Tag Archives: comedy

Review: The Secret History of The War on Weed

The Secret History of The War on Weed

I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an actual legal requirement to be high when writing a story about weed, be it fiction or nonfiction. The creative team behind Image Comics´ The Secret History of The War on Weed seemed to be well in compliance with this when they put this comic together, and it’s all the better for it. It at least explains why lizard people and horny presidents are part of this hilarious, ridiculous, smart, and even heartfelt comic about the war on ganja and how backwards it is.

Writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn along with illustrator Scott Koblish set their alternate history in 1980’s America. The President is a cross between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher that sees in marijuana a poll-raising opportunity to get the country behind her administration. To wage this war, she sends the story’s unlikely hero, Scotch McTiernan (an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type commando that’s all of the 80’s action movies rolled into one) to jumpstart the conflict.

The story takes a turn when Scotch McTiernan gets high himself and sees how unnecessary the war is and how damaging it can be to enforce the prohibition of something that has been proven not to be a major problem in its effects. In the process, Duggan, Posehn, and Koblish get the chance to comment on how America creates wars to keep the military industrial complex rolling, how misguided policies can create criminals that then have to suffer the system, and how politicians can spin narratives to create evils engineered for campaigning purposes.

There’s a lot packed into this one-shot comic, but Duggan, Posehn, and Koblish keep the action on the highest volume setting, preferring mayhem over quiet ruminations on the subject matter. It succeeds because of how sharp and funny the story is.

The Secret History of The War on Weed

Dialogue is a highlight, with puns and snappy punchlines driving the messages and metaphors home through laughs. This isn’t a mere parody of the 1980’s, though. It’s a smart critique of it and the policies it enacted, especially as they pertain to our current appreciation of weed consumption.

The War on Weed takes on the culture war that was waged against marijuana in the 80’s to explain how people formulated negative ideas about it and then how those same ideas could be traced back to certain special interests that wanted to antagonize the product for reasons that didn’t have the public’s interest at heart.

The Secret History of The War on Weed

Koblish’s art reinforces this argument by referencing so many pop culture elements per page, per panel even, that it becomes impossible to separate weed from the things people still look back on in a positive light. There was a lot of damage done in the 1980’s due to how irresponsible and prejudiced its war on drugs was, but it was also the decade a lot of people started smoking weed (where it grew outside the Counter-cultre/hippie identity it carried). Koblish accounts for this in different ways, being both visually indulgent and confrontational as the story develops. It’s always funny as well, so repeat readings are encouraged. This is a book you’ll want to comb through for hidden visual gags and references.

The Secret History of The War on Weed sees nothing wrong in laughing at serious things, especially if it’s in the service of getting a message across. The message here is one of fairness. By decriminalizing weed, America does better by those who could potentially go to jail for an offense that should never have been an offense in the first place. In a way, The War on Weed is a great companion book to Box Brown’s Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America (2019), which also uses humor to get its point across about the problems that haunt America’s politics on weed (albeit in a more measured manner).

Duggan, Posehn, and Koblish do more than enough to keep the conversation going on what is still a hotly debated topic. They condemn bad practices while making an honest plea to eliminate a problem that has no business being considered a crime in our times. For the benefit of all, they enlist lizard people, 80’s action heroes, and a weed version of Swamp Thing to lend a hand in fighting the good fight.

Story: Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn Art: Scott Koblish
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy and read while high for added effect

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Pre-order: comiXology/KindleZeus Comics

Advance Review: The Secret History of The War on Weed

The Secret History of The War on Weed

I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s an actual legal requirement to be high when writing a story about weed, be it fiction or nonfiction. The creative team behind Image Comics´ The Secret History of The War on Weed seemed to be well in compliance with this when they put this comic together, and it’s all the better for it. It at least explains why lizard people and horny presidents are part of this hilarious, ridiculous, smart, and even heartfelt comic about the war on ganja and how backwards it is.

Writers Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn along with illustrator Scott Koblish set their alternate history in 1980’s America. The President is a cross between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher that sees in marijuana a poll-raising opportunity to get the country behind her administration. To wage this war, she sends the story’s unlikely hero, Scotch McTiernan (an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type commando that’s all of the 80’s action movies rolled into one) to jumpstart the conflict.

The story takes a turn when Scotch McTiernan gets high himself and sees how unnecessary the war is and how damaging it can be to enforce the prohibition of something that has been proven not to be a major problem in its effects. In the process, Duggan, Posehn, and Koblish get the chance to comment on how America creates wars to keep the military industrial complex rolling, how misguided policies can create criminals that then have to suffer the system, and how politicians can spin narratives to create evils engineered for campaigning purposes.

