By Avril Brown
With every comic convention comes panels, presentations and Q&A’s, and while I did not attend as many as I normally do at this year’s C2E2, the couple I did join pretty much blew my hair back. A well-rounded panel is not solely about spoilers for the future or answering the standard questions; one should be able to learn something new about an art form, be that writing, art or swordplay. One should reflect on that hour as time well spent and be eager to share what has transpired. One should walk away and say, either to themselves, a friend or a complete stranger who has become an acquaintance thanks to mutual passionate nerdiness, “Now THAT was fun!”
CHEW - John Layman and Rob Guillory, creative team of the CHEW comic book
I have been reviewing CHEW since the first issue and I have yet to be disappointed in the story, art and overall wackiness of the book. In a world where a strain of avian flu has claimed millions of lives, a tragedy leading to the illegalization of chicken, there are a few unique individuals possessing a range of powers related to edibles. This book has received critical acclaim, an Eisner award, amassed a rabid cult following and was optioned for a Showtime television series.
“The TV show is dead,” writer John Layman announced to his audience, which responded with disappointed groans and muted outrage. Layman went on to explain the many reasons why CHEW never took off as a series, citing the producers desire to create a live action show as one of the main roadblocks. Tony Chu, the central character, is a cibopath, which means he receives psychic impressions of everything he eats, and he will eat anything if it means solving a case. “When you have a real person eating a corpse it’s not as funny,” Layman added. Fair point.
“CHEW was an idea where I have no idea where it came from,” Layman explained, going on to detail his struggle to find a publisher for his ‘cannibalistic bird flu book.’ Finding an artist to convey his story was another challenge, and Rob Guillory voiced his own efforts to find work. “‘We like your stuff; don’t do it,’” he said was a common response to his distinctive form. Thankfully for CHEW fans and for the comic world in general, these two found each other and fell in professional love. “At this point, [Guillory] is co-creator because [CHEW] wouldn’t exist without him.”
No relationship is without its bumps in the road, and as seamlessly Layman and Guillory work together they both admitted to the occasional hiccup. Guillory expressed his distaste for the out-of-sequence twenty-seventh issue, and Layman complained his ‘Finding Nemo’ joke was unloved by his artist, who is responsible for a majority of the background jokes littered throughout every issue. “I get bored and put whatever comes into my head,” Guillory confessed. “It’s a great way to increase re-readership.” An insightful, and effective, idea as the ‘Easter eggs’ are one of my favorite parts of CHEW and really force the reader to pay attention to each page in order to get the most hilarity out of the story.
Hungry CHEW fans learned of Layman’s humanness when he disclosed writing Toni’s (Tony’s twin sister) murder “really messed me up,” and Guillory’s perception (or physic ability) when he recognized early on “how special this is.” Readers will be treated to quite a few more twists, turns and wacky food powers (“The food pornographer is coming up.”), and Layman said the words every fan wants to hear at a panel: “You guys have no idea what’s coming!” Gentlemen, we are looking forward to everything you have cooking in the kitchen.
MODERN SWORDPLAY DEMO - Chicago Swordplay Guild
Full disclosure: I had a personal interest in seeing this presentation succeed. I have a boyfriend, a cousin and lots of friends who are members of the Chicago Swordplay Guild, and I have witnessed firsthand the time, hard work and fervor they put into their craft. These are not folks who decided to pick up a sharp object and mimic Aragorn’s epic ass-kicking of the Orcs; they study an authentic, centuries-old Italian manuscript detailing the teachings of Renaissance swordplay. They sweat, train and spar, proudly displaying their bruises alongside their weapons and armor. Essentially, they are badass.
The space given for their presentation made up for in square footage what it lacked in acoustics, but what I was really impressed with was the large number of people in attendance. Old and young, male and female, professional and spectator; all walks of comic convention life were represented at the Chicago Swordplay Guild’s very first (of many, we hope) C2E2 demonstration.
Operating without a speaker system of any kind in an enormous, high-ceiling room, some attendees struggled to hear what Greg Mele, founding member and teacher of the CSG, was trying to explain about the history of the Guild and the art of swordplay. However, it was obvious his words carried when almost every audience member brought their hand to their eyes as Mele described the field of vision one has when wearing a proper armored helmet. Spectators watched in rapt attention as experienced Guild members fluidly moved through standard drills, and cheered appreciatively when a five foot-nothing woman held off two attackers with well-timed blows.
