ethics of medical photography for my undergrad thesis. During that time, I did an internship at a medical history archive like the one in our book. That was very different from what I portrayed in the book. The book version was a pure fantasy, and I think that if an actual archivist read it that they might be like, “Hmm…”

Whereas the one I worked at was very concerned with ethics and proper procedure. I wish I had a cool, creepy story about when I worked in the medical archive, but it was like having an office job. An office job where I cataloged mummified arms.

GP: So, no handling physical body parts?

INW: I handled some physical stuff. I handled a few things that were bound in human skin. It was mostly documents, but weird documents that were like, “To cure this thing, inject turpentine into the bowels at a full moon.” And I thought about what people were going to think about modern medicine in 100 years.

GP: That’s crazy. You could get hundreds of stories from that. So, Abayomi, when I started reading the book was a straight-laced managerial type, and I assumed he might become the bad guy, but he ended up be my most favorite character in the whole book. How did you build his arc and especially his chemistry with Cel?

INW: I love manga. Aba is every cold manga boyfriend, who turns out to be soft. He comes directly from me growing up and reading shojo manga. I feel like that is characterization you see more in that than in Western comics.

S: That’s basically what my inspiration for [Abayomi] was when I drew him because Ivy didn’t give me any descriptions for what anyone looked like. Basically, here is the character and their characterization, here is the story arc they go through, and here is a little of their work background. That’s it.

Other than that, I got to build what he looked like and his body movements and how he walked and talked. I think what made him so special is that, in manga, there’s always that character, who you’re not sure what they’re about until later on. I think there’s little bits and pieces of [Cel and Abayomi’s] interactions where you can kind of see him melting a little bit. I like that progression.

GP: Like the toaster strudels.

INW: That’s one of my favorite manga tropes. They’re tough, but they have one soft thing they’re into. It was a surprise to us that we spent all this time building Aba as a character, and then, The Good Place came out, and Chidi was him.

S: He’s literally the character we created.

GP: One small-ish thing I liked about Archival Quality was how organic Cel and [her UghKylelong term boyfriend] Kyle’s breakup was. How did you keep this slow burn breakup grounded in this wild world of skulls and ghosts?

INW: We did a book club Skype where, for the first time, I talked  about how I wrote this. The book club we Skyped into were split and said, “50% of us like Kyle, 50% of us hate Kyle.” They asked if he was a good person.

S: It was a tough question.

INW: Yeah, are any of us good people? I think what I said was “Do you like him?” So, I went through a similar breakup in my 20s. I was with my college boyfriend. We had been together for a really long time, and it was that kind of thing where we were growing apart. I think that happens more to people than big, bombastic “I’m gonna throw all your clothes out the window. It’s over! I’m never talking to you again” breakups.

You just start to drift, and the next thing you know, you [realize] you’re on different continents. This is not working. I thought it was a grounding point to Cel’s arc to have that be the first indicator that she’s more aware of herself and her needs. Because prior to the story and the catalyst of her going through this experience, she might not have had the strength to actually break up with him and just have them be together and be unhappy until something bad happened.

S: Another part of it is when it comes to drawing a breakup. When I draw, I use myself as a reference so I basically read and experienced their breakup very personally because I was sitting in that car and feeling like Cel and didn’t know what to do. I was also feeling like Kyle and don’t what to do either.

After drawing that scene, I texted Ivy and said, “I’m kind of emotionally drained right now. I feel like I just went through a breakup.” I had to go through it three times: penciling it, inking it, and coloring it. I kind of put myself into it so that people can also see it and feel it that way.

GP: I really connected to it. This is kind of a publisher question. Why was Oni Press the best company to publish this story?

INW: We originally intended for [Archival Quality] to be a webcomic. I had written this story as a novella, and I wanted to revisit it because it had been years since I’d worked on it. So, I approached Steenz and said, “Do you wanna make a webcomic?”

