Local Comics Store Spotlight: All Star Comics

This article was originally published on February 15, 2017 at ComicBook.Com.

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The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it. If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.

This year on ComicBook.Com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.

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Comics is not an industry filled with overnight success stories. Almost every big name in the business, from creators to stores, is built on a long history that finally led to a break. That doesn’t mean there are no exceptions though. Sometimes a talent or idea is to great to go unrecognized for long. That’s the case with All Star Comics in Melbourne, Australia. After only 6 years in business the store has already been recognized with an Eisner Award and international attention for their great work. While All Star Comics could be seen as a quick success, that shouldn’t undermine the loads of hard work they’ve done and continue to do.

When co-owners Troy and Mitch set out to open their store in 2011 they recognized that simply having comics to sell would not be enough. There is a massive cost to obtaining comics in Australia since most have to be shipped from the United States. That means bigger prices for customers and more incentives to go digital. “You need to be able to offer your customers an experience they can’t get online” says Mitch. In Australia there’s nothing you can provide customers that they can’t get cheaper from a website with the click of a button after all.

Mitch says, “We had to make All Star a place people wanted to visit.” The co-owners shared experience in comics retail made it clear there was a thriving scene of comics readers and collectors in the city of Melbourne, but there were also several other shops already. All Star Comics would have to be exceptional in order to succeed. The key to success was something much bigger than comics. “Our hope was to become hub for that activity, helping to build and grow the reach of that community of both new and old fans alike” says Mitch.

The difference at All Star Comics is clear when you walk in the door. It is a store designed to welcome and provide customers a space to explore and spread out. Rather than filling it with as much merchandise as possible, All Star Comics is selective with how it fills areas of the store and prioritizes customer experience. Mitch says “Our customers comfort while shopping with us has always been paramount and giving them the space to feel like they won’t knock something over is very important.” Rather than rushing in to find a book and feeling the urge to leave, All Star customers are invited to hang out and enjoy their surroundings.

That invitation doesn’t begin at the door either. All Star Comics also makes sure to stay involved with its community, both the people of Melbourne who already read comics and those who still need to discover them. Part of that can be found in an active social media presence. Customers can easily stay in the know even when they’re not in the store. There’s also a regular schedule of events to provide unique experiences and opportunities that the Melbourne comics community can’t find elsewhere. It’s not a competition, All Star Comics is purely interested in offering new opportunities and experiences to their customers.

Perhaps the best example of All Star Comics’ community building comes not from the owners, but one of their staff, Cazz, and two customers, Soph and Naja. Together they created and organized the All Star Women’s Comic Book Club (ASWCBC). It quickly became one of the biggest comic book clubs for women in the world and has inspired an array of similar clubs throughout Australia. Mitch says the ASWCBC was formed with the goal of “inviting women readers to spaces  they would feel comfortable in sharing their love for comics with other female fans.” It was so successful that it led to a 2-day event called the Women in Comics Festival, meant to showcase creators, teach aspiring artists about the craft, and highlight a rare international creator visit with Hope Larson. The staff at All Star Comics were incredibly proud to host the event and continue hosting the ASWCBC.

That club along with the open, friendly environment of All Star Comics has already led to a shift in the customer base over only 6 years. Mitch says that the number of women reading comics from the store has grown considerably, and the pattern shows no signs of changing. He has noticed other changes as well, like an increase in trade readers as opposed to those who like monthly pamphlets. “The market seems to be in a state of flux” Mitch says. All Star Comics is paying close attention to their customers to ensure that all of their needs are met.

All of that hard work and attention to customers paid off for All Star Comics in a big way when just after 4 years they won the Eisner Spirit of Retail Award. It’s the highest commendation for comic book stores and celebrates shops who do an outstanding job of supporting comics at large and in their communities. Looking at the accomplishments of All Star, it’s no surprise they won it.

Troy, Mitch, and their staff aren’t resting on their laurels though. Each day offers new challenges and the changes in the comics market mean they have new customers and new ideas to share. The heart of their idea remains the same though. Mitch and Troy believe that comics stores are built on the communities in which they exist and with readers who love comics or still waiting to discover their love. “They already exist and are looking for places to foster them, just reach out and make yourself known to these groups and invite them to your space” Mitch says.

Store Info

Name: All Star Comics

Address: 53 Queen Street

Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia

Phone: 61 3 8614 3700

Website: All Star Comics

Twitter: @ascmelbourne

Facebook: All Star Comics

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Advance Review of Scooter Girl

This article was originally published on February 14, 2017 at ComicBook.Com.

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Writer & Illustrator: Chynna Clugston Flores

Colorist: George Kambadais

Letterers: Bryan Lee O’Malley with Christopher Butcher

In the midst of new series being launched every month it’s easy to forget about the variety of stories that are being reprinted at Image Comics. Their mission as a publisher is not purely to support new work, but revive comics that might not have received enough attention or credit on their initial outings. Nowhere is that mission more clear than in the newly issued collections of cartoonist Chynna Clugston Flores. In addition to the newly colored volumes of her Blue Monday stories, Image Comics is re-releasing Scooter Girl, originally published by Oni Press in 2003.

The new edition of Scooter Girl is perfectly timed to land on the week of Valentine’s Day. New readers will be delighted to discover a screwball romantic comedy that could compete with the absolute best of them. It is the story of Ashton Archer, a seemingly irredeemable snob who has his life made, until he encounters Margaret Sheldon in high school. Archer is instantly taken by Sheldon who has absolutely no interest in him. Even worse he becomes a klutz and loses everything he cherishes almost overnight. Archer is forced to move to San Diego where things are seemingly going well until he sees Sheldon again after 5 years.