Unable to resist an appreciative audience, longtime Guild member and instructor Jesse Kulla performed high jumps and cartwheels in almost full armor, exhibiting the strength and flexibility needed to effectively function in proper gear. Giving his opponent several hard whacks with his metal sword upon her head gave evidence of the competence, and necessity, of appropriate equipment. Gender equality was stressed by the presenters and highlighted by the participation of at least one female Guild member in almost every demonstration. The fact every swordplayer started with as much knowledge of the art as the spectators was also conveyed, as was the need for proper fitness given the weight of the armor and the muscle needed to even hold up a sword for an extended period of time.
By the end of the presentation audience members were freely cheering on their champion in the final bout (I resisted the urge to shout “Kick his ass, Seabass!” given the number of youth present and knowing not all folk appreciate my movie quote-based humor), and many people stayed on to ogle the sharp objects and try their own hand at swordplay using the provided plastic practice swords. Veteran Guild members fended off blows from proud eight-year-old girls, discussed the history of their own experiences and detailed the packages available at the home of the Chicago Swordplay Guild: Forteza Fitness in the Ravenswood neighborhood.
Acquaintances were made, minds were impressed and people left with a first-hand account of how swords are wielded, knowing they themselves could take up arms if they so wished. All in all, a good day to be a swordsman.
WHAT I MISSED
Dynamite Panel - There was none. The more vain, fantasy-loving side of my personality was immensely disappointed by this fact given my choice of cosplay this year; admittedly a part of me was hoping someone from this significant comic company would take note of Red Sonja and hire me as the poster girl for the revamp of their iconic character come this July (written by Gail Simone, a noted female comic writer). A cosplay gal can dream, can’t she?
Game of Thrones Q&A with James Cosmo and Natalie Dormer - As a fan of the book series as well as the HBO phenomenon, I was jazzed to learn a couple of my favorite characters would be gracing C2E2. What doesn’t make my metal-covered loins quiver is an hour-long line on the last day of the con, so I waited until the minutes before the event to try and get in, not caring if it was standing room only (partly because I was unable to sit modestly in costume). What I found was a small line of folks waiting to see if people left the room as it was already beyond capacity. Here’s hoping the logistic folks behind C2E2 plan accordingly next year and schedule Q&A’s with stars from television’s hottest show in a room large enough to accommodate their fan base. Don’t they know that Winter is Coming?
Though I wish, as always, I could have been in two places at once to better experience everything that caught my eye, I am glad time was made for something new, exciting and unforgettable. After all, that is in essence what a good panel is all about.
By Avril Brown
Every comic convention is different. There’s the first con, the worst con, the cosplay con, the disorganized con, the con with plenty of panels, the con with few panels and so forth. This con, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo 2013, may have saved my life.
Alright, that statement may be a little overdramatic, but C2E2 certainly did inspire changes in my daily routine and basic lifestyle choices. When I told my personal trainer boyfriend I wanted to really look the part for my cosplay this year, he took me at my word and gave me the tools, guidance and support I needed to make it happen. I wanted to look like the warrior princess Red Sonja who is so badass her armor consists of a chainmail bikini, and he set about helping me make it so.
A relatively controlled diet and three months of hard work at the gym and I was ready to don my costume with confidence. First thing was first, however: go out and greet my favorite con.
Friday - The first day of C2E2 is always reserved for a non-cosplay, shopping-free walk of the convention floor. This way I get the lay of the land at my leisure while having the opportunity to chat with friends I only see at cons, scope out potential acquisitions without breaking my budget and generally relax and soak up the sights. Done, done and super done. I also spend Friday night hanging with some of my favorite blokes, throwing back brews and getting silly. Bearing witness to a good bromance is like diving into a good novel: once it gets going you just can’t look away, and every time you revisit there is something new to appreciate. A great day, and a great start to the weekend.
Best Cosplay - Overall: Hagrid, complete with lifts, a pink umbrella and a homemade ‘Monster Book of Monsters.’
Best Cosplay - Doctor Who: Two gentleman dressed like an ‘Empty Child’ character and an Ood.
Best Cosplay - Random: Boba Fett as a White Sox fan, armed with a metal bat.