We thought a webcomic was really low risk because either no one will read it, and we can practice making comics together. Or people will read it, but we’ll have control over the timeline. So, we started banking pages, and Oni had their open submissions period. We were like, “Why not? What’s the worse that can happen?”

S: Because if they didn’t take it, we’d put it online, which is what we intended on doing. We had never intended on pitching this book as something to be printed at all. Until Oni said, “We’re doing submissions”, and we sent it.

INW: It’s funny because we didn’t intend for it to be an OGN. We were picturing it almost as an ongoing comic. Actually, when we came to Oni, and they suggested it as an OGN, I was very thankful for it because it was my first ever comic script. Having that A-to-B, do the thing, whole story helped because if it had been open ended with me never having done comics before, I think it would have been a weaker story.

GP: Have you guys gotten any feedback from librarians or archivists? What have they said about the story?

S: All the time. I’m always surprised about how many librarians and archivists there are out there. I knew there were a lot because we were both librarians, and we’d go to ALA and see how fucking crowded it is. There are plenty of librarians.

We’re kind of like a quiet species so when we’re doing signings, and someone’s like, “Hey, I’m a librarian”. I’m like, “Oh my gosh. Hey, what’s up?” It’s always cool to know there’s librarians and archivists in places that you don’t expect. I did a signing a few weeks ago somewhere around St. Louis, and someone was saying that they work in the botanical gardens as a librarian and an archivist.

I’m thankful to be able to reach out to librarians and archivists and talk about the different stuff that they do. It is a pretty wide job description.

INW: In my day job, I work in publicity for a book publisher and am always like “Don’t read the reviews.” But, if you go on Goodreads, it’s a 50/50 splits with archivists, who are either like “The archivist stuff  is dead on” or “No one here has studied archiving.”

S: Are we right? Are we wrong? Which is it?

INW: I have my Master’s degree in it so I hope that I’m at least a little bit right.

GP: Yeah, use that MLS. I have one last question. What would each of your ideal libraries look like if you had unlimited money and unlimited time?

INW: This is my public library, and they’re sufficiently state funded because this is a fantasy. There’s less books and more community space. I’m the worst for that. I’m like that dermatologist, “Librarians hate him”. When I was a librarian, I was always going to ALA and saying, “Knock out your bookshelves. Put in programming space. Let teens be loud in the library.”

I think that having enough space for youth and young families is the ideal.

S: I’ve been to so many different kinds of libraries, and I think the ones that impacted me the most were the ones that let young readers do what they want to when it came to what they read.

I find that some libraries have a hard separation between the kids’ section and everything else. I like the libraries that are a little more seamless so that if a kid was kind of interested in going over to the mystery books, they absolutely can. They don’t have to stay in one place. So, I guess my ideal would be a layout plan that’s welcoming to all types of people and isn’t too rigid in space.

INW: Yeah, ethically, you’re not supposed to divided libraries spatially because it has what the ALA calls a “chilling effect” on circulation. There’s my graduate thesis. I summarized it for you in one second.

GP: No boundaries. I like it.

Find Ivy Noelle Weir on Twitter.
Find Steenz on Twitter.
Buy Archival Quality here. 

The Sights and Cosplayers of C2E2 2018

I attended C2E2 on Saturday and Sunday, April 7 and 8, 2018 and was immediately greeted by a plethora of cosplayers, booths from almost every major comic book company, and retailers from comic book shops and dealers to those annoying pop culture mashup T-shirt vendors. There was even Revolution Brewing, which provided some much needed refreshment from the crowded exhibit floor and Artist’s Alley. And yes, C2E2 still has one of the best Artist Alleys in the game and balances its celebrity and comics guests.

When I first attended C2E2 in 2013, I never thought that I’d see podcasters signing autographs next to actors who used to play Superman or the the stars of highly rated NBC primetime shows.

Without further ado, here are some of the sights and cosplayers of C2E2 2018, including some Geeks Out after party shenanigans.

