I have returned!
I know, I know, finally.
“Brett, you have been away too long and haven’t given us the skinny on what sort of comic books have been coming down the pipe for the past couple of weeks. What is going on??”
I understand your frustration, I really do. But there was a huge debacle with Doctor Who that I had to sort out and finally I can say that I am caught up to current and am now suffering just like the rest of my fellow Whovians, while we wait every weekend for the new episodes. But enough about that. What you want are the comics.
For awhile now, I have been mulling over what I wanted my next blog to be about. It seems to me and I’m sure the same goes for you that I might not know a whole lot about comics outside of the DC Universe and while I am not as well versed in the Marvel Universe as DC….YET. I do try to dabble in a little bit of everything. To steal a phrase from a certain comic shop owner I know, “I’m a comic gourmand” If it is a comic book, I will try it and about 9 times out of 10 I am pretty sure that I will have enjoyed it in some way. I never look at a comic and say, “Meh, that was bad.” Or. “OH GOD, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!” I try to find the best in everything I read, even if it is just ONE good thing.
Ranting aside, I wanted to take a step away from the publisher owned characters and titles and step into the realm of creator-owned. A whole other beast.
To give a sort of blurry back story on creator owned books, for a long while that is, we had a slew of publisher owned titles and characters that mostly hit the nail on the head for what comic book readers were looking for. But a couple people decided that after either being wronged by a comic book publisher or just bored of what was coming out each week, they decided they wanted to start their own comic book companies and put out their own books. With that, we saw the birth of companies such as Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, Top Cow, Boom Studios, etc. Pretty much everything outside of the two big powerhouses Marvel and DC. With these creations, we saw new creators stepping out into the fray with new, bold ideas, some good and some bad. But their bravery is what helped pave the way for new books and ideas to be published with confidence that, “someone, somewhere will enjoy this crazy idea that I just came up with.”
Flash forward to the past couple of years.
One company that has been leading the charge in the distribution of these creators’ brilliant ideas is Image Comics. With books such as Invincible, Saga, Luther Strode, Witch Doctor, Danger Club, Manhattan Projects, Morning Glories, Skullkickers. The list goes on and on, endlessly, Image Comics has been bringing the heat to the comic book world, giving us not only new characters to love and grow with, but also the idea that with any wave of the hand, these titles could disappear without a second glance. It is a truly scary thought. We are truly in charge of these creators’ futures with these books, based on what we like, don’t like, or what we spend our hard earned dollars on.
If you are like me and my comic book cohorts, we have a rule that we try to follow.
Whenever there is a new number one and we are somewhat interested in it. We gotta give it a shot. We play the three issue game. You really cannot get the feeling of where a creator is taking a book, solely based on one issue. There is too much setup for a story that takes place over the course of a few issues that you will miss out on, especially if you don’t spend the time AND money to get more. So you could miss out technically on something great, just because it wasn’t enough to hook you in one issue. We have to trust the creators to hook and hold us. I can say with confidence that I haven’t been let down a whole lot when trying out a new book.
I like to think that they have me in mind when they sit down to create each issue. “Hmm…what would Brett like to see here?” But, I’m pretty sure that that is just me.
There is something to be said about the ideas that flow for creator owned books. In the publisher owned world, there is a formula to follow. As much as we love seeing our favorite characters in books we have loved for years. Sometimes the growth we see in a character is huge, as long as it is within the confines of what the publishers want to see. No creator can go too far without a certain checks and balances that take place. I will clarify that I am in no way bashing what goes on in the publisher owned arena because I would be a mess without my Daredevil and Superman, but with creator owned stories, it is all fair game.
These are creations that the storytellers came up with of their own accord and the fates of characters and worlds are in the hands of the creators themselves. They are like gods, molding these worlds in their image and can give and take with ease (Not to give any creators any ideas or god complexes!) But it truly is in their hands. We end up falling in love with a character or characters, not knowing that the whole time; they were destined to fall at the hands of the villain or cataclysmic event. It creates a hook that sinks into our hearts so deep that at least in my instance, we never truly recover.