There’s a lot packed into this one-shot comic, but Duggan, Posehn, and Koblish keep the action on the highest volume setting, preferring mayhem over quiet ruminations on the subject matter. It succeeds because of how sharp and funny the story is.

The Secret History of The War on Weed

Dialogue is a highlight, with puns and snappy punchlines driving the messages and metaphors home through laughs. This isn’t a mere parody of the 1980’s, though. It’s a smart critique of it and the policies it enacted, especially as they pertain to our current appreciation of weed consumption.

The War on Weed takes on the culture war that was waged against marijuana in the 80’s to explain how people formulated negative ideas about it and then how those same ideas could be traced back to certain special interests that wanted to antagonize the product for reasons that didn’t have the public’s interest at heart.

The Secret History of The War on Weed

Koblish’s art reinforces this argument by referencing so many pop culture elements per page, per panel even, that it becomes impossible to separate weed from the things people still look back on in a positive light. There was a lot of damage done in the 1980’s due to how irresponsible and prejudiced its war on drugs was, but it was also the decade a lot of people started smoking weed (where it grew outside the Counter-cultre/hippie identity it carried). Koblish accounts for this in different ways, being both visually indulgent and confrontational as the story develops. It’s always funny as well, so repeat readings are encouraged. This is a book you’ll want to comb through for hidden visual gags and references.

The Secret History of The War on Weed sees nothing wrong in laughing at serious things, especially if it’s in the service of getting a message across. The message here is one of fairness. By decriminalizing weed, America does better by those who could potentially go to jail for an offense that should never have been an offense in the first place. In a way, The War on Weed is a great companion book to Box Brown’s Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America (2019), which also uses humor to get its point across about the problems that haunt America’s politics on weed (albeit in a more measured manner).

Duggan, Posehn, and Koblish do more than enough to keep the conversation going on what is still a hotly debated topic. They condemn bad practices while making an honest plea to eliminate a problem that has no business being considered a crime in our times. For the benefit of all, they enlist lizard people, 80’s action heroes, and a weed version of Swamp Thing to lend a hand in fighting the good fight.

Story: Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn Art: Scott Koblish
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy and read while high for added effect

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Pre-order: comiXology/Kindle

Review: Deadbox #1

Deadbox #1

We are the stories we tell ourselves, no matter how stupid they are. This is but one of the sentiments that orbit the satire at the heart of Vault’s latest comic book series, Deadbox. Accompanying that brutally accurate idea is the thought these stories we collectively decide to support can also be cursed. Author Mark Russell and illustrator Benjamin Tiesma tap into the core stupidities of our national narrative, both foundational and current, and come up with a story that’s as funny as it is worrying.

Deadbox follows a woman called Penny who owns a convenience store in a dead-end town called Lost Turkey, a town that also worships freedom as if it were its own god. The town and its people poke fun at Libertarian ideals and conservative thought to create an environment that’s contradictory in every social facet of life. Lost Turkey’s only source of entertainment, as the book says, is a DVD machine that looks like one of those Redbox vending machines where people could rent movies and video games from.

Problem is, the movies in the machine are haunted. Some can only be found in that Lost Turkey’s rental machine and nowhere else. Russell and Tiesma hang on to this detail to create a kind of ‘story within a story’ dynamic where the movie becomes a reflection of the things that are happening in the town, or that are happening to it.

Russell has built quiet a body of work on his own brand of satire. His stories are aware of the commentary he’s putting forth, subtlety be damned in some cases. It makes his comics come off as meta a lot of the times and he’s largely successful at it. Deadbox is another notch on that belt in this regard.

As the story develops, we learn that Penny’s dad is seriously ill and that her choice to rent a movie from the machine will foretell some of the things that ail and will end up ailing the character. This is where Russell’s skill with creating parables and metaphors shines, turning the movie’s sci-fi story of humanity making first contact with an alien civilization into a contemplation on a people’s dreams of progress, what old age means, and how entitled we can come off as while settling in new places.

Lost Turkey itself is a combination of elements that make it a kind of conservative utopia guided by contradictions that celebrate unfettered freedoms regardless of consequence. Gun lovers, safety-defying bikers, and small town political leaders with delusions of grandeur populate this place and each one offers a chance to think about the backwardness of our political culture.

