This isn’t really a “best of 2006,” but my aim was to introduce you to a few of the people in the comic book industry who I’ve found myself absolutely impressed with this year. If you don’t read about comics online, or don’t stop in to your local shop more than every now and again, I’m hoping you’ll check them out – each one has contributed to my continuing geek engagement with the funny books.
- This was the year that I rediscovered Rick Spears. His fantastic Teenagers from Mars was gorgeous, darkly funny and tremendously entertaining. He’s back with a brand new series, Pirates of Coney Island – it’s madcap, violent, and enjoyable. Not a seriously long read, from issue to issue, but I’ll plunk down for every one I can find at my shop.
- In the same category is Dan Hipp, whose Amazing Joy Buzzards is truly “comic” – from bizarro villians to spiritual Lucha Libre heroes, the pace is kept fast and funny. While the writing quality can fluctuate from issue to issue, I absolutely dig the visuals (there’s even a character that “speaks” entirely in icons). Hipp’s latest work, Gyukashu, looks to be a departure in tone, but still a compelling and highly anticipated book.
- I shouldn’t have to tell you to read everything Warren Ellis produces. You should just know. Fell and Nextwave, as absolutely dissimilar as they are, are two of the greatest re-examinations of genre writing to occur this year. Fell deconstructs detective stories in a format that no one else has been able to pull off in years – and every issue comes with enough extras and insight into the production of the comic to qualify as the criterion collection. Nextwave warps the “underwear perverts” (aka superhero) genre into hillarious configurations. Stop reading this, go preorder both collections.
- I sometimes think the worst thing that ever happened to Ben Templesmith was the outrageous success of 30 Days of Night. It’s the best vampire story written in the past decade, but consumer demand for more had Templesmith drawing dark, brooding toothy creatures for far too long. It’s obvious from his collaboration with Ellis on Fell and from his (wholly created by him) Wormwood that he is an enormous talent that got typecast for a bit. He’s breaking out of it, and his explorations of different genres and styles (and writing!) is fantastic stuff.
- There were plenty of Big Events in the industry this year, same as every year. The big changes they promise will be swept away in a year by different writers, watered down, retconned out. It’s part of comics. I’m hoping, however, that the biggest event in the industry this year will have some lasting effects. On her (previously annonymous) blog, Occassional Superheroine, former DC Comics editor Valerie D’Orazio wrote a multi-post “Goodbye to Comics” detailing her experience as a women in the comic book industry. If you care about comics ever mattering to anyone outside of the fanboy demographic, or if you truly want to know how bad it could possibly get for a woman working in an industry run by men to (in far too many ways) cater to male power fantasises, this is a read as engrossing as it is essential. Follow up articles on the impact of Valerie’s revelations can be found here and here.
Templesmith, Ellis, Hipp and Spears are all doing important and inspiring work. I can say without hyperbole that D’Orazio’s account of her time at DC is the most important thing to happen in comics in my memory. Each of these people have had a dramatic impact on me and on comics in 2006, and I’m happy to point you in their direction.
Oh man – I just found this, thanks to Convergence Culture: the pilot for Mike Mignola‘s Amazing Screw-on Head is now available for preview at SciFi.com. Here’s the link. More on this later, I need to watch it again.
[update] Yeah, that’s pretty much fantastic. This is absolutely more of a post for my Vox account, but I figure those of you who read my posts about comics might want to know about this. You can find the backstory of the original one-shot comic Mike did in that Convergence Culture link above (and elsewhere).
The pilot is more ambitious than the single issue comic, explaining relationships and tensions between the characters. The fidelity of the animation to Mignola’s style is remarkable, tho – this is what I’m hoping for from the Hellboy cartoon, but I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna get it.
[update 7/18] My friend Helen just IMed to let me know that the best place to find out more info on the Hellboy cartoon is (naturally) their Typepad blog. Check it.
Ben Templesmith is ridiculously talented. He’s one half of the duo that created Thirty Days of Night. The concept behind the comic book was clever; the series sold well enough that Ben unfortunately ended up drawing vampires for some derivative semi-sequels that ran that clever concept straight into the ground.
Those days are happily over, as Ben has not only diversified but also gotten Brain Wood-level prolific: he’s scripting and drawing Hatter M and Wormwood, and collaborating with Warren Ellis on the you-must-buy-this Fell series. Now comes word that he’ll be doing covers for Wasteland. On the subject of high-profile artists doing cover art (but not the pages inside), Ben’s got this to say:
I think I’m a bit of a cover nazi. I like the guy doing interiors doing covers, with a few exceptions…like McKean for Sandman etc and Fabry for Preacher. But they had a plan, were consistent, and knew what they were doing wasn’t just to boost sales.
I agree with what Templesmith is saying, but I’ll be honest that the quote made me think of the reactions some clients have when the realize they’ll be working with me instead of, say, Veen or JJG or Peter. “I want what’s inside to match what’s on the cover!” It hasn’t happened more than once or twice since I started, but it does happen. I can shrug it off and work through it (I can be very convincing), but it has led me to think about why it happens.
It seems there’s a trap that lies at the heart of raising your own profile in this business – people end up wanting to work with you. Not your firm, not your associates – you. As I’ve transitioned to leading engagements and raising my own profile, I’m realizing I’m in a position to deal with this state of affairs by encouraging clients to check out the really good work being done by the people they don’t know.
To be honest, I think that’s the choice being made by the Templesmiths, Fabrys, McKeans and Jeans of the world – they’re able to draw the attention of readers to writers and artists they might not otherwise discover. It’s not a craven cash-in, or a dishonest way to elevate sales. It’s kind of a creative public service.
For San Francisco, temperatures in the 80's are pretty extreme for June. The heat, plus the lost sleep from going to shows and waking up early for World Cup matches has completely stripped me of motivation. I do, however, have some random links to share from this week's travels across the Net:
- I fully intend to purchase Johnston Atoll. Radioactive golf course? You can see the green in the dark!
- Related to the above: the U.S. has an Office of Property Disposal? Euphemistic and totally bizarre. I had no idea.
- Deadspin quotes a behind-the-paywall WSJ article that says less than 10,000 customers have signed up for Mobile ESPN service. A disappointment for Disney, surely, but what about everyone who was saying MVNOs will crack the grip of the provider-model in the US?
- In the "good news for Disney" column for this week, Random Culture reports that ABC has had tremendous success with it's ad-supported online TV streaming. 11 million viewers in one month vs. 9 months to get 6 million downloads on iTunes.
- The news that Katie Lee Joel is not coming back as host of Top Chef seriously made my week.
- My fellow Portugal supporter Mike Monteiro is visually heckling our only Dutch friends before Sunday's World Cup match.
- In comic books, the very-much-anticipated release of Matt Fraction's Cassanova is finally here, and Newsarama posts a preview.
- Frank Bruni writes on his blog about how mild the lamb dishes he's been served of late have tasted. The amino acids that contribute to the flavor characteristic we think of as "lamb-y" are more prevalent (in my opinion) in New Zealand lamb that is entirely grass fed. I don't know many cooks here in SF who prefer to work with American lamb.
- Related to the above: allow me to recommend the lamb riblets at Globe for your late-night noshing needs whenever you're in San Francisco.
The Lost finale and the launch of the Lostpedia have lead to sweet memories of The Beast. Jane McGonigal's paper on collaborative play and problem-solving is still the most insightful account of the Cloudmakers and their engagement with the game.
Calls-to-action to construct your identity in social networks: do more people really personalize their avatars if the default avatar is expressionless and dull?
Anil stays on his grind, cousin… and reminds us all that the data-wake we leave on the net is long, wide, and open to interpretation and conjecture by complete strangers.
Friday comic highlight: I actually bought this a bit ago, but I've gotta rave about Ben Templesmith's new solo book Wormwood. He's obviously been spending too much time with Ellis, who has GOT to be the inspiration for the title character's drinking-buddy/homemade automaton Mr. Pendulum.
DHS privacy office slams RFID technology. That was unexpected.
In Tape Op magazine, Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee says “all the true hip hop” is in alternative rock ‘n’ roll. As Pitchfork’s Nitsuh Abebe says, he sounds like one of the Velvets now.
The beginning of Raph’s essay on exceptionalism goes straight over my head, but this paragraph reinforced something I’ve been thinking about user-generated content:
The thing we must not lose sight of here is that content creation is a skill just as much as being a badass game player is, and it’s therefore subject to the same power law sorts of success rates.