Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#008 - The Dead Horse and Apple Episode

Welcome to Hideous Energy where we beat the holy living shit out of dead horses. Tell us what you want to hear us yell about by commenting on this blog, and then please do something with Twitter, Facebook, and even Please be patient with our iTunes war, as it is currently ongoing. Click on the RSS feed link here on this blog to see the RSS feed of the blog, and subscribe through iTunes.

Episode 8:
• Intro: Shmebraska, Geek Week, and Apple.
• Topic Thunder: "Locke and Key" is Austin's master; all of us are still peeing because of "Paranormal Activity 2;" Image takes a gamble with re-releasing "Walking Dead;" and finally, are people still buying comics? Glycon knows we are!
 • Read 'Em and Weep: This week you get three graphic novel and/or collection reviews! Austin talks about "Shortcomings" by Adrian Tomine, David talks about "Swallow Me Whole" by Nate Powell, and Caleb talks about "Beasts of Burden" by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson.
• Couch Change: All three of us love comics. We want to buy them, and we want you to as well.
• Outro: This is obvious.

David Hopkins and Austin Wilson are two-year-olds who do stupid things, then do them forty million times again after you laugh once. This episode features guest star Caleb Green, who fits in perfectly. There is an hour and twenty-one minutes of moments for you to remember forever (1:20:41), maybe using those memories to create experimental art. If so, make sure you let us see your beautiful work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Art Bomb!

Here's an explosion of art. This shrapnel is to be left in your brain, to infect your likes and dislikes.

"Jonah Hex" by Sean Phillips.

"Surf" by Fred Chao.

"Deer Winter" by Jen Wang.

"Goblin Knoll" by Marian Churchland.

"Goblin Knoll 2" by Marian Churchland. 
Make sure you check out all of the artists' websites by clicking on the caption beneath the art. There's even more good stuff posted there.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Look At This! You Can't Not!

A little bit ago - maybe a month or so - I started thinking about the superhero books I read currently, and what they mean to me in relation to all the other content I pour into my brain. Even though my realization was slow, almost tentative - like I was somehow scared about its implications - it became clear that the only superhero book I read on a regular basis is "Invincible," by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley.

This is a cover by Ryan Ottley, featuring the character Dinosaurus. It's a perfect demonstration of the book's goofy fun side, which is a large reason I keep coming back. Somehow Kirkman and Ottley are creating a book that works on two levels, though, because it isn't all over-the-top nuttiness. Alongside making me feel and think about superhero comics the way I did when I was younger, it also offers up content that I can relate to now.

Issue 75 is about to come out, and Ottley posts on his blog about how it took two months to draw because it is the length of two books. If you haven't read "Invincible" by now you should start. They have some very awesome over-sized hardcovers that are packed with extra content and awesome stories. Go find them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

#007 - Suicide Gerbils and Dissected Stories

Four separate psychics told you your life would change in a major way, and here you are. Use your freshly read palm to leave us comments on this, our seventh episode. Just click on "Comment" or whatever, and if that's too scary then skulk over to Twitter, Facebook, or your nearest email location to send us predictions at Here's what your future will look like while it's becoming your past.

Episode 7:
• Intro: We babble and tell a weird story about Austin.
• Read 'Em and Weep: "Strange Tales Volume II: #1" and "Locke and Key: Keys To the Kingdom #2" get reviewed. We talk about them a lot.
 • Couch Change: You take our advice and spend your rent money on entertainment. At least you'll have something to read when you're alone forever!

David Hopkins and Austin Wilson transform into mythical creatures and don't even notice a difference in grooming habits. Running a solid 50:06, there is a large amount of talking and only a small amount of questionable feelings related. This world is all about communication.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Paying Too Much Attention: Panel Progression and Design

There are an innumerable amount of reasons that comics are awesome. Some of the reasons are slightly hard to articulate - the obsession with monkeys? - and it can be hard to explain exactly why they rock so thoroughly to someone who doesn't read them.

There's a rule I live by, or attempt to utilize from day to day, and it is this: when asked if I like something, and I in fact do, I will never give the reason as "It's good," or "It's awesome," or "I just do." Yeah, there are comics and movies and novels and music that I would love to sum up with, "It's just sooooo good man," and maybe even some of those works could be summed up that way. It seems lazy to me, though, because I really want to understand exactly why I like or love or loathe something.

So what about comics do I love? I'll tell you. Panel progression and inventive panel design. What's that mean? I'll show you!

- • -

Other than containing great stories that may or may not include monkeys or robots, comics are an art form, while at the same time being a craft. They tell me compelling tales, and they do so with panache, baby, they strut across that floor and make sure they're noticed.

It is entirely possible to write and illustrate a comic book that utilizes a standard and straightforward style, while still telling a both compelling and entertaining story. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips produced two books - "Criminal" and "Incognito" - that employed straight ahead panel layouts, occasionally relying on a nine-panel grid, which some consider the simplest form of comics (whether they are using simple to mean "easily understood or done" or "of low or abnormally low intelligence" depends on the person, probably). Both of these books contain stories that are rich with character development, but also include plenty of "geeky" moments as well. They are great examples of how writers and artists can grab the reader's attention without getting too fancy. Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell do this in their book "From Hell," each panel either being a square or a rectangle. Another good example is the book "Fell," which is illustrated by Ben Templesmith - and written by Warren Ellis - using the nine-panel grid. All of these showcase how a straight ahead layout can still be used to tell interesting stories. That's what is so great about comics though: they can be anything the artists want them to be.

Someone out there might argue that comics are a genre, and not a medium. I've personally never heard anyone trying to make this argument, but I've read interviews and articles where it's been mentioned. There's no better proof that comics are in fact a medium than the demonstration that so many different techniques can be used to create them. Now, thanks to two amazing writer/artists, we're going to look at exactly how comics can step out into the broader field of creativity.

- • -

First up is artist and writer Alex Robinson, known for books such as "Box Office Poison," "Too Cool To Be Forgotten," and his latest, "A Kidnapped Santa Claus." Mr. Robinson was kind enough to supply Hideous Energy with two pages from his original graphic novel "Too Cool To Be Forgotten," which is the tale of a middle-aged man being put under hypnosis only to wake up back in high school.

This page is a perfect example of interesting panel progression, layout, and an expert use of perspective. All of these things offer comic book artists (and writers) ways to render their stories unique.

Here we see the main character, Andy Wicks, undergoing hypnosis in order to quit smoking. Along with panel progression/layout, another big aspect of comic book writing and art is the layout of dialogue bubbles. The reader's eye travels from right to left, and works its way down the page in this manner until the page is finished being read. That's not really too complex of an idea, and certainly isn't one most regular comic book readers are unfamiliar with. Looking at this page, however, there's another interesting observation to make, which is that Robinson's art was laid out in a way to help lead the reader's eye downward.

Another interesting technique Robinson uses here is evident with the two cutaway panels placed over the larger panel that serves somewhat as a background. They help the reader with a concept that can be notoriously hard to convey within the realm of static images: time. Showcasing time passing - or any form of motion - is somewhat difficult using nothing but still images. Robinson addresses the problem wonderfully though. The first panel shows the reader what Andy Wicks sees, a point of view (POV) shot, allowing their minds to switch perspectives long enough that a feeling of time passing occurs. The second panel, of the eyes narrowing and becoming heavy with sleep, is a great piece of storytelling in that it is there to be compared - whether consciously or subconsciously - with the version of Andy's eyes shown at the top of the page. The difference between them is obvious, and because of this the reader can tell he is becoming sleepy. Again, that's somewhat simple, but it is something that happens so subtly - sometimes - that a reader can be unaware they are even filling in these gaps. Robinson manages to show us Andy Wicks becoming hypnotized with nothing more than three panels and some dialogue.

The next page from "Too Cool To Be Forgotten" is somewhat more experimental than the first example, and is a great example of how comic writers and artists can do fantastic and experimental things.

