Game Tape: Monkeybrain Edition

Since I’m getting comics by mail again (don’t ask), there isn’t much to review or read on Wednesdays; books come the Monday after. But, as Jesse mentioned earlier in the week, we were both quite excited about the inaugural releases from Chris Roberson’s MonkeyBrain Comics. The drawback is that I’m not a fan of digital comics as a concept. Until display screens are large enough, portable enough, and cheap enough, I see no advantages and too many hindrances.

Except that digital is the only way MonkeyBrain Comics titles will be released for the foreseeable future. This was one of those rare instances where curiosity won out over curmudgeonly tendencies. This also gave me a chance to see what the new and “improved” Comixology did. I’ve had an account on their website since they were a forum for collectors. Their virtual pull list is a favorite tool of mine for collection, but I haven’t interacted much with it since they became a marketplace for digital comics. But this isn’t a review of Comixology or digital comics in general.

Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver

From the press releases, three of the five inaugural titles immediately grabbed my attention: Aesop’s Ark, Bandette, and Edison Rex. The three were $.99 cents each. Even at a reduced page count, these comics had a better page to penny ratio than their print cousins. So that’s a good way to start a relationship

 At first glance, Edison Rex, by Chris Roberson and company, is easily dismissed as yet another Superman/Luthor dynamic. Granted it’s a well written bit of character and conversation, but it seems like something we’ve seen before. By the end of the issue, Roberson has deftly defied expectations, and he pushes the story in a whole other direction. So kudos for surprising me in that respect. Of the three that I bought, this one is the most straight-forward: being firmly set in the world of capes and cowls. I enjoyed it, and I look forward to seeing more of this fish-out-of-water story.

 

Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

Bandette, by the husband and wife team of Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, is easily my favorite of the three. I’m a fan of both of the creators so I was going to follow this one no matter what. In the span of thirteen pages we are introduced to the fast-paced world of the mercuric Bandette, reluctant cat burglar Monsieur, and haggard Police Inspector Belgique. As usual, Tobin nicely and cleverly balances the need to introduce characters with the need to tell a good story. I suspect this is a skill that was especially handy in his days working on the titles of the Marvel Adventures line. The press release for the title compares it to Tintin which is a fair comparison, but it borders on oversimplification and a possible injustice.

Staying with the Tintin comparison, until now it never occurred to me that one of the reasons I love Colleen Coover’s art style is that it is in the same league as both Herge’ and Darwin Cooke. Each prefers the unadorned line or curve to the hyperdetailed anatomy of most artists. All three place an emphasis on facial features and reactions. With Bandette, Coover’s art and layout keeps pace with Tobin’s runaway story. The fluidity of the story would be lost under anyone else’s brush.

My final purchase is Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer Meyer. This is one of those few instances where I bought a book expressly because of the art. Like Mark Crilley (of Akiko) Meyer is able to put an amazing amount of detail and depth into a grey

Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer Meyer

scale world that she and Torres have created. Unfortunately this book was as much a cipher to me at the end as it was at the beginning. The characters in the story emphasize the importance of relating stories, but I have no idea what story is being related to me as a reader. There was a cute fable and it illustrated problems that some other animals were having. Is that it? J. Torres is known for well crafted and enjoyable  all-ages titles, but this one felt a little too young for my tastes. Of the three, I can probably wait for the trade on this one.

Each of these titles has a common problem. At thirteen pages, they feel rushed. Aesops Ark especially could have used a bit more fleshing out/ introduction of concept in the first issue. I am left with two different feelings of wanting more. On the one hand, I want more because they were enjoyable and I want more of the same pleasant experience. On the other hand, I want more because the experience didn’t feel complete.

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Denver Comic Con: A Legend is Born!

As regular readers know, I’ve been pretty pumped about the Denver Comic Con (two words, thank you) and Literary Convention, set to come to the Mile High City in June.  We got the chance to chat with Matt Deragisch, DCC’s Social Media Coordinator, to talk about the con, the literary conference, and try twisting his arm into giving us a guest exclusive.

