After getting over a very nasty virus (who am I kidding – I’m still coughing from it), I had a really good laugh at my local comic store the other day.
Every Wednesday when the new comics arrive, I get there shortly after opening as I have a busy day ahead of me usually. In fact, Wednesday’s are my only day off from my real-life job.
That’s beside the point.
There are regulars that come in every Wednesday like myself. A lot of the folks who come in are your typical comic nerds, while a few of them are the ones who are the stereotypical “living in your mothers basement and only come out on Wednesdays” kind of fans. I guess you could dub them the “social rejects” solely because their entire lives are based around comics. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about – the people who talk and argue totally for the sake of hearing their own voice; the people who are socially inept to have any conversation outside of comics; the type of person who will walk up to you while you’re minding your own business and say something out loud in hopes that you respond to it.
Yeah, those people.
Usually when those folks come into my LCS on Wednesday’s, everyone goes running and just tries to avoid them at all costs.
Well this past Wednesday, one of them actually said something worth-while. The conversation goes as follows:
LSC Owner: “So who do you think is going to win Avengers versus X-Men?”
Customer in a loud, boisterous voice: “I don’t know. But I can tell you who is going to lose. The fans, that’s who!”
The entire store erupted in laughter. Every week this customer comes in and just babbles on nonsense about comics which we all hear day-in and day-out. However this one comment really struck a chord with everyone.
I’ve been left thinking about it since Wednesday. Why, out of everything this customer said in the past, have they finally said something worth-while laughing to?
I think the answer is simple: He’s right.
Marvel’s big push with this whole AvX event is great for business, I’m sure, but also leaving a sour taste in comic fan’s mouths. How many more “life altering” or “status quo changing” events can we get each year? Last year’s Fear Itself was a major flop, while DC’s Brightest Day dragged on for so long that they rebooted their franchise! (And yes, I know that’s not why they started the New 52.)
How many more of these events can fans take until they realize that they’re being toyed with year in and year out?
The irony to this little discussion is that I’m currently collecting the Avengers vs. X-Men event. Not to mention, I also have the terrible Fear Itself that happened last year – the Siege that happened before it, Secret Invasion, Civil War, House of M, Avengers Disassembled, World War Hulk, and so on.
The core fans will still collect – regardless of how they’re treated because. . . I don’t know why.
After Fear Itself’s terrible story and The Avengers/New Avengers re-hashing the Siege’s “Dark Avengers,” I literally almost dropped comics all together. If it weren’t for my faith in a few titles for me – Uncanny X-Force, X-Factor, Swamp Thing, plus a few more, I wouldn’t have kept reading.
I collect most X-books now because of continuity, the sense of family, plus the history I have had with the comics.
Since Fear Itself hit me, I’ve branched out to many smaller comic companies and started reading things I never would have before, just so I could finally see what else was out there.
For example, I turned to Swamp Thing with DC’s new 52. (I’m aware that’s not a smaller company). But I’ve also picked up newer stories like Saucer Country, and am getting back in to The Walking Dead. I’ve picked up old trades of The Tick, and recently found the entire omnibus of Too Much Coffee Man. I’m on the look-out for newer horror series, and also some fun science-fiction plots. I’ve bought my first Star Wars comic (despite being a huge fan in real life) with Dark Horse’s “Dawn of the Jedi” series. Had I still been collecting the amount of Marvel books in the past, I never would’ve budgeted for anything outside of superhero books.
So let’s go back to the answer the customer at my LCS said: “But I can’t tell you who is going to lose. The fans, that’s who!”
Well I suppose that’s a matter of perspective. Although I “lost” because of some terrible story-crossovers, I’ve “won” by finding new stories and gems to now call my own.
If anything, the major crossovers make the major comic companies lose because their faithful ones like me start to drop particular books.
When an industry like comic books are on the brink of extinction – something incredible happens and spins it around! What’s even more incredible is that there is still tons of profit towards digital content which DC has not spoke of yet. And for the big kicker from ICV2.com:
“To help feed the demand (and to provide a holiday product supporting the launch), DC is releasing DC Comics: The New 52, a hardcover collection of all 52 stories, on December 7th (to comic stores; other channels street December 13th). The volume will retail for $150.00.”
I think that’s an excellent idea. I’ve read a bit of the new 52 and was unable to fork out as much money as I could for all of the comics on my pull list. I think this is an excellent way to continue their excellent idea.
