Tag Archive: Aspen Comics


Detective Comics 19 cover

By C.J. Bunce

Sometimes you want to just sit down and view a single TV episode where you walk away at the end of the hour having been energized with a complete end to end story.  I remember countless episodes of the X-Files with the monster of the week and these stand out to me from the episodes that followed the long-term plot of Fox Mulder’s lost sister or uncovering the mysterious smoking man’s real story.  I have the same thoughts about standalone issues of comic books.  Most series today have multi-issue story arcs and they are usually relevant and continue the intrinsic and historic serialized nature of monthly comic series dating back to the origin of comic books.  But when I was a little kid I’d flip through the short supply of comics at my local Kwik Shop and sometimes you’d be lucky and get an issue with a single beginning to end story and sometimes you’d start reading and have no idea what is going on.  I still get excited about a book when I get a great end-to-end story.  Detective Comics #19–the 900th issue of Detective Comics is one of those reads.

When the old DC Universe ended in August 2011, Detective Comics was at issue #881.  Detective Comics was set to become the second DC Comics series to reach Issue #900 after Action Comics.  Then the New 52 renumbered everything.  No matter.  DC Comics knows when it has something to celebrate, so to mark the occasion it is publishing a good ol’ 80-page giant issue.  As part of its across-the-line gatefold cover series, it cleverly manages to include the number 900 as part of its cover, as well as integrate the number into its storyline in a meaningful way.

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For the past decade I have tried to ask at least one artist at every comic book or pop culture convention that I attend to draw me a Green Arrow or Black Canary (or both) sketch.  I’ve asked this from artists whether or not they have drawn these characters before and most artists are happy to do it.  Some well-known artists charge a fee for sketches and many others will sketch for free.  Sometimes the key is letting the artist know your sketch is not just going to appear on eBay the next day.  Adam Hughes was in the news about this a few years ago when he worked all day on a sketch for someone that promptly flipped it on Ebay for several hundred dollars.  He vowed off Con sketches after that.  Some people, usually guys who have been going to cons for much longer than me, started with a sketchbook—a blank art book—and hand it off to artists at conventions.  These books convey to artists that this fan is going to keep whatever they draw and sometimes artists will take more time when they draw in someone’s sketchbook.  I’ve never gone the book route but like getting sketches on blank paper, usually supplied by the artist soI don’t have to leave a book behind.  I have featured some of this original art at borg.com previously.

So Comic-Con this year was no different and I added two new Green Arrows to my collection.  First up was by Cat Skaggs, who recently created the cover for Smallville Season 11 Issue 1.  Not only did I get a signed print of that cover, but she drew a quick free-form sketch of Green Arrow for me.  She is not a regular Green Arrow artist, and it was fun to watch her think about how the hat and goatee look:

   

It makes a nice addition to my collection.

I have had some comic book artists draw sketches for me over the years many would consider industry legends, including Mike Grell, Michael Golden, Rich Buckler, Joe Staton, and Howard Chaykin.  This year at Comic-Con I got to chat with Neal Adams, the guy who created the look of the Green Arrow character I am such a big fan of.  He created this classic, cocky Green Arrow image for me:

Pretty awesome.

I had met David Petersen at several prior conventions and he had a slot in his sketch schedule so I asked him to draw me a fox as seen in his current run of Mouse Guard:

A nice watercolor image in his unique style!

So not a bad haul for not being at the Con for a full weekend.  I also picked up a few SDCC exclusives.  Frank Cho was selling his new Liberty Meadows calendar:

I also picked up the new Alex Ross sketchbook:

At the Alex Ross booth I actually spent a lot of time talking with Sal, Justin and Chris, who are always great guys to talk to and deal with.  They had some great sketches and painted original Alex Ross art available.  As a fan of Six Million Dollar Man as early borg, Ross’s original cover sketches for Issues 1, 2, 4 and 5 of the current Bionic Man series struck me as particularly cool, especially seeing the change in logo evolve over the course of creating the covers.  Look at the sketches compared to the final image on the book covers:

   

   

   

   

Featured in last year’s SDCC 2011 exclusive Alex Ross sketchbook, this sketch jumped out at me this year on display:

I love Zatanna in her magician’s box, waiting to make an appearance.  This sketch was created for an Infinite Crisis card game.

Prior to Comic-Con I had connected with the artist for the current Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover series Assimilation², JK Woodward. He was at the Con with writers Scott and David Tipton.  I never caught up with them but luckily my friend William got an extra autographed copy of the book.  Check out these great original, painted pages from Issue #2 of the series.  First, the TARDIS in the Enterprise-D holodeck:

Next, if you like Trek and Doctor Who like I do, you just can’t beat the Eleventh Doctor on the bridge with Captain Picard.

And check out that great rendering of the Enterprise-D soaring above!

Again this year Michael Turner art was available at the Aspen booth and it is always amazing to flip through the late artist’s work.

If you like seeing the creative process behind the scenes, it’s hard to beat seeing original comic art in person.  And if you have the time hundreds of artists in Artist Alley are there sketching away throughout the Comic-Con weekend, and love to talk about their work and process.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

  

Review by C.J. Bunce

With three issues out we’ve had enough time to get a feel for the DC Comics’ New 52.  Some of the DC titles have found their own niche in the giant volume of books available, considering the severl hundred books published by DC, Marvel and all the independents.