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C2E2 2018: The Women of Marvel Panel (Sort of) Gives An Update on the Storm Solo Comic

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On Sunday afternoon at C2E2, the Women of Marvel convened to celebrate some of Marvel’s best female creators. The panel was moderated by Marvel new media producer, Judy Stephens, and included special projects editor Jen Grunwald (Who was at the first Women of Marvel panel in 2009.), colorist Rachelle Rosenberg (Mockingbird), artist Jen Bartel (America), and writer/artist Katie Cook (Secret Wars: Secret Love). The panel was pretty announcement-light and mainly focused on the creators’ processes and inspirations for getting into comics, like a nifty time lapse video of Rosenberg coloring over David Marquez and Paulo Siqueira’s art on the upcoming Hunt for Wolverine #1 in a scene that gave me all the Kitty Pryde feels.

However, there were a few small bits of news and previews of Rachelle Rosenberg, Jen Bartel, and Katie Cook’s art on upcoming titles. Rosenberg is coloring a cover for Hunt for Wolverine #1 with over 275 characters in it. It took her 36 hours to finish and would make for a great dorm or even office poster. Bartel is drawing a backup in the The Mighty Thor: At the Gates of Valhalla one-shot, which is a transitional one-shot between the current Mighty Thor series starring Jane Foster as Thor and the upcoming Thor relaunch with Odinson as the protagonist. She is doing 15 pages of interior art for a story featuring the sadly underused characters of Thor’s granddaughters  and is the first female artist to draw them. The preview was fairly enigmatic and featured Jane Foster as Thor and a beautiful rainbow colored by Bartel herself before Matthew Wilson (WicDiv) lays down the finished colors.

The final piece of new art was an adorably twisted preview of Katie Cook’s story in the upcoming Thanos Annual that is set to be released on April 25, 2017 to coincide with his big screen appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. It is her most violent work yet and is about a cute alien people group, who are literally killing themselves to get Thanos some MacGuffin that he needs to have to take over the universe or something. I love Cook’s design for Thanos, and humorous versions of the darker and edgier parts of the Marvel Universe are always welcome.

But the real “news” at the panel and probably the reason you clicked on this article was that Jen Bartel kind of, sort of gave an update on the Storm solo ongoing comic that she is doing with Ta-Nehisi Coates (Black Panther) that was soft-announced in October 2017 around New York Comic Con. I asked Bartel if there was any news or updates about the status of Storm, and she said that she is “talking regularly” with Coates and the comic is still happening. However, there is no set in stone “timeline” for the first issue’s release at this time.

From this quick response (Which can be heard in recorded form on an upcoming episode of the Women of Marvel podcast.), I deduced that Storm is currently in the scripting and/or drawing process and that perhaps Marvel is holding back more news about it for San Diego Comic Con in the summer or another con that is closer to its actual solicitation and release date.

Also, I really want Katie Cook to do an Alpha Flight miniseries or one-shot because of her enthusiasm for the character Snowbird and her ability to turn into a  bear or any animal native to Canada.

C2E2 2018: The Action Comics #1000 Panel

At C2E2 this past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Action Comics #1000 panel, which had a lot of information about that specific issue as well as reveals of upcoming Superman artwork and stories, mostly involving new DC Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis. Along the way, the talented group of creators on the panel talked about their connection to Superman while teasing their stories, and some surprise swag was given out at the end…

It’s seriously insane that a monthly comic book has hit four digits in issue numbers and has basically been published since 1938. Some of DC’s best creators convened at the Action Comics #1000 panel to talk about their work on upcoming Superman titles, their relationship to the iconic hero, and most importantly, should his costume have underwear on the outside, or not? The panel included writer Brian Michael Bendis (Alias), who is making his DC Comics debut on Action Comics #1000, writer/artist Patrick Gleason (Superman), writer Tom King (Batman), artist Clay Mann (Batman), artist Jill Thompson (Beasts of Burden), and artist Philip Tan (Suicide Squad: Rebirth).

