Tag: Black Label

With Further Ado #176: Getting Chatty (and Catty) with Cliff Chiang

With Further Ado #176: Getting Chatty (and Catty) with Cliff Chiang

Cliff Chiang is a gifted artist, a boundary pushing creator and a helluva nice guy. He’s smart, upbeat and laser-focused on producing the best work possible. I’ve always enjoyed time his work and our conversations.  With all that in mind, I found myself enjoying the first issue of his latest, Catwoman: Lonely City, more than I thought I would.  I should note this oversized, four-issue comic series is from the DC Black Label imprint. There’s been a lot of Batman stories published lately (as Mike Gold pointed out here), and I worried I had had my fill of the character for a while.

Chiang has pleasantly surprised me yet again. I was so impressed with this book. I had to reach out to the artist, now writer-artist, to find out more. Here are the highlights from our conversation:


Ed Catto: I feel like right now, there’s a lot of Batman product out there. There’s a bunch of different projects coming out and part of me was like, “I think I’m reading too much Batman.” But somehow you broke through that clutter and really delivered something fresh with Catwoman: Lonely City.

Cliff Chiang: I wasn’t going to spend all this time on a throw-away story. I think you might be able to tell by the first issue, certainly by the second, that I’m trying to pay homage to those classic Batman stories, The Dark Knight Returns and Year One. You know, I almost hesitate to say “my take” take on it.  But I’m just looking to show the parts of Gotham and that don’t necessarily get shown.

Catwoman is such a perfect vehicle for that. She’s really a great character, but she’s also kind of not necessarily as rigidly defined as Batman . Certainly not the Batman that is popular today. I thought there was a lot of gray area to her that would be interesting, especially in the context of a more “crime story” showcase.

EC: Somehow it all seems very fresh. Visually I feel you tagged all the bases for fans, with all the old costumes and whatnot, and then you kind of faked us all out, with “here’s something new”.

CC: And that’s deliberate. Part of me wants to acknowledge all the publishing history that’s come before. That’s part of the mystery of the character. That’s part of what makes you feel her age as well. Because you’re like, “Oh wow she’s done this, and she’s done that. And this is the costume that she wore that time when she did this.

There’s a way in which all the publishing history, our character can be leveraged to make it feel the weight of the years.  And to celebrate that stuff to you know. A big part of this story is about is about getting older. Gotham gotten rid of superheroes, and sort of grown-up in the process.

And to take a look at how city like Gotham might function in the modern world. I wanted to play with that stuff as well.

So, you’ve got you the older stuff that we’re all fans of on one hand, and on the other hand, you can bring in new ideas. I didn’t want to throw away the old stuff.  I wanted to keep it and kind of look at different eyes and make you appreciate it again. And then bring in these other concepts to so that the whole thing is richer.

EC: This your first big venture as both writer and artist, Cliff. How was it working with a new writer (you) for “Cliff the artist”? How did that process change for you?

CC: You know, it’s funny. I started this two years ago, and the interesting thing about it is that, in order to get a handle on it all, because it’s such a big story and it’s a big job, I had to compartmentalize.  The writing –  it was a year of writing – included an outline and the full script.

I wrote in full script because I know how much information is there on the page. I’ve read so many scripts from other people, too. It allows me to kind of evaluate the story on an abstract level.

Whereas, by thumbnailing stuff (and not developing a full script- EC) ,you kind of get seduced by it because it’s a drawing.  It’s a comic all of sudden.  I wrote it all, and then I thumbnailed it and lettered it so it could be read by myself and the editors.

A lot of the writing was done, super focused, at the beginning.  Now as I’m drawing, I am thinking “Oh yeah, I knew this part was going to be a bear to draw.”

There’s so much stuff going on in every panel. Even for the city itself.  One of my goals is to make it feel really like New York City, and you can’t do that in a minimal way. Unfortunately. I wish I found shortcuts for this stuff, but at the same time, it’s what the story is. There were times when I cursed “the writer” a little bit. But it’s all going more or less “on plan”. It is taking longer than I ever expected.

EC: Do you think you would like to continue to create in this Black Label oversized the format for a while?

CC:  I do enjoy it. I think it needs the right kind of project. And I think you have to adjust your pacing for that.  That being said, I do enjoy the storytelling opportunities you get with the Black Label line.  It wasn’t until I held the thing in my and I realized the physical size of the page does have an impact.

EC: I was speaking with a local comic owner (Ash Gray from Comics for Collectors in Ithaca, NY) as I was preparing for our talk. It seems he under-ordered your series. He said that the orders were low initially on the first issue. Then there was a big buzz and it immediately sold out. Now he’s having trouble getting more copies to sell.