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The cartooning in Scooter Girl is some of the best you’re likely to encounter in American comics. Some might compare the work to Scott Pilgrim or a grown version of Archie Comics, but comparisons do a disservice to the work. Like all great cartooning it is entirely itself at all times, crafting a world that is consistent and unique. Faces and fashion receive a great deal of emphasis. Lines are carefully chosen to make each character stand out with clear emotions, but maintain the seeming simplicity of design. Outfits, clubs, and scooters are all detailed enough to take on a life of their own. The mod scene of 90s San Diego feels like a real place in these pages and it’s easy to imagine emulating some character’s sense of fashion.

Scooter Girl never draws too much attention to its own style in order to avoid distracting from the story itself. Even separated into five chapters, it’s difficult to set down the volume once it is begun. Each page packs in information and jokes, all while moving the story ahead. Even a detour into the long line of successful Archer men doesn’t feel like a distraction. It builds out the world and establishes a lot of humor to come later in the story. Each tangent is so engaging that a guide on how scooters are constructed would likely be considered “whiz-bang” in the hands of this team.

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The addition of color to the story is well deployed, creating not just an extra coat of paint, but a purposeful new depth to the story. In particular the clothing and places of this very fashion oriented San Diego subculture come out better with colors to define how men and women dress. It also works to accentuate the wide array of emotions and offer a better sense of place in each scene.

Scooter Girl makes the case for romance comics on the week of Valentine’s Day. Like the best romantic comedies, it doesn’t go for the easy jokes or set ups. There’s a meanness to many of the interactions and the punchlines sting. But it’s hard to stop loving even the worst characters or set down the story. With such an immersive world and with a story told with such style, it doesn’t matter what you normally like to read, Scooter Girl is worth checking out.

Grade: A-

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What to Expect From The Wildstorm Relaunch

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 13, 2017.

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DC Comics has spent the last year shaking up the direct market and superhero comics in America; they don’t appear to be slowing down either. As the second wave of Rebirth Comics including Super Sons, Batwoman, and Justice League begin to hit shops, so will their second pop-up imprint. Following the success of Young Animal under the leadership of Gerard Way, DC Comics is launching the first of at least four planned series this week under the revived Wildstorm banner.

Wildstorm was originally a comics imprint founded by Jim Lee in 1992 after he left Marvel Comics to co-found Image Comics. It was a combination of two of Lee’s superhero series: WildC.A.T.S. and Stormwatch, but would continue to publish a wide variety of stories including The Maxx and Ex Machina. It was purchased by DC Comics in 1999 and continued until it was officially shut down in 2010. That wasn’t the end for the many characters associated with Wildstorm though as they began to appear in New 52 series and were officially incorporated into the modern DC Universe in Multiversity.

Now the characters created by Lee, his collaborators, and many other comics creators are being given another shot in a world of their own. Under the leadership of Warren Ellis, new teams of editors, artists, and writers (many of whom are still unannounced) will launch 4 series that reflect different aspects of these 25 year old concepts. The Wildstorm, the first of the four series, written by Ellis himself and drawn by Jon Davis-Hunt launches this week. It is the centerpiece of the imprint introducing the world and many of the characters who will soon be given their own titles. We’ve already had a chance to look at #1 and it’s everything Wildstorm fans could have hoped for, packed with new ideas and designs. After checking out The Wildstorm #1 we expect this new imprint to be just as successful as Young Animal, if not more so. So for those of you considering checking it out, we’ve come up with a brief primer on why we’re so excited for what comes next.

Here’s what you can expect from the future of Wildstorm.

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The Wildstorm

Creative Team: Warren Ellis (writer), Jon Davis-Hunt (artist), and Ivan Plascencia (colorist)

Launch Date: February 15, 2017

The Wildstorm is the only series with a complete creative team and official launch date so far. That’s not a surprise though as it is the series establishing what Wildstorm is for a brand new generation of readers. Those already familiar with the brand will recognize a lot of names and ideas, but Ellis and his collaborators are treating this launch as a true #1 where no pre-existing knowledge will be required. That doesn’t mean The Wildstorm is holding any hands though. In the first issue alone it introduces around a dozen characters, multiple organizations, and a handful of deserving sub-plots. This series shows Ellis at his most intricate designing a universe from the ground up with all of the possible considerations taken into account.

That is what makes The Wildstorm so thrilling too. There’s a lot happening on every page and it’s a delight to engage with whether the scene features a techno-organic suit punching through the sky or two spies discussing craft in a backroom. Everything serves a purpose and readers are required to remain engaged throughout the entire comic. Unlike Young Animal where the series are connected tonally, The Wildstorm forms the centerpiece for everything that will follow. In addition to telling its story, it’s also laying down the rules for a new Earth in the DC Universe. Learning about the world is every bit as fascinating as the battles occurring on the page, and that’s what will make The Wildstorm required reading for the rest of the imprint’s launch.

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Michael Cray

Creative Team: Warren Ellis (writer) and unannounced others

Launch Date: Unknown

Many comics readers will recognize Michael Cray by his alter-ego Deathblow. This second series is also being written by Ellis and is already in production. Cray is still an elite assassin working with IO (International Operations), but he’s not wearing a mask and is designed to look and act much more like a real world killer.

Cray is already appearing in the pages of The Wildstorm and it’s easy to see why his story is one that will require more space to tell. He’s one of the best at what he does and has a past filled with secrets already being hinted at. Even with a boss in the frame, it’s unclear who Michael Cray is really working for and what his role in Wildstorm will be by the time his series debuts.

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WildC.A.T.S.

Creative Team: Unknown

Launch Date: Unknown

The WildC.A.T.S. may be the most recognizable set of characters in the 4 series announced so far, but they’re also the biggest wildcard. In the first issue of The Wildstorm there presence is not yet made known to readers although famous figures like Grifter have been shown in teasers. It’s difficult to guess how they might feature given Wildstorm’s restrained design and lean towards realism.

