Tag Archive: Mouse Guard


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

By C.J. Bunce

You can spend your weekend at Comic-Con wandering the exhibit floor looking for mass market collectibles, talking with dealers of original art, talking with writers and artists of current and classic comic books, attend panels and see comic and other creators, TV and movie stars and get the low-down on coming projects, go offsite for parties and studio and publisher events–the biggest problem is doing all you want when there is nowhere close to enough time to do it in.  If you’re in for only a few days, you really have to pick up your pace and narrow down what you want to see.  Since I spent a whole day in panels and did not stay for the entire weekend, any encounters I had with creators and studio celebrities were pretty much based on happenstance this year.  Many creators are now friends, others I gawk at like everyone else from afar.  So who did I see?

First of all, in panels I saw the cast of Community, Firefly, and the new series Arrow, including guys I’d love to talk in person someday–Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin, David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel from Bones, and the guy you may know as Bud from Married with Children, David Faustino, who is doing voice work now for Nickelodeon, and he voiced the character Mako as part of the Legends of Korra panel.  As I mentioned earlier in the week, waiting in line allowed me to meet and get a photo with Joss Whedon.

The Soup host Joel McHale, Firefly star Nathan Fillion, former Angel star David Boreanaz and Korra’s David Faustino really stood out as funny guys in these panels–surprisingly quick-witted people who got the crowd cheering with everything they said.

I saw the main cast of the Syfy Channel series Haven during their signing session.  They really looked like they were having a good time–like they really get along with each other.  Also signing in the Sails Pavilion were Richard Anderson, who was the classic character Oscar Goldman from one of borg.com’s favorite borg shows: The Six Million Dollar Man, and Cindy Morgan from the original Tron and Caddyshack.  I hoped to run into Bruce Boxleitner, JK Woodward and Scott and David Tipton but my panel schedule caused me to miss meeting them.

On the exhibit floor I watched Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) talk with fans and sign autographs.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was coming into the hall and I staked out a photo op location but his handlers moved him out of the hall so I missed seeing him.

As a Star Trek fan, I was very happy to finally meet and have a nice conversation with Brent Spiner.  He was a great guy who was as nice in person as you’d hope him to be from years of watching his lovable character Data.  I also had a brief chat at day’s end with Levar Burton, also a friendly guy, signing photos of Geordi LaForge for fans.  I’d met Marina Sirtis before so I didn’t chat with her this round, but she was also signing Counselor Deanna Troi photos in the hall.

Earlier this year I reviewed Table Top, a new, fun Web series hosted by Wil Wheaton with the Geek and Sundry creators.  I met him near a Starbucks and shared my feedback with him on his show.  We talked about some of the games and he graciously introduced me to his wife and friends.

Wheaton is truly “one of us” and a really personable guy.  Of everyone at the Con, he is probably my first pick of someone you’d like to wander the Con halls and chat with.  Another show host, Blair Butler was attending the Con from the popular genre cable channel G4.

Of the comic book realm, I met Cat Skaggs, a well-known comic book artist who was signing cover prints to Smallville Season 11 #1 and she sketched a great Green Arrow bust for me.

I also met Neal Adams–a comic book legend who created the look of the Silver Age Green Arrow and I finally was able to add one of his sketches to my folio.  Neal was sketching non-stop for fans just like the newer, younger artists in Artist Alley–a real “working artist” even after all these years.

I ran into my friend Freddie Williams II also, and he also was busy sketching for fans throughout the Con and selling original art from his various DC Comics series.

David Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard work, was working on commissions for attendees and selling shirts and art at his booth in Artist Alley.  I also lucked into getting a sketch from him and enjoyed talking with his wife, who manned the booth when he was doing signings elsewhere.

I ran into Frank Cho again this year and he said he is still expecting to get Guns & Dinos out soon.  He was selling a great pin-up calendar featuring Brandy and the Liberty Meadows gang.  More on that in future posts.  A nominee for the Eisner in two categories this year, Rachel Rising creator Terry Moore was busy talking with fans.

