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Review: Spell On Wheels TPB

Best friends. Road trips. Fighting the patriarchy. Found family. Magic. Really, what more can you ask for? Dark Horse’s Spell On Wheels was one I picked up the first issue of then completely forgot about in the mess of life. Definitely a mistake that I wanted to correct with this trade and I’m glad I did.

The overall plot architecture of set forth by Kate Leth is a pretty similar one to early seasons of Supernatural, Buffy, or Charmed: monster-of-the-week with a metaplot that strings it all together like beads on a necklace. In the case of Spell On Wheels, it’s more of an item-of-the-week. Our protagonists, a trio of Northeasterner witches, have their house broken into and looted for the tools of their trades. When they can’t find who’s responsible, they track down the buyers for their stuff on a road trip to make sure they aren’t the last witches out there.

It’s not all adventurous romps though. Jo, Andy, and Claire help where they can and correct some of the wrongs they end up running into along the way. We see a world where, even though the supernatural certainly exists, it’s not the only thing people ever care about. It makes the world as a whole feel far more real than it would otherwise. The charming and often rounded art of Megan Levens is a good fit for this story. The characters and words here aren’t sharp and aggressive, they’re inviting and open. The colors of Marissa Louise provide just the right amount of pop to the frames, pulling the eyes exactly where they need to go.

Overall, Spell On Wheels is definitely a trade to grab then continue with individual issues if you’ve enjoyed it. It really takes those first five issues to suck you entirely into the slow burn. This story wouldn’t be the same without the creative team that it has and it shows.

Story: Kate Leth Art: Megan Levens
Color: Marissa Louise Cover: Jen Bartel
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0
Recommendation: Buy, especially if you’ve been binging Charmed or The Magicians lately

Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 6/24

Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.

These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.

 


 

Logan

lobo-the-road-runnerBatman #25 (DC Comics) Batman #25 is a prologue to Tom King, Mikel Janin, and June Chung’s anticipated “War of Jokes and Riddles” storyline. It’s told in flashback by Batman himself and shows both the Joker and Riddler at their peak spreading chaos and crime through their humorous and puzzling M.O.’s respectively. I enjoyed King’s characterization of the Riddler as a kind of twisted tutor, who helped the GCPD with their homework, er, cases while using his personal knowledge about them to escape. Janin’s panels featuring him are symmetrical and occasionally look like prison bars because he feels like Batman’s the only riddle he can’t solve. The ones with Joker are much freer flowing and help set up an arc-long personal mystery of something Batman has done in his past that he regrets and hasn’t told anyone until now. This continues Tom King’s tradition of telling epic stories while remaining grounded in Batman’s own psyche.  Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

Lobo/Road Runner Special #1 (DC Comics) In Lobo/Road Runner Special #1, Bill Morrison, comics legend Kelley Jones, and Michelle Madsen fit the classic Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons into an interconnected mythology that involves mad scientists and secret experiments. Then, Lobo shows up for the Road Runner and blows it all to hell. Seeing Lobo’s hopeless attempts to kill Road Runner with the annoying “Beep beep” in his ear as he regenerates over and over again is super hilarious. There’s also a B-plot where Wile E Coyote hunts down Kilowog for Lobo’s employer, and it’s nice to see him be competent and not just a punching bag for Road Runner. Jones’ take on Wile E is a little freaky, and he looks just like a mutated science experiment. Throw in a Morrison written and drawn backup where Lobo tries and fails to hunt Road Runner in the “kid-friendly” (Cartoon violence is more than okay.) Looney Tunes universe, and this is another excellent addition to the DC/Looney Tunes crossovers. Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Life with Kevin #4 (Archie) Life with Kevin is back with plenty of pratfalls, smooching, and Veronica drama courtesy of writer/artist Dan Parent and inker J.Bone. Kevin has to deal with the social media fallout of his going on a prom date with a young gay high school student and uses this as an opportunity to call out networks for exploiting this touching moment for ratings. Young queer kids aren’t commodities. In the second half of the story, Kevin runs into his cheating ex Michael, who has become the star of a Spanish language soap opera. Parent pokes fun at soap opera tropes in the middle of a comic that has become one while still bringing the emotion because Kevin pines for Michael even though he know he’s bad for him. Life with Kevin #4 is super adorable, super funny, and has just the right amount of the feels to go with Parent’s great Archie house style art and baby blue palette. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Ryan C

black hammer 10.jpgRoyal City #4 (Image)** – Another fine, character-driven installment in Jeff Lemire’s beautifully laconic series, this issue probably would have benefited from having an editor give things a look as some of the internal monologues veer toward being overblown, but on the whole this book’s artfully-constructed humanity continues to impress and inspire. Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy

Black Hammer #10 (Dark Horse)** – If you thought Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston unloaded a whopper of a cliffhanger on readers last issue,wait until you see this one! My sole (and very slight) concern is that they may have given away just a bit too much about what’s really going with their jaw-dropper this time out, but they’ve consistently surprised me so far, and there’s probably no reason to doubt that they have further surprises up their sleeve. Consistently magnificent stuff that really does reward folks who read it in singles. Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

God Country #6 (Image)** – A superb wrap-to Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw’s heartbreakingly humane cosmic drama, this is a beautifully-scripted paean to love and loss between fathers and sons that will leave a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye, amazingly illustrated by Shaw and even more amazingly colored by Jason Wordie. The one and only strike against it is that it reduces the previous few issues of Kirby-esque space battles to a mere redundancy and once you regain your composure, you’ll realize this whole thing could have been told just as — perhaps even more — effectively in three or four chapters rather than six. Still, this is agonizingly powerful stuff, especially for those of us with aging parents who we want to say a lot to while they’re still with us. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Batman #25 (DC)** – A fairly solid start to the new “The War Of Jokes And Riddles” storyline that doesn’t “wow” by any means, but is definitely a continuation of the recent quality uptick we’ve seen on the book. Tom King seems to be easing into something of a “groove” with the scripting on this series, and Mikel Janin’s artwork is simply stunning, and whileI’m a bit concerned about the fact that this is yet another journey back into Batman’s past rather than a story that will move the narrative — and the character — forward, what the hell? So far, so (pretty) good. Overall: 7 Recommendation: Read

Patrick

IHateFairyland_13-1.pngI Hate Fairyland #13 (Image) – You know you’re onto something when you can start handing over your creator-owned series to guest artists and know that they won’t skip a beat. Dean Rankine handles the art on the story of Larry’s dream of a Gert-less life and he absolutely kills it. From the opening shot of fly maternity (which cannot be unseen), to the dung mines, to his ultimately meltdown on the Ellfen Show, every page is a wicked delight. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

The Old Guard #5 (Image) – Greg Rucka & Leandro Fernandez conclude their tale of immortal soldiers with many, many prices paid. Nothing earth-shaking here; it’s loud and fast-moving, but the action is solidly driven by the desires of the characters and everything actually makes dramatic sense, which is more than I can say for most action comics and movies. I think I’ve said it before, but if these two want to make more war comics I will buy them all. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

 


Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!

Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).

Review: El Peso Hero #1

Mexico and its war on crime has been a sore subject for many years now and has come back into the spotlight because of the presidential election.  What many people don’t understand about the drug trade, that it is not one sided, in fact, there is many sides that most people, especially politicians do not understand. In addition, there is a cost to be paid in blood most of the time. This a hard lesson that is being learned in the Philippines right now, as the body count has risen to an all-time high there, as the President is determined to stamp out shabu, a low-cost version of amphetamines.

The complex narrative has rarely been told in the varied narratives that it deserves. The show, Kingpin, came pretty close showing it from, the drug cartel’s, DEA’s and politician’s point of views Another show that has come close, is the current running Queen Of the South, which gets into just how dangerous and cutthroat that world is. So, when I heard about Hector Rodriguez III’s El Peso Hero, I was excited, to see a different narrative about the drug trade with a superhero twist.

The reader is introduced to Dr. Salas, a brilliant scientist, who gets kidnapped by the local military, to lead them to a cave discovery of some superpowered crystals, where the doctor takes his own life to keep the location a secret. Fast forward, years later, two cousins, one of them whose name is, Ignacio and accidentally finds this same cave, where one of them gets trapped. It just so happens their grandmother is the head of one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico, and leaves her grandson for dead but he survives as he gained a superpower from the crystals. By the end of the first issue, Ignacio is all grownup and fighting crime as superhero, but little does he know, someone else survived the cave.

