Tag Archives: featured

Review: Is’Nana: The Were-Spider Vol. 1

Growing up, reading comics back home n Queens, New York, I never quite caught on to Spider-Man. I know that may be a controversial statement, considering how many Spidey fans there are out there, but his stories never interested me and no, this not a diatribe against Spider-Man, as his canon amongst the other Marvel superheroes is prolific and for good reason. His story about growing up in Queens, New York, saving civilians, never caught fire with me, as I never felt the angst and struggle that Peter Parker went through. Then when I found out that the origins of Spider-Man, not only came from Stan Lee’s imagination but also from African folklore.

As the story of Anansi, well known to only through West Africa but also throughout the Caribbean, as he is the spirit of all knowledge and stories. I remember my grandfather telling me the story when I was 7 when I lived in Trinidad. Growing up reading comic books, I read about Thor and his brother Loki, and their father, Odin, and always thought why were stories about people who looked like me never like this. Enter writer Greg Anderson-Elysee, who from what I just read, probably thought, and wished the same exact thing.

Enter, Is’Nana: The Were-Spider, which starts off with the reader meeting Roger Stine, a lonely old man, whose children do not have time for him, as he suffers nightmares of a leopard chasing him. Little does he know, supernatural forces are at play, as a dark force is haunting him, it being another figure from African folklore, Osebo the Leopard, who not only haunts him but takes over Roger’s body. Is’Nana just so happens to be on the hunt for him, at which point, Is’Nana with the help of his father, Anansi, fights Osebo to save Roger’s life. The story ends with Is’Nana defeating Osebo and becoming friends with Roger and as a bonus the reader gets introduced to Is ‘Nana’s journey form his world to ours as well as why his father, Anansi was brought here as well.

Overall, a strong introduction to a character and a world that I want to know more about and one which is more relatable than Peter Parker’s. The story by Greg Anderson-Elysee, by at first glance may seem like one we have heard before, but once the reader digs in, is an even denser and intricate story and one whose origins have deeper roots than one would imagine. The art by Walter Ostlie, Lee Milewski, Walt Msonza Barna, and Joshua Cozine, is beautiful and reminds me of the work Frank Miller did on Ronin. Altogether, a strong first book by this team, and a story that I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Story: Greg Anderson-Elysee
Art: Walter Ostlie, Lee Milewski, Walt Msonza Barna and Joshua Cozine
Story:10 Art:10 Overall:10 Recommendation:Buy


Underrated: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

This week on Underrated, I wanted to take a look at one of the most reviled movies in the X-Men Franchise, not because I’m going to convince you it’s secretly a great movie that has been unfairly shat on for nearly ten years, but because I want to highlight some of the things that it actually did right. Do they out weight the bad to redeem the movie? Personally, I think so. Although X-Men Origins: Wolverine will never be thought of as a shining example of the character in cinema, and nor should it be, it isn’t the catastrophic mess that we remember it being.

Before you start raging at me (and you’re more than welcome to do so on twitter @karcossa) ask yourself when was the last time you saw this movie? I watched it on the 21st of March this year with the intention of tearing it to pieces in an article, but I actually kind of enjoyed it, so I wrote this instead [note, this article was written on March 23rd, so the movie was quite fresh in my mind]. So before you fire up those angry fingers, give the movie a quick watch and remember I’m not claiming it’s great, just that it isn’t bad.

  • The Opening Sequence
    Honestly, you give me a movie with Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting their way through history based on this opening credit montage and I will throw my money at you. This is a prime example of a movie blowing it’s load too early, if you’ll pardon the expression. We get one of the best opening sequences in the franchise before one of the worst movies. No wonder it got flattened by fans.
  • Liev Schreiber And Hugh Jackman
    Say what you want about the script, plot choices, and pointless cameos, but I will not hear a bad word said about either Schreiber or Jackman’s performances in this movie. It remains a great tragedy that we only got one movie with Liev Schreiber playing Sabretooth opposite Hugh Jackman, and that it was this one. Having watched the movie recently, the two men are almost able to save the movie with their acting chops alone – without them it wouldn’t be worth watching past the title sequence.
  • Most Action Sequences
    Strangely enough, the action sequences in the movie are actually pretty good; Logan and Creed fighting in the bar is awesome, and even the final battle is pretty entertaining (despite the character mutilation of Deadpool). The only downside to the sequence where Team X attacks a compound is that the individual use of the soldier’s abilities makes little sense as a tactical strike, but as a showcase of the individual powers at play it’s pretty good. As is the helicopter fight – right up until the cliched walking away from the explosion end point.
  • The One Liners
    X-Men Origins: Wolverine isn’t a comedy, but there’s quite a few one liners that will at the very least elicit a chuckle from you. Plus, you can also laugh at the so-bad-it’s-good moments.
  • Wolverine Uses All His Powers
    Funnily enough, one of the things this movie gets right is how many other abilities Logan has. At different points in the movie you see him use his enhanced senses of smell, vision and hearing to locate Creed, Zero and Kayla. You don’t see him using his other powers as often as you do his healing and claws (for obvious reasons, I’m sure).