There really isn't too much that has to be said about this page. Along with creating the art with only words, the story is furthered by the dialogue written. Both of these pages are examples of how page design can influence a story, and how the use of creative techniques offers endless roads for writers and artists to travel within comics.

This page is so wonderful because although there isn't a conventional illustration, there is still story taking place; Robinson has merely shifted the panel progression from the page to your imagination. It's pretty hard to read the words written and not picture anything. This is either a side-effect of reading a comic and the brain balancing between left/right brain function - which is some deep, psychology stuff - or because Alex Robinson is doing his job. Either way, you should do some studying to figure this out.

- • -

These next two pages were supplied by writer/artist Jeff Lemire, known for his books "Essex County," "The Nobody," and his current ongoing title for Vertigo, "Sweet Tooth." Both of the pages are taken from "Sweet Tooth," and showcase examples of how panel progression plays a huge, but subtle role in the creation of comic books.
The first page is taken from "Sweet Tooth" #4, and the second is taken from issue #14. The first observation that can be made is that the pages are very similar, showing the characters posed similarly. If anyone is reading "Sweet Tooth" this helps further an idea Mr. Lemire presented in issue #14, and one that has surely been hinted at leading up to the currently developing storyline.

Other than the story and character implications evident, another notable aspect of both pages is Lemire's use of panel progression. If counting the larger image as a panel, there are six panels total, all static images that perfectly allow the reader to see the characters in action, swinging their respective weapons.

More than any other tool in the artist's bag, panel progression is utilized to show motion. Here it is used in conjunction with sound effects to help the reader understand that each smaller panel represents a separate strike, showing that both characters are repeatedly bashing their enemy. Picture the page with only one sound effect, a single word punctuating the very last panel, and the story changes slightly from an ongoing struggle to a shorter altercation.

Without panel progression it would be difficult for our minds to see the passage of time within static images, and these two pages make sure that's understood.

- • -
All of these pages show what comics are capable of, but they are a small glimpse into the huge variety of examples out there. Check out all of Alex Robinson's books to see more, along with Jeff Lemire's as well.

And the next time someone tells you that comics aren't a medium - if that's ever happened - then point them in the right direction to see about changing their minds. It might not always work, but at least you'll be able to offer up some solid evidence.

Thanks again to Alex Robinson and Jeff Lemire for helping out with this article, and supplying their fantastic artwork.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eyeballs - They're the E-Readers of the Face

Welcome to Eyeballs, a brand new series of articles on this here blog. Chances are good the next time you see an "Eyeballs" entry it'll be entitled something completely different. That's us though, we are lovably eccentric. On to the words!

- • -

To a certain extent, some books want you to judge them by their covers. There are blurbs, subtitles to main titles, and even sub-subtitles (for which there has to be a better term). Sure, way back when everyone spoke and wrote properly (read: any century before the 19th, mostly) the books couldn't be judged by their covers. They were, for the most part, plain. No blurbs, no elaborate illustrations or pretentious photographs (or even unpretentious photos), they were basically little surprises.

Now though? You can get a good idea what you're going into. A perfect example of this is the book I just started reading, "Alec" by Eddie Campbell. This book is actually a great example of this theory, because "Alec" isn't even the official title. It's technically called "Alec: 'The Years Have Pants' (A life-sized omnibus)." While the subtitle didn't offer me too much insight, the sub-subtitle did. It caught my attention, anyway, so I flipped the book over and read the back.

The synopsis reads as such: "Brilliantly observed and profoundly expressed, the Alec stories present a version of Campbell's own life, filtered through the alter ego of 'Alec MacGarry.' Over many years, we witness Alec's (and Eddie's) progression 'from beer to wine' - wild nights at the pub, existential despair, the hunt for love, the quest for art, becoming a responsible breadwinner, feeling lost at his own movie premiere, and much more! Eddie's outlandish fantasies and metafictional tricks convert life into art, while staying fully grounded in his own absurdity. At every point, the author's uncanny eye for irony and wry self-awareness make even the smallest occasion into an opportunity for wit and wisdom. Quite simply, ALEC is a masterpiece of visual autobiography."

By now any potential reader should have a good idea what they're getting into, but the covers of this big book aren't done yet (it's 640 pages!). There are blurbs from not only Alan Moore, but Neil Gaiman as well, and if the tweedy comic book royalty can't convince you this is something you should be reading, allow me to try.

Blog/podcast partner David read the synopsis and immediately latched onto the word "metafictional," and threw it at me. For some reason our friendship contains this odd mechanism that forces us to take pleasure from the others dislike and nerd-rage, so he was pretty excited to see how I'd react. I'm a staunch disbeliever in breaking the fourth wall, and hate when something gets "metaficitional." I'm beginning to think I have a varying definition of these two storytelling devices than some.

So far - and I'm not 100 pages in yet - "Alec" doesn't fall into the "metafictional" category for me. Eddie Campbell - the writer/artist of the tome, and artist for Alan Moore's "From Hell" graphic novel - wrote and drew autobiographical comics, but changed his name to Alec MacGarry. Although the term "metafictional" does tend to refer to self-referential stories, I'm not sure if that counts when a work is autobiographical. The author is writing about himself, yes, but "metafictional" has a word in there that makes this a round-peg-square-hold kind of deal: "fictional."

While I'm sure there are portions and aspects of the stories Campbell presents that are fictionalized - seriously, who remembers every single world spoken in a conversation? - this is a book about Campbell's life told through the life of another, albeit fictional, person.

Actually, it might be kind of hard to define what exactly "Alec" is, other than good. It delivers on it's promise of brilliant observations. The stories are funny, poignant, and some very sad. So far I've only read one that left me somewhat disappointed - and confused; there were too many character names for my lizard brain to follow - but I have a feeling that will be the rarity here.

If you like interesting stories about how weird and normal we all are, definitely read "Alec."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

#006 - Horrendous Eddie!

 Now the oceans become still, and the air is ignited with the heat from Hideous Energy episode 6. We can only beg you so long to talk to us through our blog (the one you're on right now, so it's easy), on Twitter, Facebook, or within the email world at What's coming at you? I'm glad you asked.

Episode 6:
• Topic Thunder: New York Comic Con happened, and we talk about it! Then about movies that are based on comics - like always!
 • Interview! Yep, this is the episode featuring our first Hideous Energy interview. Comic book writer/artist Alex Robinson ("Box Office Poison," "Too Cool To Be Forgotten," "Tricked," "A Kidnapped Santa Claus,") allows us to talk with him about all kinds of goofy (and serious) things. He's an angel and we're all in love with him. Buy his things, and support his awesomeness.

David Hopkins and Austin Wilson are so happy to be stuck with you. Guest starring Emery Peck - Huey Lewis impersonator and one-man News cover band. This is an episode for the ages because we bring someone from the outside world into our insane fantasy land. You have an hour and twenty-three minutes of this show to enjoy this week.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

#005 - The Quest for Hall and Oates

Nuclear Man

Episode five is here for you. Maybe you're sick, and need comforting. Allow us to do so. To thank us for this - or to tell us why we're inadequate - come right here, to this blog, or maybe over on Twitter, Facebook, or even send us an email to Keep reading to find out what you'll be discussing with your therapist.

Episode 5:
• Topic Thunder: Zack Snyder is set to direct the new Superman movie! There's maybe possibly a new Wonder Woman TV show? And Emma Stone is cast in the new Spider-Man movie.
• Couch Change: Hooker coins. Listen for more information on this.
• Gimme the Goods: A new segment where we talk about what we haven't read yet, but really freaking want to. Feel free to tell us the goods you're after.

David Hopkins and Austin Wilson are sophisticated talking robots, only in that they run on Powerade and Taco Bell. Joined by special guest star Emery Peck, this show will probably creep you out, and maybe make you think. This one runs for 49 minutes and 22 seconds. And is of Spanish and German descent.

Monday, October 4, 2010

We Are All Beautiful, Complex Snowflakes

There are probably thousands upon thousands of comics that are out there right now, and I'll probably only get to read maybe less than a quarter of them. Way more than that in my entire lifetime. Who knows, really? Statistics are hard because they are rooted in math, and I know my limitations.

The internet makes it easier to find out about some of these phantoms though, and we all have greater access to underground/indie books that would have went unseen or ran silent through the background previously. Thanks to this whole digital world that runs through our lives, I stumbled across a comic I would NEVER have seen otherwise. It's a story called "Cockbone," which isn't what disqualifies it from appearing on my radar. Where it is published originally does, however; within a publication called "Sleazy Slice," particularly the third issue, which is on sale now.

Written and illustrated by artist Joshua Simmons, "Cockbone" is without a doubt Not Safe For Work (NSFW), and the only reason I mention it is because he has officially posted the entire comic on his website, and that is where this link right here will take you.

My comic reading habits and interests are by no means prudish or close-minded. I don't generally gravitate toward extremely independent books - and yes I will explain what that means - but I'll read something if it seems interesting to me. There isn't any independent book I read on a regular basis, if for no other reason than the area I call home isn't the best place to find indy books. Other than the internet, obviously, I simply don't have a way to get my hands on books that aren't at least published by a mid-level (although still considered indy by some) publisher.

I remember really wanting to read "Let's Go To Utah," by Dave Chisholm, but never getting around to ordering it online. Maybe that's the problem, maybe I'm a passive comic buyer when it comes to the internet, and since extremely indy books - I promise a definition is coming - are generally only available to me through the internet, my situation persists.

There is probably a much more detailed review of "Cockbone" resting in my brain somewhere, but wrenching it out might be impossible. I can easily edit it all down to "disturbing, over the top, shock for shock sake," and that isn't really an interesting review to read. I'm much more interested in the idea of independent books that are capable of printing ANYTHING, and the idea that these books are out there hiding, in a way, from some readers. I say they're hiding because they are, with only a little generalization, books that have to be sought out. Even if you hear of an indy book, finding it might be hard, or more steps than a reader is willing to take, and that could kill the whole process of reading the thing.

Extremely independent books - to me, at least - are publications that don't have the help of a distributor, or publication house which can utilize advertising in even small ways. Maybe this book "Sleazy Slice" utilizes advertising, but from looking at the purchase page, I sincerely doubt it. Part of me wants to classify extremely independent books as those that aren't held to any standards regarding content - either pertaining to quality or decency - but there are plenty of other publications which would render this point both incorrect and asinine, so I'll skip that. Maybe my mind goes there even briefly because books like "Sleazy Slice" exist in the first place. Not that I'm begrudging the publication's existence, or saying any of the readers shouldn't be allowed to read what they want, because I am absolutely against censorship.

The amount of adult content available within comic book form would probably astonish me. Like I said earlier, I'm not a prude or easily offended, but something about seeing a comic written and drawn for no other reason than sexual desires to be sated seems somehow odd to me. There being so much pornography within the world containing living, breathing humans - or whatever - would seem to render the creation of such comics moot, but that is most definitely not the case.

Again, I am absolutely not saying these comics shouldn't exist, or are wrong for being here, I just cannot wrap my head around there being a reason for them. Sure, this could lead to a huge debate about sexual desire, and differing personalities and so on, but that's not what I want. I know why porn exists - it's not that difficult to figure out - so the existence of porn comics isn't a mind-blowing enigma.

"Cockbone" made all of this happen in my head. It's story is almost, but not quite non-existent. I do think great stories can be told which contain mature themes, but the artist has to know the limitations of this, know that like any other story the mechanism of the tale could come crashing down if one part isn't in the right place. "Cockbone" does come crashing down, and exists as a bizarre mini-comic porn. I'm not saying that makes it wrong, or bad, but I am saying it isn't anything more. Not that it is attempting to be anything else. After all, it was originally printed in a book called "Sleazy Slice," with the blurb "The annual comix anthology devoted to debauchery" right there on the cover.