Thursday, April 22, 2010

Keep Your Eyes Open

Thanks to "Popgun: Volume 1" I've started discovering new writers and artists, and so far one of the few who has stood out has been Nick Derington. I checked out his stuff online, and came across this picture.


Classifying things - or people - by comparisons to other things or people has always been a pet peeve of mine, both because it can subtract a certain amount of originality, and also because I can't always avoid doing it myself.

For instance, this picture up here shows that Derington's art is somewhat reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke, and the story inside "Popgun: Volume 1" is vaguely similar to John Romita Junior. None of that really matters though. I know I like how this looks, and the rest of his stuff as well.

Creators Vs. Creators.

A while ago writer Robert Kirkman made some statements that created somewhat of an uproar in the comic book world. Kirkman made his name with books like "Invincible" and "The Walking Dead," both published through Image Comics, a publishing house that releases creator-owned books.

This might seem like a late response to Kirkman's statements, but the situation that led to me writing this seemed to directly concern things he said in that video.

Even though comic books are art, and should always be considered as such, one thing affects them that makes it easy to consider them something OTHER than art, and that thing is business. There are definitely people out there who have a vested interest in comics as capitalism, or investments, but for me - a wannabe comic book writer/current comic book reader - they are a fantastic art form.

So what happened that made me think these things? Comic book reviews. I was talking about the newest issue of "Flash" and its shortcomings, and someone said to me that I only like creator-owned books. I love creator-owned books, and do read quite a few of them, but they aren't the only books I read. Making a list of the non-creator-owned books I enjoy seems goofy, and not at all why I'm writing this, so I'll skip that. Instead, I wondered to myself why creator-owned books might be better than non-creator-owned.

No matter how many reasons I came up with, in the end they were all easily placed into one category: freedom. Creator-owned books allow for greater creative freedom. There are no "events" to worry about unless the creator wants there to be. I enjoy superheroes, and I like reading their stories. I hold them to the same standards I hold all other comics I read; I want well-written stories, well-drawn, just well-created books all around. Right now it seems like creator-owned books are more capable of achieving the level of success I'm looking for, if for no other reason than the aim of the books isn't a company-wide cohesion or eye toward continuity.

If the big two companies were producing books that could weave in and out of stories without the anchor of continuity or editor involvement - meaning the worry about "event" cohesion - they might be able to produce stories with more freedom.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Now That's Batman


Yep. This is almost like artist Declan Shalvey went into my mind and picked out a version of Batman. You can check out this picture and more over on Comic Twart.

Compiling Ideas


Compilation comics have never been interesting to me. It's an odd phenomenon, because I love reading books of short stories, and I don't at all mind watching short films. Something about reading comics only two to three pages long seemed counterintuitive to me. Like maybe I wasn't getting what I paid for.


Comic conventions are playgrounds for creativity, and I can say that without the least bit of ironic pretentiousness. Maybe it's just genuinely pretentious, but whatever, conventions cannot help but be whirlwinds of imagination due to the amount of creators walking around. That's what comics have always been about for me: imagination. Stories. Entertainment. There're other things to be enjoyed - drama, emotion, etc. - and although these might not always be about smiling, rest assured that reading comics is fun.

Comic conventions, depending on the venue, can usually be depended upon to have certain things. Booth babes, cosplayers, massive lines, overpriced food, publishers selling things for cover price, venders selling things for discounts, and really weird peripheral interests like swords, juggling, and power drinks.

Inside one of those venders selling discounted books, I accidentally came across something I'd had my eye on before, but could never come to a decision regarding. My friend is the one who actually found it, and when he held it up I went, "Oh yeah." That book was "Popgun: Volume 1." It's a compilation book released by Image comics, and it features somewhere around 60 creators.

All of the stories aren't winners, but that might be one of the reasons for the book's existence: eclectic content. The styles are as varied as the stories, and there should be something for everyone. Probably the most interesting aspect of the book for me is the possibility of finding new creators I'd never heard of before. I was surprised to find out there's been four volumes of "Popgun" published already, the fourth coming out earlier this year.

If you want to discover new creators, pick up "Popgun." If you just want to read some interesting stories that take up a small portion of your day, it's good for that too. So far I enjoy it more than the one volume of "Flight" - another compilation book - I read. I've already ordered "Popgun: Volume 2."

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Trip To C2E2 (Scroll For Pics)

This previous weekend was C2E2, or the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. I had been to a con recently, a year ago maybe, but it wasn't a major convention like this one. The ride there had me thinking other con experiences, and that this one would be somewhat like the first visit to a convention I'd ever had. Mostly this idea was rooted in C2E2's history, more specifically that there is none. It was hard to tell this was only the first year for the con, but that isn't to say there weren't things they couldn't have improved, but I don't necessarily care about any of that.

What I care about are the books.

- • -

The comic shop I work at isn't huge, but it is great. We're limited by our location, but we make due with what we have; it's a cliché, but that statement is more about utilizing the resources you can than it is about compromising. One of the worst limitations we have to deal with is the location of new material. When the new books are announced/released the internet can sometimes tell us, but it doesn't always. There is still a certain amount of searching that has to take place, and even then there are no guarantees.

Going to C2E2 was always about fun. There is constant motion when you're there, you're going going going, and your eyes occasionally get overloaded with things to see. Riding to Chicago, I decided this trip would be a search. A search for books that aren't known to everyone, for writers and artists that don't have the benefit of a giant company and its public relations minions. There is always something to find, and this year my convention was a successful outing when regarded like this. Also, fun.

There are definitely going to be reviews of things I bought there (as well as interviews with creators, hopefully on here and on the Alter Ego Comic Cast), and other content as well.

- • -

I got the opportunity to meet Lucy Knisley, who did an interview right here at Hideous Energy, and also supplied the blog with its first title card. She was awesome, and did two amazing sketches for me. I was pretty nervous about meeting her, because I've followed her blog for a while now, and am a HUGE fan of her art. So yeah, when I went up to meet her my words sort of dried up, but that wasn't the worst part. My face got red, like an instant sunburn, and my forehead started sweating like I was using a blowtorch as a fan. Hopefully she wasn't too creeped out by me. Maybe if I ever meet her again I can be a little less awkward and weird. Here are the sketches she did for me.


Artist Katie Cook was one of my discoveries. I had heard of her, but never looked at too much of her art before. She was offering mini-water color sketches at her booth, and you could basically say almost anything to her and she would draw it. Reference photos helped though, and I happened to have a couple. She also had some already finished, such as the "Mouse Guard" picture I got. Here are the sketches.


Thanks to Lucy and Katie, and all the rest of the writers/artists I met and talked to over the weekend. More to come later.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's Wednesday - 02

What books - yes, plural - should you be looking out for this Wednesday? The two I'm most excited for are:

Doc Savage

That's "Doc Savage" number one, written by Paul Malmont and illustrated by Howard Porter. This is a sort of tie-in to the recently launched "First Wave" title, which features Doc Savage and a slew of other pulp heroes of yesteryear. I'm interested to see if the action is ratcheted up for this issue, or if it's filled with just as much setup as the first issue of "First Wave" was. I'm guessing it will read a little quicker, simply due to there being less characters to worry about. Not that Doc Savage doesn't have a huge cast; all those guys behind him are his sidekicks and/or supporting characters. Chalk this one up as interesting, but somewhat scary.



"The Unwritten" has continued to please me, despite riding the line of breaking the fourth wall and becoming meta. Although I am definitely not reading each issue with apprehension, waiting for the book to disappoint me, that possibility is always there. Maybe it's there for every book though, so the specifics become somewhat muddled. Anyway, this book is still great, and issue twelve looks to be no different.

Featuring art by newcomers Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon, this issue is a standalone story, which gives it the potential to be somewhat bittersweet. It won't be too directly addressing the main storyline running through "The Unwritten," but it has the potential to be as entertaining as the standalone issue we received about Rudyard Kipling (issue five), which has been one of my favorite issues so far. Check out more of the art on the Vertigo Blog, and then go buy these!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bá and Moon - They Love Comics, and I Love Them

Here is a video of Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon doing some inking on the comic written by Matt Fraction, "Casanova." It's a strange book, that is almost incomprehensible, and I swear I'm going to try and read it and understand what's going on one day.

