Friday, July 31, 2009

Linko! XVI

All right! Since I didn't get to this last week since I was drowning in a sea of hard to comprehend panel transcripts, we're wrapping our Comic-Con week here on the CKT with an all-San Diego Linko!

* Some of you may have already seen this, but I posted a link to all the stories I wrote for CBR up on my Four Color Forum interview blog. That includes everything from DC and Marvel panel reports to an interview on the Scott Pilgrim video game to some "state of the con" stuff with organizers. I should have another post up early to mid-next week with the rest of the work I did at the show. (Oh, and sorry if the site loads slowly. I'm working on it)

* When it comes to news, there are 10,000 things getting announced every second at San Diego – so much stuff that I wonder why companies don't just wait until August to talk about big initiatives, but I don't run a publishing empire, so what do I know? In any event, the things I noticed that had me interested were:

Marvelman is back! Sure, this was already everywhere five times, but it's still big news even though at this point there's absolutely nothing proving Marvel Comics will be able to leverage their purchasing of the '50s British superhero rights into reprints of the '80s American superhero masterpiece(s). Fingers crossed though. In the meantime, read up on what this all is and what it means at Robot 6 or check out my own report of the announcement with quotes from Mark Buckingham or go back to Robot 6 for the first word on the whole deal from Neil Gaiman. BONUS! John Parker's Comics Alliance Essay on 'Miracleman' at Marvel: How Not to Ruin It was a good read, though I think he's already lost the naming battle.

New Bone book! Sure, I was a little bummed to learn the expansion of Jeff Smith's classic comic serial would come in the form of illustrated prose books rather than straight comics, but I don't want RASL to slow down, and writer Tom Sniegoski did a great job in that world in the past. So onwards and upwards. See covers and read more at Smith's blog.

New Casper comics! I may be the only person to find the announcement of a new series of comics starring Casper the Friendly Ghost interesting, but according to every comics news site, I'm also the only person beside Cartoon Brew's Jerry Beck who noticed it. I can't think of another beloved kids franchise that's been so poorly handled over the past 15 years as the Harvey Comics lineup (and the Looney Tunes have been fucked over pretty bad), and I really don't think that an all-new, all-kewl take on Casper is the way to really get kids back into the characters. Then again, Todd Dezago is writing this, and he knows what he's doing on that score. Plus, the Flash Gordon series from the same publisher looked cool the few times I saw it, so best of luck to them.

* Honestly, there were a lot of other really great comics projects announced at Comic-Con this year, and aside from spreading word on books that cause me to beat my own personal nerd drum like the above, I'm just going to point you to Robot 6's inherently better rundown of all the news.

* Here's a stupid question? Does nobody write con reports about San Diego anymore? I mean, obviously some do, but I'm seeing less and less of the "here's all the fun dinners and panels I went to" kinds of reports that hit in the days after a show. Maybe more will pop up next week like Ben's, but for now the best I've seen so far include Brian Heater's report which was very good even if it didn't mention me, web comicker Meredith Gran's take which shows a different view of the show than us journalisty types get, writer Matt Maxwell's epic continuing report (scroll down and work your way up), John Hogan's more newsy take at Graphic Novel Reporter and for anything else that might be on interest to anyone will either show up on The Beat's ongoing SDCC category or The Comics Reporter's soon to be giganta-mega SDCC link dump.


* On to the silliness of the weekend, aside from a lack of a category for dudes in obscure DC Characters costumes, Neatorama's rundown of the kinds of costume-wearing fans you meet at the show covered all the bases. Also: upside of JJ Abrams Star Trek popularity that I should have seen coming but didn't: it's returned Trek cosplay to its rightful place as king of all nerd dress up parties.

* I saw some folks disparaging the total lack of comics coverage in this year's Entertainment Weekly con coverage, but while the print magazine seemed to totally fail honest to goodness comics readers, the EW website did slightly better in handing over their con coverage to celbrinerds like Seth Green and Olivia Munn. OK, so most of their coverage isn't actually that comic focused or "intelligent," but I found a lot of it to be fun fluff. Also check out this nice photo set and EW's general Comic-Con round up.

* This Hollywood Reporter Comic-Con roundtable featuring the likes of Grant Morrison and David Goyer was a totally great read. Bonus: radical Jim Mafood illustration.

* Project I learned about by meeting the very cool and somewhat excitable Cecil Castellucci: the nerd-themed YA story collection Geektastic which is edited by Cecil and Holly Black. It comes out in August, y'all.


* Up through last week, I was about 87% sure this supposed Green Hornet movie with Seth Rogan was never actually going to get made. Not that I've seen the car from the film in person, I'm down to about 22% sure it won't. More photos are here.

* Aside from all that, feel free to check all the news of the show at CBR's infinite list of stories and also scroll down through all of Comics Alliance's which had some great "flavor of the show" posts from conspicuously-placed TV ads to fake Iron Man trailers as well as some nice news reactions to the show in general and Twitter life and fun red carpet and celebrity silliness videos.

* Finally, it's not a Comic-Con roundup without at least one photo set featuring Storm Troopers...so here's one from the Chicago Tribune.

* Addendum: Cute "Kids in Costume" photoset from Steve Gerding.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Top 5 Comic-Con Celebrity Sightings

When it comes to that ongoing debate over whether or not comics are getting "pushed out" Comic-Con by the ever-expanding Hollywood behemoth, you can place me squarely in the "comics aren't going anywhere, so why don't we all just calm the fuck down" camp. I spent nearly a week in San Diego for the show this year, and had almost an entirely comics-focused experience. I went to nearly a dozen panels covering everything from mainstream superhero announcements to indie cartoonist spotlights (all of which were very well attended), picked up new comics from creators like Matt Furie and Disney animation studios' collective storyboard department, talked shop with too many comics bloggers and professionals to name and on the whole avoided most all Hollywood hype, video game marketing and Hall H. This year's Comic-Con was a true comics show for me and one of the biggest and best comic shows I've been to in a long while.

That said, there is something uniquely insane and fun about the way Comic-Con has become the rally point for Hollywood's desperate need to exploit any kind of franchise or property with a semi-passionate fanbase. It gets said often in snarky and angry ways that L.A. producers and agents don't really get nerd culture, and while some may take this fact as an insult or worse, I view the relationship as one of the most absurdly funny things about life and the universe imaginable. Face it: beautiful people and nerds aren't supposed to mix, so watching both sides fumble through a weekend in paradise where each side wants something from the other but both work to a very demanding standard just makes for hilarity. With that in mind, here are my top five celebrity encounters from this year's show.


5. Dennis Miller

I'm sure most of you are thinking, "What the hell was Dennis Miller doing at Comic-Con?!?!" And that's just it! I don't think he was there for the show! I've looked all over the web the past few days for evidence that the former comedian/post-9/11 conservative nutjob pundit/most verbose announcer in the history of Monday Night Football was actually in town to attend the convention, and I have found none. But sure enough, that was Miller I saw early on Wednesday night, wandering through the lobby of the Marriott and scratching his scraggly beard in some kind of confusion. For all the celebrities who come to the con to intentionally interact with fandom, prepared or unprepared for what that means, there's nothing like a famous person who just wanders into a hotel full of Jedi and dudes in Red Lantern T-shirts. In my heart, I imagine Miller excitedly packing his bags Thursday in the early morning, chain-smoking and thinking to himself, "I've got to get the fuck out of this town before one of these ass holes asks me about 'Bordello of Blood!'"