Although I was worried at first, it really seems like DC has everything under control. This has officially helped the comic industry – and I really hope it continues to.
Even with recent objections to how Catwoman and Starfire have been depicted in comics, DC came out on their Twitter feed and stated in two Tweets:
“We’ve heard what’s being said about Starfire today and we appreciate the dialogue on this topic.”
“We encourage people to pay attention to the ratings when picking out any books to read themselves or for their children.”
Well-handled. To top it all off, they got the message about how upset people were with the depictions.
Wow! What an incredible weekend! FanExpo was so much fun this year. Great improvements were made with spacing and positioning of booths, that I never felt too overcrowded when I was there. This is the first time I went to FanExpo and could not think of how they could improve for next year. It was that good.
But on to comics! (And as a warning, all the pictures were taking by my phone)
For the short time I was there, I talked to TONS of artists and writers. To top it all off, I met the legendary Chris Claremont!
Upon going into the Expo at 4:00pm, I immediately wanted to meet Chris Claremont. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend on the Thursday, so I had to make my way to the second people on my list: Matt Fraction (Iron Man, Thor, Uncanny X-Men, Fear Itself) and Kelly Sue DeConnick (Osborn, Supergirl, Castle). As it turned out, meeting them was the entire highlight of the convention.
I only brought stuff up for Kelly Sue to sign on Thursday, while the Friday was for Fraction. Upon meeting Kelly Sue, I tossed down my Osborn series for her to sign and asked her a few questions. While answering, she paused and asked my name to sign.
I said, “Derek.”
“How do you spell that?”
“Is this, ‘Uncanny Derek?'”
I smiled and replied, “Maybe.”
Needless to say, it instantly became the highlight of the convention. Then she personalized Osborn #1 for me.
I asked her if I could get a picture of her with Fraction, as he just freed up from signing. But Kelly Sue asked if I wanted to be in the picture. How could I say no?
After telling Matt Fraction that I’d return for him tomorrow, I ran into Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and VP of Creative Development, C.B. Cebulski. After chatting for a few moments, this happened:
Needless to say, I was at the convention for literally a half hour and was completely enthused about how everything was going so far. I could peruse through comics, toys, booths and the-like without any issues of cramming or bumping into anyone. I managed to nick a few more Uncanny X-Men’s off of my pull-list for dirt-cheap (and in great quality) too. I picked up Uncanny X-Men #95, #120, (both which Claremont signed later) #132, #135, and #266 – the (arguably) first appearance of Gambit.
I walked down Artist’s Alley – a place designated for artists and writers to hang out and chat with fans. The first person I ran into was Marko Djurdjevic. He was quite the outgoing person – very laid back and care-free, but with a hint of elitism. I soon figured out why. I had quite a few of comics for him to sign – and I asked him what’s next on his plate. He told me he just quit Marvel about two months ago and that he was going back to video game concept art. Albeit shocked, I congratulated him and asked why. He simply told me his contract was up and he did not want to have to deal with higher-ups anymore. Fair enough.
One of the comics he signed was my copy of New Mutants #27. I told him that it was my favourite cover I’ve seen in awhile, and he began to laugh. He absolutely hated it and thought it was the worst “piece of shit” he ever created, and that he “has it buried” in files so he can never see it again. Admittedly, I found that hilarious too, but I congratulated him and went on my way.
I went on to find a very modest artist, Jimmy Cheung, who revealed to me that he has been working on Avengers: The Children’s Crusade for the past TWO years. He also clarified that it takes about two and a half months for him to finish one book of The Children’s Crusade. No wonder why it looks so breath-taking. He also said that the last few issues will probably be delayed because there is still much work for him to finish with. But he was a great, genuine guy.
From there, I headed to the panel, “Breaking into Comics: The Marvel Way.” As an aspiring writer, I would love to know some tricks of the trade. The panel shed some light on how writers can break into the medium and definitely raised some good pointers on how important it is to not just love comics. There’s a lot more to the trade than it seems.
From left to right: Matt Fraction, Axel Alonso, C.B. Cebulski, Mark Brooks (Uncanny X-Force), and Arune Singh (Marvel Communications).