L.E.M.U.R. – There have been plenty of hotel cons and indie gatherings in the Denver area, but as far as I know this is the first time anyone has tried to put together something of this size and scope.  Why is now the right time for a large-scale convention in Denver and how did DCC come about?

Matt Deragisch – Now is the right time for this kind of comic convention because the comic scene in the greater Denver area and Colorado at large has been brewing. It’s time to showcase that body of interest. There’s so many different angles and interests that come from the people organizing this convention, yet they all share the same passion for comics. That’s the place this convention is coming from as it’s all to support the Comic Book Classroom.

L.E.M.U.R. – Since the con is a fundraiser for it, what is Comic Book Classroom?

MD – Comic Book Classroom is a 6 week curriculum where students learn to read or advance their reading proficiency through the use of comics then are tasked to create a comic themselves. CBC uses state standards and has put together a curriculum that is being asked for across the state, and starting to be asked for outside the state faster than materials and teachers can be tapped. There’s clearly a need and a desire for this program and part of Denver Comic Con is to showcase that.

L.E.M.U.R. – Comic conventions are no longer only the province of San Diego or Chicago.  Other than a good cause, what will DCC offer that no other con has?

MD – Passion. We’re not another ReedPOP convention, or a simple vendor floor convention now in Denver. Those cons are great as well, but at the end of the day everything they’re doing is to throw a great show and make some money. We also want to have a great show, but we’re raising money for Comic Book Classroom, nobody behind this con will directly make any money from Denver Comic Con. We care about comics, we care about the program we’re promoting. We care about putting together the best show we can possibly give Denver. I think our attendees will feel that difference come June.

L.E.M.U.R. – Most people think of comic cons as just a fun weekend, but there’s also a literary conference attached to this one.  What was the motivation behind adding the literary component, and what is the goal of those three days? Is it a lit conference attached to a con or is it the other way around?

MD – The Literary Conference is its own animal. It takes place June 13-15, Wednesday through Friday, while the Convention will 15-17 Friday through Sunday. Dr. Christina Angel has been the real heart and soul of the Literary Conference. I think it’s great that we can have this component as well, to show  the literary potential held in comics. With this conference in one hand and supporting the Comic Book Classroom in the other, all being headed by Denver Comic Con, we really embody this full argument that comics are a noteworthy medium. We can get people reading with comics, they can be great forms of entertainment and fanfare, then we can show that they have the same potential for artistic and literary creativity as any other medium.

Good luck talking to Jason Aaron; I'll be the one hogging all his time asking questions about Shark Rider.

L.E.M.U.R. – What kind of community/retailer involvement do you have lined up?

MD – We are working very closely with local retailers to make sure this convention will be as successful as it can be. We know that our first line of interest, and our most vocal supporters will be all the local comic book stores. Ideally we can make a big enough spark locally to garner some new customers as well, and that’s what the retailers are hoping for, it creates a great synergy. We’re even working with locally started Drawer Boxes to make the most of what the local scene can offer.

We’re tied to the community beyond that though. We have ties to the Denver Drink and Draw, and to Homebrew Comics from Boulder. There’s a lot of different people from different walks of life working to make sure this convention succeeds.

L.E.M.U.R. – Which panels are you looking forward to the most?

MD – I’m going to break form on this question and answer this personally, as we’ll be covering so much fandom between our animation, media, and comic guests. If you look closely we have an amazing line of Vertigo talent and seeing if we can fit all of that talent in one room would be a blast. Also Zach Howard who’s a local talent did the art for an amazing IDW mini, “The Cape” and having the opportunity to hear him talk about that process is something I’m looking forward to.

Come get your mint-in-box Star Trek: The Next Generation Wesley Crusher action figure signed...

L.E.M.U.R. –  What kind of experience can fans expect on the convention floor? Publishers? Retailers? Pros?