Yes, the movie has its problems, especially with how it fits (or used to fit depending on who you’re talking to) into the X-Men movie franchise, or how it treats certain characters, but if you look at it as a standalone movie that just happens to feature Wolverine… it’s actually not that bad; truth be told, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and that’s why it’s the subject of this week’s Underrated.













Gotham Weekly With Alex And Joe: Episode Three And A Half

Neal Adams Batman TMNT Adventures #6 ExclusiveWelcome to Gotham Weekly’s first unscheduled recording!

Our hosts were chatting over messenger about a couple of Batman related things, and decided to just stop and record the conversation. Among the topic of conversation was the announcement of the Titans series, the exclusive C2E2 Batman #21 and Salt City Comic Con Batman/TMNT Adventures #6 (left) variant covers, the recent Bruins/Senators Stanley Cup Playoff series, and the upcoming Hulu documentary Batman And Bill, because Alex finally watched the trailer (included below). This comic strip by Ty Templeton, this book by Marc Tyler Nobleman. 

There was also a bit of chatter about the upcoming SSSC guest Graham Nolan and his co-creation Bane… honestly, we were all over the place. There was no agenda.

We may have forgot we were recording at times.

For links to the interviews and features mentioned in the podcast scroll past the trailer.


SUPERMEGAFEST 2016: Interview With Graham Nolan

RHODE ISLAND COMIC CON 2015: Interview With Kevin Conroy

Marc Tyler Nobleman Talks To Us About His Work In Getting Bill Finger’s Name Recognized

I Hate Bob Kane

And as a bonus, the first article Alex ever wrote: Bill Who?


Review: Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1

One of the most controversial characters in comics has returned – and the controversy has only BEGUN! In the aftermath of The Clone Conspiracy, Ben has a new take on life…and he’s not the same Scarlet Spider he was before. Come witness what will be the most talked about comic of the year!

I wasn’t much of a Spider-Man fan growing up only reading issues here and there around events, but I even knew to skip the original Clone Saga so missed the original Ben Reilly stories. That might be the reason why the reveal of Reilly as the big bad in the previous event didn’t really have a big impact for me. Instead, I found an interesting character who could easily have given Norman Osborn a run for his money as a brilliant villain to challenge Peter in the future.

Instead, we get Ben Reilly off on his own thinking he’s a hero and going off on an adventure to prove it. He’s wanted so trying to fly under the radar and that has him asking his rescues for money… which has some potential.

But, what’s odd in writer Peter David‘s take on Reilly is that he’s generally lost his mind. Instead of the smart aleck or quick quips like Peter Parker instead we get Reilly being somewhat mean and talking to phantoms. This isn’t the Jackal we’ve seen for an event, the put together villain who has a big vision for the world and how he’ll save it. Here, he’s broken and has more in common with Deadpool than he does in Spider-Man. It’s a weird take that feels like it diverges from the character we saw just a month ago. And, it’s ok to bring these elements in, but they’re there without much of an explanation. It’s an odd addition that I think is supposed to make the character stand out but instead it feels like it’s out of left field.

The art stands out in some ways with Mark Bagley on pencils, John Dell on inks and Jason Keith handling colors. Joe Carmagna needs a shout-out as the letterer as there’s a lot of dialogue on some of the pages, but he makes it work with the art team. Bagley’s pencils are decent though don’t quite stand out like I usually expect from his art. What I did notice is Keith’s use of greens in the coloring, a color I associate with Spider-Man villains. There’s some interesting stuff there, but it doesn’t quite have the punch and excitement as the main Spider-Man series or even Miles Morales’ run.

The first issue is decent with a vibe in some ways back to the 90s when this character was swinging around. I’m not completely sold on this series but intrigued enough to see where it all goes from here.

Story: Peter David Art: Mark Bagley, John Dell
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.60 Overall: 7.0 Recommendation: Read

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Creator’s Corner: Running a Successful Kickstarter Part 3: Creating the Campaign Page and Video

Now that you’ve done your research and brainstormed rewards, you’re ready to create the campaign page, considering all of these attributes: clarity, concise writing, transparency, and an engaging video.

If you’re a potential backer, looking for a project to support, you have a lot of options to sift through, which is why clarity and being concise is so important. After all, why should you expect a backer to spend extra time trying to understand a project or read unnecessary details when they can easily click on one of the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other options? The only people who would spend time trying to understand a project that is unclear and overly lengthy in its description are friends and family. But they’re not the ones you want to design this page for, since they’ll probably support you anyway.

Next, to avoid seeming like you’re trying to con people out of their hard-earned money, strive to be as transparent as possible, both in the initial page and any subsequent updates. You need to be honest about costs, both financial and time (to produce content, ship it, etc..), so that backers know you’re not asking for more money than you need. Kickstarters aren’t designed to pocket the money after all; they’re supposed to funnel the money into a product and experience for passionate supporters.