Deadbox #1

Tiesma’s art makes sure the script’s satire never skips a beat by leaning into caricature in his portrayal of the townspeople and the characters that appear in the story’s movie segments. Body language and panel transitions are imbued with a theatrical flair that rewards careful observation and close reading. The humor’s in the details in this one and Tiasma capitalizes on every chance he gets to dial it up.

Deadbox is an incredibly smart comic that finds a lot to be scared of in stupidity, but also a lot to laugh at. The first issue of the series stands on the strength of its sharp wit and its visual comedy. There’s a lot of stupid in the world right now and Deadbox is here to make fun of it.

Story: Mark Russell Art: Benjamin Tiesma,
Colors: Vladimir Popov, Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Read and try not to do stupid things.

Vault provided Graphic Policy with a free copy of the comic for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

Earl Review: Deadbox #1

Deadbox #1

We are the stories we tell ourselves, no matter how stupid they are. This is but one of the sentiments that orbit the satire at the heart of Vault’s latest comic book series, Deadbox. Accompanying that brutally accurate idea is the thought these stories we collectively decide to support can also be cursed. Author Mark Russell and illustrator Benjamin Tiesma tap into the core stupidities of our national narrative, both foundational and current, and come up with a story that’s as funny as it is worrying.

Deadbox follows a woman called Penny who owns a convenience store in a dead-end town called Lost Turkey, a town that also worships freedom as if it were its own god. The town and its people poke fun at Libertarian ideals and conservative thought to create an environment that’s contradictory in every social facet of life. Lost Turkey’s only source of entertainment, as the book says, is a DVD machine that looks like one of those Redbox vending machines where people could rent movies and video games from.

Problem is, the movies in the machine are haunted. Some can only be found in that Lost Turkey’s rental machine and nowhere else. Russell and Tiesma hang on to this detail to create a kind of ‘story within a story’ dynamic where the movie becomes a reflection of the things that are happening in the town, or that are happening to it.

Russell has built quiet a body of work on his own brand of satire. His stories are aware of the commentary he’s putting forth, subtlety be damned in some cases. It makes his comics come off as meta a lot of the times and he’s largely successful at it. Deadbox is another notch on that belt in this regard.

As the story develops, we learn that Penny’s dad is seriously ill and that her choice to rent a movie from the machine will foretell some of the things that ail and will end up ailing the character. This is where Russell’s skill with creating parables and metaphors shines, turning the movie’s sci-fi story of humanity making first contact with an alien civilization into a contemplation on a people’s dreams of progress, what old age means, and how entitled we can come off as while settling in new places.

Lost Turkey itself is a combination of elements that make it a kind of conservative utopia guided by contradictions that celebrate unfettered freedoms regardless of consequence. Gun lovers, safety-defying bikers, and small town political leaders with delusions of grandeur populate this place and each one offers a chance to think about the backwardness of our political culture.

Deadbox #1

Tiesma’s art makes sure the script’s satire never skips a beat by leaning into caricature in his portrayal of the townspeople and the characters that appear in the story’s movie segments. Body language and panel transitions are imbued with a theatrical flair that rewards careful observation and close reading. The humor’s in the details in this one and Tiasma capitalizes on every chance he gets to dial it up.

Deadbox is an incredibly smart comic that finds a lot to be scared of in stupidity, but also a lot to laugh at. The first issue of the series stands on the strength of its sharp wit and its visual comedy. There’s a lot of stupid in the world right now and Deadbox is here to make fun of it.

Story: Mark Russell Art: Benjamin Tiesma,
Colors: Vladimir Popov, Letterer: Andworld Design
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Read and try not to do stupid things.

Vault provided Graphic Policy with a free copy of the comic for review


Pre-Order: comiXologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

Review: Not All Robots #1

Not All Robots #1

The robot takeover doomsday scenario, where humanity gets replaced by the machines they created, has been the basis for many a sci-fi story, but the aftermath is rarely given time to shine. Just what is life under robotic law and what does the new day-to-day look like after humanity’s gone extinct? Say Ultron finally gets one over the Avengers, what’s next? Aren’t robots near-perfect beings with infinite knowledge? Museums and libraries would become obsolete as robots store everything in their memory and can access it at a moment’s notice, not to mention grocery stores and bars. Well, maybe not bars.

Mark Russell (Prez, Billionaire Island) and Mike Deodato’s new AWA Studios comic, Not All Robots, offers readers an answer: the robots will eventually become more like us. Once you get to the top of the food chain, it’s possible that the only way forward is to downgrade. That is, unless they’re content with being static automatons surfing their own databases without a need to move around or physically engage with anyone.