MD – You’ll see the Retailers, Pros, local artists, and a little bit more. Despite everything we’re still a first year con. We’ve had a lot of interest and it’s been one of our hardest struggles to try and get publishers on the floor. We have a great deal lined up and are fitting in everything we can, I feel positive that we’ll have something lined up by the convention weekend. Something you can expect to see is the graduates of the Comic Book Classroom on the floor signing their work side by side with the pros.

L.E.M.U.R. – What are you most looking forward to showcasing?

MD – The community. Having lived in Colorado my entire life it always felt odd that Denver didn’t have a big comic convention. Having the chance to show that there is a community and there is an interest here in Colorado is huge, and it feels like a victory to see this whole event coming together.

L.E.M.U.R. –  There have been several big-name guests announced from all areas: Jason Aaron, Mike Allred, Billy West, Wil Wheaton…Can we convince you to tell us someone who hasn’t been announced yet?

MD – I wish! I really do, but when we announce and how we announce guests can be ‘a thing’ with agents and contracts involved.

While he’s already been announced I can say our most overlooked guest is Noah Van Sciver He has a graphic novel about Lincoln coming out soon called, “The Hypo”. He also has an amazing indy comic series named “Blammo”. He’s even still turning out weekly strips for the Westword, well worth your time to check out his work.


Denver Comic Con runs June 15-17 and the Literary Convention is June 13-15.  Tickets, guest lists, and more info can be found at denvercomiccon.com.  For the latest breaking info, follow @DenverComicCon on Twitter and hit their page on Facebook.

A New Project

I’ve done a little shilling for the Denver Comic Con in these pages lately (June 15-17, get your tickets now!), but there’s something else comic-related happening this summer.  Cellar Door, a Denver literary anthology, is releasing an all-comic issue timed to come out around the convention.  Titled (and themed) “Ancient,” you’ll see work by some great and committed Denver-area cartoonists.  If you’re able to track down a copy, you’ll also see a 9-page story titled “What REALLY Happened to the Seven Wonders of the World,” drawn by FotB Andrew with words by me.  It’s a humorous (hopefully!) look at what destroyed mankind’s greatest engineering marvels, and if nothing else it will be amazing to look at. 

There’s also a Kickstarter going on to help defray printing costs, which is worth checking out for a little more backstory on the project and the opportunity to snag a copy once it comes out, potentially for less than cover price.

If you’re even remotely curious what happens when we don’t even attempt to come close to honesty keep your eyes peeled, we’d appreciate your support!

The Con in my Back Yard

We here at the  L.E.M.U.R. Comics Blog are pretty psyched that this summer Denver is going to be hosting it’s first major con.  Sure, there have been small hotel cons here, but it’s a good sign (both for Denver and the comic industry) that someone is trying to put on a major convention in the Mile High City, and the guest announcements they’ve been making keep looking better and better.

So we’ll be running a banner for them until the convention (June 15-17), and I hope you’ll check them out on Twitter (@DenverComicCon) or use the hashtag #DenCon.

 

Before Watchmen, The End of My Relationship With DC Comics

Wednesday morning DC Comics announced the long-awaited (and long-reported by Rich Johnston) news that they would be “building” on Watchmen by releasing a series of “Before Watchmen” mini-series. Featuring each of the major characters in the original series plus a Minutemen series, the new series will build on the mythology of the Watchmen universe and finally turn those characters into a fully-formed brand to be marketed and exploited.

I spoke about this on our Twitter account a couple months ago when Bleeding Cool started running leaked concept art by creators we now know are attached to the project, but since 140 characters bursts doesn’t allow for much depth of thought, it seems like the opportune time to elaborate.

It’s long been the conventional wisdom that for Marvel and DC, comics don’t pay the bills, it is the licensing of characters that brings in the real money.  And especially recently, with line-wide relaunches, monster trucks, and twitter accounts hyping mass media appearances more than comics, it feels like more than just the conventional wisdom.  Comic books may be dying out, but through licensing the characters can live on in perpetuity.  Therefore, with every financial reason to do it and no creative impetus behind it**, Before Watchmen isn’t an artistic endeavor, it’s a blank check for DC to enhance the brand and keep the licensing money coming.

Let’s be honest, most of the major comic book characters you know and love are 40-60 years old now.  Other than
Watchmen, which is one of the best selling graphic novels ever, how many comic book characters can you name  were created in the last 25 years and are household names?  Spawn, probably.  Deadpool, maybe. The list is pretty thin.  The Watchmen characters are well-known, popular, and just sitting in the DC vaults unused.  Perhaps it’s inevitable that Watchmen gets dragged hurming and scheming into the 21st century, but without the unanimous blessing of their creators I can’t put my support behind it.

Kudos to DC for getting Dave Gibbons’ approval on the new works, but that’s only half the solution.  In order to get me on-board for this (and I want to be, truly I do) Alan Moore has to sign off on it as well.  Can you imagine Steve Dillon spinning off Preacher without Garth Ennis, Eduardo Risso continuing 100 Bullets without Brian Azzarello (one of the Before Watchmen creators!), or Darick Robertson doing more Transmetropolitan without Warren Ellis*?

Of course not.  Those books were made by creative TEAMS, and the artist and writer are both critical to their success.  Before Watchmen is an event by committee, not an artistic vision at work.  But the main reason those spinoffs wouldn’t work?  All of the books I mentioned are creator-owned titles.  Watchmen had the misfortune of coming out too soon***.  Had it been published in 1996 instead of 1986 it would have been released as a creator-owned series through the Vertigo imprint!  Had Vertigo existed back then Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons would have owned the series and its characters, never squabbled about DC keeping it in print in perpetuity (therefore preventing the rights from reverting back to Moore and Gibbons) and they probably would have done the prequels they considered TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO!

The Internet, predictably, exploded.  And there have been some good rebuttals to the outrage.  J. Michael Straczynski, who will be working on the Nite Owl and Dr. Manhattan books, told Comic Book Resources:
“A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say “No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.” Nor should he have.”

That’s an excellent point.  Here’s the thing: Siegel and Shuster never intended to be the only ones ever telling Superman stories, or that it would never continue past a certain point.  Hell, Superman was originally a newspaper strip, a serial if ever there was one.  Their only beef was that they didn’t get adequate payment for all DC exploited Superman. The same goes for Kirby.  Truth be told, the same goes for Alan Moore when he worked on Batman, Vigilante, and Green Lantern.  Moore doesn’t WANT the money, he wants DC to leave it alone (well, that and let him get the rights back).

JMS goes on later to say:
“Again: on an emotional level, I get it. But by the same token, Alan has spent most of the last decade writing some very, very good stories about characters created by other writers, including Alice (from Wonderland), Dorothy (from Oz), Wendy (from Peter Pan), as well as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Jekyll and Hyde and Professor Moriarty. I think one loses a little of the moral high ground to say, “I can write characters created by Jules Verne, HG Wells, Robert  Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Frank Baum, but it’s wrong for anyone else to write my characters.””

Again, there is a bit of a difference here.  Presumably Moore has no problem with others using his work 70 years after his death, when it would enter the public domain.  He’s a smart man, and understands public domain (which kept Lost Girls from being published in the UK for a while, until the Peter Pan rights expired) and the concept of transformative works.  Now I do feel from time to time like Moore is a crotchety, hypersensitive guy who won’t rest until he can find fault in everything, like someone’s grandmother, but in these instances I feel he’s got a solid basis for his feelings.


With the New 52 relaunch, the over-reliance on events (and making them bigger and more inflammatory each time), and now this, DC is making it quite clear that they are more concerned with getting our money and the perpetuation of brands rather than integrity.  And not necessarily the artistic kind, just good ethics.  And I just can’t support that any more.  With Watchmen 2 happening, I am officially done with DC Comics and all it’s associated creators.  At the moment
that includes:

  • Seriously, I would LOVE to read this. But I can't.