This is also true of updates: if you’re running behind or if you got an unexpected discount/rebate, let your backers know and pass those savings onto them or give them the new timetable. Chances are, if you’re running a Kickstarter, you need audience support for later projects (on Kickstarter or just further issues/books/etc…), and an audience is more likely to return to a project that continually shines a light into all the corners instead of a project that pushes imperfect things into the corner shadows. Those shadows won’t cover them up for ever, so you might as well beat some investigative internet troller to the punch. And don’t just take it from me; look at this advice from a writer for Backer Kit:


Image/Quote from Backer Kit

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you need to design an engaging video to sell your project to potential backers. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking: But I just described it in the campaign details, so why should I do that again? It’s a reasonable and understandable question, and the simple answer is that most people–because of time, possible entertainment value, and ease of effort–prefer to get their information from a video source rather than a text-based one (I know, the English teacher and writer in me rebels at this idea, but ideals sometimes have to be set aside to deal with reality).

With that in mind, I looked at what a lot of other Kickstarters had done, and then pretty much preceded to ignore most of what I found, simply because I didn’t want to learn how to use video editing software on more than the most basic level. I knew a little–because I had to create some really bare bones videos for my students, especially the ones who had been absent and missed a lesson. But creating a video that delivers information clearly and creating a video that does that and does so engagingly are two different things. (Yeah, I probably should’ve tried to make them engaging for my students too, but time was an issue). After a few takes and some minor editing, this is the video I created:

Yeah, really impressive right? With a video like this I’m surprised I still raised enough funds. If I hadn’t had so much support from family and friends, I probably wouldn’t have. And this isn’t just something I subjectively feel: my video was played 118 times, but only 11% of people completed watching the whole video. (I found this out from yet another handy graphic/report available on Kickstarter after a project’s completion–see it below):


I have no other campaigns to compare this to, so I don’t know for sure, but that seems like a very low number. Even if it’s not that low (relatively speaking, compared to other campaigns), there’s clearly a lot of room to improve. So take it from me, don’t learn the lesson the hard way, and instead, devote more time to actually making a creative, engaging video. Because, ultimately, this is your audience’s first chance to see what products you’re capable of making, and if you get off on your worst foot, how will you expect others to finish that journey with you?

You can also take advantage of something I completely ignored–well…actually didn’t know about, so it looks like I ignored it. Kickstarter Live is a way to interact–wait for it–live in video chats with backers.

kickstarter live image

Kickstarter live image 2.png

Images from Kickstarter Live

But, since we’ve got quite the journey ahead of us, it’s time for another break. I’ll see you on the trail shortly, for our next stage in that journey: promoting the Kickstarter for maximum return.

Review: The Few #4

After the attack on the Few’s headquarters by Herrod, Edan Hale escapes into the woods along with the remaining guerillas, including Peter, Davey, and their father, leader of the Few. They’re not just licking their wounds though. The Few have a plan for revenge on Herrod. But there will be consequences, and Captain Jariks is right behind with the Palace forces. They now know of Edan’s desertion and plan on taking her in dead or alive. Will Edan finally see the error of her ways and change sides? More importantly, is it too late to atone for her sins?

The cover for The Few #4 might be the best in the series. Herrod and his Ragers are in full gear, posed intimidatingly, and colored in red which looks like they swam through a river of blood. The emotion one feels is fear, which is exactly the response these guys want while in their presence. I found this to be the most visceral response I’ve had to The Few’s cover so far, and also visually represent the focus of this issue, Herrod and his indulgent violence.

The opening quote comes courtesy of Nicollo Machiavelli:

Men ought to be indulged or utterly destroyed.

I do not know what line this comes from (probably Machiavelli’s classic book The Prince) or the original context in which it is written, but here it implies to Herrod and the Ragers, men who indulge in violence.

Throughout the series, Herrod and the Ragers appearance in a scene almost always ended in grandiose acts of violence. They kill in high numbers and in the bloodiest of fashions, leaving behind a grotesque crime scene. But why do they act this way? It was revealed in a previous issue that Herrod had been driven insane by hunger and a lack of oxygen due to the Palace’s theft of resources. One could assume Herrod’s extremism is revenge and, possibly, justified. However, that doesn’t take in account the sadistic glee he and his men demonstrate. Their introduction in issue #1 used a man’s failure to retrieve promised information as an excuse to slaughter an entire community, the back of issue #3 contains a Herrod newsletter (wait, what?) advertising the opportunity to rape women for new members, and this issue contains a scene of Davey confronted by Ragers as they talk to him with uncomfortably sexual and cannibal-toned dialogue.

For Herrod and the Ragers, the Machiavelli quote can be seen as nothing but negative. Indulgence in this series is bloodshed and cruelty. However, given Machiavelli’s questionable views (many say he taught despotism), Herrod is simply doing what is normal in a world where it’s survive or die. I have mentioned this in my previous reviews, how in a world without order and balance, morality becomes relative. So, in a twisted sense, Herrod’s actions, his indulgence, makes perfect sense. Same goes for the Palace. They indulge in resources stolen from outside states, but it’s fine because the world requires cruelty in order to survive. However, it is hard to argue this point when the demonstrations of cruelty or so brutal.

