Entries Tagged 'Comics' ↓

Superficial Saturdays #12 – MAGNETO #1 by Paolo Rivera

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Comic: MAGNETO #1 Artist: Paolo Rivera

This is a relatively recent cover (maybe two months young) RE: a new-look Magneto.

I’ve always thought of Magneto as an A-list and relatively interesting villain; but Magneto in recent years has been characterized as if not a superhero, the consigliere to longtime X-Men leader Scott Summers. That said, I’ve never really bought Magneto as an interesting hero figure. He’s done quite a few bad things — repeated genocidal attempts on the human race on the far end, ripping Wolverine to pieces on a nice day… I just have a hard time wanting to buy a comic book about him as a good guy.

Which is what makes this cover interesting.

This is a great, stark, image; it’s engaging… If I saw it in the comic book store I would pick it up and give it a look.

That isn’t particularly surprising, of course. This is Paolo Rivera! Rivera is one of the best artists — and especially cover artists — in the Marvel stable. He’s not just good at rendering figures, but often does interesting things mixing it up as a designer.

The post-AVX Magneto is drawn as a bald man. I’ve probably missed some issue somewhere but I’m guessing that at least part of it is evoking the memory of our dear, departed Charles Xavier. Further, Magneto is generally depicted in a stylized white uniform.

What does Rivera do here?

Even though Magneto’s face / head is that of the current bald man, he reminds us of the classic Magneto helmet — in suggestive barbed wire. This is almost a juxtaposition of 2-D and 3-D imagery; I can’t actually tell. Does part of the “helmet” actually wrap around Magneto’s head? I think so; that also doesn’t make much sense in terms of the internal logic of the image.

And barbed wire?

Rivera could have chosen lots of different materials for this image; this one, despite a complete absence of regalia or insignia, hearkens back to Magneto’s childhood in WWII concentration camps. I think.

Super simple image, but expertly executed.

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #11 – CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON #6 by Joe Bennett

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Comic: CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON #6 Artist: Joe Bennett

I actually remember buying this issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON back in 2004 on account of the cool cover.

It’s got big swaths of primary colors, nice light and dark, and even if Cap looks kind of like a big red, white, and blue thug; Scarlet Witch is expertly rendered (for the style). Even though Wanda is way more covered up than the average girl superhero, she has an inescapable swagger in the backside. But more importantly her hands speak a language of their own. Wanda’s right hand is almost hungry. You can kind of imagine it pulling and pawing at Cap.

It’s not actually Saturday, I know. Also I haven’t done one of these in a while. But this one was in my queue for Superficial Saturdays to cover for a while, and I thought it was appropriate for the weekend. For anyone who has seen the tv commercials, you know that the Falcon is a big part of this weekend’s big movie; and for anyone following Avengers 2 news, you know that the Scarlet Witch is an upcoming character (she makes a short cameo in Winter Soldier).

For what it’s worth, I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier quite a bit. It was a little predictable but still an absurdly good action movie and one of the best comic book superhero movies of all time. If nothing else, it inspired me to get back to these!

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #10 – SECRET AVENGERS #18 by John Cassaday

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Comic: SECRET AVENGERS #18 Artist: John Cassaday

One of the thing a good cover does — especially when you hire a separate artist to do them (rather than just paying say a perfectly great interior artist) — is to really catch the eye.

Does this not catch the eye?

Are you not entertained?

I was not 100% sure what I was looking at but it looked like some ka-raz-ay em effer was karate chopping a dude’s head in half. Is that what it looks like to you? Do you not want to check out what’s going on inside?

For those of you not “in the know” this cover was one of many John Cassaday covers reuniting the award-winning artist with the writer who helped make him huge: Warren Ellis (on SECRET AVENGERS).

For his part, Ellis was in the midst of a SECRET AVENGERS that was kind of like the realization of everything Ellis presumably dreamed of as a kid. They were like one-of single stories a la PLANETARY (the book that first brought Ellis and Cassaday together), but he ran a rotating harem of big-name artists, one whiz-bang single at a time. Ellis tapped Jamie McKelvie from PHONOGRAM and Magic fan favorite Kev Walker; broke off a clever Alex Maleev time travel story starring Black Widow, and more. My favorite was this one, which featured David Aja from HAWKEYE and THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST for some Master of Kung-Fu martial arts action.

I know this feature is supposed to be about covers, but the internals were a treat, too.


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Wouldn’t that karate chop have made you want to look inside?

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #9 – ADVENTURE TIME #16 by Meredith McClaren

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Comic: ADVENTURE TIME #16 (cover d)
Artist: Meredith McClaren

First of all this picture is just beautiful. So subtle. It would be cute and tender pic even if we didn’t know who the characters were.

But what makes this an interesting cover to me is the un-stylized finished product. ADVENTURE TIME is known for its frankly crude illustrations. You know that giant bat the little boy and his dog are snuggling into? This is how she might look in an ep of ADVENTURE TIME:

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ADVENTURE TIME goes so far out of its way to make the little boy Finn to look awkward and snaggle-toothed; his Mr. Fantastic-like dog Jake implausibly proportioned. But in McClaren’s cover, they are just a really cute kid and his dog.

Gorgeous.

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #8 – CONAN THE BARBARIAN ANNUAL VOL 1 #1 by Barry Smith

My friend and podcast partner Brian David-Marshall (once “Brian Marshall”) suggested this classic CONAN THE BARBARIAN cover by the similarly-hyphenated Barry Windsor-Smith (credited at the time as “Barry Smith”):

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Comic: CONAN THE BARBARIAN ANNUAL VOL 1 #1
Artist: Barry Smith / Barry Windsor-Smith

Barry Windsor-Smith is one of my 2-5 all-time favorite comic artists. I would read his ARCHER & ARMSTRONG all day if he were still writing and drawing it. At his max level of focus, BWS’s attention to detail and line work are simply second-to-none. Keeping in mind the more limited coloring capabilities of comics in 1973 (relative to 2013), let’s run down five [with Flores] or so details that BWS could have ignored but chose to include / spend time on here…

  1. Conan is standing in water. He bothered to draw the little puddle effects around Conan’s ankles (and the bodies around him), triggering some slight coloring / light / shading differences above and below the wet.
  2. Conan’s feet / toes / toenails: BDM loves to point out certain flashy / big name artists who either don’t draw feet, mysteriously have smoke coming up around characters’ feet (so they don’t have to draw them), crop frames so they don’t have to draw the feet, or just draw feet badly. BWS? Here’s a foot — not a boot — and here’s some toenail ink while I’m at it. Eff you.
  3. Conan’s hair versus whatever is on his left shoulder (animal fur?)… Point being one of them you get the sense of not just length / texture / even oil… The fur or whatever is on his left shoulder is ostensibly a similar substance but using the same inks can convey this wiry or bristly texture. Most artists wouldn’t even ink individual hair details on the featured foreground figure.
  4. Blood – The sense of wetness he conveys with black ink on Conan’s sword and axe is basically perfect.
  5. The grass / wheat / fauna directly behind the characters – as in he bothered to draw in these details. In fact, the work on his long grass better than most artists’ inking of foreground characters / anything at all.

… But that’s just five or so things out of this 1973 cover.

Here’s the kicker. In big, bold, letters this annual proclaims itself full of “two of the greatest Conan sagas ever told” … which means it is a reprint issue.

Back when he was critiquing my work on a regular basis BDM — a longtime comics editor in a previous life — would talk about a step that good artists took X pages into their careers. They would start good enough to get work and then at some point — bam! — they were at some crazy next level. BWS — “Barry Smith” back then — was the artists of the original story as well. This was what that cover looked like:

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What a difference a day three years makes.

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #7 – KICK-ASS #6 by John Romita, Jr. and Tom Palmer

Just got back from watching KICK-ASS 2 at the movies.

In honor of this weekend’s soon-to-be blockbuster sequel, maybe the most arresting cover from the original KICK-ASS:

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Comic: KICK-ASS #6
Artists: John Romita, Jr. (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks)

What have we got here?

I figure most of us — at least those even passingly familiar with KICK-ASS as a property — are desensitized to the ultra-violence of it. But probably at some point in our pasts an image like the cover to KICK-ASS #6 would have demanded a double-take.

A little girl, drenched in blood, a sword in either hand; standing over the bodies of fallen men. Can you say “juxtaposition”?

The girl is Hit-Girl (as the cover indicates); possibly the most important unique element of the KICK-ASS franchise; a little girl who is a deadly killer. Foul-mouthed as she is lethal, Hit-Girl is actually what made me fall in love with the original movie. And here we have her origin story! (or at least the lower-right-hand-corner claims)

KICK-ASS isn’t for everyone, certainly. I “get” what Millar and Romita (and later Vaughn) were getting at with this. If you understand where they were trying to go, I think there is really only one reading: whiz-bang smashing success. KICK-ASS is the PULP FICTION of superheroes. It is a straight story; not a satire… But it constantly forces you to look twice and think twice, even challenge your suspension of disbelief.

But yeah, even someone who gets it — and buys in — has to think a second over Hit-Girl’s smile in this one… Especially as the titular ass-kicker looks on horrified from behind.

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #6 – AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #692 by Marcos Martin

For the 50th anniversary of [arguably] Marvel Comics’s favorite character the House of Ideas commissioned superduperstar artist Marcos Martin to scribble up a number of variant covers, and man were they gorgeous. Jonathan Becker of “Tomfidence” fame brought these to my attention for Superficial Saturdays. Here is my favorite of the set “the 1970s variant”:

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Comic: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #692
Artist: Marcos Martin

Anyone familiar with Spider-Man’s history knows about the Death of Gwen Stacy; Peter’s true love was murdered by his archenemy the Green Goblin in one of the most famous no-win situations in comics. Martin’s homage is just perfect in my estimation. Despite the dominance of negative space, I think this is a very well-composed image.

The use of color in this image is just… brave. I love flat color but this is just extreme. The red of the background is the same as the red of Spidey’s suit is the same as the red of Gwen’s outfit [and if memory serves she was wearing a green coat in the original]. I love how he uses the limited color palette to imply Gwen’s death. She is all white and gray… Like a ghost.

Goes without saying that the line work on this one is just outstanding. And versatile. You can tell that both images are Marcos Martin but he uses a completely different line than we saw in GREEN ARROW #40. Thanks to Becker; just love this one.

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #5 – CATALYST COMIX #1 by Rafael Grampá

I was actually clicking around some comics websites looking for news updates on some of my favorite Image books [that haven't come out in forever], HELL YEAH and DANGER CLUB, and I just saw a banner ad for CATALYST COMIX out of Dark Horse (which was more-or-less a cutaway of the below #1 cover).

I thought it was gorgeous… Kind of like a cross between Geoff Darrow (or maybe P. Craig Russell on SANDMAN) and Popeye cartoons.

So here’s the criteria…

  • Banner ad for a [book?] I had never heard of… And who clicks banner ads anyway?
  • Not only was it disruptively engaging, eye-catching, and in my opinion gorgeous…
  • I even wrote a blog post about it!

Success!

Success?

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Comic: CATALYST COMIX #1
Artist: Rafael Grampá

Though the Popeye-esque chin on that protagonist (?) is what initially caught my eye, my favorite thing about Rafael Grampá’s cover has to be that right boot. They obviously applied computer coloring to his gorgeous, clean, cartoon-esque line work; but that boot. It’s just a huge chunk of black ink. In fact, it’s almost an eff-you to gradient color. I want to say all the detail is perfectly-applied negative space, but it actually looks like white ink (or at least white Photoshop). Love it regardless. Absolute best thing about a pretty great shot.

So (other than admiring that boot) what do I know about CATALYST COMIX?

Um… Nothing?

I know a mite about writer Joe Casey. He wrote one of my favorite comics, CODEFLESH (link is to a review I wrote on my old blog almost a Deckade ago), was responsible for the ingenious and ultimately unsuccessful WILDCATS 3.0, and is a co-creator of the character Ben 10 as a part of Man of Action; but of CATALYST COMIX, I know nothing.

But I thought the cover was engaging enough to pen these ~200 words.

If you are interested in learning more, Dark Horse has a free CATALYST COMIX preview on their website.

So… What do you think? Good enough cover for a Superficial Saturdays with no other knowledge?

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #4 – GREEN ARROW #40 by Marcos Martin

I have always had a short list of artists whose work I just go and buy almost unconditionally. My floppies collections past are littered with old issues of CLAN DESTINE, RUNE, and random Euro comix as testaments to an auto-buy devotion to Travis Charest, Alan Davis, Carlos Pacheco, or Barry Windsor-Smith from back in the 1990s. Today no artist rates higher on my personal scale than Marcos Martin.

You can probably see why:

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Comic: GREEN ARROW #40
Artist: Marcos Martin

Martin is an absolute master of sequential storytelling but his covers are pretty striking as well (as I am sure you can see).

In such a simple character image he hits so many notes here. Leather. Light. I feel like I can em effin’ swim in the ink pools of Black Canary’s one piece. And check out the hips on dear Dinah! Hips don’t lie BTW. I am just in love with this cover picture. Probably doesn’t hurt that — thanks to Gail Simone on BIRDS OF PREY — Black Canary is one of my favorite characters.

BDM says that one mark of a good cover is how much story it can imply in that single image. I think — and this is guided a bit by the caption on the right, natch — Martin does a spectacular job. Black Canary has a frowny-face. She is snapping an arrow. Her beau’s name is Green Arrow. Might they be breaking up in this ish?

The cover kind of screams that you should want to find out.

LOVE
MIKE

Superficial Saturdays #3 – THE ULTIMATES #4 by Bryan Hitch

I am scratching my head on this one.

This digital image does nothing to convey the power, energy, excitement, and lighting of Thor’s lightning:

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Comic: THE ULTIMATES #4
Artist: Bryan Hitch

You’ll have to accept my apologies, I guess.

But I can dial you back to 2002; it was a wondrous time in comics. BDM was getting THE CRAPTACULAR B-SIDES rolling at Marvel so we talked comics at least as much as we talked about Magic: The Gathering on a daily basis. THE ULTIMATES — Marvel’s big bet uniting the artist of the first arc of THE AUTHORITY with the writer of the controversial second arc of the same — was something special… It was the first time I could remember as a serious comics fan when the best book was also simultaneously the best selling book. Covers like ULTIMATES #4 were just inspiring and engaging and perfect for pulling you into a Marvel universe a half-tick off, where Thor was a revolutionary, Iron-Man was a drunken egotist, and Captain America was kindhearted Republican (and Hulk was an asshole).

[I assume] Paul Mounts’s [Paul Mounts being the credited interior colorist] colors jump off the cover and scream Scream SCREAM “pick this the hell up!” It’s you can almost hear the pitter-patter of those innumerable raindrops pummeling their god of storms; deep black gutters on either side, frame broken by the electrically-crackling / nail-driving weapon of mass destruction, boxing in and highlighting those sparkling arcs by their bottomless negative space; one lick of Thor’s hair flipped northward like some defiant Charlie’s Angel head-toss.

I mean you can look at the screen cap and appreciate — I assume — the skill of Hitch’s pencil.

But it just doesn’t “pop” like it should, like it does, like I remember it did in real life.

You’ll just have to trust me. Good, good stuff.

LOVE
MIKE