angelophile: (Shaun - Nice cup of tea)




LFCC was enjoyable, for the most part because of all the lovely people I got to meet. It was busier than I expected it to be, so fighting the crowds was a bit of a trial, especially when in costume (which was horrifically hot). But it was great to be there and meet a few people I've never had the opportunity to before now.

Highlights of the day for me were:

Getting recognised in costume as Chamber. Not just by a few enthusiastic photographers, but by SIMON SPURRIER AND MIKE CAREY! They both waved me down to talk and share mutual love of the character. Mike Carey was as delightful as ever and especially nice about my cosplay and I got to express gratitude for his returning the character back to his original look. He was sad he hadn't been used since apart from occasional cameos, so I was happy to let him know that Simon's using him in X-men Legacy, so he was going to check that out. Also his love of Bendis' All New X-men makes me want to pick up the book even more.

Simon Spurrier was equally charming (and so handsome. Gosh.) and enthusiastic about seeing a Chamber fan. And hinted that I'll be even more happy with future issues. Eeee! While I was chatting to him, I heard a familiar voice next to me, turned around, and who should it be but my old friend Don Murphy, film producer, over from the States filming Vampire Academy. We've known one another for years, ever since Don managed to get the rights for Transformers, but never met in the flesh before. Big hugs all round and an unexpected joy. And there was enormous pleasure to be had in watching Simon get bludgeoned by Don's enthusiasm.

Being chased down the aisle by a photographer who was desperate to get a shot of me in costume when I didn't hear him at first. That was flattering!

Getting to chat at length with Geoff Senior, Simon Furman, Andrew Wildman and Stephen Baskerville. Those names may not be important to anyone who wasn't a UK comic book reader of a certain generation, but they're the reason I love comics and, in part, how I became a graphic designer. All creators on the wonderful UK Transformers comic (and now the continuation of G1 continuity in Regeneration One). Simon and Geoff created Death's Head, probably my all-time favourite character, who acted as a stepping stone to "proper" Marvel comics. Without them I wouldn't even be a comics fan.

They were all so friendly and generous with their time. I've met Simon before and interacted with Andrew online, but it was absolutely fantastic to meet Geoff Senior, who was probably a bit bemused by my hero-worship, as he doesn't do many cons. But he was a joy to talk to, as was everyone.

Can't wait to see Simon and Geoff's... secret project. Geoff was really enthusiastic about it and said he was having more fun on it than he's had on any professional job. Sounds amazing.

And getting sketches of Grimlock from Andy and Death's Head from Geoff. MY VERY OWN GEOFF SENIOR DEATH'S HEAD. You have no idea how happy that makes me.

Meeting up with Tumblr friends lilprince and iandsharman. Photographic evidence of which is above. Thanks to Ian for the pic.

Dave McKean's interesting and sometimes hilarious panel.

I didn't get any photographs or autographs of celebrities, unfortunately, although Eve Myles walked right past me, surrounded by security and caught sight of many others. I was able to catch the Doctor Who panel that included Dave Starkey (Strax), Louise Jameson (Leela), Frazer Hines (Jamie) and the absolute legend that is David Warner. And, for one hilariously cocked-up moment Dan Yeager from Texas Chainsaw Massacre ("I don't know, I've never watched Doctor Who." "... Why are you here?!") Frazer and Dave were charming and hilarious, Louise charming and enthusiastic and David statesmanlike and half-deaf. It was hugely entertaining.

I was actually really happy with the cosplay in the end, but boy, glad I didn't wear the wig. I was as hot as I've ever been as it was. Did you know that fake leather material absorbs water like a sponge? No? Me neither, until I took the face-piece off after an hour or so and literally had to wring it out. It was horrendous. And still soaking wet now, 24 hours later. And the boots were crippling. Not the most comfortable of cosplays to wear in the height of summer.

Some amazing cosplayers there, and so many. I'll try and gather photos, because I was so terrible taking any myself. Hard to play cosplayer and photographer at the same time. Favourite costumes of the day? Hard to pick, but it's hard to resist awesome kid costumers. There was a Kid Speed there who was delightful and the Slytherin family pictured above.

angelophile: (The Thinker)
(Crossposted from Tumblr

On a somewhat related topic to the last post, there’s been some interesting discussion going on over at Comics Alliance and on Twitter about comics publishers’ failure to capture new readers, even when other media outings for superheroes are massively successful. Why do people flock to see The Avengers in their millions, but only a few then seek out comics with those characters at comic stores? Comixology’s CEO talks about the 75 million sales of digital comics through their app and mentions that “We know we’re reaching a ton of first time comic book readings and reaching a lot of people who can’t, for one reason or another, get to a local comic store” in the interview here, but since the emphasis always seems to be on printed media, what would get new readers dipping their toes in there?

A number of interesting points raised, about what accessibility to new readers actually means and whether publishers and creators who are on the inside looking out understand how it feels to be on the outside looking in, the pure saturation of titles with no way to know what’s “new reader friendly”.

(Marvel’s recent .1 initiative was supposed to mark an ideal jumping point for new readers, but the titles themselves didn’t reflect that. That’s not even getting into the fact that adding a decimal point to already complex numbering helps how? Or that the only people Marvel seemed to tell about this initiative were current readers or those reading comics related PR. Just how was a new reader, coming into a store for the first time, supposed to gravitate towards those titles in a sea of others? Even my friendly local comics store owner was bemused by that.)

One exception that proves the rule seems to be The Walking Dead, which appears to have managed the difficult task of converting viewers into readers, both in digital and in print. The trade releases have been cited as being the main reason the graphic novels sales for the last year look so healthy, the 100th issue was recently announced as the biggest selling comic of the last 15 years and certainly, in my local store, the owner can’t seem to keep the books on the shelves. So why has that comic so effectively converted mass media appeal into sales?