As with last year, Jim Lee could be found at several panels and signing throughout Comic-Con.

As with Freddie Williams, I met up with several folks from back in the Midwest.  I ran into artist Ande Parks and met his wife, while hanging with Sean and William from Elite Comics and Chris Jackson who runs Planet Comicon.  Parks was chatting with his frequent cover artist Francesco Francavilla, this year’s Eisner cover artist of the year winner, and someone we have talked about here at borg.com all year long for his great cover art.  I ran into Star Trek author Kevin Dilmore twice on the exhibit floor–my third year seeing Kevin at the Con.  It’s crazy how you can be in your hometown and never run into anyone, and then fly to San Diego and see so many people from back home.

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the climax of Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls, a battered Batman looks up and utters “…I am sick… to death… of owls!”  Me, too, I thought, after seven chapters of the first released hardcover of the New 52, written by Scott Snyder with pencils by Greg Capullo.  Hardly a page of the first seven issues of the rebooted Batman series does not include an owl, worked into the background or architecture or elsewhere.   There’s not a lot of subtlety to be found here.

Although I’d put David Peterson’s owl renderings in Mouse Guard up against Capullo’s any day, Capullo does a nice job of working owls into the story.  In fact his art and the overall look of this hardcover puts it in the camp of prior trade compilations like Batman: The Cult.  It certainly surpasses Grant Morrison and David McKean’s equally dark Arkham Asylum in both story and art.  That said, it fails to achieve the excitement, fun, and energy of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush or Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s Batman: The Killing Joke, or the mythology of Batman found in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.  If you like your Batman not only dark but flawed, making as many bad decisions as good, and you’re tired of the recycled pantheon of Bat-villains, this book may be for you.  Unfortunately, the twists and excellent execution of story found in Issue #1 of this Batman series didn’t hold out, the owl-villainy doesn’t match the classic bat-villains, and so the series became monotonous and tired by Issue #7 for this reader.

I haven’t seen a lot of continuity of story presentation across the New 52 titles.  But of all the titles I’d hoped for more origin of Batman than is peppered in flashback through the first seven chapters of this compilation.  Had The Court of Owls been a story arc in a normal year of Batman stories, I may have actually appreciated it more.  But as part of a launch that was to allow new readers to enter and understand the series, I think this series doesn’t make any headway.  That said, what’s there really to understand?  It’s just Batman, right?  As the leading title of DC Comics, I think despite its great sales, the story doesn’t have broad appeal.  Why is everyone reading it then?  With all the Bat-titles in the reboot, this series started out as the best and is probably considered the best, but we’re all not just waiting for another good Batman story, we want another great Batman story and we’re willing to keep coming back until we get it.

The hook of the owl as a creature of night who eats bats as a visual or storytelling concept would have worked for me for an issue or two.  Today DC Comics have The Court of Owls – Night of the Owls story permeating throughout the DC New 52 titles as a crossover event.  What is the Court of Owls?  It’s a bit like an evil version of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, mixed with the Masons as revealed in the National Treasure series, and a chemical reaction that allows humans to be immortal.  Despite all the years of Bruce Wayne exploring and building out a batcave, and his long understanding of Gotham City as his city, suddenly we readers are introduced to a concept never before even hinted at, and a mention that… oh, yeah, Bruce Wayne tried to hunt down the Court of Owls as a kid and ultimately came to the realization they did not exist.  The problem is, unlike the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword’s noble cause, we are given no motivation for the Court’s evil doings.  They’re just bad guys.  If you had this much power, would you live like these masked ghouls under Gotham or would you live the high life?

