Sunday, August 16, 2009


First off, thanks to all our customers and special guest star Ben Templesmith for making Third Coast Comics' first anniversary party a huge success!

But now, since DC's Wednesday Comics experiment is at the halfway point, I'm giving my midterm grades to the strips. Creators are judge on quality of story and effective use of the newspaper comics page format.

BATMAN (Azzarello & Risso): The 100 Bullets crew has done noir Batman before, and this is up to their usual high standards. They're making good use of the one-page format. This is the front page for a reason. A.

KAMANDI, LAST BOY ON EARTH (Gibbons & Sook): Leaving aside the fact that i've been a Kamandi fan since childhood, this strip is the highlight of the Wednesday. They've hit the Prince Valiant vibe perfectly in presentation and pacing, the art is gorgeous, and the story is clear and kickass. A+.

SUPERMAN (Arcudi & Bermejo): Oh dear. Well, Lee Bermejo's art is gorgeous as ever, and the color palette makes you feel like you're in a perpetual sunset. But have we learned nothing from some less than successful Superman runs (I'm looking at you J.M. DeMatteis and Joe Casey) and Superman Returns, NOBODY wants to see a mopey self-doubting Superman. D.

DEADMAN (Bullock, Heuck, Fletcher, & Stewart): The art's an acceptable Bruce Timm/Darwyn Cooke homage, but I'm at a loss as to why this strip exists. Deadman's way out of his element here. He works as a ghost walking between bodies and solving mysteries (you'll never convince me the creator of TV's Quantum Leap wasn't a Deadman fan). A reader who'd never seen this character before would be at a loss--spirit world? Rama Kushna? What seem to be mythological figures? This reads like it was a Hellboy story dusted off and rewritten with Deadman. D.

GREEN LANTERN (Busiek & Quinones): Kurt Busiek's not really capable of a bad story (ok, ok, the 80s Red Tornado miniseries notwithstanding) and Quinones does a lovely early sixties mod design style, but this thing moves at a snail's pace. Some weeks Green Lantern is barely seen suited up. Busiek's trying for a depth of story here that isn't really suited for one page a week. C-.

METAMORPHO (Gaiman & Allred): Ok, Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred are having a lot of fun with the format, and the jokes hit more than they miss. But when they do miss, they reveal a strip that's a little too in love with its own cleverness (e.g., the 'snakes n ladders' segment in week six. A solid B.

TEEN TITANS (Berganza & Galloway): I think it took until week six to get to the point of this, and I really didn't care what was going on in weeks one through five. Sean Galloway (character designer for Spectacular Spider-Man) has decent art skills, stylized but clear. But this story doesn't have much to recommend it. And really, Blue Beetle alternating between English and Spanish every few words? You know who did that? El Dorado on Superfriends. 'Nuff said. D.

STRANGE ADVENTURES WITH ADAM STRANGE (Pope): Like the Kamandi strip, Paul Pope is evoking an old-school classic strip (Flash Gordon) in his own style. Nicely paced, well drawn, and just a little bit tongue in cheek. A.

SUPERGIRL (Palmiotti & Conner): Amusing light story about the Girl of Steel and two Super-Pets and the art is well suited for it. This would be a baseline. A midle of the road grade. However, in week six, there's a guest appearance by Aquaman apparently as portrayed by Jeremy Piven, which I find hilarious. B+.

METAL MEN (Didio, Garcia Lopez, & Knowlan): I don't much care for Dan Didio's editorial decisions the past few years, but he's turning in a well paced story here, and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez's art is stunning as ever. This is a great use of the Metal Men, but loses a point for bringing up the human disguises the team used to wear in the early 70s. nobody wanted to remember that. A-.

WONDER WOMAN (Caldwell): Oh this is a mess. Ben Caldwell aims for the stars with a dense story not clearly told in the one-page format, daring layouts that are tough on the eyes, and coloring much too subtle for the printing method and newsprint paper stock to handle. None of this is working. F.

SGT. ROCK AND EASY COMPANY (Kubert & Kubert): Joe Kubert and his son Adam are legends in the field. The story and art are perfectly fine, but this is another strip that's moving too slow. The suspense and intrigue don't carry well from week to week. C-.

FLASH COMICS (Kerschl & Fletcher): Perfect use of the format! The two parallel strips are a great idea, and Flash's time travel plot is treading a fine line between comprehesible and confusing. All this and beautiful art pastiches of Mary Worth and Tarzan. A+.

THE DEMON AND CATWOMAN (Simonson & Stelfreeze): This is a teamup that came out of left field, and I'm not entirely sure it's giving a balanced exposure to both of its stars, but it is pretty entertaining. Unlike the Deadman strip, both characters are in their element, Catwoman flirting and stealing, and Etrigan leaping 20 feet in the air and speaking all Shakespearean. As a side note to anyone writing the Demon. If you can't do poetry, PLEASE don't have Etrigan speak in rhyme. There are very few writers who can pull this off, and most of them are named Alan Moore. See what Simonson is doing here? Flowery but not compelled to do a rhyming couplet in every speech balloon. Anyway, B+.

HAWKMAN (Baker): Does Kyle Baker hate Frank Miller? Judging from the first two pages of this I concluded the answer is yes. However, this strip looks great and has had some twists, turns, and an anything can happen feel to it. A-.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fear of a Black Cape

The following was most recently inspired by reading a review of the events of "the Black Panel at San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCC) 09, a conversation that repeats itself in my comics shop and the letter X.

I'll summarize for you so you don't need all the background.

The "Black Panel" is an annual event at SDCC hosted by a guy named Michael Davis. The purpose/feel of the panel is to provide support/promotion for projects related to Black Culture specifically in comics.

When I put it this way, it seems pretty decent and useful but I also want to see it in it's best possible light. If you're putting a panel together with Denys Cowan and Reginald Hudlin on it I'm fine with it. Even better if you're including Jamal Ingle, Kyle Baker and Dwayne McDuffie. I'm pretty sure that you could easily honor people like Nichelle Nichols and have a high quality panel that really sets the tone for panels like it at other shows.

Of course you don't have to have a panel like this at all. If you're a person of color and into comics culture then there no end to the areas of disappointment you've had to face to either feel represented or to break into the industry. The answer, IMO is to hone your craft no matter the obstacle and get out there and do what you have to do to make it work.

Then again you could easily turn a classy panel like I described into a minstrel show full of chicken, watermelon, punctuality and laziness jokes. Then throw in some "Them" vs "Us" references, promote projects by rappers etc, and you'll have what I've seen more than once in the comics industry. I think this is a less than professional way to handle business.

If you make it to the point where you can host, organize and or moderate a panel on the state of minority affairs in the comics industry, please do me the favor of doing so as if you a) have a brain and b) have respect for the business. Panels such as these can and should be used as promotional/information sharing tools and they shouldn't be circus side shows.

Now for those conversations I keep finding myself having.

All I want are good comics. I'll be the judge of what's good though. I don't watch UPN, BET or listen to Urban Radio either. That's because they don;t offer me anything that I find useful in the least. I have no problem supporting creators of color when solid work is being done in the industry. I do not however support glorified fan fiction in my comics.

I was talking to a guy recently about how cool he thought it was that Black Panther and Storm of the X-Men were married. My position was that the whole thing made no sense to me logically and that clearly we were dealing with a case of Reginald Hudlin remembering a conversation from his youth in which he must have said, "Man If I were Black Panther, I'd get with Storm. That girl is BAD as HELL! Damn!!!" Nevermind the fact that their paths would probably never cross.

If BP were going to marry a black super personality in Marvel comics, then he'd have a better chance of meeting Monica Rambeau (Photon), a former Avenger and current member of Nextwave and the Marvel Divas comic or Misty Knight, cyborg chick detective and former GF of Iron Fist. Both spend most of their time in NYC and have Avengers ties, directly and indirectly. Storm, on the other hand is part of a team that is anything but public and she's either in Upstate NY or has moved out to the West Coast with all the other mutants, hated around the world for just being different.

Hudlin was having a Jay-Z and Beyonce moment. Storm MIGHT be Marvel's most popular female character Black America would crack the internet in half over it's collective knee if BP married a white super chick so it damn well had to be Storm but that doesn't change the fact that this is glorified fan fiction. Why couldn't Hudlin create a strong black female character whom BP could fall in love with and marry, who could become a significant character at Marvel for years to come?

I have heard arguments that the BP and Storm pairing is great considering the state of black super dudes in mainstream comics but I'm calling bullshit on complaints about the state of black characters in mainstream comics. If people were willing to actually do the leg work, they'd see that representation is out there. Something has changed though.

Hip Hop/Street culture has helped to put forth an idea that we're only being represented if black character look and act like black people act on television and in the media. A comics starring rappers who have super powers which match their music industry personas would get more notice than a long running DC super team with FOUR black characters including it's leader (JSA and Mr. Terriffic).

The only complaint I'll really allow for mainstream comics involves no male black X-Men...ever (I really don;t count Bishop since he had to come back in time from the future) and no better characters in the Legion of Superheroes than, Tyroc, Invisible Kid II and Kid Quantum II. Small potatoes to some but it's noticeable to me. I won't list all the black characters in mainstream comics BUT I will say that you have:

Luke Cage leading an Avengers team
John Stewart as a prominent Green Lantern
Black Panther himself
Jim Rohdes as that other Iron Man guy who will now be played by Don Cheadle in the next Iron Man movie (in my book this counts as 2x as black)
Steel as a big time superman supporting character as well as his niece Natasha.
Cyborg, fan favorite member of the Titans
Mr Terriffic, Jakeem Thunder, Amazing Man, and Thunder, daughter of Black Lightning
The JLA has Black Lightning, John Stewart and Vixen
The current run of Astro City (READ ASTRO CITY!) stars Charles and Royal Willams as agents infiltrating an evil spy organization (Pyramid) in order to track down the killer of their parents.
Everyone who wants to read a great sci fi comics should also read Ocean by Warren Ellis.

Like I said, not a complete list but good enough to have people only holding on to their old feelings about representation because they want to and not because it's really the case. In fact if people start mentioning characters I've left off, it would just be making my point for me.

Now I know plenty of people that want to see more African mythology and Black Historical allegories used in comics and because they don't see these things, many mainstream comics fans become indie comics creators and make these comics themselves. This is perfectly fine and I'll validate the hell out of it. To a point. Please don't tell me that this is the only outlet out there for blacks and creators of color because the mainstream won't let us in.

a) I'm having a hard time separating this "original material" I'm seeing from people disenfranchised by the industry from the material it's derived from.

If you are pissed that your voice isn't wanted by "The Man" then why do you try so hard to repackage the same stories "The Man" has spent decades selling us but with a black twist?

b) Please master the craft that you are trying so hard to display. There are a lot of talented people of color working in mainstream comics and these are not people who took a negative portfolio critique or maybe even several rejection letters or unreturned phone calls as a message that there was no place for them. They, as near as I can tell, just kept at it.

Comics is not a business for everyone. The 15 largest publishers in the business can only have some many people under it's employ so you will have to compete. Becoming bitter and not honing your skills to a true professional level of story telling is not the answer.

Friday, August 7, 2009

All Hail Ben Templesmith!

Hello All,

First I'd like to say that this week marks the official one year anniversary of Third Coast Comics! The official celebration will take place next week on Saturday, August 15th.

To Help us Celebrate we are bringing in famed Gothic Comics artist, Ben Templesmith to sign everything from his own highly acclaimed work (30 Days of Night, Fell, Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, Welcome to Hoxford, Groom Lake and the upcoming Choker), to anything you happen to put in front of him.

He's up for sketching slightly odd versions of all of your favorite characters and will spill all sorts of industry insider information with his Australian accent to boot.

Ben is Signing from 2:00pm to 6:00pm after which he's joining us for our Comic Book Meetup session in our Courtyard.

I don't know about you all but I'm pretty damn excited about all of this.

This year has beaten my previously chosen potential occupations of astronaut, pro wrestler or heavy metal drummer.

Nasa said they didn't need a masked percussionist so I'm bringing you Ben Templesmith instead!

Come by and meet him on August 15th at 2:00pm