Salvatore Pane

Tag: Robert Kirkman

Free Comic Book Day 2011

So most of the people who read this blog are probably from the literary world, and hey, that’s awesome. That’s my primary… world I guess. But I wanted to take some time to talk about another medium of fiction that is near and dear to my heart: comic books. Most indie lit writers/readers always come out to support indie bookstores, and I think it’s time that we recognize we have a cousin in arms in comic book stores. They’re all indie. And they might be dying on account of a host of factors (mostly the same ones plaguing the brick and mortar book stores). This Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, an event which I think has become the comic store’s best attempt at bringing in new readers. But what is Free Comic Book Day? Glad you asked!

Free Comic Book Day is exactly what it sounds like. You go to your comic store and get free comics. Not just any comics, but a whole host of comics prepared from the major publishers and the indies to try and hook in new readers. Most comic stores have other events as well. I’ll be at Phantom in the Attic in Pittsburgh this year, but last year I went to my childhood store, Comics in the Green in Scranton. They had face painting for the kids and a couple of artists and writers doing free signings for the adults. The local news team even dropped by. But what are some of the comics you can get for free? CHECK THIS SHIT OUT!

I’m a massive fan of Dan Slott’s Spider-Man and this is the perfect jumping on point. If you enjoyed the Spider-Man films, go to your local comic store and pick this issue up for free.

Ian Brill has been knocking his Darkwing Duck and Rescue Rangers series out of the park. If you have any nostalgia for Disney Afternoon, check out this book FOR FREE.

There’s a Green Lantern movie coming out. Read this and you’ll know who the character is. Plus, it leads into Flashpoint which is DC’s big summer event.

Remember The Dark Crystal? It’s back. In comic form! This one’s from Archaia and they always put out quality work. Recommended. I picked up their Fraggle Rock book for my goddaughter recently and she seemed to enjoy it.

It’s called Super Dinosaur and it’s written by Robert Kirkman, co-creator of The Walking Dead. What else do you people want?

I’ll admit I wasn’t on the Atomic Robo bandwagon when it first came out, but I was totally wrong. This book is hilarious. Bizarre science and wacky time travel. Did I mention it’s free?

There are these movies coming out. Captain America and Thor. Prepare yourself!

More people need to be going to Free Comic Book Day. You have nothing to lose. It’s free. Seriously, if you’ve ever even considered getting into comics now is the time. Pick the series you want to get into then take the free issue. It’s that simple. They tell you want to buy next. And if you do go, buy something (I recommend volume one of Ex Machina). Support your local comic stores or we’re not going to have a comics industry ten years down the road.

Oh! And you say you don’t know your local comic book store? BOOM! This site finds it for you.

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Bi-Weekly Comics Friday Roundup VII: Obama, Spawn and Harry Potter Together At Last!!!

I’ve hit a bit of a buying comics lull. During the busiest of weeks, my pull list occasionally balloons into the low twenties (I know; I’m a huge dork). But ever since The Heroic Age started at Marvel, I’ve found myself picking up three books at most, occasionally four. This has less to do with the quality of the comics and more to do with Marvel reshuffling their line and staggering their big releases. I’m still reading a bunch of indie and DC/Vertigo titles, but Marvel definitely makes up the lion’s share of my pull list, and I was definitely reading the majority of their Dark Reign/Siege offerings. In terms of trades, I’m making my way through Daredevil: Born Again. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Man Without Fear, but Frank Miller is making me a believer.

All right, enough procrastination. Let’s talk some comics.

1. Guardians of the Globe #1 written by Robert Kirkman with art from Benito Cereno

I know almost nothing about the Guardians of the Globe. They’re a superhero team in the Invincible Universe created by Robert Kirkman, one of my favorite writers and the scribe behind my beloved Walking Dead. Normally, I wouldn’t check out this book because I do eventually plan on reading Invincible from the beginning. But this stunt is enough to pique my interest. A few months back, Image teased the team lineup including Barack Obama, Spawn, Rick Grimes (the black-and-white protagonist of Walking Dead), and a Harry Potter knock off. Eventually, Image admitted it was all a prank, but now Chris Giarrusso of G-MAN fame is writing a back-up feature in Guardians about the fake team. I’m sold. Barack and Spawn!? Fake Harry Potter!? RICK MOTHERFUCKING GRIMES!!?? This is going to eat my face.

2. Avengers #2 written by Brian Michael Bendis with art from John Romita Jr.

Look at that cover. No, really, LOOK AT THAT COVER! Are you kidding me? Really? It’s so awesome I can barely even focus right now. Look at those evil clowns in the bunny suits! How about the gnomes holding hands with the walking eyeballs!? As for the comic, well, I’m a huge Bendis devotee and John Romita Jr is the closest thing the American comic industry has to royalty. I didn’t fall head over heels in love with the first issue of the new series–I thought Secret Avengers #1 one-upped it–but I’m willing to give the time traveling Kang story another whirl for a cover this gloriously strange.