That said, there is a lot to like in this series.  Snyder’s use of modern technology to assist Batman is well placed. Dick Grayson’s Nightwing has hardly been better as Batman’s sidekick, including a brilliant turn as Joker to fool the inmates of Arkham Asylum.  The entire supporting cast, although hardly used, have nice moments, including Tim Drake, Commissioner Gordon and even Alfred.   Capullo’s art is as good as any of Jim Lee’s best Batman work.  Capullo and Snyder both are obviously passionate about creating a complex Bat-tale, and for that, the book is worth a second read.  With that second read, more plotted foreshadowing can be found.  The Court of Owls was clearly not an easy tale to construct, both from a story concept or visually.  And as a starting point, Issue #1 is one of the best issues of Batman you’ll ever read.  If you like Batman in a chamber of horrors, Snyder and Capullo’s vision has the feel of the crazy masked club of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide ShutUnfortunately I just didn’t find the arc compelling enough to keep me hooked for all seven issues.

Batman: The Court of Owlsseems to borrow a bit from Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson’s Batman: The Cult in story and look.  Capullo’s depictions of a tortured Batman are equal to the horror and drama depicted in Bernie Wrightson’s panels in The Cult.  That’s high praise for Capullo as Wrightson’s work on The Cult was nicely done.  But I was never fond of Batman being duped and sucked into the villain’s world, or portrayed as less than genius, and even allowed to be beaten to a pulp.  All that happened in both Batman: The Cult and Batman: The Court of Owls This is why I found myself on the side of Nightwing in the sparring between the two–and I am not typically a fan of Nightwing.  I prefer my Bat-story to show Batman in the shadows more, as the detective who doesn’t become emotional or fall for the villains’ traps like the Batman of the camp 1960s TV series.  Finally, I was distracted by how much the Court’s henchman Talon looked like Watchmen’s cool hero Nite Owl.

Nite Owl from Watchmen.

A big plus of this hardcover edition can be found at the back of the book.  Snyder’s script for issues #1 and Capullo’s pencil roughs that accompany that story reveal some of their creative process, which I always love to see.  And along with Greg Capullo’s superb cover art (it’s great when a publisher allows the interior penciller to also create the cover art!), the appendix also includes full page color images of the alternate, incentive covers.

If you want to give Batman: The Court of Owls a try, it is now available at local comic book stores and online.  Editors Note:  Check out my review of the hardcover of Night of the Owls–all the crossover issues compiled–at this link.

In a big comic book week that was highlighted by the release of the second wave of New 52 comics by DC on Wednesday, The Avengers Marathon in theaters on Thursday, and the U.S. premiere of The Avengers movie on Friday, droves of comic book readers young and old raided comic book stores Saturday across the country for the annual Free Comic Book Day.  Even at a big store like the one where I get my weekly books you could have showed up hours into the day and have a nice pick from dozens of books, from the obscure like My Favorite Martian to DC Comics’ and Marvels’s latest freebies.

The strangest free comic must be Graphic Elvis by Liquid Comics, a bizarre homage to the King of Rock and Roll that even includes a story by Stan Lee of Elvis going to heaven (for anyone thinking he’s still around).

I always pick up the latest Aspen comics book to see what they are up to–always full of good art of the Michael Turner influence, but unfortunately not a full story issue.

Boundless Comics’ Lady Death: The Beginning actually included a cover to cover, complete story with great artwork.

For the three people out there that missed DC Comics’s New 52 releases, The New 52! Issue #1 offered some nice overview panels including previews of this week’s Second Wave titles.

Dark Horse offered up a younger-leaning flip book featuring Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Guild, both with half-length stories.

Borg fans will like seeing that the Marvel free book was a complete Ultron story, The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Liquid Comics presented what really is a cool sketch book featuring a preview of the new Dinosaurs vs. Aliens graphic novel due out this summer.  Only a short amount of Grant Morrison’s story was included but the art was superb, including sketches and script page excerpts.  I just hope the full version is not another Cowboys and Aliens type release that can’t get past its title.

But the big winner is Archaia Entertainment’s hardcover–in part for being the first Free Comic Book day hardcover edition ever released.  Comprised of six complete short stories including one from the brilliant writer/artist David Petersen and his Mouse Guard characters, this book reminds me of how cool it was when Batman: The Killing Joke hit the stands as the first big and shiny prestige format comic years ago.  Great design and content = a book more than worth the trip to the comic store.

Of course, as we mentioned earlier last week, you could see plenty of writers and artists doing signings and sketches.  One fireman visiting Elite Comics was very impressed with a caricature drawn of him by a local artist.  We had fun with costumed characters giving several kids and adults a chance to get photos with their favorite genre characters.

CJ Bunce as Gimli’s taller brother Jimli, John Clark as Superman from this week’s Action Comics #9, Iron Man from IBOT, and Trina Rice as American Dream, at Elite Comics in Overland Park, KS. Photo by Justin Cline.

I always enjoy catching up with Ande Parks, who mentioned a new Dynamite series he is writing to be released soon featuring WitchBlade.  And plenty of visitors bought back issues for half price or less, which can’t be beat.

Another successful Free Comic Book Day is “one for the books” as they say.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

The first full day of the 42nd annual Comic-Con got off to a great start Thursday at the San Diego Convention Center with the first of tens of thousands of fanboys and fangirls and writers, artists, actors and everyone and anyone from the entertainment industry packing the venue.  Lots of oversized swagbags and swag to carry in them and big displays from major creative properties.  Several major events are celebrated this year, including the 35th anniversary of Star Wars throughout the convention.

But today Comic-Con really emphasized the COMIC in Comic-Con.  Artists and writers packed both Artists Alley and the main aisles.  Echo and Strangers in Paradise creator Terry Moore was signing at his booth (his 15th year at the Con):

Fan favorite David Petersen (Mouse Guard) revealed an exclusive to borg.com tonight:  Years in the making, Friday will be the debut at Comic-Con of his boxed set Mouse Guard role playing game with a limited quantity available at Comic-Con.  Here he is signing at his booth:

Legendary fantasy author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn, Tamsin) shared stories about his writing and inspired others at his booth in Artists Alley.  Freddie Williams II (Captain Atom, Robin) and his wife Kiki were jam-packed up until closing with fans at Freddie’s booth.

But not all the fun was to be had on the convention floor.  Another popular franchise celebrates a benchmark this year.  Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books hosted an invitation-only bash tonight at the Hilton Bayfront to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Jeff Smith’s comic book franchise Bone.  Guest of honor Smith was on hand, as well as a who’s who of the comic book and sci-fi/fantasy genres.  Terry Moore and his wife Joann, were in attendance, as was David Petersen and his wife.  Legendary artist Sergio Aragones celebrated as well, along with Judd Winick (Green Arrow writer, among other noted DC work) and Patrick Scullin (Super Siblings).  Attendees included Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine artists and authors Elizabeth C. Bunce (Liar’s Moon, StarCrossed, A Curse Dark as Gold), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet), Ted Naifeh (The Good Neighbors), Jake Parker (Missile Mouse), Dan Santat (Sidekicks), Raina Telgemeier (Smile), and Doug TenNapel (BadIsland).

Here, the crowd toasts Jeff Smith (far left).  Next to Jeff is Joann and Terry Moore, far left is Judd Winick next to Jeff’s wife and business partner Vijaya.

Here Elizabeth C. Bunce, Lisa Yee (Millicent Min), and Sheila Marie Everett, Scholastic publicist, celebrate at the party for Jeff Smith.

No industry has a more welcoming group of people than the Comic-Con crowd.  Writers and artists shared stories into the night and everyone had a great time.

And Comic-Con wouldn’t be Comic-Con without some great costumes, including this group of Slave Leias at the Lucasfilm booth:

More to come tomorrow!

And we’ll post more updates throughout Comic-Con and over the coming weeks.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com