Archive for June, 2004

Dave Sim & Cary Nord interview (June 2004)

June 18, 2004 | Interviews

Kitchener’s Dave Sim is the creator of Cerebus, one of the most ambitious comic book projects in the history of the genre. He began working on the independently published series, the life story of an occasionally sword-wielding aardvark, in 1977 and finished it in March of this year. In all, he wrote and illustrated all 300 issues and has become a cult icon in the comic industry. Too bad so few people in his home and native land seem to know who he is, especially in his own neighbourhood. “I’m completely anonymous,” Sim said. “Nobody has any idea that I’m even theoretically somebody.” There are more Canadians working at the pinnacle of the comic book industry than ever before, but these creators rarely get the credit they’re due. Sim’s work, for example, has gotten so sought after, that a top-quality copy of the first issue of Cerebus, at auction for charity on eBay as part of this weekend’s Toronto Comicon, has reached early bids of $4,875. This is a bit of vindication for the creator. “I remember being fed up at a show in Toronto with a stack of Cerebus No. 1s and a stack of Cerebus No. 2s and people were just coming up and dumping their jackets on them so they could look through the Marvel Two-In-One boxes,” Sim said. “There’s a part of me that went ‘you’re going to regret that someday.’” While the Comicon, at the Queen Elizabeth Building at Exhibition Place from Friday to Sunday, will feature a great list of Canadian talent, such as Sim, former Torontonian and current Haligonian Steve McNiven, Calgary’s Cary Nord and many others, event organizer Peter Dixon said bringing in this many domestic products was not something deliberate. “Obviously we’re proud of the Canadian content, but this just happened,” Dixon said. “It just seems there’s more and more Canadians out there that are doing more high profile things.” Nord, who is the artist on Dark Horse Comics’ new series of Conan (the barbarian) comics, says while many people may not know who the Canucks in the comic industry are, their fellow Great White Northers do. “I know all the Canadian guys and I’m always watching out for them and congratulating them when things are going good,” said Nord, who cites Vancouver’s Kaare Andrews and Toronto’s Stuart Immonen as a couple of his favourite Canadian artists. Nord says there’s no really big difference’s between Canadian and American comic creators. Well, maybe one. “The only time I ever noticed a difference was at a convention in Portland, Ore., a couple of years ago when the Canadians were taking on the Americans for the gold medal in hockey. All the Canadians were going nuts when we won, but they didn’t even say a word about it in the States,” Nord said with a laugh. GUESTS AT THE 2004 PARADISE TORONTO COMICON: Will Eisner – comic industry legend, creator of The Spirit Dave Sim – writer/illustrator of Cerebus Bill Sienkiwicz – artist of Elektra: Assassin, Stray Toasters Greg Horn – cover artist for Elektra, Emma Frost Roy Thomas – former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, writer of such titles as Avengers, Conan The Barbarian and Uncanny X-Men Cary Nord – artist on new Conan series Steve McNiven – artist on Marvel Knights 4, former artist of Meridian Jimmy Palmiotti – new writer of Hawkman, former Daredevil inker Amanda Conner – artist of The Pro Cameron Stewart – artist of Seaguy Paul Ryan – former Avengers, Flash artist Tom Grummett – former Superman, Superboy and New Titans artist Terry Austin – inker on Uncanny X-Men and dozens of other titles Mike Kaluta_– former artist of The Shadow Dale Keown – former Hulk and Darkness artists Dave Ross – current artist of The Inhumans J. Torres – writer of Teen Titans Go! Ty Templeton – writer of Human Defense League and writer/artist behind Bigg Time Rob Van Dam – pro wrestler

Transmetropolitan Vol. 10: One More Time

June 14, 2004 | Trades

Transmetropolitan Vol. 10: One More Time Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos Vertigo/DC Comics $22.95/$14.95 (Paperback) **** 1/2 (out of five) They say all good things must end, but few things in recent memory have been wrapped up with such a beautiful bow on them like Transmetropolitan. Arguably the best Vertigo title so far, Transmet followed the messed up life of Hunter S. Thompson-esque journalist Spider Jerusalem in his quest to complete a book deal and retire to his mountaintop cabin. While it’s easy to get caught up in the storyline of the series — that Spider is a maniacal reporter in a bizarre, futuristic world who is determined to end the regime of the corrupt and nefarious President (no matter what the cost) — it is important to remember the beginning. Spider was happily retired. He had done his time on the political beat. He was done. But a phone call and a threat of a crushing lawsuit if he didn’t pony up a couple of tomes ASAP had him running back to The City, where he returned to his job penning the column: I Hate It Here. In the course of digging through the dirt and bringing people the truth, Jerusalem turned the tide of a Presidential election, deposing an old enemy as president and making a new one. But things turned sour along the way when Spider found out he’s dying. He’s developed a neurological disease and is fading fast. One More Time is the stunning and satisfying conclusion to this five-year finite series that sees Spider’s last burst of journalistic frenzy as he attempts to take down the new president once and for all. But will the effort cost him his chance for happiness back on his mountain — or worse, his life? While it’s sad to see such an original piece of dark comedy and thought-provoking material go, Transmetropolitan’s payoff was worth five years of waiting and creators Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson are to be commended on this outstanding achievement.

Dead@17: The Complete First Series

June 14, 2004 | Trades

Dead@17: The Complete First Series Josh Howard Viper Comics $14.95 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) You’ve just got to admire a creator who has the courage to kill their title’s hero just five pages into the first book. Of course, when the premise of the series revolves greatly around the dead rising from the grave, there’s really no reason not to kick things off with a bang. Dead@17, a terrific new spin on horror comics, brings us two fresh new faces, writer/illustrator Josh Howard and publisher Viper Comics. After years of self-professed futility in trying to break into mainstream comics, Howard’s first big hit shows he has a talent for both drawing cute, big-eyed heroines and for creating a fast-paced and highly compelling story. Viper, a Texas-based independent publisher that has been around since December 2001, has definitely found a foundation to build around. The story revolves around Nara, the slain teen, and her surprising rise from the dead. But while Nara’s strange resurrection leads her into a web of mystery and horror (featuring some very unusual neck-biting zombies), the friendship between Nara, her best friend Hazy and possible love interest Elijah is what makes this title work. Everybody and their monkey can make another zombie book (and it seems these days they’re trying), but making characters that are compelling and likeable isn’t easy. There’s no doubt this series also leans heavily on sex appeal, with near nudity a fairly regular occurrence. While reasonably brief, this collection, which reprints the elusive first four issues of this red-hot title, does offer a lot to work with and the sequel, Dead@17: Blood Of Saints, is already being released in single-issue form monthly from Viper. A superb first effort, Dead@17 is sure to hack and slash its way into your heart.


June 14, 2004 | Trades

Empire Mark Waid, Barry Kitson DC Comics $22.95/$14.95 (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) There are two key truths in comic books: Death is rarely permanent and good will always, eventually, overcome evil. But life’s not like that in Empire. With this collected limited series, acclaimed writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Fantastic Four) and talented penciller Barry Kitson (JLA: Year One), have created one of the most unusual titles in years. There are no good guys, just bad guys with an occasional flitting of conscience. Set in a not-too-distant future, the Empire rules almost all of earth. Along with his cabinet —ministers of war, execution, discipline, etc. — supreme ruler Golgoth (picture Darth Vader without ‘The Force’ but with good technology, a quantity of fanatics and a lot of guns) now moves toward crushing the last few pockets of resistance left on the planet. With stories told mainly through the eyes of the ministers, some of whom question their roles, and even their loyalty, to the Empire, we are taken on a roller-coaster ride that can best be described as bleak. The death in this series, and it does tend to run rampant, is very permanent and there doesn’t appear to be much hope for good. Empire breaks the rules and takes no prisoners. It is an interesting examination of the ambiguity of morality, modern warfare and fanaticism.

The Goon: Rough Stuff/The Goon: My Murderous Childhood

June 14, 2004 | Trades

The Goon: Rough Stuff Eric Powell Dark Horse Books $12.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) The Goon: My Murderous Childhood Eric Powell Dark Horse Books $13.95 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) There’s nothing better than picking up a comic book that is fun to read and also teaches you important life lessons. Eric Powell’s The Goon series is chock full of pearls of wisdom, like: “zombies make great compost; blueberry is the evilest pie;” and “cheating is just playing with creativity and style.” Like so many great independent comic titles over the years, The Goon, a mix of horror and black comedy, is the product of both desperation and frustration, mixed with inspiration and timing. Rough Stuff is an excellent look at the evolution of a character, with the first three complete Goon tales, some hilarious one-page gags and an annotated sketchbook explaining his origins. The book reprints Powell’s first work with the character, a depression-era gangster thug with a heart of gold and a hate-on for the undead. As the creator himself notes in his introduction, “if this is your first exposure to The Goon, pick up the new stuff. It makes (Rough Stuff) look like crap.” Moving on to My Murderous Childhood — a collection of the first four issues of The Goon’s new ongoing series — kind of does make you appreciate Powell’s feelings on his earlier work. His most recent work is crisp, polished and shows a much higher level of maturity. Well, not really that mature; it is one of the more un-P.C. titles on the market, mercilessly mocking the elderly, the physically challenged and even the kids who might read his work. The Goon is crude, occasionally tasteless, certainly not suitable for the easily offended, and a riot.

The Filth

June 14, 2004 | Trades

The Filth Grant Morrison, Chris Weston, Gary Erskine Vertigo/DC Comics $30.95/$19.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) There hasn’t been a more aptly named book in the past year than The Filth. This 13-issue maxi-series, now in one handy collected edition, is, without a doubt, one of the most vulgar, twisted and over-the-top comics in recent memory. But whether it’s good or not requires some debate. Penned by Grant Morrison — a golden boy of mainstream-alt comics — The Filth, when boiled down to its essence, is about Greg Feely … or is it Edward Slade? Feely is a middle-aged bachelor who is addicted to pornography and is living out a rather mundane existence with his cat, Tony. Slade is a super-cop from another dimension whose job is to deal with all the spectacularly filthy crimes on Earth. The twist is: They’re the same man. After Feely is forcefully recruited into The Filth, he is told that he is, in fact, Slade and was given a new personality when he retired. Pressed back into service, Slade grudgingly takes on one bizarre assignment after another on behalf of The Filth. From stopping a genetically engineered porn star to catching the madman who’s kidnapped the president and given him breast implants, things just get weirder and weirder. Chris Weston and Gary Erskine, who manage to keep up with the task of matching the writer’s vision, breathtakingly bring Morrison’s weird world to life. While there is no doubt that The Filth is an engrossing book (it’s hard to resist the urge to see if the off-the-wall thing on the next page can top the one you just read), it is nearly impossible to tell if this is a work of sheer genius or insanity. But in the end, The Filth is original. And at a time when many comics off the rack are homogenous and indistinguishable from one another, that may be all one can truly ask for.

War Stories Vol. 1

June 14, 2004 | Trades

War Stories Vol. 1 Garth Ennis, Chris Weston, Gary Erskine, John Higgins, Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd Vertigo/DC Comics $30.95/$19.99 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) War stories always evoke a strange mix of sadness and pride. When you’re finished reading them you’re not sure if you should weep or wave a flag. It doesn’t matter which side you’re coming from or how much time passes and it doesn’t even matter if you have family members affected by the war. Knowing the numbers of dead won’t do it, nor will reading a historical account. But the stories of the men and women, whether truthful, or simply based on historical events, like the four stories in Garth Ennis’ War Stories Vol. 1, will get you every time. Having created the spectacularly twisted Preacher series and taken The Punisher to even higher levels of bizarre violence, Ennis has now turned his attention to the horror of war. In typical Ennis fashion, it isn’t the graphic nature of the comic book medium that makes it so horrific, it’s the psychological aspect. Ennis has a very sly way of making readers care about his characters, even though some, if not many, are morally questionable, and occasionally reprehensible. But war stories are also the perfect genre for Ennis to work in, as the whole subject is often one giant gray area. Stories range from a German tank crew trying to make it out of the last days of the war without being killed, to the last four members of a U.S. airborne regiment out of 140 who jumped on D-Day — only to be sent on a fool’s errand by their superiors, to a British ship and crew cursed by all around her after surviving a slaughter on the open seas. But just a few weeks after the anniversary of the event, the story that stings most is the tale of the D-Day Dodgers, allied troops slogging away in the battle for Italy, doomed to die in the mud while the whole world turned its attention to France. Joined by a all-star lineup of artists, including Chris Weston and Gary Erskine (The Filth), John Higgins (Hellblazer), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), and David Lloyd (V For Vendetta), Ennis has taken war comics to a dark, but smart place they’ve seldom been, opening eyes, minds and tear ducts in the process.

New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 2

June 14, 2004 | Trades

New Teen Titans Archives Vol. 2 Marv Wolfman, George Perez DC Comics $76.95/$49.95 US (Hardcover) *** 1/2 (out of five) Archive edition comics are one of the greatest inventions in the history of the genre. They are superlative-quality reprints of some of the best, most revered and most expensive stories ever to see print. How else could you ever hope to own the first appearance of Superman? Or Batman? Or any of dozens of heroes and teams that have been honoured with an archive over the past few years. But while those Golden (1940s-50s) and Silver (1960s) Age tales continue to fill shelves full of books, only one Modern (1980s-present) Age series has made the cut: The New Teen Titans. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 20 years since the stories in this second collection of Titans were originally published. While all the pop-culture references in what was a cutting-edge title are now severely dated (a line about how tight Brooke Shields’ jeans are stands out like a sore thumb), this book manages to keep fresh because of two stars of the past and present: co-creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez. The awesome pairing of writer Wolfman and artist Perez were just rounding into form in 1981-82 and were telling stories that nobody else, at DC in particular, was telling. Featuring classic characters like the original Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Changeling and adding new creations like the alien Starfire, the mechanized Cyborg and the mysterious Raven, the Titans were young, hip, modern and dynamic, and the stories reflected that. But the creators were sure to include many of the classic elements of illustrated storytelling. The volume even collects a tip-of-the-hat story arc that sees the Titans hunt down the killers of another archived super-team, The Doom Patrol. With the recent success of the new Teen Titans series, this archive is well-timed, and should be voraciously read by any serious fan of the team. Unfortunately the high quality edition price may be too much for the average fan. Ironically, it might even be cheaper to just track down the original issues. Perhaps DC will take the same route with Titans they have with the classic Neal Adams’ Green Lantern/Green Arrow crossover and release both a beautiful deluxe edition and a more cost-effective paperback.

JSA: All-Stars

June 14, 2004 | Trades

JSA: All-Stars Geoff Johns, David Goyer, Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, Phil Winslade, Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Howard Chaykin, Darwyn Cooke, Dave Ross DC Comics $22.95/$14.95 US (Paperback) *** (out of five) The newest incarnation of the JSA is the most ambiguous collection of super-heroes in recent comics’ history. The team appeals to a fan of the classics, as it contains four members who were in the original 1940s Justice Society Of America: Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and Wildcat. It also makes a play for a more modern audience with young heroes, like Dr. Mid-Nite, Hawkgirl, Hourman, Star-Spangled Kid, Dr. Fate and Mr. Terrific — characters whose skills and origins are based upon an original 1940s character of the same name. With JSA: All-Stars, writers Geoff Johns (Teen Titans, Flash) and David Goyer (Starman) examine the legacies of the progenitors of the new crop of heroes. Helping Johns and Goyer are a top-notch lineup of artists and writers, including Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (Batman: The Long Halloween, Hulk: Gray), Phil Winslade (Howard The Duck), Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets), Howard Chaykin (American Flagg), and a pair of Canadian talents, Dave Ross and Darwyn Cooke. Each new-generation hero gets a story that tells us a little more about his or her history, who they are or why they became a defender of good, while their predecessors get the same. Getting to know a little bit more about these newer characters is the payoff in this book, and will be especially important to readers of the JSA monthly title. However, readers could feel a little cheated that with all this amassed talent the stories aren’t longer. A six-page Loeb and Sale piece on Hawkman just isn’t enough.