My last guest of the evening was Fred Van Lente (Taskmaster, Incredible Hercules, Chaos War, Alpha Flight). Like Cheung, Van Lente was a truly genuine person, and I was really looking forward to speaking with him. Wearing a dress shirt and suspenders, he was really excited and involved when chatting with me. He also gave a few writing pointers. I then asked him how him and writer Greg Pak got to co-writing everything. Turns out Pak had too much on his plate during Incredible Hercules as Pak was busy with World War Hulk at the time. Marvel tossed over Van Lente for help – and the rest became history. The duo worked well together. Van Lente said that Pak would initially start writing and left Van Lente to really finish the stories – and essentially, that is still how they write to this day.
Van Lente also mentioned that he received his humour in comics as a defense mechanism for being picked on all the time through grade and high school. Turns out we have a ton in common, too.
The busier of the two days, Friday was my day to see Claremont, as well as wrap things up with Fraction and hopefully run into a few other wonderful people.
Arriving around 2:00pm, I met Matt Fraction again. I asked him a few questions about writing comics – how he is able to separate all of the voices from one another (ie. How Pixie uses magic but doesn’t come off as Asgardian). But he also said that some voices he couldn’t get, so he didn’t use them – which is his reason to why Storm hardly ever spoke during his run on Uncanny X-Men.
I then asked him some general writing questions and re-mentioned I was an aspiring writer. There, Fraction looked me in the eyes and gave me incredible advice for literally, the next five minutes. He was very involved in telling me the “do’s and don’ts” as well as touching base with his own past experiences – struggling to get started and now working with a wife, mortgage and two children. But the way he spoke to me, it was if he was teaching me how to write. He was very emotive about how his writing process works and what I could do to succeed. It absolutely floored me. I stood there, absorbing every word he said as it was so profound to my ears. And no, I will not repeat it. 🙂 When he was done, I had nothing else but great thanks and appreciation his way.
After I shook his hand, I walked away from the table and pulled out my notebook to write down everything he just said to me. Yes, it was that important to me.
Since it was now Friday, new creators were down Artists Alley to meet. Artist Alex Maleev (Moon Knight, Scarlet, Daredevil) was consistently doing commission work at his table – and always surrounded by an audience. I walked by his table about four times, and each time he was doing something different. Here is Maleev working on an Elektra:
Passing Maleev, I met Stuart Immonen (Fear Itself, New Avengers, Superman). As if Cheung and Van Lente weren’t enough, Immonen was intense and graciously happy to be doing what he is doing. I cannot remember what I asked him unfortunately, however, the panel I saw him at shortly after was pretty darn fun.
When 3:00pm rolled around, I got in line for Chris Claremont which was already about thirty people long. His signing was at 3:30pm. Next to him were artists Kalman Andrasofszky (X-23, NYX) and Dale Keown (Incredible Hulk). I spoke with Dale very briefly and thanked him for being an inspiration to my drawing. I told him how I re-created a cover of his and how it got me back into drawing again and he was beyond-happy to hear that. Then came Chris Claremont.
From left to right: Claremont, Keown, and Andrasofszky.
Meeting Chris was pretty exciting. I heard stories that he was a bit rude at times, but I was giving him the benefit of the doubt today. He signed my copies of Uncanny X-Men #95, #107, #109, #120, #137, #141 and #142. I asked him how he came up with the ending of the Dark Phoenix Saga and what made him decide that Jean Grey should die (as killing off a main character was unheard of back then). He gave me quite the long answer which left me satisfied. After he was done, I asked if I could get a picture with him. He said, “Sure” and I stood beside him. As I did, he grabbed the next person in lines stack of books (the ENTIRE run of X-Men Forever) and started signing them. I posed and saw in my peripherals that he hadn’t looked up. Maybe he hadn’t heard me? I asked again if I could get a photo with him. He said, “Sure,” and so I stood beside him waiting. Alas, he didn’t look up. My result:
I suppose I should have expected that.
During my line up for Claremont, a panel with Matt Fraction, Kelly DeConnick, and Stuart and Kathryn Immonen had started called “Couples in Comics.” I arrived about twenty minutes late, so I unfortunately missed who the other folk were (I can’t know EVERYONE in the comic business). The room was partly filled – which is a shame because the panel was great. Not only did everyone speak about how they work in the business together, but Fraction and Stuart both spoke about how it was to be partners. There, Stuart said how he usually doesn’t read the dialogue to what is said in the scripts – but rather, draws the actions instead. Kelly Sue was blown away by the statement, while Fraction seemed a bit shocked over it. However, Kathryn stepped in and said that Stuart was being a bit overzealous in that statement, leaving the room with a ton of laughs. It was a really fun and exciting panel to be at. I wish I had just seen the whole thing though.