CC:  I was at the Baltimore Comic-Con. I met a lot of people there who are excited to read it. I met a lot of shop owners. Some of them knew to order heavy on it. [They had the opportunity] to read previews of it. They had two issues to read if they checked it out.  Some knew that, based on their store, based on their readers, that they could order “Batman numbers” on it.

Things do get lost in the shuffle.  Hopefully the buzz on it is that it sold out, and people bought it and that people came around asking for it.  Hopefully for the second issue people won’t be caught without it.

I just wanted to tell a story. I just want people to read it, and I think there’s a big audience for it. I think that’s the kind of book that you can, when all is said and done, hand it to somebody how might not be at the stores every week.  It could be someone who’s last Batman movie they watched was Batman Returns in 1992. What you need is just a basic pop culture knowledge of Batman and Catwoman. Everything else just falls into place.

It is a blank slate situation: Her name’s Catwoman.  She’s a cat burglar and she wears a cat costume. And sometimes she’s involved with Batman. And that’s all you need going into it.

EC: Upon reflection, of course, Catwoman is oftentimes portrayed as a sexy, young woman in a skintight suit. In Catwoman: Lonely City she’s not a young woman. I think it may have been a brave decision for you to have an older protagonist in this book.

CC:  Yes, I thought it immediately makes you reassess her. It puts both the reader and the character in a different place. It’s a pendulum. There’s a history of her as the sexy ingenue and then her involved in more hard-boiled crime.

For me, I felt making her older and having her grapple with ageism and sexism would force you to see her differently.  And in some ways, to tone that down, so you could see her as a person. Much of the story depends on you relating to her and to her losses and indignities and how she suffers. And you can’t do that with someone slinking around and purring and all that stuff.

I think that’s all part of her history. You see that in a couple of issues, too, but she’s not that person anymore. It’s a little bit of playing a part at one point in your life and moving past it.

EC: Working with your editors, was there every a point where you were told “watch out someone else is doing something similar?” Doing something with characters like Catwoman or Killer Croc?  Or was this separate enough from everything else.

CC: A little of both. My editors were worried about something being similar to what just happened. But then, once we squared that away, everybody was really happy with the story. I think the realization was that: there’s an audience for this book is separate from the audience for other books.

And that’s okay. It’s a bigger project and it’s kind of more evergreen than whatever it is happening in the monthly book. There are things I wish, maybe, that had more novelty to them.  But we’ve seen that happen.  When I wrote this story – I came up with this story two years ago – there were elements that hadn’t appeared yet. That’s just the nature of the beast.

You think you are ahead of the curve. But you are not. You are just part of the Zeitgeist like everyone else. You can think you’re clever doing a book about adolescents in 1988 and then, two months later, after your book, Stranger Things comes out.

EC: This is more of a technical question.  You are a very thoughtful artist and you’ve been doing this for a long time. Do you feel as if you deal with editors differently now than you would have years ago?

CC: Probably. I’m on the same wavelength as the editors. And Black Label is open to creators taking changes and thinking about things differently.  So, it’s a pleasure. All the interactions and all the notes and suggestions from the editors make the story better. As an artist I can appreciate that end of it. It’s so great that I can’t complain about it.

EC:  Well, Cliff this has been fantastic.  Good chatting with you, I hope to see you in person real soon. Good luck with everything and best your family during this Yuletide Season.

CC: Okay, all right. Hey, thanks a lot and take care now.


Issue #2 of Cliff Chiang’s Catwoman: Lonely City, a DC Black Label book, is on sale December 22nd.

 

 

Reviews: New Number Ones for the Week of 6/2/2021 – Basilisk #1, The Nice House on the Lake #1, Out of Body #1, and The Worst Dudes #1

Reviews: New Number Ones for the Week of 6/2/2021 – Basilisk #1, The Nice House on the Lake #1, Out of Body #1, and The Worst Dudes #1

It has been a while since we did one of these, but if you are new here, 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. This week we have four books for you. They are from DC Comics, AfterShock Comics, Dark Horse Comics and Boom! Studios.

You will usually find the books that we review in this space on our month list of New Number Ones.

Three of the books that we reviewed have heavy conflicts with somber moods and one is a hilariously entertaining romp.

This week we will bring you our thoughts on: Basilisk #1, The Nice House on the Lake #1, Out of Body #1, and The Worst Dudes #1

Check out the reviews below in alphabetical order:

Basilisk #1
Boom! Studios
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Jonas Scharf
Colors by Alex Guimarães
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Cover Art by Scharf

9.03

This book is excellent. The entire creative team lends wonderful craftsmanship to the completed work. The pacing of the beginning pages sets a foreboding mood and the colors marry perfectly with the tone of the line art. There is not a lot of dialogue but Ed Dukeshire does a great job laying it out. Cullen Bunn crafts an interesting premise in this first issue that portends an epic supernatural conflict in the coming issues. We are looking forward to more.


The Nice House on the Lake #1
DC Comics / Black Label
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Álvaro Martínez Bueno
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Andworld Design
Cover Art by Martínez Bueno

9.35

James Tynion has done it again. This book is gripping. There is an opening sequence that sets the stage for this book, but we were sucked into the backstory that occupies the majority of the book, and it is captivating. This is a super dense first issue, but it flows nicely. The art is simply gorgeous, and Jordie Bellaire’s colors are sublime. The story is paced so well, and the end of the book raises the stakes to a level that belies the innocuous narrative that makes up the middle section of the book. We are on the edge of our seat waiting for the next issue.


Out of Body #1
AfterShock Comics
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Inaki Miranda
Colors by Eva De La Cruz
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Cover Art by Miranda

9.00

This is book is haunting in multiple ways. Peter Milligan is again developing an intriguing supernatural mystery. The point of view shifts between two primary characters as they interact on the fringe of each other’s existence, and that technique is executed marvelously. Inaki Miranda’s linework is wonderful, particularly the facial acting. The colors by Eva De La Cruz are nothing short of spectacular, and Sal Cipriano’s lettering is critical to maintaining the reader’s focus through the multiple scene and point of view changes. Well done all around.


The Worst Dudes #1
Dark Horse Comics
Written by Aubrey Sitterson
Art by Tony Gregori
Colors by Lovern Kindzierski
Letters by Taylor Esposito
Cover Art by Gregori & Kindzierski

8.35

This book is a raucous romp. It is a completely different mood from the other books on this list. While Aubrey Sitterson is developing an interesting narrative, the story is full of outrageous and edgy imagery. The book is a fun space adventure. The innovative character designs by Tony Gregori are well crafted. The bright and iridescent colors that Lovern Kindzierski uses let you know not to take this too seriously and fit the tone of the book. Taylor Esposito’s letters are a wonderful addition to the book. A very enjoyable read.


DISCLAIMER: 

We use a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously. Everyone has 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
  •  No
With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

We all know that phrase: Go Big or Go Home!  It’s a clarion call to seize the day and to live large. It’s not always the best advice, but sometimes it’s just what’s needed.  So during this crazy lockdown time, let me call your attention to a few treasures that literally decided to “go big!” while we all stay home.

 

Joker/Harley Quinn Criminal Sanity
Written by Kami Garcia
Art by Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew
Black Label, an imprint of DC Comics

While I’m generally not a big Harley Quinn fan, I’ve been a big Mike Mayhew fan ever since his days on Topps’ Zorro and Lady Rawhide with the incomparable Don McGregor.  Mayhew has gotten even better over the years, and today he entertains readers with his off-the-charts artistic talent in the new Joker/Harley Quinn series.

This story is a multi-part series told in thirty-two page increments in DC’s oversized Black Label format. To me, it has the feel of a European comic. Much of story is told in B & W , and that makes it so very, very  evocative of an old Warren or Marvel Magazine.

The “other artist” Mico Suayan, is just fantastic. I’ve enjoyed his work on Valliant’s Bloodshot. Suayan unfurls his artistic wings with majesty and grace in this larger-than-usual formal. Continue reading “With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home”

Brainiac On Banjo #063: Again With The Event Bitching?

Brainiac On Banjo #063: Again With The Event Bitching?

Bitch, bitch, bitch. Sigh. It’s a living…

For about three decades, I’ve been bitching about how our friends at DC and Marvel have abandoned the storytelling racket and are drowning themselves in the pool of “Event publishing.” During that time, line average comic book circulations have plummeted by about two-thirds.

(Explaining The Stupid Math Trick: “Line averages” are compiled by adding up the circulations of each individual issue printed by each publisher during the year and then dividing the total by the number of different issues involved. Variant covers and extra printings confuse the issue, but, screw it, they’re cheesy hustles that only complicate the processes. I refuse to acknowledge a second printing unless the publisher tells us what the first printing was. If Marvel Comics printed only 750 copies of Amazing Fantastic Fury #7 and then celebrated that success with a second printing, the whole thing is as meaningless as a fart in a blizzard in the dead of winter.)

So why am I carping about this now? And, not to mention, again? As is their wont, Marvel and DC each issued their February 2020 catalogs. On the cover of Marvel Previews – Wolverine #1!!! Another stunning concept from the House of Idea! Oh, and it’s got at least 12 different variant covers – not counting those that might be done for individual retailers – and this includes a virgin variant (wait… what? Alex Ross is a virgin???), hidden gem variants, a party variant, a die cut variant, and an adamantium variant – which, by way of disclaimer, is not even made of adamantium.

To honor their own Event, Marvel is reprinting three previous Wolverine #1’s as well. Will all this hubbub restore Wolvie to his former sales glory? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #063: Again With The Event Bitching?”