The Art of Alan's War

I'm fairly sure I've posted this everywhere I possibly could, but it is too amazing to stop now. This is the art of the book "Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope," published by First Second Books. It is written by Emmanuel Guibert, using conversations he had with Cope.

Oh yeah, it's also "drawn" by Guibert. You'll understand the quotation marks after you see the video.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's Wednesday - 01

It's Wednesday. I look forward to this day all week, and have for a while. What am I looking forward to the most today? That would be this.

Shield 1

"S.H.I.E.L.D. #1" is the tale of the organization's origins, which include Leonardo Da Vinci, Issac Newton, and all sorts of other historical figures who were as close to being superheroes as possible. Also, it's written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Dustin Weaver, and as you can see, he does a face-melting job.

Here is the solicitation from Marvel's website for the book, on sale today. After you read this, leave immediately and go buy it.

"Leonardo Da Vinci was an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. So was Issac Newton. So were Imhotep and Zhang Heng and Galileo and many other geniuses throughout time. They were the first heroes to defeat Galactus and the Brood and turn Celestials back. They saved the world long before Captain America or Iron Man were ever born, but what does this mean to our heroes of today? What does this mean to Nick Fury? Do not miss this Marvel Comics masterpiece that fans will be talking about for decades to come."

You Suck...Now Be On Our Show Please?

If you've read any of the previous posts on here, you might know that I'm also a co-host on a podcast about comics called The Alter Ego Comic Cast. If you didn't know that, now you do.

Two weeks ago we were talking about Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort - I won't go too far into it here, and I'll explain why - and over the course of our conversation, one of the other co-hosts called him a "cocksucker."

This sounds mean. Mean as shit. It wasn't meant that way, or intended as any sort of statement about Brevoort as a person/man, but apparently a listener thought it would be funny if Brevoort knew. So he Tweeted him - yep, hello future - and told him what was said.

To shorten this opus, it ended up creating a circuitous route that led to Brevoort being on our show. He's a ridiculously nice guy, with a great sense of humor, and I couldn't be more happy we called him a "cocksucker." Hop on over to our site and give the interview a listen. It's a long one, but if you care anything about comics, or the process of creating them, you might like what you hear.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spend Your Money and Make the World Go Round

American Vampire

Did you read the first issue of "American Vampire?" If not, well there might not be any hope left for you. While the situation isn't quite as dire as I just made it sound, you should really be reading the book. So far - after one issue, yes, but still - Scott Snyder, Stephen King, and Rafael Albuquerque are doing a great job.

That picture up there is the variant for issue two by Bernie Wrightson. Yep. Reason enough to buy it right there.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Imagine a World and It Appears: Farel Dalrymple

When I was younger my world was an immense place of excitement and adventure. My bicycle wasn't just a way of getting around, it was a means to travel from one setting to another, between worlds. I remember riding through my neighborhood, my mind painting in the details that simply weren't there in reality.

Imagination was enough, though. Farel Dalrymple proves this, and his art carries me close to places my mind would travel. Looking at his work in "Pop Gun War," "Omega: the Unknown," and work on his forthcoming book "The Wrenchies," it's easy to tell that Dalrymple can still travel to those places we go as children. He was kind enough to stop by Hideous Energy for an interview, and also supply the page with its second illustrated title card.

Unicorn Girl

Hideous Energy: When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator?

Farel Dalrymple: "I think I wanted to be some sort of artist since elementary school. My mom was an artist and art director for a Christian book publishing company, and was really into illustration and graphic design. I would flip through the Society of Illustrators books that were lying around our house. Whenever we'd go to the library I’d get whatever books I could find about comics. I was fascinated at N. C. Wyeth's illustration on a Robinson Crusoe poster my mom had put in my bedroom. Lacking discipline and getting sidetracked by other stuff growing up, by the time I was an adult I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to be, right up until I actually started art school. I remember right before I signed up for classes I had this vague idea of me as a "fine artist" or something. Of course by the time I graduated from SVA’s illustration department I realized all I ever wanted to do was make my own comics."