Surely some of it has to be down to the uniqueness of the product within a sea of superhero books, but that explains why it may have been popular to start with, but not the explosion of new readers since. 

So, there’s an obvious conclusion to reach. Walking into a local comic or book store and scanning for The Walking Dead isn’t a daunting experience. There’s about a dozen or so trade collections, all clearly numbered so you know what order to read in. The ongoing has a 100 issues. All neatly numbered, not rebooting every dozen or so. The short answer is that The Walking Dead is accessable in ways that most of the Big Two’s output isn’t, even with DC’s reboot trick. If you like Batman, what Batman book should you buy? Which order do you need to read in? What’s the difference between the books? If you missed some issues, which trade do you pick up, and so on.

It’s the reason why, at least for a little while, Ultimate Comics was a successful exercise. Before getting bogged down with its own continuity, or lack thereof, there were divisions. It wasn’t perfect because, well, how did any new reader walking into a comic store for a first time know what Ultimate was compared to other Spider-man books, but it certainly helped.

There has to be a reason why The Walking Dead has been so successful bringing in new comic readers and why the Nu DC has been merely recycling.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, while the characters are as popular as ever, the bloated nature of most comics and publisher’s output makes them a niche product rather than something that is likely to reclaim the mainstream audience enjoyed in the past.

angelophile: (Chamber - Bachalo style)

Oops, forgot to post my pics here.

After much tinkering and rebuilding, I've finally got my Chamber costume complete. It was rather tricksy for a fairly straightforward costume. Leatherette proved harder to work with than I thought. And breathing is optional while wearing this costume. It's definitely one for cooler months.

The costume's based on the Generation X version of the costume. (I may wear the longer leather coat seen in the WIP pics for a later X-men era variant.) So, biker jacket, cowboy boots, black jeans for the basic look, then the additions of the face piece, chest piece and X-men belt buckle. I'm wearing white mesh lenses for the pics, but since they're uncomfortable to wear over my normal lenses, I'll probably forgo that detail when I wear it anywhere public. Being able to see takes priority. The scarring's just done with makeup, but I may go with rigid collodion for the proper scarred look.

Chamber Cosplay pic 1

Read more... )

angelophile: (Chamber - Skottie Young)

It occurs to me that I've posted pics of my Chamber costume everywhere but here. So time to change that!

Things I’ve learned in the process:

  • It’s really hard to get photos taken with a timer in focus.
  • I can’t see a thing when wearing white contact lenses.
  • Black really doesn’t photograph well, which is a problem when it’s all you’re wearing.

  • Here goes:

    Chamber Cosplay 3

    Read more... )

    angelophile: (Jubilee - Waiting to be impressed)

    Thinking things over more, there's definitely positive and negative with the DC reboot.

    I mean, I've been saying for a while that the DC universe is utterly opaque and daunting for new readers. I'm a comics fan, but Crisis after Crisis, Countdowns, big events and reliance on drawing heavily on past canon has kept me away from much DC content. There's a rich history at DC, but I don't even know what the original Crisis was, let alone want to see it referenced weekly, have events built on the multiverse... it's all seemed needlessly complex. Streamlining all this, to me, does seem an attractive proposition. This is the positive, along with embracing digital.

    However, it's the logistics of it that has me concerned.

    For example, take the current scenario of Batman Incorporated...

    Read more... )

    angelophile: (Chamber Uhhh?)

    So, it's happening. DC have confirmed that as of September they're completely rebooting their entire line, universe-wide. With new #1 issues for 50 titles and "a chance to start, not at the beginning, but at a point where our characters are younger and the stories are being told for today's audience."

    A few thoughts from me on this:

    For retailers, this is going to be a fucking nightmare.

    For current readers too, in most likelihood. For example, I currently pick up Batgirl, starring Stephanie Brown as Batgirl by a creative team I love. Come September, I may go into my local store and there'll be a copy of Batgirl waiting for me. Except this Batgirl could be Barbara Gordon. The entire universe and characters I was invested in swept aside to restore a status quo I'm too young to remember.

    As an existing reader, that's a horrible thought.

    Read more... )

    angelophile: (Gorillaz - Kids)

    Just wrapped up reading Volume 2 of Scott Pilgrim. More enjoyable than the first volume for me and it's nice seeing the characters start to develop and come into their own. Knives, Kim, Wallace and Stacey are still who I'm reading for, but I was pleased to find myself warming to Ramona after a rather underdeveloped role in the first volume. She's definitely growing on me and I even like her - something never clicked with the movie's take on the character. I guess she was meant to be deadpan, but it seemed more bland, whereas in this volume she's got a lot more personality to her and doesn't just exist in Scott's orbit.

    Scott, however... Well, yeah, I get that he's not necessarily supposed to be a good person in the early volumes, but I spent most of my time reading his scenes and reactions and just shaking my head and thinking "what an asshole." I don't think he's a hipster or epitomizes jerk nerds, I just think he's a total jackass. And, much as I wish it didn't, it does dull my enjoyment of the book somewhat. While the supporting cast and quirkiness of the book, and the setting itself, are attractive, it just takes the edge off it when Scott's around. I'll actually give credit to Cera for making Scott whiny and self-absorbed but likable in the movie, whereas I spend most of the panel time with Scott in the comic gritting my teeth.

    But it's a pleasurable read otherwise, with everything else about the book being attractive and I'm definitely hooked and looking forwards to seeing what happens to the characters next. Apparently they tried to deliver the next three volumes today, but as I'm currently snowbound, I doubt I'll be able to pick them up from the post office for a few days.

    angelophile: (Katie Cook - Beast - Yay books!)