Overall, some great introductions to these characters and to this vast world where this excellent story takes place. The story by Rodriguez is intricate, fun and takes turns where the reader does not expect to go. The art by Guillermo Villareal is gorgeous and makes the characters pop off the page. Altogether, a great book, which will keep the readers coming back for this very different story in a very familiar world.

Story: Hector Rodriguez III Art: Guillermo Villareal
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation:Buy

A Cup of Tea & A Comic Issue Two: Commando 5017

In what may or may not become a new feature – although with this being the second post under that tagline, it’s looking more likely that it will be – I decided to make a cup of tea (PG Tips again) and sit down and read a comic or two whilst I drank said cuppa. My intention isn’t to read review copies, or digital copies if I can help it, but either graphic novels, TPBs, or floppy comics because I much prefer to relax with a physical comic. I may have read them before, or they may have been on my “To Read” pile for far too long.  Whether this happens monthly, weekly, daily… never again… will depend entirely on the time I have.

This week, I sat down with one of the issues of Commando I picked up in the UK.

As big as my cup is, Commando is half the size of a regular sized modern comic.

Commando is an incredibly long running bi-weekly series that tends to feature a standalone story in each issue (though I could be wrong), with multiple issues being released each month. I actually picked up two different issues, but I only sat down and read #5017 today.

Despite having lived in England for near twenty years (at least ten to twelve of which I would have been capable of reading this series) I had never read, or really even heard of, Commando until I saw it pop up in a feature in the British magazine Comic Heroes – but I couldn’t tell you which one at this point. Needless to say when I saw the issue on the shelves of a newsagent, I grabbed it.

commando 5017 interior

The comic itself was finished long before the tea, as although it had 60 plus pages of black and white artwork that has, on average, two panels a page. Because the artwork isn’t as crisp as some of the larger size comics, there was a little more narrative description than you would typically see in comics today, instead echoing back to the 60’s where comics were heavier with the narration text boxes. This issue focused on the exploits of a German tank crew during the second World War, and I’ll admit to being unsure of how I should feel reading a story that positioned the side of the conflict that has traditionally been positioned as The Enemy in almost every WWII story I have ever read, watched, or played. At the end of the day, however, not every member of the German army during that time was complicit in the horrific crimes perpetrated by the Nazi party, and I think stories such as these will do their part in reminding us of that.

The story itself was pretty decent, nothing special, but still worth the two pounds (roughly $3.50 Canadian) I spent on it. Had I known that the story focused on the characters it did prior to purchase… I don’t know whether I’d have picked it up. It wasn’t until I got a couple pages in that I figured out where the story was going.

Overall, not a bad comic to sit for a cup of tea with, and certainly not one I would have typically picked up had I not been trying to grab some British comics on my trip over back in May.

Story: Colin Watson Artist: Vicente Alcazar

Review: My Favorite Thing is Monsters

Monster movies are making a comeback of sorts, as the recently released The Mummy has, put those films back into the public consciousness. Showing my age, I still remember a time, when these characters were very much a part of popular culture, and for the most part, it has always been, as Count Chocula has never gone away as a cereal, so too these characters have never left. Then there is Adam Sandler’s Hotel Transylvania series, which has brought these characters to a new generation. I guess what has eluded these characters, even though they have been connected to the horror genre since their introduction, is that they are not as scary.

Penny Dreadful, the TV show and comic, tried to bring this element back to these characters, and although it was an excellent tv show and comic book, they never quite brought back that fear factor. What Penny Dreadful, did remind audiences of these characters, is that the source material, were well written stories. They thrived and become legend, because the writers behind these books, wrote well, and understood what was entertaining about these characters. Emil Ferris understands this about her character in My Favorite Thing is Monsters Volume 1, which makes it so amazing a read.