I am pretty pleased with the overall picture in the Aquaman series.  On the one hand, the story is very simple so far.  On the other hand, what is there is full of snappy dialogue, nostalgic quick references, and inside jokes, from the pen of writer Geoff Johns.  As far as the art is concerned, initially I was hoping an Aspen comics-esque, ex-Fathom series artist would draw the Aquaman series or that the current artist would take on Fathom’s dreamy waterworld stylings.  Yet Ivan Reis’s view of a world existing side by side Atlantis is superb.  And his seafaring underworld aliens are still the best villains in the DC universe right now.  Kudos are owed to Reis for his consistent, relevant, striking covers, too.

What struck me reading issues #2 and #3 is that this story is written as if Aquaman was existing in the Marvel Universe.  Folk on the street chide and lambast Captain America and X-Men in the ordinary course of the day.  Here, Aquaman walks in the room and there is no awe in the eyes of those he meets.  He might as well not be there, from the perspective of the regular townspeople.  Now this has been done in the DCU before and happens all the time in various contexts but this superhero in the real world concept is very overt here and Geoff Johns’ approach is working so far.  The fact that someone can show up at Aquaman’s door and basically say that he was looking for Aquaman and heard he lived around here…maybe it is simple, but it works.

As story arc is concerned, we are seeing more of the calm before the storm in this story than the actual storm, yet we see pockets of storm.  As a matter of story tempo and meter, it is following the pacing of the movie Jaws, unintentionally I would expect. That is, we get to know this harbor town, and this is a familiar place.  It could be Amity from Jaws.  It could be Haven from the Stephen King/SyFy channel series Haven.  It is tranquil, and if you have ever spent much time in coastal towns Johns and Reis locked in the feel of this setting, the calm tide, almost the smell of sea and sound of the squawking seagulls.  And like the vengeful spirits in John Carpenter’s Fog, the approach of the villainy is slow and deliberate, victims are picked off one by one.

The aliens speak in stilted tones like the bionic animals in the stellar-but-sad-and-disturbing series WE 3, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (probably the only series that has really impressed me from the much-hyped Grant Morrison).  Unlike the aliens in the Alien series, this makes them some how more approachable, a necessary trait with any good fleshed out villain.  Can these seemingly unsympathetic villains be redeemable?  One says “Help us” as he drifts away?  Does he mean “I am helping myself?” by escaping, or is he beckoning to Aquaman?

If there is anything to improve upon it is Aquaman and the often jokingly mislabeled Aquawoman, Mera.  Mera almost seems more interesting at this point.  We’ve been peppered with some slightly depressing but spotty backstory, some kind of regret, but I’d prefer something else, or at least some reason to like these characters more.  The super duo are trying to help humans, despite clearly the fact that humans don’t always want their help.  But as story elements go, we need to like the humans and the lead characters both or we’ll get bored with the story.  Maybe if Aquaman were to act against his own interest?  Then again, saving a dog from the creatures is a good start.

In issue #2 we learn that the sea monsters are hungry and they see us as food.  We also see that Mera is not going to take a backseat in this story—being the first to step forward against this new threat.  In issue #3 Aquaman gets the body of one of the sea monsters for examination and learns more about the creatures.  The book ends with Aquaman and Mera racing to “The Trench,” the supposed origin of these villains.  The story arc continues next month… and we’ll be back for more.

The last day at Comic-Con!  What’s that mean?  Making sure you get to every last booth and panel you want to see, buying that last comic book or art page, getting that last autograph, and more great costumes.

I collect comic book sketches and it wouldn’t be a con without adding a new one.  This year Patrick Scullin sketched me this great classic Green Arrow.  Thanks, Patrick!

 

Donato Giancola, fantasy artist extraordinaire, was selling limited edition compilations of his work and beautiful prints.  You probably know him best from his painting that was used as the cover of The Hobbit graphic novel–the only Tolkien illustrated adaptation out there.  Great stuff and a great guy!

Everyone’s favorite wookiee attended the convention this year again–Peter Mayhew was signing autographs at his booth.

Superb comic artist Frank Cho (University squared, Liberty Meadows, Marvel, etc.) and Joe Keatinge (background) unveiled their new series coming in 2012–Brutal

Check out that punch, and that’s no guy’s arm!  They actually showed me the details Friday but I swore not to post until the public unveiling.  Promise kept!  Cho walked me through some original pages and cover art going to France for a gallery sale.  Stunning pieces.  But no Brandy art for sale–he’s keeping those (wouldn’t you?).  The REALLY big news?  Frank said the rights to Liberty Meadows reverted to him!  So if he can just get through all his other projects we may see Liberty Meadows start up again someday.

Note to self:  When I get older and gray(er), keep coming to Comic-Con!  Check out this great Ben Kenobi:

And Comic-Con is not just for adults.  These kids at the DC Comics booth had great outfits.  That Speedy outfit looks like he came out of the classic Neal Adams series.

And you might be saying “enough Green Arrow already” but here’s a great Smallville Green Arrow costume.  This guy made it by hand in three weeks.  Nice work!

Here, Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: TNG’s Counselor Deanna Troi) appears to be sizing up Rod Roddenberry at the Lightspeed booth.

And one last pilgramage to flip through the stunning original art of the late, great Michael Turner at the Aspen booth:

I also got to meet comic book writer Jai Nitz, who has written for Marvel, DC Comics, Image, Disney and Dynamite, including Kato Origins, Green Hornet:  Parallel Lives, and Tron: The Betrayal.  With all the comic book artists at Comic-Con, you don’t see all that many writers at this venue.  So great to meet up with Jai!

More news from Comic-Con coming this week.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com