December 1, 2013

Mega Comics Review pt 1. – November 2013

11:20 am in art,books,comics,conversations,reviews,Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

I went to this small press comics convention today, called SHORT RUN. I went with a friend, we had plans to do some other things, and was asking me how long we’d be in there. We stayed an hour and i saw too much. If you’ve been to one small press convention, you’ll see about a hundred cats that all got the same spots. I think a lot of people would at least say that they want EVERYONE to read comics, but when it looks like a cool kids club where your uniform is bad body odor, cat-eyed glasses for the ladies and stupid little hats for the boys, then you think they’d be satisfied with their friends reading it in the bathroom later that night.

Independent comics, self published comics, have the BEST opportunity to not only stand out from the crowd, but to appeal to a whole new crowd, and attempt to get them there. But the art is almost laughably identical. The artists look up at you with hungry eyes, soft-sells to buy their overpriced xerox comic, and all i can think was “Your shit looks like everything else here”

A few highlights of the show. It’s always good to see that the indie scene is almost 50% split on the gender front. Race-wise? Its whiter than the back of a map. It was free to get in, which is smart, and the size of the convention provided a good crowd to table ratio. Would i recommend going to it? No. Don’t table at any conventions, it’s a trap. But if you wanna buy a lot of self published comics that have shitty art and shittier writing, you can’t do any worse than that one. However, the comics i did buy, had a better ratio of things i liked than when browsing at a comic store. What does that say? I believe the best ideas will come from the self published crowd, if they could stop their daisy chain for a minute and actually care about increasing their skills. On to the comics reviews.

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This is one month of me doing comics reviews. After today’s review, i will see what the average rating of the lot of them was, partially as a snapshot into the quality of comics each month, and also as a snapshot of my own mood towards comics. It’s not scientific at all, because i can barely do math, so bear with me.

The end of the month was a big haul, so big, that some had to be left for next week. I’m changing the rating system slightly. It will still be TERRIBLE – CRAPPY – OK – GOOD – GREAT – AMAZING, but if there’s a significant quality difference between the art and the writing, i’ll indicate that. First off this week is

CAPTAIN AMERICA – WINTER SOLDIER vol 1 & 2. – Brubaker & Various Artists – OK

This was one of those comics that was a recommendation. Upon making one of my sweeping statements that there hasn’t been anything amazing in the last 20 years, this was offered as a possible candidate. Recommendations are awkward, because as much as you wanna believe that a person really thinks this is “AMAZING”, it’s very hard to ask them for another book recommendation when their definition of amazing basically amounts to “Decent art and a story that is cohesive and mildly entertaining” My bigger criticism though, is what i call PRAISE INFLATION. I think it’s a result of 1. an overly friendly professional community 2. no one actually is looking outside of comics for quality. I just came home from 12 years a slave, and that movie made me cry like a little bitch, really powerful, expertly acted and expertly filmed. EXPERT. Not DECENT. The distinction is important, and i guess when you’re eating so much shit, when you get a mouthful of froot loops, you’d believe it was fruit from the Garden of Eden.

Look upon that scene, and tell me that you can say that’s AMAZING in the same breath as you speak of CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER. Maybe i’m comparing apples to oranges, or maybe i’m comparing apples to froot loops. I got a simple barometer of taste “Did this provoke an emotion?” Was i excited? Saddened? Elated? Inspired? Or did i close the book, and think “meh”.

Brubaker really crafts a serious superhero action story, but most of it’s energy is spent trying its damndest to craft a slick thriller. It doesn’t work. You’re never in any doubt who is the assassin (Spoilers – IT’S BUCKY!), and you never are shown any real reason why this assassin is fucking with Captain America. And let me be clear, he really just fucks with him. Doesn’t kill him, doesn’t kill his friends, and all the mysterious mysteries don’t ever illuminate what the grand scheme of it all is. The nature of endless serialized superhero stories means that the writers NEVER have any balls. This comic has written on the back cover, “THE STATUS QUO SHATTERING SAGA”. Such bullshit. Not only is it not a saga, since it takes place within about a couple week’s time in-story, it’s not status quo shattering in the least. Everything remains the same as it began. The only people who get killed, you’ve only seen for one page or two. Any important characters are spared, uninjured, and continue the fight the next day. The solution to years and years of brain washing and war trauma, is Captain America makes a wish, and the Winter Soldier is Bucky again. It’s a bullshit solution to what was trying to be a smart comic. Brubaker REALLY tries to sell you on the idea that Captain America would put a 16 year old kid in harm’s way, specifically to do the dirty deeds in war. But you can’t have it both ways, you can’t present a realistic world with moral consequences, where the Captain is this paragon of virtue, and then have him easily convinced that “Yeah, sending a kid to do black ops is totally fine”

Its very clear here, where Marvel Movies get things right, because the idea of a sidekick is so outdated and frankly – STUPID, that they aged up Bucky in the films, so that you wouldn’t think “WTF CAPTAIN AMERICA” Honestly, if he didn’t want to be haunted by war crimes, he shouldn’t have enlisted child soldiers. That’s not a question Brubaker deals with, because fanboy nostalgia means you break your back to include the things you love, instead of trying to just write a damned good book. Its OKAY. If you want to see all the different ways that you and the Captain can make it happen, it’ll be a good read. If you actually want someone to change your mind on what is a great comic, this won’t be it.

SAGA vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona StaplesGood Writing / Ok Art

I got mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, the pacing and character interactions are really sweet, and it was really brisk and easy to read. On the other hand, it started off pretty rough, and there were tons of characters that i could not care less about. Basically, any time one of those computer head characters were around, i just wanted to skip ahead. That, along with some pretty shitty world building, made me want to stop reading it. Little things like winged characters that live in a world with stairs and ladders. All of the science fiction elements were window dressing, and it probably would’ve been better served reducing a lot of those details. There’s this cliche galactic-wide war in the background, and i really didn’t care about any of it. The art can get reeeeally weak when it comes to the backgrounds, and i wish they hired another artist for that cause there’s not one background that’s more rendered than a few colorful brush strokes.

That being said, once the bounty hunters and forest Ghosts got involved, and the story was chugging along, those details could fade away and allow the character interactions to shine. This story actually seems to be much more like a fantasy, that happens to have science fiction elements; think Star Wars with more visible genitals and written/drawn by a creative team thats actually gotten laid a few times. The last 20 pages is what changed my mind on this comic, so hey, go check it out and see how you feel. I might even go actively follow where this story goes. I wouldn’t be surprised if this got adapted into a miniseries, because the dialogue is sharp like dat.

One nitpick – but i like to point it out, in every comic i see. There are two sex scenes in this comic, and one of them is an orgy. In this orgy, they are like five different couplings of female on female. You know how many depictions of male on male there are? None. In a galaxy far away, with sexy spider woman with bared breasts, and caterpillar whores, there’s not one dude who wants to suck dick. No. But lesbians aplenty. It’s really annoying that science fiction writers gotta be so fucking hetero all the time.*

*ASTONISHING DEVELOPMENT – So when looking for images for this article, i read that in a later issue of Saga, there is a scene of gay sex, but it’s on a tiny screen. I guess that’s better. Hip hip Hooray! Blowjobs equality!

Cartozia Tales – Various Writers & Artists Good for Kids

You know how easy it is to get a good rating from me? Just throw in a good ol’ fashioned fantasy map. I go nuts for that kinda thing, and when i was a kid, i’d pour over the details of them. Anyway, this is an anthology, and so it’s hit or miss in some stories, but the tone is pretty consistent, and if i was a kid, i’d be inspired to draw my own Cartozia Tales. So good job Team Cartozia.

Island of Memory – T Edward Bak OK writing / Good Art

I got this today at the Short Run comics thing, and honestly, i haven’t finished it. The art was pretty nice sometimes, like looking through a frosted glass, which compliments the icy setting it takes place in. But often times the writing was very stilted, but more so, i just felt kind of bored 3/4 of the way through. I kind of feel its a bit of the fault of the subject matter, which has a lot of period piece conversations and bunch of dudes lost up in the wintry wilderness. Boredom is maybe the worst enemy of any story, and i don’t fight it. There’s only so many hours in a day, and if i wanted to take a nap, i’d get in bed and close my eyes. Maybe i’ll finish this later, but i doubt it. I think i’d prefer to see another book by the artist, because i don’t doubt he could write something captivating, this just wasn’t it.

Thunder in the Building #2 – Margaret Ashford-Trotter Ok to Bad Writing / Ok Art

This was the biggest disappointment of the entire haul. It read like you were walking in on the middle of conversations, catching glimpses of someone’s photo albums, and completely disconnected from “WHY SHOULD I CARE.” It’s not that the writing was bad, it just was in service of nothing. Some girl and boy hit a dude by accident once, and then she got cheated on? or Did that happen first? Then she reports the crime? Or was that in the past? There’s so much time jumping, with no indication of what time has passed, that its extremely chaotic and just leaves you feeling lost. The art is really plain. Like plain like that movie She’s All That. It could be beautiful, but its just so obnoxiously plain, you feel it had to be intentional. It doesn’t do the story any favors, the whole thing is like receiving a box of broken crackers. They are plain, they taste the same as normal crackers, but i don’t fucking want broken crackers. This won a xeric grant. My reaction to this comic is best summed up with an emoticon. :-/

Harley Quinn #0 – Various Crap – Terrible Writing / Useless Art

You shouldn’t write meta fiction if you’re an idiot. I don’t even got much to say, besides the usual DC diatribes. But this comic, each page is a new artist. Perhaps, with all these different artists, and 22 pages, the writer could think of a better idea than “OH I GOT IT! ON THIS PAGE, SHE SHOOTS EVERYONE!” But that’s almost every page. Every joke. Every wink at the audience. It’s like watching a bad impersonation of George W. Bush. You know the president was an idiot to begin with, but someone poorly impersonating an idiot, is somehow even more pathetic. If they wanted to be meta, here’s a good idea for Harley Quinn #0: Don’t print any art, simply apply the cover to a roll of toilet paper, and never wipe your ass with it. You wouldn’t want to give DC any of your best ideas.

The Reach of the Mind – Sam BellNonexistent Writing / Good Art

I’ve been considering writing separate reviews for Artbooks. So many comics i read, especially indie comics, are so devoid of story, as to be simply sequential art books. This doesn’t really bother me, if the art is really interesting. And this comic was pretty satisfying. Gorey as all hell, but some rendering that is sometimes gloriously incomprehensible. I wonder what it’d look like with color. Anyway, if you like gnarly skateboard deck crazy shit, read this comic.

Vortex – William Cardini GOOD (same as above)

Taking a different approach, definitely more digital dot-matrix, but equally bizarre and black & white as The Reach of the Mind. This comic also, enjoyable art, but music-video level story telling. Which one did i like better? Probably Vortex, mostly cause it was cleaner and the artist seemed much more confident of the images he was making. That panel above was the bees knees, and just a nice little moment. Little still moments like that are where comics prevail, and this comic has lots of cool brain bending spots, so i’d definitely keep reading this series, i think its up to #4 now.