    Started reading Scott Pilgrim last night, this time with a vengeance.

    I've been sat on the first two volumes for some months now. I started reading them at the time and sorta drifted away half way through the first volume.

    It took seeing the movie when it came out to make it click for me. Seeing the comics translated in that way has bridged the gap where I wasn't quite getting the books or their appeal. Reading the first volume initially I just didn't care for the central characters of their situations. I'd go as far as to say I actively disliked Scott. It was only when I saw the movie that it clicked that I wasn't necessarily supposed to like him or his "precious little life". And the first volume doesn’t really do much to develop Ramona beyond suggesting she was destined to fulfill the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype in the series, whereas she stands as a character in her own right in the movie (and presumably later volumes).

    But, it's a stepping stone to what's to come and while I found the first volume a far easier read after having the background of the movie to set it against, I still can't say I liked/loved it, but I can see as the books and characters develop I will (which is a click I was missing before). The supporting cast still give the main pleasure while the more expanded universe of the book lacks the movie's frenetic energy. But it did draw me in better, to the point where I've just ordered the remaining volumes and intend to tackle Volume 2 this evening.

    I may not love this series as much as some of my other friends yet, but I'm certainly set to like it.

    angelophile: (Yellow Submarine Glove)
    The more I see of mainstream comics currently, the more inclined I am to dive into creator-owned projects. The Image panel at Bristol did a lot to open my eyes to creator-owned - a lot of it down to the sheer enthusiasm of the creators on the panel for the work they're doing - Charlie Adlard on Waking Dead, Ian Churchill on Marineman, Kieron Gillen on Phonogram and so on. That enthusiasm rubs off, but also disillusionment with the direction of most mainstream titles pushes me further and further into digging out more creator-owned material.

    Take, for example, Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber's Underground. An example where I didn't so much hunt out creator-owned material as have it recommended to me by my local comic store guy. Who is a man of taste and whose opinion I'm starting to put more faith in. I'll certainly follow his recommendations more closely, because Underground is a great read.

    The main, female protagonist is park ranger Wesley Fischer, who is committed to protecting the natural environment of a local cave. Here she comes into conflict with some of the townsfolk in the local community, who believe that the best thing for the town would be developing the caves for tourism, despite the damage it would cause.

    It's an interesting set up and well handled. You feel sympathy for Wesley's concerned about the impact tourism would have on the ancient cave system, but also with the members of the township who are desperate for the influx of cash tourism would bring.

    So, strong characterisation that quickly backs up the action story that unfolds as Wesley and her potential love interest and fellow park ranger Seth are trapped in the cave in a deadly game of subterranean cat and mouse unfolds. What I especially like is that Wesley clearly is the lead and Seth is cast in the role traditionally reserved for female protagonists - he's the pretty one who needs rescuing. The fact that Seth's also a POC means that the book effectively ticks a lot of the boxes that I look for in books these days - strong, diverse characters and a variety in the representations of women and minorities.

    The story, as well, is a corker and the tension is quickly ramped up in set pieces and atmospheric underground locations, helped by Lieber's expressive art style and the great work of colourist Ron Chan who mixes the bright colours of the outdoor locations with the desaturated darkness in the cave wonderfully. The story itself is straightforward, even simple, but Parker's dialogue sparkles and brings the situations and characters to life. The dialogue feels natural and realistic, which, in an "action" book is a tough one to pull off.

    A great little book, then, and a perfect example of when creator-owned projects succeed - Parker and Lieber's love of the project is clear on the page. I hope that it gets optioned for the movie treatment, because it has great potential to be a real nailbiter.

    Image have made the first issue available in its entirety, in black and white as opposed to the final release in colour, here.
    angelophile: (Beast - Hmmmm)

    When I was in my local comic store this weekend I was talking about the Bristol Comic Expo with my LCS guy, who was there as well, and exchanging notes. Somehow we got onto the subject of S.W.O.R.D.'s cancellation and how I'd run into Kieron and he, inexplicably (to me at least) came out with the line "Did he admit that it might have had something with the way Beast was drawn?"

    Now, quite apart from the idea being boggling to me (a book cancelled because it didn't sell because of the way one particular character was drawn. Really?) and Kieron Gillen already noting that the book was on unsteady ground based on pre-orders alone before the art had annoyed anyone, but the main thing for me is that it was said as if post-Morrison Beast had had some kind of consistent design.

    Not only that, but let's take a look. Here's Quitely Beast. The way the look was originally established. A long-muzzled feline.

    And here, in a scan ruthlessly stolen from [ profile] aliasjack is Beast in S.W.O.R.D.

    Now, to me, they look pretty similar. Similar enough, in fact, that I'd say that Steven Sander's Beast design is a lot truer to the original design than, say:

    I mean, they can't seem to decide whether Beast's a lion, a house cat, a pug, or back to the primate design between issues, even when the same artist's involved. At least Sanders picked a look, one close to the original design, I might say, and stuck with it.

    In fact Sanders talks about basing the design on the Quitely look and mentions reading Bone at the time and dropping elements of Jeff Smith's design of the Dragon in there too, but he seems as bemused by the vitriol as I am.

    If people are going bang on about "Beast looking like Beast" I wish they'd be damn well consistent about it.

    angelophile: (Death's Head - Just Business)
    Third panel of Saturday was the one on digital comics and the industry's reactions to them, described thus:

    Digital Comics

    With the release this month of the iPad, we ask how are publishers, creators and retailers adapting to the growing number of digital devices able to carry comics? What is the impact of piracy on the industry, and will it force publishers to finally seek a more sustainable digital business model?

    On the panel for this discussion: Alex Fitch (Panel Borders podcast), Kieron Gillen (Phonogram), Kevin Mann (Co-founder of app developer, Eddie Deighton (co-founder of Com.x) and Martin ‘Biff’ Averre (Owner of Colchester's Ace Comics). Hosted by REDEYE MAGAZINE's Barry Renshaw.

    There was a good mix on this panel for the discussion, from publisher Eddie Deighton, who is developing a number of versions of Com.x titles for release on the iPad, to Biff Averre, who, as a comic store owner, admitted they'd "only just got to grips with email" and was a stranger to the digital medium.

    The panel started with the talk of iPad and how the panel thought it would affect the comics industry. With the (possible) exception of Biff Averre, who said simply that none of his customers had ever brought up digital comics, the panel seemed very positive about the development and said that it was definitely an interesting time for the publishing industry, although most were adopting a "wait and see" approach as to how much it impacted the industry.

    Read more... )
    angelophile: (Kitty & Lockheed)
    The first of my panel reports (which turned out wordier than I expected, so I decided to do individual ones), on Saturday I attended the panel listed as:

    Chris Claremont - Of Mutants, Marvel and Marada

    All this and much, much more is discussed when famed X-meister Chris Claremont sits down with Mike Conroy to chew the fat not only about his long and wide-ranging career but also what he’s got lined up for the future.

    An interesting panel in a number of ways. Claremont was entertaining and often amusing, although the relaxed atmosphere of the expo appeared to have got to him. Five minutes before the panel I passed him, apparently fast asleep, in the hotel bar. He was still a little... lethargic when it came to the panel and occasionally his responses and thoughts moved with a glacial pace. Journalist Mike Conroy was able to keep the panel on track, steering Claremont towards answers when things stalled, but for the most part, Claremont came across well, poking fun at his own work on occasion and certainly nicely cynical about certain characters and developments within the main X-men universe.

    I've no doubt forgotten many of the questions and discussions, but the panel kicked off with Mike Conroy asking how naturally Claremont had come on the idea of emphasizing the idea of mutants as being a cipher for minorities.

    Cut for TL:DR. )
    angelophile: (Pete Wisdom - Backing Britain)

    Back from the Bristol Expo and, as someone who's not attended before, I have to say I has a bloody marvelous time. I get the impression from what's been said that it's a lot more relaxed (and, if Andy Diggle's anything to go by, lackadaisical) than most cons. I think it was Gary Erskine that said to me that "this is our Christmas party", referring to the opportunity for creators to meet each other and chat to people they've not seen in many years. Likewise, the majority of creators, small and big press alike, seemed happy to hang out with the fans and (in most cases) treat them as equals, during the con and after hours in the bar.

    Understandably, the majority of creators in attendance were British, although some, like Chris Claremont, not resident here and some, like Richard Starkings, are now irregular visitors back home.

    The con itself is spread across two hotels – the Ramada housed the more mainstream panels, artists, signings and retailers, while over in the Mercure, the small and independent publishers ruled the roost, along with the small sci-fi and gaming section. On Saturday, there were signings by some of the minor Star Wars cast, for example, and a legion of Stormtroopers led by Darth Vader wandering around.

    Let me tell you, sharing a lift with a Stormtrooper is quite a surreal experience.

    All rather slapdash and not as clinical as US cons appear to be, with creators tucked into little booths. Lots of banter across the floor instead – while I was getting my sketch of Captain Britain from Mike Collins, Phil Winslade and myself were all chatting about DVD boxed sets and TV series and evasion techniques for avoiding tackling complex stuff (Mike showed a page he'd done for the new Doctor Who comic with an insanely detailed background, where he'd done so much detail to avoid drawing the Matt Smith Doctor for the first time and works unsequentially, while Phil Winslade has to draw each panel on order), all with the occasional aside from Doug Braithwaite.

    Over the two days I was lucky enough to chat to many creators. Some briefly, others less so. I kept bumping into Paul Cornell, for example, from the moment I arrived. Friday night I was swept aside by Paul, Kieron Gillen (Phonogram, S.W.O.R.D., Thor) and others on the way into town and then the first person I saw when I got to the Expo on Saturday was Paul again. It was kinda awkward stalker territory from there on in. Kieron slipped into the Chris Claremont panel on Saturday and sat at (okay, on) my feet, but I didn't get the chance to chat with him until Sunday, when we had a couple of friendly discussions about the panels, Death's Head and how he should totally make an appearance on Doctor Who. Kieron was great.

    That kinda set the tone. I managed long chats with Mike Collins (Batman, Superman, Doctor Who, Captain Britain), Lee Townsend (Punisher, a bunch of Marvel UK and Panini stuff) and the legendary Lew Stringer (Robo-Capers, Combat Colin, Pete and his Pimple, The Beano) while they were doing sketches for me – all exceptionally nice guys and we chatted a lot about Marvel UK. I had briefer, but still very friendly, encounters with Mike Carey (X-men, The Unwritten), David Lloyd (V for Vendetta), Ian Edginton (Victorian Undead, Batman, Stormwatch, 2000AD), Phil Winslade (Howard the Duck, Aquaman, The Flash), Gary Erskine, (Knights of Pendragon, Hellblazer, The Authority, Dan Dare), Chris Claremont (X-men, duh), Neil Edwards (current Mighty Avengers and Fantastic Four artist, who also managed to squeeze in a sketch), Paul Grist (Jack Staff), Sean Philips (Sleeper, Criminal, Marvel Zombies), David Hine (Strange Embrace, District X, Spawn, Son of M), Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead, such a nice guy), Ian Churchill (Hulk, Uncanny X-Men, Supergirl), Phil Noto (Beautiful Killer, tons of DC stuff) and Richard Starkings (Elephantmen and Comiccraft). With the possible exception of Richard Starkings, who did abruptly blow me off mid-sentence to pounce someone who he obviously hadn't seen in years, (understandable, but he could have handled it better than just blanking me), everyone was a joy to chat to, some very funny, self-depreciating and pleasant people and clearly really enthusiastic about what they do and appreciative of their audience. And despite the fact I got stuck on my own most of the weekend, I never felt awkward because all the creators went out of their way to be friendly and approachable. Including the bonkers Simon Bisley, who I ran into a few times, usually followed by a torrent of good-natured abuse.

    What was impressive was the small press room which, alas, I only discovered on the second day. A special shout out to Tom McNally, who sold me a copy of his weirdly wonderful Semiotic Cohesion book on sheer enthusiasm alone.

    I'll talk about the panels in another post (or two) rather than spam my friends any more in this post, but they were very casual affairs. Possibly to the annoyance of certain panel members (yes, Andy Diggle again), but to the benefit of others (the Marvel panel was informal and all the more hilarious because of it – more of a casual chat and ribbing between creators that the audience were part of). I managed to get a question answered on every panel I attended – we Brits don't tend to push ourselves forwards and most other people seemed too embarrassed to ask anything. More on what was asked to follow.

    I did pick up a few comics and collections and got them signed by the creators. I picked up a copy of Mouse Guard – Autumn 1152 signed by David Peterson, Paul Grist signed Jack Staff: Soldiers for me, Kieron signed a copy of one of his Thor issues, Phil Noto signed a Batgirl issue and the Batman/Doc Savage One Shot (I'm still kinda kicking myself I didn't get a sketch from him but I couldn't join two queues at once and time just ran out and I think he appreciated my not asking when he'd already wound down), Mike Carey signed the first Unwritten trade, Ian Edginton signed all the Victorian Undead issues I bought off him, Lew Stringer signed my Brickman Begins book, and I picked up the Eisner Award nominated Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness, Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told, Hulk: Boiling Point and from the small press section, the aforementioned Semiotic Cohesion and A Rope Around Your Broken Neck from Attackosaur Comics.

    Under the cut, all the sketches I bought. Please don't reproduce without asking first.

    Read more... )

    angelophile: (Phonogram - Lovely Time)

    I don't usually wax lyrical about comics these days, but I loved, loved, loved this book.

    Best read with the soundtrack playing.

    Order your copy today! [/shamless plug]

    And the two pages that just made me fall in love with Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie once and for all. )

    angelophile: (Death's Head - Just Business)

    Picked up my stack of comics for the last few weeks and in the pile was the final issue of S.W.O.R.D. It lived up to expectations and left me sad to see this great little series go.

    Originally slated as an ongoing, this series saw cancellation after only five issues. In fact, according to writer Kieron Gillen, it was pretty much cancelled even before anyone had read a single page of the series, based on pre-orders from retailers alone. My comic store guy said, when we talked about it today, "Maybe Marvel will learn that they're just putting too much out." A slightly odd attitude, but I can sympathize with retailers who have to lay down cash for stock - if it's an obscure project, it's not really a huge surprise that they pass. I know my store only got the title in based on myself and one other regular asking for it to be stocked.

    A shame, because the five issues we did get of S.W.O.R.D. were almost ridiculously fun. As a total fanboy, there's an element of "you had me at Death's Head" about it, but there was way more than just a snarky, 30ft tall, business obsessed mechanoid bounty hunter freelance peacekeeping agent to enjoy.

    Thankfully Kieron Gillen had planned for cancellation, because what we fo get is a great little safe-contained arc in which Beast and his girlfriend Xenophiliac Experimentation Partner Abigail Brand (from Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-men run) seek to save the world from imminent alien invasion, while Norman Osborn appoints Henry Peter Gyrich as co-head of S.W.O.R.D., leading to his making the decision to extradite every alien immigrant from the planet.

    It's an impressive feat that Gillen manages to run these two storylines, along with subplots about Brand's half-brother, the aforementioned mechanoid, build up Beast and Brand's relationship, introduce a new character, UNIT, who's akin to a robotic Hannibal Lecter and also put the spotlight on Lockheed in the space of five issues. It's a harp back to "proper" comic book pacing. Each issue works as an individual chapter and also a part of a whole. In the days where decompression can still be a killer for momentum, I applaud Gillen for packing so much in. And he also deserves credit for making the whole series what's sorely lacking in modern comics - fun. The scripts are witty, action packed and light in the best possible way, proving that you don't need tragic character deaths and awfulness to make a comic work. You can do it with light-hearted and quirky humour, fun characters, heroic situations, a touch of romance and witty banter between the two leads and, yes, a giant mechanoid bounty hunter with a snarky wit.

    Steven Sanders has come under a lot of flack for his depiction of Beast in his art. I can't really say I'm a fan of the look myself, although finding out he made him rather longer in the snout in tribute to the Red Dragon from Bone did soften my views. But, given the fact the character's not had anything like a consistent look since he was catified in Morrison's New X-men, I can't say I found the look particularly distracting. Especially not when I found the rest of the art attractive, light and clean and very suitable for the style of the book.

    I do find it depressing that this - a comic that's in almost every way fun, enjoyable and readable - is killed quickly, while (to my tastes) morally repugnant books like Cry for Justice leap of the shelves. But I shouldn't complain too much, I guess. At the end of the day I got a five issue series I enjoyed immensely and had great fun with. I doubt many readers of Cry for Justice and the ilk can claim the same.