4. Freddie Highmore and Kristen Bell

I spent most of my time off the floor in CBR's floating command base – a small yacht parked just behind the Convention Center and Marriott. Now, celebrity sightings on the boat are somewhat commonplace as CBR honcho Jonah Weiland gets the boat partially to host video interviews for the site on the top deck, necessitating hard-working producer Remmy Minnick to run the hot-to-trot Hollywood types back and forth from the con to the yacht in a golf cart. So over the course of the week, people like Bruce Campbell and Brandon Routh were stopping by, generally announced and expected by everyone aboard.

But for some reason, when I made my way back out to the ship's cabin on Thursday afternoon to wrap a panel report, none of my fellow computer jockeys seemed ready for anyone to stop by. And when I looked up and saw a young, baby-faced man in a sweater vest stepping down off the dock and towards the cabin door, I thought, "Oh that's nice. Someone's bringing their nephew out to see the boat." Little did I (or any of the CBR staff) know that "Astro Boy" star Freddie Highmore had just stepped on, so you can imagine how thrown we all were when Gossip Girl herself, Kristen Bell landed in our cramped, carpeted news room with a loud thud from a single high-heeled pump. There was a moment there where Bell – one foot in the ship and one foot out, knees reverse-akimbo in her olive green party dress – struck an unintentionally Marilyn Monroe figure, except that instead of betraying a sense of coy humor her face was more a mix of panic, confusion and fear.

We all hung there for a moment in an awkward silence until video editor Seth Sherwood did his best to play host. "Hey. Um...do you guys want a soda or something?" he asked, standing up from his computer and shifting on the balls of his feet. Both stars shook their heads with quiet nos.

Another silence. Seth, looking for some way to break the ice, asked, "Well...do you want a puppy?" Bell responded immediately with, "Yeah, I want a puppy!" Unfortunately, there were no puppies to be had, though by the time Seth ventured to apologize for misleading her, Bell and Highmore had both been swept above deck by their publicists. In fairness, I should say that Jonah told us how Bell was in a total state of exhaustion from the show when he spoke with her for more than 23 seconds, and when I've met her before at smaller cons, she's always been very excited and happy to have nerds offering her invisible baby dogs. But that really did us no favors in the belly of the beast, you know?


3. Justin and Lindsay Hartley

This one made me feel kind of bad, honestly. See, a few years back I was somehow made "Smallville" point man at Wizard when we were still covering TV shows on the website. Aside from heading up an oddly morose weekly discussion group of new episodes that featured the interns, a guy from Inquest who hated EVERYTHING and Dave, I'd have to do semi-regular interviews with members of the "Smallville" cast or writing staff. The magnificent golden peak of this era of my work career was a Friday morning chat with Justin "Green Arrow" Hartley, who despite holding the stink of the WB's failed Aquaman show on his shoulders (well...Ving Rhames needs to take some responsibility too) ended up being a real treat as Ollie Queen. In our interview, Hartley came off as nice and down to earth as not just any actor I'd ever met but any person in general. He was gracious, smart and funny as all hell (the interview got lost in one of several Wizard website reboots, but Ben can back me up that when he talked about how Kyle Gallner was really short and how the Aquaman guy's balls kept popping out of his wetsuit...that shit was hilarious).

ANYWAY, Sunday afternoon I went down to the baggage check at the Marriott to claim my gear and head off to the airport when I spot the emerald archer himself in his civilian disguise, accompanied by his lovely wife and their young daughter who was cute as a button in a sparkly pink Supergirl outfit. Now typically I'm not the kind of guy who throws himself upon celebrities of any stripe even if I've spoken with them on the phone multiple times, but like I said, Hartley was a class act all the way, and while I'm sure he wouldn't have remembered one of hundreds of dumb fanboy calls he's done over the years, I have no doubt that he'd have been very pleasant to chat up after the show. That is, I figured he would be until I made it up to the storage room door and caught a look in his eye. Y'all...Green Arrow was piiiiiiiissssssssed oooooooffffffffffffffffffffff.

I can't place exactly what had his goat as I'm not one to try and eaves drop on other people's conversations, but there was definitely something about this baggage claim situation that was not going well for that nice young man. Maybe his quiver got lost in the shuffle? In any event, I'm sure it helped matters none when I walked up, gave dude my two purple tickets, had my bags in hand three minutes later and then went about my business. As I crossed back out, I caught a look in Hartley's eye that I'll never forget. It's not like he was giving me the dick eye. It was more a look like somewhere in the recesses of his mind he was saying to God, "What did I do to deserve this, huh? Did I not pretend-kill enough fat cats?!?!?"

Poor dude. King on the Comic-Con floor, stranger in the Comic-Con parking lot.


2. Pierre Bernard

I'm sure there are at least one or two other people in the world who upon seeing the man above walking from the Hyatt to the convention center Saturday evening would be taken by a sudden need to fall on both knees and give an epic howl of "PIERRE BER-NARD'S RE-CLINER OF RAAAAAAaaaaaaAAAAAAAAGGGGGGeeeeeEEEEE!" Thankfully, I was able to suppress that desire quickly as the former "Late Night" graphic designer went about his business, but hot damn was it cool to see him! I know that not many of the celebrities on my list rank anywhere above what Hollywood folks would call "C-level" and that even amongst them Bernard is a totally obscure part of the pop ephemera, but it's truly great to see someone who's been such a life long fan of the nerd media that drives Comic-Con get a little taste of the national spotlight, even if it is in a "poking fun at yourself" way on a late night talk show. Bernard's rants on his pet obsessions are always ingeniously detailed in a way a faux fan could never pull off, and even though I can't find it right now to share with you guys...the episode where he first gets to go to the "Stargate SG-1" set and meet MacGuyver face to face is one of the most joyous pieces of television I've ever seen. Do yourself a favor and start familiarizing yourself with the segment via the magic of the internet.

Bottom line, America: Pierre Bernard is a man who should be revered and congratulated for his accomplishments in the field of educating the populous at large about Stargate, Justic League Action Figures and the women of anime!


1. Joss Whedon and the cast of "Dollhouse"

The highlight of Comic-Con nightlife for me has to be the annual Oni Press/UTA Friday night party. More than any other event I go to at the show, the joint venture of one of the more well known but still very small indie comics publishers and one of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood represents that strange, sweet, sick Comic-Con love affair between our beloved underdog artform and the glitziest mega-corporations on planet earth. I remember hitting the party two years ago and crouching around a small table in the midst of the party with Wasteland writer Antony Johnston and James Lucas Jones' brother shooting the breeze while the possibly-underage cast of "Superbad" bounced around us getting drunk and trying to pick up on women. It's the kind of thing you just don't see every day.

This year, I rolled to the party a bit wary of our party prospects after being turned away at a similar Hollywood shindig up the street. Man oh man, are we glad we soldiered on. The Oni bash atop the San Diego Padres PETCO Park would have been the highlight of my show (and most likely my year) without any celebrity crossover thanks to a beautiful view, a can't beat 'em cross section of comics folk ready to get down and a DJ that turned on a killer, Michael Jackson-heavy set just when we were starting to feel some late night fatigue. But the fact that we shared the dance floor with Joss Whedon and the cast of "Dollhouse" took things up to another level.

I mean, it wasn't just the fact that at odd times during "Pretty Young Thing" I'd bump into a person and realize it was Dichen Lachman I was pushing out my way so I could get down. And it wasn't watching Enver Gjokaj bop by like he was programmed to bust ass and forget it the next day. And it wasn't the odd feeling I kept getting seeing Ashley Johnson on the floor, precipitating many conversations the next day where I was like, "You know...she was Chrissy Seaver in the later years of 'Growing Pains' and then played Mel Gibson's daughter in 'What Women Want'?" (Note: knowing both those facts apparently does not make you cool) It wasn't any one of those things by themselves but more so all of them together that made the night so strangely satisfying. Oh yeah...and it was also the fact that Joss Whedon DANCES LIKE A GOD DAMNED MANIAC.