Okay, there’s a few more, but i’m tired and running out of space, stay tuned for my PICK OF THE MONTH : POOR THING by DREW MILLER

 

 


 


November 25, 2013

Comics Review – Stewart, Hanselmann, DeConnick & Van Meter, Kittredge & Miranda, Fiffe, Huynh

7:11 am in comics,conversations,reviews Ulises Farinas

When i started doing reviews, i was mouthing off at this bar, about how there’s been no AMAZING comics in the last 15 years. I readily admit that that opinion is half from ignorance, the other half…maybe from arrogance. But i’m glad to have people who want to shut me up, by recommending good shit. Ultimately, even with all the crap that is sold, i’m glad that it’s at least possible. That not just one publisher, but dozens, hundreds? of them, are successful in this world. It gives me a livelihood, and it gives the world something to read. The book i was recommended, and purchased first, for these reviews, was

Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart

It was good. It wasn’t great, or amazing. And when i get a recommendation of something being great, to be honest, i want to actually hate it. That might be messed up, but it’s how my mind works. I want to be proven wrong. But more so, i want it to earn its accolades. Stories must be captivating on their own, and have to get through all the noise in your life, to make you sit down, shutup, and read. I think this book actually would be worth a reread, as i mostly kept thinking “This isn’t making sense. But that might be intentional. Oh man, its over, that was pretty heavy, but still don’t know if i get it” I didn’t feel ripped off, and i normally do if i don’t ‘get it’. I’m not one of those snobby types, who talk about “Oh, this story doesn’t spoon-feed the audience!” SPOON FEED ME. If it’s not clear, and i don’t know what’s what, i consider it a failure of the story teller to tell the story. I didn’t sit down around the campfire to hear your poetic mumbles. So i’d actually recommend this, mostly so we can sit around and you can tell me what you thought it meant, and i’d be like ‘Awwww sHIT. Thats dope.” A lot of this novel felt ‘cinematic’, and i actually thought it’d probably feel more cohesive as a film. The unchanging panel layout and the horizontal aspect ratio, made it read steady, and like a storyboard.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it does show how different mediums provide different experiences. Go read this and tell me what the fuck i just read.

Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge & Inaki Miranda – Just okay

This was okay, but edging into bad. A lot of comics, you see they got some cool ideas, some cool images, and all i wish is for them to go further with it. For a medium that has absolutely no limits for what you can show, the stories you can tell, a lot of this shit is as ambitious as a tv show on the CW network. These stories are extremely conservative. This was a gothic horror comic, and my taste doesn’t swing that way, but i can see why some emo kid would be into it.  But it’s just sooooooo 1998, with fashion designs and COOL, HIP WITCH GIRL doing cool hip witch girl things. It all amounts to nothing, which is sad, because it might be excellent if it stopped drinking wine coolers behind the back of the mall. Inaki Miranda’s art has got some moments of wonkiness, and i could not understand if the Cop was wearing black eye shadow or there were weird shadows on his face the whole time. Both at once are also possibilities. Whenever i see gothic teen heroes, i just want there to be a future version of that character, to travel back in time and say “This whole comic is just a phase for you.” One bright spot, i really like the Coffin Hill title design.

Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Jen Van Meter with Patrick Olliffe, Okay

You know, you pick up a superhero comic, and most of the time, you’re just like “That was a cool diversion.” Do you watch fights on World Star Hip Hop? Cause i do, i love those things. Good superhero comics are often as good as watching those. This wasn’t as good as watching those. The art was weak at times, and i had no clue what the story was or why it was important what was happening, and what actually bugged me, was that way too many characters noawadays have the exact same voice. It’s not just DeConnick, it’s Whedon, it’s Bendis, it’s all over the place. I’ll call it the whole “I’m SO COOL AT BEING A HERO” Hero. Every hero is SOOOO SATISFIED with themselves. And it’s not just one hero, it’ll be WHOLE teams of characters acting like that. There’s no strong and silent types. There’s strong and witty types. There’s no shy and perceptive types. There’s witty and perceptive types. Giant Bruiser is now Witty Bruiser. All i wanna do, is go back to my teenage years, and take Buffy the Vampire Slayer and tell Joss Whedon to shut the fuck up. This comic could’ve been written by anyone, and i wouldn’t know the difference. It’s not that the story telling is necessarily bad, or that those characters themselves are bad, it’s that while a comic like Captain Marvel adds diversity to the comics lineup, which i like to see, the actual character itself is basically hollow. Everyone is a Robert Downey Junior High School student. One issue though, hard to tell if this is a bad series or a good one. Maybe i’d pick up another to see.

St. Owl’s Bay (Wet Swords) by Simon Hanselmann, Okay but could be Good.

Thoroughly unenjoyable. I looked at the comic, printed real large on newsprint, and thought “I love this art. Its cute and adorable. I’m gonna fucking hate this” Because it’s so fucking edgy. There’s really no point to reading a lot of indie comics, because it’s mostly dudes who are so fucking excited that they get high, listen to cool music, and jerk off a lot. And this comic is only about getting high, listening to music, and being losers. You know when you hear some dudes at a party talking about some other party, where they got so MESSED UP. One of those dudes, you know outside of the party, and you know how much of a fuck up he is, and you just WISH, that he’d get his fucking shit together and he still owes you 20 bucks. This comic is like that. The art is really beautiful, and it really was a good idea to print it so large, but do we really need a comic that retreads the same ground from a couple of dumb episodes of that 70s show? Do we? DO WE? No. Buy this comic, don’t read the words.

MA by Matt Huynh, Good

As i wrote about earlier, being the child of immigrants, and knowing what they went through, just so you can be normal, is something that hangs over your life forever. It defines me, and reading about Matt Huynh’s parents, Vietnamese refugees, made me wish that these stories were told more often in American comics. This is a nation of immigrants, but our shared stories would have you believe that white people simply bloomed here like flowers and it was beautiful. America, the beautiful, is brown. Its a mix of so many stories, and we really do ourselves a disservice by just listening to one track on loop. Matt Huynh, is Australian, but i think he lives here now. So i’ll happily add him to our collective, because resistance is futile. There are some really beautiful moments, and although at times the violent inky brush strokes render the story unclear, it actually lends itself to the story he’s telling, of island refugees left to fend for themselves in a chaotic new place. The quiet moments, where the parents are still with their children, are rendered carefully and it really feels like you’re watching this moment in time, through tears that occasionally blur the scene from view.