In the opening salvos of this book, the reader is quickly acclimated into a world where monsters are commonplace, and a little girl by the name of Karen Reyes is being hunted by a mob, just for being a werewolf, but it was all a dream if not an eventuality. In a book that unfolds as part memoir/ part sketchbook, about a young artist who loves drawings monsters, in a familiar tale of family and loss which unfolds in the most gorgeous pages any reader would see combined with a strange tale about a string of murders in 1960s Chicago. Karen plays private investigator, attempting to solve these murders on her own while struggling with the pains of growing up. By the end of the book, which is part wish fulfillment, part slice of life memoir, part art worship, the reader appreciates Karen’s journey, while reminiscing of their own.

Overall, probably one of the most essential books every reader who loves a great story must have in their collection. The story by Ferris, feels like the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but with monsters, and keeps the reader moving forward. The art by Ferris, will leave the reader floored by how beautiful and luminous it is. Altogether, a great book, for anyone who love a great story, an if you love monster movies and MAD Magazine, it would help but not necessary, as a good story like this, will always shine through.

Story: Emil Ferris Art: Emil Ferris
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Unboxing: June’s Comic of the Month Club

Comic of the Month Club is a new monthly comic subscription box for comic book fans everywhere. Subscribers receive 8-9 personally curated comics every month and fill out a preference form as to what they’re interested in.

There’s five different types of boxes ranging in cost from $9.99 on up to about $30. This is the high end “Collector’s Edition x2” version of the box.

You can subscribe now. Please include “Graphic Policy” in the referral space. You as a subscriber receive an extra bonus and we do get something in return.

This month’s comics with “rough value.”
The Amazing Spider-Man #173 (1977) – $5
The Uncanny X-Men #148 (1981) – $7
Teen Titans #43 (1973) – $4
Marvel Two in One The Thing and Iron Man #97 (1982) – $4
Action Comics #590 (1987) – $2
Action Comics #658 (1990) – $2
JSA #34 (2002) – $1
JSA #39 (2002) – $1
Harbinger #18 (1993) – $1

Total: ~$28.00

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

Underrated: Great Comics Not In Diamond’s Top 100 Sellers For May

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: Comics not in Diamonds top 100 sellers for May.


This week we’re going to be looking at a list of comics that are all fantastic, but don’t get the attention that they deserve. Now I’m not even going to pretend to have a definitively exhaustive list of underrated comics here, because we’re hoping  that you decide to check at least one of these series out next time you’re looking for something new either online or at your LCS, and giving you a huge list to check out would be counter productive to that. Instead, you’ll find six(ish) comics that are worth your attention that failed to crack the top 100 in sales. You’ll notice that there’s only one comic from a publisher featured – this was done to try and spread the love around, rather than focus exclusively on one publisher.

Where possible, I’ve also avoided comics that have appeared on the last version of this list, but the only hard stipulation for this week: not one of the comics made it into the top 100 for May’s comic sales, according to Comichron, which is why they’re Underrated.

 

croak 1.jpgCroak #1 (Alterna)
May Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 424 /2,906
Alterna’s range of newsprint comics have been a fantastic addition to my pull list, with the stories on offer crossing numerous different genres and styles, and each one easily being worth the price of admission. Croak is a fantastic little horror tale that’ dripping atmosphere from every panel – if horror isn’t your thing, I’d still recommend you give this a shot. It’s more a thriller/psychological horror style of comic, and one that benefits from the newsprint adding a murky, retro feel to the art. I’m a big fan of the newsprint idea, and thankfully this comic lives up to the promise.

4 Kids Walk Into A Bank #4 (Black Mask)
May Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 263 /6,706
There have been some significant delays surrounding this series, which is a genuine shame because the momentum the series had been gathering seems to have dissipated a little bit, but if you can find the individual issues then this is a series that’s going to take you on quite an unexpectedly brilliant ride.

TMNT #69 (IDW)
May Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 169 /13,726
Ninja Turtles fan? You’ll love this. It’s a brilliant series that has been quietly chugging along for nearly seventy issues for a good reason.

XO2017_003_COVER-B_ROCAFORTX-O Manowar #3 (Valiant)
May Sales Rank/Comics Sold: 152 /16,002
Perhaps my most loved on going series right now, X-O Manowar can be best described as Space Conan. Every issue is a joy to read and experience. Seriously I can’t express just how great a series this has been over the last few issues, and Matt Kindt’s reluctant-soldier story meshes really well with the phenomenal artwork of Tomas Giorello and Diego Rodriguez give an almost effervescent quality to the pages in your hands. Quite simply, this series is one you have to check out.