There are a lot of great characters within this group though and the reinventions of Michael Cray and Zealot in The Wildstorm #1 lend excitement to see how someone like Maul or Warblade. For now we can only speculate on who the WildC.A.T.S. will be and what they will do, and hope to learn more very soon.

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Zealot

Creative Team: Unknown

Launch Date: Unknown

Zealot may be the last of the series to launch, but its her face that first appears in The Wildstorm #1. Davis-Hunt makes a clever allusion to her previous appearance, but the Zealot of this new imprint is unlike any previous incarnation. She’s still super competent and a ruthless killer, but her style and methods are much more in line with the realities of assassins and spies.

That first scene in The Wildstorm provides all the reasons you might want for a Zealot series. Her ability to act and interact in this technologically-advanced world filled with secrets makes her one of the most powerful players in the game. She’s cunning and has a wicked sense of humor that arises through understatements aplenty. Zealot may not have been the biggest character of the old Wildstorm, but she’s bound to be the breakout star of this new imprint.

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Can Sports Comics Thrive in America?

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 12, 2017.

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Talking about mainstream American comics can sometimes sound like an echo chamber. There’s a consistent refrain concerning the need for comics that are about more than superheroes, but besides recent surges in the science-fiction and horror genres, it seems unclear what else readers are interested in checking out at their local shops. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a bevy of genres and interests just waiting to be explored though.

Just consider the wide world of sports!

If you’ve never read a sports comic before, this is no joke. Sports are just as viable of a genre in comics as they are in film or television and just think about how often we celebrate movies about boxing or baseball. There’s an innate drama to these competitions whether it’s found in underdog stories, team dynamics, or great rivalries. Sports form a perfect pretext on which to build great narratives and provide an existing fan base and easily discovered systems to boot. You don’t need to build as much of a world when everyone already knows how basketball is played. So that leads us to the question: Are sports comics viable in the American market?

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Sports Comics in Japan

Before we consider what can be accomplished in America, it’s important to look abroad. We may not think of sports comics as a popular thing, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world shares that perspective. Considering what has been accomplished in other markets could make for a great measuring stick as to what could be done here. Just take the manga market in Japan, for example.

Among the thriving comics scene in Japan is a dedicated section of books and fans dedicated to the sports genre. Covering a wide variety of activities, including baseball, basketball, and even figure skating, sports mangas generate big readers and big sales. It’s important to keep in mind that manga is a much more mainstream fare that is still featured prominently at newsstands and in bookstores throughout Japan. However, if that is the goal in America, then considering the diversity of stories available in a very successful comics market like Japan’s makes a lot of sense.

There are a few key success stories to consider. Cross Game is a baseball comic about children growing up in love with the game. It connects baseball to its roots in a community and establishes how the love for this game can build individuals with strong character as well as arms. Haikyuu!! and Slam Dunk are two other very popular series covering volleyball and basketball, respectively. Their emphasis on teamwork and competition make for incredibly exciting plots and interpersonal drama. Those who have read them will know that what happens in a single match can be just as thrilling as any superhero battle.

It is also worth noting the many times in which sports is used as a sub-genre within a series. The very popular Assassination Classroom featured a subplot in which the students of Class E were forced to compete in a schoolwide baseball tournament. Their strategization and hard work reinforced themes of the series while offering readers a new sort of adventure (one with far less guns). No matter where you look in Japan, it’s clear that sports are a popular aspect to manga. Whether they feature as the main event or a fun distraction, they attract readers and maintain interest. That in turn indicates that sports comics can be executed successfully, if nothing else.

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Sports Comics in America Today

The use of baseball in Assassination Classroom might remind some superhero fans of how Chris Claremont would regularly use sports in his X-Men comics. The team would play baseball or, later, basketball together in downtime between missions. Claremont and his collaborators would utilize these sequences to show off both the team’s working dynamics and their superpowers. It was a fantastic display of how sports could be utilized to enhance another genre altogether.

Looking at how sports play into mainstream comics today though, it’s clear there’s an obvious lack of selection. Of course, you can always find Gil Thorp in your local newspaper, but that’s not likely to get anyone too excited or attract new readers. That isn’t to say that some creators haven’t been trying new ideas. The Image Comics series Mara was all about an elite athlete and utilized sports as a way to discuss politics. However, it didn’t do incredibly well and doesn’t make for a great argument on a growing American audience for sports comics.

That argument could be made with great sports comics coming from smaller publishers though. There is no better example of that than Fantasy Sports published by Nobrow Press. Each volume of the series combine beloved sports with rollicking adventures in order to create all-ages adventures. In the first volume the heroes of the tale are forced to square off against a mummy in a game of basketball. While elements of fantasy and adventure pervade the story, it’s a great story about basketball at its heart.

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Sports Comics of Tomorrow

Fantasy Sports is a multi-volume effort and the critical acclaim behind its earliest entries help show how it could provide an entrypoint for future sports comics. While Nobrow may not have the reach of a publisher like Image Comics or Dark Horse, you only need to show a comics fan or young reader Fantasy Sports in order to see their eyes light up. It’s a beautifully drawn series with action that moves as fast as squeaking sneakers down the court. For publishers or creators looking to try something new, it shows how to do sports comics well in the American market.

That will likely be the biggest hurdle that sports comics face, as well. It’s not simply about making them, but making them so that they deserve an audience. Many artists can draw a homerun, but very few can sell the thrill in the stadium when a ball exits the park. Doing it right is the key and it’s in comics like Fantasy Sports and many, many sports manga that those lessons can be learned. It’s possible to imagine a series focused purely on X-Men baseball games or the Marvel heroes poker nights doing well given the right talent.

So there’s no reason why sports comics can’t thrive in America. Great comics with quirky premises or uncommon genres find audiences all of the time. The resurgence of the Archie brand and Chynna Clugston Flores’ work shows how goofy teen comics will find an audience when executed well. It’s up to creators to tell stories about football and baseball and synchronized swimming that inspire the imagination and drive the spirit.

To steal a line from a famous sports movie: If you build it, they will come.

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5 Best Kingpin Stories Ever

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 10, 2017.

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February is Daredevil month as Marvel Comics roles out a brand new line encompassing the character’s world in three new ongoing series. Last week we highlighted one of them with a list of the greatest Bullseye stories ever. Now we’re back for more as Kingpin #1 hits stands. For as much damage as Bullseye has done, Kingpin is the definitive Daredevil villain. In every adaptation to television or film, Kingpin features most prominently and he has been the mastermind behind all of the Man Without Fear’s greatest losses.

Now he’s back with a series of his own, following the Civil War II mini-series, written by Matthew Rosenberg and art by Ben Torres. It’ll be interesting to see where the villain goes now after so many highs and lows over the past couple of decades. However, fans looking to learn more about Kingpin or discover what makes the character truly great don’t need to wait for any new issues to land. We’ve collected the five best Kingpin stories ever told so far right here. So click ahead to see what you should be reading to find out why Wilson Fisk is Daredevil’s archenemy and one of Marvel’s absolute best villains.

“Born Again”

Issues: Daredevil (vol. 1) #227-233

Written by Frank Miller

Drawn by David Mazzuchelli

Colored by Christie Scheele

This isn’t just the best Kingpin story ever created, it’s also the best Daredevil story ever created. “Born Again” features this pair at their absolute best and their very worst. It’s the closest anyone has ever come to breaking the hero of Hell’s Kitchen. After countless battles and the loss of his wife and empire, Kingpin has decided to finally crush Daredevil. He goes about it in the most methodical of manners with each decision made to inflict the most pain. It highlights both why Kingpin is a brilliant strategist and an entirely irredeemable villain. While he never allows himself to smile too much, the joy he takes in this plan is palpable on the page.

“Born Again” is Frank Miller at his absolute best and no one better has ever tackled these characters. He blends a complete understanding of character with some of the most memorable concepts and decisions in superhero comics. Mazzuchelli’s execution of these comics is every bit as good, if not better, than when he teamed with Miller for “Year One”. In his inks Kingpin’s massive brawn can be felt moving between panels and he is a truly fearsome figure to behold. Nowhere else has Kingpin been as intimidating or well-realized as in “Born Again”, a true comics classic.

“Kingpin”

Issues: Punisher MAX #1-5

Written by Jason Aaron

Drawn by Steve Dillon

Colored by Matt Hollingsworth

The downside of writing The Punisher is that it’s very difficult to feature him in stories with classic Marvel villains. If The Punisher doesn’t murder his target then he has failed, so having him face off against the Kingpin seems like a recipe for failure. That is unless he actually can kill Wilson Fisk or failure is the point of the story. Throughout Punisher MAX, Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon had it both ways, but it was best realized in their first story “Kingpin”.

Wilson Fisk may survive this battle, but it sets up a much longer war with Frank Castle and establishes just how vile he is as an antagonist. In order to survive Kingpin is willing to do anything and that really means anything. By the final issue he has crossed a line that leaves him without anything but the name he has built. Rather than having his family taken, he chooses to lose them in an absolutely chilling scene. Aaron and Dillon built their Kingpin to be the inverse of The Punisher and it really defines the character in this series.

“The Autobiography of Matt Murdock”

Issues: Daredevil (vol. 4) #15-18

Written by Mark Waid

Drawn by Chris Samnee

Colored by Matt Wilson

Samnee and Waid saved the best for last in their much lauded run on Daredevil and that means they saved The Kingpin. Revealed only at the end of their second volume, it is shown in an incredibly compelling splash just how obsessed Wilson Fisk has become with the hero who always stops him. His obsession, patience, and brilliant mind come together to form a plot that is one of the most compelling in recent Marvel Comics history.

It is never enough for Kingpin to simply win, he is an artist of organized crime and that’s the emphasis of this story. Every action he takes shows an understanding of his opponent and is designed with a specific purpose. He doesn’t display flare like many colorful villains, but details his actions like a mathematician. That exacting detail is shown in the artwork of this story as well as the choices of the character, and it’s a nice reminder of just how dangerous Wilson Fisk truly is.

“Gang War”

Issues: Daredevil (vol. 1) #170-172

Written by Frank Miller

Art by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s run on Daredevil is the stuff of legend, and for good reason. They may not have invented all of the characters involved, but they certainly defined them and their legacies. “Gang War” is the story in which they establish Kingpin as the greatest threat to Hell’s Kitchen and everything Matt Murdock strives to protect. His overwhelming machinations and immense cruelty stand in stark contrast to everything Daredevil serves.

While some might point to the later story “Spiked” in #179-181 as the highlight of the Miller and Janson run, “Gang War” is where they really decide who Kingpin is. Taking the pieces that Stan Lee and John Romita laid out in Amazing Spider-Man, they transformed the villain into a human being. The added layers of humanity served to only make Kingpin all the more frightening as he came to reflect the worst aspects of human nature.

“In The Clutches of The Kingpin”

Issues: Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #50-52

Written by Stan Lee

Drawn by John Romita

The impact that Lee and Romita had in creating the Kingpin should not be understated though. Like many classic villains, all of the key elements were there from the very start. Romita’s design for Wilson Fisk is striking in his very first appearance. He is built like a brick wall, turning his sumo-style build into something truly intimidating. Much of his power lies in the weight and size of his hands though, capable of scooping up Spider-Man and crushing him.

Even Wilson Fisk’s suit is something to be feared, clearly crafted to represent extravagant wealth and respect. He’s the boogeyman who can mingle with high society before committing murder and ruining lives. Lee and Romita lay the groundwork for everything that is to come, and it’s clear from the start that The Kingpin was bound to be one of Marvel Comics’ greatest villains ever.

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Why March is the Biggest Month for TV in 2017

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 9, 2017.

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The phrases “peak TV” and “golden age of television” have been thrown around for a long time now. It seems like each year the variety and quality of shows available to us, both on networks and through streaming services, couldn’t improve upon their current standards. That seems true right up until they do, at least. 2017 is already off to a great start and it would be foolish to suggest that 2018 and beyond don’t hold even better gems for the small screen.

So while it may be impossible to define when we will actually hit “peak TV” if we ever really do, it is possible to pick a peak month of the year. That’s coming sooner than you think in 2017. While we might all be forced to wait until summer for the return of Game of Thrones, the collection of shows continuing or debuting in March are simply unbeatable. Whether you’re a fan of genre TV or someone who keeps their eyes tuned for the next Emmy winning performances and scripts, March is bound to be the best overall month for TV in 2017.

Return of the Best TV of Today

You lead with your strongest argument and March sees the return of what may be the holy trinity of modern TV dramas: The Americans, Better Call Saul, and Fargo. The Americans has gone from an exaggerated Cold War spy thriller to something that feels a bit too close to reality sometimes. That shift hasn’t hurt the show though. It has always been driven more by its characters than its plotting, and that’s to its benefit. The story of this Russian family in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. is fast-approaching its conclusion and drawing comparisons to the tragedy of Breaking Bad. Whether it can pull off that finish has yet to be seen, but all signs from the past 4 seasons point to the answer being yes.

Speaking of Breaking Bad, its spinoff Better Call Saul has done a remarkable job of differentiating itself over its own first 2 seasons. With added humor and an entirely different personality in control, this is still a story of good intentions crumbling from dark desires, but one that stands on its own. Showrunner Vince Gilligan has always set himself apart by crafting some of the best cliffhangers on television and last year was no exception. Jimmy McGill is on the verge of success and complete destruction, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what might happen next. Even knowing the ultimate outcome, Better Call Saul still manages to be edge of your seat entertainment.

Fargo presents the biggest wildcard. As an anthology the two seasons so far have only brushed past one another in the slightest of mentions and a few overlapping characters. They all take place within the same cohesive universe, but what happens one year doesn’t indicate what will come next. Showrunner Noah Hawley draws strength from the tone, style, and themes of the Coen Brothers many movies instead. It’s possible to see their influence in every aspect of the show and it has made the past two seasons feel like a single piece. Whatever the plot, if Hawley can attain the same heights he did in season two, then Fargo is bound to be the most critically-acclaimed show on television once more.

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The Most Exciting New Shows on TV

What’s TV without something new though? March will see the continuation of two the springs hottest debuts and give all of us a clearer view of how they’ll settle into our personal DVR rankings. HBO will be continuing its new series Big Little Lies. This one is most notable for its cast, one that could only have been attained with an HBO-sized budget. Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Dern are all headliners who could hold down series of their own, and they’re bound to shine as an ensemble. If the scripts are half as stuffed with black humor and tension as previews suggest, then we may be in for some real tour de force performances from them as well.

The more fascinating continuation comes in the form of Legion on FX. This is a series that is already receiving rave reviews and that some have suggested might even exceed its showrunners other ongoing concern: Fargo. While it is based in X-Men lore, Legion is focused primarily on being a character-driven piece that toys with the nature of reality and how its cast struggles with mental illness. It’s a challenging conceit that takes advantage of every tool TV provides, including an incredible sound mix. Even competing against the likes of other shows we’ve mentioned, Legion is bound to continued standing out in March.

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The Biggest and Best Comics Adaptations

Let’s get real though, we’re called ComicBook.Com for a reason and how could we not be psyched about the huge variety of comic book adaptations on television throughout all of March. In addition to Legion, we’re looking at shows from Marvel, DC, and Image properties. You can start with the biggest of them all and think about The Walking Dead. Season 7 will build to its conclusion throughout March, promising another massive cliffhanger and more awfulness of all sorts from Negan. It’s hard to guess what the showrunners have in store to top the end of season 6, but it has to be something big.

In less depressing territory, both the Marvel and DC universes will continue to grow. The great array of shows on CW, including The Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl, will also be working on finishing their current seasons with plenty of new adventures and guest stars. Marvel will be introducing a brand new live-action hero on Netflix in the form of Flynn Jones’ Iron Fist. That ought to be exciting as it will complete the quartet of the promised Defenders mini-series. Both universes are still expanding with no obstacles on the horizon.

And there you have it. No matter what you watch TV for, March is bound to be a month of unique treats. Between FX and AMC’s many returning shows there is more prestige television than you can hope to watch on any given night. A variety of new shows are bound to please viewers seeking new styles and ideas, especially with Legion. And the continued adaptation of comics properties are bound to please fans of genre TV. Whatever angle you approach March from, it’s clearly a great month to be stuck to the couch.

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Leading Questions: Recoloring Over The Lines

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on February 9, 2017.

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Every week in a new installment of “Leading Questions”, the young, lantern jawed Publisher of Comics Bulletin Mark Stack will ask Co-Managing Editor Chase Magnett a question he must answer. However, Mark doesn’t plan on taking it easy on Chase. He’ll be setting him up with questions that are anything but fair and balanced to see how this once overconfident comics critic can make a cogent case for what another one obviously wants to hear.

So without any further ado…

Recoloring comics: the misguided destruction of a work of art or updating it for a new generation?

Thanks for the softball, bro. In a week where we decided to approve someone with no experience to oversee the dismantling of American education and a white supremacist to oversee our Justice Department, I really needed something easy to tackle.

What? You thought I wasn’t going to talk about the fact that the world has gone insane? Sorry, but there’s no escaping it. If it makes you feel better, the rest of this column will be about how recoloring comics is a really bad idea, but still not nearly as bad as electing a nepotistic, authoritarian, man-child with no ethical boundaries to the office of President.

Answering this question is easy because all you need to do is point to prominent examples and how literally none of them were a good idea. We’ve got Flex Mentallo up top, The Killing Joke in the middle, and The Incal at the bottom. The first and last of these are easily defined as classics, and the mid-point is still a well-crafted comic, albeit an incredibly overrated one. Just look at all three of these side-by-side comparisons. Now. Do it now. Did you notice how the original coloring on the left is vastly superior to the new coloring on the right?

Great. Case closed. Now we can all get back to calling our Senators.

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I’m kidding. You know I can’t actually deliver a short answer. There’s more at play here, and I do want to get into that. However, you really should still call your Senators and Representative once we’re really done here.

So I think the thing that can be dismissed out of hand is the choice to recolor a comic without any input from the original team. If DC Comics picks up Watchmen and decides it could use a new coat of paint, that’s just one more sin in their ever-growing stack of sins regarding that book. There’s no valid reason for a publisher or non-creative owner to add to or alter a work based on their own whims or desires. I’ll happily include shit like the new black-and-white edition of that book and the prequels as well. It’s all a creatively bankrupt cash grab, and we have no time for that nonsense.

There’s a bit of an exception to be made and that comes with the word “restoration”. It’s important to make a distinction between restoring colors and recoloring though. The former is meant to create the effect of the original when it has been diminished by time or wear. This is like when the Criterion Collection offers restored films. The goal with each addition was to take what was in hand and make it as much like the original experience as possible. It reveals a devotion to the artist or artist’s intent, and it’s designed to be invisible in nature. Recoloring is a reinterpretation or addition. It removes and replaces an original component of the text, creating an entirely new experience. Recoloring is the same as rewriting dialogue or redrawing panels, it alters the work in a way that denies the original’s existence.

And so here we arrive at what is probably the other exception you might expect me to make: What if the original artist wants to recolor the comic?

So? What if? I don’t fucking care. Everything I just said still stands. It alters the work in such a way as to make it something else entirely. It’s still bullshit.

Let’s tackle this subject with the example that everyone likes the least here: The Killing Joke. This comic is not a profound statement on sanity, it’s not even in the top 90% of Alan Moore’s collected works. The Killing Joke is a pretty good Batman story (top 5%, if you want more off-the-cuff categorizations) with some really spectacular artwork from Brian Bolland. Famously, Bolland wanted to color the original comic, but was unable to due to time constraints. Instead, it was colored by John Higgins.

Many years later Bolland was allowed to go back and recolor The Killing Joke because DC Comics cares about artistic vision and wanted to do right by their creators. Or because they saw a chance to cash-in on old IP while failing to make anything new or interesting. Take your pick. It’s a choose your own adventure story with a right answer, but fairy tales are fun too.

Anyway, Brian Bolland recolored The Killing Joke and it fucking sucked.

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Higgins’ colors were a garish delight. They highlighted the carnival setting and the unreality of the entire story. Bolland’s colors are dour and realistic and really don’t fit the story in any meaningful way. And you might think: Weren’t you just talking about the integrity of artist’s and their intentions?

Yeah, but let me emphasize what I’m really interested in: the integrity of the work. Comics are often a time-driven and collaborative enterprise. That means compromises are made and not everyone gets what they want, if anyone does. But all of that is present in the final work, for better or worse. The suggestion of recoloring a comic, completely removing and replacing one key element isn’t an adjustment, it’s a recreation. It doesn’t matter that a single collaborator is the source of that adjustment. The act for any reason or by anyone makes the thing itself something new.

I’m not going to dive into analogies with movies because some are close and others not so much depending on the alterations. But we can all agree Lucas’ new versions of the original films suck just as much as the alterations made by Bolland to The Killing Joke. Both of these people took something that was made better by their creative compromises with talented creators and limited constraints, then went hogwild turning standards into horseshit.

My bottom line here is that the work is the work. The Incal, Flex Mentallo, The Killing Joke, and so many other comics came to be considered classics because of what they are. Recoloring them is to discard the classic and try to offer an imitation as the same thing. It’s iron pyrite. Even worse, it dismisses the value of the colorist in the actual classics as if their work is shoddy when it ought to be revered.

So fuck recoloring comics.

But what about adding color? If you’re expecting more tirade, you’re out of luck. Adding color is fine if the creators are into it. Just check out new editions of Scott Pilgrim with colors by Nathan Fairbairn or Blue Monday with colors by Jordie Bellaire. Those comics fucking rock. They also present themselves as alternative takes, new ways to look at familiar material with the additions of talented artists working with the original creators.

Essentially, those comics are honest and almost no recolored comic ever is.

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Local Comics Store Spotlight: Legend Comics & Coffee

This article was originally published on February 09, 2017.

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The foundation of ComicBook.Com is comics. While we love to cover all aspects of pop and geek culture, our roots lie in the comics community and the plethora of characters and stories that have sprung from it. If you speak with anyone in the comics community about what has made the medium successful in North America, you’ll quickly discover one answer that stands far above the rest: local comics stores. They are the bedrock of comics in the United States and Canada, supporting fans, communities, and conventions with open doors and a dedicated staff.

This year on ComicBook.Com we are highlighting this important aspect of comics and culture by taking a look at one local comic store each week. These are stores that embody what it means to support culture and community. We hope you can visit some of them throughout 2017.

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Many large cities only have a handful of local comics stores, venues dedicated to the weekly Wednesday rush of picking up new stories and catering to an obsessive collection of what has come before. It’s still a niche hobby in America and requires a dedicated audience to support a single storefront. That’s why so many people are shocked to learn that Omaha, Nebraska has never had less than 6 stores over the past 20 years. Even after the 90s crash, Omaha was a small city that loved comics and capably maintained one of the best selections of stores not only in the Midwest, but throughout the country. So how does a single comics store distinguish itself from all of the others? That’s the question Legend Comics & Coffee had to answer.

The store was founded by Jason Dasenbrock and Wendy Pivonka when they found themselves dissatisfied with their careers. Considering what they could do, if they could do anything, the answer was clear: open a comic book store. That decision is much easier made than supported though. They recognized the obvious hurdles ahead, including a wide swath of competition. However, moving to a larger market would mean larger costs and less familiarity, so they decided to go for it in Omaha. Jason says, “we saw an opportunity to bring a new kind of comic shop to Omaha.”

“Coffee” wasn’t always part of the name, but it was always part of the plan. The couple were inspired by the Des Moines store Cup O’ Kryptonite, but needed to start small in order to finance the expansion. Throughout their first few years in business they established a loyal fanbase and reputation for being exceedingly knowledgeable. Neither of them shied away from sharing which comics they loved (or hated) and would passionately engage with anyone who wanted to talk shop. From this base they found an opportunity to grow when Dave DeMarco became a partner in the store. He brought his friend and experience comics store manager Joe Patrick along for the ride, and together they all set out to open a new location. The dynamic duo became a fantastic foursome and set out to make Legend the new kind of shop Jason and Wendy had envisioned from the start.

Click ahead to find out how this team made Legend the award-winning store it is today in the heart of Omaha, NE.

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Together they moved into an historic brick building not too far from midtown Omaha. They now had the space and resources to expand “Legend Comics” into “Legend Comics & Coffee”. The store is split by a single step and long wall into two halves. In the lower portion are four walls completely covered in comics accompanied by rows of neatly stored back issues in the middle. Above is the coffee shop filled with iron chairs and tables that can be easily reorganized for a variety of events. While they are physically distinct, the two sections form a single cohesive store that encourages customers to stick around and read once they’ve purchased their comics.

It’s not just the coffee that sets Legend apart, far from it actually. The concept of having a place for people to gather when they’re not picking up or perusing comics is at the heart of what they’ve accomplished though. Jason said one goal he did not anticipate was “fostering the giant community that has sprung up around the store.” People quickly began to use Legend as a hangout and wanted to use it for even more. It was a surprise, but a good one. That attraction stems from the key tenets Jason lays out as being what he wanted to differentiate Legend from the competition: “Clean, organized, well stocked with a great variety of material and, most importantly, a friendly atmosphere.”

From that foundation Legend has become a hub for young people and creative groups throughout the Omaha area. They host both a monthly creator’s workshop for comics creators and a weekly writer’s workshop for those focused on prose. There are regular stand-up nights as well where aspiring comedians can try out new material in front of friends and strangers alike. Each of these events speaks to the energy that surrounds the shop and how it inspires its patrons to try new things and show off what they can do as well.

Legend has also been active in giving back to its city. The owners consider themselves to be a part of Omaha, both as citizens and members of the small business community. Perhaps the best-known instance of the store giving back is its annual Make-A-Wish Fundraiser. Over a few months they collect entries for a drawing in which some of the best known comics in the world will be given away. This has included Amazing Fantasy #15 and The Walking Dead #1 in the past. The effort was originally inspired by DeMarco’s niece who benefited from Make-A-Wish and he describes as a “bright, endlessly positive young woman.” Her enthusiasm and work in non-profits after surviving cancer have inspired him and his partners to do good work wherever possible.

Through all of these events, fundraisers, and unique aspects of their store, Legend has managed to not become just one of many comics stores in Omaha. They stand out amidst the crowd for being an active partner in their own community. Whether that means supporting creative endeavors, good causes, or interested youth, the owners and staff at Legend are devoted to bettering the city around them. It’s a lot of work, good work, and it all started with the dream of owning a comic book store.

 

Store Info

Name: Legend Comics & Coffee

Address: 5207 Leavenworth Street

Omaha, NE 68106

Phone: (402) 391-2377

Website: Legend Comics & Coffee

Twitter: @LegendComicsNE

Facebook: Legend Comics & Coffee

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Review: East of West #31

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 8, 2017.

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Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Nick Dragotta

Colors by Frank Martin

Letters by Rus Wooton

Published by Image Comics

Fans may complain, but the truth is that all comics are political. Anything we say or create carries meaning about how we see the world or want it to be. It is an essential truth of art and stories. There’s no avoiding that, so it’s better to focus on how it can be done well, then pretend it can’t or shouldn’t be done. East of West #31 is a sterling example of offering a perspective that is relevant and modern, but also one that cooperates with the art to tell a great story.

So much of that balance is struck in how the comic decides it is not just about one thing. It does not handpick a single war, debate, or incident to address, but encompasses a broad scope of significant themes. Readers can and almost certainly will draw connections between what happens in this single heist story and what they see on the news. There’s no point where Hickman writes a line that shouts “This is what we’re referring to!” or where Dragotta draws an exact replica of something we will all notice. There are analogs, one of which is as striking as it is ballsy, but most of the issue trusts readers to interpret and understand what is happening.

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East of West has always been a story about power. Every issue addresses that topic, but few do so with the concision of #31. While readers will recognize characters from the expansive cast, the plot focuses on a small set of new figures who might never appear again. They exist to tell the story of a single moment that will irrevocably shake the status quo. It’s a delightful romp unto itself even if you leave the politics of the series and its commentary aside. Hickman and Dragotta set it up as a classic train heist, packed with propulsive imagery of showdowns with guards and men being cast from the sky. It’s a great twist on one of the best concepts in the Western genre.

The heist is a means of embodying a generational conflict though. The robbers are the young and those they seek to steal from are the old power structure readers have come to know so well over 30 issues. With very few lines Hickman addresses both their passion and righteous fury, avoiding diatribe in favor of tone. Dragotta sells their belief better than any quips could with ragged smiles, open eyes, and clenched jaws. Whether you walk away looking at this crew as dangerous terrorists or righteous rebels, it’s impossible to doubt their commitment.

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Even after 4 years of comics, East of West is still able to surprise. It’s difficult to guess how long this one issue has been planned, but it feels as though it could have been written just yesterday based on how well it reflects the most important ideas bubbling around us now. That has always been a strength of this story though, as it addresses issues of power, change, and political failure on a continental scale. From that mix has come a single issue that is both rollicking adventure and thoughtful consideration, blending them into a sci-fi epic that really has lost none of its steam from #1.

Grade: A-

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Even More Daredevil Spinoffs We Need Now

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 5, 2017.

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For a very long time Daredevil has had just one title: Daredevil. It has been a book loaded with history and an expansive array or heroes, villains, and everything in between. The quality and consistency of Daredevil can stack up against the absolute best franchise starters throughout Marvel Comics. Compare it to Avengers or Amazing Spider-Man or X-Men and you’ll find a comic and cast that absolutely deserves the comparison. But Daredevil has never really had his own franchise like so many other teams and solo heroes. At least that was true until now.

This month sees the release of three new series tied into Daredevil all featuring some of his most interesting and consistent cast members. Kingpin, Bullseye, and Elektra are all appearing as part of a new event and the apparent launch of a full Daredevil-centric franchise. It’s a very exciting time for ol’ hornhead and all of his fans. While many of these characters have possessed a fair number of mini-series or short ongoings, they’ve never been part of a concentrated launch. Now Hell’s Kitchen and all of its greatest hits are receiving their own Marvel lineup.

Fans of the comics and television show know that the response to this announcement ought to be “It’s about time.” Assuming the rest of comics readers react the same way and make these series a success, there’s still a lot of room for growth. Where can a Daredevil franchise grow? Who else can it include? We at ComicBook.Com have a few ideas on that subject.

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Foggy Nelson, Attorney-At-Law

You probably read the title of this idea and developed a skeptical look on your face. That’s entirely fair. Foggy Nelson is the most human part of Daredevil. He doesn’t possess any superpowers and can hardly throw a punch. The guy isn’t even a great dresser. However, he is a great lawyer and Marvel Comics has a proud tradition of producing some incredible superhero comics inside the courtroom. Just consider She-Hulk and Daredevil itself if you need some examples.

Foggy provides a human perspective on the madness of the Marvel universe. He’s the man on the street who is forever connected to the high-falutin acts and dramas of the heroes. That’s a point of view worth exploring. This is a concept that could explore what it’s like to live in the world of Marvel, much like the classic Marvels. At the same time it could detail all of the excitement and lore through the lens of Foggy who must understand and defend it inside of a courtroom. There’s plenty of space in this idea for big battles and crazy ideas, but it will come with a view unlike any other.

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Gladiator

Melvin Potter must be one of the most interesting villains in all of Daredevil’s history. He is a tormented man who has done terrible things, but never really wanted any of it. Unlike many antagonists, he really is misunderstood just like Lenny from Of Mice & Men. His path to recovery and struggles to do the right thing have often provided Daredevil with dramatic stories, and they would be great on their own as well.

As Gladiator, Melvin Potter becomes a powerful combatant and cunning engineer. His weapons are fierce and his dedication to any task even more frightening. Using his physical strength and technical prowess, Gladiator could be a great force for good on the streets of New York City. Balancing that act with his internal struggles also creates a story rife with conflict and darkness, the sorts of which have fueled Daredevil for years.

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Typhoid Mary

If you think Gladiator is a conflicted character, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Typhoid Mary formed the heart of the very underrated run on Daredevil from writer Ann Nocenti and artist John Romita, Jr. Together they took the series into an examination of violence and its consequences, expected or otherwise. Mary’s multiple personalities and her varying relationships with Daredevil formed the core of that theme. She became a character filled with potential both for high-flying action and complex stories.

Typhoid Mary doesn’t just work as a villain or in relation to heroes like Daredevil though. Her various careers in villainy and anti-heroism offer someone capable of driving a criminal enterprise or acting as a dark vigilante. In short, she’s perfect for the streets of Marvel Comics’ Manhattan. She’s unlike anyone else there too. You might try to compare her conflicting personalities to Moon Knight, but they are much better defined and come with a unique set of powers. If that dude in white deserves his own comic, then Typhoid Mary certainly does too.

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Ikari

Ikari is the newest character on this list, but he was the biggest discovery of Samnee and Waid’s run on Daredevil (besides possibly their reinvention of The Spot). Ikari is the dark inverse of Daredevil, given his powers through similar chemical exposure without losing his sight. He has that one slight edge and uses it to his full advantage in order to maim and kill. But in the wake of Bullseye’s literal collapse at the end of that story, Ikari is left without a purpose or leader.

The chemicals both gave him powers and drove him somewhat mad. Without someone steering his directions, what could Ikari become? Is there potential to become an anti-hero or will he rise to become the next great villain in Daredevil? There are a lot of unanswered questions swirling around this hooded figure, and they form the potential for a great story. This is one character who deserves more time on the page and could absolutely hold down his own series.

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Stilt-Man

Hold on one second before you laugh and walk away. Stilt-Man is a guy who robs banks while wearing hyper-advanced stilts. You have to ask what drives a person to do that, right? Why develop that sort of technology to employ it this way and to do that? That’s the hook for a C-list villain like Stilt-Man and any creators able to come up with a good answer deserve to tell the story.

This isn’t necessarily just a pitch for Stilt-Man though. Daredevil’s rogues gallery is chock-full of villains with bizarre gimmicks who keep coming back to be put down. An anthology examining their lives or origins is rife with potential for both writers and artists. This may not be the best collection of bad guys on the planet, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting. We’re interested to learn more about them all.

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