Archive for November, 2003

Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina

November 17, 2003 | Trades

Animal Man: Deus Ex Machina Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, Doug Hazelwood Vertigo/DC Comics $30.95/$19.99 (Paperback) **** (out of five) Animal Man’s life has gone terribly wrong. His wife and children are dead. Murdered. There are gaps in his memory. He can’t remember how he gets from place to place. And during a spiritual journey on peyote, he realizes the truth: he can see you. People are watching him. And someone is controlling him, but whom? The result is Deus Ex Machina, a collection of the culmination of writer Grant Morrison’s masterpiece of the early 90s. The third, and final, volume reprinting these tales, which saw Morrison take an obscure, and let’s face it, lame, character, and twist him into one of the landmark comic book stories of all time. In a time in which brutal violence and “reality” was the hallmark of most popular titles, Morrison wrote the first really smart comic in several years. Animal Man is figuring it out. He is a comic book character and someone is writing his life. How else can he explain the horrible things that have befallen him? To get the answers most people are seeking, he does what many dream of — he seeks out his creator (well, actually just his writer). The result is a brilliant story full of wit and creativity, which culminates in an illustrated conversation between Animal Man and Morrison that is not to be missed. The only drawback of Deus Ex Machina, a Latin phrase meaning “God from the machine”, is the art. For those used to comic titles from recent years, which have held themselves up to a very high standard of art and have featured computerized colouring and detail, this book will seem cartoonish and rough, but the story more than makes up for it.

Hellblazer: Rake At The Gates Of Hell

November 17, 2003 | Trades

Hellblazer: Rake At The Gates Of Hell Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon Vertigo/DC Comics $30.95/$19.95 US (Hardcover) **** (out of five) John Constantine is a bastard. He’s cheated the devil himself and now he’s going to have to pay. Hellblazer: Rake At The Gates Of Hell is the fifth collection of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Hellblazer run, compiling their final story arc. The dynamic duo, who have gone on to become one of the hottest writer/artist teams in the industry, working on such titles as Preacher and the Punisher, craft an honest tale of a man who is trying to do the right thing, but keeps failing miserably. Constantine, who will be the subject of a major movie next year starring Keanu Reeves, struggles like a worm on a hook to evade The Devil until a final confrontation that ends with a twist — of a knife. Anyone who has never read any of Ennis and Dillon’s previous Hellblazer stories will likely be hopelessly lost. But their run was so good anyone interested should start at the beginning and cap their collection with this book.

Pia Guerra & Amanda Conner interview (November 2003)

November 7, 2003 | Interviews

Comic books aren’t just for kids. They’re for adults, too. And they’re definitely for guys. But for women…? Many comics geared towards women pander. The writers assume that all women want is relationships and realistic breasts. But good, smart books, super-hero based or otherwise are good for kids, adults, men and women. Just ask the pros. Pia Guerra, the Vancouver-based artist for hot DC Comics’ series, Y: The Last Man, says her love of the medium began when she was 10 years old and her cousin left a copy of X-Men at her house. “I fell in love with it,” Guerra says. “It was cool and way better than the soap operas on television.” But she admits: “It’s such an intimidating medium for a lot of girls.” One of Brooklyn, N.Y. artist Amanda Conner’s first jobs in comics was illustrating a series based on Barbie, an attempt to get more little girls reading comics. “The only real problem I had with Barbie is that because she’s an American icon she has to come across in a certain way,” Conner says. “I wasn’t allowed to draw her upset or pissed off or sad or anything like that. Her whole range of emotions was from mildly satisfied to happy.” Conner, who cites Archie and Wonder Woman as two of her early favourites, says she thinks the basic elements are what make comics so great. “I just loved comic books as a medium,” she says. “I love the idea of telling a story with pictures.” On the flip side of Barbie is The Pro, the tale of a hooker with super powers, which Conner describes as “56 pages of wrong.” “I think things with insane comedy in it is really my cup of cheese,” she laughs. “The Pro really had an extreme amount of sick and crazy humour in it.” And being a woman drawing a graphic, sexual and sometimes, vulgar tale? “One of fun things about being a female artist is that people don’t expect that kind of thing from you,” Conner says. “That makes the shock value that much more fun.” Y: The Last Man, the story of the last man on earth surrounded by a shocked world full of 3 billion women, is a series that has struck a chord with many readers, both male and female. “There were so many comics when I was growing up that really changed the way I looked at things,” she says. “I feel like I’ve reached a criteria I set for myself by reaching people.” The popularity of Y with women has been heartening, according to Guerra. “It’s very cool to hear people say ‘my wife reads the book’ or ‘I gave it to my girlfriend and she totally dug it,’” she says. “We really set out to make a book that was accessible to everybody. We wanted to make it like a good date movie. We didn’t want it to be a chick flick or just purely a guy thing — just something anyone can read.” Both Conner and Guerra are special guests at the Toronto Comicon at the Queen Elizabeth Building at Exhibition Place this Friday through Sunday. Attending conventions like this one is a great avenue to be a positive female role model, according to Conner. “It is kind of exciting when you see a girl who’s interested in comics,” she says. “When I see a girl who’s interested in becoming a comic book artist I think it’s great. I think the more girls that are drawing comics, perhaps the more girls will be interested in reading comics,” she says.