Every Comic Book Movie (Ever): Doctor Strange (feat. Some Thought on the State of the Comic Book Film)

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There is another Marvel movie out, in case you had not heard, and while Andrew and I will discuss Doctor Strange in depth on the next episode of the podcast, I wanted to use this space to write about the film as it relates to the larger world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This will be a sort of diagnosis (ahem), if you will.

In case you are sensitive to this sort of thing, there will most assuredly be spoilers.

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Where are we now?

It has been eight years since Iron Man stormed movie screens and kicked off what was then the risky, uncertain endeavor of a universe of connected, but parallel films. The gamble has more than paid off for both Marvel Studios, and their parent company, Disney. One can argue over many things concerning these films, but it is impossible to deny that they have been hugely successful and that there has never been anything quite like this. The idea of launching groups of “solo” films which would then connect in The Avengers remains ambitious, and despite the many copycats, and my own relative ambivalence toward the Marvel films, no one has pulled the idea off more successfully.

In fact, no one else who has tried has really pulled it off yet. Sony had an ambitious interconnected universe planned around the success of The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel, but the disappointing box office of the latter has led to a partnership between Sony and Disney to bring a new Spiderman into the MCU fold. The X-Men films have never quite branched out in the same way the MCU has. Despite a convoluted time-travel plot to try and simultaneously launch sequels to the X-Men films of the 2000s while rebooting them, the franchise has yielded only a few Wolverine-centric entries and Deadpool, whose success may push the franchise into MCU territory, or may prove a blip on the radar. Then there is the Fantastic Four universe which exploded on the runway. And to keep with the metaphor, we have DC, who, after backing the successful and often audacious Batman films of Christopher Nolan, has had to hit the reset button and build the plane while it’s in the air with Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and the upcoming Wonderwoman and Justice League – which may be the DCU’s last real hope to compete at Marvel’s level.

I am not even saying most of these Marvel films have been particularly good (they haven’t, in my opinion), but the fact that the whole enterprise, eight years on, continues to grow and expand and remains successful financially is impressive, and a testament to the model that Marvel has built. This model is a kind of hybrid of the way Marvel’s comics wing operates, and the Golden Age of Hollywood studio filmmaking. I will be the first to admit that responding to my broadest criticism of these films – that they lack a distinct aesthetic vision from film to film and bring nothing new to the art of cinema – would likely make them a less successful corporate endeavor. But with Doctor Strange, it appears that Marvel may, at least, be searching for a middle ground – a way forward.

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The Doctor is in: Doctor Strange as remedy

The thing about perpetuating a franchise for nearly a decade is that ten years is a very long time – actors age or drop out, technology changes, sequels start to yield diminishing returns. One of the benefits of the Marvel system is that, while they have produced 14 films up to this point, they are not all direct sequels. Marvel can tell new-ish stories that sort-of stand alone while still tying them into the brand. For a while, these stories were all Avengers-centric, but in an effort to expand, and potentially modulate its universe, Marvel, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, started expanding its (already large) cast and plot strands. Next came Ant-Man. And now we have Doctor Strange. And while each of these films orbit the Avengers, they also try to inject some new blood into the years long saga of the Avengers Initiative.

On one level, Doctor Strange accomplishes this task – it introduces a new hero who, thinking purely in terms of plot, is the type that could lead an Avengers film at some point (Robert Downey Jr. isn’t going to stick around forever). But much like Guardians of the Galaxy introduced more hard sci-fi elements to the MCU, Doctor Strange introduces a new dimension of sorcery and magic which has been essentially untouched in the MCU.

And the film really rips the viewer right into this world. The first fight scene has the dual qualities of being both interesting to look at, and not overstaying its welcome. There is no expositional dialogue explaining exactly what is happening. Just a theft and a chase. Here is a villain. Here is a hero. Here are some buildings getting folded.

As interesting and effective as this sequence is, it is completely dwarfed by the first interaction between Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One and Benedict Cumberbatch’s titular Doctor in which she removes Strange’s soul from his body and sends him flying through multidimensional space and the astral plane. The film is a surrealist, mind-melting trip. Director Scott Derrickson flexes his horror chops here, bringing genuinely memorable, and grotesque, images to the MCU. There is nothing in any of these films like Cumberbatch’s damaged fingers growing more fingers which continue to grow more fingers. It is a fascinating and show-stopping sequence in a world of films that could use much more of that. And while I have seen much stranger things on film before (pick any David Lynch film you like), it struck me while watching in the theater that most people who watch these films have not. For that alone, I am grateful for this film.

While Doctor Strange stretches some of the visual boundaries of the MCU, it also seems to make some oblique nods to the problems and critiques levied at past films. The climactic sequence contains the two most notable. First, instead of a city-destroying ending (of which we have, by now, seen more than enough to make them boring), Strange reverses the damage wrought on Hong Kong. In backwards-motion, the city is slowly put back together, until it is stopped mid-stream, allowing for some interesting shots of civilians frozen in time before the moment of terror. The sequence is a welcome reprieve from the expected endings of comic-book cinema fare.

Second, and this may be entirely unintentional, though no less notable for it, Strange uses a bizarre, Sisyphean method of saving the day. He traps himself and Dormammu, the film’s barely-defined villain, in a time loop in which they must relive the same ten seconds or so of Dormammu destroying Strange. The time loop is meant to eventually wear down the villain and force him to bargain as, in the loop, he cannot commence with world conquering, and must be content to merely crush Strange over and over, hoping for a different result. One could cynically read this as the way in which Marvel slowly grinds down audiences, delivering essentially the same scenario film after film until we wear down and give into the whole enterprise. Less cynically, one could read it as the director’s hopeful vision of breaking away from the relentless Marvel style of filmmaking and trying to craft something more personal and cinematic.

Doctor Strange cannot help but get tripped up in the Marvel net, however.

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The Doctor is out: Doctor Strange as symptom

The first sign of trouble was when Edgar Wright left Ant-Man so late in the game over “creative differences.” Ideally, these are the kinds of difference you resolve (or don’t) before shooting begins, when a director and studio are forming a joint vision for what the film should be. Marvel choosing an offbeat and well-respected director like Wright was a good sign that they would be expanding the ways in which these stories could be told, parting ways with him was a sign that Marvel/Disney, as a corporate entity, still could not resist calling some major shots even on a smaller off-beat entry like Ant-Man. Ant-Man ended up being fine, I guess – at least, it performed to expectations at the box office, which left Doctor Strange on the horizon as the film that could potentially shake things up.

But the film is tasked with doing so much that we have seen before. It’s an origin story after all.

So we have Strange as narcissistic but genius surgeon, brought down by his own hubris, unable to save himself. Here is the motive. He gets in a car wreck. Here is the inciting event. He has a vague love interest in Rachel McAdams’ character who is so poorly drawn that she is almost invisible in the film. Popping up now and again as a plot convenience to motivate or challenge the hero. Like Tony Stark (or, at times, Bruce Wayne), Strange is not particularly likable. I am still not convinced that Strange, with his High Laurie-in-House accent ever quite crosses the threshold into endearing self-absorption, like Stark – and I certainly never once found myself hoping he would find a way to fix his hands.

There is so little time for him to have a satisfying arc in this new and magical world which, despite the amount of time spent explaining the way the magic works, remains vague and borderline nonsensical. There seems to be no particular reason why these people can bend the world into Escher-like contortions (or Inception squared, if you prefer) other than that it looks cool – and the boring orange sparks the conjure out of thin air which form their portals and weapons do not even have that luxury – which would be perfectly acceptable if 90% of the characters’ dialogue in the middle act of the film was more than just droning on about how all this stuff is supposed to work and what it is supposed to mean.

There is also a persistent visual problem which the MCU (and really, most comic book films) has yet to solve. The long history of most of these characters gives a wide range of visual representations to choose from, but they are all, of course, two-dimensional. The trick is in translating these (often iconic) flat, static images into cinematic and dynamic ones. Marvel’s default response has been to simply render these classic images in 3D, mostly avoiding any radical redesign. For some characters, this approach works well (Iron Man) for others, the silliness which is less apparent in a drawing on a page becomes absurd when exaggerated into reality and placed on the body of a living, moving, breathing person (Loki’s helmet). This tactic is popular outside of Marvel as well and usually results in all kinds of useless fabric geometry from which few heroes have been spared – Captain America, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, and Black Panther have all fallen victim. Then there is the issue of masks. Cowls in particular. These look fine in comics – movies are another story. It took Nolan three films to get a cowl that didn’t make Christian Bale look like he was in a neck brace; Captain America is more persuasive as a hero when the mask is off; and I cannot even make it through commercials of CW’s The Flash without laughing at that supremely dumb mask he is wearing.

