Category: Comics

With Further Ado #077: Descendent by Stephanie Phillips and Bornyakov

With Further Ado #077: Descendent by Stephanie Phillips and Bornyakov

Aftershock is on a roll. They are publishing so many top-notch series.  While there’s no uniform house style or shared universe, they have definitely carved out their own niche. Aftershock titles tend to be a little more adult, a little more edgy. There’s a thriller aspect to many of the series, often mixed in with a sense of dread and of foreboding.

I just read a Ray Bradbury short story, The Playground, this weekend. It had been years since I read Bradbury, and I kind of forgot how much I enjoyed his work.  It’s a bit of a stretch, but one could argue that many of the Aftershock series have Bradbury baked into their DNA.

Descendent by Stephanie Phillips is another winner, but I might argue it owes more to Brad Meltzer than to Bradbury.  Comics fans might remember him from his DC work on Identity Crisis a few years ago, but the rest of the world knows him as a thriller author.  My favorite books of his entwine a mix of political intrigue and unsolved mysteries.

(There’s a bit of Harlan Coben in this comic too -and that’s high praise indeed from me. I think Coben is just fantastic.)

Descendent tells of a sinister conspiracy, dating back to the Lindbergh kidnapping, and then reveals a tale that is even creepier and more complicated.  The gradual peeling of the onion follows the characters  as they get in deeper and deeper. And as the reader, we’re always either just one step ahead or one step behind.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #077: Descendent by Stephanie Phillips and Bornyakov”

Brainiac On Banjo #069: Breathtaker – Now It Can Be Told!

Brainiac On Banjo #069: Breathtaker – Now It Can Be Told!

In my career as a comic book editor-provocateur, I have had the privilege of assisting the birth of several remarkable projects. Two such projects were offered to me by the same team: writer/artists Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel. Oh, sure, they went on individually to do brilliant stuff such as Blood of the Innocent, Tarzan, The Sandman, Gregory, Frankenstein’s Mobster and The Escapist, but all that happened after I received their pitch for Mars.

I was editor-in-chief at First Comics, and I was specifically looking for a project that was completely original and produced by “newcomers” (quotes are due to that “overnight sensation” thing). Joe Staton and Bruce Patterson, our art director and production manager respectively, tossed the Mars proposal onto my lap and said “read this.” Not “read this, please” or “I think this is what you’re looking for;” nope, just read this.

I did, and then I called Wheatley and Hempel. As I recall, their agent was noted comics writer, marketer, publisher, and all-around swell guy Mike Friedrich. Quite rapidly, we had a deal.

After the first issues were finished and we started our promotion work, one of the major comics distributors – there actually used to be over a dozen! – told me I was making a big mistake. Nobody heard of these guys. I pointed out that nobody had heard of Mark Twain until he got published. I was told the story lacked commercial appeal. I responded, “how do you know they aren’t mutants?” Yeah, back in those days I could be quite stubborn or, as I prefer to think of it, an asshole for the cause of good.

We published the series and it became a cult classic. My definition of a cult classic was a highly regarded comic book whose sales were outflanked by the comp list. Mars did well enough and if it sold in those same volume today it would be a twice-weekly book, but the numbers weren’t likely to confound Alan Turing. It had enormous word-of-mouth going for it as well, and that inured to the benefit of the First Comics legend.

Flash forward six years to 1990. Despite the fact that Hempel was hospitalized during his time on Mars, they pitched me another project. By this time, I was a group editor and director of editorial development at DC Comics, and my job was to boldly acquire weird shit that no one had acquired before. I heard their pitch for Breathtaker in a backroom at some huge comics convention. I went for it in a heartbeat, my boss Dick Giordano was ecstatic about it (Dick had a great eye for weird shit), and we produced and published Breathtaker… Despite Hempel’s return to the hospital.

But that’s when things got dicey. Our publisher, Jenette Kahn, a fine person who had earned my respect several years before she got into comics, took one look at the cover and said it seemed like we were mocking concentration camp victims. It’s 30 years later, and I still don’t get that. But word got out that Jenette didn’t like the book. Well, that’s not true. She didn’t like the cover, and she could have called for a new one, or she could have canned the book outright. She did not, but our crack marketing department saw the onus as clear as day.

DC’s marketing director had a reputation for not putting much muscle behind comics that didn’t have a batcape and didn’t kill off anybody important. When Breathtaker was released the only people who knew about it were Wheatley and Hempel’s relatives and those friends of mine who remained amused by my incessant bitching. Despite this, the books sold well, and it got itself a trade paperback collection, which I believe went through a few printings.

