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Tag Archive: Mike Richardson


Review by C.J. Bunce

Prime viewing for October and the Halloween season, and a movie you probably skipped in the theater, is the rebooted Hellboy, now on home video.  Far better than critics would have led you to believe, director Neil Marshall′s Hellboy is every bit loyal to the Dark Horse Comics character, stories, and mythos.  Both Mike Mignola and Mike Richardson produced this third film in the series, and if you don’t agree it matches the quality of the first Hellboy you’ll likely agree it’s better and more memorable than its sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

In fact this Hellboy–this time with Stranger Things’ David Harbour in the red, sawed-off horns and hammer arm–is that kind of dark, violent, monster movie that would have appealed to fans of Freddy Krueger or Hellraiser in the 1980s.  It has that same kind of hard R rating that would have prompted 12 to 16-year-old boys to sneak into the theater to see what they were missing.  So if you don’t care for the kind of monster movie with innocent victims getting ripped apart by giant demons, re-stitching a witch together, watching another creepy witch and her cauldron of kid stew, and making it through several blood-bursts and beheadings, backed with a never-ending volley of F bombs, by all means run away now.

This isn’t Ron Perlman’s kinder, gentler demon.  But this presentation more closely matches Mignola’s stories, including steeping this tale in a variety of classic lore.  Here that means the vile Baba Yaga as villain, complete with her chicken-legged mobile house, and a film full of twisted King Arthur legend.
Missing is Doug Jones’ wonderful Abe Sapien, or Selma Blair’s fire-wielding friend Liz.  Trying to make up for that is the booming presence of Ian McShane (Magnum, p.i., Dallas, The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Deadwood) as Hellboy’s father, and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil series, The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet) as a banished witch trying to return to the present to smite out humanity with a plague.  Both McShane and Jovovich are good in anything, as they are here, even when the special effects aren’t up to that Peter Jackson quality we all hope for.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Both Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) tried it, but didn’t complete it in time.  Professional comic book writers and artists and especially the combination writer/artist most likely have all heard of the 24-hour comic challenge, but not everyone has given it a try.  Twenty-seven years ago comic book writer/artist Scott McCloud came up with the idea to improve his skills and speed in creating a 24-page comic book complete with story and art, which normally can take about 30 days.  The result was not so much a contest but a personal achievement challenge like running a marathon or climbing a mountain.  A new documentary titled 24 Hour Comic, directed by Milan Erceg, screened for attendees Saturday at the Marriott Grand Ballroom at San Diego Convention Center as part of San Diego Comic-Con.

Eight participants.  24 hours.  Gravitas Ventures’ 24 Hour Comic follows an event hosted at my old local comic book shop, Things from Another World, in Portland, Oregon.  24 Hour Comic is both a celebration of the Portland comic book creator scene and a close-up look at eight individuals of differing levels as they each try to meet the challenge.  Not everyone makes it to the end.  Four-time Harvey Award and Eisner Award winner Scott McCloud appears in the film, describing the origin, process, and history of the 24-hour challenge, which is hosted by comic book shops, schools, and art studios around the world, often following a designated annual 24-Hour Comic Day.  Eisner and Harvey Award winner McCloud wrote the useful guide to sequential art Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and several other comic book art texts.  He also compiled several attempts at the 24-hour comic in his book 24 Hour Comics, where he showcases the efforts of Neil Gaiman, Steve Bissette, Alexander Grecian, and others.

The rules can be found here, and are detailed in McCloud’s book.  The biggest surprise having read about the contest and several 24-hour comics over the years was that I assumed the artists used standard comic book pages, those full-sized 11×17-inch art boards.  In the film each artist uses what appears to be paper half that size, splitting each sheet into two full pages, which would seem to take less time to fill.  Erceg introduces us to his eight subjects, each in different phases of skill, from a 13-year-old girl to a 16-time participant, a web creator, a design professional, independent creators, and an ex-creator returning to give the process another try.  The final works for those who completed the challenge?  We don’t get to read the entirety of the final books from any creator in the film, but the excerpts given are surprisingly polished. Far from the frantic scribbles you might expect from anyone missing a night’s sleep to work round the clock, the comics appear professionally done, clever, and humorous, reflecting each artist’s creativity and talent.  The film is dotted with interviews by several well-known faces, including Dark Horse Comics president Mike Richardson, Dark Horse Comics editor-in-chief Scott Allie, cartoonist Batton Lash, and graphic novelists and digital creators Arnold and Jacob Pander.

The hour-long documentary provides a fair look at a cross section of a profession where the median income for a full-time comic book artist is about $38,896, according to the film.  Although the challenge is not a competition per se, a few participants throw about some contrived and good natured trash talk to keep the film light-hearted.  One participant had some interesting insights into the comic book profession, a bit of a creators’ quagmire: “You work on a project you don’t care about, but make good money, but you work on a project you do care about, and don’t make any money on it”–something reflected in many fields, no doubt.  This is not a time-compressed look at the 24-hour period of this challenge, but provides interviews with subjects about their status at intervals throughout the day, night, and following morning.  So to fill some of the time Erceg follows two subjects on a quick trip to Stumptown Comic Con, other subjects are interviewed at local studios or homes, and another is followed on a side trip to Seattle to discuss a commission project.  The majority shared how difficult it is to succeed in the comic book industry, and one tried and left the industry after initial success because it couldn’t pay medical bills.

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comix movie

We’ve seen plenty of recent efforts trying to get to the heart of what comic books and their fans are all about, including documentaries reviewed here at borg.com like Superheroes: A Never Ending Battle, and With Great Power… The Stan Lee Story.  The latest look at comic books, creators, the industry, and fans is being released tomorrow from filmmaker Michael Valentine.

Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages includes interviews with noted comic book industry veterans, including Stan Lee (Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four) (Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Frank Miller (Sin City, 300), Neal Adams (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Superman, Justice League of America), Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Productions (Hellboy, Sin City, Goon, Concrete), Marc Silvestri of Image Comics and Top Cow Productions (Tomb Raider, Hunter Killer, Witchblade), and Todd McFarlane (Spawn).

Filmed by Valentine over a decade, the documentary includes footage new and old from cosplayers at Comic-Con, WonderCon, Anime Expo and Wizard World.  The documentary provides an overview of the world of comic books, backed by superhero-themed music and montage images of comic book panels.

Here is a preview of the Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages:
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Star Wars 5 cover   Dark Empire 4

The decade after Return of the Jedi premiered in theaters in 1983 was a dark period for fans of the Force.  The only place to get a glimpse of a possible future for the Star Wars universe was in Marvel Comics, but that fizzled out in 1986.  In that same year Mike Richardson’s Dark Horse began publishing comics and five years later, in 1991, Dark Horse published the exciting Dark Empire series, its first Star Wars title under its license with Lucasfilm.  The next year Timothy Zahn launched the first book in a trilogy, Heir to the Empire, and between Zahn’s books and subsequent novels and Dark Horse’s various titles, fans could at last revisit their favorite characters and places, in the same way fans of Star Trek had been able to enjoy that franchise for decades.

With Lucas selling Star Wars to Disney, Disney has already taken over the Star Wars novels, resulting in some fun reads in the past year (see our advance reviews here and here).  Beginning in January a new Star Wars series begins, back at Marvel Comics, throwing out the continuity developed over 23 years at Dark Horse.  Fans should have no fear, as writers and artists from the Dark Horse years are already creating the architecture of the Empire and Rebellion for Marvel.  What is uncertain is the fate of the hundreds of comic books in the Dark Horse catalog, since Dark Horse may not sell any of those after this Thursday, January 1, 2015.  Marvel Comics will likely re-publish the bestsellers under its new “Legends” brand, but it’s not known whether more obscure titles will be offered for years if ever again.