Horrible times are easily caricatured, and sometimes it seems, that others only wanna see the misery. Put some flies on that brown kid’s face, so i can throw money at that problem. But your parents tell you about good times, happy moments, a real life that was lived and experienced. MA feels like that. I am here now, i was lucky, our parents almost died just so we can live.

Copra #9 by Michel Fiffe, Good – Possibly Great

Every day, you read about some artist and how much they love Jack Kirby. You’d swear the dude was Stan Lee. Unfortunately, most cartoonist who swear by Kirby, are just as hollow as the self promotion of Stan Lee. You see cats who struggle every day, just to be a pale imitation of Kirby, and all you are left up with are pastiches and copies, but what you rarely get, the best Kirby imitation, is being raw and original. Fiffe is going nuts, in the best way. He’s taking his influences, all of them, and swallowing them like they are steroids, cause his work is MAD BEEFY. I don’t even like every drawing, i don’t even think the story is fantastic, but something about it, is undeniable. If i was one of those artists, that drew square tipped-foreshortened hands all day, i’d look upon Fiffe and cry, because sweet baby jesus has returned. Copra looks like no other superhero comic, but is doing what Superhero comics should be, if anyone read the great comics like they were text books, and learned some lessons. DC Comics needs some Hooked on Phonics, when compared to this. If you’re one of those lazy motherfuckers who boycotted Marvel’s The Avengers because of ____ reasons, go take those 13 dollars and actually spend it on some shit you can treasure.This week was mostly shitty, but the good stuff was better than usual, so it made up for it.

 


November 19, 2013

Comics Review – Gaiman & J.H.Williams x 3, Yanow, Deforge, Rinzler & Mayhew, Snyder & Capullo

9:28 am in books,comics,product,reviews,zines Ulises Farinas

Be prepared to give a negative review. If you give one to the work of a friend, and they’re not your friend any more, they weren’t ever your friend. As Robert Altman once told me, “If you never gave me a bad review, what would a good review mean?” He was a great man. He thought over what he had said, and added: “But all your bad reviews of my films have been wrong.” – Roger Ebert

When i started writing these reviews, my boy Arnaldo sent me this link to Roger Ebert’s review rules. And i’ve been thinking lately, about tone and what’s a bad review exactly for? Is it a waste of time to somehow harp on only the negatives of a work? I don’t believe so. As i said before, we’ve got enough PASSION in comics. We got enough people who LOVE comics. What we don’t know have is any critical thought encouraging better work. Most of the reviews in comics are poorly disguised press releases, and even i’ve had interviews that were basically the equivalent of me repeating information in the solicits. “So when’s this come out?” “How’d you start working on this project?” I wanna yell “THAT ISN’T IMPORTANT AT ALL” But i just say “Oh, end of the summer,” and even i gotta be polite sometimes.

Geek culture has transformed from the niche interests of the few, to a economic behemoth. What used to be separate honest, devoted fandoms have transformed into a cultish Tetsuo-monster that must buy! buy! buy! buy! buy! The reasons so much trash is literally pumped out every month, is because there are hoards of fans that are consuming it. They don’t need quality, and i don’t even believe that my reviews will stop this monster. But i can look at it, and say in no uncertain terms, “This is ugly” The blogs, journals, publishers that are kept alive by this monster, can not criticize it, can not change it, because they basically look like Tetsuo’s girlfriend losing her identity in the body of the beast.

So what’s a brother to do? I can go on and on about how i love Paul Pope’s brushwork, how i think Yale Stewart knows his way around a comic strip and creates some genuine heartfelt moments. And if you’re a fan, YOU KNOW THAT TOO. I’m not living my life to join the fan-domination, i’m over here seeking some enlightenment era revolution. And shit, you know what happened when Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense? Motherfuckers got shot.

I won’t politely ask for change, and i cant wrap my reviews up in the nicest words. I’m not trying to sell wrapping paper, i’m giving you lumps of coal for christmas cause thats what keeps you warm. Don’t believe that a bad review, even if it’s your bad review, is just misspent energy. You wanna prove me wrong, don’t debate, get back to work and draw a better comic. I’ll be the first person to sit up and shut up. At the end of the day, i want to be proven wrong with not what you’ve said but what you’ve done. That’s why i’ll give some of my best friends, the worst reviews, cause i want them to make me never open my mouth again. And if i do, all they’ll hear is angels crying and jesus praying.

On to the hits, my rating system is Horrible, Crappy, OK, Good, Great, AMAZING:

Sandman Overture #1 – Neil Gaiman & J.H.Williams x 3 – OK

This shit was 5 fucking dollars. Honestly? Could they pack more advertising for shit in this issue? Was a bunch of ads, really annoying. Didn’t need to cost $5 really. So my dude, Joe Keatinge said he wanted to see what i thought about this book. And truth be told, i’ve never ever ever read any Neil Gaiman. Every dude with a wallet-chain and chick with dyed black hair has been recommending me Sandman comics since i was in highschool, and i was disappointed. Here’s a sample bit of writing “The book is heavy. It is bound in leather, made from a hide of a beast that has never existed. The only eyes that read the book are blind. They see only darkness and the contents of the book. The book is the UNIVERSE…” This is Vincent Price, if he was reincarnated and worked at Hot Topic all summer. What, do i give props to this comic because he found flowery ways to describe absolutely nothing for 20-something pages? Here is this comic, that has got these literally larger than life characters having dreamscape conversations, and i’m only thinking ‘DONT CARE DONT CARE DONT CARE DONT CARE” The only reason i kept reading, was for the art, and there’s a really amazing quadruple page spread, that’s got a pretty creative way of unfolding. It’ll make for a good poster, and this comic has about the same depth too.