I believe, as characters, Herrod and the Ragers succeed as a cautionary tale of the survive or die philosophy. At what point does making traditionally immoral choices reverse back to just being that? When do you stop being a survivor and become a monster?

This question becomes the dramatic high point for Edan Hale. After three issues of struggling with her conditioning in the Palace to see the Few as nothing but the enemy, her ongoing struggle with reconciling the anti-Few sediment, one that allowed Edan to commit despicable acts for “the greater good”, comes to a dramatic climax, literally causing her to break down crying at one point. It is a satisfying, poignant moment topped by only the subsequent moment where Edan’s past catches up to her, hinting at an even greater conflict in the next issue.

For me, these dramatic character developments are the strongest points of this issue. So much build up from the past three issues has coalesced and cascaded into a great climax. It helps that Hayden Sherman continues to bring his A-game in art, this time with some of the most explosive, stylized action scenes so far in this series. He accomplishes this with very little, using a series of white lines for gunfire and explosion clouds surrounded by dark or medium colors to emphasize their intensity. My favorite piece of action was a splash page of a single man being gun downed. He is placed in the bottom center of a white page, orange gunfire events surrounding him in a downward direction accompanied by a barrage of bullets. It’s both a beautiful and emotionally devastating piece of art.

The color of blood changes in one scene from the experimental pastel red to a more typical darker shade. I believe this was made to emphasize the amount of dead bodies in the scene. It’s impressive, but also slightly annoyed by the sudden change to standard blood color that doesn’t go along with the rest of the unique pastel color scheme of the series. Finally, before the major showdown between Herrod and the Few, there are two pages utilizing the 9-panel grid for a scene of stealth. It is expertly used, slowly building up the tension before unleashing hell.

As for how this issue plays into the bigger themes of the series, I already mentioned how it further examines the danger of committing horrible acts out of necessity, namely that it is dangerous when rationalizing horrible acts on another side through dehumanization. This becomes harder when one spends time with the other side, seeing their humanity and realizing they are just like you trying to survive in a world that has gone insane. On the other hand, this issue justifies dehumanization, namely when a side proves to be truly awful. Herrod and the Ragers are so cruel and monstrous, no amount of understanding where they’re coming from can excuse or promote kindness toward them. I find this relevant to modern America where arguments are made to show the new crop of Neo-Nazis and fascists coming out of the woodwork under feeling empowered by Trump compassion. But how can that argument be made when their intentions are solely to cause harm to the marginalized? Turn the other cheek, and you quickly run out of cheeks. Sometimes there is no other option than to fight back.

There is no ideal, straight cut way of resolving conflict in The Few. Like Hayden Sherman with his art, Sean Lewis shades the moral landscape with an overwhelming gray tone. It often feels like there are no answers or at least none that will always be the right one. The story is deeply complex, always challenging, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Story: Sean Lewis Art: Hayden Sherman
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

C2E2 2017: Kieron Gillen Talks High Fantasy, “Self-Hatred,” and Music Spoiling Comics

Through his creator owned comics Phonogram and The Wicked + the Divine with artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matthew Wilson, Kieron Gillen has masterfully melded the fantastic worlds of music and urban fantasy into an exciting read experience. He has also conquered the worlds of Marvel with the delightful Young Avengers and way too sad Loki solo series Journey into Mystery among others as well as comics set in a galaxy far far away, like Doctor Aphra and Darth Vader. He’s also one hell of a DJ and has quite the Twitter pun game.

At C2E2, I got the opportunity to chat with Kieron about being a fantasy writer, and how the characters of WicDiv have all become terrible people. We also preview the upcoming WicDiv 455 special set in ancient Rome and ponder the fate of Phonogram‘s David Kohl (and his fiction suit wearer Kieron Gillen) in 2017 as well as strain out some of that book’s autobiographical bits.

Graphic Policy: I guess you could classify WicDiv and Phonogram as urban fantasy. (And Journey into Mystery, now that I think of it.) What has drawn you to the fantasy genre over and over again, and do you have any particular books or fantasy films that have influenced you?

Kieron Gillen: Back when I was starting to write comics, I used to call myself a speculative fiction writer. The person I was seeing told me, “No, you’re not, Kieron.” She said, “You’re a fantasy writer. Making a world where music is magic isn’t speculative fiction.” Being a speculative fiction writer is much cooler because science fiction writers are genuinely cooler than fantasy writers in my opinion. It’s real work as opposed to fantasy, which is just making shit up.

It took me a long time to accept [being a fantasy writer]. I burnt out on a lot of fantasy as a teenager. I had a kind of “come to Jesus” moment where I was like “What on Earth is this shit?” A lot of fantasy is just shit like the travelogue school of fantasy where there’s a map, the heroes will go around the map, and the big mountain. At least, Tolkien had a degree of originality.