    Either way, I can heartily recommend picking this title up in trade form, when it surfaces. I hope it will find its niche there and Kieron Gillen's demonstrated that he deserves a big title at Marvel and isn't just suited to indie stuff like Phonogram. Maybe his brief run on Thor will help with that.

    At least runs like this remind me there's still fun stuff out there. Hoorah! (If only briefly.)

    angelophile: (Spiderman is watching you masturbate)
    Shameless self promotion mode on:

    angelophile: (Rogue - Oh gawd.)
    Speaking of superheroes, man, my comic pull list is dwindling. I've bitched about this before - that a couple of years ago I was still picking up every X-Title going. Now? Well, I'm down to Ellis's Astonishing X-men and kinda indifferent to that.

    I did pick up the X-men Legacy issues with Emplate, which reminded me that Mike Carey can write, be fun and has respect for characters and a knowledge of their histories, but sadly, I was already soured to the title by the extended and dull "Professor X takes a road trip" storyline, the re-villianication of Juggernaut and other elements. But I lost all respect for PAD and his X-Factor title when he pulled the revolting stunt with the baby, Matt Fraction's jockish sex-men makes me want to punch myself in the face, X-Force is just torture porn - occasionally well written, but do I want to put myself through that?

    CBR's advanced X-men solicits don't do much to persuade me to jump back in either. In fact, just the opposite. By launching a big cross-title crossover, it makes it all the easier to drop the one title I am picking up for the duration of the crossover - New Mutants. A decision that's made even easier by the solicit teasing yet another "shocking death of a team member" moment. You know what? I find it far more interesting reading about characters living than characters dying and for the X-titles, and perhaps comics in general, that appears to be the only trick writers know. A character shockingly dies. A character shockingly returns. It's one big circle jerk.

    So, the decision to drop the X-titles entirely's made easier still by the "Second Coming" crossover, especially when the solicits do a lot of foreshadowing, suggesting a revolving door aspect on death following that pattern. One comes back so another must die and it seems to be heavily implied that Emma's going to die so Jean can return. Feh.

    It's sad that an X-related book that did fit my criteria of being awesome, S.W.O.R.D., was officially cancelled over the weekend, while the torture porn and lazy death plots continue to find an audience. Over at his blog writer Kieron Gillen talked about it:

    "Comics operate on a system of pre-ordering. As in, the first issue’s orders were in before anyone had even read a single page of the book. The numbers which people are reporting are low enough that the inevitable second issue dip -- also ordered before anyone had read Issue 1 -- would move it into a clearly dangerously low sales for a book in the X-family. In other words, I actually don’t feel that bad about the cancellation. It was already on unsteady ground before anyone had even read the thing, and got annoyed over Sanders’ Beast design or my over-verbal theatrics."

    Which beggars the question, why didn't the book get those pre-orders? It's a book with Joss Whedon created characters and setups, decently promoted, X-men related, yet stores didn't order it. Perhaps stores are just being more careful when they order non-core titles - sales on miniseries and "non-essential" titles do seem to have dipped quite considerably while crossovers have thrived, meaning the death of books like this and Runaways. Yet is an obscure Blackest Night tie in which doesn't affect the ongoing plot more essential than a book that exists almost entirely in its own universe, but is fun and entertaining? Stores appear to think so, even if the readership doesn't. Just before the official cancellation was announced a grass-roots campaign was gathering pace to save the title. It's too late for that now, but, as Kieron Gillen says:

    "While cynics have noted, it’s unlikely this sort of activity will magically get S.W.O.R.D.’s run extended. But it’s not just about that. Letting a publisher know they released a book which people liked and had an audience is always worthwhile. As others have noted, if you dug it, it’s worth being grateful for five issues.

    In other words, people being vocal about their like of a comic isn’t really just about trying to save S.W.O.R.D. - it’s about making it clear that this was a book you were interested in, and encourage editors and publishers to think about books in a similar part of the emotional terrain and then work out a way to sell ‘em."

    I guess at the end of the day, that's the answer. Just buy the books you like and hopefully retailers and publishers will catch on that it doesn't all have to be about superhero torture porn, Deadpool over-saturation and premature death.

    Unfortunately, for the X-titles, it seems there's a way to go yet.

    angelophile: (Cerebus Give up!)
    I can't help but wonder if comic store owners, like those cheering on the Scans_Daily troll on Twitter, would have less cause to complain about S_D losing them custom if they didn't insist on pulling stuff like this.

    Now I know that this guy doesn't represent all store owners, but it certainly gets me churning over the fact that I've never encountered a single comic store yet that appeared... welcoming. Pretty much every store I've been in has had that "secret club" mentality, and often a secret club with "BOYZ ONLY" written on the door.

    And it's hardly an original thought, but it's noteworthy that, while comics retailers are quick to blame a number of things for declining sales in comics over the last couple of decades, the one thing they don't actually change is their own stores. I think it's quite telling that, instead of trying to encourage a new generation or demographic of comic book readers into their stores, this store owner decided that plastering pictures of bared boobs around was the way to encourage people in.

    There's been a lot of talk about the publishers running down their own customers (and, frankly, even my own local comic store owner described Marvel as treating their own customers with contempt, so it's hard to argue they don't) but equally store owners also can't seem to get it out of their heads that the only people who they'll ever get through the door is the horny fanboy demographic. Hell, I resent stuff like that. The idea that a flash of some boobs is all it takes to perk my interest is irritating and the sort of mentality that spawned Michael Bay's Transformers and this sort of nonsense.

    Perhaps it's not just the publishers than need to change their outlook on their customers.

