Friday, June 29, 2007

Books I Lettered But Didn’t Read Until Now #2

Even though my choice for the first installment of this Lazy Feature didn’t exactly set my Geek World on fire, I decided to pull another random trade off my shelf. This time around I decided shifting gears from a Garth Ennis book might be a good idea so I went with a good ol’ wholesome Captain America book. What I didn’t know is how wholesome this book turned out to be. And that’s not a bad thing.

Captain America Volume 4: “Captain America Lives Again” Collecting issues 17-20 and a Lee/Kirby Classic: Tales of Suspense # 66. Written by Dave Gibbons with art by Lee Weeks.

I have a lot of Captain America trades on the shelf and at first I was going to grab on of the Ed Brubaker ones (I think I have the first volume) but for some reason I just couldn’t do it. Maybe it’s because Cap “died” or maybe it was because I wasn’t in the mood for it’s “serious” tone. Maybe it’s because after all the media hype of Cap’s death, after all the new readers it brought into comic shops, Marvel decided to capitalize on that tidal wave of excitement by releasing the next issue a few months late. Way to keep ‘em coming back for more, guys.

But whatever, let’s get on with a Captain America book that I friggin’ LOVED!

Reading this trade reminded me why I continue to read Marvel stuff even when 99% of it makes me want the time I spent reading it back. But this trade made me feel like I was reading some old school Marvel.

The story is basically a “What If”. Starting off with Cap floating through the ocean in a block of ice but instead of getting picked up by the Avengers, he’s picked up by Nazis. Cap wakes up in a world where the Nazis won the war and the Red Skull is the big cheese. However, there’s an underground movement of freedom fighters led by your who’s-who of Marvel Superheroes. All out of costume but you don’t miss their fancy duds a bit. I’d go more into it, but I’d hate to spoil some of the neat reveals and surprises.

The story moves along at a great pace with tons of action and enough character interaction to make you wonder who’s up to what and why. There is even a time machine that is usually the down point of any story (the last time machine story I read involved Iron Man riding a horse in his armor complete with joust, Ugh) but Gibbons turned it into an integral part of the story without getting caught in the usual traps the time machine device can fall into. The time machine even tied the whole thing up in a nice bow.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the art of Lee Weeks. I’ve lettered a good amount of his work over the years and always enjoyed it but I never realized how good the guy is until I read this story. He’s one of the most underrated artists in the biz. I don’t know what he’s working on now but I want to go out and find more of his work. Actually, I have the trade of the recent Peter David run on “Hulk” that Weeks penciled. I’ll have to make the next book I pull of the shelf.

As a little bonus Marvel threw in Tales of Suspense #66, the origin of the Red Skull by Lee & Kirby. It’s classic, campy Stan Lee but still fun to read. A nice li’l addition to this really fun trade. If you get a chance to pick this one up, go for it. I think you’ll enjoy some good old-fashioned Captain America. I mean, he’s dead now…… right?

Thanks for reading, Folks!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Books I Lettered But Didn’t Read Until Now Reviews #1

Looking for some new comics to read I realized that I have shelves full of trades and I’ve read very few of them. One of the “perks” of being a letterer is the comps that show up at your door every few weeks. I haven’t been lettering full-time for months and books are still showing up. Last week FedEx left me with a few trades one being Wolverine Origin and the other was The Punisher. As I flipped through them I was surprised to realize that I didn’t remember either one at all. So over the past few subway commutes to work I decided to read one of ‘em.

So here’s the First in a series…

“Books I Lettered But Didn’t Read Until Now Reviews”
The Punisher Max Volume 7 “Man of Stone” by Garth Ennis & Leandro Fernandez

First of all as a letterer, this book was in the top 2 as far as the most well prepared scripts in which to letter from. This book was a breeze to letter for 40 plus issues and if the rest of my lettering work went as well as The Punisher did I might still be lettering. But that’s another story.

I was a huge fan of the Ennis/Dillon Punisher stuff back in the day and after reading the “Man of Stone” storyline I was reminded about what I don’t like about the Punisher Max incarnation. This really goes deeper than just the Punisher Max run but the entire Max line as a whole. But more on that later.