HE: What college did you go to, and did you go in knowing you would be seeking a degree in illustration?

FD: "I went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City with a bunch of other excellent people that went on to do excellent comics and illustration. I had to choose a major when I enrolled but was sort of torn about it, thinking maybe about going into the fine arts department. I was advised to go into the illustration department, which I ended up being pretty grateful for. The illustration department there is almost a glorified craft school with a lot of intensive drawing and painting classes. Some people might take exception to this but it is just my opinion that the fine arts department was more about learning how to talk about and understand art, and kind of justifying what you are doing to your professors and peers. I am not the type that likes to talk too much about what I am doing. Class critiques and portfolio reviews were annoying to me. I just like to be left alone to do my thing with the occasional feedback from other likeminded artists. I don’t like working in a vacuum but too much talk sort of ruins the experience of making art for me personally."

HE: Did you have a strong imagination as a young boy? If so, how much of this do you think you've held onto?

FD: "I suppose I did. I spent a lot of time by myself growing up and was always entertained, though I probably watched way too much television. I always like getting sucked into stories as well as making up my own. Doing it for a living though has taken some of the fun out of all that for me. It is more of challenge these days to get excited by new ideas. It still happens sometimes."

HE: I've almost gotten a job at a book store in the past, but I was afraid it would take away the magic of the place for me. Has becoming a creator changed how you are as a reader (or viewer, or listener)?

FD: "Sure, somewhat, I might see more details and nuances in stories that an average reader/watcher might not see, but I still enjoy escaping into a good story. I am not too snobby about what I look at. It is all about what I expect out of something. I might be more of a fan of more things if I wasn’t a cartoonist but there is a lot of stuff out there I appreciate. I am just not as fanatic in general about anything the way I used to be. I am getting old and cynical."

HE: What sort of stuff did you watch when you were a kid? What about now?

FD: "Wow, that would be quite a long list. We mostly had cable growing up so I watched whatever I could stuff in my eyeballs. I was attracted to the weird and cult and sci-fi stuff but I watched a lot cheesy sitcoms and dramas as well. It is sort of lame that movies and TV are some the few areas I can have long conversations with people about. Well mostly anyway. There are a lot of times in my life where I had no TV so my knowledge of popular culture has some big gaps in it. These days my girlfriend and I watch a lot Star Trek shows we get from the library. I go to the movies occasionally but mostly I just watch whatever fun thing I can from the library. Any decent comedies or science-fiction/fantasy stuff are top on my list to watch. I’ll watch some arty stuff here and there but I just don’t have the time to be as geeky as I used to be about watching every art house movie out there. There is just too much stuff to watch, too many books to read, and too much music to listen to. I used to be really frustrated by this now I don’t have the energy."

HE: What comics - if any - did you read as a kid? (What comics - if any - do you read now?)

FD: As a youngster I read mostly super hero stuff. I was a hard-core marvel zombie. But I also read newspaper comics and illustrated children's books. And I remember pouring over the Roy Crane and E.C. Segar stuff in the Smithsonian collection of newspaper strips and thinking how fun it would be to do that for living. I really dug adventure strips. I read a lot of comics still, though the range now is a lot broader. I had given up going to comic shops and buying new comics for a few years in my late teens and early twenties. At art school I got exposed to the indie comics scene through Dave Roman and John Green and got a renewed vigor in collecting comics. Now I mostly just get books from the library and every once in a while I buy books from the comic shop. I think the last time I went into the comic book store I bought two Grant Morrison comics and the latest Big Questions by Anders Nilsen and a book called "I want you" by Lisa Hanawalt. Mostly though I get a lot of comics, "graphic novels" or whatever from the library. There is a really good library system here in Portland."

HE: What was the first piece of illustration you would say "got you noticed" by the comic book world?