Star Wars mega bundle excerpt Dark Horse

So Dark Horse is going out in style, and as always, looking out for its readers, offering 50% off single-issue digital comics on its website, plus a “Farewell Star Wars Bundle,” all of Dark Horse’s digital Star Wars issues for $300.  At first blush this appears to be 568 issues of comic books, but if you delve deeper you’ll see it also includes the full run of Marvel’s Star Wars issues #1-107, plus a few dozen issues in each of 12 other included “Omnibus” editions.  You’d pay $1,000 easily for those in single issues of Marvel’s Star Wars run today.  So basically you’re getting hundreds of comic books, many with cover prices at more than $3.50, for less than 50 cents each.  But there’s more reasons this bundle is a real deal.

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Hawkeye issue 11

The 2014 Eisner Award nominations were released today.  Not a lot of surprises again this year.  The nominations tend toward more serious subjects in the year’s comic book offerings as opposed to action-packed superhero titles, sci-fi, fantasy, humor, or popular works.  But there are exceptions, and some can be found this year.  And should you think the books reviewed and lauded here at borg.com might be out of touch with the Eisner nomination committee, actually some of our favorite books from 2013 can be found throughout this year’s nominees.

The ringer of course is Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye series.  Not only do we like it, everyone seems to agree this is the best book around, two years running.  And it’s up for multiple awards again this year.

But no Afterlife With Archie?  Where are all the Dynamite Comics nominees?  Where is recognition for the jaw-dropping visuals on Dark Horse Comics’ landmark series, The Star Wars?  Why not more from IDW and Dark Horse?  How about some variety?

So… congratulations to all the nominees, and extra snaps to some of our favorites (the full nomination list is after the break):

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
Hawkeye #11: “Pizza Is My Business,” by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel).  This made the borg.com Best of 2013 for Best Single Issue.  I even bought extra copies of this one.  It’s that good.

Best Continuing Series
Hawkeye, by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel)

I read books this year from other nominations in this category: Saga, East of West, and Nowhere Men (we weren’t fans, but reviewed Issue #1 here), and the others just didn’t make our review list.

Black Beetle poster

Best Limited Series
The Black Beetle: No Way Out, by Francesco Francavilla (Dark Horse).

We reviewed this series here at borg.com this year and decided it should have made our Best of 2013 list had we reviewed it earlier.

I also read nominee Mike Richardson’s 47 Ronin–a good read, which I may review here later this year.  I had a review copy of The Wake from DC Comics, but didn’t find the story or art as gripping as others.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)
Itty Bitty Hellboy, by Art Baltazar and Franco (Dark Horse).  Reviewed here, I’m glad this wasn’t passed up for consideration.

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Darth Vader and Cry of Shadows

Friday Disney announced it is pulling the Star Wars exclusive licensing deal from Mike Richardson’s Dark Horse Comics at the end of the year–a deal that gave fans the very best Star Wars stories written in the franchise over the past 20 years.  Disney owns Marvel Comics and so this was not a big surprise, although it is disappointing to see something so successful going from one of the “little guy” independents to a big conglomerate that has sucked up everything from ABC to ESPN and has become adept at throttling the number of voices in the media marketplace.  Star Wars comics hold the reputation they have because the expanded universe was built brick by brick at Dark Horse in Milwaukie, Oregon, by some of the best writers and artists around.  The mainstream press is quick to refer to the franchise “going back to Marvel Comics” because Marvel published the initial Star Wars series Issues #1-107 back in the 1970s and 1980s, but that series just can’t compare to what was done at Dark Horse, beginning with its Dark Empire series.

If you haven’t read the expanded universe of Star Wars via comic books, you’re missing out.  Get to a comic book store now to check out the current monthly Star Wars series while they are still made by the best creators around, including Brian Wood’s Star Wars, which takes place between the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and The Star Wars, based on George Lucas’s original draft screenplay, each reviewed here last month.  We think Dark Horse will have no problem backfilling its market niche with other new series, one of which should be expanding its Firefly/Serenity book line.

Here are some other great Star Wars series published by Dark Horse Comics that you might have missed:

Dark Empire

Check out where it all began with Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy’s Dark Empire, Dark Empire II, and a two-issue third act Empire’s End all available in the Star Wars: Dark Empire Trilogy.  If you love the original characters of the saga you will be happy with this book.  Dave Dorman’s painted cover art for the series is some of the best movie poster quality Star Wars art to appear in print.

Thrawn trilogy

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