Still onus-laden, Mark and Marc got the rights back – eventually. We reprinted it over at IDW in 2005, which was about the time something really interesting happened. The Normal Rockwell Museum was putting on an exhibition of some two dozen graphic novels, and Breathtaker was among those selected. We had an entire wall in their truly breathtaking museum. We were invited to the opening and they even threw us all a wonderful feast – after which many of the museum curators brought out their personal comics for us to sign.

From time to time, the museum put together a travelling version of the exhibit, and it’s still going on. According to the press release,

“Wheatley and Hempel’s Insight Studios Group will mount the “Breathtaker Exhibition,” which was created by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and will appear at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. With more than 90 original works of art, the exhibition explores the creative and physical processes that were undertaken during the original production … The exhibition will be on view August 24, 2020 through October 30, 2020.”

I should point out that McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland is just outside of Baltimore, near the abodes of the Breathtaker creators. That is sweet.

I should also point out that Breathtaker is being rereleased in collected edition by my old, old buddy Nick Landau (thanks for the sexy Hitler comic, Nick!) and his Titan Books imprimatur. Oh, and while I’m at it, I will point out that Titan is issuing an all-new companion comic, I guess for those of us who have all-new companions.

For me, this is seriously cool. Mark and Marc have been two of my closest friends, and I remain in awe of their work. If you haven’t read Breathtaker, Landau is about to make it easy for you to correct that.

Everything We Read This Week – 1/8/2020

Everything We Read This Week – 1/8/2020

Welcome back to Everything We Read This Week. This is the place that we make our weekly trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

This week we read a so many great comics. There was some amazing storytelling out there this week. We encourage you to go out and find the comics you like, and remember, Read More Comics!!

We reviewed books from DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Ahoy Comics, Aftershock Comics, IDW Publishing, Dynamite Entertainment, Vault Comics, and Image Comics this week. As always, we hope you might find what we say interesting enough to try some of these comics. Don’t forget we welcome comments on these and any other comics that you read. Feel free to leave a comment and get the conversation moving.

Also, Don’t forget to check our hotlist of new books debuting this month over here. You will see books that we were looking forward to with the designation Hot #1 by them. There are a few of them out this week, and they are really good.

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 1/8/2020”

New Number Ones For the Week of 1/8/2020

New Number Ones For the Week of 1/8/2020

Hey There Folks!! This column is designed to bring you reviews of new comic book series that came out this week. We will try to focus on independent and original series for the most part. Despite that intent, this first week is light on new series and we have two Marvel Comics series for you along with a new book each from DC Comics / Hill HouseScout Comics, and Top Cow / Image Comics.

You will usually find the books that we review in this space on our month list of New Number Ones. You might want to check over there to see what you can expect for the rest of the month.

This week we will bring you our thoughts on four books: The Clock #1, Daphne Byrne #1, Marvels X #1, Star #1, and White Ash #1

Check out the reviews below in alphabetical order: Continue reading “New Number Ones For the Week of 1/8/2020”

With Further Ado #076: Comics in Vogue – Literally

With Further Ado #076: Comics in Vogue – Literally

It’s so nice to see some comics popping up in unusual places.

The Italian edition of the fashion magazine, Vogue, features the work of a comic artist on its latest cover instead of the traditional photograph of a model or celebrity.  This January they have several variant covers, and one features a wonderful Milo Manara illustration. (Don’t worry, it’s G-rated.)

Milo Manara may be better known overseas than domestically, but he’s still a giant in the comics industry. Many of his works are a bit risqué for most Americans, but there’s no denying that he’s a fantastic illustrator and excels at drawing beautiful women.  This cover is another stunner.  Kudos to Vogue for also giving credit to his model, Olivia Vinton.

One could argue that Vogue borrowed this idea from Marvel, as they featured several Manara covers a few years ago. Infamously, his Spider-Woman cover was deemed too provocative by some folks.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #076: Comics in Vogue – Literally”

Brainiac On Banjo #068: Award-Winning Awards

Brainiac On Banjo #068: Award-Winning Awards

I can’t say I’m a fan of teevee awards shows. Overlooking their propensity for vapidity and fecklessness while acknowledging their complete commitment to style over substance, I agree with those who say that it is truly stupid to pit masterpieces against each other strictly because they were released within the same period of time.

Case in point: the nominees for Best Picture of 1939 – I’m talking the Academy Awards here – were Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The Wizard of Oz, Of Mice and Men, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Wuthering Heights, Ninotchka, Dark Victory and Love Affair. One’s own personal predilections aside, it’s hard to parse out a qualitative analysis of these films in order to determine a clear “best.” At least eight of these movies are among the very best Hollywood has had to offer, and the other two are no slouches.

(For the record, I would have voted for Stagecoach – and then shot myself for passing over Ninotchka and Of Mice and Men.)

However, I do enjoy a fun live teevee show. I enjoy watching the Oscars with my daughter because she keeps me in stitches with her faux-catty commentary. I love watching the Golden Globes because it’s more relaxed, it is largely bereft of stupid song-and-dance routines, it is comparatively un-overproduced… but, mostly, because Ricky Gervais may be the most honest and one of the most fearless comedians to ever walk the red carpet on the way to work. If I’m watching an awards show and the only person I’m cheering on is the host, I’m still having a good time. Gervais did not disappoint. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #068: Award-Winning Awards”

New Number Ones For the Week of 1/1/2020

New Number Ones For the Week of 1/1/2020

Hey There Folks!! This column is designed to bring you reviews of new comic book series that came out this week. We will try to focus on independent and original series for the most part. Despite that intent, this first week is light on new series and we have three Marvel Comics series for you along with a new book from IDW Publishing.

You will usually find the books that we review in this space on our month list of New Number Ones. You might want to check over there to see what you can expect for the rest of the month.

This week we will bring you our thoughts on four books: Hawkeye: Freefall #1, I Can Sell You a Body #1, Star Wars #1, and Thor #1

Check out the reviews below in alphabetical order: Continue reading “New Number Ones For the Week of 1/1/2020”

With Further Ado #075: Wake Up!

With Further Ado #075: Wake Up!

How’d it all go last night? Did you dance and party your brains out at the greatest event of the year? I hope there was a passionate midnight kiss involved.   Or are you one of those folks who leaves “Amateur Night” to others and got cozy on your couch watching episodes of The Twilight Zone?  I’m not judgey – both plans sound  pretty great to me.

Either way, you probably need a little coffee to get going today, and that’s the focus of this week’s column.

Death Wish Coffee Co. is a small business from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., one of my favorite places in the world. Founder Mike Brown has been on a mission to create the world’s strongest coffee and to fuel coffee drinkers not only each morning, but wherever they go. You might think that the coffee market is oversaturated, or dominated by big companies. It might seem like there’s no room for new ideas, but this is innovative company has been rocking it.  When they won Intuit’s “Small Business Big Game” competition in 2015, they were awarded a 30 second spot on the SuperBowl.

Brown and his team make a solid product with pride and strong ethics, and obviously have fun along the way.  In my classes, I teach college students how magical things happen at the intersection of entrepreneurism and creativity. And that’s the case here.

By Odin, ‘tis Glorious!

One of the things Death Wish Coffee did was create a comic book. It’s called Odinforce and now it’s become a series. Deathwish is just about to publish the third issue!  Continue reading “With Further Ado #075: Wake Up!”

Continued After the Next Page #011: Goodbye 2019 – Welcome 2020!!

Continued After the Next Page #011: Goodbye 2019 – Welcome 2020!!

What the new year brings to you will depend on a great deal on what you bring to the new year !

 

Welcome to 2020!

In the past year, the news has often been filled with confounding rhetoric, and there have been some truly terrible events, but we need to resolve to focus on the positive, while committing to make things better. We can be the agents of change that we need in this world.

What an amazing year that 2019 was around here!!! As Pop Culture Squad celebrates the completion of its first full calendar year of existence, we have a lot of great accomplishments to look back on.

Here are a few highlights: Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #011: Goodbye 2019 – Welcome 2020!!”

New Number Ones: Comics Coming in January 2020

New Number Ones: Comics Coming in January 2020

Welcome back to new year of New Number Ones!!

This is where we give our readers a preview of the exciting new comic book series debuting each month. We have compiled an alphabetical list with cover art and the official solicitation text from PREVIEWSworld. Check below for our PCS NOTES to find out what we just have to tell you some more about the new comics in question.

There are not a whole lot of new series of interest starting in January. There are a few new series from licenced properties coming out. Most publishers have more new releases queued up for February, but there is a decent list below.

We hope you will take a look and think about giving these a try. We will bring you reviews of most of these debut issues as they come out, and don’t forget to use the comments section to let us know what you think of this list.

Continue reading “New Number Ones: Comics Coming in January 2020”