Unless the comics industry ceases any and all publication look for a future installment of Underrated to cover more comics that aren’t cracking the top 100.

Review: Batwoman #3

Three issues into the first arc of Batwoman and just like the series previous issues, the third is pure fire. Each issue of this arc, so far, manages to build upon the previous issue and serve as a standalone issue worthy of praise on its own. Batwoman #3 shines as a dark jewel in the Batwoman crown. Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV start the issue off in a pretty dark place. There are hints of an unseen assault of a youth, followed by an attack of the perpetrator, and the saving of the child. This one page intro was one hell of a way to kick off an issue. The actual abuse isn’t actually seen but portrayed using a moist fruit, word bubbles and context. We may never know what triggered the murder in that alley but we know the perpetrator had it coming and before we even see the aftermath Steve Epting‘s stellar art work conveys enough imagery to bring us in to he dark side.

We find ourselves pulled out of the darkness of the opening sequence to Kate on a mission. She seeks to infiltrate the sinister Kali Corp. With shipside backup , plots are revealed, frenemies resurface and creepy villains reign with well conceived yet, unnecessary elaborate plans that make them seem like rogue cells of Project Mayhem. Luckily, Bennett and Tynion know how to make the insane interesting and believable and Epting knows how to stage a scene without word.

The writing is solid and the art and story are intense. There are no lags, dull moments or even any placeholder scenes, the creative team keep the heart of the story beating rapid fire like the action scenes that come out at the end of a slow burn. There aren’t a lot of action scenes or fights in this issue but, the ones that appear seem more relevant because of the tension that the story overall creates. As a reader, I found myself so wrapped up in the story that I forgot I was reading, I was so engaged and drawn into to story that I could hear, see, feel, smell, taste, flinch, recoil, and dread every moment as the panel or page called for a reaction as if I was there. The way the creative team frames the story, it creates an instant connection with the characters that make you feel involved and invested.

Usually the third installment in a story arc is filled with exposition and erroneous background info, that is not the case here and I’m grateful to the creative team for going for homeruns with every issue that I’ve read so far. Overall, this issue is not only on par with the previous ones but it builds on the momentum created in the previous issues but, connects them adding layers to the story and allowing for some top notch entertaining reading.  Bennett and Tynion raised the stakes and, gave us full fire awesomeness that has me fully primed to check out the next issue because, I need to know what happens next.

Story: Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV Art: Steve Epting
Story: 9.1 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Megacon: A Trip of Errors Part 2

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Friday, May 26th. The gang and I woke up and prepared for our second day of Megacon. Matt and I decided to cosplay, him as Jason Voorhees (leaving quite the mess of fake blood in the bathroom that hopefully did cause some poor hotel maid to faint). Lacking creative but making up in looks, I brushed my hair back with product, put on a suit, and went as John Wick armed with a handgun and stuffed doggie. As it would turn out, plenty of people knew Jason but were blanking out on Wick. It could’ve been my blond hair or nerds showing poor taste.

IMG_2436

As reporters, Jeff and I made plans to go to certain panels since those are where the really interesting stuff about comics are discussed. Jeff went to a lot more than I did because my goal that was to meet Tom King and ask for an interview. If you don’t know who Tom King is, clearly you’ve been living under a rock but I’ll get you up to speed. He is the critically-praised author behind brilliant series such as The Vision, The Omega Men, and Sheriff of Babylon. What has made him such a household name is the use of genre fiction for dark, thought-provoking subject matters such as war, family, and religion. He also co-wrote Grayson with Tim Seeley and showed off the character’s butt a lot because, you know, even the moodiest writer needs a spark of joy.

Recently, Tom King has gotten big due to his run on Batman. It’s a highly contested run, some finding it trying too be smart or confusing for its own good. I on the other hand think it’s an emotional run about Batman coming to terms with his darker elements and attempting to become emotionally open and available to his friends. You know, while shooting out of his car to stop a plane crash and breaking into Bane’s fortress to take out thousands of goons. High literature! In all seriousness, this run has made me care about Batman again, and I’ll die on a hill defending it. I brought with me the first trade and waited eagerly in line for his autograph. I was also hoping to get an interview with him discussing his approaches to the series and Vision.

