Friday, July 31, 2009

Some Neato Links

Here are several links to check out this weekend:
  • Go read the new eight-page comic posted at Top Shelf's website, called The Love Eaters, by Andrew Drilon. Very cool little story that feels like an old fable or legend.
  • Did you know that you can add all of the columns at ComiXology to your rss feed reader? It's a good way to make sure you don't miss any of the very good writing on comics by Jog, Tucker Stone, Valerie D'Orazio, Noah Berlatsky, Shaenon Garrity, Karen Green, Jason Thompson, and Kristi Valenti.
  • Finally, here are two comic book review blogs that are worth your time: Squiggly Lines! and Panel Patter.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: Stitches

Stitches, by David Small, 2009, W.W. Norton & Co., 344 pages, $23.95

This autobiographical comic is basically a study of the cruelty that parents can inflict on their own children. This story is powerful, fascinating, and very upsetting.

The book is about David Small's unhappy childhood. His mother terrorizes him psychologically, his grandmother abuses him physically, and his radiologist father is mostly absent from his life except when he X-rays David to "cure" his sinus problems (this takes place a while ago).

His parents are awful. They do not fail to take out their anger on young David. They just treat him so poorly, and it killed me to see it happen. For instance, here's a pretty rotten thing for a mother to say to her son:

The book follows David's discovery of a lump on his neck and the removal of the lump years later, and it shows how he narrowly avoided following in his parents' miserable footsteps. (I wouldn't have minded seeing more of him as a happy, successful adult, after watching him suffer so much as a kid.)

I should say that I had never heard of Small before reading this book, probably because this is his first published comic book. He is not some neophyte, however -- he has illustrated over 40 picture books, he won the 1997 Caldecott Honor and The Christopher Medal for “The Gardener" and the 2001 Caldecott Medal for “So, You Want To Be President?”, and his drawings have appeared regularly in The New Yorker and The New York Times.

You can see his background in his art style: his drawings sometimes have the feeling of being newspaper illustrations. He excellently portrays emotions and body language, and he also creates some searing images, like the one of his mother above. Other pictures are just beautifully sad, like this one of six-year-old David undergoing treatment:

Be warned, this is a difficult thing to read. I found myself wanting to reach into the book and rescue David. When a piece of art has that strong of an effect on me, however, I take it as a sign of excellence. This is a very good comic book and I highly recommend it.

READ MORE: Here's a YouTube video where Small talks about the book. Here's an excerpt, and Small's website also has a slideshow. Here's a nice long interview with Small. And here's a neat little review of the book in comic strip format.

BUY IT: From Amazon here: Stitches

Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buy This Comic on Wednesday, July 29, 2009: Northlanders vol. 2: The Cross and the Hammer

Buy This Comic is a new ongoing feature here at I Love Rob Liefeld in which I recommend one comic book -- and one book only* -- arriving on shelves on Wednesday.

This week's pick is:

Northlanders volume 2: The Cross and the Hammer, written by Brian Wood, art by Ryan Kelly, cover by Massimo Carnevale, Vertigo, 144 pages, $14.99

According to the solicitation:
The second NORTHLANDERS collection, featuring issues #11-16, takes place during the tail end of Viking rule in Ireland. A series of mysterious murders and arsons against wealthy citizens leaves the Viking occupiers worried that a potential uprising might ignite. When surprising details involving the crimes are revealed, though, their jobs become much harder! Once again, writer Brian Wood teams with artist Ryan Kelly (Local) for an intriguing, gorgeously rendered peek at the inner workings of society.
I really liked the first collection of this series (it ended up at #6 on my list of the Best Comics of 2008). I'm betting that the second collection also will deliver the goods.

Here's my review of Northlanders volume 1: Sven the Returned and, just for kicks, my review of Wood and Kelly's Local.

*Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Best Comics of 2008 Meta-List: A Call for Help

Last year Dick Hyacinth put together a "meta-list" of the best comic books of 2007 that aggregated the lists of critics across the internet and in print.

He was working on doing the same thing for the best comic books of 2008, but he never posted a meta-list. In fact, he hasn't written anything on his website since March 13, 2009.

I'd like to complete his project and post a Best Comics of 2008 Meta-List. (I've e-mailed Dick to ask for his permission to do this, but he hasn't responded.) But, there are a lot of lists out there to aggregate, and it would take one person a long time to go through them and input the data.

I need your help to create a Best Comic Books of 2008 Meta-List. If you are interested in helping out:
  • Send me an e-mail using the "contact me" link on the top right of this site.
  • After enough people have responded, I will send each person links to a few lists and a spreadsheet.
  • You will input the data from the lists into the spreadsheet and then send it back to me.
  • After everybody has sent me their spreadsheets, I will smush them all together, run the numbers, and post the meta-list.
Please volunteer! The more people that help, the less that each person will need to do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What Beloved Comic Book Series Will Be Canceled in 2010?

Here are some sales figures on recent ongoing Marvel series that were critically well-received but quickly canceled due to lackluster sales. One from 2006-2007, one from 2007-08, and one from 2008-2009.

#1 - 41,041
#2 - 29,911
#3 - 27,126
#4 - 26,728
#5 - 30,818
#6 - 24,626
#7 - 24,245
#8 - 23,059
#9 - 22,357
#10 - 21,644
#11 - 22,259
#12 - 21,574

#1 - 57,264
#2 - 40,274
#3 - 33,936
#4 - 29,746
#5 - 26,311
#6 - 24,446
#7 - 21,539
#8 - 19,194
#9 - 18,317
#10 - 17,301

#1 - 43,281
#2 - 37,986
#3 - 39,100
#4 - 36,826
#5 - 32,999
#6 - 28,033
#7 - 22,189
#8 - 21,236
#9 - 18,483
#10 - 20,627
#11 - 17,757
#12 - 19,992
#13 - 17,947

Anyone want to guess what series will be 2009-2010's version?


#1 - 34,449
#2 - 26,783
#3 - 29,748
#4 - 25,377
#5 - 25,207

(Sales figures taken from Paul O'Brien's posts on The Beat. David Uzumeri also came up with Agents of Atlas when I posted this question on Twitter. I should note that Matt Fraction has stated that The Order only was canceled because he wanted to move on to other projects.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Review: Little Mouse Gets Ready

Little Mouse Gets Ready, by Jeff Smith, 2009, Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95

This children's comic book is about a little mouse getting dressed so that he can join his family on their trip to the local barn. It's a cute tale that makes big moments out of small things that are difficult for kids: putting on your socks, fitting a button through a buttonhole, making sure to do everything in the right order even though all you want to do is to go play.

It was written and illustrated by Jeff Smith, who is widely-regarded as one of the top cartoonists on the planet because of his smashingly successful Bone comic book series. Smith plays to his audience here: the narrative is very easy to follow, the drawings are bright and cheery, and there is a nice little punch-line to wrap everything up.

It's sweet and simple, and perfect to read to very young children (or to give to a beginning reader to read to himself or herself).

READ MORE: Here's a three-page excerpt. And here's an interview with Smith about the book.

BUY IT: The book will be available in September 2009. You can pre-order it from Toon Books here or from Amazon here: Little Mouse Gets Ready

RELATED: My reviews of other Toon Books:
Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

So Long Wednesday Comics, It's Been Nice Knowing You. (I'll Be Back When You're Done.)

I decided this morning to stop buying individual issues of Wednesday Comics, the weekly 15-page oversized-format anthology, because I suddenly realized that 12 issues of the thing will run me $47.88. That's a lot of cash, even divided over three months, and especially when I'd rather buy the thing in its (probably cheaper) collected form.

Although I enjoyed much about the first issue -- the art on the whole was pretty great, I liked the novelty of unfolding those big newspaper sheets, and Paul Pope's page in particular stood out -- the fact that each story was a single page really hamstrung the book. There just wasn't enough content there for me, and I'd rather be able to read each story as a whole.

So, I'll be biding my time with this one, ready to pay for the collection.

A few thoughts about some of the stories in issue #1:
  • As I said above, Paul Pope's page was my favorite. He seemed to pack in more detail and fun little things than the others, and used the large format to its advantage.
  • My second-favorite piece might be the Demon/Catwoman story. Solid art, neat concept, and a nice little bundle of information contained in that page. You just know she's gonna get into trouble, and I'm probably looking forward to reading the rest of this story more than any of the others.
  • The Teen Titans page was pretty worthless as both an introduction or a teaser, and I thought that the art would have benefited from brighter colors that were more suitable for the style.
  • I liked the Kubert's Sergeant Rock page, mostly because of their simple, almost utilitarian choice to use nine equally-sized panels. That made a nice contrast to the other, more flashy stories in the book, and something about it fits nicely with the art and the character. Plus Joe Kubert's art is just excellent.
  • The Wonder Woman story was kind of a mess. Too many words and itty-bitty panels made it a chore to read, and opening with a dream sequence to deliver a ton of exposition isn't a very exciting way to start your story.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Those Image Moments: Weapon Zero's shiny spiky bits.

Here's another aspect of a '90's Image comic book that I really liked when I was a teenager: the techno-organic designs of Joe Benitez in Weapon Zero (written by Benitez and Walter Simonson).

Here are a few examples from issues T-4 and T-2:

(click to enlarge)

Other Image Moments:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Those Image Moments: Super Patriot goes klik klak klik klak.

Continuing our tour of early '90s Image comic book moments that have stayed with me all these years, that's Super Patriot up there, from 1993's Super Patriot #1, written by Erik Larsen and Keith Giffen and drawn by Dave Johnson.

Johnson's art was fantastic in this mini-series, and he came up with some very creative ways to show off Super Patriot's super power, which was that his arms could change into guns. (Gotta love those '90s comics.)

Below is a three-page action sequence that I still think is just terrifically executed. All you need to know is that Super Patriot has been sent to an island to investigate some bad guys:

(click to enlarge)

Other Image Moments:

Friday, July 10, 2009

It's a doggie seance!

Dark Horse has posted the short story "Beasts of Burden: Stray" from 2003's The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings. It's written by Evan Dorkin and drawn by Jill Thompson. Check it out here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Those Image Moments: Wetworks strikes a pose.

Let's take a look at another Image comic book moment that struck my fancy back in the day, this time from Whilce Portacio's Wetworks #6:

(click to enlarge)

I'm not sure why this image has stuck with me since I first saw it; I think it has something to do with the dude with the battle axe.

I preferred Portacio's art to that of Jim Lee or Eric Silvestri (two other Image founders who drew books about superhero teams), and I stuck with Wetworks for the first fifteen issues. Wetworks appeared to be building a nifty universe of supernatural creatures, which I thought was cool back then. Plus, that gold skin looked great with the computer coloring (not pictured above).

I seem to remember the plot moving forward about an inch, and after Portacio stopped drawing it I quickly lost interest.

Other Image Moments:

Those Image Moments: the Savage Dragon has serious hops.

I've written before about a specific moment from an early 90's Image comic book, and I thought I'd share another one from that period. Like that Youngblood panel, I thought this was awesome when I first read it, and I never forgot it.

This is from Savage Dragon #1, by Erik Larsen:

(click to enlarge)

Looking at it now, it's still pretty awesome. You can probably guess what happens on the next page, and I just wanted to focus your attention on this one. Part of what makes this great is that Larsen didn't show the Dragon crouching, pushing off the ground, or on his way up -- the cop is in the middle of a sentence and by the time she can say another word, he is already several stories in the air and flipped.

That's pretty sweet, and a nice use of the comic book form.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Adrian Tomine should loosen up.

Adrian Tomine printed some letters on the back cover of his comic book Optic Nerve #2, published in 1995 by Drawn & Quarterly.

I thought one in particular was kind of neat, so I thought I'd share it.


Jog smurfs Belgium.

This is from a few months back, but I thought I'd link to it in case anybody missed it. It's my favorite work of comic book criticism this year.

Jog on the politics of smurfing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Marvel's 1993 Annual Report, Part 3

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3

Although there isn't as much awesomeness in this section, the financial data and discussion should be enough to keep all you amateur comic book historians happy. Make sure you check out the last page, for the extra-special surprise!

(my scanner automatically captured the text-only pagesin lower resolution and black and white, for some reason)

(inside rear cover)

And what's this attached to the rear cover? Is it.... TRADING CARDS? A limited set of four trading cards? YES I'LL HAVE THOSE.

And what's this on the back of the cards? Highlights of the history and future prospects of four of Marvel's top properties, including discussion of James Cameron's upcoming Spider-Man movie? And the upcoming X-Men movie featuring Wolverine? YESSSSSSS.

I hope you all enjoyed this peek into the high-flying past of comic books, a time when Marvel counted on both comic book speculators AND trading card speculators. (And why oh why would they choose Fleer? Even Donruss would have been better.)

As for me, I hung on to my four shares through the wild ride of 1993 - 1994, when they shot up from the purchase price of $16 to at least twice that amount, then split into eight shares, and then tumbled downward to something bad.

I also got Marvel's 1994 Annual Report, which I may one day share with everyone (trust me, it's not half as interesting), and then sold my shares for a small loss. I can't remember what I ultimately sold them for; a nickle and some lint from Stan Lee's pocket, probably.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3