From left to right: Fraction, DeConnick, Stuart and Kathryn Immonen.
After the panel, I decided to see the final artist I would meet for the day: Leonard Kirk (New Mutants, Sigil). He was busy working on commissions too, and unfortunately had very little time to talk. I wished to get a commission out of him, but he was backed up and I was on my last day there. Boo-urns. However, it is still great to see a local resident here work for Marvel. It’s still pretty neat.
FanExpo was one excellent adventure this year. For only going for two days, I accomplished quite a bit. I did miss out on Mark Brooks and Dale Eaglesham – who were on my “to see” list, and I missed out on a few panels. However, the information and encouragement I left with made all the difference.
Tomorrow I am off to FanExpo Canada. In a nutshell, it’s Canada’s equivalent to the San Diego Comic Con. Admittedly, it’s not nearly as large, nor does it draw a huge slush of big Hollywood celebrities – but it’s definitely a place I look forward going to every year.
Last year, as if you hadn’t known already, I met the legendary Stan Lee. This year, while Stan Lee will not be there, a huge group of comic artists and writers will be. I’m looking very forward to meeting and talking to a bunch of them. Most importantly, a brilliant writer: Chris Claremont.
But for this year, I’m only going up for two days – Thursday and Friday – due to work obligations and finances. However, that will not stop me from having a ton of fun. Expect tons of pictures when I come back.
In fact, let’s see my schedule for the Con:
People to See/Get Signed:
Chris Claremont #743 (Uncanny X-Men)
Leonard Kirk #P055 (New Mutants)
Mark Brooks #P045 (Uncanny X-Force)
Dale Eaglesham #P066 (Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulks)
Fred Van Lente #P065 (Taskmaster, Chaos War)
C.B. Cebulski Booth #743 (Marvel VP)
Kelly Sue DeConnick #P002 (Osborn) (Friday)
Jimmy Cheung (Avengers: Children’s Crusade)
Axl Alonso (Marvel Editor-in-Chief)
Panels & Signings: Thursday:
5pm, Room 714 – Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way
7pm, Room 717 – Redefining the FF – Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting & Marko Djurdjevic
11:30am, Room 716 – Sketching Duel: Marko Djurdjevic & Tony Daniel
1pm, Room 717 – Fred Van Lente & Dale Eaglesham on Alpha Flight
2:30pm, Room 714 – Marvel: Fear Itself
Auto CC 3:30pm – Signing Session: Marko Djurdjevic (NM, SA)
As you can see, there are some major names on that schedule of mine. I’m very excited to talk to Fred Van Lente on how incredible his Taskmaster series was. I also am looking forward to meeting Kelly Sue to express my appreciation for her work on Osborn.
I’m probably going to get some commission work done as well. Leonard Kirk is on the top of my list, while, if at all possible, I’d like to see how much Djurdjevic charges – if he’s doing any at all.
When I’m not in line for, or in the panels and signing sessions, I will be scouring the immense showroom floor; checking out costumes, booths, and other artists. I’m still on the hunt to complete the entire run of Uncanny X-Men, so we’ll see how that goes!
I did say I wasn’t staying the whole weekend for financial reasons, right?
A new week of comics have came along! This also includes the premiere of the new maxiseries, Alpha Flight, and some superb storytelling in Peter David’s X-Factor. Although I don’t particularly feel the need to review Avengers #14 entirely, all I will say is I’m going to be dropping the series after the Fear Itself arc. I’m tired of the same “Block Pages” in each story. I’m also tired of hearing the same voices for each character. Although Romita Jr’s art was superb in this issue – and the idea behind the story is great – I’ve grown tired of Bendis’ execution.
But we’ll see how things go.
As for another turn of events, you may remember my first review of FF #1 back in March, but I’ve decided to pick the series up again (in lieu of The Avengers). That, and Black Bolt is apparently returning for issue #6. I love the Inhumans and have always followed them on their journeys. I was especially involved in the War and Realm of Kings stories, so I’m very excited to see how Black Bolt’s return will play a role in those current plots.
X-Factor #221 Peter David (writer), Dennis Calero (pencils, inks), Brian Reber (colours), Cory Petit (letters), David Yardin (cover). $2.99
Feral’s back from the dead but still dead! If that isn’t enough to intrigue you into the story, then I don’t know what will.
Continuing from last months cliffhanger, both Shatterstar and Wolfsbane are on the run from Feral – who is being used by a being of immense power – to anchor demons amongst other paranormal creatures to kill Wolfsbane. If that isn’t enough, Layla has gone banana’s at the base and is putting symbols as wards on the doors and windows. I think she knows stuff.
For such a short issue, David tackles what he needs to: Rahne’s and Feral’s past, Shatterstar’s humour, Rictor’s concerns of Shatterstar’s whereabouts and Layla being Layla. It all flows naturally and never feels pushed at all. That is what makes X-Factor such a joy to read. No dialogue feels forced to move the plot along and the reader can just accept what is happening as just another day.
Dennis Calero’s art is definitely a noticeable change from Emanuela Lupacchino’s bright, splashy pages and “well-endowed” characters. But much like Lupacchino’s work, Calero does brilliant facial features. We can tell what each character is feeling even if words were not on the page. Calero’s art, tied in with Reber’s noticeably dramatic dark colours, give this book the mood it needs given the gravity of the situation within its pages. Because of the duo, the final panel of the book could not be scarier to loyal X-Factor readers.
This issue is the beginning to where all-things in X-Factor shall come crashing down. It’s going to be one exciting ride.
Personal note: I rarely write reviews about X-Factor because it feels like I’d be writing about family. Uncanny X-Men and X-Men Legacy have great “family” moments which makes their readers feel invested with the characters. This is noticed when the X-Men mention an issue or event that readers have read in the past. With X-Factor, it’s inherent fluidity is what makes me feel invested. If you’re into that, I highly recommend you pick up all of X-Factor’s back-issues starting with #1 (in 2006). If not, go ahead and pick up #200 – which is an excellent starting point. (And so you know, X-Factors numbering goes #1-50, then #200-onwards)
I had to write a review for this issue because it was just too darn-exciting for me not to.
Alpha Flight #1 Fred Van Lente & Greg Pak (writers), Dale Eaglesham (pencils), Andrew Hennessy (inks), Sonia Oback (colours), Simon Bowland(letters), Phil Jimenez & Frank D’Armata (cover). $3.99
Taking place after the events after both Alpha Flight #0.1 and Fear Itself, Alpha Flight is officially back with their own maxiseries! (It’s a word, right?)
Attuma, or “Nerkkod – Breaker of the Oceans” is chosen for a hammer as seen in the Fear Itself story, and is terrorizing Vancouver, Canada. (Coincidently, Boston just did the same thing.) Fortunately, the reborn Canadian superheroes are able to put a hold on Nerkkod’s plans of complete devastation. All except Northstar, who is unsure of himself and is content with his boyfriend Kyle in Montreal. To make matters worse, in the #0.1 issue, Gary Cody and his Unity Party just won Parliament and is now running the country. He abolishes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and declares the Emergency Act to control the chaos Fear Itself is creating in the country. And there’s still more! Actually, there are still three major problems in the story which I could go on about. But where’s the fun if I told you?
The great thing is that Fear Itself definitely plays a strong hand in Alpha Flight. There are so many problems happening in the story that even I felt overwhelmed – and that’s exactly what Van Lente and Pak want you to feel. The world is turned upside-down and us readers are right in the middle of it. Alpha Flight does their best to deal with that is at hand, but it is only bound to get worse.
And holy sh–! Eaglesham’s work is impeccable. Page-after-page is sheer emotion and brilliant layouts. You can look into the backgrounds and be wowed by how much detail goes into his art. Great facial features really shine in this issue. Most particularly with Shaman versus Nerkkod, Kyle having a freak out over the phone, and Aurora’s attitude throughout the book. He also reworked Marrina’s costume to really spruce up her attitude. With Hennessy’s and Oback’s great contrasts (especially on Snowbird’s transformations), we’re left with a gorgeous book. Although, yes, Eaglesham had some stiffness in certain panels, the pros entirely outweigh the cons here.
My biggest beef isn’t even really a problem. It is the first few pages where the characters get stereotypically introduced in comic book fashion where by saving civilians they have their names called out to them. It’s corny, but it still works.
There is so much crammed into this book and tons left to solve by the end, that I’m surprised we’re only getting eight issues of it. Hopefully our Canadian heroes can handle it. But from the looks of their creative team, they’re in good hands.