Every time I'd turn myself into the direction of the main crowd, I'd see Whedon bouncing up and down in the sea of beautiful people like that Ernie doll floating across the back cover of "Dookie." He always had this wild, sweaty look on his semi-beardy face that screamed, "Holy shit! I'm having so much fun!" His repertoire of dance moves resembled something a foreign exchange student cribbed off multiple late night viewings of "Yo! MTV Raps." He was spinning, grinding, pogoing and at one point he was doing this mad weird karate chop move on someone. It was like she was a tree and he was a desperate lumberjack. It was like he was a robot built with only a funky samurai setting. It was like he was a nine-year-old circa 1992 who had just eaten a triple pack of Fun Dip and watched "Secret of the Ooze" for the first time. It was incredible.

I get the feeling that for folks working the show, Comic-Con serves mostly as a giant stress factory. It keeps you up late nights. It yells at you over the phone and tells you you're not doing good enough. It's hard on your knees and your throat and your brain, keeping you away from the people you'd like to be hanging with. It makes you worry about endless Hollywood bullshit and never about awesomely life-affirming comics, doing its best to extinguish the undying flame of your soul.. And yeah, I get that. I was pretty much a total wreck sitting around the airport Sunday waiting to get home, but despite all the other distractions and heartbreaks and setbacks I went through over the weekend, I still thought the weekend was fucking rad. And sure, a big part of what makes the con so great is the comics, and I don't want to count that part of it out. But moving forward, whenever I think of this show, my late night Hollywood dance party is going to be the thing I remember first – playing over and over again as an endless loop in my brain.

See you next year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON: WATCHMEN SKETCHBOOK

If you were the San Diego Comic-Con, I'd have walked all over you last week and you'd have given me some beautiful babies.

And by "babies" I mean "sketches to add to my Watchmen book." I'm too young to have a human baby.

So while I worked my buns off at the show sweating like an oldie sweating to the oldies, I wrote a tentative to-see list of creators to run around to in the few free minutes I found here and there.


MATT FURIE


The first sketch I got at the show and I found Furie by accident! Furie's the guy I was most stoked to see for three reasons. For starters, I didn't know he was gonna be at the show (specifically the Buenaventura booth), so to get to finally meet him was a treat! And he was wearing a Superman outfit (I didn't take a pic...)! The next reason is that he brought along with him a spanking new issue of Boys Club, a book I happened upon by chance in the Sparkplug booth at Comic-Con in 2006, the first (and only other) Comic-Con I ever went to. And lastly, I was anxious to see what he might do in my Watchmen book. So here you have it: My first Owl Ship drawing with a twist of Furie's humor. And he drew in a gray pen, so it's light for a reason. Munch on it.


JOHNNY RYAN


Hoo-Boy. Johnny Ryan DOES NOT look like I pictured him. He's a tall, handsome dude who's well-spoken. I mean, look at any of his books, and you'll know why I was surprised. That makes it all the more funny that when I handed him the book and asked if he wanted the Watchmen paperback for reference, he smirked and said, "Nah, I know what I want to draw." Guess what? I knew what he was gonna draw, too. And here it is.
When he was done, Johnny asked how to spell my name so he could autograph it. I showed him my ID tag and said "R-I-C-K-E-Y" but he left the E off. I like to think that was on purpose and a little joke between the two of us. Johnny gave me the heads up that his new book Prison Pit was on sale down at the Fantagraphics table, so I raced down there and snapped that little bastard up. A non-stop fight scene in a barbaric, almost alien land drawn by Johnny Ryan? Uh, yes please. And hey. If some kid asked me to draw Rorschach, I'd have done the same thing Johnny did here with the mask. It's the air-humping that makes it a Johnny Ryan masterpiece. Recognize.


ESTHER PEARL WATSON


A little while after finding Johnny Ryan, I realized Jordan Crane had a little booth of prints right next to Buenaventura! While I waited for Jordan to finish signing someone's print to ask if I could have a sketch, I realized he was sharing a table with a few other cartoonist; namely Esther Pearl Watson! Her book Unlovable had me cracking up in the store when I first saw it, and I bought it right then and there. Finding her randomly was so cool, and when I asked if she'd do a sketch for me, she knocked out this Laurie Juspeczyk piece! Lookit that smeared eyeshadow and sad sack feeeeeeel! Gah! And iirc, Esther said she never read the book, so she flipped through the trade and randomly found this image to do. FATE!


MARK TODD


Also standing with Jordan Crane was cartoonist Mark Todd, whose minicomic BadAsses I found on accident in one of New York City's Giant Robot stores while searching for a copy of Don't Go Where I can't Follow. Giant Robot luckily had Todd's book of illustrated bad asses and I was happy to buy it. He said he was excited to do Nite Owl cause he liked the costume. I love how cold and nervously sweaty he is here!


JORDAN CRANE


I never heard about Jordan Crane til my bff Sean showed me a copy of The Last Lonely Saturday and shit was over after that. I've been buying his stuff whenever something comes out, so to get a sketch was REALLY cool of him. He went the Alan Moore route, but his well-placed fine lines pop. I felt bad, though, because after I handed the book to Jordan, he seemed a little perplexed by what he should draw. I kinda felt like a friend at karaoke making another friend get on stage when they didn't want to. So, thankey, Jordan!
And I'd like to shout out Johnny Ryan here again. While waiting for my book back from Crane, Johnny came over and talked to me about this book from Picturebox and said I NEED to buy it as soon as I got home. I haven't yet, but from what I see, it looks hilarious. You go. Look now.


JEFF SMITH


Boo-yah! I've wanted to meet Jeff Smith for a long time. So I saw he was signing at his booth across from the DC booth and ran over when his low-key signing began. I was in line behind a group of about 6 little girls (yay!) all of whom had their moms buy them Bone books (YAY!) and only 2 people were behind me the whole time, so when I got to the front of the line, I nervously shook his hand and was relieved to find that he was a pretty down-to-Earth guy. He has a hand brace on from all the work he did to finish Bone near the end, which is terrible to hear, but he still cracked out this Fone Bone-as-Rorschach sketch. My belly was doing flips watching him draw in my book. And I have a little beer belly, so it felt weird. YAY!


FABIO MOON


At last year's SDCC, Sean interviewed Moon and his brother Gabriel Ba and they came across sooooo excited about comics that I got more excited about their work. That's why it was such a pleasure to meet Moon this year. He seemed a little tired by the time I got to him, but he mentioned he couldn't wait to get back to Brazil where he lives to start drawing comics again. Gotta love that. And you gotta love his sci-fi (G-rated) Dr. Manhattan.


GABRIEL BA


My second Owl Ship ever and both at the same show! Ba's showcases his use of shadow to communicate texture while the clouds imply a soft, floating feeling. It fucking rocks. You can hear it humming overhead.


DEREK KIRK KIM


Ohhhh shit. I was literally running to the restroom when I spotted Derek sketching for donations for the Cartoon Art Museum. I stopped and asked if he'd do something in my sketchbook and, smiling all the time, he said "Absolutely." I'm a NUT for Derek's work, and I've found myself selfishly frustrated he doesn't have more new work available for me to devour every few minutes of the day. It took me so long to hunt down Same Difference and Other Stories and I must've read it now about 4 times. If you like the way Adrian Tomine's comics focus on human emotions colliding in life, you'll love Derek's work. And it's not always as cartoon-y as his Nite Owl here. THOUGH I LOVE THIS, TOO! When Derek was flipping through the paperback, he said, "I want to do Nite Owl; I love how he's so chubby like a real guy trying to be a hero would be."