    (And yes, I still recognize the irony of using a Dave Sim icon for any post that touches on feminism.)

    angelophile: (Cerebus Give up!)
    Kevin Smith was on the BBC's Newsnight Review on Friday, along with Mark Millar on film talking about geek culture and pushing his upcoming Kick Ass movie. Other guests included Jeanette Winterson, the novelist (writer of "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" for one) and Natalie Hynes, comedian and author and Kirsty Wark, the host.

    Millar did a little piece proclaiming that Hollywood has changed its hero stories to reflect the geek and how the female audience is rising to the fore.

    Strange to hear Millar talking about the female audience, but there then followed this exchange:

    Kirsty Wark: Mr Millar.. may say the geeks are all powerful now… but he’s still doing a lonely boy revenge fantasy.

    Jeanette Winterson: It’s misogynist, it’s homophobic, everyone’s a fag or a cocksucker, there’s absolutely no place for women except as cardboard cut outs, and the thing is just full of the worst kind of dripping violence, which is a kind of adrenaline injection which means you’ll utterly dead to life in its subtlety, its complexity, its possibilities of expansion of relationships. This is the kind of thing that’s the product of human emptiness

    Kevin Smith: I just thought it was a comic book.

    Natalie Hynes: Misogynist is a bit unfair, and also inaccurate, it’s the comic book world.

    Jeanette Winterson: The comic book world is misogynist! It wipes women out.

    Natalie Hynes: I don’t think that’s true any more.

    Jeanette Winterson: It is in Kick Arse

    I think this little exchange pretty much summed up why I get constantly frustrated with the comics industry when they deal with women. You get Kevin Smith's trite "It's only a comic book!" throwaway and the response to pointing out that the women only exist as cardboard cutouts again there's the "It's the comic book world" response. Honestly, nothing will ever change as long as that attitude is prevalent.

    It also provided this exchange:

    Jeanette Winterson: You cannot swap a stereotype of sexual proclivity for a stereotype of violence and call that progressive.

    Natalie Hynes: It’s a slight progress.

    I think the thing that depresses me most is seeing this on BleedingCool and reading the "HAHA WHAT A BITTER LESBO AMIRITE?!" comments.

    I think I'll go hide in Scans_Daily for a few weeks again.

    EDIT: And yes, I am aware of the irony of using an icon from a Dave Sim book for this post.

    angelophile: (Kitty - Skottie Young Love)
    Thanks to Chris Sims, some extracts from superheroes Facebook status update pages:

    angelophile: (Runabout and Runamuck are Dead)

    Finally I present my own story - taking place during the period depicted in Cybertron: The Middle Years, it focuses on Runabout and Runamuck, the Decepticon Battlechargers, who can be best summarised as the Beavis and Butthead of the Transformers universe. Or perhaps the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as I definitely took pleasure in putting them in the wrong place at the wrong time in this story and blurring history a little. It's possibly my only complete fanfic because, frankly, I'm flakey and never finish anything. And I was always quite pleased with it. Those who are fans of Transformers through the Michael Bay movies will be pleased to know shit blows up. A lot.

    Read more... )
    angelophile: (Grimlock Badass)

    One of the fandoms I'm big on, but don't often mention here is Transformers. It's probably the only fandom I've written proper fanfic for and that I've followed religiously since I was a kid.

    Over the past few years, there's been a number of re-imaginings of the origins of the Autobot/Decepticon war published. In addition to the Transformers movie, Dreamwave and IDW published series like The War Within and Megatron: Origins which supposedly covered Optimus Prime and Megatron's early years. One thing they picked up on was earlier origin stories which had the Decepticons emerging from Cybertron's gladiatorial arenas, an story that has its origins way back in 1986 when James Hill wrote a story for one of the UK Annuals, which focused on the beginnings of the war on Cybertron.

    Personally, I don't think it's ever been bettered. The story, State Games, has a political slant that's missing from most other origin stories which makes the beginnings of the war seem all the more realistic and believable, as one ancient regime crumbles into violence and civil war.

    It's an obscure story, though, and I don't believe it's ever been reprinted, although it was referenced many times during the UK Transformers comic run and the gladitorial combat idea has been used repeatedly since. So, for those who haven't read it, beneath the cut I present the story in its entirety.

    Read more... )

    In addition to the State Games story, one issue of the UK comic published a single page story called Cybertron: The Middle Years which detailed, briefly, what had happened in the 4 million years on Cybertron while Prime, Megatron and the other earth-based Transformers had lain deactivated in the Ark. It essentially filled in the blanks between the launch of The Ark and the loss of the Autobot and Decepticon's leaders and the later complete Decepticon conquest of the planet as shown in the US comics.

    Read more... )
    angelophile: (Toy Story Aliens - OOoooooooh!)
    Since everyone else has talked about it...

    Honestly, the Disney owning Marvel thing? I don't honestly think it's likely to make a huge difference. And almost certainly not a negative one.


    The internet's already abuzz with the idea that Marvel is going to get Disneyfied and all its comics will suddenly become places where GLBT characters are no longer welcome (because Marvel were doing so well at that before?), the only books will be child friendly and cutsey (don't people love Marvel Adventures and hate 90s gorefests like X-Force? Where's the bad?) and so on.

    Most of which ignores the idea that Disney already own a number of companies (Miramax, Touchstone Pictures) which haven't exactly been sanitized or interfered with. It's useful to remember that the Disney owned Miramax made Clerks, The Piano, Pulp Fiction, Il Postino, From Dusk Till Dawn, Trainspotting, The Talented Mr. Ripley, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Crow and many others. Hardly Disneyfied output.

    Hey, there was the same worry about Pixar and it seems business as usual with them, still. And, honestly, if Disney decide to stick Hannah Montana in an issue of Spider-man Family, would that be so bad? Worse than the fellating of Obama in recent Marvel comics?