Tom King was exceptionally nice and energetic, appearing to be genuinely excited to meet fans. He wondered who I was cosplaying and guessed right away that I was supposed to be John Wick. He signed my trade and took a photograph with me. When I asked about an interview, he said that unfortunately he was not allowed to do interviews, that I had to ask permission from a Twitter handle I forgot. After Megacon, I would later find at least one video on YouTube of Tom King being interviewed with Scott Snyder. I remembered that Megacon instructed we had to go to a media room for approval, but it was a good walk back to where I had attained my press pass. Instead of pursuing this, I gave up too early and decided to move on. I did not attempt any other interviews that weekend. I was too caught up in the idea of interviewing Mr. King to think of alternatives. I will say though that I did request an interview with him online when filling out my press pass but never got back a response.

IMG_2443

That day was marked by two errors: 1) Make sure to persist in an interview and find out all your options, 2) Be prepared with a backup plan. I do have to comment that last year, I was allowed to interview comic guests simply by asking their permission and doing it at a time that would not interfere with their signings. I managed to do this with both Gail Simone and Brian Azzarello, the latter of which was a high profile guest that year with his work on TDKIII: The Master Race with Frank Miller. I appreciate that Megacon was running the con more efficiently this year, but at the same time restrictions being put on the press in regards to conducting interviews were needlessly strict and complicated.

Since I was unable to interview Tom King, I decided to go see him at a panel called Writing Comics 101. Along with Tom King were Gail Simone (Clean Room, Red Sonja), Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Wonder Woman), and Jody Houser (Faith, Mother Panic). They discussed what it’s like writing for comcis as a living, both creator-owned and work for hire, giving personal anecdotes to how they learned each lesson ever on the job. The moderator of the panel asked a series of questions, and each guest took time to give thoughtful answers.

    

1) When did you first realize there was such a job as writing comics?

Jody Houser, went first, saying that she always knew she wanted to be a writer but thought you had to write a novel or stage play to get recognized for it. She had always read comics here and there, but Mad Love by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm was the first she read that made her think “Man, comics are really good.” She first started off making webcomics before getting offers at bigger companies. It’s only recently now that she has so many high profile projects that she considers seriously pursuing them.

For Tom King, he always wanted to be a comic book writer, but he couldn’t say what that moment was. He distinctly remembers during Christmas when he was reading both The Dark Knight Returns and a trade of Frank Miller’s Daredevil run. He had no idea at the time who the writers were, so when he read them he thought “Man, these guys really know their voices!” King grew up in L.A., a mecca for failed writers. His father was run, so the thought of becomign one seemed absurd. He jokingly said he only realized you could a year ago when his wife stopped asking him if he wanted her job.

With Gail Simone, it took her five years into writing comics before she realized it could be a career. She always knew she wanted to be a writer, she always told stories, and the first big reaction she got was from a story she wrote in third grade. Everyone liked it, but Gail’s family talked her out of it, saying it wasn’t a viable career. Gail went on to be a hair stylist, owned a hair salon, and stayed at that while writing until it made no sense to continue. It was a scary moment to let go, but she eventually felt relieved. “Yay, I”m a comic book writer now!”

Greg Rucka’s mother was a journalist and his father a worker’s comp attorney, so writing was always in the house, plenty of books everywhere. He distinctly remembers hearing his mother’s typewriter going at machine speeds followed by an occasional DING! There was no mystery to writing. He knew it was a thing people did. As for comics, the first time he realized there was such a thing as authorial power in the medium was age 14 or 15. He was part of a group of Marvel Zombies, reading the comics they did. One day, he found something different from all the X-Men books they were reading, and that was Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again. He read it and described it as a book where you can’t know it’s not written. You could hear Frank Miller’s voice in the story. He didn’t fully comprehend the story, but it made him realize “Oh, wow. There are really people writing these things. That would be kind of cool.”

 

2) Who were writers that were touchstones for you, names that you started paying attention to and followed?