TOM NEELY

Tom Neely is one of the absolutely most talented cartoonists working today when it comes to evoking a sense of mood - specifically terror and dread. That said, he drew one of my favorite pieces of the con, and it is so utterly filthy that I can't show it online without probably getting fired. NSFW isn't the right tag for this thing. It's prolly illegal in 10 states and Canada. When I walked up to get the piece, he smiled and said, "Here you go, man. You may regret asking me to draw," and I said, "No no, I'm excited," and I couldn't hold in my audible gasp. I showed it to one DC employee and he literally exploded. I showed it to a baby and it immediately aged into an old man. I showed it to a dog and she turned into a banana. Shit's epic. So if you want to see this thing, come find me at a show. I'll show you. Otherwise, high-five, Tom Neely. You made me blush.


TRAVIS CHAREST


My most mainstream sketch is also the sketch I never thought I'd get in my life. Finding Travis Charest at a show is like sitting through the movie The Notebook without crying - it just doesn't happen. So during a break while heading over to the Marvel booth to see Ben, imagine how surprised I was to see Charest signing at their booth, just sitting there, no one asking him for a sketch. There was a bit of a line, but everybody was waiting for Steve Epting and a couple other guys sitting ahead of Charest. And Charest didn't have a name plate out or anything, so people genuinely had no idea who he was. My bff David can't get enough of Charest, and David was the guy who made me get off my ass and ask creators for theme sketches, so I said "balls it" and went up to the line. That's when Ben came over and used his menacing Marvel abilities to get me a sketch. I won't tell you how it happened, but it did. And hard. And fast. And here it is. Calm down.


NATHAN FOX


I JUST missed Nathan at New York Comic Con this year when I asked late on Sunday if he'd do a sketch in my book, so I wanted to try and grab him in San Diego at the Dark Horse booth where he was signing for his book Pigeons from Hell. The guy has a slouched, moody, heavy style, and he busted this Roorschach out before having to leave for another signing. And the guy was kind enough to not punch me in the face when I declined to buy the trade and also get it signed by him (I already have Pigeons from Hell in trade!). So I had that going for me.


SAMMY HARKHAM


Sammy edits the Kramers Ergot series and writes/draws the book Crickets and I loooove his fine line style and slightly surreal stories about usually-dirty people. Like, "dirt and grime" dirty. It's like they just survived an action film. Sammy was scheduled for the Buenaventura booth earlier in the trip, but he didn't show up at the posted signings, so I assumed he wasn't gonna make it. Needless to say, like Matt Furie and most of the other people on this post, I couldn't believe I might get a sketch from him. So while walking back to the Buenaventura booth to grab an extra copy of Boys Club #3 for a friend, I spotted Sammy! He gladly did a sketch for me (a straight panel recreation from the book) and it looks glorious. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror issue Sammy is editing like a mini-Kramers Ergot this year. YOU NEED THIS. Now I want more superhero stuff drawn by Sammy...


ROSS CAMPBELL



The penultimate guy on my get list this year was Ross Campbell. His book The Abandoned blew my fucking mind with it's vision of a dirty south setting overrun by zombies and the emotions terror like that can gurgle up in a person. When I told him I had the book, he said he was just telling someone he hated theme books, but happily sketched out this Bubastis, the feline companion to Ozymandias. You can see Ross' plump design peeking out of the cat's eyes and it's the first time someone has drawn the creature, so I was stoked. I may have to eventually hit him back up for an unmasked, snarling Rorschach one day.

GUYS I MISSED

Like I said, it was a busy weekend, so there wasn't much time to gather sketches even though I think I got more at this show than any other single show. But that's cause I was at this show for 4 days and not 1 like usual. I missed a batch of folks I'd have loved to get like Xaime Hernandez (he said, "maybe later" at one point, and when I came back later, he said "characters who are not mine are $60" and I don't have $60), Vasilis Lolos, Roger Langridge (Ben got one!), Rafael Grampa, Dave Gibbons, Cory Walker, and James Jean. I actually had a ticket to be in line for James' signing at Chronicle Books, but by the time my place in line got close, I had to be back at the book. No big. I'm sure one day it will work out.
The guy I was most bummed about not getting was Lewis Trondheim. I actually tracked him down at the NBM table, but his signing started something like an hour and a half late, and I had to go back to the DC booth, so I missed him. Then I accidentally found him at Fantagraphics signing one day and I was so excited! I could finally get one! See, Trondheim's story in Mome about where creativity comes from and what happens to cartoonists as they age really kind of opened my eyes to some ideas about comics. So I went out and started buying up all the books of his I could find including single issues of his series Nimrod from Fantagraphics and several of his First Second books. He was the one guy at the show I wanted to get more than anybody else cause he never comes to the states. Well...
I walked up and no one was in his line and I asked if he'd do a sketch for me. He flatly said, "no" and then said, "I only draw my characters in my book if you buy it." He had a rough accent, so I didn't take his brief answer as offensive, but I looked around kind of hurt and looked back and said, "But...I have all of your books at home. I'm a big fan. I love what you did in Mome." And then a talent who was sitting next to him who was also signing said, "Well, buy another book," in a joke-y tone. They both kind of sat back in their chairs looking at me from across the table. I felt like bullies in school were making me dance with my pants off to hang out with them. I looked around, but I owned all the Fantagraphics books on display. So I just sort of shrugged my shoulders in defeat and awkward nervousness and said it was nice to meet him anyways and walked away. I didn't even talk to him about how much I loved the Mome story!
Sure, he doesn't know if I own all his books. And sure, I could just be some guy planning on selling his sketch. And sure, asking fucking Lewis Trondheim to draw a Watchmen character is probably stupid and beneath him and, jeez, he may not even know what the shit Watchmen is. And sure, the risk of asking a creator to sketch a character that isn't theirs is even with the risk that a creator will say no to that request because it's their obvious right to say no. But I still kind of felt like...well...Lewis Trondheim doesn't give a dump about me. Kinda sucked in a bodyslammingly humbling way.

Anyhoo, I got PLENTY of other bodacious sketches and if I never get a Trondheim then, eh, fuck it. Everybody else was boss enough to give their time and talent to a goober like me. Good on them!

Now get ready for a few other posts from mine (and Ben and Kiel's) experience at the show in the next few days! Balls!

San Diego Snapshots

So San Diego Comic-Con 2009 has come and gone and after a five-day stint on the left coast, I'm back in scenic New Jersey. It was a long five days, it was an exhausting five days, but in the end, it was one of the more enjoyable times I've had at a comic convention that I can remember.

SDCC has a special place in my heart as the 2004 show was actually the first major comic con I'd ever attended, on my own dime, fresh out of college and determined to land a job in the industry. I have extremely fond memories of that incredible experience and remember how blown away I was by the aura of SDCC and comics in general, and how I knew for sure by the time I boarded my flight back to Boston that I didn't just want to work in comics, I had to work in comics. I also met some creators who would become very important influences on my career and who I count as friends to this day for the first time.

Five years later, I returned to San Diego for the first time, now an experienced comics professional; it was a very proud moment for me.

I spoke with Phil Jimenez for a bit last Friday about how no other con has ever been the same for me since that first SDCC, as every other show I've attended I've been working, either for Wizard and Marvel, and while I wouldn't trade that for anything, it's tough to recapture that initial awe when you're "part of the show" so to say. However, even though I definitely spent my time in California this year working more than playing, I think I had more good conversations with both old friends and creators I'd never had the pleasure of really speaking with at this show than any other I can remember. I had some wonderful quiet evenings with friends and some cool crazy moments that come with the territory of Comic-Con. I felt like I accomplished a lot this week both personally and professionally, so San Diego is definitely still magic for me.

Anyhow, before the memories fade to the ravages of time, here are some scattershot thoughts on my SDCC 2009 experience...