Saturday - When people who typically are not interesting in attending comic conventions decide to brave the nerdy waters and wade into unfamiliar territory, it is a good sign that a fledgling con is really finding its feet. Jesse’s brother and his sister’s boyfriend decided to have a man-date and try the con on for size, which was thrilling, but the biggest shocker of the day actually arrived before I did on Saturday morning.
Ladies and gentleman, hell froze over: my folks came to C2E2. Now my father is the source of a lot of my nerdiness and could fit right in at a con, but I was floored that he actually dragged my mother along as well. I was excited, touched and a little nervous by their presence at my Mecca. ‘Excited’ because they could see in living color that not only am I not alone in my passions, but witness for themselves that comic cons are fucking cool. ‘Touched’ because it means so much to me they spent all that time and money to learn more about this part of my life. ‘Nervous’ because I was donning my costume for the first time and my metal loincloth only covered about half my ass. My mother did jokingly shield her eyes at first but they both managed to look at me without turning to stone.
Before I dressed up (or down, as the case may be), I walked the floor with my parents, feeling eight years old again as I excitedly pointed out, well, everything. ‘Mom, look at this amazing print! Dad, do you recognize that character? Did you see how many Doctors and Daenarys’s there are? Food court is back there, and the bathrooms on that wall have no lines. Let’s walk Artist Alley so you can meet my friends! Did I mention I’m happy to see you guys?!’ They accepted my akin-to-Ritalin excitement level with the patience and forbearance of parents who’ve accepted their daughter is a dork many moons ago, and dare I say it, but they seemed to have a good time.
Eventually we parted ways as I had panels to attend and pictures to pop a T and A pose for, and they were tiring, not yet imbued with the three-day comic con stamina, this being their first con and all. You have to train for that kind of heavy lifting. So I walked with friends, did a little window shopping, attended a couple panels (more on that in my C2E2 Panel column!), glowed with pleasure every time someone took my photo, chuckled internally when half of those people had no idea who I was cosplaying, and all around had an amazing Saturday.
The evening was spent in good company, with tasty nibbles and reasonable brews as we celebrated what felt to be a successful presentation and one hell of a con weekend. Continuing what is becoming a slightly boring but undeniably healthy tradition, I was in bed and sacked out before midnight.
Best Cosplay - Character from Specific Issue: Tie between two ‘Hawkeye’ characters: a guy dressed in a maroon tracksuit with a word balloon sign saying ‘Bro,’ and Kate Bishop in her circus outfit.
Best Cosplay - Short-lived Character: The Stalk! ‘Saga’ is only a year or so old, and The Stalk’s appearance lasted about five pages put together before she was killed off, but she made quite an impression being an armless, half-naked, spider/woman mercenary.
Best Cosplay - Movie: The house from ‘Up.’ ‘Nuff said.
Sunday - Sleep is the only god I worship on a regular basis, and I am devoted to its omnipotent presence, even on a con weekend. However, this means I am always left feeling rushed on a Sunday; I didn’t chat long enough with my friends, I didn’t do all the shopping I wanted, I didn’t see enough. Therefore I planned accordingly and actually woke my ass up early to shower, eat and make repairs to the costume (maintaining strategic placement of leather pieces inside a chainmail bikini is rather important), all in time to hit the floor at 10AM.
So I shopped, oh how I shopped, and wandered, chatted and took photos. I stripped down to my metal skivvies and wandered, chatted and posed for photos, often awkwardly. Sunday is ‘kids day’ and while there were only a few children interested in posing with Red Sonja, I was at a loss of what to do. I couldn’t crouch to their level without causing a scene, and standing proved no safer when one child stood directly in front of me, pressing his head into my metal-clad crotch. As the headline ‘Red Sonja flashes naughty bits, scars children for life,’ has yet to go viral, I think I remain un-sued. Best Cosplay - Movie: Tie: Ann Darrow from ‘King Kong,’ donning a bloody dress with a large gorilla hand wrapped around her midsection (this lady also came with a child yelling at his mommy for ‘smiling too much’ for my photo), and Wesley as the Dread Pirate Roberts with a plushie RoUS on his back.
Best Cosplay - Group: Nine lady Doctors who paraded around a blow-up Dalek.
Best Cosplay - Crossgender: A female Hellboy, with beer in hand.
Best Cosplay - TV: Two of the ‘tech-head’ characters from the Epitaph episodes of ‘Dollhouse.’