For Gail Simone, that was Steve Gerber, writer of Howard the Duck, who she found to be a genius with a boundless imagination and brave enough to do things that no one else did. She also read Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Garth Ennis’ Preacher, and other Vertigo titles. These writers made her comics could be literature. Even now, she finds that comics currently have the best writers and artists working.

Tom King hated to be cliche, but Alan Moore and Frank Miller’s work really inspired him. A good number of superhero works also influenced him, especially during his Marvel Zombie years reading Power Pack, New Mutants, X-Factor, and Roger Stern’s work on Avengers.

Jody Houser hated to be cliched as well, but Alan Moore and Frank Miller for her as well, especially Moore with his transitions as she described as having a rhythm like music. Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America also was a huge influence. More recently, Jason Aaron and Mark Waid are influences, their books getting her back into Marvel. Oh, and of course everyone sitting at the panel.

For Greg Rucka, it was Dennis O’Neil. He tracked down everything that he wrote. When he started writing comic scripts, Rucka referenced Miller and Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One. Although he advised to pay attention to the structure of the book, NOT the actual script writing because it is radically different from how scripts are usually written. Also, do not do 18-something panels unless you have the right kind of artist, or else the artist you’re currently working with will kill you. He also remarked that on him being the oddball out not being a huge Alan Moore fan. He respects him, but doesn’t click with Moore’s work.

 

3) As I understand, sometimes working relations between writers and artists can be tricky in terms of communication. With creator-owned, it seems more direct. What have your artist collaborations taught you over the years?

Greg Rucka recounted how while a novelist, the communication was very direct. His editor was great and helpful even though she didn’t really like him. He would take 6 months to write a draft, send it to her, and she would give back notes on how to fix it. Even though they had a relationship where they stood in each other’s corners, they would communicate and see each other. It was easier to do that kind of relationship in novels than comics though when there are normally more than one person involved. When first starting at DC, there was a strict policy where writers couldn’t communicate with artists. Yeah, you could request a phone number, but usually the answer would be no. Everything went strictly through editors. Looking back at his old work, Rucka could see all the problems with it because of a lack of communication. Part of it was his failure to communicate clearly through the script, the other was editorial not giving a rat’s ass (his words, not mine). Things have evolved, fortunately. With social media, it’s easy to communicate with an artist and editorial is no longer as controlling.

Gail Simone said different projects come out differently. She always writes full scripts, so it is what it is. However, she understands things have to go through an editor. Each step, a little bit of the initial energy gets lost. When you’re working directly with your artist, there’s this energy on the page you cannot replicate if you have to go through ten people to get that message across. She finds that creator-owned work tends to have more of the original energy intake. Simone has also worked with artists whose second language is English. The frustration is that if she can directly talk to an artist, an issue is resolved in two days. If it goes through editorial, it can take two months. It’s important to have a good working relationship with an artist, one where they know what you’re saying and can do it without much instruction. It’s best when the editor of a project understands this and doesn’t feel the need to micro-manage so much.

Tom King had run a gauntlet of experiences. With Omega Men, Barnaby Bagenda (the artist) he never met him, never talked to him. He found Bagenda on Deviantart. He lives in Indonesia and has an agent that handles communication. He drew 11 issues perfectly, King did layouts which helped. The thing that is most important is to know your artist cares. If they don’t, that’s where you’re in a bad spot.

Tom King did his best not to curse at first, but when realizing the only child present was a baby let loose. Rucka informed the crowd that if they expected a room full of writers to not curse, they’re sadly mistaken. I can speak from personal experience as a writer. We curse like sailors. Worse than sailors, actually. So, like…demon sailors?

Going back to Tom King’s point about an artist caring, you need to know what they care about. Do they care about the project? Do they just want to reach a deadline, make some great pages for a portfolio? Hell, maybe they just want to draw scenes of hockey. That actually happened when King collaborated on Batman with Jason Fabok. Fabok is a Canadian and a big fan of hockey. So, that’s why in a recent issue of Batman, Bruce Wayne is watching hockey. King decided to attract Jason Fabok to the project by giving him hockey scenes he could draw. Point is, not matter what, just make an artist care enough to deliver good work.