    Quotes like "I hope I'm wrong, but this seems like the worst news in comics' history"? Ridiculous.

    It seems to me like Disney got a bargain in marketing alone and, in terms of the comics, are now in a position to push comic book characters, and by extension comics, meaning wider exposure. This can only be a good thing.

    There's also the buzz in the hugely optimistic direction. I had a discussion with someone last night who insisted that a statement saying that Pixar and Marvel had a meeting and they were "excited" by it meant that Pixar were going to start producing movies based on Marvel properties. Despite the fact that Pixar have had access to all of Disney's characters over the past few years and have continued to create new and fresh worlds regardless and the statement about the Pixar/Marvel meeting being for shareholders (you know, the kind of statements where hyperbole runs rife) they insisted it was going to be Pixar making Spider-man movies or something. They claimed that the tone made it clear that it was going to be Pixar doing Marvel movies and not, as I take it, Marvel doing Pixar comics based on the idea that there was nothing exciting about it that way round. Oy.

    While, undoubtedly, Disney will be seeking to unite all the various Marvel film franchises under one roof when existing contracts run out, in the meantime they have massively successful films that seem unlikely to be replaced by CGI. Pixar doing a Power Pack movie? Nnnnoooo.

    Another good thing, the big business support now puts them in the same position as DC, who are supported by Warner Brothers and don't have to worry about their bottom line so much. Paul Cornell puts it best:

    "It gives Marvel Comics the same financial security as DC has, the latter being part of TimeWarner, while previously Marvel had to survive purely on the strength of its comics...
    That's why, in the past, a marginal Marvel title would be cancelled long before a marginal DC title would. Now, when the immediate success of every single title isn't make or break, I expect we'll be seeing more experiments and more creative risks from people whose love of the medium meant they couldn't help themselves but to publish comics they knew would find only a small audience, even when finances were tight."

    So, titles like Runaways, Spider-girl, Captain Britain and MI13, the Marvel Adventures line, Squadron Supreme, Exiles, Agents of Atlas, Guardians of the Galaxy, Immortal Iron Fist, Nova, Incredible Hercules, X-Factor and so on could be on firmer ground.

    Then there's the question of widening the range of Marvel's output. Again, a good thing. From Marc Bernardin, comic writer and Senior Editor at Entertainment Weekly:

    "The biggest question this acquisition poses to me, from a purely comics standpoint, is ‘How will this change what Marvel chooses to publish?’ Not that I think that suddenly, Disney will step in and set some sort of mandate, but if you draw an analogy to the Warner/DC relationship, it’s important that DC publish non-superhero titles for Warner to funnel into production. Because not every superhero demands his or her own movie," said Bernardin. "You also need to have your 'Preachers', your 'Y: The Last Mans', your 'Losers'. But right now, Marvel doesn’t do much of that outside their Epic line. They are, by and large, a publisher of superhero comics, and to this point, it’s worked incredibly well for them. But I think that’ll probably change.”

    So, I'm really struggling to see the bad here. (And, admittedly, the hopelessly optimistic Pixar making Marvel movies failing to see the good too). Disney starting to intervene, maybe even putting one of their guys in charge? Well, when did everyone decide Joey Q was someone they didn't want replaced? Everyone seems to be reacting like Marvel has a flawless track record recently that can't be messed with instead of glorifying villains and murderers, Spider-man selling his soul to Satan and coming back as a sad man-child, Sins Past, Civil War, depowered mutants, rampant misogyny and the "boys only!" mindset, sex obsessed BDSM X-men, etc etc etc

    Undoubtedly there will be changes, but huge and immediate? I think that's highly unlikely. The changes I do foresee are only good ones.

    Well, all will become clear in time.

    angelophile: (Katie Cook - Juggernaut)
    [ profile] kirke_novak suggested the X-men for the fandom meme, so here goes...

    1. The first character I fell in love with:
    "Fell in love with" is probably a strong term, but I think Kitty Pryde probably. When I started reading X-men comics with any regularity, she was off with Excalibur and so I didn't really know much about her until I started reading the collected Essential collections. So I was able to read the character from her first appearances. I think falling in love is a gradual process and I think that's what I had with Kitty - warming to her and then finally something clicking completely when I read the way Warren Ellis handled her in Excalibur. I miss her.

    2. The character I never expected to love as much as I do now:
    Scott Summers. When I first started reading the X-men, I bought into the reputation of Scott as uptight, jerky and otherwise bland. To be fair, the late 80s and 90s weren't the best time for Scott - after Claremont left the book. Again, it was reading the Essential collections that revealed there was more to the character than the reputation might suggest and also Grant Morrison's run where something really clicked and I started to be fascinated by his character - flawed, noble and often brutally hard on himself.

    3. The character everyone else loves that I don't:
    Jean Grey. I wouldn't say I dislike so much as find her uninteresting. I find her terribly bland and the epitome of the character that has it all - power, looks, not just one, but two men (or three, or four) chasing after her - and is just a little too perfect. The one skeleton she has in her closet - Dark Phoenix - wasn't her at all and what's left is a rather flawless individual. I find the f***-ups like Scott far more interesting than the characters who seem to know it all without actually learning anything. And for all the bad reputation Scott gets (deservedly) for his flakiness with women, somehow Jean always survives unsullied, despite making damn sure Logan remained obsessed with her for years. If she'd actually come out and admitted she was cockteasing him I might actually warm to her as interestingly flawed, but keeping Logan on a leash whilst also being portrayed as near being so damn goodie-two shoes. Few things are more irritating to me than perfect characters.

    Read more... )

    I better not ask for any other fandom suggestions. That took me entirely too long.

    July 2013

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