Not All Robots is another great Mark Russell satire on the ridiculousness of existence and the things we do with our existential dilemmas. Humanity, what’s left of it, is very quickly becoming obsolete as worker robots have become the sole providers of living families by completely taking over the workforce. Humans are quite simply redundant at this point and robots are catching on to the fact of how superfluous they’ve become. There’s even a talk show within the story called Talkin’ Bot that puts everything into perspective and I am one-hundred percent certain this show will actually exist a few years from now.

The comic centers on a house bot called Razorball. He’s the main provider for the Walters, the family that owns him. Razorball has become a disenchanted worker, cynical at every turn. He complains about life, the monotony of it, and his disdain for all the unnecessary things he has to do at work.

Deodato (Marvel’s Original Sin, The Resistance) illustrates Razorball as a somewhat outdated and clunky machine, in need of an update or to be updated by a newer model. That’s where the Mandroids come in, robots that can easily be confused with humans given the quality of their build. In other words, the future.

Not All Robots #1
Not All Robots #1

It’s hard not to confuse Razorball with the average Joe, an unhappy guy that hates his life and his job and feels unappreciated by society. Russell’s genius, though, comes in how he takes that archetype and injects classic Asimov-like science fiction ideas into the story to not let the metaphor consume the narrative entirely. The associations are easy to make between Razorball and his human counterparts, but there’s a real sci-fi heart beating at the center of it.

Deodato crafts a universe’s worth of worldbuilding into the story with futuristic vistas and designs that firmly place the story within the realm of plausibility. It keeps the characters grounded and the story human. Deodato’s panel layouts and overall page structure—which has evolved throughout his career and stands as one of his signature skills as an artist—keeps things busy too, as if the new standard of life is governed by on-going activity carried by the never-ending stamina of a well-oiled machine.

Russell, on the other hand, isn’t just content with making fun of humans through worker robots. The idea that machines have forced people into a sedentary lifestyle echoes current debates on how technology is eliminating jobs people used to do by hand and got paid for. The robots act as living cautionary glimpses into what our reality could turn into if progress is allowed to continue pushing forward unfettered. Also how disenchanted robots will get once they realize how mundane human existence actually was.

Not All Robots is a funny, scary, and plausible take on humanity’s self-authored descent into obsolescence. Readers will laugh hard the entire way through, but they’ll also have no choice but to think about the consequences of our exponential growth into a machine-dominated world. The kicker, though, is that regardless of how advanced these robots turn out to be, they might not have a choice but to become a bit human to find some meaning in the new status quo.

Story: Mark Russell, Art: Mike Deodato
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy and maybe consider throwing your iPhone into the ocean

AWA Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus ComicsTFAW

Advance Review: Not All Robots #1

Not All Robots #1

The robot takeover doomsday scenario, where humanity gets replaced by the machines they created, has been the basis for many a sci-fi story, but the aftermath is rarely given time to shine. Just what is life under robotic law and what does the new day-to-day look like after humanity’s gone extinct? Say Ultron finally gets one over the Avengers, what’s next? Aren’t robots near-perfect beings with infinite knowledge? Museums and libraries would become obsolete as robots store everything in their memory and can access it at a moment’s notice, not to mention grocery stores and bars. Well, maybe not bars.

Mark Russell (Prez, Billionaire Island) and Mike Deodato’s new AWA Studios comic, Not All Robots, offers readers an answer: the robots will eventually become more like us. Once you get to the top of the food chain, it’s possible that the only way forward is to downgrade. That is, unless they’re content with being static automatons surfing their own databases without a need to move around or physically engage with anyone.

Not All Robots is another great Mark Russell satire on the ridiculousness of existence and the things we do with our existential dilemmas. Humanity, what’s left of it, is very quickly becoming obsolete as worker robots have become the sole providers of living families by completely taking over the workforce. Humans are quite simply redundant at this point and robots are catching on to the fact of how superfluous they’ve become. There’s even a talk show within the story called Talkin’ Bot that puts everything into perspective and I am one-hundred percent certain this show will actually exist a few years from now.

The comic centers on a house bot called Razorball. He’s the main provider for the Walters, the family that owns him. Razorball has become a disenchanted worker, cynical at every turn. He complains about life, the monotony of it, and his disdain for all the unnecessary things he has to do at work.

Deodato (Marvel’s Original Sin, The Resistance) illustrates Razorball as a somewhat outdated and clunky machine, in need of an update or to be updated by a newer model. That’s where the Mandroids come in, robots that can easily be confused with humans given the quality of their build. In other words, the future.