Jody Houser was originally a screenwriter, and unfortunately got bad advice that comics were like that. They’re not. Houser’s original scripts were too sparse for an artist, and they had a zillion questions for her after reading them. It’s a balance between writing enough detail for your artist to have an idea of what to do but also room to do their own thing. Houser has only done work-for-hire so far in her career, so it all goes through an editor. However, there are projects like Mother Panic with rotating artists, so they’re all giving commentary on the scripts and art turned in, which Houser finds to be a cool process. There are other times where she likes to push an artist to draw something outside their boundaries, such as with Marguerite Sauvage on Faith. This artist is well known for her beautiful drawings, particularly with fashion. But Houser was happy on one issue of getting her to do horror-style art, since those are the kind of stories Houser likes best. Mixing things up is always a good idea.

There were many more questions like this, but to list them all would take too long. In summary, what I learned from this panel is to always have constant contact with artists, figure out what they like/don’t like to draw, sometimes push them outside their comfort zones, to always hope that you get a good editor and if not work around that. At one point, the audience lined up and asked questions for the writers. My question was:

 

4) When doing a creator-owned book, do you think while writing a story of a particular artist who will draw it because they fit the aesthetic you want? Even if it ends up a situation where you’re not going to know who the artist is until after some scripts are written because of, like, it’s a corporate work-for-hire thing, do you write your story to fit that artist’s style?

For Greg Rucka, creator-owned work tends to have more direct collaboration between writer and artist. Even then, you have to know what they don’t like to draw. Liam Sharp doesn’t like to draw cities or tech, but while on Wonder Woman, Rucka had to tell him to bite the bullet sometimes when it became necessary. Once he do this we’ll get to the stones and dancing demons, I prom. To me, story has to have primacy. The story must have primacy over comfortability. Michael Lark is another example because he hates almost everything Rucka asks him to draw and then will deliver it beautifully every time. He’ll be mad about it but also admit it looks good.

Gail Simone added that some of the best things come out when you’re uncomfortable. For her, it depends on the project. With Crosswind, she had Cat Staggs in mind. She approached her and Staggs made sketches and got the concept right away. She doesn’t worry much about it all after that point. With Walter Giovani whom she’s doing a creator-owned all ages project, they loved being a team on Red Sonja and wanted to work together again, so Simone sent Giovani some ideas and asked him which one was he most interested in. Giovani chose the all ages one because he has two young daughters and wanted to work on something they could read. Once she knows the artist and what they’re capable of doing, Simone likes to push it a little bit because she believes if you’re working on something and you’re comfortable, you should start over. You should be feeling uncomfortable whether it be anger, love, or horniness or whatever.

Speaking of his Batman collaborator Mikel Janin, Tom King said they have been working together for three years yet fundamentally disagree on how comic books should be done. King thinks comics should be in small boxes on a grid and read as a vertical medium. Mikel thinks of them as a horizontal medium, which means double page spreads. He’ll take King’s pages and smoosh them together. However, King sees Janin as a superior storyteller and trusts his judgment. In one issue, King did what Janin wanted and made an entire issue of just double-page spreads as revenge, and he ended up turning in his best work.

Last but not least, Jody Houser said it’s easier when you know who the artist is ahead of time and plan things out. That’s what’s going on with her current DC title Mother Panic. Each artist on the book has a distinct style, so each story is catered around to them.

Afterwards, I went back on the floor to pick up more comics from independent creators, including Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy A. Bastion. I also snagged mainstream books, such as a signed copy of Secret Six from Gail Simone.

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The final victory of the day was getting Scott Snyder to sign my trade of Wytches and compliments for Graphic Policy being fair and balanced in our reporting. Hot dog!

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The gang and I left the convention to go out for dinner. We stopped by an Asian restaurant where I picked up a mere salad. This would prove a mistake. I later joined up with my good friend Sorah Suhng and had cocktails with her. We had a pleasant about comics, the industry, music, etc. Unfortunately, Sorah was buying the cocktails and I was not keeping track of the amount of Maker’s Mark I drank. By the end of our conversation, I was very drunk. An uber back to the hotel prevented any roadside damage, but the swirling or the headache going on in my head. I went to bed feeling like I was tumbling through water. That would not be the end of my misery though.

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