Doctor Strange opts for kaleidoscopic, Dali-esque surrealism in the early sequence I have already lauded in the space of this piece, but when it comes to staging the final confrontation with the film’s big bad, Dormammu, in the Dark Dimension, the film loses its nerve. The design of the Dark Dimension draws inspiration from nebulas and visual representations of neurons, but fails to convert these interesting touchstones into compelling cinema. The result is a sea of muddy blacks and blues with occasional neon bursts. There is also a geographic problem in that the characters never have any tangible relation to the ill-defined world around them. There is never a moment where Cumberbatch does not look like he is on a big soundstage surrounded by green screen. The close ups draw a stark line between the real fabric of his clothes and the computer simulated fantasia around him. The long shots turn him into a CGI blob amidst a sea of other, larger CGI blobs.

Consider these four shots from inside the Dark Dimension:

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Now consider this single panel from the comic:

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Whereas the film opts for nebulous blobs, the comic goes for more geometric psychedelics. And the colors in the comic may be more subdued, but they are better defined and, in fact, help to define the impossible space of the dark dimension, making them more effective visually. In the illustration, we can place Strange firmly within the space, even if the limits of the space itself fade into impossible orange. We can trace a path along distant strands of green and pink over a cut and paste background of stars and tracings of orbits which render our three dimensional galaxy as two dimensional wallpaper in the theoretically four dimensional space of the Dark Dimension. Despite being a static image on a page, the illustration is more interesting because it gives the eye so many possible paths to take while it simultaneously establishes the heroes place in all of it. It is a tough thing to do, but frustratingly, the film mostly does it in the first sequence between the Ancient One and Strange, and descends into visual blandness at its dramatic climax.

There have been creative and beautiful solutions to the problems of translating comics to cinema. Whether it is Guillermo del Toro’s intricate, handmade Hellboy films, Christopher Nolan’s nü-noir Batman, or the brilliant choice of putting Hugh Jackman in a white tank top instead of bright yellow spandex. One of the most interesting things Marvel has done of late is give the new Spiderman a classic, flat look to his costume that looks straight out of the comic. While it is incongruous with the copiously over-textured Power Rangers look of the Avengers, it is preferable and memorable. It draws directly from the iconography of the character. It is a literal translation, but one that works as cinema.

And that is what I want more than anything out of these films: good cinema. Comic book adaptions aren’t going away anytime soon. If they are going to stick around, they should push at the boundaries they have erected for themselves. There are some signs of that.

It’s odd, I went into the theater the other night hoping that Doctor Strange would provide the sign. It ultimately did not. But I did get my sign. And it came crashing in wearing a white tank top with Johnny Cash playing in the background:

New Comic Book Day Top 5: Oct. 26th

Hello Revuers! It’s Tuesday which means it’ time for another edition of New Comic Book Day Top 5. Where I pick my top 5 most anticipated books that are coming out this week. This Wednesday looks to be especially exciting with many new series’ starting from major and indie publishers alike. As always feel free to tell me what you think of the list in the comment section below, and please tell us what’s on your pull list. We love to hear from our readers, plus I love finding out about new series’ that people are enjoying. Without further delay, let’s jump right in.

 

5: The Skeptics #1

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The Skeptics is a new series from the fantastic Black Mask Studios features the talents of Tini Howard (Writer) and Devaki Neogi (Artist). The story is summed up as follows: “A stylish, political adventure about a pair of hip, clever teens who fool the world into believing they have superpowers. It is the 1960s. The Russians have the A-bomb, the H-bomb, and now the most terrifying weapon of all: a pair of psychically superpowered young people.” The story then focuses on the heads of the USA military looking to find equivalent super powered beings from America to be on Par with Russia. The preview art for this series looks amazing and the premise promises to be a wild ride.

 

4: Batgirl #4

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Batgirl #4 is a continuation from issue three. Batgirl realizes that she has fallen into the trap set by The Teacher. She realizes that in order to save Kai she will first have to come face to face with this new mysterious villain. Writer Hope Larson has delivered an interesting and compelling plot so far this series. I think the title overall benefit from being on the slower once a month schedule. This allows the artist Rafael Albuquerque and Color Artist Dave McCaig time to really build a beautiful and rich world around Hope Lasron’s world. Batgirl is still one of the best titles from the overall spectacular DC Rebirth initiative.

 

3: The Prowler #1

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Confession from me. I have been a big Spider-Man fan since I was 7. In fact Spider-Man was/is my favorite superhero. The Prowler was also one of my favorite Rouges in his gallery (Mysterio is my favorite [maybe I just really love purple and green color schemes for villains!?]). So when I heard they were planning a Prowler solo series I was pumped. I had already been excited about him getting more of a role in the new (NOW!?) ASM series. Writer Sean Ryan and Artist Jamal Campbell have a lot on their plate but the preview art makes it look like they have delivered. I can’t wait until I can read this one.

 

2: Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1

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This new Dr. Strange series arrives two weeks before the release of the Marvel Studios film. Coincidnece? I think not. Do I care? NO! Robbie Thompson is set to write the series which means it’s going to be fantastic. I love the way he tackled Silk and Spidey, so I can’t wait for him to take on Dr. Strange. The art will be by the amazing Javier Rodriguez, who has recently been on the Spider-Woman series. If there’s one character that I think working on a Spider-Man series before hand would benefit you it would be Sr. Strange. There’s a lot of room for humor and sarcasm just like in Spidey titles. I am also intrigued by the team up aspect of it. The idea of Dr. Strange in a mentoring role is hilarious to me.

 

1: Bloodshot USA #1

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Bloodshot USA comes to us from Valiant Entertainment. It features the all star level talent of Jeff Lemire (writer), Doug Braithwaite (artist) and Brian Reber (Color Art). The story is set in New York where a criminal organization has released a biowarfare weapon that has turned the population of New York into blood thirsty zombie like creature, and it’s up to Bloodshot to ensure the contamination doesn’t spread. This title just sounds like plain fun, shoot em up comics to me with no shortage of action. The preview art looks incredible. Especially the color art work by Harvey nominated color artist supreme Brian Reber (wow, that was quite the run on sentence). I haven’t read too many Valiant series’ but this one looks like a real winner.

 

So there you have it! Did your most anticipated books make the cut? Tell us in the comments below. We would also love to see you list of most anticipated comics!

 

-Andrew Horton

 

 

 

 

Deja.Revue Review Episode 1

Hello Revuers, episode 1 of our new podcast, Deja.Revue Review, is live on Soundcloud. That will be our temporary host until we make the move to iTunes. In  this episode we talked about San Diego Comic Con and the trailers that dropped. We also discussed X-men, Defenders, CBS All-Access, Star Trek, and the sustainability of the Superhero genre. Please check it out and give us some feedback. We would like to know your thought on it and what you liked and didn’t like. Below is the link:

 

If you liked the episode then please subscribe!

Tales From the Pull List (04/06/2016): A Widows Peak

Hello Revuers! Its time for another edition of Tales From the Pull List. After several quiet weeks in a row, this NCBD turned into an embarrassment of riches. In fact of the last three years of religiously participating in NCBD this may have been my favorite week ever. Such tremendous talent and titles! So who won this week?  Well it was super close but in in the end only one title can be chosen as Pick of the Week. Read on to find out which one it was!

 

Pick of The Week

Black Widow #2: In what many might call an upset, this weeks Pick of the Week is Black Widow #2 by Matk Waid, Chris Samnee, and Matthew Wilson. Issue number two flashes back to one week prior to the last issue. Here we are given a funeral scene of an unnamed agent with Maria Hill and Agent Elder discussing the circumstances of the agents death. We find out that the Black Widow is at least party responsible. Then in a breath taking succession of pages and panels we see the Black Widow protecting Hill and Elder from a would be assassin team. In the end it’s Widow vs. a lone assassin. It’s then that she discovers the assassins true purpose at the funeral. No spoilers though so go out and get your own issue (if you haven’t done so already). This series is the creative team of Waid, Samnee, and Wilson’s second series together after a legendary run on Daredevil. I can honestly say that I can’t think of a better book for them to be on (Ok maybe Amazing Spider-Man, but I’m probably biased because Spider-Man is my favorite). The artwork by Samnee perfectly captures the feel and aesthetic of the world Waid has created for the Black Widow. The color work done by Matthew Wilson is spectacular, like it would be anything else, as it always is. Wilson is perhaps the greatest, most prolific color artist I have ever seen. Just this week alone I bought two titles colored by him (both were fantastic). All in all a great issue that builds suspense, reveals some of the Black Widows motivations for doing what she did last issue, introduces a new villain, and lets us watch the Black Widow single handedly take out a team of assassins. A very good issue indeed. Rating: 9.5/10

 

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Black Panther #1: A great first issue on a much hyped debut. Ta-Nehisi Coates was under heavy pressure to perform and I must say he slayed it. If it hadn’t been for such an amazing issue of the Black Widow, Black Panther would have been my Pick of the Week. The artwork by Brian Stelfreeze is breathtaking. The color work by Laura Martin does a fantastic job of accenting and world building. Black Panther truly delivers this week and I can’t wait for issue 2. Rating: 9/10

The Wicked + The Divine #18: It’s back! And so is someone else. A great return for my favorite creative team in the business. Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, and Cowles deliver a unforgettable issue full of action and destruction. In the letter at the end Gillen described this arc as “Taylor Swift’s Bad blood video for 6 issues”. I can’t wait for more of that. Rating 8/10

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #2: In this issue we learn more of the Rita’s grand scheme with the green power ranger. We also get more action that was lacking from the last issue. The page art of the dinozord underwater was some of the coolest art I saw this week. Fantastic! A great installment in this series that keeps me wanting for more. Rating: 7/10

Spider-Women Alpha: The first issue in this summers Spider family event. It sees Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen, and Silk team up to take on crepes, Er I mean creeps, brunch, ball pits, clowns, o yeah and villains. We see them travel through inter dimensional space, fight adaptoid robots, and wind a sitter! This issue was a fun beginning for this cross over event and for the first time in recent memory actually has me interested in a cross over event. Rating: 7/10

 

 

Tales From the Pull list (Jan. 27th): Rebs running wild again

Hell Revuers. This week was a lighter week for me with only three books coming out that were on my pull list. That being said the three that I ended up with were all great. It was a close race for pick of the week but in the end the old tried and true team of the Jason’s (Aaron and Latour) won it. Without further delay here is my Tales from the Pull list

Pick Of The Week

Southern Bastards #13: Everything about this issue was a win for me. On the surface it was a simple tale of a homecoming football game, but on  deeper level it was about what it means to be a REB. Fight, determination, and a whole lot of language. The issues dives in after the suicide of Boss’ closest confidant and companion (because the Jason’s like to kill everyone we like). It’s homecoming and the REBs are down, for the first time in a long time. The pressure is on Boss like it’s never been, Can he handle it without his most trusted ally, can he inspire the boys to come back from a 20-3 deficit at half time? Well if you want to find out, go buy the book. The art continues a strong showing from Jason Latour. Who also colors the book. The colors that are used are all earth tones with varying shades of red, brown, grey, and some muted green thrown in. The colors really establish just what kind of place Craw County really is and sets the tone for the issue (and the series as a whole). The cover art is really what stands out. The earth tones I spoke of earlier have always been featured in the covers. Always muted and earth toned. This issue the cover is sky blue, which happens to be the color of the Runnin’ Rebs arch rival the Wetumpka Warriors (who they are facing during the home coming game). Could this cover be an indication of what is to come? Maybe…….Rating: 8.5/10

 

BUY

Cry Havoc: The marketing has stated that this series is “It’s not abut a lesbian werewolf going to war except it kind of is”. It turns out that that is exactly what it is. Sorta. The story is set in three different time periods: The Beginning, The middle, and The End. This is emphasized by having three different colorist coloring the three different sections. Not only does it have three separate colorist, all three of them happen to be elite colorists (Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge, and Matt Wilson). This device helps the reader stay immersed in the story and helps them understand what section they are currently reading. Without this device Cry Havoc would be confusing and frustrating. With this device it turned into a surprise enjoyment and an intriguing mystery.

All-New All-Different Avengers #4: This was a simple filler issue that served to do some character building. Being as that’s what it was it was successful. The last mini arch was so action filled it was hard to get a sense of what the team was and how it would function. After this issue it’s more clear what roles each of the members play. Plus the added a layer of secrecy that could be the driving point of the next arch. Overall a successful, if slightly dull, issue. Rating: 6/10

Tales From The Pull List (01/06/2016): My Spidey Sense is tingling

Hello Revuers! It’s the first Tales from the Pull List of the year! It’s hard to believe how quickly last year flew by. 2015 was a year of great comics and I hope that 2016 continues the greatness. If this weeks pull list is any indication then I’m not worried at all.

 

Pick of the Week

Spidey #2: This series sees the return of Peter Parker to high school. Writer Robbie Thompson does a great job of making this step back actually feel like a step forward. With old faces seeming fresh and old story’s seeming new. In this issue we see Spidey in a fight with Sandman and a tutoring session with Gwen Stacey (Stacey rules Mary Jane drooles). At the beginning of the issue we see Peter talking to Aunt May about his upcoming tutoring session and she tells him to “Just be yourself” which leaves our hero to ponder “Which version of myself” At first all the versions of himself seem bad, as like with most teenagers, he struggles with self-esteem. Spidey slowly realizes over the course of the issue that in the right situations all the things he thinks are bad about himself (nerdy, geeky, etc.) are actually strengths (except for being broke, that’s not a strength). This realization gives him confidence (and the inner monologue that works though this gives the reader plenty of opportunity for laugh out loud funny moments). Not only that but he finds out that his secret crush knows who Gandalf is, so…..that’s a win. The art by Nick Bradshaw is beyond perfect for this series. His version of the Sandman is perhaps the best I’ve ever seen. All in all Spidey is a fresh and fun take on Spider-Man that the other more dramatic Spider-Man (Amazing) is missing. Rating: 10/10

Buy

Doctor Strange #4: What grave peril is threatening the Sorcerer Supreme of all the dimensions? What can kill magic and old books? What’s the Chloric intake that Doctor Strange needs to command the mystical? All these questions are pondered in the fourth issue of this fantastic series (ok, maybe not that last one). Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo gift the reader another action pact and visually stunning book. If you aren’t reading this series you really have to ask yourself why? Rating: 8/10

Invincible Iron Man #5: This issue continues where number four left off. A stand down between Iron Man Madame Masque…….and Doom? That’s right Victor appears to be on Tony’s side in this one. Although appearances aren’t to be trusted. Speaking of appearances, I wonder what caused the appearance change for Doom? Perhaps something from the end of Secret Wars? Rating: 8/10

Amazing Spider-Man #6: The other Spider-Man title that was released this week saw Peter Parker doing more Tony Stark things half way across the world. Be that as it may the return of a surprise villain and an interesting appearance of a fabled team of super heroes made this book interesting to read. Although a bit heavy for what I like in a Spider-Man book. Rating: 6/10

 

Coloring Between The Lines: Jason Lewis

Hello Revuers! When I came up with the idea for this segment I had no idea how big of a success it would be. I am truly excited to see that others care about great color in their comics!Being a Color Artist can be an overlooked profession, however in recent times a lot of progress for the recognizing of Color Artist has been made. This feature will continue to add another voice to the clamor and appreciation for excellent color in our comics.

This month we have the very talented Jason Lewis. You might recognize him from Morning Glories, Drive, or Hell Yeah. He has a very distinctive and strong palette. We here at Deja.Revue are grateful to Jason for sacrificing his time to answer our questions.

If you want to check out some of his work check out his Tumblr: lewisjasonr.tumblr.com

Or his twitter: @lewisjasonr

 

  • Hello Jason, thanks for agreeing to this interview! How long have you been a colorist?

About seven years.

 

  • Was it what you wanted to be when you were a kid?

Being a freelance comic colorist really didn’t exist when I was a kid. Up until the mid 90’s coloring a comic was a job of the publisher’s production department. Back in the really early days the printer would sometimes choose the colors.

When all the independent publishers rose to prominence and computer coloring became a thing in the 90’s, each company had their own in-house coloring department. From there people broke off and formed their own coloring houses like Liquid and Digital Chameleon. When Crossgen and few other indies imploded in the early 00’s the market became flooded with untethered colorists and for the most part the coloring houses went away. So in the long history of comics the freelance colorist has only come into being in the last 15 years or so.

I wanted to be a comic artist as a kid, but when I got to college I realized I wasn’t quick enough and was too dependent on reference to make it as a penciller. Instead, I trained to be an illustrator. I also studied desktop publishing and after graduation I found work as a graphic designer.

When the economy crashed and ate my graphic design career I suddenly had a bunch of time on my hands. I decided to get back into painting and revamp my illustration portfolio (I never really cared for graphic design, honestly), but all my old painting supplies where in storage at my parents place and I didn’t have enough cash to re-buy them. I did, however, have my computer and all the programs i used for graphic design. Rationing that whatever I painted I’d have to scan into the computer anyway I decided to investigate how to cut out the middle man and learn how to paint with Photoshop. I used an Amazon gift card I got for my birthday to buy the cheapest Wacom tablet I could find and a couple of basic books on computer coloring and got to it.