While Ennis is usually good for an entertaining read this story was as pedestrian as a Steven Segal movie. Here’s the ingredients. Take your loner (Punisher) and pit him against incredible odds as he faces a rogue Russian General on foreign soil. Throw in the Punisher’s tough-as-nails-and-hard-to-get Love Interest whose out for justice on her abusive husband. The abusive husband is your basic scumbag American Traitor who happens to be using the Russian General as a way to get the Punisher out of hiding. Segal--I mean--the Punisher sports some major machismo as he teams up with the Love Interest amidst a frenzy of sexual tension. He takes out the Russian with just his wits and a Houdiniesque escape that’ll make you wonder what the show McGuyver would’ve been like if it were an R Rated Movie. Oh, and don’t forget the General’s right hand man who has a major attitude problem but “surprisingly” gets his in the end.

Outside of the formulaic storyline Ennis’s writing was just peppered with curse words that are really the only reason I can see keeping this book in the Max line. Now I’m no alter boy, I’ve been known to curse like a longshoreman, but the use of these words just seem so out of place. It’s like a bad Howard Stern rip-off radio show getting a day of FCC Free radio. They seem to be used purely for shock value… although they’re not shocking to anyone over the age of 8.

When Marvel first announced it’s “Adult” line of comics it was thought that it could be the answer to DC’s very successful Vertigo line. Vertigo is almost an entirely stand-alone line similar to a creator-owned line or “independent” line of comics. Vertigo doesn’t hinge on Superman and Batman but rather books like “Fables”. Now I’ll admit that Vertigo has had much more time to iron out any problems while the Max line is still relatively new, but one would think that with a model such as Vertigo that Marvel could’ve learned from their cross-town rivals. Instead the Max line seems like its in limbo. Looking from the outside it seems as if the line could fade away and nothing would be missed. Just move the Punisher back into the regular Marvel Universe. Or turn Punisher War Journal into regular ol’ Punisher and viola!

While Vertigo seems to be a place where their creators can take independent ideas free of DC Universe tangles, Marvel has taken that possibility away from the Max line with the Icon Line, which is a series of books created to give big-name creators a place to show-off their non-Marvel universe creations.

What will Max Line’s fate be? Your guess is as good as mine. Right now it doesn’t look good unless somebody comes along with a clear vision as to what the line means to Marvel. Because it has to be more than a Punisher book fulla cuss words.

So that’s my first rather scathing review of books I lettered but didn’t read. Boy, looking back what’s more scathing than Segal movie comparison? Eeek.

I’ll pull something else off the shelf tonight…hopefully I’ll enjoy it!

Stay tuned folks and thanks for reading.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Back with some cool news!

So I can’t lie, I’ve been back from my Honeymoon for 2 weeks and it’s basically taken this long to come down from the amazing time Ereisa and I had. There’ll be some choice pictures at some time, so stay tuned.

Now it’s time to get back into the swing of things, which is one of the hardest things to do when you’re doing your own webcomic. There’s nobody to kick you in the pants when you’re late. One way I’ve found that is a great way to combat this is establishing a deadline. Sure, you can just arbitrarily pick a random deadline and that often works for me. “Randall Month” was one of those self-imposed deadlines that worked well for me. But this latest deadline is one that I’m really beginning to feel the pressure of but at the same time, I’m super excited about it.

If you’re a fan of comic book Podcasts like I am you’ve probably heard of Comic Geek Speak. They’re a long running show and are one of the best shows you’ll find online. Coming up in September they’ll be celebrating their 300th Episode with what is essentially turning into a CGS Convention. It started back on Episode 100 and it grew quite considerably with Episode 200 but 300 has all the makings of an all-out comic geek fest of epic proportions and I’m lucky enough to be a part of the festivities as a guest. Along with Mike Norton (DC’s The All-New Atom), Steve Bryant (Athena Voltaire), Morry Hollowell (Civil War) and others I’ll be there pimping NYComix and Randall. So if you’re in the Reading, PA area on September 21-23th stop on by. Tickets are available now through CGS so check it out. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the previous celebrations so expect nothing different for 300.

Sure this all sounds like a ton of fun but the reality of the whole thing is that I really need to get my ass in gear and finish the first Randall storyline. I’ve ironed out the last details of the storyline and have laid down the beginnings of the dialogue but what that really does for me is give me an idea of how many pages this bad boy will end up being. I think there are 15 pages on Pixelstrips now and it’ll be around another 15 or so to finish before September.

On top of all this I realize that I need to get people to come over and check out my comics so a little self-promotion needs to be done as well. One way I’m going to do this is a free sketch “promotion” I’m doing over at the CGS forums. So far I’m up to 14 sketches that I’m going to do now that will be picked up at 300.

Yeah, it’s a lot of work but it’s something that I’m really looking forward to. So if you’re a fan of CGS and can make it out to the show, let them know and then let me know you’re going to be there. It should be a lot of fun.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading,