Category: Comics

Working Title #008: The Man

Working Title #008: The Man

So there I was, working on finishing up this week’s column, when I heard the news. Stan Lee had died.

I can’t say it was unexpected. The Man was 95, his health wasn’t great, but still – Stan the Man.

I never actually met him to say hello or shake his hand. The closest I came was at a convention; Kim and I were having dinner in the hotel restaurant and it turned out Stan was having dinner at a table near us. I could’ve said hello but he was eating and talking with someone. I got the shys and didn’t feel I could break in on his dinner.

However, in a way I did know him in a manner that all of us could and still can. Through his work.

It was in high school, my sophomore or junior year, when I first met him. I was idly looking at a comic book spinner rack in a train station. (Note to younger readers: there was no comic book stores in those days. It was spinner racks or nothing and you couldn’t always be sure that the next issue was going to show up or when.)  I was already a comic book fan. I came across a comic I had never seen before from a company I didn’t know. It was Spiderman 49; on the cover, Spiderman was being towed through the air, arms bound and mask ripped off by his enemy, a grotesque character I would come to know as the Green Goblin.

This was serious. I could tell. Nothing like that ever happened to Batman or any of the other DC stalwarts. The image grabbed me and I grabbed the comic. I knew nothing about Spiderman and yet I had no trouble keying into the story and the breathless climax where the real identity of the Green Goblin was revealed. That didn’t really mean much to me although I would later learn it had been a secret for years. Still I was hooked and haunted that spinner rack until Spiderman 50 came out.

Marvel comics used to have “house ads” on the interior of the books, pointing the reader to other characters and other books that the company sold. I sought them out on spinner racks and newsstands. Almost all of them were written by Stan (the Man) Lee. Look, I know that Stan would give a few sentences of plot to the artist assigned to the book who then worked it out and drew it. Stan would then dialogue it. How else was he going to write all those books in the time he had? It still makes my head spin.

I learned things from Stan. One issue started with Spidey in the middle of a pitched battle with a brand new character called the Rhino. In a caption, Stan told the reader not to worry, effendi, and that he would catch us up as the fight went on. He did, too. That taught me you could do exposition without boring the crap out of everyone.

In the same issue, Rhino tries to stomp Spiderman who is on the ground, rolling out of the way. As Spidey went, he admonished Rhino, “Uh uh! Kickies no fair!” I laughed out loud. You know how everyone loves how Deadshot motormouths his way through battles? Started here, folks.

In an issue of Fantastic Four, the team was trapped in the Negative Zone, heading to the exploding center of that dimension. Three of them got out safe but their leader, Reed Richards, was sacrificing himself so the other three could make it. They can’t reach him and that issue ended with Reed heading towards certain death with no way the others can save him.

I wanted that next issue RIGHT THEN and it taught me how you want the reader to feel when you did a cliffhanger.

His characters were more complex than DC’s, having real life problems and neuroses. There were themes and a greater depth to the stories. And, of course, there’s that single sentence that has transcended comics and has become pop culture wisdom: “With great power comes great responsibility.” It has been quoted and used by many folks outside of our comic book realm.

That’s how I know Stan Lee and that is why I think of him as still living. His work, the characters that he created, still speaks to people. There are living people in your everyday life who don’t do that. So long as his words are read and his characters survive, Stan lives on.

Excelsior.

I had to do that.

Preview Review for the week of 11/21/2018: Middlewest #1

Preview Review for the week of 11/21/2018: Middlewest #1

Hey there!  Welcome to the latest installment of Preview Reviews.  This is where we give advanced glimpses at some of the comics that will be coming out this Wednesday.

A reminder for you. Here at PopCultureSquad, we are decidedly Anti-Spoiler.  We feel that ruining someone’s experience with something for the sake of getting a scoop or clicks is the wrong thing to do. Therefore, we have decided to publish this column, as necessary, with mostly spoiler-free reviews of upcoming issues.  Hopefully, the information that we share with you will increase your excitement for these books.

This week’s preview comic is Middlewest from Skottie Young and Jorge Corona, published by Image Comics.

Continue reading “Preview Review for the week of 11/21/2018: Middlewest #1”

Everything We Read This Week – 11/15/2018

Everything We Read This Week – 11/15/2018

Welcome back as we make our weekly trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

There are a lot of very good books out this week. Make sure you go find some. There are some new number ones out this week and new creative teams. Hopefully, you might find what we say interesting enough to try some of these comics. This is a big list again this week but still not all that we have on our list.

DISCLAIMER: 

There is a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously as everyone gets their own impressions of art. These ratings are just to give our readers an idea of what we thought of the book, and they will be on the generous side normally. So don’t expect to see a lot of 1 Stars. After all, it’s not often that you have a bad book on your pull-list.

The rating system is as follows:

Great

 Good

 OK

 Not Good

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 11/15/2018”

Breaking: Top Cow Teams with Humble Bundle to Aid California Wildfire Victims

Breaking: Top Cow Teams with Humble Bundle to Aid California Wildfire Victims

Top Cow has just announced a new program that allows people to get access to digital comics and donate to humanitarian causes at the same time.  When you purchase a Humble Bundle of new and classic Top Cow titles, you can designate funds to go to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organization is that is helping California residents affected by the deadly wildfires in meaningful ways.

These comics can be downloaded in multiple formats to be viewed on multiple platforms. Donations range from $1 to $15, and you can get access to up to $760 worth of comics. There is a sliding scale that gives you more comic goodness for the more you donate.

Continue reading “Breaking: Top Cow Teams with Humble Bundle to Aid California Wildfire Victims”

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”

Preview Review for the week of 11/14/2018: Bitter Root #1

Preview Review for the week of 11/14/2018: Bitter Root #1

Hey there!  Welcome to the latest installment of Preview Reviews.  This is where we give advanced glimpses at some of the comics that will be coming out this Wednesday.

A reminder for you. Here at PopCultureSquad, we are decidedly anti-Spoiler.  We feel that ruining someone’s experience with something for the sake of getting a scoop or clicks is the wrong thing to do. Therefore, we have decided to publish this column, as necessary, with mostly spoiler-free reviews of upcoming issues.  Hopefully, the information that we share with you will increase your excitement for these books.

This week’s preview comic is Bitter Root from David Walker, Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene, published by Image Comics.  PCS had the opportunity to talk to Brown and Greene at Baltimore ComicCon this year, and they were very excited about this new endeavor. Needless to say we were eagerly looking forward to getting our hands on this book.  Continue reading below to find out what we thought of it.

Continue reading “Preview Review for the week of 11/14/2018: Bitter Root #1”

Everything We Read This Week – 11/7/2018

Everything We Read This Week – 11/7/2018

Welcome back as we make our weekly trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

Following that last couple of weeks, there is a ton of books out this week. Make sure you go find some. There are few really good number ones out this week. Hopefully, you might find what we say interesting enough to try some of these comics. This is a big list again this week as we continue to catch up on our unwieldy pull-list.

DISCLAIMER: 

There is a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously as everyone gets their own impressions of art. These ratings are just to give our readers an idea of what we thought of the book, and they will be on the generous side normally. So don’t expect to see a lot of 1 Stars. After all, it’s not often that you have a bad book on your pull-list.

The rating system is as follows:

Great

 Good

 OK

 Not Good

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 11/7/2018”

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!

Everything We Read This Week – 10/24/2018

Everything We Read This Week – 10/24/2018

Welcome back as we make our weekly trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

As we keep saying, there are plenty of good comics out there, a lot of Spider books for sure. Make sure you go find some. Hopefully, you might find what we say interesting enough to try some of these comics. This is a big list this week as we are finally starting to catch up on our unwieldy pull-list.

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.

DISCLAIMER: 

There is a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously as everyone gets their own impressions of art. These ratings are just to give our readers an idea of what we thought of the book, and they will be on the generous side normally. So don’t expect to see a lot of 1 Stars. After all, its not often that you have a bad book on your pull-list.

The rating system is as follows:

Great

 Good

 OK

 Not Good

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 10/24/2018”