I got hooked instantly and began spending my days practicing and researching online how to color comics. Finally, I had found my place in the comic industry. I began networking with professional colorists and about four months after I bought that first Wacom tablet I found myself re-mastering old comics for Marvel full-time.

 

  • What’s the first comic book series you really got into?

The first comic I ever bought was an issue of Iron Man as a small child because I’d just seen Star Wars and I thought he looked like C-3PO. Shitty as it may be to some, the first Secret Wars from the 80’s will always be my favorite series.

 

  • Do you prefer superhero comics or other genres?

I like all comics, but Superheroes are where the real money is so I like Superheroes a lot.

 

  • Who is your favorite superhero?

Whoever they’re paying me to color currently.

 

  • What’s your favorite series that’s not a superhero series?

I dipped out of comics while I was in art school. They didn’t vibe with the arty, emo punk identity I was crafting for myself. I got a subscription to Wizard as a gift so I was always up on what was happening, but if it wasn’t for Sandman and then Preacher I wouldn’t have made the trip to the comic shop every month for years. So those two.

 

  • Whats your process like for coloring?

Wake up after taking a a three hour, unintentional nap. Check my email and social media to see what fresh, new hell the day has in store for me. Gab some coffee and stress about how i’m going to fit in basic life responsibilities with all my deadlines. Turn on music/podcasts/Netflix then work for the next 20 or so hours stopping briefly to attend to unavoidable biological necessities. Take a break to pet my cat and accidentally fall asleep for the next three hours. Repeat.

  • How do you choose a color palette?

First I find what ‘s there. What’s the environment? What time of day is it? What are the costume colors? Then I look at the script to figure out what the emotional core of a scene is. Is it a fight scene? If it’s a conversation what is at stake?

I don’t know if you’ve seen the Youtube video where they strip the music out of the end scene of ET, but it’s astounding how flat and boring it is without John Williams score. Comic coloring is like adding sound to a movie. We color in the emotion.

 

  • What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

The first issue of Hell Yeah. It’s a horrible abomination of embarrassing coloring by anyone’s standards, but at the time it was a younger me super stoked to have a gig coloring my first superhero book, just throwing it all out there like a hyperactive toddler who doesn’t know any better. All inspirations and whims where pursued to their upmost extreme, art and logic be damned! As an artist I’m super excited about whatever I’m currently coloring and suicidally embarrassed by stuff i did mere months ago, but Hell Yeah #1 always makes me smile. It’s like discovering a picture of yourself from 9th grade. You’re immortalized as 15 years of baddass attitude wrapped in awful haircuts and awkward clothes and you wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

  • Do you have anything coming out soon that we should keep an eye out for?

Drive. Mars Attacks. Brigands. Drive part 2. Other things I can’t mention yet. Stay tuned!

 

  • Who are some of your favorite colorists in the industry today?

My former mentor Dean White as my all-time favorite. He’s the the Jimi Hendrix of colorists. The shit he did on Uncanny X-Force is so next level that he made the rest of the industry look like they were coloring in black and white.

Outside of Dean my go too’s are Dave McCaig on Nextwave, Daniel Acuna on Uncanny Avengers, Justin Ponsor on the Miles Morales Spiderman, Laura Martin on the Joss Whedon X-Men and Val Staples on Incognito. Lately I’ve really dug Tomer Hanuka’s work on The Divine. Kristian Donaldson’s work on a book called Supermarket is a big influence on how I color Drive.

 

 

  • Is there anyone you draw inspiration from?

Painters mostly. Ron English, Jerome Witkin, JC Leynedecker, Drew Struzen, Malcolm T Liepke, Robert McGinnis and Phil Hale to name a few. Really I’m looking everywhere for inspiration. Mondo prints. Old movies. 80’s Skateboard Graphics, Heavy Metal album Covers, Video games. Advertising from the 60’s. Japanese toys. Fetish photography. Nature. Everywhere. The first season of that terrible show Hemlock Groove on Netflix has amazing color schemes. I’ve watched that season three times on mute. Amazing!

 

 

  • I’ve personally really enjoyed your work on Drive. How did you pick out the palette for that book?

My editor Justin told my when I signed on to approach the book like I was adapting the soundtrack instead of the movie. I’ve tried to go super impressionistic with the book and describe the emotion of the panels rather than how everything would look in nature.

 

Although out there by mainstream standards, Drive’s colors are pretty tame compared to what a lot of under, underground comic artists are doing. I think I assimilated a lot of that by osmosis when I lived in Portland and funneled it into Drive.

 

  • Did the movie heavily influence your choices? Or were you able to branch out a bit?

Enter The Void by Gasper Noe and Vertigo by Hitchcock were bigger influences on coloring Drive than it’s movie. There’s a few things here and there that I took from the movie, but for the most part I tried to go my own way with the book. The comic is based on the novel not the movie so a lot of that wouldn’t fit anyway.

 

  • Where’s your favorite place to pick up a burrito when you’re at cons

I always opt for cheapness and convenience when choosing my burrito, which is difficult because you’re always bleeding money in the ass-end of a strange town at cons. Chipotle and it’s bastard offspring Qdoba and Baja Fresh work the best. My favorite burrito however is the Talapia Supreme from La Bonita in Portland, OR.

 

  • What’s your favorite convention?

When I go to one of the big cons about 70% of the reason I’m there is to network. Emerald City and Heroes Con are the best for meeting other industry folks that I’ve found. Hanging out in the right hotel bar almost becomes as important as the con floor when you’re trying to meet the right people.

As far as enjoying a con recreationally I like the small, one day cons that have been popping up in tiny towns all over the place. There’s no celebrities, or creators you’ve heard of, just people in homemade costumes buying old toys and musty comics from mom and pop vendors that look to be one bad life decision removed from carnie folk. They remind me of the kind of ragtag cons I went to growing up in West Virginia. Just nerds hanging out with other nerds rejoicing in their nerditude , except now there are entire families of nerds in attendance.

  • What would be your dream collaboration?

Redoing the entire first Secret Wars from the 80’s with Frank Quitely on pencils. Realistically, Joe Eisma and I on a Spider-book or Marcio Takara on an X-book. Doing a Bat-book or revamping Strikeforce: Moritori with Brian Level would be fun. Reviving Nextwave: Agents of HATE with Juan Gedeon would be heavenly. I could keep going on like this forever…

  • If you weren’t a comic book artist what would be your career?

Punk musician or homeless man.

 

  • What’s the biggest difference between working for the big two and on your indie titles?

Things run smoother at the bigger companies. They give me the pages, tell me when they want them back and for the most part leave me alone to do what I do. After I hand the pages in I can expect my money within about 30 days. My editors are usually super busy so as long as everything looks good and is on time everyone is happy.

90% of self-publishing guys are nothing but headaches. They mean well, but spending money they don’t have for me to color their life long passion project which they unrealistically believe will launch them into comic stardom turns them into annoying stress monsters.

They’ll have arbitrary, unrealistic deadlines and demand a bunch of nitpicky corrections and send constant, nagging requests for updates, only  to realize they don’t have the money to pay me when I’m halfway through coloring their book.

Some times they’ll push for me to ape Dave Stewart (I love you, Dave!) rather than use my own coloring style. Often times they’ll add me on Facebook and send me 50 urgent update requests when I happen to post that I went outside that day, like some kind of unholy hybrid of needy, jealous girlfriend and overbearing truant officer.

The problem is that the little guys think that because they’re paying me what for them is a lot of money that, that makes them my boss. In reality I have many bosses. When deadlines loom and I have to prioritize I’m going to choose the entity which can provide me with more income in the future, which is always the bigger companies. No one likes to hear they’re number two. Even when things do go well with the self-publishing guys its rare that they ever get to a second issue, even if they had originally pitched me a 50 part mega-epic. It’s like they evaporate after that first issue.

  • What unique challenges does remastering have compared to coloring new titles?

None. That was what was great about them. I’d wake up at noon, pour a glass of Vanilla Coke, turn on some Slayer and color comics  I had as a child until the wee hours of the morning. If I could somehow incorporate playing Sega with Tony Hawk while getting a back rub from Debbie Gibson I would have been living out my ultimate 14-year-old fantasy life.

There were only 64 colors I could choose from, and out of those about a third were never used. My whole job was matching the colors to the scanned comic pages they sent me. It was sublime. If only it payed a little better and there was an inexhaustible supply of old comics to re-color I would have done that forever.

  • Who are some of your favorite artists to work with?

I prefer artists with more of an open style and minimal use of blacks. Too many heavy shadows, or hatching, or use of greyscale just gets in my way and often hampers my ability to color a page. It’s hard to find an artist with an unclutterd, clean style who also has a strong sense of structure without becoming cartoony. Mike Allred, Chris Samnee and my collaborator on Brigands, Nick Barber, are pretty close to ideal.