(Apologies for a few out-of-date photos and some publicity shots, but I don't actually own a camera)

-Wednesday, following Preview Night, my man Ryan Penagos scored me and the rest of the Marvel.com crew into a party at Stingaree hosted by Activision, the makers of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. We were all pretty exhausted from a day of travel and work, so we crashed on a free couch in the corner, ignoring the giant sign for the game Singularity that was positioned there. Some polite fellas from G4 came over to inform us they were going to be interviewing the game's creator in front of the sign, and had we been awake enough to have any manners, we would have offered to move, but instead we said, "Ok, cool," didn't budge, and they went ahead and shot their bit with us lounging in the background talking and drinking. I'd feel worse, but the dude they were talking to was wearing a heavy white winter coat. In San Diego. In the summer. C'mon.

-At the Marvel booth (awesomely run by the ever capable Tim Dillon and Mike Pasciullo), we had some very cool signings with VIPs who were so in demand that we capped our lines by holding raffles to determine who would get to line up. One of these signings was with Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau and I served as part of his oh-so-impressive security detail, helping form a "human wall" between him and the crowd as he was taking the stage; I swear, as much as I love Favreau and his work, all I could think of was how much he looked like (outfit and all) like his character from I Love You Man and what a douche that guy was. The other big signing was the one and only Stan Lee, and unfortunately, one young man and his mom showed up late for the raffle, so he wasn't able to get in the line. He was a really good kid though, so I told his mom to bring him back during the signing and I'd figure something out. He did come back and the guys doing security at our booth were cool enough to give me a hand and let the kid be in the "human wall" so Stan walked right by him and waved to him as his mom snapped a great picture; so yeah, even I got to feel like a hero at Comic-Con.

-On Thursday night, Ryan got us into another video game party, this time featuring a concert by GWAR. After waiting in line for a bit, we got in, got frisked, and got handed ear plugs. We were all starving and the band wasn't going on for like an hour, so we popped out to grab some food, and somewhere during the search for rations, my former intern Marc Strom and I conferred and agreed that about the time we got frisked, our interest in that particular party had waned. Instead, we opted to head to a karaoke "Drink and Draw" event at Hennesey's bar where we met up with one of my very favorite people in comics, Todd Nauck, and his lovely wife, Dawn. We had a great time and I got to chat more than I ever had in previous meetings with Dawn while Todd did a rad Nova sketch for me (which I'll post as soon as I scan it) and an Impulse for Strommy. Todd had also bailed me out earlier that day when I had another buddy, WWE's Hurricane, visiting at the Marvel booth in full costume and he rushed over to do a sketch of wrestling's number one super hero on short notice so we could film it for both Marvel.com and WWE.com. -After leaving the Naucks, I hit the fabled Hyatt bar for the first time this year for a Cool Kids Table meet up with Kiel and Rickey. While Strommy and I waited outside the hotel, we ran into Frank Tieri, who informed us he planned on sneaking into a party being hosted by Megan Fox. I believe my exact response to him was, "Frank, I know you well enough to know any plan you are currently hatching is going to end not with you meeting Megan Fox, but with you being dragged out by security while cursing and yelling, 'I wrote Wolverine for two and a half years!'" Saw Frank again the next day, and wouldn't you know, sumbitch proved me half-wrong: he did get into the party, but he didn't get to meet Megan Fox (he claims he saw her but she "looked busy"). I also ran into Hurricane again and debated the life expectancy of Twitter with him (I give it another year and a half).

-Once Kiel, Rickey and I did meet up, we decided we'd spend the rest of the night getting pictures of the three of us with various characters and posting the pics here. I think we got one with Sean McKeever and then called it a night--so look for that picture here soon!

-Hurricane wasn't the only wrestler I got to hang with at SDCC, as my pal "The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels, one of the flat out coolest dudes I know and a total nerd, was also in the house. Chris and I just click and have a blast when we get to meet up, so maybe the most fun I had the entire con was Sunday when I spent most of the day with him as he took over my usual job as Marvel.com's official video interviewer, and conducted Q&As with Mike McKone, Axel Alonso, Marjorie Liu, Mark Brooks, Jim McCann, C.B. Cebulski, Travis Charest, Matt Fraction and probably a couple that I'm missing. Chris was a natural and his series of interviews will be on the site shortly, but my favorite parts were definitely when he'd throw in a random wrestling question like "When you get into wrestling, what will your finishing move be?" or "When we tag up, are you gonna be the power or the speed?" (and it was always WHEN, not If). However, we were both taken aback when Chris was speaking with nice, mild-mannered Travis Charest, asked him what his wrestling catchphrase would be, and Travis launched into a full-on "Macho Man" Randy Savage style promo at the camera--awesome! You can check out a sneak peak of me and Chris at the con here.

-Chris wasn't the only TNA wrestler I got to meet and interview, as I also had the treat of jamming with one of my favorite tag teams, Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin, the Motor City Machine Guns. I dig the Guns because they're not only great wrestlers, but they're also hilarious in their promos and very quick-witted, so I considered it a point of pride that I was able to keep up with them pretty well during our interview, particularly when we bagged on Chris' ankh chest tattoo and his recently-shaved "John Travolta from The Taking of Pelham 123" goatee. Of course the dude who made it all possible, TNA's marketing guru Steve Godfrey (who, FYI, towers over not only me but Chris and the Guns as well), wouldn't have even been able to get into the con without me as he didn't get a badge and I lent him my spare press credentials, so he got to go around as Ben Morse all day Friday.

-After we wrapped work on Friday, Ryan and I both put on our snazziest outfits and mosied on over to The Palm, where Marvel was hosting a dinner for staff and talent. I'd be lying if I said the delicious Shrimp Bruno and ridiculous 16 ounce steak didn't make me a happy (and full) camper, but the best part of the evening for me was getting to have great interactions with two creators who I've admired since I was a kid but never really gotten to interact with. First, before dinner, I ended up chatting with Captain America artist extraordinaire Steve Epting, just a kind, solid, funny guy with some awesome stories to tell, and you better believe I brought up those damn Avengers jackets; Steve lauged his ass off and claimed no responsibility for that faux pas. During the meal itself, Ryan and I were seated at a table where Peter David held court, which was an absolute treat as he dished on everything from why he wrote that famous "X-Aminations" issue during his first run on X-Factor to what easter eggs George Perez hid in Hulk: Future Imperfect. What were they? Sorry folks, some stuff stays at the dinner table.

-Probably my personal favorite anecdote of the show came as the floor was closing on Saturday afternoon. Myself, Ryan and Eisner award-winning assistant editor Alejandro Arbona spotted our boy Mel Caylo taking apart the Archaia booth for the evening and decided to have some fun with him. We hid behind another booth and started yelling, "Mel! Mel!" in our most girlish voices (not too tough), hoping we could fool him. Mel didn't even hear us, however, Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia, who was walking right by us with his entourage, did and thought we were yelling "Milo! Milo!" He stopped his whole crew and asked us what we wanted, but we were totally oblivious to him even being there and continued to yell for Mel. Eventually, Ryan turned and said, "Mel didn't hear us, he must be drunk," at which point Milo realized we didn't even know he was there and got a bit embarassed. Trying to save face or something, he chuckled audibly and said something like, "Hey, I can hear you, guys," at which point we turned to him with what I can only describe as completely douchey "Who the fuck are you and why are you interjecting yourself into our conversation?" faces, causing him to round up his guys and scurry off. At that point, I realized who he was and said, "Guys, I think we just shamed Peter from Heroes." How do I know this is how it all went down when I wasn't even privy to Milo being there the bulk of the time? Because Wizard alum Steve Hoveke was working Milo's security detail and told me later over Facebook.

-Saturday night, following a fantastic dinner at The Tin Fish (I had scrumptious grilled calamari), the usual suspects and I hit up for my money checked out the coolest promotional stunt of the show, Flynn's Arcade, which was set up to hype the upcoming Tron Legacy film. I've never seen the original Tron, but from what I was told, this was an exact replica of one of that flick's key locations, complete with vintage 80's arcade games, music and more. After about 10 minutes, the neon lights start flashing, the music goes all techno, and the back wall opens to reveal a hallway of Tron concept art that leads to a full-on replica of the souped up light cycle that will be used in the new movie. Totally sweet and definitely unique.

-On Sunday, got to interview bigtime British celebrity Jonathan Ross about Marvel's acquisition of Marvelman. Admittedly, I had heard Jonathan's name, but didn't really know much about him prior to when we talked; he turned out to be an extremely nice, very funny guy and I'm looking forward to the video hitting the site. The one thing that did weird me out, however, is that he totally changes his accent--albeit subtly--from when he's off camera to when he's off camera, which very much caught me by surprise.

-One of the real highlights of the whole five days for me was that I got to spend some time with my good friend and ostensible mentor Geoff Johns (I think he'd probably get mad if I called him my mentor straight up without adding a qualifier because he's a humble guy) on Sunday. I believe I mentioned before that Geoff was the guy who got me into the comics business in the first place, noticing my stuff online while I was still in college and then going to bat for me with Wizard to get my my first job there. We first met face-to-face at that first SDCC five years ago, so it was fun to remind him of that and to have him tell me what a "punk kid" I was. Geoff and I don't get to talk nearly as often as I'd like now that I'm at Marvel, he's at DC and I'm not calling to interview him every other week, so whenever we get to have an extended chat it's a special occasion for me. I actually stopped by the DC booth looking for Rickey when I ran into Geoff at the tail end of a signing he had totally by accident, but we hadn't seen each other for more than five minutes in ages, so he pulled me into the conference room set up in the booth and we reminisced and updated; I was totally waiting the entire time for a DC higher-up to bust in and wonder why their number one writer was having what looked like a closed door meeting with a guy wearing a big ass Marvel Staff badge.

-Spider-Man editor Steve Wacker and I came up with a plethora of money-making ideas this past week, as we are want to do. I'd prefer not to get into the details (particularly on how we plan to sell a Shazam! cartoon to DC without spending any actual money on production), but I will give you this: AberZombie & Fitch.

-The con ended as all truly good cons should: with Jim McCann wearing a cape.

And that was San Diego Comic-Con 2009--a whole lot of fun and craziness! And I can't wait to read Rickey and Kiel's reports to relive the madness even more!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We're Back!

Look for regularly scheduled programming to hopefully return tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Off to San Diego!

Well, me, Rickey and Kiel are all off to San Diego Comic-Con (actually, they're both already there) for the rest of the week, so don't expect many updates here, if any. You can, however, follow our adventures on Marvel.com, Comic Book Resources and elsewhere.

And if you happen to be one of our fives of fans and are attending the show, be sure to say hi--just look for the guys dressed as Shipwreck, pointing at giant squids and licking each other!

Have a great week!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wizard Features That Never Were: Checkmate/Outsiders chessboard

A quickie today, but one that's been on my mind lately for no particular reason.

Back when DC kicked off their One Year Later event in 2006, myself and Andy Serwin of that Legion feature that never happened fame (man, Andy and I did not have a good track record together) agreed that without question the re-imagining of Outsiders by Judd Winick and Matthew Clark was one of the very best of the OYL titles (honestly, it was my favorite DC book by far for quite a few months). We loved Judd's raw approach to traditional characters like Nightwing and the clever but ethically murky decisions being made, and Clark just rocked it on art.

(My love of this era of Outsiders was both a bit of a surprise to me as well as pretty high praise in my opinion as the "pro-active team" book is one my most despised cliches in comics, but I digress)

Anyhow, Andy and I really wanted to get Outsiders some coverage in Wizard, but it was tricky since the first few arcs following the re-boot were high quality, but mostly world-building, which doesn't make for the best feature pitches.

Fortunately for us (or so we thought), about a year in, a big crossover was planned between Outsiders and Greg Rucka's Checkmate, a rad super hero/spy hybrid we also had great affection for. On their own, a full-blown feature on either Outsiders or Checkmate was a tough sell, but with the two coming together in the cleverly titled "CheckOut," we were pretty certain we could pitch at least a two-pager for one of the seemingly endless preview issues that were constantly being thrown our way (Year Preview! Spring Preview! Summer Preview! Fall Preview! Year Ender!).

But what to fill the two pages with?

Doing a back and forth Q&A with Winick and Rucka talking up their respective teams would seem the obvious approach, but it also seemed too conventional. This was during a era in Wizard where we were experimenting a lot with different formats and types of ways to cram as much information as possible into smaller spaces (we would swing between this and "longer features with more meat" every few months it seemed, but again, I digress), so particularly with titles we wanted to get more attention for, we looked for cool visual ways to make their coverage stand out.

Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning from on high, inspiration struck: we would do a Checkmate/Outsiders chessboard!

The Wizard family of magazines had a proud tradition of faux board games centered around comic events, more often than not drawn by the incomparable Ryan Dunlavey. However, Andy and I both felt the tone of the two books in question begged a more serious layout, even for a goofy board game knockoff. We pitched a fairly elaborate visual presentation (I'm pretty sure I drew it up) with Checkmate members like Amanda Waller and Mr. Terrific as well as Outsiders like Nightwing and Grace done up as chess pieces. We struggled a bit with what the text component would be, but figured we could just have Judd and Greg discuss team strategies, or do little bios on their "pieces."

We presented our idea several times and it was not met with overwhelming support. Most of the Wizard staff at that time either shared our high esteem for the two books or just didn't read them, but they were also realists, and reminded us that neither title was a huge seller, and thus it was tough to justify spending the money to get an original art spread (which are quite pricey) done, particularly if we were insisting on a more "real" style.

Undaunted, we pitched the idea several months in a row, but were consistently met with interest...just not enough. More than once the feature was penciled in but then cut at the last minute due to space issues.

I swear that somewhere along the way I got so caught up in wanting to get this feature done that I convinced myself we would somehow get Outsiders and Checkmate pewter chess figures out of this.

That did not happen.

Ultimately, the feature didn't make it out in time for the crossover, though ironically I think we did do just a straight Winick/Rucka interview in the News section. Nonetheless, we made Outsiders a Book of the Month and pimped it as best we could (though Judd ended up leaving the book the month after CheckOut concluded...so there ya go).

Andy and I never learned our less about pitching ideas together though...but that's another post.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Married Life

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

This quirky little movie about love, infidelity and murder has definite strengths and weaknesses that land it pretty firmly in the middle of the road for me. The first thing I noticed was that it often felt like a stage play that just happened to be being recorded on film, with the dialogue very stilted and the staging very deliberate; I've seen quite a few movies of this pedigree done like this, and to be honest, I'm not a fan. I also felt like the period nature of the piece--it's set in the 40's--hurt it rather than help as it was just a bit too overwhelming and the "people were so proper back then that they would rather make small talk than acknowledge affairs" thing didn't work for me. On the other hand, the black comedy aspects were very well done and I chuckled quite a bit over the course of an hour and a half. Also, despite the complaints I had about the script feeling like it was intended for the stage most of the time, it was certainly filmed like a movie, with great range of shots and use of camera tricks. Unquestionably it's a great cast, with Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams and Pierce Brosnan all onboard. For the most part, all four of the stars turn in decent performances hampered by a plot that meanders, with McAdams being underutilized in my eyes and Brosnan shining brightest as he really embraced the exaggerated almost noir-ish nature of his character. In the end, this film's biggest problem was that it simply wasn't that interesting or captivating, even for 90 minutes, and the good acting, decent jokes and quality camerawork only elevated it to an average piece of work.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Linko! XV

It's short and sweet this week as I prep for traveling to San Diego, so let's get right to it, y'all!