As always the end of C2E2 came far too soon, and I was left simultaneously elated and exhausted. Thanks to this con and my nerdiness/vainness, I’ve become a bit of a gym rat and a (mostly) healthier eater. I’m also more accepting of the fact there is only so much one can absorb, and instead of lamenting the things undone, I immerse myself completely in the moment at hand. If my folks can try on a con then coercing my sister, brother-in-law and baby niece to come on by should be an attainable goal.
Every con is different, and fingers crossed this will forever be the case.
Reviewed by Avril Brown
Tony Chu is hardcore. That is the message this issue has really hammered home: Chu is downright badass, and Tony himself is finally starting to understand how powerful he really is. Unfortunately his sister’s murder is what is bringing about this revelation, and his singular focus on finding Toni’s killer is beginning to affect his other relationships, and not all in a good way.
Poor Colby is stuck between a rock and a hard place as readers see in this issue the extent of the sacrifices he has made to get Chu back into the FDA, and his loyalty to Chu, which has been rock solid thus far, is about to be tested. Colby’s flexibility in the bedroom has caught up with him, and it appears to be a bumpy road ahead for this half-robot Romeo.
Readers are also treated to a damn cool new food power in the form of a ciboinvalescor (a person who gets stronger the more food s/he eats), and the fight sequence involving this guy was awesome.
The Poyo spread was equally kick-ass as Guillory continues to outdo himself with every challenge Layman throws at him. This issue was, of course, chock filled with great background nuggets, several of which had me in stitches. There was a sarcastic nod to the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, and the Seinfeld shout out was priceless.
CHEW remains a fun book to read, but readers should strap in as the book has taken on a darker tone with Toni’s death and shows no signs of easing on the throttle. The good news is if CHEW readers are dying for more of their favorite foodie, John Layman and Rob Guillory will be in Chicago this coming weekend to talk CHEW for the epic nerd-fest that is C2E2. Come out to the McCormick Center and soak up all the geeky goodness you can handle here in the Windy City from April 26-28!
Reviewed by Marc Mason
On at least one occasion, if not more, I have chosen First Second Books as my “Publisher of the Year” when doing a year-end wrap-up. They do consistently high quality work in a variety of genres and by an amazing array of talents. I recently received a bunch of new books from them to check out, and guess what? Yep, they’re right there at the top again, because each one is a total winner.
Do you know a young girl with a budding interest in science? Then make sure to buy her a copy of PRIMATES by writer Jim Ottaviani and artist Maris Wicks. Ottaviani has long established himself as the master of science and comics combined, and this book falls right into his wheelhouse: it tells the stories of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas, three women who immersed themselves in the study of primate behavior. Recruited over a period of years by legendary anthropologist Louis Leakey, each of them would go on to become their own legend with their work in the field. Using research and extrapolation, the book takes you through the trials and travails these women faced in getting taken seriously, living in remote areas of Africa, and gaining the trust of the creatures they were studying. Wonderfully illustrated, PRIMATES grabs your interest quickly and never lets go, and the women all fascinate though they are each quite different from one another. I mentioned young girl readers at the top, but really, this book is for anyone who likes the subject matter or just good comics. An excellent piece of work.
Sticking with books that are good for all readers, ODD DUCK fits that description nicely. Two talents who have done excellent work on their own, writer Cecil Castellucci and artist Sara Varon, team up for this story, a deceptively simple one. Theodora, a duck who lives a well-ordered and controlled existence, gets a new neighbor in Chad. Chad is an iconoclast duck, doing things his own way and on his own terms. He is an agent of chaos in Theodora’s life, but as they get to know each other, the two find ways to break down the walls between them and grow a friendship. ODD DUCK could have come off as preachy, but instead it plays out as subtle, keeping a subtle distance from Theodora as she shifts her perceptions of Chad and of what “normal” really means. In doing so, several different metaphors shine through, allowing the reader to take from the story whatever they wish. These two creators work very well together; I hope they do so again.
The first volume of ASTRONAUT ACADEMY made my year-end top ten list, because writer/artist Dave Roman knows his craft like few others. He’s smart, inventive, and funny, and his books are absolutely perfect for kids (as well as adults). So it comes as no surprise that volume two, ASTRONAUT ACADEMY: RE-ENTRY, is more of the same. The same clever concepts. The same snappy dialogue. The same zippy plotting. The same nifty pages full of cute Easter eggs in the panels. The same grasp on how kids really think. The same vivid imagination. I went through three copies of volume one, as they kept disappearing into the hands of kids around me. After reading this one, I better start stocking up again.
