Tagged: James Harren

TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 15: Princess Leia Races Home Aboard Her Starship.

Ok, big week here at TRY SOMETHING NEW. It seems a ton of you have been reading my column and taking my advice. Obama released the sales charts for comics last week and it turns out REPTILE MUSEUM by Cody Pickrodt was the best selling comic in the country, selling a whopping 1,288,000 copies in one week. That’s a lot of folding and stapling. Thanks loyal readers. I hope you all enjoyed reading the book as much as I did. I am sure Cody would thank you too if he wasn’t busy orbiting the earth in a newly purchased Soviet space shuttle. Hopefully there is stuff in this weeks column that you can be equally as excited about.

Of course every silver lining comes with a sad old cloud inside it. I am putting this issue of the Weekly Planet together myself for the first time. Turns out it’s not so hard. This is shaved ape territory. That’s not the sad part though. No living person has seen dear sweet Tech Wizard/Milk Carton Model Tyler in over a week. This is hard to talk about but Tyler was getting into weird stuff recently. Stuff you wouldn’t want your parents to see, stuff you would deny to your friends. Comics with no narrative, comics that were just made up of shapes, comics that took place inside large animals, comics about comics even. MoCCA stuff. Real sicko $#!%. Sadly no one at Forbidden Planet heard his cry for help enough to just hand him a copy of Hawkman and slap him in the face once. We have all seen it before. Kid moves to the big city from… I don’t, Canada? Texas? Where the hell was Tyler from? And the big city shows him things he has never imagined. Blexbolex things. Deforge things. Marra things. The first time he saw Pillow Fight it was like watching a puppy come to understand string theory. Soon he is shaving his head, hanging out in offices with british dudes, and … Sorry again. I don’t really know what Tyler does other than edit this steaming pile of journalism. Either way, if you see Tyler out there tell him someone at Forbidden Planet loves him. Tell him to come home before this world ruins him. He had so much to give. I can already feel this is too little too late. Oh well.

Image came out swinging pretty hard in 2012, firmly staking their claim as the innovative mainstream publisher. Books like Saga, Manhattan Projects, Fatale, Mind The Gap, Prophet, and King City were among the best books to come out last year. Well Image is feeling the pressure to top all that clearly. Books like End Times, Nowhere Men, Sex, and Great Pacific are all causing a lot of buzz and are well worth your time. But no book has generated the buzz or the praise of FIVE GHOSTS #1. The Five Ghosts team (Team 5G is what no one is calling them) is signing/signed at Forbidden Planet this Wednesday, (and what a fine looking and charming group of young men) depending on when you read this. A great classic pulp adventure with big ideas and breathtaking art, FIVE GHOSTS feels just like what you imagined all comics should be like when you were 10. An Indiana Jones type meets the great literary characters of the past 200 years in a supernatural thriller as drawn by a cross between Milo Manara and Wally Wood. That was probably too nice, but still, really fun book. Make sure to grab a copy so you can see what everyone else is already talking about.

While we are on the subject of Image and the signing on Wednesday, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that MAXIMUM MINIMUM WAGE comes out this week and Bob Fingerman will/was also signing on Wednesday. If you aren’t familiar with Minimum Wage then you should probably stop reading this and just buy the book right now, which is a fully remastered collection of the old stuff with new bonus material. Bob Fingerman is a true classic cartoonist in every sense of the word. He has had work in everything from Cracked to Screw, High Times to Heavy Metal. He has done children’s comics (the excellent Recess Pieces), and porno comics (the also excellent Skinheads In Love), and turtle comics (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). But for many of his fans and admirers his pseudo autobiographical comic Minimum Wage is his true crowning achievement. Underemployed twenty-something characters try to find their places, get by, and fill their days in this book that in many ways feels like the sibling to books like Love & Rockets and American Splendor. Slice of life storytelling that is character driven and vital, while never losing sight of what makes indie comics fun.

Another of my favorite books of the last year finally lands in collected format this week, Brian Wood‘s brilliant environmentalist post apocalyptic drama, THE MASSIVE. Part insane naval action thriller, part end of the world disaster story, all framed around a disappeared freighter. Wood does his usual great job of making simple ideas seem thrilling and fresh, and then populating them with great characters. In many ways The Massive is the spiritual successor if not actual sequel to his amazing NYC modern civil war series DMZ. With a story that jumps smartly and easily from one mind blowing locale to another, The Massive doesn’t read like anything else on shelves. I don’t know if Wood is great at research or the best bull$#!% artist in comics but it doesn’t matter. His work feels authentic and topical, while never getting bogged down in stupid stuff like “science” and “facts.” While never quite overt, it is nice to see a major comic address climate change and environmentalism in a serious and smart way. This and Joe Harris’ Great Pacific are working hard to bring important issues back to mainstream comics and that is a very good thing. Mr. Wood’s whole career is filled with work from some of the most exciting artists working. From his old books with amazing talents like Becky Cloonan, Ryan Kelly, and Toby Cypress, to more recent fair where he has introduced the masses to artistic geniuses like Riccardo Burchielli, Fiona Staples, Shawn Martinbrough, and Nathan Fox, Wood may have the best taste of any writer in comics. He hasn’t slowed down at all in recent years, doing books with folks like James Harren and Ming Doyle, and now Garry Brown on The Massive. Garry Brown’s art makes The Massive a book that should be in every single smart person’s read list. I have known Garry’s work for a while and been counting the days until he became a superstar. I have a feeling that this time is now. There aren’t a lot of people in comics who can make 2 page spreads of the ocean seem beautiful, scary, or even worth looking at, but Garry does it effortlessly issue after issue. In short, a smart, exciting, and refreshing book that is also beautiful. Stop spending money on the stupid stuff you spend money on and give this book a chance.

Thanks for reading and good night. And sleep well sweet Tyler. Wherever you find yourself tonight.

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TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 10: To The Empire’s Ultimate Weapon!

Sometimes people in positions of power royally #@$% things up. I’ve never had the amazing opportunity to do this before, but this new year has been all about new experiences for me. After 9 brutal weeks of spending 20 minutes a week writing semi-nonsense about new comics in this column I think we can all agree I now wield a remarkably frightening amount of power in this world. And what did I do with my power? With great power comes human trafficking. I offered up Forbidden Planet’s poor basement dweller/demerit collector Ben to you all like he was some sort of man-shaped cookie… Which he sort of is. Poor, sweet Ben. 9 “lucky” contest winners got to take Ben on a date this past week. Poor, sweet, gentle Ben. And what did you, the loyal readers of TRY SOMETHING NEW, do? I legally can’t go into all the details but suffice it to say that Ben will never be the same. Good job readers. My power and your depravity royally #@$% this up. No more contests for at least 2 weeks. Poor, sweet, gentle, exsanguinated Ben needs to rest and regenerate around 4 pints of blood… and an eye. How long does that take?

These double digit columns are rough. Now I’m onto my second apology/retraction of the week. Last week I suggested you pick up Mr. Diggle & Mr. Jock‘s Snapshot #1 from Image. I just wrote “Mr. Jock.” Huh. Anyway, I pointed out that is was a newly colored update of the UK version. Well if you bought the book you might have noticed that the colors they used are both the color black and the color white. There aren’t even ink washes. And if you didn’t buy the book, what the hell? Buy the stuff I recommend. C’mon. I went back and edited that part out of last weeks blog post because this is the 21st century and information is supposed to be fluid and temporary. But for those of you who read the newsletter, you Guttenberg-ites, you are all stuck with what we used to refer to as “mistakes” but what we now refer to as “artifacts of non verified information.” I would feel bad for lying to all of you print readers but in a way I feel like it’s social Darwinism. You get bad information, it slows you down, and a lion eats you. The comic reading herd begins to move faster and make better choices. Malthus smiles from his grave. Sucks to be you. So anyway, yeah I sort of $#!% the bed on that one. You see I don’t get sent many preview versions of books (You hear that marketing/pr folks? Sort your stuff out.) so I go off what I can. What I saw was the black & white stuff and I was told the great colorist Lee Loughridge was going to be adding more colors beyond black & white. Mr. Loughridge is a great colorist and I met him at a party once and we talked about hardcore bands for 5 minutes so he’s basically the coolest guy working in comics right now. Either way, he didn’t color the book. Don’t know what happened. Like most reputable news outlets I get my news from various disreputable news outlets. They said it would be colored. It wasn’t. So there you have it. Either way the book is really good and worth your time. Stop being such a prude and read black & white comics. It’s better for your eyes. (No. It probably isn’t.)

Atomic Robo TP VOL 07 Flying She-Devils of the Pacific

Onto the parade of new books. When Mike Mignola created Hellboy in 19XX (too lazy to google that) there was a weird byproduct that I don’t think anyone could have predicted. The “monster/freak as adventurer/government agent” genre is certainly weirdly specific and probably only exists in western comics. You got the Hellboy spinoff monster cops book B.P.R.D., and new series like Yeti cop book Proof, monster cop book Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E., other Yeti cop book Footprints, and robot adventurer (cop) book Atomic Robo. The weird thing is that all of these books are pretty good. It is a premise that lends itself well to big exciting stories. Personally I have a real soft spot for Atomic Robo and was really glad to see ATOMIC ROBO vol 7.: ATOMIC ROBO AND THE FLYING SHE-DEVILS OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC out this week. Atomic Robo manages to differentiate itself from the crowd by maintaining a serious amount of fun at all times. If Hollywood people were smarter Atomic Robo would be a successful film or cartoon franchise already. (Do they make cartoons in Hollywood?) Equal parts Hellboy and Indiana Jones, Atomic Robo is one of the few ongoing (pretty much) all ages books of any real worth and is a real treasure. Before you pass over the book because it is kid friendly let me remind you that you are reading the newsletter/blog of a comic shop. You are, by definition, at least 60% manchild or womanchild depending on your genitals. Stop being pretentious and read something fun.

You remember 2007? I don’t really. I looked online and it seems almost nothing really happened that year. Some Marvel character probably died. The Loch Ness monster was caught. George Clinton was president. That Battles record that came out was really good. I discovered basketball shorts. 7/11 perfected making “chicken” nuggets out of Loch Ness Monster meat. The U.S. became the first country to use giant robots in actual combat. I meant to see Michael Clayton. Forbidden Planet’s Executive Director of Web Development, Halal food, & Mini-Comics, Tyler, was born. I had my first milkshake with pieces of cake in it and I refused to believe it was as gross as it actually is. Crazy all the stuff you can find out on the internet, huh? All of that stuff was ok but the one really interesting thing the whole year was that Vasilis Lolos released his super weirdo comic Last Call. Did you miss it? Well it’s about… I don’t really know what it’s about. Some dudes get on a train that is magical or demonic or metaphorical. Not sure. Then lots of weird stuff happens. Well now it’s 2013. Cake shakes ARE gross, basketball shorts are out in favor of smart ties and v-neck sweaters, I probably still won’t watch Michael Clayton, and Tyler is 5 years old and makes more money than me. Also, Mr. Lolos has released LAST CALL vol. 2. There is a lot of killing, some playing with relativity, and lots of “train as metaphor for _____”. In short, the book is pretty awesome. Another of the up and comers making western comics with strong Manga influence, LAST CALL vol. 2 feels like the freaky offspring of Scott Pilgrim, Prophet, and Orc Stain. If you have been digging the work of people like Giannis Milogiannis (some folks just have dope names), James Harren, Brandon Graham, or James Stokoe, this book should be a no-brainer for you. Remember; if you just read vol. 2 and don’t bother to track down vol. 1 first you haven’t earned your sense of confusion.

Powers Bureau #1

Let’s talk about Powers for a minute. Michael Avon Oeming draws it. It looks like he puts more thought into each panel than most cartoonists put into their careers. That’s cool. Good look, Mike. But I am, in some shameful misuse of the word, a writer. I like words. Words are sexy to me. Words are the things I use to both mock and lie to the people around me, and that gives me most of the joy I get in this world. People who use words well are better than people who don’t in my world. Now let’s talk about Brian Michael Bendis. But let’s talk about him via me. I had a shameful period in my life where I didn’t care about comics more than I care about everything else. I was into other stuff and comics just weren’t doing it for me. The thrill had faded years ago, like the shine on so many foil covers. Artists turned writers had abused me and left me bitter and broken. If I did hard drugs this would be my opium years. I was aimless, vacant, distant bordering on ethereal, and almost always nodding off in the back of that cockfighting place on Mott Street. Then someone came to me and saved me. They handed me POWERS vol. 1: WHO KILLED RETRO GIRL? It was an epiphany. It was a chance to see a world I once loved through virgin eyes again. It would have been cool for the sake of this story if the person who handed me that book was Brian Michael Bendis himself, but it wasn’t. I don’t know him. He probably doesn’t hang out at cockfights (“probably” is a strong word.). It was a creepy Gollum-like man in a comic shop that shall not be named who gave me the book. Anyway, I read it and I felt something. Brian Michael Bendis writes dialogue not like the way people talk, he writes it better. It’s idealized dialogue. It’s conversation, perfected. I can’t explain how important his dialogue and the way it forms his characters is to me. In my love of writing I have stopped and obsessed on folks like David Mamet, Elmore Leonard, Quentin Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin, and Whit Stillman for periods of my life. But here is where I say the crazy thing that gets me hate mail. None of them do for me what Bendis does. Bendis made me realize that comics are supposed to be better than all the other mediums. It is the best of all the worlds.

The Powers premise, police procedural in a superhero world, is so simple yet so perfect. This is the chocolate and peanut butter of comics. And the things Bendis does within the book, they were a revelation at the time and can still give you a jolt if you let them; the talking head panels, the multiple interwoven arcs, the focus on the relationships of characters, and lets not forgot the monkey sex issue (google it). All of this was eye opening for me (and most of the comics industry it would seem). The man brought me out of my smoky backroom cockfighting ring and into the less smoky but equally sketchy comic shop once again. Powers is my moment of clarity. I knew I wanted to give myself wholly to comics after I read it and I knew I would follow Mr. Bendis until the day he writes his final panel description. Sadly, Powers has come to an end. And like Lazarus, frozen yogurt shops in New York, and noisy indie rock, Powers has returned from the dead better than ever. POWERS BUREAU #1 comes out on Wednesday. I would say buy it but I might buy all of them and give them out in Port Authority to lost souls and wayward Aaron Sorkin fans. They have nothing left anymore.

Uncanny X-Men #1 Now

Hey, did you read that last paragraph? Did you like it? Don’t care. This awkward obsessing train rolls on. So… Brian Michael Bendis. I don’t expect all people to like his work. I get that he can be polarizing. He occasionally sacrifices old characterization continuity to serve story and people like their weird old continuity baggage. He pushed the medium forward and there always have to be people who push back. Sometimes his female characters are treated like second class citizens… (I don’t have a funny quip for that one. It’s a bummer.) He is good and most people don’t like good things. I get all that. But for me this new Bendis era of X-Men is about as exciting as comics gets. The X-Men were my childhood obsession, and smart comics are my adult obsession. This week childhood me and adult me meet up for a very excited 22 pages as Brian Michael Bendis begins writing UNCANNY X-MEN #1. His All New X-Men is the standout book of the very excellent Marvel Now! relaunch. Now his “X-Men on the run” team gets their own book, harkening back to the mutants as outlaws origins of the characters. The recent evolution of Cyclops, from preppy milquetoast, to his “heavy is the head that wears the crown” version, to his current radicalization, is one of the best things either of the Big 2 has done with one of their characters ever. This is actual growth and development. This is art. It is sad, hard to read sometimes, and compelling as hell. My guess? When all is said and done Mr. Bendis does the best X-Men book of the last 25 years. Get it now and watch the X-Men take their place once again as the most exciting team in comics.

Well it’s time to go. You have new books to buy and it’s my turn to irrigate Ben’s eye socket and I have to find out if my attorney appealed Mr. Bendis’ restraining order yet. Wish us both luck.

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TRY SOMETHING NEW Chapter 5: Rebel Spaceships, Striking From a Hidden Base

I feel like I have been doing this column long enough now that you all must be dying for a behind the scenes peek at how the magic happens. It all starts around 1:30 AM on Sunday night/Monday morning. That’s around 4 hours after I am supposed to have emailed this in to Tyler, our lovely wizard/graphic designer. I sit down in a chair and make up a bunch of stuff about new comics. I then send it to Tyler’s cauldron of spells/email account. He then does some process I don’t understand, blah blah blah, now it looks nice to look at. Then someone does something so that some internet nerds make it a blog post and someone else or maybe the same person does something so that printing nerds make it a newsletter. Viola! And that’s how it works. Same as the New York Times. It’s like Arthur C. Clarke once said to me, “Any sufficiently advanced low level comics journalism/sales pitch is indistinguishable from magic.” Anyway, there is a surprisingly good amount of new stuff on shelves this week and I have wasted a lot of space making jokes that only I will find funny, so let’s get on with it.

First, a moment of sadness and thanks to the great Jeff Lemire who wraps up his brilliant post apocalyptic coming of age story Sweet Tooth this week in SWEET TOOTH #40. If you haven’t ever read Mr. Lemire’s work you should be ashamed. SWEET TOOTH vol.1 is one of the true great joys of comics in the twenty first century. RIYL: SANDMAN, THE ROAD, or Children Of Men.

Also well worth reading no matter your feeling on superhero books, or anything else really, is WONDER WOMAN. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang are quietly sitting in their own corner of the DC universe taking one of the most beloved characters in comics history and telling new stories for her that feel exciting, fresh, and look about as good as a comic can look. Matthew Wilson’s coloring on this book will be studied for years to come as the correct way to have coloring not just serve the pencil art, but to make coloring it’s own art. You don’t have to know anything going in, nor do you have to care about the rest of the DC universe. You just have to like good comics. DC is finally putting out WONDER WOMAN vol. 1 & vol. 2 this week. This is about as good as superhero comics get so you should get them. RIYL: Wonder Woman stories on any level, Clash Of The Titans or any modern takes on mythology

DEVIL IS DUE IN DREARY #2 is also out this week. I really loved issue #1 of this series that felt like a perfect cross between the modern western elements of PREACHER and the foreboding tone of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. Add to that art that looks like a smoother Howard Chaykin and you have a really well made book. I know this is a book that will fly under most folks radars but that is a real shame. It has just enough uniqueness to make it stand out, just enough familiarity to be relatable, and is good enough to be a classic if people gave it a chance. RIYL: JONAH HEX or any modern westerns, FELL, PREACHER.

EERIE #2 hits shelves as well. I don’t hide my love for anthology comics and EERIE is a classic. Dark Horse’s relaunch of the series is off to a great start with weird short stories from Mike Allred (MADMAN, iZOMBIE, FF), Brian Clevinger (ATOMIC ROBO), and others. If you just want to read some fun & unusual stuff this is a no-brainer. Don’t be the guy or girl in your local comic shop who has to admit “I just like unfun & usual stuff.” RIYL: Old EERIE comics or other EC stuff, TWILIGHT ZONES, feeding your short attention span.

Peter Bagge is one of the modern legends of indie comics for his brilliant series HATE. When there is that much love and respect heaped on ones work it becomes easy for a lot of creators to shrink away from ever doing something substantial again. Fear of the followup or what have you. But Mr. Bagge has dived headfirst into new and brilliant projects one after another. From APOCALPSE NERD to YEAH! to OTHER LIVES his post HATE work has been varied and fun. It’s a different time for comics and it’s hard to get people as excited about a new book as it once was, but Mr. Bagge’s latest series, RESET, is maybe his best work since HATE and, if it were a different time, would be loved and talked about in much the same way. RESET is the story of a man who enters into an experiment that allows him to relive and change choices he’s made from his past. Weirdo stuff ensues. RIYL: Older Bagge stuff like HATE, the modern indie masters like Daniel Clowes or Charles Burns, or the idea of going back in time and messing things up like a creepy Marty McFly.

I don’t have much of an interest in Conan. Never did really. Some things aren’t for everyone. I know why people like it, I get that, it just wasn’t for me. Then Brian Wood wrote the excellent NORTHLANDERS series about badass vikings axing each other and whatnot and I immediately got the appeal. Apparently someone at Dark Horse did too because they snatched Mr. Wood up and put him on their CONAN book. I don’t know if that worked to bring new readers into the fold but it damn well should have. Mr. Wood is great at huge epics (DMZ, NORTHLANDERS), great at telling stories smarter than they need to be (COURIERS, CHANNEL ZERO), and great at working with amazing artists. For the beginning of his run, collected as CONAN vol 13: QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST he continues these trends. A smart Conan story that feels epic and has beautiful work by two of the more consistently interesting artists working today; BECKY CLOONAN (AMERICAN VIRGIN, DEMO vol II) and JAMES HARREN (B.P.R.D.). For those of you who have ever loved Conan and forgotten about it, this is the time to jump back on. And for those of you like me, who never saw the appeal, this is the comic that will make you fall in love with a barbarian with an ax. That’s a good thing.

RIYL: NORTHLANDERS, people using swords and stuff on each other, old pulp stories made relevant again.

END TIMES OF BRAM & BEN #1 is out this week. A buddy comedy set around the rapture. Image pumped out more good series debuts in 2012 than most people can afford to read and ETOBAB is their hope for their first big hit of 2013. This book is clearly gunning for the bookshelves of fans of smart and snarky comics and is definitely worth checking out if that is you. Co-writer James Asmus is a rising star over at Marvel but is also doing his time at Image on THIEF OF THIEVES with some nobody named Robert Kirkman. If you look for comics that have some action but really want to make you smirk this should fully be on your radar by now. RIYL: BATTLE POPE, CHEW, or the film Dogma.

My last recommendation is BETA TESTING THE APOCALYPSE. 10ish short stories from Tom Kaczynski that all play with the idea of exploring modern intangible concepts like capitalism or utopia and breaking them down into very tangible and very human stories. These are big ideas made very small and personal. Kaczynki’s style makes all the heavy stuff feel very immersive with out ever feeling oppressive. It is a delicate balancing act, and one that clearly he is comfortable with. BETA TESTING THE APOCALYPSE, like a lot of the Fantagraphics stuff from the last decade, is definitely one of those books that’ll please almost everybody who has the interest to pick it up and for a select few it will become a most cherished and prized possession. RIYL: J.G. Ballard, the more esoteric but personal stuff Fantagraphics puts out, CONCRETE.

Ok. I’m done.

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