    Brian Azzarello

  • Lee Bermejo
  • Amanda Conner
  • Darwyn Cooke
  • Adam Hughes
  • J.G. Jones
  • Andy Kubert
  • Joe Kubert
  • Jae Lee
  • J. Michael Straczynski
  • Len Wein

Not that I was buying any JMS titles anyway, but we’ve been always told that we vote with our wallet.  Well, my three dollars (let’s face it, they weren’t getting $4 from me anyway) isn’t going to support this system or those who enable it.

Most support I’ve seen so far has come in the form of how DC is a company whose goal is to make money, so they can do what they want with characters they own.  Or that the new titles sound great.  And those statements are ALL true.  These are DC’s characters, and maybe it IS stupid of them to have these characters and not capitalize on them.  I think an Azzarello/Bermejo Rorschach series would be AMAZING.  But I can’t support it, not without the approval of both Moore and Gibbons.

And may God have mercy on our souls if we ever see a Dr. Manhattan monster truck.

*Cully Hamner did some Red prequels without Ellis, but since we never heard complaints from him, we have to assume they were sanctioned.
** So far, what we’ve heard is Dan DiDio approaching creators to work on the project, which means it’s coming down from an editorial/managerial level.  And while I imagine the creative process behind these books is an honest one, it’s not the same as, say, Geoff Johns coming up with Green Lantern: Rebirth.
***Ditto Sandman, but DC has been very careful not to alienate DC by using his characters without his okay.  Their relationship with Neil Gaiman may very well be the result of lessons learned working with Alan Moore.

Over the course of our lives, Matt’s heard me talk a lot of craziness, make a load of overreaching declarations, and talked me down off many a ledge.  So these were his thoughts when we discussed the news.

So then…

Where does this idea come from that Alan Moore is the only one to touch Watchmen?

Who’s out there clamoring for more? It’s a fairly complete story with few or no holes. If nothing else, didn’t we learn our lesson as fans with The Dark Knight Strikes Again?

Before Watchmen
, so what? When rumblings of this started way back, I had no interest in seeing prequels or sequels. That view has not changed. I don’t get the idea that people are so attached to the unlikeable, shallow, impotent, and petty caricatures that Alan Moore used to tell his story. Anything I ever wondered about them is given to me in the pages of the original 12 issues. So if I want a good Rorschach prequel story, I’ll read The Question, and the same goes for Moore’s other “creations” and their Charlton counterparts. I can’t make myself care about it because it isn’t affecting how I feel about the original story. Just because DC’s doing it doesn’t mean I have to read it.

It’s funny that Watchmen is the third rail of comics. Why does this story get people so up in arms?

In terms of the outcry and insistence that it have Moore’s blessing, I find myself agreeing with… God help me… JMS. It’s DC’s property. Again, whatever is done now by whomever will not change the original story, its significance, or my own feelings about the story.

Maybe the stories will be good. Maybe they’ll be forgotten not unlike DC’s Kingdom. At the end of the day, the only problem I have is that I always find blatant pandering insulting.  It bothers me that DC feels that it can dangle new Watchmen stories and we’ll automatically open our wallets and fork over four or five dollars a pop.


All great points.  JMS continued his excellent point-making this morning, after drawing comparisons to his work Babylon 5.  Namely, the company owns the property and it would suck, but they have the right to do what they wish with the characters.  And I agree, they certainly do have the right, I just wish they wouldn’t exercise it. 

The rights for Watchmen were always supposed to revert to Moore and Gibbons once the book went out of print, which it never has.  The was never supposed to be an issue, a book had never stayed continuously in print before.  Watchmen is a victim of its own success.  So I’d say that’s why Moore is the chosen one in this case. 

While several creators have tried getting the rights to their creations back, namely Kirby, Siegel, and Shuster, but as recently as Marv Wolfman, but Steve Gerber was notoriously against other creators working on characters he created, notably Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown.