Archive for December, 2010

The War on Christmas is Over, Because Christmas Came Anyway

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Well, it’s Christmas Day, which means that some people are in church, many businesses are closed, small children are entering states of ecstasy, Jewish people are eating Chinese food, and lonely/bored people end up going online even though it’s Christmas and no one’s posting new content because those people have lives.

You’re welcome.

Liberty and Fraternity

Friday, December 24th, 2010

World War II is the most popular war depicted in comics, most likely due to the fact that the modern comic book industry co-existed with the war, and those creators came up with ideas and characters that linger in continuity even today. But other historical conflicts continue to make their mark in comics, such as the American Revolution in the Lagos Brothers’ Sons of Liberty.

Sons of Liberty is a work of historical fiction, which may seem out of place on this blog, but considering we’ve written about real science couched in science fiction and culinary lessons embedded in a dramatic manga, using a fictional story to teach history isn’t completely off-base. Unfortunately, Sons of Liberty is loose with facts and its accuracy is shaky to non-existent, focusing on two escaped slaves that gain superhuman powers.

The story takes place in a number of real locations and features Benjamin Franklin and his son, but these places and these characters could have been anywhere and anyone, adding nothing unique to the story; Benjamin and William Franklin are really only there for the electricity angle they can add. The book spends a lot of time focusing on the two boys as escaped slaves, a point that is repeatedly hammered in for the reader, as they are abused by their slave master, chased down by a slave hunter, discriminated against by the world at large, and helped by kindly white men who believe that “all men are created equal,” so to speak. The real icing on the cake is when one of these kindly white guys teaches the two boys, Graham and Brody, an African martial art. At this point we’ve left any kind of historical analysis, choosing instead to follow a role of empowerment, similar to the current Hudlin-era of Black Panther.

And there is the main narrative problem with this series; if Graham and Brody really existed with the superhuman powers and skills they gain in this volume, then the American Revolution and the practice of slavery in the United States would have ended quite differently. Superheroes existed in World War II and the writers had to come up with ways to explain why Superman didn’t just capture Hitler and end the war right then and there. Though the Sons of Liberty are not Superman, it is not unreasonable to say that they would have a huge impact on history if they really existed.

Besides the historical accuracy problems, the storytelling, both in its text and art, is poor. The story plods along, introducing characters and situations bit-by-bit that go nowhere, promising a payoff that never comes in this volume. One particular nitpick I have is that Brody sometimes calls Graham “Grey” with no explanation; I assume it’s a nickname but this is never clearly explained and really only serves to confuse the reader, as do many other things in the book. As for the art, the coloring is more complex than the static and unclear pencil work it supplements, and the colorist has a strange habit of choosing one color for each page and bathing everything in shades of that color. Some pages are yellow, or blue, or purple-tinged; there is never a balanced mixture of colors, leaving each page feeling either washed-out or too dark. This is particularly harmful in the action sequences, which are unclear and poorly paced to begin with.

Overall, the book feels incomplete; incomplete visually, emotionally, and most of all, plot-wise. Everything is setup for future volumes, and we never actually see the heroes that are promised to us by the cover illustration, merely two scared little boys.

Sons of Liberty
written by Alexander and Joseph Lagos
art by Steve Walker
color by Oren Kramek
letters by Chris Dickey
published by Random House (New York, 2010)
ISBN 978-0-375-85670-09

A Foodie in Scandinavia

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

It’s amazing that with all the food comics we’ve posted here on the blog, that it took me this long to discover Mostly About Food, a comic blog that is exactly what it says it is: mostly about food. Created by Danish artist Kalle Räihä with installments released at irregular intervals between 2006 and 2008, the comics cover a wide variety of topics, from cooking (with recipes), eating at restaurants, farming, and the occasional bit of cultural background.

Räihä has a bit of a sense of humor and he’s very honest about his own failings, both as a comic artist and a foodie, which makes for very refreshing reading. His art isn’t spectacular and his life drawings seem amateurish and/or awkward at times, but he makes up for it with a willingness to vary and experiment with his style, and he displays a solid understanding of how a comic should work. As he says, “The text and pictures should complement each other, which means that the text should only tell the things that the picture can’t.”

Simply delectable.

With Great Power Comes Great Unemployment

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

A few weeks back, Marvel announced a partnership with New York City to promote unemployment resources. Their collaboration began with Spider-Man: You’re Hired, a free comic book released on Marvel’s Mobile App and in the November 18th edition of the New York Daily News. As it is now December, your best bet is to read the comic using the app or hit eBay if you’d prefer a hard copy.

It's a shame he can't put Spidey on the resume... The issue begins with Peter Parker and Aunt May on the subway as Pete begins his job search after J. Jonah Jameson gave him the boot. The book is deliberately vague about this to try and make it relevant to current continuity while still being accessible to the everyman. In the Marvel Universe they might have Obama as President, but local politicians won’t necessarily reflect to real life—J. Jonah Jameson is the current mayor of NYC in the comics. Heck, Peter was fired for doctoring a photo of J.J. beating the pants off of a super-villain to make Jameson look good; that’s a bit of trivia normal people don’t care about. Instead of Marvel’s mayor we get Mayor Bloomberg, who happens to show up on the very train the Parkers are riding on (coincidence of coincidences)!