FD: "I think it was probably the first issue of Pop Gun War. Most people seemed to respond pretty positively to it and it won a gold medal from the Society of illustrators."

HE: There is an awesome map in the front of "Pop Gun War," and I have some sort of weird obsession with fake maps. How weird do you think this is? Do you love fake maps too?

Pop Gun War Map

FD: "I don’t think it is weird to be passionate about what you like. I think that is great. A certain amount of obsession can be good if you channel it right. I think maps are neat but I don’t have a collection of them or anything. I always like when authors include additional material about their characters. A map seems like a good way to help visualize the world the characters inhabit. Specifically with Pop Gun War I wanted to do a map just because it lent itself to the whole world-building thing I am going for. I think also at the time I was reading some A.A. Milne and liked the whole 100-acre wood idea. It is fun for me to read a story then to see where all the characters would hang out. Tolkien did that too with his middle earth. I am sure a bunch of other authors do it as well. It also helps me personally organize my ideas in a way and stimulate new stories. Some of the locations I labeled in that pop gun war map I'm still planning on doing stories about or related to."

HE: How did "Pop Gun War" come about for you? Both creatively, and the publication by Dark Horse?

FD: "I had done one comic previously in art school called Smith's Adventures in the Supermundane. After graduating I was still pretty excited by trying to make the sort of comic I wanted to read. It came out of a bunch of sketches and ideas I had in my sketchbook. I think Jim Mahfood or Scott Morse had given Diana Schutz a copy of Pop Gun War to look at. I remember I was working at a coffee shop in the east village of NYC at the time. I got a call from Diana while I was working and she offered me a job in the Happy Endings book she was putting together. A couple years later I asked her if dark horse would put out the collection of the first five issues."

HE: "Pop Gun War" has been described as "urban fantasy." Does that label fit, or do you find it too limiting?

FD: "That seems like a fair description to me. The story takes place in an urban setting and there are a lot of fantastic elements."

HE: How much of your time in a day is spent drawing in some form?

FD: "It varies from day to day much to my dismay. I would like to be more consistent but I burn myself out a lot. I probably draw/ink/paint straight about 6 hours a day on average."

HE: Do you always carry a sketchbook around?

FD: "I do like to have my sketchbook or something to draw with whenever I leave the house just so I am not caught without it if I need it. I don't always use it every time I go out but it is a nice security blanket. It is also a nice buffer so I don't have to talk to people if I don't want to."

HE: What is the drawing process like for you? (Do you utilize any digital tools/programs?)

FD: "I draw with a pencil, I ink with a brush and pens, and I color with watercolors. I scan in my pages and do some production in Photoshop, like cleanup and a little color tweaking."

HE: How quickly can you complete a page?

FD: "It depends on the page but from conception to colors I like to try to get a page done in about 9 hours. I fiddle with pages too much though and often it takes me quite a bit longer."

HE: You recently did work for "Papercutter," an anthology released by Tugboat Press;
how much work have you contributed to anthologies?

FD: "I love Papercutter. Greg means is like the best editor I have ever worked with. It seems like I am in about one or two anthologies a year. I am trying now to use the same characters in any anthology I do. Last year I was in the free comic day nerd burglar comic and in the MySpace Dark Horse comic’s thing. This year I did a Vice magazine comic and the Papercutter story. They all have the same characters and are sort of a loose continuation of an ongoing story. My hope is to develop those characters into a long form comic some day."

HE: So have you started approaching compilations as a way to maybe test out new material?

FD: "Sure. I like participating in anthologies mostly because it is like being part of a special club or something. I also like the idea of knocking out two birds with one story. Anthologies seem like a good way to feature ideas that might not fit into whatever long form story I am working on at the time."

HE: How did the "Omega the Unknown" book come about? Had you read any of Jonathan Lethem's novels?

FD: "Jonathan just emailed me one day and asked if I wanted to the comic. I believe he told me that Bob Fingerman turned him onto my work. I had read a couple of his books and loved them. Motherless Brooklyn was one of my favorite books at the time. It was a delightful shock to get that email from one of my favorite writers."