Shifting to the teen reader, I was drawn to NOTHING CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG by the presence of the talented Faith Erin Hicks. Her FRIENDS WITH BOYS and THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERHERO GIRL have been recent favorites of mine, so I was intrigued to see what would come from her adapting this story by writer Prudence Shen. The result: a terrific bit of fun. When the Robotics Club and the Cheerleading Squad vie for the same school funding, it leads to a brutal contest for student body president, a rash of vicious pranks, and the captain of the basketball team – a young man with ties to both groups – stuck in the middle. Throw in some quiet family drama, and you get a charming outcome. The characters are funny, the dialogue is terrific, the emotions are real, and the art is beautiful. The story takes you to some surprising places and is never too obvious, which is a real bonus, and it has a nice pace to it as well. Hicks is rapidly becoming a must-read creator.
Finally, if you’re looking at something just for the grown-ups, then Matt Kindt’s work is always a solid option. RED HANDED: THE FINE ART OF STRANGE CRIMES is what Kindt does best: complex plotting, complex characters, and complex storytelling. RED HANDED is: a crime story; a nod to classic Dick Tracy work; a multimedia project; a tale that bends your perception of time; a book you should read at least twice because it rewards that second glance. At heart, it tells you that it is a simple story: Detective Gould is the best law enforcement officer in the city, and he has never left a case unsolved. But as he solves a number of unusual cases throughout the book, it begins to reveal a wider tapestry, a fine web of details that show you a different beating heart in the pages. Kindt also uses newspapers, comic strips, and panels of pure darkness to relate the narrative as it progresses, each bit granting you a different piece of the grand design. No one else in comics does work like Matt Kindt, and I don’t think anyone else could. This is just excellent, excellent stuff.
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Let’s talk about balance for a moment, and how it pertains to comics.
A comic blends a number of separate elements together to create the final product. Plot, script, art, letters, and much of the time colors. When any one element gets too far out of balance, the end product can suffer. I thought about that as I read the first issues of two new Image series recently, and about the examples they provide.
Let’s start with EAST OF WEST by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta. EOW is set on an Earth playing out an alternate history, one that changed during the Civil War. No longer is there a United States as we know it; instead, there are separate “nations” dividing up the land. Into these lands come the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of whom has taken leave of the others to pursue his own agenda. I’d tell you more than that, but… that’s about all I could divine from reading this book. In the interest of keeping the reader immersed in mystery, Hickman provides very little in explanation for what is happening in his story. There’s a lot of intrigue here, no question, but there’s no character to latch onto. The book is seriously gorgeous in giving you what it does; Dragotta’s work is a feast for the eyes, and his storytelling is quite effective. In short, this is a decent enough comic, but one that is very much out of balance. It worked to get me interested in whatever might be going on, but it didn’t work to make me care about what was going on.
On the flip side, we have FIVE GHOSTS: THE HAUNTING OF FABIAN GRAY. The back cover of issue one tells you precisely what is going on: “Infamous treasure hunter Fabian Gray was possessed by five literary ghosts and has been granted access to their unique abilities.” Doesn’t get much simpler than that, does it? Writer Frank J. Barbiere and artist Chris Mooneyham don’t want the reader wasting time trying to figure out what is happening – they want the reader to dive in and just start enjoying the ride. So when we see Fabian shooting an arrow with the ghost of Robin Hood lingering over his shoulder, we get it. The story involves Gray attempting to rescue his sister from some sort of supernatural calamity, and eventually crosses paths with a temple devoted to spider-gods, and is mostly just a neat little lark. The storytelling isn’t always consistent – there’s a roughness to the art that reminds the reader of Klaus Janson’s early pencils, before he figured out his transitions – but it is something you can easily see improving with time.
So does this mean that FIVE GHOSTS is a better book than EAST OF WEST? Not at all. Each one has its merits and its flaws, and each one is something I could recommend to someone. Isn’t the great thing about comics?
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Let’s talk about the good stuff. I mean the really good stuff.
Two new graphic novels from my old employer, NBM Publishing, recently crossed my desk, and not only are they two of the best books I’ve seen from the company in a long time, they are also two of the best books of the year so far.