The Star Wars #1 – J.W. Rinzler & Mike Mayhew – OK/Sorta Crappy

Why was this made? Because Star Wars is the best example of brain-dead fans. First of all, the original series, although visually impressive, is a kid’s story. There are no subtle complexities beyond whether or not Han shot first. But now years after the originals have been released, the monster continues the grow, beyond the creator’s control, and the fandom will never.ever.ever not feed it. It is guaranteed that the next star wars will make a bazillion dollars, and so will the next, and the next. In fact, it will probably make all of it’s costs back before any ticket is sold, on merchandise alone.

George Lucas is not a good writer, so why would a rough draft of a young and dumber George Lucas, make for a compelling story? Forget compelling – a decent story? There’s nothing in this comic that hasn’t been covered by the constantly revised final version of the films, so it’s held aloft on novelty alone. Here’s a new stormtrooper design, oh look, Darth Vader ain’t got no helmet, and here, the name “Anakkin”! The art is decent, but i can’t imagine its a very rewarding project. So why was this made? Because a long time from now in a galaxy far far away, Star Wars will still be making money.

The Boy in Question – Michael DeForge – Good

Independent comics allow creators to do their own thing. If they wanna draw a comic about animal fucking, they can (and probably have) and its this freedom that allows for experimentation, and experiments can lead to fresh ideas. But what of an experiment for it’s own sake? What kind of results will it yield? Often times, i’ve bought many many many indie comics, and they may be expertly drawn, but the story is basically nonexistent. They are often explorations of themes, more or less, or almost illustrations in sequence. That’s not really a problem, and if an artist is talented enough, such as Yuichi Yokoyama’s work, then that can carry a work alone. But its just as often it seems, a lot of these artists simply don’t know HOW to tell a compelling story, or have figured out what they want to say, and so we are left with a glutton of work that is simply sequential. This happens, then this happens, then this happens, and in The Boy in Question, it ends with “ETC.” I enjoyed reading it though, and kept wanting to know what would happen next, so it’s not a failure, but this book was too easy. Comics are writing and arting, and just farting around doesn’t satisfy after awhile. Still, i’m glad i got it. Maybe i’ll draw something like this one day (i already did in an issue of Faesthetic actually)

Batman: Zero Year – Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo – Crappy

If Batman: Year One is maybe one of the best Batman stories ever put to paper, then the title of Batman: Zero Year, is appropriate. Because it says absolutely nothing of importance. It’s fanfiction. And lots of people call ALL of superhero comics, ‘fanfiction’, as if their derivative ideas are somehow more original, but this is really at the imagination level of a 14 year old boy. Unfortunately, i’m pretty sure the dudes are in their late thirties or forties who made this book. Snyder is a capable writer, but he ain’t a beast. He ain’t throwing down the mic after his set. And this comic, i imagine was something he was more or less, forced to do. And the thought process must’ve been,”I’m gonna read better batman comics and put the things i remember into this story” The purple gloves from the golden age, a goofy roadster batmobile, a young honest Commissioner Gordon. Greg Capullo has a lot of fans, but he’s not my cup of tea. I’m not gonna rag on him, cause i can see technique even if i don’t like the final product. DC doesn’t stand for detective comics anymore, but it should, because maybe Scott Snyder would figure out why he’s working at Dead Corpse. DC has one successful property right now with Batman right now, and even though they label EVERY FUCKING COMIC with “THE NEW 52” they gotta take Batman and MAKE HIM EVEN NEWER. Not year ONE, YEAR ZERO. Maybe when DC has a editorial meeting that consists of more than 12 year old boys finding out what their dicks do, we’ll get some good comics again. Until then, stick to the classics.

In Situ No 2 – Sophie Yanow – Good

I didn’t have a great comic this week, but this one could have been it. It’s sort of a collection of stream of consciousness, rambly inner monologue vignettes. It is also the only comic written by a woman this week. On skills alone, her writing would make most of these guys go back to middle school. But unfortunately, she’s basically chopped off her feet and decided to dance on stumps. I was trying to follow along, but her incredibly sketchy art style is close to making the book unreadable. There were at least a couple pages, where i couldn’t tell who was speaking, if that was supposed to be her at all, or if the short vignette had finished and a new story began. There are lots of artists that have a scratchy, loose, willfully uncontrolled style, but your style shouldn’t get in the way of telling your story. Clarity is king, and i could not tell what was what.

One thing i noticed, was the distinct difference between how sex was depicted in this comic, vs. DeForge’s book. Every indie dude has to draw a dick, and it’s always drawn with the same “LOOK AT ME, I’M NAKEDDDDDDDD” approach. They don’t care so much about the relationships we have, that occasionally stimulates our genitals, they only care about the genitals. And that simplistic interest is about as satisfying as a dude jackhammering away at his girlfriend in bed, only to cum in 30 seconds. Good job, that was so impressive. In Situ, shows scenes that may be sexual, have lead to sex, or have occurred just after sex, and these brief moments say more about the actual moments that matter to humans, than the “Insert rod A in slot B” mechanics of DeForge and other male artist’s work. It’s not that a female writer would or could or should write a sex scene better than a man, but this is what diversity is for.

When you see the same ideas being regurgitated, by the same creators, and the majority of them are approaching middle aged white guys, how could any intelligent critical person, look at that and say “I don’t care about sex/race/gender, i just want to read good comics.” This week’s comics were overall, mediocre. And this boy’s club that many people are upset with, isn’t wrong because there’s something wrong with white dudes, it’s because white dudes can only tell so many stories. The backup piece in Batman: Zero Year, shows 2 poor kids, dealing with an oncoming storm, no power, no heat, and an abusive father. Once again, poverty in Gotham City only has white faces. In the entire comic alone, i counted TWO black men, and the rest of the cast was depicted as entirely caucasian. I dont know about anyone else, but if you grew up in the inner city, you got a real good chance of being a minority. I guess Gotham City must’ve succeeded in pushing through those redline laws.

I wanna read stories that speaks to my experience, that speaks to all different experiences. I’m not the most straight dude in the world, i’m not the most most masculine, i’m not the most latino either. And the diversity of people reading comics is close to infinite. You wouldn’t know that from going to a local comic book shop. Regardless of these issues of inclusion in other mediums, it can’t be denied that the Cosby show was a mainstream hit in america in the 80s. That Madonna was vogue-ing in the 90s. Even the ridiculous attempts of Miley Cyrus twerkin’ are signs that the rest of pop culture is miles ahead of mainstream comics. Shit, half the time i read something current in a comic book, its already 5 years too late.

I do care about race, sex, gender, and if you care about reading great comics, you should too.


November 14, 2013

J-L-HATE

7:08 am in comics,community,internet,reviews,Uncategorized Ulises Farinas

You ever have a time as a kid, where you and a bunch of friends, are messing around and joking a whole lot, and there’s a teacher or a parent there, and everyone’s having a good time? And then one of the dudes gets out of hand, and says something that’s just so messed, like “HAHA YEAH, THATS WHY THE HOLOCAUST IS FUNNY!” and everyone stops, looks, and the teacher is like “Ok, thats enough guys. Get back to work.”

That’s how i feel about JL8.

I’m not against fan art, and the first reaction people will have to me hating on this, will be “BUT DIDN’T YOU DRAW A BATMAN COMIC TOO?!” Yes, yes i did, and you know about me mostly because I DID fan art. I still DO fan art. Because our industry is so broken, that regardless of how good an artist you are, if you don’t get down on your knees and worship at the altar of geek consumerism, you can’t get noticed.

Every. single. blog. Spends way more time covering established properties than any creator owned works, and that’s not really an issue to me. That’s business. People get hits on shit thats familiar. So even though I had drawn over a hundred pages of creator owned comics, it was only until I did some lego superhero stuff that anyone looked my way. Comics like the Oatmeal, they know all about making easily digestible, shareable content, regardless of whether it’s good or bad or drawn well. But at least it’s original.

There’s a mutual understanding between major publishers and the creators and the fan base, that you’re gonna make a little side money for yourself, maybe make a bit of a name too, but somehow we all understand, that we are only borrowing what’s not ours, and if they took them back, we can’t whine and complain, we graciously give them back and go on with our lives. Many fans ultimately become the creators, and so fan culture is a major part of comics culture. But what happens when a dude like Rob Granito comes around, takes some drawing you did of some character, and redraws it and sells it like its his? We hate him. How dare he! But a dude like Yale Stewart, nobody says a thing.

There’s a line, and he crossed it. People have told me, that the story is good. What if, for instance, tomorrow, I thought “I could do Cold Heat better than Santoro, I’m gonna start writing my own Cold Heat comics.” At conventions, my whole table was “COLD HEAT – A ULISES FARINAS fan COMIC” and everyone told Santoro “But it’s a good story” One page, one time, fan art of the work, would be flattering, basing your entire career on someone else’s work, is theft.

We can not be advocates of copyright reform, of creator rights, of better standards in our comics, if we can’t agree what is a fair use of taking existing works and remixing them in our culture, and what is just deceiving the consumer into directing money into your pocket that should go to the original owners. If his storytelling is so good, his art is obviously drawn well, then he should have the balls to let them stand on their own. It’s not just a crutch, the dude has amputated his own legs and replaced them with stolen parts.

I find it disgusting to see an artist who’s got no spine, basically draw DC Precious Moments as his entire career. I would love if DC could somehow purchase it, but it’d basically justify any person who bootlegs their properties. Just do it long enough and successful enough, and you can steal your way into their good graces.

So many times, you’ll hear comics conversations about how Stan Lee stole from Jack Kirby, how this artist is being screwed over by this publisher. And I myself, I steal comics and movies from multi-billion dollar companies. Sometimes you’re Jean Val Jean and you just stole a loaf of bread, other times you’re an asshole. Its partly the fault of DC, for not recognizing that a product like this they should already be making. But at the end of the day, here goes a talented artist, who may also be a talented writer, who isn’t a david to a goliath, he’s the lice in both their hair.

It makes things weird for us, who are at cons doing this legally grey artwork to survive, and it’s weird for companies like DC, who if they go after him will have another PR nightmare just cause a dude didn’t know when to stop. I draw a lot less fan art as i used to, mostly cause it served its purpose, and now I try my damndest to sell my original ideas to publishers.

JL8 makes it seem like it might just be more worthwhile, to be a parasite than a scavenger.

As an afterthought, a counterpoint, an artist who does lots of fan art, but I respect, would be Corey Lewis. That’s how you do fan art:


November 12, 2013

Comics Review – Soto, McKinley, Darrow, Santoro, Vermilyea

9:27 am in art,comics,reviews Ulises Farinas

When i decided i wanted to start reviewing comics, it was half because i don’t think there’s much of anything good on the shelves right now, and half because i want to be proven wrong. I’m a hater, i know i am, but i want to be an informed hater. So i went down to Floating World Comics in downtown Portland, which for me, is one of my favorite shops in the world. It’s organized well, the staff is friendly, and it’s got everything you want. Mainstream to lamestream, indie comix and zines and beautiful art books. Even’s got records, i think. I don’t really care about music, so i have not even wandered back there. I’m sure it’s cool, if you’re into that. My dude, Zack Soto was there, and he helped me find a few things that people said i had to get, and i found some things i’d never get, and i got my standard fair. Zack Soto does comics with goblins and shit in them, I respect him as a person and an artist, so one of these days i’ll review his comic and say its pretty dope. Actually, i’ll give a quick shout out to it.  Just FYI – My rating system will be Horrible, Crappy, OK, Good, Great, AMAZING.

The Secret VoiceZack Soto – Good

ZackSoto

You can read it online, and i have read the second issue and i think the first. I’m not sure, it’s been awhile, and it this is a quick review. Basically, its fantasy how i like it. Limbs being chopped off, almost mindless masses of some type of monster, and this cool looking wizard hero dude. I look at it, and think, “Damn, i wanna draw those characters” and that’s a good sign. Soto has his art chops, and the only thing that i find a bit weird is some of the coloring technique and the palette. Some of the scratchy digital coloring stuff looks bad to me, and i wonder if it’d be better served by printing the pages out and painting them in this ragged way instead. I’d read it if you wanna have an adventure.

I’ll take You To The Moon & Leave You There vol. 1 – Skuds Mckinley – Crappy

Skuds is my boy, and he gave me one of his comics the other day. He shouldn’t have though, cause you should never give away your comic to your friends. If you’re making them yourself, sell each and every one of them. But anyway, i’ve seen this sucka’ go from a rat to a cool cat, but he ain’t a big dog yet. Its an anthology comic, and it’s mostly stories that reminded me when i was like 21, and every damn breakup was some beautiful drama that revealed some epiphany. Skuds seems to got fucking a lot on his mind, cause he writes or talks about it a lot in this comic. Not sure how old he is now, but eventually, it won’t seem so fascinating, and he won’t write a bunch of short strips that are masturbatory in the metaphorical and literal sense. Indie comics dudes always wanna talk about their dicks, draw dicks, and basically are obsessed with their own postmodern masculinity. It’s not so much navel gazing, as dick gazing. The art is messy and inconsistent, and along with the writing, seems to do better when drawing longer pieces. One day he’ll look at this, in private, and be like “What the fuck?” It’s cool, i once drew a whole comic with sharpies and thought that was a good idea.

Indestructable Hulk – the Arms of the Octopus, part 2 of 3 – Mike Costa & Jacob Wyatt – art, Jordie Bellaire – colors – Good

So shit like this is what I normally buy. I’ve talked to snooty comics dudes, and they’ll be all “HMmmmm, well i dont even READ superhero comics anymore!” But honestly, it’s those dudes who draw ‘art comics’ that consist of crayon scratching and charcoal smears and say they think ‘ugly is so beautiful’ Pfffft. Eat a bowl of dicks, cause your technique is mad soft. This comic has the hulk playing with puppies, and that’s awesome. The artist is weak whenever he draws the hulk from the waist down, and his dynamic splash pages fall flat. I have that same trouble, actually. Can’t stand drawing splash pages. The story is about some time traveling X-Men and i honestly could care less. But the dialogue was cute, the comic was cute, and Superior Spiderman as an egotistic dick is much better than Amazing Spiderman as an egotistic dick manchild. Sad that the only way they figured out how to develop Peter Parker into an adult, was by putting another man’s brain into him. Sorry, that was some nerd tangent right there. Comics should be fun, and art comics so often forget that their work is entertainment first, and totally miss the mark. This hulk comic was fun, and that was worth the 3 bucks or so it costs.

Shaolin Cowboy #1 – Geof Darrow OK

So everyone and their Mother knows i’m a Geof Darrow fan, and i’ve been compared to Geof Darrow more times than i can count. But at the end of the day, i don’t want to be a Geof Darrow clone, because there’s already a good handful of those. But you know, to be honest, the last few years of seeing new Geof Darrow content, seems to be my least favorite  stuff. The anatomy has gotten stiffer, like those shitty ass wooden manequins they sell at every art store, the faces less unique and more just like filler, and the hyper detailed debris itself, is kinda…predictable. But you know, he’s still one of my art heroes, but this new #1 comic is gonna be like when they changed the recipe for cookie crisp, and i still eat it and love it, and i can’t tell how its different, i just know a part of me is not satisfied.

And the story? HAHAHAHA. Yeah ok, i don’t think i’ve ever read a geof darrow comic thinking there’d be a story, even a bad story. It’s like half formed ideas, held together with body parts and duct tape. There’s this huge scroll of text about what has happened, and i could only think “Don’t Care. Don’t Care. Don’t Care. Don’t Care.” Honestly, its like reading the bible when you get to the descendents of Noah. TL:DR

Cold Heat #4– BJ & Frank Santoro – Crappy

This is a comic i’d never buy. Usually, when i look at Picturebox, i imagine their mentality goes something like this. “Lets use drawings that your pothead brother drew in his notebook in 1995, as our entire aesthetic” I’ve seen so many shitty drawings and shitty stories from Picturebox, that i’ve written off the entire publisher. The few things that i find great, must emerge like trippy delicious mushrooms from the piles of shit surrounding it. But i thought, let me buy something and give it an honest consideration. The design of the book, is purposefully ugly, and i don’t care about your intentions, if you use Comic Sans because you’re so ironic you’ve spinned halfway up your own ass and now have the best donut costume on halloween, your shit still stinks. The art itself is actually kind of nice. I like how its printed, and the limited palette, and there are some illustrations that are really great, but its just more indie-dude dick gazing. For all the protestations that superhero comics have shitty, immature story telling, here’s a comic which basically could be the origin story for any golden age superhero by way of weird uncle who lives in a van down by the river.

You ever end up at a party, waiting for the bathroom, and a stoner is talking your ear off over his out of body experience at burning man? This is that comic. Go ahead, turn on, tune in and drop out.