It kicked off with some information about the 80 page celebration that is Action Comics #1000 as well as a 384 page hardcover book called 80 Years of Superman with all kinds of essays, tributes, stories, and art that looked perfect for a coffee table along with an unpublished story by Jerry Siegel and artists from Joe Shuster’s studio. Continuing with the unpublished theme, Bendis reminded the moderator that Action Comics #1000 has some unpublished art by legendary Superman artist Curt Swan that Marv Wolfman scripted over and geeked out about it. He showed a real passion for being involved with Superman and DC Comics on the panel.

After saying he had almost no time off between doing his last Marvel book, Invincible Iron Man #600, and his first DC book so he could jump in on Action Comics #1000, Brian Michael Bendis set up the first reveal of the panel. It was four pages of lettered Jim Lee art as well as his and Bendis’ first original DC creation, the mysterious villain Rogol Zaar. (There was a snarky joke about red trunks in there too.) Bendis said that the villain will be connected to a secret from Superman’s past. The secret will be revealed in Action Comics #1000 and then expanded upon in the weekly Man of Steel miniseries. He then told Rogol’s secret origin, which was connected to his hospitalization for a MRSA infection in late 2017. Dr. Rogol was a no-nonsense doctor in the hospital, who helped him get better so he decided to name his first big DC villain after her. When Bendis told Dr. Rogel this, she nodded like he was crazy. The next day, she had Googled him and brought out an old Marc Silvestri drawing and said she should look like a bloodstained, bikini wearing barbarian woman. It’s safe to say she wasn’t impressed with Jim Lee’s final design. In his first DC story, Bendis made sure to “write big” for Jim Lee and was influenced by some of his collaborations with Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder on Justice League and Superman Unchained respectively in the salad days of the New 52.

The topic turned to May 2’s DC Nation #0, which is coming out the same week as Free Comic Book Day, but is on sale for $0.25 so the comic could feature more story pages. The book has previews of Tom King’s upcoming work on Batman and Scott Snyder’s upcoming work on No Justice as well as a brand new Superman story by Bendis and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Working with the 70 year old Garcia-Lopez was on Bendis’ bucket list, and he came out of retirement to deliver some beautiful pages featuring group shots of the Daily Planet bullpen reacting to Superman. Also, apparently he’s a super nice guy and still lives for collaborating on comic book stories.

About a month after DC Nation, The Man of Steel #1 will be released with Brian Michael Bendis writing and Ivan Reis and Joe Prado on artwork. In each issue of this weekly miniseries, Bendis is collaborating with a new artist he’s never worked with before except Kevin Maguire and diving feet first into the DC Universe. Bendis talked about how he wanted to make Metropolis a lived-in setting where each nook and cranny has its own story much like Gotham and also how he wants to show why Clark Kent became a reporter to “tell the truth Superman can’t”. He pointed out that unlike his powers and coming to Earth as an infant, becoming a reporter was his choice. Plus there’s going to be a big space conspiracy story featuring various alien races, including the Guardians of the Universe, and its logo was based off of John Byrne’s Man of Steel even if the stories aren’t really similar.

The Man of Steel leads into Action Comics #1001, which will be written by Bendis and drawn by Patrick Gleason, who previously was the co-writer with Peter Tomasi and occasional artist on Superman. Gleason says that Action #1000 is the celebration/jam issue while the real story starts in issue 1001. He talks about how Superman is an all-out superhero book while Action Comics will focus on the Clark/Superman dichotomy and also build up Metropolis and the Daily Planet. He then proved that he is one of the harder working creators in comics and said that he had to draw 15 pages of Action Comics #1000 while also doing full interiors on Superman #45, his farewell to the title. Luckily, all 15 pages of his Action Comics #1000 story “The Neverending Battle” were splashes and was a love letter to Superman stories across time. One of them featured the old Superman “S”, which his six year old son said was incorrect. His son ended up appearing on a page where Superman stops a train, and all four of his kids helped ink a page with Superman fighting Nazis in World War II with Sgt. Rock.