First up is AN ENCHANTMENT by Christian Durieaux. This is the latest in the series of graphic novels commissioned by the Louvre, and it might be the best one yet. Here we meet the director of the famed museum, as he faces the night of his retirement party. But unwilling to go gently into that good night, he finds himself distracted by a young woman who has evaded security and has made her way into the dark corners of the building. As they tour the place, two conflicting ideas arise in the reader: the young woman is truly a living muse and is giving lift to the breaking heart of this man OR she does not exist, and he is experiencing a delusion as his life concludes on this final night of work. Whatever interpretation you ultimately subscribe to, it is a magnificent piece of work. The art is lovely, the characters and dialogue are rich, and the book sweeps you up and carries you along with its verve. Each entry in the Louvre series has been unique, and has challenged its readers as a work of art should. This one stands above the others in its power to engage.
As someone with a degree in creative non-fiction, and someone who writes that form, I regard those that do immersion journalism well with tremendous respect. The commitment required is extraordinary. So when I tell you that Etienne Davodeau’s THE INITIATES is one of the finest examples of immersion journalism in recent memory, I mean that with all due gravity. Davideau had a brilliant idea: immerse himself in the life of a winemaker friend, Richard Leroy, and in turn, have Richard learn the life of a working comics artist. For a year, Etienne would work the vineyard, studying the art of growing the grapes, fermenting the wine, learning about soil composition, and more. In that time, he began supplying Richard with graphic novels to read and taking him on trips to comic conventions, introducing him to the top artists working in the field today. To say that each man gets an extraordinary education would be an understatement. Honest, educational, entertaining, and pricelessly unique, THE INITIATES is a book that sticks with you long after you put it down. The intelligent reader knows that real life can be just as captivating as fiction, if not more, and this book is a brilliant example of that. An amazing piece of work.
By Avril Brown
That was the question floating about the comic universe for the several weeks following an announcement in February that Orson Scott Card will be writing a ‘Superman’ story for an upcoming series of stand-alones starring the Man of Steel. Ever since the news broke, bringing to light some facets of the author’s beliefs which I was unaware, I have been contemplating how I feel about the situation, reading several articles, essays and commentary. Although I still cannot say how exactly I would handle the situation were I a professional comic publisher, I do feel a need to finally weigh in on the matter.
Fun fact: Orson Scott Card is the author of the immensely popular science fiction series ‘Ender’s Game.’ Although I greatly enjoy sci-fi as a genre I am woefully under-read when it comes to book series (I tend to prefer my sci-fi on a small or large screen), and despite my father’s encouragement towards reading the series when I was younger I never got around to picking up the books. Later on when I finally gleaned spoilers of how dark the series gets I avoided the books on purpose.
Not-so-fun fact: Orson Scott Card is a vocal advocate against gay marriage. He is on the board of directors of NOM (National Organization of Marriage), a virulent anti-gay marriage group, and he has written several essays explaining his negative opinions on gay rights and relationships.
When I first read the controversy surrounding the hiring of Card on a ‘Superman’ story I was shocked, saddened and a little pissed. I had no idea Card was a homophobe until this recent string of events, and although I have never read his work nor intend to, I was upset that a recognizable, and for many, beloved, storyteller in sci-fi was so adamant and outspoken in his views. Typically we comic fans are thrilled when a recognizable writer from other creative outlets tackles a big name comic as it brings fresh talent to the character/s as well as attention from normally non-comic folk. However, how excited are readers supposed to be when the author in question is an outspoken bigot, and what is the appropriate response in a situation such as this?
Petitions from both sides immediately began rocketing about; one arguing DC should fire Card and not publish his story, and one urging the opposite in support of free speech. DC settled the issue shortly thereafter by releasing a statement in support of Card’s storytelling, not his politics or personal opinions, and reiterated they were committed to publishing the story. That was, however, before the artist tied to Card’s story dropped out of the project, stating the media circus took away from the story itself and he wanted no part of something that has apparently become more about the potential statements involved and less about the content of the story. Now everyone is left wondering whether or not DC will quietly kill the project while fewer eyes are on the tainted prize.
They are extremely few in number, but some comic retailers have declared they will not carry Card’s story upon its release. My good friends over at Challenger’s Comics and Conversation here in Chicago have come up with what I consider a rather brilliant solution of their own: they will sell the book if published, but all the profits Card’s ‘Superman’ story produces will be donated to a human rights organization. The original post on their website entitled “Seriously, f@ck this guy,” explained their stance and logic behind their rational, which is solid, smart and well-spoken.
Personally I don’t read ‘Superman’ and likely never will, but hypothetically if I was a regular ‘Superman’ reader I would not pick up Card’s story knowing his stance on the LGBT community; I would feel overwhelmingly hypocritical. Some argue that Card should be allowed to tell his stories without his political and religious views dogging his every script, but would those same folk be as supportive of an author who made public his or her feelings on how interracial marriage will dissolve America as we know it? For most advocates of gay rights, the question is neither a political nor a religious one, it is a human one.
My good friend Elyse and her fiancée Anne are getting married this summer. Thankfully they live in a progressive state which has legalized same-sex marriage and they will not have to face any uphill battles with regards to their union (apart from the ones expected of any marriage). I’m very much looking forward to celebrating their love and commitment to one another, and I’ll admit I get a little ornery thinking about everything that would be denied to them if they lived in one of the forty-seven states prohibiting gay marriage. Just thinking about their smiling faces in their Facebook photos, Anne setting the bar ridiculously high by proposing to Elyse with some help from the folks at the Boston Aquarium and a friendly seal who knows fetch, the unwavering support of both their parents; I’m left wondering: why is there still a controversy?
So to answer the question of whether to boycott or not, well, that IS the question, and the answer is not such a simple one. Were I a ‘Superman’ reader, yes, I would boycott that particular story. Were I a DC reader, no, I would not boycott the company. For one, DC has shown itself to be a company of broad and varied characters, included the out Kate Kane aka Batwoman, who recently proposed to her girlfriend. Secondly, my Marvel is no stranger to Orson Scott Card. Midway through last decade Card was hired as the author of ‘Ultimate Iron Man’ and co-authored the comic book adaptation of his ‘Ender’s Game’ series. Rich Johnson of bleedingcool.com recently highlighted this fact and pointed out that there were complaints surrounding that decision as well, if not as prominent and explosive as more recent events. I do not read ‘Iron Man’ and as mentioned ‘Ender’s Game’ flies under my radar as well, so I remained ignorant of his involvement in my chosen comic company. Even if I was cognizant of his stories, and more importantly his issues with gay rights, I would have remained a Marvel reader. There are a million cogs and gears that go into an artistic business, and hundreds of decisions are made daily which affect both readers and creators, the making of which neither group likely had anything to do with. By dropping all Marvel titles I would be denying the company who wrote Card’s paycheck for his previous works my hard-earned money, but the creative team on the X-books I read also receive their paychecks from Marvel. Not to mention the retailers also need to see some coin to stay afloat to feed themselves and their little retailer babies.
In this case, being a gay rights advocate is hardly a straight line; it’s a queer one, complete with twisty turny loopholes and hard-to-avoid side effects. Should DC publish Card’s story? That’s up to DC and several people I’m glad I’m not. Marvel got away with it, so to speak, but that was several years ago before support for gay rights swelled, and now that Card’s views are more out than ever before thanks to the wildfire that is social media, he’s writing for a different world.
I object to Orson Scott Card; I will not purchase his projects nor stories from anyone who publicly declares themselves to be anti-gay rights. I will continue reading books produced by Marvel and other companies who may or may not have hired homophobic writers. I will not head out to the theaters to watch the upcoming ‘Ender’s Game’ movie, but I will continue to harbor a huge crush on Harrison Ford. I will dance my fool head off at Elyse and Anne’s wedding, and hope that the world will continue to evolve towards universal tolerance, with weddings, and rights, for all.
Reviewed by Avril Brown
With change comes consequence, and the consequence of Colby’s return to the FDA as Chu’s partner is Director Penya’s (of the USDA) severe case of heartbreak. However, the loss of her half-cybernetic lover is the least of her worries as hostiles from the Church of the Immaculate Ova have taken over a chicken restaurant and are taking out agents and their animal partners with extreme prejudice.