Not All Robots #1
Not All Robots #1

It’s hard not to confuse Razorball with the average Joe, an unhappy guy that hates his life and his job and feels unappreciated by society. Russell’s genius, though, comes in how he takes that archetype and injects classic Asimov-like science fiction ideas into the story to not let the metaphor consume the narrative entirely. The associations are easy to make between Razorball and his human counterparts, but there’s a real sci-fi heart beating at the center of it.

Deodato crafts a universe’s worth of worldbuilding into the story with futuristic vistas and designs that firmly place the story within the realm of plausibility. It keeps the characters grounded and the story human. Deodato’s panel layouts and overall page structure—which has evolved throughout his career and stands as one of his signature skills as an artist—keeps things busy too, as if the new standard of life is governed by on-going activity carried by the never-ending stamina of a well-oiled machine.

Russell, on the other hand, isn’t just content with making fun of humans through worker robots. The idea that machines have forced people into a sedentary lifestyle echoes current debates on how technology is eliminating jobs people used to do by hand and got paid for. The robots act as living cautionary glimpses into what our reality could turn into if progress is allowed to continue pushing forward unfettered. Also how disenchanted robots will get once they realize how mundane human existence actually was.

Not All Robots is a funny, scary, and plausible take on humanity’s self-authored descent into obsolescence. Readers will laugh hard the entire way through, but they’ll also have no choice but to think about the consequences of our exponential growth into a machine-dominated world. The kicker, though, is that regardless of how advanced these robots turn out to be, they might not have a choice but to become a bit human to find some meaning in the new status quo.

Story: Mark Russell, Art: Mike Deodato
Publisher: AWA Studios

Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy and maybe consider throwing your iPhone into the ocean

AWA Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Pre-Order: TFAW

Review: Outer Darkness/Chew #1

Outer Darkness/Chew #1

There’s something special about crossovers between non-superheroes comics. Usually, a Marvel or DC crossover comes with expectations of event-like conflicts and big action set-pieces. Creator-owned crossovers, on the other hand, tend to live and die by the strength of their characters and the culture they carry from their own comics. This is definitely the case with Outer Darkness/Chew #1, from John Layman, Afu Chan, and Rob Guillory, a coming together of sci-fi, horror, and comedy of epic proportions from two books that rival each other in terms of the sheer storytelling madness they produce.

The comic starts with the crew of the Charon (from Outer Darkness) engaging with a Cibulaxian alien ambassador that only engages in conversation over food. No external communicator can help in the situation and the chef responsible for comms meets a gleefully violent and premature end early on. The captain of the Charon, Captain Rigg, is then forced to resort to plan B: traveling in time to bring Tony Chu in, a Cibopath that can dive into the memories of the things he eats (from Chew).

Outer Darkness/Chew #1 requires prior knowledge of both series to fully appreciate. Writer John Layman, who wrote both series, basically says as much in his letter to the fans at the end of the issue, when he talks about how the book approaches the Chew parts of the book as a kind of coda to the original series (which ran for 60 issues from 2009-2016).

From the Outer Darkness side of the equation, an understanding of the concept is pretty much all you need, which is basically made up of bits from The Exorcist, Star Trek, and Event Horizon. Honestly, I would recommend reading both series as they are very good on their own and are well worth the price of admission. Maybe then come back to the crossover.

The story succeeds in making both the Chewverse and the Outer Darknessverse converge as if they were naturally meant to since their inception. It even makes it a point to recognize changes in how the characters look within the story once they crossover.

Rob Guillory, co-creator of Chew, illustrates his part of the story in the original style of the book with Afu Chan, co-creator of Outer Darkness, doing the same. When Tony Chu is brought aboard the Charon, Afu Chan takes over and the characters acknowledge the change in their looks. They are baffled by it, even.

It’s a bit of meta that builds up the crossover quite well and makes each character recognize the distance between their realities. Chew characters transition well under Chan’s pencils and they still seem like they are from another place, which adds to the clash of stories between the two universes.

Layman’s script does a good job of balancing both worlds, especially in terms of tone. Outer Darkness is a more serious tale than Chew and yet they each keep their identities intact throughout the issue. One’s humor doesn’t drown out the other’s horror. This is something that rarely manages to carry over in this type of story, but Layman pulls it off. Let’s see if it manages to sustain itself over the entire arc.

There’s a lot to like about Outer Darkness/Chew #1, especially for fans of the two series. In fact, I’d say that’s precisely the audience it’s seeking. New readers will probably struggle a bit to make everything click, but there’re still enough things going on in the story that anyone could latch onto and follow. There’s just a lot of fun to be had here, and the promise of more Cibopaths in space is always a good thing.