Fata Morgana Jon Vermilyea – GREAT / Maybe Amazing

Absolutely the best pick of the week. He’s hitting some master level shit right here, and makes me want to up my game. If he was on a battlefield, i’d feel like Legolas looking upon Aragorn. My arrows are cute, but he’s gone and FORGED A LEGENDARY SWORD. I can’t even criticize the story, cause that shit is just a journey through a kid’s imagination. I wanna see a videogame one day by this guy, cause it’d be an instant classic. Anyway, buy this if you like beautiful artwork. Strangely, he also designed the Cold Heat book, so i don’t know what the fuck he was doing there. Well, we all need something to regret if we’re gonna live big lives.

GammaUlises Farinas & Erick Freitas OK

Gamma was a bit weird, i’m not sure if it was trying to be a deconstruction or a satire, but you won’t find out, cause its one of those fake “THE END”s. It doesn’t so much END, as just stop, and who the hell knows what happens to any of the characters. The art is occasionally super detailed, trying to do a more cartoony Seth Fisher, but character faces get wonkier and wonkier, the closer they appear. And it really just looks like the artist gets tired of drawing shit, because by the end, its like blank backgrounds for 3 pages. Coloring is eh, he’s got no feel for mood or how color affects story, and it’s the amateur mistake of always thinking GRASS IS GREEN, SKY IS BLUE. The writing is juvenile, and tries to take a children’s idea, and make it ‘for adults’ by simply adding vulgar language and crude sexuality, and of course, like every fucking indie artist, a penis. This one is special, cause it’s a burnt to a crisp dick. I suspect the artist would probably be more successful just doing a straight adaptation of a pokemon story, or working on a property like Adventure Time. Ultimately, a gamble from Dark Horse, that doesn’t completely pay off.

Just Kidding. GAMMA is the best comic on this whole entire list. I’m better than bad, i’m good.

 


November 10, 2013

Battling Boy is OK

9:18 am in comics,conversations,reviews Ulises Farinas

battling-boy-cover

So it only took like 5 years or so, for it to come out, and its a hundred-something pages of meh. Of course, whenever a beloved comics artist does anything, everyone falls about into convulsing fits like “Ermagerdddd! HE DREW SOMETHING!”

I’m one of Paul Pope’s biggest fans, and he’s also one of comic’s top creators. When i first started reading comics fairly regularly, which was actually kind of late next to most people, i bought every one of 100%. I think it was 5 issues, and truth be told, i could not tell you what it was about now. I do remember a sequence of screaming tea kettles that was pretty neat. There was the strip club that showed the organs of the dancers, which even though its a cool idea, pretty far fetched. But nonetheless, far fetched ideas and kinetic brush strokes is what sold me.

I hesitated to buy this, cause true to my hipster roots, if everyone says something is cool, my first reaction is to hate it. But then i’m torn, because although i criticize comicdom’s complete lack of taste and drone-like adherence to “THIS IS GOOD AND THIS IS BAD” mentality, it gets to me too. I’m not some golden god sitting on high, i’m a dude who wants to be cool too. I had a conversation with a bunch of folks in comics, saying how there hasn’t been an amazing book in comics in like 15-20 years. Sure there’s good books and great books. But amazing? All our heroes are dead, and we live in mediocre times.

Paul Pope is one of the few artists that most people agree on, but Battling Boy is like he picked up his special Mad-Libs edition copy of Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey and filled that shit out. Honestly, i hear about Joseph Campbell so much, you’d think the mother fucker would show up at your funeral. Some weird uncle of all the story telling cliches we know of, that excuses every instance where our skeleton is showing. The hero’s journey is not something that supports itself, it’s not engaging on its own. Battling Boy is like meeting a cute dude at a bar, you’re fucking ready to get to his place and get fucked like a rockstar, and then you show up, he turns the light on in his room, and he’s got a tiny bare mattress on the floor with a flat pillow.

First of all, the biggest criticism i have has to be levied at First Second. Honestly, here’s an artist who draws on giant sheets of paper. When you see Pope’s brushstrokes, its a joy to follow them taper and fatten like some kind of ink snake. This is a book that is about anacondas, published like its a kid’s book about worms. Go big or go home, and if you’re gonna have a bare bones monster story, you better Rita Repulsa that shit.

Second criticism is all on Pope though. But it was hard to say, because the book is so tiny, there were times where i was just thinking “This shit just looks rushed” Some panels are beautiful, no doubt, but they are beautiful in the way the ocean is. You see some waves, after awhile, you’re not gonna criticize each one “Not enough foam on that one” But for a book that took so long to come out, i was hoping for some jaw dropping art work. The equivalent of when the bass comes in heavy on a rap song and you know the artist is gonna tear some shit up. I dunno, maybe my speakers cut out, but i couldnt hear shit. Half the time, when i listen to Nas, all i think is “Aw maaan, shut the fuck up already,” cause you heard it all before. But i’ve seen more beautiful pages in Batman Year 100.

The whole book is just spinning its wheels. Part of me thinks, well, it’s sort of a kid’s book. But i’ve read kid’s books that have done more than just be simplistic. But the story, is simplistic. It does nothing, goes nowhere, strong kids being strong, strong men being strong, monsters being monstrous. The monster designs aren’t so captivating to carry it, like a great Kaiju movie, and neither are the heroes. Battling Boy’s father is the best, most engaging character, and honestly, i wonder why the story wasn’t about him. Here’s your comic’s required Kirby love, and he’s off in space doing space shit. Battling Boy has cool t-shirts, which seems like a great merchandising idea, but he’s a blonde kid wearing a tshirt and jeans and all i’m waiting for is the “THE POWER IS WITHIN YOU” line, but that’s probably gonna be in book 3 or so.

But there’s no reason for a book 1. All of it could be summed up in prologue, and if i was a kid, i’d think like a kid, and be like “What a rip off, he doesn’t even fight any cool monsters.” Its unfortunate, because this could be gigantic, should be! But the book is small, the ideas are small, and the best parts of it are constrained by the rest.

Find more work of Paul Pope at http://paulpope.com/


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