* The Blackest Site Link: That tagline I wrote sounds bad, huh? Ah well...so I'm sure everyone who reads this site know who Ben is because he posts something almost every day. And if you're reading this, you know who I am even though I apparently only post once a week. But as you may have noticed, this blog technically has a third if ever harried contributor. But just because Rickey doesn't get to post as often as I'd like (passive aggressive guilt trip, pal!), that doesn't mean he spends all his days licking Ben and giant squid. For his day job, our boy spent the last few months preparing this insanely fun mini site for DC Comics' Blackest Night event! Now, I'm sure that other people chipped in too, but I know Rickey worked his ass off to make this thing shine, so if you see him next week in San Diego, buy him a beer, huh?

* Dumb vampire link of the week: I think I only clicked on this story on accident, but the headline alone is worth clicking through.

* Don't really need the link to make the joke link: This week, my new homebase of Chicago saw it's most famous building renamed as the Sears Tower officially became Willis Tower. When Brian Warmoth sent me the link, he referred to it as "Wesley Willis Tower" which is what I think is what we should all call it until the day we die. (And this is the reason why.)


* It's pretty sad that we find this cool link: Rob of Topless Robot fame sent me this gallery of Star Wars Dixie Cups that I thought was cool. Then I felt stupid about thinking it was cool.

* Legitimately cool link: This Facebook photo set Jeff Parker put on Twitter detailing Dave Chappelle's semi-return to standup in Portland last week.


Now normally, I would be a bit reticent about admitting that I had pretended to like something that I knew nothing about to look cool (and I promise you, I really am blushing as I type this admission). In this case though, I feel it's OK to admit it, as pretending to like something to look cool is exactly the sort of thing a character from one of the Scott Pilgrim books would do.

* That's probably my favorite quote from this appreciation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's ubiquitous comics series by Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos.

* Over at Television Without Pity, my bud Zach Oat rips into every superhero TV show ever. I thought the Flash costume was boss when I was in 4th Grade, though.

* Link I've forgotten before and will probably again: I swear to God someone sent me this insane Royal Tennenbaums sketchbook owned by Oni E-i-C James Lucas Jones like two years ago, but when Ryan Penagos Tumblred it this week, I was totally shocked by all the crazy great images (like the above Eli Cash drawing by Cory Lewis) that were held within. Even if you've seen it before, return to it now and often.

* Best follow up Links EVER: I thought it couldn't get any funnier after I read this story of Williamsburg hipsters losing their trust funds I linked to a few weeks back, but oh man the story gets better and better. First: Multi-million dollar condos in the neighborhood fall into financial disrepair. Second: Heroin-addicted crust punks move in for the kill. (Thanks to Heidi)

And hey, y'all...for anyone who reads this regularly, I may call a Mulligan on Linko! next week as I suspect Comic-Con will be kicking my ass all day Friday. We'll see.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

2009 Primetime Emmy Picks

Hey! The nominees for the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards were announced today! The show's gonna be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris! It's gonna rock!

Quick and dirty, here are my picks (in bold) and Megan's picks (in italics) for the big categories plus a few thoughts from yours truly (and my fiancee)...

Drama Series
* Big Love
* Breaking Bad
* Damages
* Dexter
* House
* Lost
* Mad Men
(My favorite shows on the list are Big Love and Lost, and I've never actually seen Mad Men, but I've heard too much hype about this season in particular not to pick it to repeat from last year--Ditto)

Comedy Series
* Entourage
* Family Guy
* Flight of the Conchords
* How I Met Your Mother
* The Office
* 30 Rock
* Weeds
(Very cool to see HIMYM and particularly Family Guy on there, but c'mon, 30 Rock is unstoppable and last season may have been the best yet. Entourage does not belong on there--no contest, 30 Rock)

Lead Actor, Comedy
* Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
* Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords
* Tony Shalhoub, Monk
* Steve Carell, The Office
* Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
* Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men
(Good for Jim Parsons getting a nod there, but again, Alec Baldwin had a phenomenal year--Charlie Sheen is a coke addict; I pick Jack Donaghy)

Lead Actor, Drama
* Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
* Michael C. Hall, Dexter
* Hugh Laurie, House
* Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
* Jon Hamm, Mad Men
* Simon Baker, The Mentalist
(Man, I suck, I don't watch any of these shows; last year's winner it is!--I heard Gabriel Byrne is amazing and want to watch In Treatment, but the DVD of season one isn't out until October and I want to start from the beginning; why is season two over but season one isn't out yet? So strange...)

Lead Actress, Comedy
* Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
* Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
* Sarah Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program
* Tina Fey, 30 Rock
* Toni Collette, United States of Tara
* Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds
(Hmm...30 Rock's awesomeness actually makes doing this kinda boring...--I'm not even going to listen to the nominees...TINA FEY)

Lead Actress, Drama
* Sally Field, Brothers & Sisters
* Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
* Glenn Close, Damages
* Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
* Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
* Holly Hunter, Saving Grace
(I'm actually pretty sure the chick from Mad Men will win, but I can't bring myself to pick against Gidget--hmm...I'm going to go with Kyra Sedgwick even though I love Sally Field...I don't even really care)

Supporting Actor, Drama
* William Shatner, Boston Legal
* Christian Clemenson, Boston Legal
* Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
* William Hurt, Damages
* Michael Emerson, Lost
* John Slattery, Mad Men
(Ben deserves this one like crazy; if Shatner wins, I hope he gives him the Jacob treatment...ok, not really--again, don't really care, but I like John Slattery)

Supporting Actress, Drama
* Rose Byrne, Damages
* Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
* Chandra Wilson, Grey's Anatomy
* Dianne Wiest, In Treatment
* Hope Davis, In Treatment
* Cherry Jones, 24
(Hope that movie career works out for you, Katherine Heigl...I really have no idea who to pick here, so I'll go with somebody from a show that didn't get nominated for anything else--mmm, tis is hard, because I heard Dianne Wiest is amazing but I love Chandra Wilson and want her to win eventually...I can't pick)

Supporting Actor, Comedy
* Kevin Dillon, Entourage
* Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
* Rainn Wilson, The Office
* Tracy Morgan, 30 Rock
* Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock
* Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
(Now here's the true horse race of the evening with six really solid nominees and no Jeremy Piven to snatch the award...pulling for NPH!--I'm going to go with Neil Patrick Harris because I want to be friends with him, though I do think it would be really awesome to see Jack McBrayer win)

Supporting Actress, Comedy
* Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
* Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live
* Kristin Wiig, Saturday Night Live
* Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
* Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty
* Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
(1. They spelled Kristen Wiig's first name wrong, 2. I didn't even know they could nominate people from SNL, 3. It's a tough pick between Jane Krakowski and Kristin Chenoweth, but Pushing Daisies deserves the sendoff--I'm gonna do it: Kristin Chenoweth!)

And Justin Timberlake for Guest Actor, Comedy Series! Boom!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pimping My Stuff: War of Kings: Warriors #6

In case you missed it in stores last week--or just prefer the wave of the future known as "digital"--the second part of Blastaar's story in War of Kings: Warriors is available now on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!

In the last installment of this cosmic epic, the Living Bomb-Burst returned to his home planet of Baluur in a conquering kinda mood and ran up against his old hometown's deadliest warrior: his own father. This time around, Blastaar and his old man collide and, in case you couldn't guess, there will be explosions! When the dust clears, Blastaar will be changed forever and ready to try and prove he deserves the title of King.