When I entered the creator owned world of comics a couple of years ago, I started with just a few small titles. The Strange Talent of Luther Strode and Witch Doctor. They blew me out of the freaking water with how wonderful they were. The biggest shock however was how Justin Jordan, Tradd Moore, Brandon Seifert, and Lukas Ketner were all these small potato names (no offense, you guys are brilliant!) It was a huge shock that this talent was just hidden away, waiting for them to come out with these books and shock the comic book world. Now we see that not only are they continuing these series and adding more to these books’ mythos, (I currently have Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #6 in my possession and am sad to see another great mini end and have to wait again for another!) but the creators themselves have become bigger names. Justin Jordan has become a go-to creator in DC Comics, finishing up stories in Deathstroke and Team 7, both great books and beginning to take over for Superboy and Green Lantern: New Guardians. While Tradd Moore is doing more art for Marvel, covers mostly. And I haven’t read them but I hear Brandon Seifert is doing a bang up job on Clive Barker’s Hellrasier for BOOM Studios.
Another great creator owned book that I started out on and without a doubt holds its own is Jim Zubkavich’s Skullkickers. Imagine if you will, since I know EVERYONE is a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, two badass monster hunters, one human and one dwarf. Only labeled as the bald one and the short one, doing what monster hunters do, killing monsters for gold, fame, and adventure. Also so they can afford that next ale. So much wit and sarcasm come from the book, while all the craziest shit happens to the two of them. The sound effects that help move the action along is one of the greatest things I have seen in a comic. They are fresh and completely original, while also being appropriate to what is going on in the story. A must-read for anyone who is looking for something original.
Following these creator owned gems, Image kept trying to out-do themselves when it came to what great comic book was to come out next and for the next year and up to the present they have been doing just that. It has been coined the “Image Comics Creative Renaissance” We have seen titles such as Peter Panzerfaust, Mind The Gap, SAGA, Manhattan Projects, and East of West now. And this is just scratching the surface of what has and will come out in the future. They keep trying to put out fresh, new ideas that keep us guessing while still bringing something to the table to compete with the Big Two every week.
Not to mention, a huge boost to my creativity because I thought if they can do it then I can do it too! I cannot tell you how easy it is to be inspired when I sit down and read a new story. It gets me so pumped and gets the juices flowing for my own ideas. Ones that I hope I will be able to finally sit down and start fleshing out more. Just thinking about it now is calling me to sit down and try. We are definitely going to sit and chat later about those ideas too. Why not bounce my ideas off the entirety of Internet….or everyone who sits down and reads this blog at least! Enough about me though.
I wanted to also take a minute and tell you about some of the great creator owned stuff I am reading outside of Image. With IDW Publishing, one of the greatest books to grace the stands on a monthly basis is Locke and Key. The great Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez team up has been killing it. With a fresh horror story with huge supernatural elements sprinkled in, this book took what is great about comics and what a great novel should be and make it a match made in heaven.
Another couple of great books coming out of Dark Horse as originals are Francesco Francavilla’s noir pulp superhero hit, The Black Beetle. A wonderful read from beginning to end that gives you a classic feel of what the Masks were like back in the days when you listened to them on the radio. The other book was one I just picked up today called Amala’s Blade. Focusing on a sort of steampunk feel, it follows the character of Amala, a master assassin who has been hired on to kill off many a target. While two sides of the world war on the Purifiers and Modifiers. The Modifiers are a people from what I have seen that devote themselves to modifying their lives, weapons, etc. While the Purifiers are the purists and stay from all the technological advances. And Amala is caught in the middle, making enemies on both sides without a care in the world. Did I mention she has the spirits of everyone she has killed, following her around on her adventures as well, and giving her a hard time? Definitely another gem to check out.
These creators do a great job though because not only are they trying to tell a great story. It is a story or an idea that they came up with on their own. Whether or not it was just a quick pitch that turned into something amazing or their brain-child they have held on to for years, just waiting to share and tell with all of us. It is amazingly inspiring to be able to share and take part in this with them and I love them for it each and every time I sit down to read the next issue.
So I know this was a long read and I’m not going to apologize because I owed you guys this. It has been a long time coming and I know I have promised that I am going to be better about this. School is finished up for the semester so I’ll have all summer to keep this going.
I really appreciate you all taking a look and spending the time to read my rants. It means the world to me.
I’ll talk to you guys soon,