Script: John Layman Art: Rob Guillory and Afu Chan
Story: 9 Art: 10 Overall: Buy and then read all of Chew

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

C2E2 2019: Interview with Daniel Kibblesmith

Daniel Kibblesmith is a true dual threat, who has written for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Onion News Network as well as comics like Marvel’s Lockjaw and Valiant’s Quantum and Woody. He also has a hilarious Twitter account. At C2E2, I had the opportunity to chat with him about the connections between comics and comedy, his work on Black Panther vs. Deadpool, and his upcoming picture book, Princess Dinosaur.


Graphic Policy: Is it harder to be funnier in comics or prose, and why?

Daniel Kibblesmith: I think it’s harder to be funny in comics because everything has to serve the story and the characters, and in most mainstream cases, the action. So, when you’re funny in comics, I think it has to either have information in it that moves the story forward, or it has to be an icing on the cake. If you’re writing capital “C” comedy, then the comedy is the end that you’re trying to get to.

In narrative stories, it’s one of the tools in the toolbox. I think with superheroes it works really well. It’s one of the reasons the Marvel movies are so popular. They do a great job using humor to explain things and to break tension and to make exposition a little more interesting. So, it’s always a bigger, more diverse project when I have to write something that’s a story instead of writing a humor column, or in the case of Twitter, a million bad jokes.

GP: Do you find parallels between writing for a famous comedian like Stephen Colbert and writing stories in a big, shared universe like Marvel or Valiant?

DK: I think that, at the end of the day, you’re a collaborator with a person or a brand that people have an emotional relationship with so the audience is expecting a certain thing from that person or those characters. You want to make sure that you know their voice inside and out, and that you can deliver what the job requires. In a weird way, I think it can be similar at times. But the subject matter is so different so who can really say?

GP: Let’s talk Black Panther vs. Deadpool. I know Deadpool has these team-up books that pop up every now and then. Was there already a “Versus” story set up, or did you pitch it?

DK: My editors, Wil Moss and Sarah Brunstad, brought the project to me. We had just finished Loki and had a really good time. They were looking for another project to put me on, and in 2018, given how many “Deadpool Vs” titles there were, it seemed weird there wasn’t a Black Panther one. So, it seemed like a project we could get everyone to buy into very quickly from both a behind the scenes and audience perspective.

It was really easy to get excited about this. It was always going to be Black Panther vs. Deadpool. I think the other big decision we made was giving Black Panther top billing because, one, we could make jokes about it, and Deadpool always gets top billing in these. Which I guess we made jokes about it. I think Hawkeye got top billing in one of these though.

GP: That was my favorite “Versus” series.

DK: I really liked the Hawkeye one. I really liked the Gambit one. I read all of them coming into this. For “research”. Because it was Saturday. I had a blast reading all of them, and everyone’s take on Deadpool is slightly different. I loved seeing all the interpretations. I think people think he can be very one note, but if you look into all the different writers, there’s a lot of variation there.

GP: One thing that I found interesting about Black Panther vs. Deadpool was that you decided to focus on T’challa more as a scientist than a superhero. Why did you decide to do that?

DK: It wasn’t really a decision. To me, that’s the character. I grew up reading Silver Age comics from my dad’s collection, and T’challa’s first appearance is when he sends a fake out siginal to the Fantastic Four, hands them their asses with his traps, and he defeats them as a scientist and as a king. I love Black Panther as a superhero. But I think that the Black Panther superhero adventures I really like are when he’s doing stuff in Wakanda that’s either pertaining to being a king or a deposed king, or he’s in Manhattan. Then, he’s much more of a conventional superhero.

But, to me [the scientist] is Black Panther. He’s as much Reed Richards as he is a Daredevil type.

GP: So, Black Panther vs. Deadpool was actually a serious story about curing death. How do you balance the fourth wall breaking jokes with the heavy stuff like death, mortality, and legacy?

DK: People have asked me that a lot, but if you read the [Jonathan] Hickman stuff that I’m a big fan of, Black Panther is King of the Dead. And Deadpool has “dead” in his name. These are two characters who are obsessed with mortality and legacy and indestructibility. Deadpool literally, and Black Panther needing the project the image of being more than a person.

I think all good comedy has an emotional core where the stakes are very real. Whether that’s as dark or sad as I took it or just something human you can relate to. But [both Deadpool and Black Panther] needed to be coming from a real emotional place. And it’s a “versus” title where they’re both protagonists so they both had to 100% know they were in the right even if Deadpool’s version of “in the right” comes with a healthy layer of denial.

GP: Deadpool has been written so many ways. Some write him as a kind of hero, and some as completely amoral. Do you think that he can ever be consistently written as a hero and change, or is he completely set in his ways?

DK: So, my book is about two men. One who is resistant to change. One is desperately pursuing it and is terrible at it. You can guess who’s who. My point of view is that the whole underlying philosophy of superhero comics is that they’re all on a very slow path to change. It might take 75 years.

Because the whole point of serialized storytelling and making sure you stay true to the characters, hitting the beats fans want, and doing it cyclically is that there all protagonists in a story on a journey. They’re looking to change. Or solve some unsolvable problem. Or repair the damage from their childhood.

I definitely believe that Deadpool could be a full-on hero, but it’ll take a minute because of the things people like about him is that he’s relatably flawed. I don’t think Deadpool will ever be Black Panther, but I think he might be a better Deadpool.

GP: I had a lot of fun reading the interplay between Black Panther and Deadpool in this comic. What do you like most about writing “mismatched” heroes?

DK: I realized that I had just finished doing Quantum and Woody. I just realized I had done another odd couple story where one of them was really straight laced and by the book while the other was this criminal wild card. It didn’t even occur to me until I was deep into the Black Panther vs. Deadpool scripts.

I think what’s fun about these characters in particular is that we all know them so well. When you pick up Black Panther vs. Deadpool, you know what it’s like for them to be in a room together. So, as their writer, I got to put them in the room together, and let would naturally happen happen and allow the conversation that I assume would happen to unfold.

I liked getting to bounce them off each other, and getting to test their limits a little bit like getting T’challa to bend a little bit and crack a joke here and there. He’s kind of softened to Deadpool a little bit. Then, the same with Deadpool to express some real melancholy and uncertainty and let his vulnerability show.

GP: I was definitely getting some Gerry Duggan vibes from the way you wrote him.

DK: I’m a huge fan of all of Duggan’s Deadpool. I read so much of it even before I got this gig. What I wanted to is synthesize what I liked by other writers. That’s the fun of writing characters that came before you.

GP: That are icons.

DK: The fun of writing icons is that you get to come in and be like “
I know what Black Panther would do if he had this problem because he’s the Black Panther.

GP: I had one last question about your upcoming picture book, Princess Dinosaur. What are some of the challenges of doing a picture book versus a story for adults or even an all ages comic?

DK: I would say in some ways that a picture book is easier because it’s not necessarily sequential storytelling. There’s less directing. But the artist of our two picture books, Princess Dinosaur and Santa’s Husband, is my friend Ashley Quach, who is just a master illustrator. She does this incredible cartooning in watercolor, and she has done a lot of comics. I think that she and I speak the same language about what we’re going for, and how we’re able to tell jokes with body language and facial expression.

The biggest difference is probably the audience. Princess Dinosaur is aimed at toddlers. So, you want everything to be boiled down to its simplest, most archetypal ideas. But, in a weird way, that’s not that different from comics with these big characters that embody their themes. People who are representative of who their characters are on the inside.

In some ways, it’s really similar because you’re writing these iconic character whether they’re capital “I” iconic because they’re created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, or they’re instantly recognizable, self-contained archetypes.

Follow Daniel Kibblesmith on Twitter.

Movie Review: Eighth Grade

Bo Burnham has been delivering top notch comedy for a long time, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he would eventually cross over into film. What is surprising is how beautiful, heartfelt, and true this movie is.

Burnham is not only a great writer of comedy and mining all that is awkward about literally the most awkward period of our lives, but he proves himself an amazing director, especially of star Elsie Fisher. This is not an overstatement that her performance here as Kayla is Oscar-worthy as she encapsulates exactly what it is to be a young adolescent, especially in 2018, but the themes here are fairly universal.

If awkwardness was a fruit, and you could press it into a juice, then reduce that into a syrup and serve it over pancakes, that would be the essence of this film. Every moment — mean girls, stupid boys, being misunderstood and lonely — rings 100% true and is uncomfortably funny.

The film actually captures such realism as Fisher’s actual acne and wearing ill-fitting bathing suits and having normal 13 year old bodies. But perhaps most surprising is its depiction of social media, phones, and texting and how it absolutely nails how this generation interacts with these things.

Personal story time: I have a daughter about to enter 8th grade. This film gets her and her generation in a way nothing else ever has. And unless you’ve been watching lots of YouTube and Vine and Instagram, you don’t understand where their media is coming from. And everyone wants to have their own channels and break out and be a star, but no one is watching.

Thirty or forty years ago, a protagonist may have written in her diary, fifteen years ago on her blog. Here we get her youtube channel, where she is free and her best self and giving advice to people she is obviously trying to take herself. And while she’s a star in her bedroom alone on her laptop, her class votes her “Most Quiet.” The tension between that is the key to her story and growing up– how much her self-perception differs from how people see her.

We also see some other somewhat shocking elements played off as totally normal and mundane. They have a schoolwide lockdown active shooter drill and actually pretend that children are dead in the hallways, during which time the boy she has a crush on asks her to send nudes if she wants to be his girlfriend. If the latter shocks you more than the former, you missed part of what the film is saying.

And through all of this we have Kayla’s dad. He tries so hard to connect with her and do the best he can and I literally have never connected and empathized with a movie character more in my life. There is a scene between the two of them as they sit around a firepit in their backyard that will make you cry, and also laugh a little in its over-the-top emotional stakes that overstate everything as the worst or best thing ever that is the essence of being thirteen. And of course it’s still glazed in that lovely awkward syrup that is lovingly drizzled over everything in this film.

There are a lot of amazing indie films out there that you need to see. This is one of the best films of the summer and deserves to be checked out. As great as this is, I expect even more from Bo Burnham in the near future. The kids are alright.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Movie Review: Ted 2

ted2_promo_posterPOSTER-1“Bigger, Better, Tedder.”

That’s what I was clamoring for since the moment the credits rolled on the first one. Now being a native New Englander myself, I really wanted to like Ted 2. No, correction I wanted to love it. Unfortunately only 20 minutes into it, I absolutely hated it. I almost walked out. However 20 more minutes in I started to like it. Like, really like it despite the plot  (Ted, upset due to the fact that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts defines him as property and not a person goes on a quest for his civil rights.) being shoe string thin. While I think it was bad choice for Seth MacFarlane to start out the movie with an excruciatingly long dance number, hey that’s Seth. What makes the first minutes so hard to watch is a boring wedding reception and the crudeness level being turned up to 11. (A scene of Ted wearing a wife beater going through bills at the dinner table is classic). Fair warning in advance, starting out it is slow going.

The first half hour of the movie is just an absolute onslaught of foul language (too much to be quite honest and I’m from the region this movie takes place) and ridiculous toilet humor peppered in with some entertaining cameos. (See the Liam Neeson cameo and you just might pee yourself it was so good.) Despite his part being ruined by the barrage of commercials, New England Patriots QB Tom Brady does a serviceable performance. (Don’t quit your day job Tom. Stick to championships) Where the movie really shines however is through heart of the core cast. John Bennett (Mark Wahlburg) Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) and of course the star Ted (Seth MacFarlane) just take this totally preposterous scenario and breathe true blue life into it. They do so well they make you forget that Ted is not a real actor. Kudos to them, it’s not easy.

Of course there is tons of potty humor and 80’s references galore. Hell there’s even a scene which takes place at NY Comic Con (Which was amazing!) This movie is surprisingly Bi-Polar. (Like our New England Weather) You will go back and forth on it several times. One refreshing change is they veered away from using too many “Family Guy” style cut scenes and the movie moves along in a briskly linear fashion. However the reusing of Giovanni Ribisi’s creepy character Donny from the first movie was just groan inducing. They even used the same gag again. Same with Sam Jones reprising his role as the retired (and quite tired) Flash Gordon as John and Ted’s new buddy, was just unnecessary and felt forced. Suprisingly I did not miss Mila Kunis’ character (Lori Collins) at all as Amanda Seyfried outshined her completely. I was shocked due to the fact there was not a much more overly dramatic explanation of her absence. Nope, she divorced John. That was it.

MacFarlane and Co. do a great job of fan service to everyone who grew up in the 80’s. They even finally mention the store where John’s parents purchased Ted for him. (Child World, I used to shop there so I absolutely marked out for the reference.) Although the fact they obviously put more money, time and effort into making this sequel, it tries way too hard and falls just a bit short. This might even be history for being the first movie that has starred Morgan Freeman and not been absolutely incredible. Never thought I’d see the day.

Overall: If you like crude language, so much weed smoking, anthropomorphized talking stuffed bears, and plot holes the size of the Wells Report, this is the movie for you. If not? Well turn your brains off and (like Neil Diamond says) turn on your heartlights and give it a view anyway. You might just hate, love, then like it like I did.

Score: 7.3

« Older Entries