HE: Wow, yeah, that would be an insane email to get. I read "Fortress of Solitude," and if Lethem emailed me and asked me to rob some old ladies I would probably agree. After you got that email did you immediately start emailing all of your favorite writers?

FD: "Nah, I am not much for writing fan letters. I think about it a lot but rarely end up doing it. Hopefully my work is as much as a love letter to all those I admire as any email could be. And the whole Omega thing seemed almost too good to be true. I could hardly believe it wasn’t all going to end abruptly. Even as I was drawing the final issues I couldn’t believe that it was really happening and was waiting for Marvel to come to their senses and get a real superhero artist on the book. Everything about it seemed sort of surreal. My favorite writer contacting me, Marvel doing a book like that, and letting us pick our own colorist, design our own covers and all that, it is still very weird and awesome to me. I don’t know how well the book sold for them but I love that they took a chance on us. I hope they do more books like."

HE: Do you prefer working alone, or collaborating with someone? Why?

FD: "They both have their ups and downs for me. I usually prefer to work alone but I love collaborating with a writer I am really into. Most paying gigs I get are with writers, which is usually fine. It is just a different sort of challenge for me. I have about five or six projects in a file folder that I plan on developing with several of my favorite comic book writers. I am just waiting for the right time."
The Wrenchies

HE: There are some mentions of "The Wrenchies" on your blog, even some images of these mysterious kids. What can you tell me about them?

FD: "The Wrenchies are children in a post-apocalyptic future. They are all orphans along with the rest of the children in that future. The wrenches are also an older group of 21st century superheroes. They join forces in the future to overcome the evil Shadowsmen that are controlling the post-apocalyptic world. I am hoping to have the book done this year sometime. No tentative pub date, but I am aiming to have it finished by the fall."

The Wrenchies

HE: Can you reveal what exactly led to this post-apocalyptic existence?

FD: "Even in the finished story it won’t be completely clear what exactly happened. There will be an impetus for it and an acknowledgement of some worldwide cataclysm but it won’t be all spelled out. I didn’t want to get too bogged down in the science of it all, you know like how radiation would affect people and all that. A lot of it is sort of silly and doesn’t really help the story so I am keeping that part of it vague."

Thanks to Farel for stopping by for the interview, and supplying the second title card. Go check out his blog, and his books.

Ex Machina #40

• NOTE • This review was written shortly after the release of issue 40, and I have re-published it here with only two changes, both regarding grammar. • NOTE •

Ex Machina 40

-Ex Machina- (eks•mock•een•uh): Referencing the Greek stage mechanism of the Gods appearing during the denouement of plays to resolve the conflict quickly and somewhat unexpectedly; Deus Ex Machina, translated, means "God from the machinery." Generally viewed as a weak or hackneyed method of wrapping up a story.

Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Tony Harris, and published through WildStorm Comics, Ex Machina is the tale of New York City resident/Mayor/former superhero Mitchell Hundred. It takes place in many settings, including varying years. Readers have seen Hundred as a young boy asking his mother about leagues of women voters, as an adult dealing with the everyday happenings of a city that never sleeps, and also witnessed glimpses into his days as the high-flying hero, the Great Machine.

This book is definitely not hackneyed or weak.

Over the course of 40 issues readers have been taken through a tale that has touched on many different themes, some of which include a general sense of belonging, gay rights, drug use, and on and on. We may never know whether scribe Brian K. Vaughan is filling the pages of his second finite series after "Y: The Last Man" with his own beliefs and opinions, but something that is certain is his knack for crafting a compelling story, creating characters that dare to be as broad and varied as people so often are on this stage we call real life.

Likewise, Tony Harris takes Vaughan's words and turns them into gorgeous images, faces rendered so wonderfully true to life that readers can see the emotions and understand that this book is working on more than one level; it is a fantastic example of why comics are so entertaining when they are created successfully, when the art compliments the words, and vice versa.