The moderator turned the focus to Tom King and Clay Mann’s five page Action Comics #1000 story, which is already available online. It is set way in the future, fairly depressing, and King began with a little joke about how Batman was better than Superman. King said that he when was he younger that he thought Superman was a fairly “generic” hero. However, through his grandmother, who is from Nebraska and his wife, who is from Chicago, he began to see him as an embodiment of Midwestern values aka focusing on the solution, not just the problem. Then, artist Clay Mann got a nice ovation from the audience for his art skills and talked about King giving him reference material of Mars to draw this future Earth. He also joked about Superman’s tears not evaporating in the sun, which severely hurt Tom King’s “scientific” credentials. King’s explanation was “super tears”, which led to Bendis telling a story about how he wrote an angry letter to John Byrne while he was a comic book store clerk about how Superman shaves with a mirror and heat vision and ended up getting roasted by Byrne in the letters page of Next Men #8. The ghost of John Byrne definitely seemed to be haunting this panel.

Next, Jill Thompson teased some of her art for the upcoming Action Comics Special story with Mark Russellwhich is about Clark Kent roasting Lex Luthor at the White House Correspondents Dinner. It looks super hilarious, and various members of the Justice League are there in dressier versions of their costumes. The wrestler Alex Chamberlain posed for her art. Then, the moderator asked her and the panel who their favorite Superman artists were. Thompson said she liked Steve Rude, especially his work with Dave Gibbon on World’s Finest, where he gave Metropolis and Gotham two distinct looks. Philip Tan’s definitive artist was Alex Ross on Kingdom Come and Mann’s were the aforementioned Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Jim Lee, Dan Jurgens, and John Byrne. King picked Byrne and Curt Swan because “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” is his favorite Superman story. Patrick Gleason said he liked the Superfriends and Bruce Timm Superman cartoons before getting into comics, but his favorite artists were Jurgens and Ross. Bendis closed by giving a shout out to the jam issue (He loves those.) Action Comics #400, which featured Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Moebius, and more’s take on Superman. And they all commiserated over the difficulty of drawing the Superman “S”.

Towards the end of the panel, Brian Michael Bendis talked about how what a solid foundation Dan Jurgens, Peter Tomasi, and Patrick Gleason left him on the Superman titles as they went from having two Supermen to just one hopeful, optimistic Superman even with some super crazy stories like the Boyzarro and Rozarro starring Superman #45, which is basically a Bizarro-verse version of the DC Rebirth one-shot. Bendis says the ideal is taking over a struggling book, like Frank Miller on Daredevil, because you have creative freedom, but it’s a tougher challenge to take over a book that has hit a creative peak like Superman.

Bendis said that his take on Superman wouldn’t be a reboot and that he had a seven page manifesto of Superman is relatable to him, especially as a father. (Of course, King quipped about Batman being more relatable.) Plus there is a lot of adoption in his family. He retold a story where as a struggling artist in Cleveland, he took on a gig to do art for a Superman parade where he was paid for Superman merchandise. Siegel and Shuster cancelled so Stan Lee of all people was the guest of honor and called him by name, but it was really because he was wearing a nametag. However, this parade gave him to the opportunity to talk with many comic creators about his career, including George Perez, who gave him 20 minutes of solid advice, including to focus on one project at a time, which has helped him with all those crazy deadlines and juggling multiple books.

The panel concluded with a roundtable discussion about the return of Superman’s red trunks, and Gleason talking about how he and Jim Lee basically designed around them when they were coming up with Superman’s new costume for DC Rebirth. But the panel seemed pretty pro-trunks, and each member of the panel audience was rewarded with their own pair of Superman trunks (Mostly XL.) with #TheTrunksAreBack embroidered on the back.

Basically, Action Comics #1000 seems like it’s going to be historic and epic, and you should pick it up when it drops on April 18.

Rick and Morty Roll the Dice with Dungeons & Dragons!

Announced at C2E2, IDW Publishing and Oni Press are bringing two of the most popular properties in the world, Adult Swim’s hit series Rick and Morty and Dungeons & Dragons, together in a brand-new four-issue comic book series. Taking the reins of these two iconic properties is the superstar creative team of writers Patrick Rothfuss and Jim Zub along with Eisner-nominated artist Troy Little .

Debuting this August, the mini-series will throw Rick and Morty into a high-fantasy adventure blended with the wit, humor, and intelligence the show is widely celebrated for.

In this summer’s biggest comic book crossover, Morty goes to Rick for help to learn about Dungeons & Dragons, the game all the cool kids at his school are playing; naturally, things go horribly wrong as Rick, Morty, and the whole Smith family find themselves on an epic quest with no escape in sight.

Each issue will feature variant covers that fans of both series will love, including character sheets, and more! Dungeons & Dragons comics from IDW by Jim Zub are available now wherever books are sold. Oni Press’s Rick and Morty comics are also available where comics and books are sold.

Marvel Heads to C2E2 with Signings, Panels, and More!

This weekend, Marvel is heading to Chicago! You won’t want to miss what they’ve got in-store for fans as they’re packing this year’s convention with wall-to-wall fan service including signings, panels, stage events and more! Heading to the show? Make sure to stop by the Marvel Booth (Booth #327) to get in on the action and excitement all weekend long.

Want to get the inside scoop on all of the can’t-miss Marvel news? What about the lowdown on some of the summer’s most anticipated upcoming books like Infinity Wars and Extermination? Then you won’t want to miss this year’s panel lineup, chock full of breaking news and unforgettable moments! Bring a camera, you never know who might show up! Plus, don’t miss all the exciting events happening at the Marvel booth all weekend long including signings, giveaways (while supplies last), costume contests and more!

That’s not all! This year’s show features appearances from the celebrated artists of Marvel’s 2018 Young Guns program, including Aaron Kuder, Javier Garron, Marco Checchetto, Mike Del Mundo and Pepe Larraz. Learn more about what it takes to be a Young Gun at the Marvel: Young Guns panel, and don’t miss their Marvel booth signing where attendees will be able to snag an exclusive litho!

Plus, don’t miss an all-star line-up of some your favorite Marvel creators! Swing by the Marvel booth for scheduled appearances by Jay Anacleto, Rachelle Rosenberg, Christina Strain, Tana Ford, Stacey Lee, Joe Quinones, Robbie Thompson, Marc Laming, Alitha E. Martinez, Humberto Ramos, Brian Level, Mark Waid, Ashley Witter, Khary Randolph, Ryan Stegman, Jason Aaron, Jorge Molina, Marcus To, Mark Brooks, Annie Wu, Christopher Priest and Jim Zub! Check Marvel’s signing schedule for details on their signing times.

8 Awesome Things to Do At C2E2 2018

From April 6 to April 8, 2018, Chicago will be the center of the  pop culture universe thanks to the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), which is held annually at McCormick Place right on Lake Michigan. C2E2 boasts of wide range of guests, who have worked in different mediums, including legendary comics creators, like Jim Lee, Chris Claremont, and Brian Michael Bendis; actors from your favorite cult and sci-fi shows like Alan Tudyk and Charlie Cox, big time novelists like Chicago native Veronica Roth and R.L. Stine, and even podcasters like the creators of The Adventure Zone. There’s really something for everyone at this con.

Graphic Policy will be attending C2E2 on Saturday and Sunday, but here’s a completely subjective rundown of eight of the coolest guests, exclusives, panels , screenings, and of course, after parties that will be going on all three days at the temporary mecca of fandom.

Friday

8. Have an IPA Courtesy of Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics, who has the third largest superhero universe after DC and Marvel, has teamed up with Pipeworks Brewing Company to create a special limited edition beer that will be sold on site at C2E2 as well as Pipeworks’ bottle shop and a few other stores in Illinois and New York. Last year’s beer was connected to the relaunch of Valiant flagship title, X-O Manowar, but this year, it’s named after Livewire, a member of the superhero team Unity.  Going along with her name, Livewire has electricity-based powers, and so her beer: Livewire Raspberry IPA with Lime has a bit of tartness to go with its hoppy beer base.

I’m super into both sour beers and IPAs and look forward to relaxing with the Livewire Raspberry IPA after a long day of crowds and walking at C2E2. The drink pairs nicely with a copy of Shadowman #1, a relaunch of Valiant’s mystical themed superhero, which has an exclusive cover by its interior artist Stephen Segovia that is only available at the convention.

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7. Enjoy An Evening with Podcast Royalty aka Travis and Friends

The McElroy Brothers (Travis, Justin, and Griffin) have established a veritable empire of podcasts since their advice show My Brother, My Brother, and Me premiered in 2010. Their shows include The Adventure Zone, a Dungeon and Dragons podcast featuring their father Clint, which is getting a graphic novel from First Second Books and Shmanners, an etiquette podcast co-hosted by Travis and his wife Teresa McElroy.

After the first day of C2E2, fans of these and other podcasts can kick back and relax at a special An Evening with Travis and Friends, which is basically the Avengers of current podcasts. The show features Travis McElroy, Teresa McElroy, and Symphony Sanders, who played librarian slaying and child soldier commanding Tamika Flynn on the uber popular Welcome to Nightvale. It should be fun time with plenty of surprises.

Saturday

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6. Remember the Ultimate Universe at the Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis Panel

So, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar have definitely done a lot more comics than Ultimate Marvel ones, but I find it slightly hilarious that the original co-writers of Ultimate Fantastic Four are going to be teaming up for a “one on one” panel at 11 AM on the Main Stage at C2E2.

Both veteran creators are at turning points in their careers with Bendis signing an exclusive deal with DC Comics to write Action Comics and Superman as well as his creator owned Jinxworld books, like Powers, and his own special imprint. In contrast, Millar has disavowed the Big Two and sold his comics company, Millarworld, to Netflix where they will make shows and films based on his work. (Fingers crossed for a Starlight movie.)

It will be interesting to see two former Marvel architects talk about their new gigs, and hopefully there will be some good banter about how most of Bendis’ writing is like a stage play and most of Millar’s is a screenplay… (Alias and Old Man Logan are classics though.)

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5. The #BlackComicsMonth Panel Comes to C2E2

When I went to New York Comic Con in 2015, the #BlackComicsMonth panel, hosted by Tee Franklin (Bingo Love) was one of the most inspirational parts of the con and was very hard to get into. What makes this panel so excellent is that Franklin chooses a range of comic book creators to speak from their own experience about important topics like diversity, living with a disability, mental health, and POC and LGBTQ representation.

For the first time ever, the #BlackComicsMonth: Inclusion in Comics Panel is headed to the Midwest and will be held at 3 PM in Room S405A. The panelists include Franklin, Mikki Kendall (Swords of Sorrow), Shawn Pryor (Cash and Carrie),  Matt Santori (Senior Editor of Comicosity), and in the past, there have been surprise guests like The Walking Dead actor and multimedia entrepreneur Chad Coleman. It should be an excellent discussion about real world issues and a nice break from the hyperbole and announcements of some of the other panels.

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4. Catch the World Premiere of Daphne & Velma

Let’s be real, Daphne and Velma were easily the most competent and best members of the Scooby Doo gang. They finally get their own live action film in Daphne & Velma, which is having its world premiere at C2E2 before it is released straight to DVD and BluRay on May 22.

The movie is set at a super high tech STEM magnet school called Ridge Valley High where Internet friends Daphne and Velma get to be friends in real life and solve their first zombie themed mystery. Sarah Jeffery (Descendants, upcoming Charmed reboot) plays Daphne, and Sarah Gilman (Kroll Show) plays Velma. The film is produced by Ashley and Jennifer Tisdale’s Blondie Girl company and looks super adorable.

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3. Party Hard at Geeks Out Snikt! Chicago

There are a lot of after parties to choose from at C2E2, but Snikt! Chicago is one of the best and not just because it’s Wolverine themed. Geeks Out is a super cool non-profit organization that founded FlameCon as the first LGBTQ comic book convention, and their goal is to foster LGBTQ awareness and representation at cons all across the country.

The party will be held at Mary’s Attic, the upstairs part of Hamburger Mary’s in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago starting at 9 PM. It will feature drag queens, gender clowns, circus arts, and of course, DJ Tony Breed to flood the dance floor. It’s a 21+ event, and cover is $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

Sunday

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2. Be Enlightened at the Women of Marvel Panel

Even though it has taken them until 2019’s Captain Marvel to get a solo female superhero film off the ground, Marvel Comics boasts a fantastic range of female superheroes from Storm to Angela, Kitty Pryde to Jessica Jones. (Okay, those are some of my personal favorites.) The Women of Marvel celebrates their female comics creators as well as the characters on the comics page.

This year’s Women of Marvel panelists, include producer Judy Stephens (Marvel Becoming), editor Christina Harrington (Astonishing X-Men), colorist Rachelle Rosenberg (Iceman), artist Jen Bartel (America), and writer/artist Katie Cook (Secret Wars: Secret Love.) It will be held at 1:30 PM in Room S404. My fingers are crossed for more details about Bartel’s upcoming Storm solo book that she is working on with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates.

1. Get All the Feels at the This Is Us  Q and A

I feel like everyone in my office and family watches the NBC hit series This Is Us except me. The show follows the lives of three siblings, who were born on the same day as their father, Jack Pearson (Played by Milo Ventimiglia). It is fairly ambitious for a network TV show and has storylines set in 1980s Pittsburgh as well as modern day. In 2017, Sterling K. Brown won an Emmy and Golden Globe for his performance as Randall Pearson, Jack’s adopted son.

Sadly, Brown won’t be at C2E2, but his co-stars Milo Ventimiglia and Justin Hartley, who play Jack’s son Kevin are doing a panel at 1:30 PM on the Main Stage and can maybe tell everyone what was up with the whole Crockpot ordeal. These actors also have a history of appearing in superhero shows like Heroes and Smallville where Justin Hartley played Oliver Queen years before Arrow. Also, there better be at least one question about Ventimiglia’s rebellious bookworm character Jess from Gilmore Girls. #TeamJessForever

Mortal Kombat! Bluefin Brings Storm Collectibes Mortal Kombat Figures to C2E2

Bluefin is heading to Chicago’s premier pop culture and comics convention – Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2).

C2E2 takes place April 6th to April 8th in the South Building at McCormick Place in downtown Chicago. Bluefin will be located in Booth #227.

This year, Bluefin’s presence at the convention will be highlighted by a series of special events celebrating the venerable action property – Mortal Kombat.

Fans are invited to visit the Bluefin booth to meet actor and acclaimed martial arts phenom, Daniel Pesina, who played the original sprite characters of Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Reptile, Smoke, and Noob Saibot in the world’s most popular videogame franchise, Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II.

A variety of Mortal Kombat collectible action figures by Storm Collectibles will also be available for purchase during C2E2 in Bluefin Booth #227. Special in-booth signings are scheduled where fans can get purchased products signed by Mr. Pesina in addition to photographs being offered at the table.

Saturday, April 7th

All Day – Daniel Pesina Signing (Bluefin Booth #227)

Catch Mortal Kombat actor and martial arts extraordinaire Daniel Pesina at the Bluefin booth where he will sign purchased Storm Collectibles product/photographs and take pictures with fans. No other entry fee required.

Sunday, April 8th

11:00am – 12:00pm – Mortal Kombat Official Panel (Room S401)

Join Bluefin and Storm Collectibles as they participate in an official C2E2 panel for all things Mortal Kombat. Learn about the history of the game, the latest new collectibles for the property and also catch commentary from special guest, Daniel Pesina and other original actors from the game including Jax, Kano, Sonya Blade, Shang Tsung, Kitana and more! All actors will be signing items after the panel as well.

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