Christos Gage wrote it, Carlos Magno drew the heck out of it, and you can read it right now!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Definitives: Thor

As a kid, I was a big-time mythology buff (the Greek stuff in particular, but Norse as well to a lesser degree), so it was always a bit weird to me that I never took to Thor in comic book form. However, looking back on it, the Thor comics from when I was younger really didn't cater to what I was looking for as far as larger-than-life epics featuring colorful characters and exotic locales. Tom DeFalco, Thor's primary caretaker during my formative years, was (and remains) a good writer, but he clearly had an affinity for more street-level, earth-centric stories, which I believe is farily well-evidenced by the fact that for a large bulk of his run mortal Eric Masterson played the part of the Thunder God and went on to become Thunderstrike, a character DeFalco still demonstrates great affection for in Spider-Girl (available monthly on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!).

In my second "life" as a comic book fan and reader, I have been able to access a near full catalogue of Thor's adventures (though I confess I have still never gotten around to reading the original Lee/Kirby stuff, a situation I very much would like to change), and not surprisingly have become quite enamored with him and his world. Ol' Goldilocks (who, incidentally, is one of my least favorite characters to write copy about as I rely heavily on nicknames to switch up what I'm calling my subjects and his suck) has quite a few rad yarns, but here are a few of my personal favorites.

Visionaries: Walt Simonson
Talk about starting strong. Walt Simonson wrote and drew Thor for almost three years in the 1980's, and of his nearly 30 issues, there was rarely a bad one, truly a feat that demands respect. Simonson had an unquestioned passion for Thor and all the elements that made up his mythology, from Asgard to Odin to Loki to the Warriors Three and so on and son; more than that, he understood the scope of the majesty that a strip like Thor needed and was able to more than live up to expectations of glorious battles and wars that shook the heavens, but he was also unafraid to take unconventional approaches to keep the stories fresh. This is, after all, the man who in his very first issue had a horse-faced alien named Beta Ray Bill partly usurp the power of Thor and later transformed the God of Thunder into the Frog of Thunder. However, my personal highlights of Simonson's unmatched run would probably have to be his multi-part opus, the "Surtur Saga," which saw Thor, Odin, Loki and just about every other Asgardian team up to battle the demonic Surtur in a widescreen masterpiece that I daresay holds up to this day as one of the best pure prolonged action sequences comic books are capable of providing, and the emotionally hardhitting "Like a Bat Out of Hel!," the violent tale of redemption for the Executioner recently reprinted in Thor: God-Size. Walt Simonson's Thor remains not only the measuring stick for the character, but also just a damn fine piece of work regardless of qualifiers. Here's a link if you want to buy the first Thor Visionaries: Walt Simonson collection, but you're gonna want them all.

Blood & Thunder
Ok, so just a couple paragraphs up I was (kinda) bagging on the Thor of my youth, but as with just about every comic I read semi-regularly as a kid, there are things I remember fondly, if through self-confessed rose-colored glasses, and the "Blood & THunder" crossover would be the example of that phenomenon for Thor. It's a 13-part story crossing through Thor, Silver Surfer and both Warlock books (Infinity Watch and the Warlock Chronicles) and centered around the God of Thunder going batshit insane due to years of Odin tampering with his head. Beta Ray Bill, the Surfer, Adam Warlock, the Infinity Watch, Doctor Strange and even Thanos all attempt to slow down this runaway train and they all get their asses handed to them in pretty short order as Thor is pissed, powerful, and gets his mitts of Drax's Power Gem to make matters even worse. The story is pretty formulaic with each slugfest building to a bigger one in the next chapter, but it's harmless fun and well-executed for what it is, so I recall it fondly.

The Dark Gods
Following the "Heroes Reborn" event, Thor took a little longer to get his own ongoing series back than his contemporaries, but it was worth the wait. Writer Dan Jurgens dropped the Thunder God into a world where his fellow Asgardians had vanished and Thor was forced to play the unfamiliar role of detective in order to reunite with his people, and along the way he encounters the all-new menace of the unfathomably powerful Dark Gods. In the year-long arc that re-launched the new series, Jurgens brought an unfamiliar feel to Thor by employing elements of mystery and thriller as opposed to just the straight sci fi and adventure that had been the character's hallmarks for so long. By denying his title character the comforts of Asgard and his stalwart companions, Jurgens gave Thor an edge he had been lacking in the years leading up. However, as good as Jurgens' story is (and it's good), no question the legendary John Romita Jr.'s art takes the spotlight more often than not, and deservedly so as it's awesome stuff. JR Jr. has proven he can draw just about any Marvel character and make them look dynamite, but the hugely-muscled, wildly colorful world of Thor proved as perfect a fit for him as any assignment he's ever had.

Blood Oath
If there's anybody who has approached Simonson-esque levels of being simpatico with Thor in recent years, it's Michael Avon Oeming, who has written some of the very best stories starring him as well as Beta Ray Bill. Blood Oath is definitely my favorite Asgardian Oeming joint though, as it's got a rockin' retro feel to it and also features amazing art by one of my faves, Scott Kolins, whose work I discussed here not long ago. This six-part gem has its roots in classic mythology as the Warriors Three are framed for murder by Loki and Thor accompanies them on the resultant hero's quest to claim a series of legendary objects that will somehow prove their redemption. It's a tried and true framework and Oeming has done his homework as he weaves bits of various myths from several cultures into the story. Besides being a total mark for Kolins' art, I have a soft spot for the Warriors Three and there's a great Thor vs Hercules clash midway through the series, so Oeming knows how to sucker me with this one. I also dig that this is a true timeless tale you could hand to anybody if you wanted to demonstrate the appeal of Thor to them.

Ages of Thunder
More than once, my good buddy Sean T. Collins has said that creating a good Thor story is like creating good heavy metal, and no creator seems to get this like Matt Fraction. The trio of one-shots Fraction penned last year read like a Black Sabbath song put to paper in comic book form, with extreme violence and over-the-top almost lyrical narration as the order of the day. Fraction's stories follow a young, undisciplined and somewhat aloof Thor as he defends Asgard against Frost Giants, causes mayhem in Midgard, and generally makes his father Odin grimace. The initial special, the one actually called Ages of Thunder, is probably my favorite as Fraction sets up a clever tale about the Frost Giants nearly outwitting the Asgardians' due to lazy arrogance before Thor comes in and solves the problem with his hammer in immensely satisfying fashion; Loki is at his snivelling and overmatched best, the Enchantress is hot and Patrick Zircher steps up his game to 11 in illustrating the glorious bloodshed. However, as much as Ages of Thunder and it's wonderfully named follow-ups, Reign of Blood and Man of War, are blockbuster action stories, Fraction is also nicely building a dark fable about Thor being a monster of Asgard's own creation due to their over-reliance upon him, and sews the seeds for Odin to step in and deliver the ultimate spanking.

J. Michael Straczynski
Since his run on the book is now almost over, I feel like I don't come off so much as a Marvel corporate shill when I say J. Michael Straczynski's two-year stint on the latest Thor series really has been quite brilliant. Again, like the best Thor creators before him, JMS has been able to walk that line of making sure the series has its classic elements while also making bold alterations, chief of which was of course moving Asgard to the heart of Oklahoma and making the interactions between gods and mortals some of the book's true highlights. JMS has redefined his leading man as well, maturing Thor from a young and hungry warrior into the weary leader who longs for his younger days, while also exploiting new modern avenues with the Donald Blake alter ego, including his stint serving as a part of Doctors Without Borders. JMS' grand story has been a well-executed balance of action, palace intrigue, soap opera and philosphy beautifully rendered by Olivier Coipel as well as Marko Djurdjevic. It's a bit soon to say how history will ultimately judge this latest era of Thor, but I'd say its prospects are farily golden.