 

  • Who’s your favorite character to color?

Again, whoever I’m currently paid to color is my favorite. While doing warm ups I prefer to color female superheroes.

 

  • Thank you for your time Jason, I’ve enjoyed talking to you. Looking forward to your great work in the future.

No problem. Check out my Twitter: @lewisjasonr and my Tumblr lewisjasonr.tumblr.com. Now I’ve got to get back to work.

 

If you’d like to purchase some of Jason’s work you can check out his page on Comixology: https://www.comixology.com/Jason-Lewis/comics-creator/5533?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9jcmVhdG9yU2xpZGVy

Don’t forget to ask your local retailer about Drive.

 

End of the Year Top 10 List from Deja.Revue and Friends

Hello Revuers! Hard to believe it’s that time of the year again. 2015 has just flown by! It proved to be a fantastic year for comics. With so many great series it was hard to limit it to just 5 or 10. So I asked some of our friends of Deja.Revue to help me, by picking their favorite series’ as well. The contributors names will be centered and emboldened. When applicable it will also be a hyperlink so that you can check out their blog. I highly recommend that you do as the contributors to this article are all top notch. So with out further ado, here are the top comics of 2015.

Andrew Horton

Head Writer: Deja.Revue

10. Spider-Gwen, Publisher: Marvel, Writer Jason Latour Art: Robbi Rodriguez, Color Art: Rico Renzi.

Spider-Gwen suffered from to many reboots in to short of time. First they had their first issue then less that a year later it was back to a new issue one. This wasn’t the creative teams fault and they did the best they could to salvage what they could from the situation. The post Secret Wars have been great so far and I think that next year this title could be much higher on this list.

9. Dr. Strange, Publisher: Marvel, Writer Jason Aaron, Art: Chris Bachalo

With Dr Strange coming to cinemas next fall a post Secret Wars universe seemed like a great opportunity to launch a new solo series for our Sorcerer Supreme. Luckily for Marvel they hired writer supreme Jason Aaron, who can do almost no wrong. I picked up the first issue and feel completely under it’s spell (to much? Okay okay no more terrible puns).  The art by Chris Bachelo really gives us a glimpse of the oddness and absurdity of the world in which Dr. Strange lives. Overall a spectacular job!

8. Invincible Iron Man, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Art: David Marquez

The creative team behind Ultimate Spider-Man team up again to bring a normal Iron Man back to a solo adventure (by normal I mean not a “Superior” Axis influenced Iron Man, He’s still a billionaire playboy). This series sees an exciting shift of the status quo for one of Marvel’s biggest villains (no spoilers) and a quite compelling story line. O also a night beach fight with sword wielding ninjas (yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds). The writing is the nest by Bendis in quite awhile and the art is amazingly well done.

7. Silver Surfer, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Dan Slott, Artist: Michael and Laura Allred.

Enough can never be said about the fantastic art by the Allreds on this series. They truly take it from being a good comic to being a great comic. That being said I was happy to see how the events of this series influenced Secret Wars.  Made the series fun to read as a companion piece to Hickman’s saga. I can’t wait until it starts back up!

6. Thor/The Mighty Thor, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Jason Aaron Art: Russel Daughterman, Color Art: Matthew Wilson

The first volume of a Female Thor was cut short by Secret Wars. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. In fact it was spectacular. Jane Foster added a depth to the character of Thor that was so fun to read. Now that we can focus our main attention on the story and less on who is Thor I feel like the title will get even stronger. If the first two issues are anything to go by I might be correct. Now that the story tellers can do some character building with Jane they are taking full advantage. The opening scene of issue one was a tear jerking emotional roller coaster. The play between the power of a God and the frailty of the human condition is really what makes this series so compelling.

5. Injection, Publisher: Image, Writer: Warren Ellis, Art Declan Shalvey, Color Art: Jordie Bellaire

The creative team behind the magnificent first volume of last years Moon Knight returns. This time with a slow burning supernatural drama that left the readers with more questions than answers for much of the first arc. This lead to a fantastic payoff that was a thrill ride in of itself. The writing is solid, but really the art is the stand out. The team of Shalvey and Bellaire work so well together and really compliment each others style. I hope they work on more books together in the future.

4. Gotham Academy, Publisher: DC, Writer: Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan, Art: Karl Kerschl

The first and only DC title to make my list. It had a bit of a break during DCs Convergence event and just started up again. Still the story telling alone is worthy of the number 3 spot on this list. Cloonan and Fletcher take a rag tag group of kids and turn them into lovable characters that you genuinely feel a connection to (esp. maps). The art is excellent as well, with a heavy digital design and a slight manga influence. the next arc looks to be just as good if not better than the last.

3. Tokyo Ghost, Publisher: Image, Writer: Rick Remender, Art: Sean Murphy, Color Art: Matt Hollingsworth

Tokyo Ghost is a hauntingly gruesome look into (possibly our) the future. It asks the question what happens if we never have to look away from our screens? It questions society’s reliance on technology and what the repercussions of that reliance may be. Especially in relation to the children who grow up in this society. Tokyo Ghost has the most eerie and haunting line I have read this year (heck maybe ever) at the end of issue one.

2. The Wicked + The Divine, Publisher: Image, Writer: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie, Color Art: Matthew Wilson

I really struggled with the top two. Which is funny because the couldn’t be less similar. TWTD is, on the surface, a story of Gods and men and the interactions between them. Beneath the surface it is a cunning social commentary of the way people treat Pop Stars and the emotional repercussions the “Gods” and the “common folk” alike. The art is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. The team of McKelvie and Wilson consistently bring innovative designs and fresh panel work. The coloring is an art in and of it’s self. If you took any of the elements by themselves (story telling, art, colors) they would be fantastic, but this is one case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

1. Southern Bastards, Publisher: Image, Writer: Jason Aaron + Jason Latour, Art: Jason Latour

Southern Bastards was my pick at six months and it is still my pick at the end of the year. Such fantastic story telling and art. Rough and tumble pages spilling forth gritty takes on a (slightly) exaggerated South. Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have crafted a masterpiece. Its that simple. They consistently toy with the emotions of the reader and in that regard show us that living is a messy thing and hardly anything is as simple as it appears. Except Ribs. Ribs are simple.

Andy Eschenbach

Comic Book Author and Tattoo Specialist

Top 10 comics of 2015 by Andy Eschenbach Wow! Twenty-Fifteen! Nice job, everybody! Except you. Yeah, you:) Comics is in such a great state right now. That said, it wasn’t hard to figure out which ten books I was most excited to pick up and read each beautiful Wednesday. And so it goes:

10. Joe Golem: Occult Detective (Dark Horse) – Mignola and Golden give us an intriguing combination of pulpy crime and Hebrew mythos. The environment, a sunken Manhattan, is appropriately depicted by the tough-looking art of Patric Reynolds, and stylish palette of Dave Stewart. Palumbo’s pulp-novel covers drive it right off the rack, too. This mini-series makes me want to dive right into it’s predecessor- a graphic novel unknown to me prior- just as much as I anticipate it’s next few issues. I WAS highly offended at the treatment of Witches throughout the story so far, as I personally practice Wizardry on a daily basis. HAHA! No I wasn’t! Less Witches= more magical power all for me! HAHAHAA! Kill ‘em, Golem!

9. Island Magazine (Image): Go ahead and get mad that I’m not going to mention every person involved in this book- but your time would be better spent reading. Any one of the creators in the past four issues of Island has made something strange and awesome, and more than worth your time. It’s also great to see a regularly-scheduled anthologystyle book on the shelves! What a great way to showcase talented folks and their work! More of this, please!

8. Tet (IDW): A dark human drama/mystery surrounding a group of people bound by events taking place during the Vietnam War, brought to us by Paul Allor and Paul Tucker, that is most certainly worth your attention. Not many stories that share setting or subject deal with it in such a smart or emotional way. It’s compelling and heartfelt, realistic to motives as much as to history, and supported by simplychiseled art. Really good. Really hard. Real.

7. Mythic (Image):  Phil Hester is my new hero. What a gift to Comics: a book that combines an American sense of humor to a theme of Myth and Magic- something more often tackled, with such a skill level, by European writers. Duly brought to life by the sharp, intense art of John McCrea and refreshingly simple-yet-poppy colors of Michael Spicer, this book simultaneously brings back everything good about old-school Vertigo-style stuff, with none of the garbage, while presenting characters and jokes you have never seen or heard before. The funny thing is, they’ve been here all along, in our own histories and fables.