Here is where the issue really starts going into advertisement mode. Bloomberg has a few ideas for Peter’s job search; most of them revolve around Workforce1, New York’s free workforce placement and training centers. They’re available throughout the five boroughs, which helps since the Parkers live in Queens. Two pages after getting off the subway, Peter winds up having to sneak away for a quick change, as The Vulture is running away with a load of stolen money.

Spidey makes short work out of the flying villain and returns to Bloomberg, only to then be called away to assist Iron Man in fighting a giant mechanical dinosaur. Creative, I’ll give them that. By the time this is all over, Mayor Bloomberg has given Aunt May all the information Peter will need. Oh, and Bloomberg either figured out Peter is Spider-Man or is simply playing mind games with him. Either way, Peter spends about three minutes combined with the Mayor and the comic is over. It’s a silly little romp with a giant dinosaur but it does get its message through pretty well. Warren Simons is the writer, which is, as far as I know, his first writing gig. He’s worked as an editor for Marvel in the past, so that does count partially as writing. On the art side is Todd Nauck, one of my favorites. He worked on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man with Peter David and drew Obama when he appeared in Amazing Spider-Man so good choice there to draw Mike Bloomberg’s comic book alter-ego.

I've seen the parrots before.  They're cool.

Would I recommend this to someone looking to get a job in New York City? Sure. It gives some good tips and isn’t difficult to flip through if you have an iPod or iPhone. Plus, the price point of “free” is always good. I’ll just make sure to leave out the fact that Peter Parker is already no longer jobless in the Marvel Universe and that he got the job through partial nepotism, not Workforce1. Oh well.

Clinton and Palin: Part Deux

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Bluewater Productions started their Female Force line in late 2008 with biographies of two women who were very much in the public eye at the time: Sarah Palin and Hillary Rodham Clinton. As you’re probably aware, their stars haven’t faded since then, and now Bluewater has announced a pair of follow up releases to illuminate their recent exploits.

Take 2 of these and call Palin in the morning.Hillary Second Comic

Out first is Female Force Sarah Palin: Take 2, written by Dan Rafter with art by Nathan Carson, focusing on Palin’s life post-potential VP. This will include her job with FOX News, the Tea Party speeches, her reality show Sarah Palin’s Alaska, and of course, her presidential aspirations for 2012. As you can see by the cover, Bluewater is fully embracing the discomfort both Democrats and Republicans have felt at times thanks to Palin’s actions and words.

As an example, the Bluewater comic references the speech in which Palin had jotted notes on her palm. Her critics savaged her. But Palin, much like Ronald Reagan did throughout his political career, used humor to turn a potential mistake into a victory when she showed up at a later speech with the words “Hi, Mom” written on her palm.

As for Hillary Clinton, her comic lies outside the Female Force line. Writer Jerome Maida and artist Laura Guzzo present Political Power: Hillary Clinton #1, focusing on Clinton’s time after the election, including her position as President Obama’s Secretary of State. Of course, they also hint at her running for President in 2012 as well. The Palin comic is scheduled for release in January, while Hillary Clinton gets hers in March. Both issues will be 32 pages and retail at $3.99. Will I be writing a post about Palin and Clinton’s third Bluewater comic books come 2012? Probably.

Meanwhile, in the Real World…

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Post frequency has been a bit erratic on this blog lately, mostly because of a little thing called life getting in the way. And now, a series of bad illustrations to um, illustrate:

In November, there was a wedding (not mine):

A vacation (mine):

The happiness level of this photo is misleading

And then, in December, there was the sick (very much mine):

Hopefully, the new year will bring more posts and fewer bad drawings.

Out and About: Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Tomorrow is the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival; a one-day event, but hey, it’s free. And the exhibitors include Drawn & Quarterly, where Adrian Tomine will have advances available of his upcoming book, Scenes from an Impending Marriage.

Of interest on the schedule:

Lynda Barry drew the syndicated weekly comic strip Ernie Pook’s Comeek for more than two decades, and has authored books including CruddyOne Hundred DemonsWhat It Is, and this year’s Picture ThisCharles Burns is the author of acclaimed graphic novel Black Hole and the recent full color book X’ed Out. Join us for this conversation between two extraordinary artists who also share a personal history as former classmates.

Take a peek at the entire schedule here. The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival takes place Saturday, December 4, from 12pm to 9pm, at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Williamsburg.

275 North 8th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Cookbook Comic Cavalcade

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

We love comics, and we love cooking, and we’re always happy when the two are combined, which is why it’s particularly gratifying to hear that TGT Media is working on a cookbook featuring artwork and characters from many popular webcomic creators. On top of gathering all that fantastic talent in one place, the proceeds from sales of the book will go to Feeding America and Food Banks Canada.

How can you help? Well, right now the book is in pre-order; you can place an order here ($20 + $4.95 shipping). Or you can do one better and donate to the Kickstarter campaign. In order to make this book happen, they need $4000 by December 17, so if you’re really interested in seeing this collection, might be time to open your wallet. Some of the Kickstarter bonuses are really quite good—$25 will net you a copy of the book, but $40 adds a mug, $75 nets you an additional PDF with exclusive bonus content, and $600 will get you original art from the book!

(via Robot 6)