Enter the ultimate duo of Chu and Colby, backed up by the double-dealing Valenzano, who take on the terrorists. With a cold, confident focus unseen by readers before the death of his twin, Chu methodically and efficiently takes control of the situation, aiding the ladies of the USDA (who all seem to have absolutely ginormous jugs) in bringing down the baddies, including one with abilities. Yet another random superpower in the CHEW universe, the tortaespadero can create razor sharp shurikens out of tortillas; a handy ability which is now part of Savoy and Olive’s repertoire, thanks to their man on the inside.
A big secret is revealed in this issue and a new deal is struck, but whether it be for the benefit of mankind or the detriment of a partnership is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure: Tony Chu has his rocks back in a big and slightly scary way. Artist Guillory delights as always, but especially in this issue with the abundance of dramatic facial expressions and variety of fight scenes. Naturally be sure and scrutinize every corner of each page for nuggets of awesome, and hold onto your hairpiece because this is going to be a bumpy ride.
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Sequels are a fairly traditional animal; something hits it big, and as soon as possible, the creative goes back to work in order to strike while the iron is hot. There is a driving need to keep the property in the public eye and as financially viable as possible. So when I tell you that I’ve just read one of the more unusual sequels I’ve ever seen, I mean it.
ON THE ROPES is a sequel that comes 25 years after the original material hit shelves. In 1988, Vance and Burr delivered KINGS IN DISGUISE, introducing Freddie Bloch to readers. Here, Freddie makes his return. The story picks up with Freddie apprenticing to an escape artist named Gordon Corey; Gordon manacles himself, puts his head in a noose, and demands that a trap door be opened beneath his feet. Pretty neat trick. The pair are pair of a WPA circus, and though it is clear that Gordon does hold some regard for Freddie, it is also clear that Freddie aspires to more from his life. When he meets a journalist (“I’ve just never met a real writer,” Freddie says with a bit of awe) he also hitches himself to her wagon.
Freddie, you see, wants to be a an escapist artist in his own right. Just a different one than Gordon.
Labor strife, alcoholism, the drive to do the right thing regardless of personal cost, the book is a treasure trove of themes and plotlines. This is a mammoth piece of work, almost 250 pages, a book that truly defines graphic novel. The characters are rich and involving, the setting well-defined, and script and art work together in harmony. I never read KINGS, but it did not matter; I was able to absorb the material here with ease. ON THE ROPES is an impressive piece of work.
Reviewed by Avril Brown
Back in August I reviewed the first two issues of MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL and I knew the creative team of Mohapatra and Shinde were onto something, and now that Book One: Good Cop, Bad Cop is complete that obvious fact is available to the world in shiny hardcover.
Although this is a tale starring a grieving police officer, there are no full on ‘good guys’ in MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL. There is love and loss, violence and revenge, and above all, the clarity of a man with nothing left to lose. Gritty, powerful and hauntingly dark, MUMBAI sinks its hooks into the reader making you glad you don’t live in the crime-infested and corrupt Mumbai of the eighties and nineties, but leaves you wishing Mohapatra and Shinde will take you there again.
Arjun Kadam is the perfect protagonist: angry, self-destructive and quintessentially human. A member of the Mumbai ‘Enforcer’ squad, a team of police who eliminate the criminal element rather than follow due process, Kadam was no squeaky clean hero, and when he lost his wife and unborn baby, he became an aimless addict. It took his near death and the death an innocent child to set him on his path, one that would see him covered in blood yet washed clean at the same time. Mohapatra injects such realistic attitude and pain in his main character, armed with a Walther, a .45 and plenty of foul-mouthed one liners, you’ll find yourself rooting for Kadam before you even know what he’s fighting for.
The interludes scattered throughout Book One add real depth not to Arjun’s bloody rampage, but to his home: the violent and unforgiving world of Mumbai. By adding in several side tales of other unfortunate souls, some with delusions of power, others simply trying to survive, Mohapatra fleshed out his colorful and dangerous universe.
Archaia is known for backing some of the prettiest ponies in the comics business, and they found a fine looking stallion in MUMBAI. Shinde’s watercolor artwork gives the story a dreamlike quality, even when the blood is cascading out of bullet holes. The colors and varying sharpness of each panel add dimensions to Kadam’s struggle with depression and his fight to do at least one thing right. MUMBAI CONFIDENTIAL is an amazing story particularly since every page shows that Mohapatra and Shinde were made to tell it together. Here’s hoping we see more from this team, for there are undoubtedly more tales to tell from the streets of Mumbai.