I love this book. It arrived at a time when I was becoming somewhat more politically minded, and the idea of a superhero who ends up becoming the mayor of arguably the biggest city in the world (metaphorically) was intriguing enough for me to pick up the first issue. Vaughan managed to make a book about politics entertaining to someone (me) who finds most political conversation/theory boring and tedious, and usually gets informed of such by watching the "Daily Show."

This book has literally taught me things. At the moment the only thing I can think of is the definition of the word "constituent," but I'm positive there have been other lessons learned. Even if that isn't true, expanding my vocabulary is a win in my mind, and is certainly something America should look into.

My most recent lesson came with issue number 40, the issue I would undoubtedly characterize as Brian K. Vaughan's most personal to date. It was also my least favorite. There's something strange about this process, me selecting my least favorite issue, if for no other reason than trying to select the one read I disliked the most out of a series I like immensely is kind of counterintuitive. Alongside that, the idea that Mr. Vaughan took his personality and feelings and created this issue makes me somewhat reverent, so trashing the thing is kind of a dick move.

But then there's the critic in me, the side of my brain that realizes I won't enjoy everything, and that same side knows any artist who possesses their own critical mind understands that not everyone will enjoy everything they produce. My disappointment with the issue began the moment I saw it on the stands.

Featured on the cover is our faithful writer, Mr. Brian K. Vaughan, and his penciller, Tony Harris. Immediately I recognized the kind of story I was in for, and I think my exact reaction was something along the lines of "Ugghhhhhh." Issue 40 is a metafictional mess, a story that features the creators of the series which it is taking place in; essentially, it's like watching a movie of yourself watching a movie. I have seen the "meta" approach work very rarely, and one example is the film "Adaptation," written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze. The majority of other occasions where an artist has saw fit to become self-referential has failed for me, and done nothing other than the exact thing which Brian K. Vaughan (the character) mentions in this issue: negatively affected my reading experience.

Tony Harris and Vaughan are visiting Mayor Hundred to see about working on his memoirs, which are to be published in comic book form due to the Mayor's love of the medium. While they are waiting for their appointment to arrive Tony Harris takes out his portfolio and begins sketching. "What are you working on?" Brian K. Vaughan asks. "Just sketching the two of us sitting out here in the waiting room. If we land this project, I thought it'd be cool to draw you and me into the first scene," Tony Harris responds. "Oh...yeah...I don't know, Tony. I'm not big into the whole Grant Morrison 'meta' thing. Seeing creators in a book kinda takes me out of the story, you know...?" I even view Vaughan's reference to self-referential storytelling tired, and not at all funny. In fact, while reading it, I found myself going, "Yes! You're right. This sucks."

My big problem with this issue is that it smacks of the word "filler." With issues hitting the stands with ever increasing irregularity, when I picked this one up and saw exactly what was inside, my gut reaction was that Vaughan had written something quickly, an easy story to put something out there so WildStorm would have an issue of "Ex Machina" to sell.

During the story Vaughan meets Mitchell Hundred, and they discuss his graphic novel memoirs, but quickly segue into a discussion of Vaughan's personal life, mainly his Missing-In-Action girlfriend, who moved to California for grad school.

"And why the hell didn't you follow her?" Hundred asks. This is where it may or may not get personal. Brian K. Vaughan (the character), tells of watching the first World Trade Center collapse, sitting on his roof and witnessing the mayhem. While he was out there he saw his neighbors, which is referenced as an odd occurrence for New York City. After that he describes watching the Leonids (a meteor shower) from that same vantage point, and seeing the same people whom he'd witnessed complete horror with. They were smiling, oohing and aaahing, and it was like sitting on a lawn during the 4th of July for Vaughan (the character), and thus his love for New York was defined. Hundred responds by saying that he can write comics from anywhere, no? Of course Vaughan says yes, and this is where the one piece of this issue arrives that may offer up something other than a goofy meta story designed to fill a hole on the shelf.

"If you're not with your people, a city is just a fucking place. Even this one," Hundred says. Right there, we are given Hundred's dedication and love for New York City, and that is my guess as to what Brian K. Vaughan (the writer) was trying to do with this issue. Unfortunately, if the readers had been paying attention over the previous 39 issues, they probably already knew that. After all, this is a guy who became a superhero when he realized he may be able to help people other than himself, and transitioned into the role as Mayor when he decided that would be a more actionable position. In my mind those two things prove the love of the city in themselves, so this issue was essentially unwarranted.

I have no idea if any of the stories Brian K. Vaughan (the character) relays are true or not. Maybe he did watch the horror on that day in September from his roof, maybe not. I don't know everything about the guy, and realistically, I don't want to. I do know that his wife's name is Ruth, however, and the title of this story is "Ruthless." The fictional Mayor Hundred asks why Vaughan didn't follow his girlfriend to California, and Vaughan responds, "You." So maybe that means (in reality) he stayed in New York for a little, working on this comic I love so much, and eventually realized he could write the thing from the opposite coast, where the love of his life had relocated.

Then again, maybe not. Oddly enough I've reread this issue about five times. I think I get some sort of strange satisfaction from having an issue of one of my favorite comics I dislike so much. With it being written by an author who is attempting to make this fantastic story as true to life as possible, and an artist doing the same, I came to this understanding: not every day is a great one. Through that, I came to enjoy this issue, mostly because I dislike it so much.

A Reviews Review

Internet journalism is a much different form than the increasingly outdated and ancient form of print journalism. There is simply far less attention to content when all it takes to publish opinions is a click of a mouse.

Reviews aren't normally on my reading list, but recently I woke up and decided I'd read a few. It was a sad morning.

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The first review I read was interesting in that it presented a markedly staunch opinion. More than that, it was negative. The reviewer hated the book, and gave it one star out of a possible five. This was interesting because I didn't hate the book in question, and it's always interesting to read differing opinions.

Overall it was a fine review, but most of the negative aspects the reviewer mentioned seemed somewhat strange to me; the pacing, for instance. Since it was an action comic, written by a writer known largely for over-the-top action, with little to no attention to the finer details of a character and his/her development, this seemed a strange gripe to have.

I decided if I was going to run this experiment - as I was thinking of it finally - I should read another review, specifically one that had a differing opinion than the first. If I managed to find such a review, the chances were high it would fall somewhere close to my opinion, which was this: the comic was just okay.

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There was in fact an opposing opinion, which isn't really so outrageous. What is the internet if not a collection of differing opinions?

The second review I read was an odd one. It purported to be praising the book, but when I looked deeper into the reviewer's words I discovered he was mixing his opinions. There was one phrase that summed up the entire review process for me: "this book is not for everyone." This statement is so obvious as to be redundant, and could potentially chop down the entire process to a much more abbreviated form.

Here is my review of the book in question, utilizing both reviews I read. "This book is not for everyone. If you like action, buy it. If you do not, then don't. The characters seem two-dimensional, but that is excusable because it's brainless violence. Rating: F or B+."

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There are a few problem with comic book reviews. The most obvious is length. Most places that publish reviews of comic books are going to seek reviews that don't break past a certain amount of space, or when interpreted into the significance to the reader, a certain amount of time. After all, we're talking about comic books, which are a very limited investment of time, much more limited than novels. I certainly don't share in this opinion, because if I'm truly interested in something I'll forego any worries about wasting my time.

Maybe it's subconscious. Comic book reviewers, and the sites that publish them, don't spend too much time reviewing books because they know that the majority of those visiting the site won't read the entire review if it's too long. This may or may not have anything to do with the length of a comic, but more with the use of the internet and how it has become a tool of convenience, or a way to waste time in short increments.

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There are definitely reviews out there I enjoy, but it's hard to find them. I like to read a review where the writer isn't afraid to write everything they think, and not an abbreviated form of it. The need to edit or limit a writer's space (content, meaning the amount) is understandable occasionally, more so in print than on the internet. There is no worry about printing cost or ad placement, so really the only thing restricting reviewers and their words is time; both theirs and the readers'. Honestly, what are the odds that someone read this entire posting?

My next post will be a review I wrote about a comic book I love. It is a negative review, however, and pretty long.