Author: Ed Catto

With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever

With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever

A Conversation with Stuart Moore

AHOY Comics has burst onto the scene and is quickly becoming known as the comic company that’s a welcome breath of fresh air. And comic shops are increasing their orders for AHOY titles, so they must be doing something right. I caught up with Stuart Moore, who’s an integral part of the AHOY team to learn more.

ED CATTO: How’d you ever get involved with AHOY Comics? Given the initial critical support and comic shop reordering, what’s it been like?

STUART MOORE: Well, I got involved because Tom Peyer called me up. Initially he asked if I would edit his titles, High Heaven and Wrong Earth. The company evolved a bit differently, with each of us basically editing our own titles and providing backup for each other as needed. Tom is editor-in-chief, and he’s also editor of all the books that AREN’T written by him or me.

When we lost a crucial member of the initial team—Sven Larsen, who’s currently doing great things at Marvel—I stepped into the Publishing Ops position on a freelance basis. Wrong Earth has been quite a hit—AHOY has just gone to a second printing on issue #2—so we’ve all been scrambling to deal with success. Which is nerve-wracking, but a hell of a lot better than scrambling to deal with failure.

EC: What do you think is the secret sauce for a new comic company to thrive, or just survive, in today’s difficult publishing landscape?

SM:  I think every new company has to find its own way, its own voice. For AHOY, it’s a combination of engaging lead stories and a wealth of backup features—giving the reader as much value as possible for their $3.99. Tom is also very determined that every book have elements of humor to it.

This is just my guess, but I suspect AHOY is appealing somewhat to lapsed comic readers—without pandering overtly to nostalgia or fanboy trivia. If you have fond memories of the early Vertigo titles or of 1963 (the comic, not the year), you’ll probably want to check out these books. Whatever we’re doing, it seems to be working so far.

Also, of course, we’re hoping to attract cat fans.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #015: Cat Scratch Fever”

With Further Ado #014: Writer or Entrepreneur?  A conversation with Ron Marz

With Further Ado #014: Writer or Entrepreneur? A conversation with Ron Marz

Ron Marz is a creator who has been around the block a time or two.  He’s worked on so many favorites (Silver Surfer, The Shadow, Green Lantern and more) for so many publishers (CrossGen, Valiant, Dynamite, Marvel, DC and more). With that in mind, it’s fascinating to me to see how he pivots and keeps not only his writing fresh but also his entrepreneurial freelance mojo fresh too. 

I enjoyed his latest graphic novel, Beasts of the Black Hand from Ominous Press. It’s a great read, but I’m equally intrigued by the format and Marz’s go-to-market strategy.  Despite his hectic schedule, I was able to catch up with Ron to learn more.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #014: Writer or Entrepreneur? A conversation with Ron Marz”

With Further Ado #013: Moonshine Volume 2

With Further Ado #013: Moonshine Volume 2

Let your soul shine
It’s better than sunshine
It’s better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain

                         -Greg Allman  

Tweaking what Greg Allman sang, Moonshine is damn sure better than I expected. This Image series, by the longtime team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, just completed its sophomore story arc.  This story is collected in the trade paperback, Moonshine Vol 2 The Misery Train, in comic shops today.

When viewed through a simple lens, it makes sense that this “werewolf story” is released on Halloween. In reality, Moonshine offers readers more than a traditional wolfman yarn.  This drama, set during the time of Prohibition in the South, touches on everything from cultural family dynamics, male/female roles and the cyclical nature of lawbreakers. There’s also plenty of horror, suspense, deceit, sex and surprises.

At the outset, I (foolishly) expected Moonshine to be a mash-up of Bonnie and Clyde, O Brother  Where Art Thou? and a vicious werewolf movie, like An American Werewolf in London.  I wasn’t wrong, but this nuanced horror chiller is so much more.

It’s a scary story that’s a period piece, with clever characters providing glimpses into several cultural and economic groups. That sounds stuffy and boring, so let me add that it’s all a deliciously tasty scare too.

Azzarello’s Bags of Tricks

They story’s full of twists and turns in clever settings with unusual conflicts. But one of Azzarello’s strengths continues to be his incredible skill at developing intriguing characters.

Tempest is one of the main characters in this volume. She’s so far beyond the sexy “farmer’s daughter” character that readers might have initially assumed she was.   As rendered by Risso, she all about that seductive look, but in this story arc she’s steps up to become more clever and plotting.  There are points in the story where Tempest may think she’s a victim, but she’s reminded that others have it so much worse.  Her machinations might not have turned out the way she had hoped.  We can empathize with her frustrations while still not liking her. Or not trusting her.  Azzarello reveals that she’s not as mature as she’d like us all to believe.  He makes the reader need to know more about this character.

Italian Americans have a long history of being the bad guys in American storytelling, and they fulfill that role there too. Azzarello sprinkles a little bit of The Godfather mafia types on top of a conniving Game of Thrones struggle and the result is as tasty as your Grandma’s Sunday gravy.

Azzarello has this trick with characters too. On first glance, you don’t think there are that many characters, when you are reading the story. But upon reflection, you realize that it’s jam-packed with a plethora of characters. These characters all come alive in a short time, and you can’t help but wonder about them after you’ve flipped the page.

It’s Time to Appreciate Eduardo Risso

The artist, Eduardo Risso, is Azzarello’s longtime creative partner.  Past series like 100 Bullets and Spaceman each have their own unique vibe.  That’s the way it is with Moonshine.  Risso takes the reader deep into the black woods and black hearts of the characters, with his solid renderings and elaborate page layouts.  One could almost imagine Will Eisner looking down from comic creator heaven with arms crossed but approvingly nodding, muttering things like “hey, that page really is something different” or “this guy is innovative”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a few rants along the lines of “Sonuvagun! I wish I had done that!”

Each issue is a mix of Risso slowing it all down and then slamming his foot hard on the gas. At the same time, Risso takes the reader on a roller coaster POV with high shots, ground level shots and in-the-middle-of-the-action shots. And he, Risso never sacrifices clarity and solid storytelling either.

Risso also maintains control over his color palette. To the reader, the finished pages are like symphonies and Risso is the orchestra leader – he brings each beat of the story together with mindful layouts and clever colors that reinforce the narrative and linger on the reader’s mind long after she or he puts down the book.

The Collected Edition

Azzarello is the type of writer who makes you feel comfortable, and then, out of nowhere, grabs you in a headlock and chokes the familiarity right out of you. You’re gasping for breath, but at the same time, you just want more. I prefer reading a series like Moonshine each month in the traditional comic format, but the collected TPB is perfect when you find yourself as ravenous as the protagonist.

Kudos to this team, and editor Will Dennis for a job well done.  And, to finish this up, let’s get all those Halloween puns out of our system once and for all:

Don’t howl at the moon, give yourself a treat and sink your teeth into a copy of Moonshine Vol. 2!

WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover

WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover

During the Halloween season, I always think of the three witch sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They were very similar to the Three Fates of classic mythology, those sisters who wove the destinies of every individual. And even if you don’t know anything about either of those sets of sisters, you probably know about TV’s Charmed sisters.  They are in the midst of a reboot that has lead to a backlash.

In my own family, the “three sisters concept” is a big deal. We are blessed with the 3 girls. (We do have one great boy too!)  These girls thoroughly embrace being part of their little sorority of three. So much so that I am always cognizant of a set of three girls and especially dads with three girls.

And that brings us to Brian Bendis and some new comics.  Continue reading “WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover”

WIth Further Ado #011: Dead Rabbit

WIth Further Ado #011: Dead Rabbit

Boston is a fantastic town. I lived there for several years and looking back, it seemed like every day was a grand adventure. I’m a little disappointed in myself that I don’t make it back to Boston more frequently.

Robert Parker’s detective series Spenser has always been a favorite. I do visit Boston – via books – with Hawk, Susan and the rest of Spenser’s characters. But there’s always room for more, right?

The Boston setting was one reason I was excited for the new noir thriller, Dead Rabbit, by Gerry Duggan and John McCrea.  But it’s not the only reason.  I reached out to co-creator and artist John McCrea and chatted him up a bit. He offered fascinating insights:

Ed Catto: Dead Rabbit has a both a freshness and a world-weariness to it.  That combination, to me, really makes this series stand out. Would you agree and what do you think is special about this series?

John McCrea: I agree that there is an element of world weariness to Dead Rabbit, it’s a reflection of what is happening in the world today, the general erosion of our quality of life by the big companies who rule us…. Rabbit is the little guy starting to stand up to that, albeit in the only way he knows how- stealing and cracking heads! But the thing that makes the series special is the relationship between Martin and his wife Meggan, which is still full of life and joy despite everything that is being thrown at them.  Continue reading “WIth Further Ado #011: Dead Rabbit”

With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them

With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them

A planned trip to the drive-in sparked an idea for one of these columns.  A few weeks ago, one of the summer superhero movies, Ant-Man and Wasp, was playing at the local drive-in theater. This was an astonishing fact to me.  Longtime Marvel fans know that Ant-Man was never very popular.

The “small hero” had been done so many times before- in everything from Gulliver’s Travels (when he’s amongst the giants in the land of Brobdingnab) to The Incredible Shrinking Man to TV”s Land of the Giants.  And in comics, other diminutive heroes like Doll Man, Doll Girl and the Atom were always fighting fearsome giant threats. Such as… the neighbor’s house cat or toys that came to life.

When I was in fourth grade, my class published a student newspaper and used the proceeds to buy cool stuff.  After we splurged on posters and kickballs, there was just a little bit left over. My teacher, Mrs. Shearer, turned to me and asked if I’d buy some comics for the class with the small amount of leftover change.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #010: Don’t Belittle Others; “Be-Big” Them”

WIth Further Ado #009: An interview with Jacque Nodell

WIth Further Ado #009: An interview with Jacque Nodell

An interview with Jacque Nodell, author of How to Go Steady: Timeless Dating Advice, Wisdom, and Lessons from Vintage Romance Comics

As a young reader, I would have told you out loud that I loved all comics. But that wasn’t really the case. I didn’t have much use for humor comics back then. Teen comics? Well, once my Aunt Elissa gave me a box of Archie comics, I warmed up to them.  War Comics and horror comics weren’t my cup of tea, but I’d read them now and then.

Romance comics, however, were never on the list.  Too icky. Just like girls. So icky.  Like many young boys, my tastes would do a 180 in just a few years. But I still wouldn’t read a romance comic.   

Over the last few years, however, I’ve relaxed these standards. I’ve started to enjoy them occasionally. In fact, I am on a Quixotic quest  for romance comics featuring Jay Scott Pike art. He was a master, and beyond that Showcase issue with the Dolphin story, I never really knew anything about him.  There’s many other great artists in vintage romance comics. It’s a great place to stumble across the early works of favorites like John Romita or Gene Golan, as discovering new favorites.

So it’s not a surprise that I enjoy Jacque Nodell’s Sequential Crush. It’s a celebration of romance comics. And out this page has come her first book.  I had a lot of questions for Jacque, and despite planning for a wedding (true love wins!) she found some time to answer them all!  Continue reading “WIth Further Ado #009: An interview with Jacque Nodell”

WIth Further Ado #008: Kickstarting A Killer

WIth Further Ado #008: Kickstarting A Killer

(Bill Cunningham’s quest to restore the Lost Charles Bronson Film, except that it doesn’t have Charles Bronson in it and it’s not a film.)

I love old movies. When channel surfing, I especially love it when I stumble across an actor I like in a movie I don’t know anything about. In our over-informationalized world, that’s when the magic happens. “What is this movie?” I might ask.  “When did this actor make it?” “Is it treasure or trash?”

This happened to me just the other day when I spotted Leonard Nimoy in BAFFLED! At first I thought it was an old episode of MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE, but soon I realized it was something weird and wonderful. Well…weird and maybe not so wonderful. If you haven’t seen it, I implore you NOT to seek it out. It goes into that: I”ll never get that 90 minutes back” category. 

On the other hand, having just been so snarky, I do wonder if the further adventures of the protagonist, an occult detective, and his beautiful sidekick, could make an interesting comic…

Continue reading “WIth Further Ado #008: Kickstarting A Killer”

With Further Ado #007: Ahoy! Comics! Ahoy Comics!

With Further Ado #007: Ahoy! Comics! Ahoy Comics!

When I was in high school years ago, my buddies and I would often read the Syracuse New Times. At the time, this weekly newspaper seemed to us to be very avant-guard. It was funky and weird, eschewing middle class sensibilities for a kind of suburban Village Voice vibe. And each week we read a comic strip that was really cutting edge – full of snark, pop culture references, irreverent political satire and acerbic wit.  I remember one week when the writer/artist made fun of the political climate of the day with an “Earth Two” joke, and I nearly fell off the proverbial chair.

Today, with the mainstream success of the CW’s Flash, and vocal comic fans, “Earth Two” isn’t that cryptic a phrase.  It might not be in the “Everybody knows that” category, but it’s close. 

But back then, the phrase “Earth Two” was only known to a small portion of the population. You had to read DC comics and pay attention. And I just knew that the writer/artist of that comic strip must have been “one of us”. 

He was!  Tom Peyer, the creator of that strip, is a brilliant creator who’s written so many of my favorite comics (Hourman, Batman ’66 and more) as well as edited a plethora of outstanding comics for DC and the Vertigo imprints.   I always look forward to everything he writes (Aftershock’s Captain Kid last year was fantastic) and I was thrilled to learn about his newest endeavor, AHOY Comics.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #007: Ahoy! Comics! Ahoy Comics!”

With Further Ado #006: Back Issue Bin Diving

With Further Ado #006: Back Issue Bin Diving

Everyone loves a bargain, right? And like many comic fans, I love finding lost treasures in a comic shop’s back issue bargain box. While I’ve never found an issue of Action #1 in a bargain bin, or even a friendly neighborhood garage sale, I am delighted and amazed that comics I find in these long white boxes. Like forlorn playthings trapped on the Island of Misfit Toys, these comics just need to find the right person to enjoy and appreciate them.

Now let’s be realistic.  If we all only spent money on back issues bargains, every comic store would go out of business.  But for shops, the bargain bin can be a way to invite customers in, add to a customer’s purchase or just blow-out inventory. And those are all good things. 

So, in the spirit, this column is a celebration of the recent treasures that I’ve rescued from back issue bargain bins, along with a little shout-out to each comic shop too.   Continue reading “With Further Ado #006: Back Issue Bin Diving”