So, the idea of me identifying as a fantasy writer is anathema. But then there’s the whole idea of urban fantasy. I used to write essays about this when I was a music writer before I realized [urban fantasy] was what I wanted to write. It was the idea of the transformation of an environment. The magic in Phonogram is that we have a world, and then you add something over the world. Like augmented reality.

People tell me that Phonogram gives them permission to view listening to music and going to clubs as a magical space. It always makes me think about parkour. My favorite thing about parkour, at least when it started, was the idea that buildings are designed as prisons for people. But, in your imagination, it can turn into a playground. They’ve chosen to see the world differently, and there’s always things to traverse.

This is kind of what urban fantasy does. You have a world and overlay it. There’s magic here. It’s like when I was a kid and loved Transformers. That car [Outside the convention center] could be a fucking robot. It’s like the Kurt Busiek core idea about superheroes. We have this magical thing in the world, and the world doesn’t change. The point of Superman is that you can see him fly past you in the skyline. If you take superheroes too seriously, you become something alternate history like Uber or science fiction. Add a superhero, and the world changes enormously.

I’ve actually been digging into primary world fantasy, like Middle Earth, as opposed to Narnia, which is a secondary world. It’s something I want to do in the future.

GP: You doing high fantasy would be awesome.

KG: I’ve said in a few interviews that I’m working on my next big, spangly thing. It’s a very literary high fantasy. It’s very grown up. I say grown up as a very loaded term because high fantasy is trashy in many ways. But I want to dig into some bigger themes and see what I can do with the genre. That hate fuck, that passion I have for fantasy means something.

GP: One thing I really enjoyed about “Imperial Phase” was that you and Jamie [McKelvie] gave Minerva and Baal a lot of character development. Why did you leave them out of the last issue of the arc?

KG: I get asked questions like “You’re very efficient with your storytelling. You hit stuff very cleanly and elegantly.” A lot of that is necessity, which is a word that is very fucking loaded in the context of WicDiv.

GP: Oh yeah, good ol’ Ananke.

KG: I’ve got 14 primary characters across the series and quite a few smaller, supporting ones. I ask what we can fit in an issue. The previous issue where we did the “phased” bit was me responding to the fact that I had so much shit to do. How can I do it in an artful way that speaks to the theme of the book.

Baal and Minerva just weren’t in this issue. The thing about “Imperial Phase” is that there’s parts one and two. When I originally planned “Imperial Phase”, I was thinking that we don’t have a cliffhanger. What’s the most unexpected thing for a WicDiv end of arc to be? It just stops, and we continue it. But when I ended up plotting it, it had a climax, but just a different kind of climax.

There was no room for Baal. If you remove Baal, you remove Minerva as well. The reason that Baal wasn’t there was a soft story beat. “Oh poop, Baal isn’t coming” leads to Persephone’s “Why do we hurt people?” The reason that Baal wasn’t there was because Persephone was there. It’s that moment when you realize that someone’s not coming to a party because they don’t want to see you. Baal not being at the party is kind of the point.

Baal is a sensitive man, and I love the dichotomy between him and Minerva. In other words, there’s more from Baal and Minerva in “Imperial Phase Part Two”. At the end of the story, Baal will be one of people’s favorite characters. He and Minerva are some of the most interesting characters, and knowing the whole story means I put him low in the mix early and then bring him up later.

GP: Good metaphor!

KG: I’m always a DJ. And since I know the whole thing, I want to build him up at different times. Dionysus is stepping forward and is one of the key players in the next arc. He’s got a scene in issue 30 with the Morrigan, which is one of my favorite things to do with the character

GP: I am really looking forward to the WicDiv 455 Special. Why did you decide to set it at the end of the Roman Empire instead of the Augustan Age with Ovid and Virgil, or during the time of Nero?

KG: If you set it at the end, you can include anything earlier. Everyone at the end knows what happens to Nero, Sulla, and Caligula, and you can reference all those people. If you’re doing something about Rome, set it at the end, make it about the end of Rome. Of course, WicDiv is about endings and the death of an empire.

This is minor spoilers, but the basic plot of 455 is that 455’s Lucifer has decided to not be involved in the Ananke pact and says, ” We don’t need Lucifer, we need Julius Caesar (Who was a god.), I’m going to save the empire.” You imagine that goes well.

The way I researched this special as opposed to the Romantics’ one [WicDiv 1831 Special] was different because the Romantics were a small cast of people, I could go relatively deep. Rome is so big that I had to do a very broad sweep and look at the entire history of Rome, which interests me. There’s some stuff I wished I gotten into, like Tiberius, who did Goth parties where everyone was in black. The slaves are painted black, he’s wearing full black, and they spend the entire party talking about death. And he’s killed people so everyone expects to die. It’s the most Gothic thing I’ve ever heard. But we had to cut it from the story.

GP: Why was Andre Araujo the perfect artist for this story?

KG: The way to phrase it is that I had a core image based on a Roman triumph, and I needed an artist willing to draw a Roman triumph. A triumph is a blaze of color and shape. Andre and I were talking when his comic Man Plus was out, and he said that he was working on a creator owned Rome pitch. In my head, I thought he was a [Katsuhiro] Otomo-esque cyberpunk guy because of Avengers A.I. and Man Plus, which is basically Akira reimagined in Portugal.

He had fantasy, sci-fi, and medieval pitches. And I said, “You like historical stuff and like drawing enormous landscapes. We can use this.” I asked him, and he was working on Ales [Kot’s] new book Generation Gone. So, we’ve derailed the work on another Image book in WicDiv’s favor and are very grateful to Ales. Also, Matt Wilson is doing the colors, and it works very well in the issue.

GP: The first 12 issues of WicDiv seemed to be about the relationship between being a fan and a creator, especially through our main character, Laura. How does her turn to the “dark side” in the past arc fit in with that fan/creator dynamic?

KG: “Imperial Phase” has been solipsistic. It’s about the gods being quite navel gaze-y. You get bits of fan stuff, like Persephone having her own fans. And that’s fun. I love how creepy everyone wearing a Persephone skull is. That transition from being a fan to having fans, and the responsibilities and duties that lie on that access and how well you navigate it.

WicDiv is based on a format of four years. The first year is a fan trying to become great, the second is this weird thing and ends with you getting your big hit. The third is you’ve got your success, and now what the hell is it for? The third year is about many things, but mostly my ambivalent feelings about WicDiv‘s success. When you get to the end of WicDiv, you’ll get that. There’s spoilery stuff I don’t really want to talk about yet.

GP: It’s like your “Ashes to Ashes”.

KG: A little bit, yeah. To go with the Bowie, we start out with Ziggy Stardust with some Black Parade, then you’ve got the Berlin period for “Commercial Suicide”. Then, it’s Let’s Dance, and “Oh yeah, we’ve got an enormous hit.” We’ve done the “Bad Blood” Taylor Swift everything explodes thing, what now? The idea that you can remain successful and use your craft to do a trashy pop thing, and everyone will love it.

But how can you look in the mirror? It’s basically the stuff that killed Cobain. That’s kind of what “Imperial Phase” has been about. There’s lots of self-hatred. That’s what we do.

GP: I don’t really get a Nirvana vibe from WicDiv, but it makes sense now.

KG: Everything’s in there. I don’t want to do too much because the gods are disappearing down their own holes in their own different ways, which is kind of the point. They have their own hamartia. This collapse is how we delineate whether people are wrestling with their demons or not.

GP: Right now, Amaterasu is basically evil. When in the past issues of WicDiv did you start to seed in her heel turn and realize she would turn out this way?

KG: It’s like one of those questions, “How do you define evil?” Amaterasu is somebody who has been easy to forgive her foibles because she’s nice. She’s Cassandra’s opposite. Cassandra is easy to dislike, but is mainly right. She is very abrasive, and it’s the irony of “the Cassandra”. People aren’t listening to her because she’s annoying, but she’s mostly right.

As opposed to Amaterasu, who’s very sweet, very kind, and a coward. And she looks great. She’s a pretty white girl, and people let them get away with things. If you look back at the first speech she gives [in WicDiv #1], it’s creepy as hell. Amaterasu is someone who knows stuff, but isn’t great at putting the them together. She’s got her practiced lines, but her interview [in the first issue] falls apart when she panics.

I’m always worried that I make her IQ drop too much. But she just doesn’t get it. One thing I love about Amaterasu is that apart from the loss of her parents, she’s had a nice life. She’s 17 and the second youngest of the Pantheon. She’s slightly younger than Persephone.

GP: I always forget she’s so young.

KG: It doesn’t make her behavior forgivable, but you understand it. If you reread WicDiv, you’ll go, “Oh yeah, that was kind of coming.” But I think might be easy to miss what we’re trying to do with Amaterasu until you got to her solo issue and that image of her immediate rage when someone tried to take a toy from her. That’s Amaterasu in two pages. This is mine, and fuck you if you try to take it.

The darker side of the characters has started to come out. And, in the last issue, she’s a fucking monster. There’s some stuff that she does that is amazing as in “Wow, you actually did that.”

GP: Like the whole “ShinTwo” thing.

KG: I always knew she was going to lean into that, but only got the pun while writing her first scenes. ShinTwo, oh no! That’s so bad, and it’s completely the right thing to do [for the character].

The thing about WicDiv is that it’s all very planned. I know the characters’ arcs. But the specific execution is what I keep free; otherwise it’s just typing for four years. It’s got to surprise and delight me, or it gets boring. And if gets boring for me, it’s even more boring for the readers. A bored writer is generally a shit writer.

GP: Moving onto the recently released Complete Phonogram, what is David Kohl up to in 2017?

KG: I imagine he’s being interviewed about his glorious career as a phonomancer. He’s settled into being a complete has-been, which is kind of the weird joy of it, I think. That final story I did with Tom Humberstone when we pull away the mask a bit and let Kohl become Kieron, and he’s like “Yeah, you got me”.

And the weird thing is you’ve got this push and pull between Kieron Gillen the writer and David Kohl the character. There are bits, like when Michael Jackson dies, and that segue between time and space. Those panels are very clearly about me, Kieron Gillen, as opposed to the panels that are about this fictional character, David Kohl, who is a critique of my own writing of a certain period. I think David Kohl is about me.


GP: Phonogram: Rue Britannia especially has that autobio comic vibe to it.

KG: I’ve learned to hide it better. When I was writing Rue Britannia, I was influenced by Joe Matt’s The Poor Bastard, Eddie Campbell, and of course, Grant Morrison with this quasi-fiction suit sort of thing. That’s what I wanted to do with Kohl.With Rue Britannia, I hid [the autobiographical elements] less expertly than I did later. Like I gave Britannia some of the same outfits as someone I dated. It’s kind of funny when people come up cosplaying as one of my ex-girlfriends.

I realized that in Singles Club, which is more autobiographical in a real way.There’s more facts in Rue Britannia and more emotional truth in Singles Club. By splitting the stories into the seven characters of Singles Club, I could hide it better, which is what WicDiv is doing as well.

GP: I have one last musical-based question. I’m a big fan of the WicDiv playlist, and it keeps me sane during work. I was wondering what albums or artists you were listening to while scripting “Imperial Phase Part 2”.

KG: The easiest way is to look at the playlist, but there are songs I want to add that aren’t on Spotify, like “Shocked” by Kylie Minogue. And then there’s others I can’t add because of spoilers. You need to be an obsessive WicDiv fan to see what I’m adding, but sometimes I have to wait until various [story] beats hit to drop it in. Like if there was a song called “Sakhmet’s Eating Some People,” I would add it to the playlist.

If you look at the more recent stuff on the playlist, there’s ANOHNI and her track “4 Degrees” that’s amazing apocalyptic awfulness. Blood Orange’s album Freetown Sound is on there and very Persephone in its sadness. Then, there’s Downtown Boys and their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” [by Bruce Springsteen]. I was obsessed with that track for a week and kept breaking into tears about why this record meant so much to me.

[Downtown Boys] are an X-Ray Spex-like bisexual punk band from New York, and their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” reframes the sheer anger of the lyric as a song about depression with dancing in it. You’ve got the beat and the line, “I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my faces”, and it’s like someone carving their face off. It feels very political.

And you can scan the playlist for more great stuff.

Kieron Gillen is currently writing “Modded” and Uber: Invasion for Avatar, Doctor Aphra for Marvel Comics, and of course, The Wicked + the Divine at Image Comics.

You can find him on Twitter and Tumblr.

Review: Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #17

Like a cinnamon sugar pretzel for Auntie Ann’s, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #17 is a sweet treat of a comic book and a hell of a bit of icing on the cupcake that was Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and (for the second half of the series) Rachelle Rosenberg’s run on the title. Patsy has finally come into some money thanks to getting back to the book rights to the romance novels and has decided to treat her friends to a nice shopping spree. (Color me jealous.) Cue a bevy of montages, food court scenes, and a celebration of friendship, queerness, and even a touch of fandom at the end.

I really like that Leth and Williams focused on the core cast of Patsy, Jubilee, Ian Soo, and Tom Hale in Hellcat #17. Before the shopping action even starts, we get some playful banter between Patsy and Ian, and it’s hard to believe that they were hero and villain sixteen issues ago until bonding over musicals. The bonds and interactions between characters have been my favorite part of Hellcat so far, and Leth indulges this by going full slice of life in the series finale. Williams counters with some wonderful (and wearable) fashion and adorable set dressing like Patsy’s cat themed cover set and slippers on the first page with a touch of Brooklyn sunlight from Rosenberg to show this is a perfect day. While also being a celebration of fun and friendship, Hellcat #17 also embraces body positivity with the diverse body types of its main cast, and an any outfit can look cool/cute attitude. (Someone needs to show me where Ian got his.)

Hellcat is still a superhero comic, and there is a “villain”, but Leth and Williams have a couple twists up their sleeves as the “Somnambulisters” transform from Z-list villains to vampires and finally big fans of Hellcat and queer teens. Williams uses choppy panels with simple backgrounds, puffs of smoke, and punching when it seems like Hellcat is fighting some of Jubilee’s vampire frenemies. However, she opens it up when it’s revealed that Stevie and Danica are Patsy’s biggest fans, and that fact ends up being facepalm-worthy thanks to dialogue from their very friendly villainous dialogue. (Also, one of the pair sits out during the brawl to take pictures like the other is visiting Patsy’s booth at a convention.) Speaking of dialogue, Kate Leth writes fast-paced, melodramatic teen dialogue and can cut to the core of the subtext behind the banter, which is that Stevie and Danica love each other. It’s a super cute touch to Marvel’s most queer-friendly book that featured a gay bookstore as a hangout/place to meet attractive gingers, like Tom Hale.