3. Irredeemable #14 written by Mark Waid with art from Diego Barreto

I’ve sung the praises of Irredeemable many times on this blog. I love Mark Waid, and I love his tale of a Superman analogue who has had enough of petty human demands and goes insane, murdering the Justice League and blowing up entire countries. But what I really love is this cover. It says it all, doesn’t it? You take one look at this cover and you know what you’re in store for. God bless you, Mark Waid. And please, if you haven’t read Irredeemable, do yourself a favor and pick up the first trade. It’s only ten bucks!

4. Thor and the Warriors Four #3 written by Alex Zalben with art from Gurihiru

Alez Zalben is hilarious. His comic book review show, appropriately titled Comic Book Club, is awesome and the CBC live show in New York is legendary (I’m dying to see it in person). I wouldn’t have picked this up if it wasn’t for Zalben, but I’m glad I did. He brings his trademark humor to the Thor/Power Pack franchises, and if you’re a bit tired of the doom and gloom of the more mainstream superhero books, Thor and the Warriors Four is the way to go. Let me just put this out there: Baby Beta Ray Bill. Ok. Is that sinking in yet? Go buy this book. And Marvel, please put Zalben on some kind of Short Halloween-esque Spider-Man one-shot.

5. Sweet Tooth #10 written and drawn by Jeff Lemire

I’ve gone back to the well a few times this week, but I just couldn’t resist highlighting Sweet Tooth once again based on this two-page spread. If it looks wonky on your display, I apologize. Just know that Sweet Tooth #10 is one of the trippiest comics I’ve read in forever. The second arc in Jeff Lemire’s opus hasn’t been quite as strong as the first, but the standout moments are so great that they demand readers stick with the series. Again, the first trade is only ten bucks. So if you’re one of those people who complains about not wanting to jump on Spider-Man because it’s in the 600th issue, shut up and go buy Sweet Tooth. You can catch up to ten.

Bi-Weekly Friday Comics Roundup V: In Which Spider-Man and Wolverine Go Back In Time to Fight the Asteroid that Killed the Dinosaurs

A lot of big name comics have come out in the last few weeks including the end of Siege (the conclusion to Marvel’s seven years in the making event run dating back to House of M) and Brightest Day (DC’s fourth attempt at a (practically) weekly series). I loved Brightest Day #0 and 1 but found myself more drawn to the kookier books which most likely speaks to my tastes as a comic book reader. So, without any further adieu, let’s talk some comics.

1. The Nightly News written and drawn by Jonathan Hickman

I bought The Nightly News completely on a whim for ten bucks. I was at the Free Comic Book Day Event in Scranton where Comics on the Green, the best comic store in NEPA, had a sale on graphic novels. I love Hickman’s work on SHIELD and Secret Warriors, so I figured I’d take a look at some of his indie credits. The Nightly News is the first book I’ve seen from Hickman that he actually drew, and holy crap was I blown away. His complete disregard for the traditional grid layout and reliance on graphic design makes Nightly News something that needs to be seen to be believed. The book just exudes cool, and it’s really smart too. It even includes a reading list in the back with entries from Noam Chomsky and Dan Kennedy. Definitely worth a pick-up, especially if you think comics ends and begins with Clark Kent.

2. Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #1 written by Jason Aaron with art from Adam Kubert

This is the type of book that makes me keep reading superhero comics, a book so goofy, so downright ridiculous that it can only exist in comic book form and still be played straight without irony. The very first page of Astonishing opens on Peter Parker and Wolverine who have been trapped in the prehistoric ages for months. Wolverine commands an army of missing links; Spidey studies bugs in solitude. Then the asteroid that wipes out the dinosaurs shows up in the sky. What are Spider-Man and Wolverine going to do about it? I have no idea, but I guarantee I’ll be sticking with this limited series.

3. The Walking Dead #71 written by Robert Kirkman with art from Charlie Adlard

For those of you unaware, The Walking Dead is the most consistently great indie book on the stands. No matter what the state of superhero comics, I can always depend on any given month’s issue of Walking Dead to deliver. #71 is no different. Rick and his gang of post-apocalyptic survivors have stumbled onto an unspoiled gated development outside of DC run by a bunch of upper-class yuppies pretending the zombie infestation isn’t really happening. As always, the true creepiness in the book comes from the human characters. Issue 71 doesn’t even feature a single zombie. Instead, we witness the growth of Carl, Rick’s young son pictured in the cover, and how he is completely unable to relate to children after everything he’s been through (seeing firsthand his mother and newborn sister getting blown away by a shotgun, strangling a young child to death, almost being raped, etc. etc.). This is one of the darkest comics I’ve ever read, and any fan of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road absolutely must check it out from the very beginning.

4. The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 written by Grant Morrison with art from Chris Sprouse

This is the first time I’ve ever mentioned a comic before reading it, but the build-up to this series has been so good that I couldn’t resist. Two years ago, the DC mega-crossover Final Crisis ended with Bruce Wayne deposited in prehistoric times to live with cavemen and dinosaurs (hmm… this is turning into a running theme). Since then, we’ve been treated to amazing stories where Dick Grayson, the original Robin, has had to fill in as Batman. But now, we’re finally going to see what brings Bats back to the DC Universe proper. And since it’s Grant Morrison doing writing chores, I would safely assume that this book is going to be all kinds of crazy. A definite pick-up to be sure.

5. Unpublished artist Jaime Castro

This is the final character sketch I’ll post from collaborator Jaime Castro, but hot damn, this is my favorite piece of concept art I’ve ever received from an artist I’m working with.  Jaime knocked this drawing of Dr. Boston out of the park, and Mark Kleman (my co-writer) and I, cannot wait to get the full comic back from Montgomery X. Chesterfield, Gentleman of the 22nd Century. More details to come.

Top Ten Graphic Novels for the Literary Inclined

A few weeks ago I workshopped a story involving superheroes. It wasn’t genre, and the piece took place after every hero and villain on earth lost their powers. So really, there wasn’t even much discussion of superheroics. Instead, the piece leaned closer towards doemstic realism except every once in awhile someone would say something like, “Is this about the Eternity Gems? Have you found the Eternity Gems?” with little to no explanation. Mostly, I used the bygone era of super-powered adventuring as a metaphor for feeling like your best years are behind you.

The workshop went really well, but what was particularly interesting to me was my classmates’ assumptions about comic books. It seems that most people still think comics are aimed at children and riddled with the genre trappings of not the Silver Age, but even earlier, before Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and Will Eisner altered the face of sequential storytelling forever. It was with this mindset that I recently read Dan Phillips’ how-to on IGN about getting comic virgins into the medium. It’s a great article but purposely doesn’t have a list of books to recommend because Phillips believes (and rightfully so) that you should tailor your recommendations to that particular person. For example, if somebody liked the X-Men movies and asks what to pick up, don’t hand over The Saga of Swamp Thing by Alan Moore where Swap Thing goes back in time and fights the nothingness before creation.

What I’ve decided to do is come up with a list of required reading for the literary inclined, people who love prose but would never dream of stepping foot in a comic shop. Everything I’ve listed is in graphic novel format, meaning you can skip the comic store altogether and head to the more familiar Borders or Barnes and Noble. There’s a lot I’ve missed here (it was particularly difficult cutting Kingdom Come, Y: The Last Man, Civil War, All-Star Superman, The Sinestro Corps War, The Dark Knight Returns and We3 from the list, and everybody must know about Maus by now) and I’m not going to mention Jonathan Lethem’s graphic novel since I wrote about it a few entries ago.  But if you consider yourself someone who reads almost exclusively literary fiction, this is the list for you. Try and at least give one of these a shot, and let me know what you think. If you think comic books are all about four-colors and BAM/POW signs, then you’re in for a big surprise.

10. Superman: Red Son

Written by Mark Millar with Art by Dave Johnson

Pretty much everybody knows the origin of the original superhero, Superman. Krypton explodes and a scientist sends his only son in a rocket to Earth. He’s raised by farmers in Kansas and becomes the hero we all know who stands up for “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. Red Son is a re-imagining where Kal-El lands in Russia at the beginning of the Cold War. He becomes a Communist and helps usher in an era where the entire Earth (minus America led by President Lex Luthor) falls to Russian control. Millar’s take on Czar Superman is smart and bombastic, and this book has a concrete beginning, middle and end (all you need is this one 12 dollar graphic novel). This one comes highly recommended as an interesting political book with enough cameos to keep fanboys happy (did I mention Anti-Communist Batman?).

9. Astonishing X-Men vol. 1 Gifted

Written by Joss Whedon with Art by John Cassady

Joss Whedon is most famous for the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but he’s also a well-lauded comic scribe. Astonishing X-Men is his greatest work to date and perfect for anyone who enjoyed the films. The book is set in continuity but isn’t enslaved by it. Pretty much anyone with even a tangential understanding of the Children of the Atom can enjoy this book. With amazing art provided by superstar artist, John Cassady, Astonishing is the perfect example of a traditional superhero book that transcends comic stigmas and feels much more like a sci-fi drama ala Lost or Battlerstar Galactica.

8. Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 1

Written by Brian Michael Bendis with Art by Mark Bagley

When Marvel wanted to relaunch Spider-Man to coincide with the 2002 film, they called up Brian Michael Bendis, a noted indie creator, to the big leagues. Ultimate Spider-Man is the definitive Spidey book of the last two decades, and this is the ground floor. The book starts with the origin: nerdy high school student Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider. The difference here is that even after 130 issues, Peter is still fifteen and the book is still amazing. He deals with contemporary problems, and Bendis has populated the book with a wonderful and expansive cast. When the Spider-Man film reboot hits in two years, you can be sure that it springs out of this book.

7. Ultimates vol. 1 Super-Human

Written by Mark Millar with Art by Bryan Hitch

Some people will criticize me for going with two Mark Millar picks and no Grant Morrison books, but I don’t care. Ultimates is easily the best superhero team book of the aughts. Much like Ultimate-Spider-Man, Ultimates takes place in a new reader-friendly universe with no previous continuity. This is the first story of the Avengers: Captain America, Iron Man and Thor. And Millar imbues it with his typical wit and penchant for the political. This book is smart and plays with the War on Terror in interesting ways. If you’re curious to see how Captain America is deployed during the Iraq War then this is the book for you.

6. Scott Pilgrim vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Happy Little Life

Written and Drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Imagine a world with poor Canadians who start shitty bands. Imagine a world where Canadian hipsters engage in Dragonball Z-esque battles while dissecting two decade old Nintendo games. This is Scott Pilgrim. One part indie rock, one part Nintendo, one part fighting, Scott Pilgrim is the most awesome manga remix of the last fifteen years. O’Malley delivers believable characters that we truly care about even as he inserts them into hilarious and ridiculous situations. If superheroes aren’t your thing, and you’re willing to give faux-manga a try, definitely pick up Scott Pilgrim before the Michael Cera movie hits this summer.

5. Ghost World

Written and Drawn by Daniel Clowes

If you love Catcher in the Rye, then you’ll enjoy Ghost World. This lean graphic novel tells the story of two hipster girls during the summer after high school. It’s a very typical coming of age piece that could easily stand side-by-side with the best offerings of the genre from literary fiction. This is definitely a gateway drug for readers completely unaware that indie/literary comics actually exist. Its aims are not tied up with plot like many of the other selections on this list but with character.

4. The Walking Dead vol. 1 Days Gone By

Written by Robert Kirman with Art by Tony Moore

Drawn in black and white, The Walking Dead is truly one of the most terrifying books you will ever read. Writer Robert Kirkman doesn’t employ a lot of cheap jumpy shocks, but instead chooses to horrify readers with the actions of his living characters. The premise of the book is as simple as it genius: it’s the zombie movie that doesn’t end. What happens to these characters three weeks after the first zombies show up? How about two years? The best part is the theme Kirkman hits again and again: it’s not the zombies who are the walking dead, but the living, humans pushed to frightening extremes they never dreamed possible.

3. The Complete Persepolis

Written and Drawn by Marjane Satrapi

Do you like memoirs? Ok. Then go get The Complete Persepolis today. It follows Marjane Satrapi, a liberal girl who comes of age in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It’s poignant and terribly contemporary. And for my money, this is the best book on the subject I’ve read, light years ahead of Reading Lolita in Tehran. If you like coming or age tales or are even remotely interested in the history of Iran, this is an absolute must buy.

2. Watchmen

Written by Alan Moore with Art by Dave Gibbons

This one appears on every list of this kind and for good reason: Watchmen is the deconstruction of the superhero and comic book format. This is Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman seen through a postmodern lens. This is Cold War allegory of the highest order. This is everything superhero comics should aspire to. Incredibly intelligent and deceptively well-drawn, Watchmen is the rare book that is universally considered the best of its kind. If you’ve seen the mediocre movie and weren’t convinced, you owe it to yourself to give the ultimate graphic novel a try.

1. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

Written and Drawn by Chris Ware

Most people know Chris Ware. He’s a big McSweeney‘s dude and the closest thing the comic industry has to a Dave Eggers. This masterpiece of a graphic novel came out shortly after Heartbreaking Work, and the two writers are often compared. Jimmy Corrigan is about so much it’s hard to describe. It’s utterly postmodern and involves a fair at the turn of the century and a man who encounters his dying father after a lifelong absence. The book is painful. The book is dark. And at times, the book is uplifting. I put this graphic novel at the number one spot because even though I don’t consider it as strong as Watchmen, Jimmy Corrigan is the closest in terms of structure, tone and character to a literary novel. If you like Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran-Foer, Keith Gessen or Ricky Moody then you will be shocked at how dense, how intelligent, how damn literary Jimmy Corrigan actually is.

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