6. Invisible Republic (Image): Gabriel Hardman. Corrina Bechko. Jordan Boyd. Perfect. Gritty and grim, immersive and convincing, politically
poignant, and beautifully executed. Give this first arc a read, and find out about the lies people perpetuate- the truths they inhibit- to reach or maintain power. In space. Stories like these help remind us  that true history isn’t always the commonly accepted one.

5. We Can Never Go Home (Black Mask Studios): Punkrock runaway story? With Super-Powers?! Fuck yes! 🙂 I mean… whatever, man 😐 Great characterization by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon- the kind that really captures those moments, from awkward to awesome, that defined us in our salad days- as they weave us through an explosive gauntlet of violent reaction, tense uncertainty, and knee-jerk decision making in true Comic Book fashion. Josh Hood’s illustrations are just the right thing, too, along with Tyler Boss’s colors, providing the action and clarity to move the story forward in a smooth and exciting way. And there’s a bonus hit from Brian Level in the back five pages of the fifth issue! I’m stoked to see this continue! Good stuff, Black Mask Studios!

4. The Violent (Image): “Whut?! He put a book with only one issue out in his Top 4?!” Yeah. It’s that good. Perfect Crime by Ed Brisson, Adam Gorham, and Michael Garland. It’s moody and raw, and it’ll get your gut more than once in the first 22 pages. Don’t read any spoilers. Just go buy it.

3. Paper Girls (Image): It’s refreshing to read a book that seems to have no overt intentions of becoming a movie, as far as approach goes, but still imbues the qualities of those great pre-teen adventure films from the 80’s. Vaughn serves up all the delicious fun and excitement from the Goonies or Stand By Me rolled around in a mysterious sci-fi breading, beautifully presented by Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson with bold and simple excellence. For all it’s movie-like charm, it presents outlandish events in a way that seems fluidly plausible, due to the perfect capturing of the feel of the era. Grab your Walkman, get on your bike, ride to the Comics Shop, pick up Paper Girls, and sneak a smoke in the back alley with your angsty friends while you read it.

2. The Vision (Marvel): I was massively excited to find out that my favorite Avenger was getting a solo book, and, although I was unfamiliar with the team’s work prior, I will now be finding more things to read by Tom King, and look at by Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The Vision is an eerie tale designed with plenty of social critique and suburban strangeness. Kings writing has a unique way of forging gut-wrenching emotional sympathy towards replicant human characters. Walta’s art is beautiful, and follows suit with King’s style by perfectly presenting the Vision family over a homogenized landscape, with moments of action and excitement sprinkled in. Jordie Bellaire’s colors are the icing, lending picture perfect hues and gorgeous rendering to each scene. I heard a critique that a story like this couldn’t last for more than a handful of issues. Who cares?! If
Marvels’s going to put out mini-series of this caliber, then so be it! I’d lay wages on a bet that this team could deliver for as long as necessary, though- and have high hopes that they will be given the chance.

1. Tokyo Ghost (Image): With Tokyo Ghost, Rick Remender hits me in all the same soft spots he did with his famed Uncanny X-force run, but from all different angles. Sci-Fi Action and Ultra Violence, Love, Hate, Sex, Depression, Addiction- all properly tailored in to the story with pertinence and excitement. Sean Murphy’s art is the best possible thing for this “tech-addicted dystopian” society, edgy and clear, with just enough manga influence to bring out the neo-japanese aspects of the world. It’s great to see that Matt Hollingsworth can truly do Murphy justice with his colors, as well. The overall effect is a presentation of human motives and drives so true that it hurts, amazingly believable considering the fantastical setting their pitted against. I can’t wait to read more!  It would be wrong not to mention (although I’m not sure if they technically happened this year or last) “Rasputin” by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo, and “Blast Furnace” by Ryan Browne. The first run on both were new to me in 2015, and both have continued into this year in work that I have yet to read, but would unabashedly force into anyone’s hands given proper opportunity. Oh yeah- and I don’t care what anyone says- the Amazing Spider-Man is still super-cool! On that note, here’s to a new year, and even better Comics! HOORAY!!

Jerry Caskey

Associate Writer: Deja.Revue

 1. Providence

Alan Moore takes the original stories of Lovecraft, digests them, and skillfully transplants them into the framework of American history. Told as a series of segmented encounters, Moore skillfully glides through horror after horror to produce a canon of terror matched by none but Lovecraft himself. Moore is relentless in his quest to push the limits of his protagonist and to see how far the human mind will go to explain away what it can’t understand.

For an artist to stay out of writer Alan Moore’s way and let him narrate this story would have been sufficient. But that is not what Jacen Burrows does. The art throughout Providence is done with enough realism to create a sympathetic universe, but not so real that the supernatural cannot be accepted. In some cases Burrows’ art actually conveys critical information to the story (note the progression of the moon throughout issue #6) that would otherwise bog down the dialog.

Contrary perhaps to many other titles, or even comics in general, the coloring in Providence plays an important role in maintaining some semblance of sanity for the reader. The colors begin as one would expect for life in New York, but quickly deteriorate into drab almost sepia tones that convey the deteriorating mental state of Mr. Black. Through issues #5 and #6, the coloring of a panel also indicates whether some situation is reality or some perverted perception of reality. While less attentive coloring wouldn’t break this series, Juan Rodriguez does not let the opportunity pass to polish up an already gleaming work

2. Injection

Warren Ellis, Jordie Bellaire, and Declan Shalvey are quickly becoming a favorite of mine. The three riff off each other to create this story as a series of flashbacks mixed in with current events. As the story unfolds it is narrated by an enigmatic figure in the form of bright yellow boxes that starkly contrast the otherwise subdued pages. Ellis does not immediately reveal the identity of this mysterious narrator, which makes the moment of understanding that much more rewarding. In this Ellis ensures that the narrative is vibrant and never stays in one place for too long. This vibrant narrative is admittedly confusing at times and, without the colorful guidance of Bellaire, could quickly lose the reader. Shalvey comes in to create a sense of physical movement in each character as they move through breathtaking environments

3. Descender

To those familiar with Jeff Lemire’s previous independent works need no other reason to read Descender. Lemire presents TIM-21 as a relic of a time before the outlaw and subsequent holocaust of androids. The narrative strolls through uncertainty and self-reflection in the mind of an android who may hold the key to understanding these recent activities. Dustin Nguyen presents this odyssey in a watercolor fashion that truly conveys a sense of wonder. For a series so focused on introspection, Nguyen conveys emotion masterfully through movement and facial expressions. This may be the best true Sci-Fi series for a while.

4. Radioactive Spider-Gwen

Due to the unexpected success of 2015’s Spider-Gwen series, our spider clad heroine gets her third introduction of the year. Radioactive Spider-Gwen reiterates some of what we already know about Gwen to bring new readers up to speed. Some would say that an entire issue is too much recap, but Jason Latour drives the story along at a comfortable pace such that the slow start can be forgiven.

As usual, the art continues to awe and inspire. Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi continue to leave their colorful mark on every page. Keeping up with the (surprising) amount of action Latour throws at them, Rodriguez and Renzi still invent new ways to present the story. We get a POV look at Gwen slinging her way through the city among smaller images of the same event to convey movement. Together they highlight small details that make re-reading this series as rewarding as ever.

5. They’re Not Like Us

In a world of worry, planning, and lies that exist only as thoughts in the minds of stranger, the curse of hearing these thoughts would get the best of most people. How can you silence the thoughts of everyone in the world? Eric Stephenson introduces us to Syd, a girl who has determined that the only way to make it stop is to kill herself. Simon Gane presents this world with dramatic and impactful art that enhances the narrative in some clever and unique ways that would be best un-spoiled. Bellaire follows up and gives a familiar feel to an otherwise unfamiliar world.

6. UFOlogy

Beneath it’s symbols and bright hues of pink and orange on faded blue and green backdrops, UFOlogy is a coming of age story with aliens. A genre that has established itself as legitimate since the days of E.T. and persisted through the likes of Super 8, Earth to Echo, etc. In spite of this, James Tynion and Matt Fox have managed to keep UFOlogy fresh and entertaining.

7. Divinity

Divinity is the third title in Valiant Entertainment’s “Valiant Next” series. Matt Kindt keeps a straight face for the first third of issue #1 as he tells a down to earth story of Cosmonaut Abram Adams’ progress through the Soviet space program. After this slow start, the story is moved forward very quickly, skipping years and continents to continually astonish the reader. The art team, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn, and David Baron give the story a timeless quality. The shuttles and space suits are vaguely historical but heavily imagined. Although Hairsine seems to be a master of establishing shots, sometimes the expressions and close ups can fall flat. Do not let those moments deter you though. This is an entertaining and rewarding read.

8. No Mercy

 

Alex de Campi fully understands the idea of looming dread. He also has completely digested the idea of a “teenager”. To use almost every stereotype of teenager as one’s prtagonists is a bold move, but to do so without seeming pandering or tongue-in-cheek is amazing. De Campi utilizes the technique of cluing in the audience without making the characters aware of some looming demise to instill dread. Throughout the series, Carla Speed McNeil is one of the best artists I had never heard of. She presents characters who are full of live and expression, truly one of the best aspects of No Mercy.

9. Age of Reptiles

Ricardo Delgado is back! Age of Reptiles returns as a shining light for the (criminally underpopulated) genre of wordless storytelling. Needless to say, the art surrounding the journey of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is awesome. The scenery is full of life and no space is wasted. The vibrant colors pop. The Dinosaurs are unique and barbaric. It’s easy to get lost in this rich world in an age long past our own, the age of reptiles!

10. Kaijumax

For a story about a maximum-security prison for the world’s Kaiju, Kaijumax is surprisingly serious. Zander Cannon brings to life a world where even the largest monsters have personal problems. Kaijumax is a pleasant read filled with genuinely interesting characters and bright cartoonist artwork. A real treat!

 

Kuliebear

Writer: House Of Flying Scalpels

 

1. Low

Remender has had another good year but it is Greg Tocchini that has made this book shine so incredibly. The story does not play out as you would expect but more like chapters that barely follow on from one another. But as each comic forms a unit of an overall story, they each have well-structured ideas and a character that truly suffers and transitions from beginning to end. The art is so unique and beautiful that what seems a little obscure becomes very familiar very quickly: just wonderful each and every time.

 

2. Ms Marvel

As a man of Indian descent I am very akin to Kamala and her heritage. This is the first time that I felt like a book was intimately related to me, and it feels very odd but amazing at the same time. Having gone through similar family turmoil, I fully appreciate the back-story at hand. But G Willow Wilson is expert at having a hero being effective and fearful at the same time, but overcome those odds to become amazing. Whether it is Miyazawa or Alphona on the art, as long as Herring is colouring, it feels very homely.

 

3. The Wicked + The Divine

The end of the original arc was devastating and quite upsetting as we lose yet another character, but the specialist single issues featuring guest artists were also incredible. The Tara issue saw Tula Lotay being emotional in an issue that was truly disturbing but also befitting of the story. I very much look forward to the rest of the story, but with a touch of trepidation.

 

4. Invisible Republic

The political machinations of this book are very well described and subtly revealed. The first arc was brilliant in its ability to start with a simple murder cover up but lead onto a story about how a dictator came to lead. That level of powerful story telling required a solid story but also an impressive artist that was capable of the gravity of the task. Hardman and Boyd are up to that task and create a guttural and intense society in need of repair.

 

5. Southern Bastards

It used to all be about Earl Tubb but that was a long time ago. Now we have seen the second arc pass with the tragedy of Euless Boss’ origin and also snap issues of other members of the community. These were very compelling and also terrifying tales of prominent members of that community and indicated how enough was soon to be enough. Earl Tubb’s death will not be for nothing as the Jason’s make for unmissable reading.

 

6. Rasputin

Riley Rossmo has a beautiful ability to produce emotive responses from Rasputin that depicted the turmoil and weight of his past. Both of Grecian’s arcs were fantastic in their story and brining together of a true story and yet a modern twist to a character that died many years ago. Utterly fantastic to look at and a joy to read.

 

7. Gotham Academy

As Ms Marvel delivers in a naïve yet enthusiastic way, Academy delivers in an exuberant and adventurous one. The writing is quite sweet and very akin to teenage life but it is the sense of wonder and exploration that this book captures, that makes it so fun to read. Kerschl and Msassyk deliver a stunning cell shaded effect to their work but it is fun and caricaturist for a teenage book.

 

8. Daredevil

I said a fond farewell to this book because Waid and Samnee produced their final issue. And what a run it was, ending with a finale that changed all we knew about Daredevil but they took him to a place where he belonged and was happy to go to. It made sense because they made it make sense and I loved every issue of it. His relationship with Kirsten and with Foggy developed in tune and his own insecurities brought out into the open. I shall miss this book dearly.

 

9. Mind MGMT

Matt Kindt has never produced a comic as good as this one. That is not a surprise given that he had full control of it and produced it month in, month out for years. The story progressed to a fantastic finale that was befitting of all the mystery and magical powers that we have seen since issue one. Meru was a beautiful central character that was worthy of the weight placed on her, and Kindt’s imprecise watercolours became the only way to tell this story.

 

10. Secret Wars

It seems wrong that Hickman’s books don’t feature higher on this list but it has been a slow year. Secret Wars has come and not gone but the Marvel universe has moved on around it. This is a problem but despite the tie-ins and the delays, it has generally been wonderful. The story has taken its classic slow twists and turns but the art is stunning. Each Ribic page will blow your mind in its depth and dexterity. It is a befitting end to Hickman’s run but we are still waiting for it.

 

Jaythreadbear

Writer at: Jaythreadbear

 

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of comic book runs that I have had a hell of a lot of fun reading this year; these are the ones for which I counted down days, constantly re-read previous issues, and told everyone I know to go buy them immediately:
They’re Not Like Us
This truly has been an stand out book for me this year; a constant source of both amazing writing and beautiful artwork. It’s really a disservice to the book to describe it this way, but it is almost like a contemporary retelling of the X-Men, with Magneto taking the place of Professor X. The plight of ostracized minorities and those considered ‘different’ is still in there, but instead of costumed super heroics there is brutal vigilante justice, and in place of sage guidance from a wise mutant there is an insidiousness and paranoia at every turn. In a year when X-Men comics were really not very good it has been a great relief to find a book that takes a similar concept and then tells a fresh and compelling story with it. They’re Not Like Us is a brilliant, dark, and thrilling book, and that is even before you take into account the outstanding art and colouring in every panel on every page.
Batgirl
Despite faltering somewhat in it’s sophomore arc this book remains a pleasure to read, due largely to the ever joyous artwork from Babs Tarr (the colouring from Serge LaPointe has been consistently wonderful too). Tarr’s art continues to elevate the book, even as the story elements that made the first arc such a success have fallen by the wayside. The overarching mystery that underpinned the narrative, the establishment of Barbara Gordon’s new life & friends in Burnside, the integration of contemporary visual elements like phone screens and playlists, and even the complex layouts demonstrating Batgirl using her eidetic memory, have all been oddly sadly absent. Fortunately there’s still that art from Babs Tarr, and a winning supporting cast that still make the book a strong read.
Descender
Of all the great new indie scifi books this year Jeff Lemire’s futuristic fable is the one that has captured my imagination most utterly. Following a cataclysmic and unexplained event (featuring giant Galactus sized robots!) a futuristic inter-planetary society spends decades picking up the pieces and persecuting the few regular sized robots that remain. The discovery of a particular AI, in the form of a small boy, brings together a ragtag band of unlikely heroes on a quest that really isn’t clear yet, but damn do I want to know where it goes next. The art is stunning, the characters are broadly drawn but engaging, and the universe is magnificent – this is Star Wars meets AI meets Darren Aronofsky, and it is sublime.
Prez
On paper this book sounds awful; the zany adventures of the first teen President of the United States. On actual comic book paper it is awesome. Besides anything else the top-notch art is by Ben Caldwell, someone who I’ve been waiting for more work from ever since he blew me away with his Wonder Woman pages way back in Wednesday Comics. And alongside those excellent visuals is a wonderfully sharp and pointed political satire, tackling everything from lobbyists to corporations to healthcare policy. Against the backdrop of an exaggerated, explicitly corrupt, hyper-capitalist America, writer Mark Russell works wonders telling an interesting, personal story about Beth Rogers, aforementioned teen President, but also manages to weave some genuinely worthwhile political debate into the book too. The first volume wrapped up this year, with another 6 issues allegedly planned for 2016 (sales sadly haven’t been great) – quite frankly EVERYONE should buy this so that we definitely get more issues!
Silver Surfer
If there is a character whose comic I never thought I would be at all engrossed by, even more so than teen President Rogers, it was the Silver Surfer. And yet, every month the combined talents of storytellers Dan Slott and Mike Allred have come up with outlandish, inventive, heartwarming, heartbreaking, space adventures for Norrin and his companion Dawn Greenwood to go on. This book is like the best of Star Trek and Doctor Who and Red Dwarf rolled in to one, and for every imaginative plot there is an innovative artistic representation to go with it (the time loop issue that has to be read backwards and forwards in a physical loop is a particularly stunning example). And not only is it a fun book with goofy aliens and comedy and spectacular space encounters, but the relationship at it’s heart, the blossoming love between Norrin and Dawn, is genuinely the most engaging romance in contemporary comics – it is lovely and realistic (in space!) and believable. Silver Surfer is somehow both a madcap adventure through the galaxy and a wonderful drama, and every issue is a marvel.

Coloring Between the Lines: Michael Garland

It’s my opinion that great color work goes unappreciated in the comic community. Often times Color Artists names are left off the covers of trades (such as Rico Renzi being left off of the cover of the Spider-gwen trade), while art can be great on it’s own, color adds such a depth and pleasing aesthetic if done correctly. It was out of my passion for color that I decided to feature a color artist every now and again on my blog so that hopefully I could give others the same appreciation for the art form as I have. A few months ago I attended Cincinnati Comic Con. While there I had the please of meeting Colorist extraordinaire Michael Garland. You’ve seen his fantastic work in The Dying and the Dead,  Secret, The Fiction, Big trouble in Little China, Cluster, and most recently The Violent. I was familiar with his work on The Fiction (a great indie book with a clever story and fantastic art all around). Graciously Michael agreed to have an interview with me about his process, his favorite superheros, and his inspirations.

Hey Michael, Thanks for agreeing to this interview!

Sure thing! Thanks for asking.

 

So How long have you been a colorist?


2010 was my first professional gig – a friend brought me on to do colors for the web comic tie in to AMC’s (thankfully forgotten) remake of The Prisoner, which he was editing.

I’ve been coloring on a consistent basis since 2012, when I started doing Secret at Image and working for Boom! Studios.

 

Was it what you wanted to be when you were a kid?

No. I mean… maybe there’s somebody out there who said “I want to color comic books!” as a kid, but he/she was probably a weirdo. I didn’t really know what coloring was until college, which was when I got back into comics in a major way.

I’ve always drawn, though. When I was a kid, I was notorious for always carrying a sketchbook around with me. But I was actually a Writing major in college. I decided I wanted to write comics — and realizing how impossible finding an artist is — I started drawing my stories. I was also getting into both traditional and digital painting at the time, so I figured I should learn to color them as well. Eventually, somebody paid me to do that part. And, miraculously, they still are.

 

What’s the first comic book series you really got into?

Originally it was Cone Saga era Spider-Man. I will forever ❤ Ben Reilly.

When I eventually acquired taste, it was probably Ultimate Marvel. I had read a number of “grown up” books in high school – DKR, V for Vendetta, Whedon’s X-Men – but I was handed a huge chunk of the Ultimate U in college and that was when I got sucked into the drama of the superhero soap opera and, by association, comics fandom.

 

Do you prefer superhero comics or other genres?

I’m an equal opportunity reader. But recently my pull list has shrunk mostly to Image titles. Which I think is due both to the quality of Image — many of my favorite creators have defected there in recent years — and my exhaustion with the perpetual second act storytelling of the Marvel/DC Universes.

I will always love Marvel and DC, and there are a ton of great books they’re putting out. But If you read them long enough, I think the fact that nothing ever really changes wears you down. And you can either diversify or become one of those people who complains that John Byrne was the last guy to get those characters “right.” Which I guess would make you John Byrne.

 

Whose your favorite superhero?

It’s a toss up between Batman and Spider-Man. Depends on what day you catch me on. On this day, I’ll give the nod to Spidey.

 

What’s your favorite series that’s not a superhero series?

Of all time? Planetary and Casanova. Though those are both arguably super hero books.

 

Whats your process like for coloring?


A poor one, probably. I love what I do before I start and after I finish, but there’s a whole middle part where I hate everything I’m putting down until it finally feels “right.” But I think that’s true of most artists. When people say “your job must be so fun!” I shake my head. But at the same time, it’s comics. And comics are awesome.

To be less existential and more technical, the first thing I do is sit down with the pages and the script. I go through that to get a sense of the tone of each scene, as well as specific beats within it. Stories are about emotional crescendos – be it an action sequence or a conversation – and that impacts the storytelling choices I’ll make with color. Through that I’ll usually get a general idea of what kind of palette I want to bring to each scene.

Once I figure that out, I’ll lay in in basic flat colors on all of the pages. (Either myself, or I’ll pay somebody – called a flatter – to do this for me to save time.) Then I tweak those colors until I’m happy with them. This where I’m really building the palette. If I have time, I might paint a quick color rough on a separate layer that I can refer back to while I’m coloring. From there, I render everything out, depending on what is required. I’ll usually save lighting effects or textures for the end, if the page requires it. And I’ll often go back and tweak various elements to make sure the color is properly balanced.

 

How do you choose a color palette?


Like I was saying above, a lot of it is reading the feel of a scene and applying color theory. I start with the setting and local color, which is to say, the color things are. A red firetruck is red for instance. Or if it’s night, you usually want a bluish over tone because that’s how light works in nature. Those things are locked in to an extent, but they can be interpreted very differently. Mainly, you’re building off the scene as written. An action sequence or an argument works best with hot colors, like reds and yellows. A moment of loneliness or desolation works best with blue or desaturated colors. And then you sort of play those off each other. Warm vs cool color, saturated vs desaturated color, and using various established color schemes can all bring contrast, focus and a sense of emotion in different ways, both within a scene and between them. And the job of a colorist really does boil down to those three things I think: contrast, focus and emotion.

The Dying and the Dead is an exception, as those palettes we worked out ahead of time. But the thought process is similar. I’m just using a rigid set of colors.

If you’re interested, I recommend picking up COLOR AND LIGHT by James Gurney for an excellent overview of color technique.

 

What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

Secret and The Dying and the Dead – the books I’ve done with Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim. Those books have been some of my closest, and therefore most fulfilling, collaborations.

 

Do you have anything coming out soon that we should keep an eye out for?

THE VIOLENT is a new crime series I’m doing at Image with Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham. The first issue is just came out (call your retailer!) and I think we’re all leveling up with this one. I’m really excited for it.

 

Who are some of your favorite colorists in the industry today?

Dean White, Bettie Breitweiser and Matt Wilson are probably my holy trinity. But there are so many great ones out there. We live in a golden age of comic coloring. Which is not intimidating at all. He said sarcastically.

 

Is there anyone you draw inspiration from?

All of the above people for sure. Not counting other colorists, iconic illustrators like Maxfield Parrish, NC Wyeth and a bunch of others. Paperback illustrators, Robert McGuinness being chief among them. Lots of directors/DPs/all the other people who help construct a shot in a movie. Observation is a big one too, just paying attention to how light and color happen out in the real world and filing it away for future use.

 

I’ve personally really enjoyed your work on The Fiction. How did you pick out the palette for that book?

The Fiction was an interesting (and very fun) exercise. The world being primarily set in unreality gave me permission to kind of go bananas. Again, the thought process is no different – I’m trying to accomplish the same things as any other book. But I tried to push it in hyper bold and saturated directions.

 

Thank you for your time Michael, I’ve enjoyed talking to you. Looking forward to your great work in the future.

 

If you are interested in checking out some of Michaels work you can hit up his website:

http://michaelcgarland.com/

Or check out his online portfolio:

http://www.coroflot.com/michaelgarland

If you are interested in picking up some of his previous work buy it on comiXology:

https://www.comixology.com/Michael-Garland/comics-creator/6882?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC9jcmVhdG9yU2xpZGV

Also, don’t forget to ask your local retailer about The Violent!

Pick of the Week

Secret Wars #8

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Art: Esad Ribic

Color Artist: Ive Svorcina

Marvel’s collossol main event of the year rumbles on in this action packed installment. This issue is another solid addition to Hickman’s grandiose universe panning opra, that started way back with his run on Avengers and New Avengers. Now we are starting to see the fruits of this 2 plus year labor.  The story picks up where the last issue left off with an all out asault on Doom and Dooms castle. We see Star Lord and Reed Richards infiltrate Dooms layer in the hopes of bringing the God Doom down once and for all.  We get a glimpse of the newly freed Ben Grimm (who also apparently is a giant in this reality). Ben quickly make an impact with the killing of a major player (no spoilers), and with his lazer focus on killing Doom. Ben is impeded on this task by none other than a Franklin Richard’s (in this world Franklin Von Doom) controlled Galactus. The two exchange blows before……Well I’ll let you read what happens next. The following pages bring back a surprise character, and a bone chilling confrontation between Thanos and the God Doom himself. All leading up to the final page which show the one thing that in this reality that Doom is afraid of. The story is most excellently layed out for the reader. In the end I am glad they added on the extra issue, so that we can have a better sense of what is happening. This issue is just the right amount of chaos and action, a formula that would have been thrown out of whack by piling more into this issue than there already was. The art by Ribic continues to be spectacular. He has a way coaxing out the best facial expressions on his characters. The only down side to this issue is that the 9th installment has been delayed (again) until January. Making this the most delayed and drawn out event in recent memory. But hey at least the story is entertaining.

Rating: 8/10