In its first issue, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat set out to be a comic book about super-powered individuals who just wanted to make ends meet, have a good, and not fight costumed villains or have run-ins with the authorities. Sure, there were fights against the Black Cat and journeys to hell along the way, but Hellcat #17 recaptures the spirit of Kate Leth and Brittney Williams’ original thesis for the series. Patsy doesn’t knock out the Somnabulisisters, but instead listens to them and finds out they have a passionate for Hellcat and each other. She doesn’t send them to jail, but helps them return their costumes to “Goth Topic” and even recommends they visit Tom’s LGBTQ bookstore to help them with their feelings for each other. This is just like Patsy helping Ian find work moving books at Tom’s store in Hellcat #1 instead of throwing him in jail for badly attempting to steal an armored car as Telekinian.

Even though it has quirky jokes and fierce style thanks to the dialogue of Kate Leth, the facial expressions and costume design of Brittney Williams, and a palette that uses just the right amount of pink from Rachelle Rosenberg, Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat is a comic all about community building through organic friendships. It’s great to see characters go from awkward half-strangers or acquaintances from days past, like Tom who was in the Patsy Walker romance comic many moons ago, to friends in arms and finally, in shopping. That’s why it’s fitting that Hellcat #17 doesn’t end in a cliffhanger or final battle, but an overhead shot of friends spending time together.

P.S. Marvel editorial and future creators better not forget about Ian Soo, who will always be my bi bae and had a great arc throughout the series, and his backstory even tied into some of the villain fights.

P.P.S. This comic pair wells with “Safety Dance” by Men without Hats.

Story: Kate Leth Art: Brittney Williams Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

TV Review: Riverdale S1E11 Chapter Eleven: To Riverdale and Back Again

riverdaleAlice wants Betty to help with the Jason Blossom investigation; Jughead wonders if it’s the right time to give his father another chance; Fred and Mary attend the homecoming dance.

Riverdale is bright lights and music with the homecoming dance as the first season begins to wind down with just a few episodes left and that means we still need to find out who killed Jason.

This episode is focused on that with various characters doing their best Scooby Doo to try find out who killed Jason and maybe we’ve gotten an answer by the end of the episode? Or, is someone setting him up?

There’s lots of feints in this episode, especially for the ending, and we as viewers still wonder exactly what’s up. What’s interesting though is this episode emphasizes the history of everyone’s parents and that at one point they too were in the same positions as their sons and daughters and were friends and dating. We get more of that here and what I think is one of the strongest aspects of the series is that layering reminding us of the history of everyone.

The episode is a good one. It’s entertaining. There’s good acting. The plotting is solid in its pacing and how things play out. The episode hits all the beats and does what it needs to do which is throttle us towards the final few episodes of the series in the coming weeks. This is the set up before the series ending spike and in that sense and as a part of the whole, it’s a great addition to this series.

“To Riverdale and Back Again” is a fantastic episode in that it has an almost complete focus on the bigger murder mystery but throughout it reminds us that the parents of Riverdale are as much stars and vital parts of the story as their kids.

Overall Rating: 8.55

Review: Big Moose #1

Big Moose one-shot introduces three new short stories about the one and only Moose, each created by separate teams, giving various takes on the character.

“Moose vs. The Vending Machine” gives into the stereotypical airheaded Moose, who willingly trades Jughead a week of his lunches for a single dollar, just to get something from the vending machine. While Sean Ryan’s story felt predictable, it still had the familiar humor of Archie Comics past, and that’s okay with me.

“Have It All” follows a week in the life as Moose, his thought process narrates the story, and we are able to get a glimpse into the interiority that makes the man. It touches on the stereotypes about the character from previous Archie Comics variations, such as Moose’s temper and lack of intelligence. It’s essentially the “there’s more than meets the eye” story. Ryan Cady’s take on Moose is interesting because he’s given more depth than what most fans are used to. It’s well done given how much information we get in just a few pages.

In “The Big Difference” Moose is placed back into the jock stereotype immediately. While I love meeting new Archie Comics characters, I do not love an overly blatant moral message. This piece had the same classic comic feeling as the first, but for whatever reason, it didn’t quite do it for me. I hope to see more of this “Freshie” character though.

As charming as Big Moose as a series has potential to be, I don’t see it surviving as anything more than a one-shot, unless the writers decided to explore his sexuality more (which seems to be in question from the hit show Riverdale) or give him more depth in general. The jock-stereotype story is played out and I found myself wanting to read the Midge one-shot instead. #TeamMidge

Script: Sean Ryan, Ryan Cady, Gorf
Art: Thomas Pitilli, Cory Smith, Ryan Jampole, Matt Herms, Glenn Whitmore, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Jack Morelli
Cover: Thomas Pitilli
Variant Covers: Cory Smith, Wilfredo Torres

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