Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice into the Woods 5/19/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / poolside sweetheart Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). I’m beat, Denizens. Totally exhausted. You see, this week I spent Sunday–Wednesday on a work trip with today being my first full day back at the office; this doesn’t even factor in time at the Donist World corporate headquarters (Mom’s basement) which was spent in some epic meetings with my puppy executive team devising strategies for maintaining our status as a Fortune 320,000 company. Thankfully, I only had two comics in my pull, and despite having plenty of older books and trades I wanted to talk about, I just don’t have the time or mental clarity to effectively go into anything other than the two. Because of this, I'm including a letter I wrote to my father in response to a rightwing article he sent to me on the topic of diversity efforts bringing about the demise of Marvel Comics. I hope you enjoy what I had to say. So, while I go grab some desperately needed shut-eye, sit back, have a tasty beer or a strong ginger ale, take care of yourself, and while you’re at it check out some great comics. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magics mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Friday Slice of Heaven

Low #18

Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, colored by Dave McCaig, lettered by Rus Wooton, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. Sweet baby Bejebus, Denizens, I am loving all of Remender’s current work. I can’t even give you an “I especially like…” as everything he’s producing at Image is heavenly. I will say that Low is my favorite underwater, sci-fi, dystopian adventure comic, though.
Although this arc has not shown us the fates of either Stel Caine or of Della and her stolen Helm Suit (a vastly deadly weapon), the story of Tajo Caine and her friends is more than enough to keep me glued to each page. Tajo is hunting for Lena, the daughter of the man who abducted her when she was but a little girl. With this issue, we are led on a rollercoaster of a chase, much in the same vein as Remender’s amazing Black Science, through the seedy underworld of the dying submerged city of Salus. Roachtown, the place where fatalists and degenerates go to indulge their every pleasure before they die, is the flipside of the beauty that the creators have previously shown us of doomed Salus. Here there is violence, sex, drugs, you name it, and we catch a glimpse of it all, which is why this series is 100% for adults only; no kiddos allowed, NSFW, and I wouldn’t go gifting it to your momma or your boss. <phew> Sorry, gotta cool off after that Lena scene. Geez, Louise.
Anyhow, Tocchini’s art is gorgeous on every page — not just the lascivious Lena moments — and the storytelling of the chase scenes will keep you whipping through the issue. McCaig’s color tones change wonderfully depending on the city district: the purples of the drug bar, the reds of Lena’s room (oh my), the cooler blue-greens of the upper regions, to the chaos of oranges and yellows toward the end. Every aspect of this comic works beautifully as an example of what happens when all those involved are perfectly in sync.
Provided you are mature enough to handle the content, you need to be reading this fantastic comic, and catching up is an easy thing to do. You can start with the first three trades today — a fourth comes out in August — or you can wait until October for the oversized hardcover, which I have been hoping for ever since I read the very first issue. Man, I love this comic.

Royal City #3

Everythinged by Jeff Lemire, lettered by Steve Wands, published by Image Comics. Alrighty, Denizens, this review is going to be a drastic shift from that of the previous comic. Actually, it’s going to be a drastic shift from most of what Lemire has been producing for quite some time now. With Royal City, you won’t find any superheroes or villains, spacemen or mutated children, or anything of the like. No. This brutally honest series is more in line with Lemire’s masterwork Essex County (one of the few comics that’s ever made me cry) in that we have a beautifully scripted and intricately illustrated tale of a family as it collapses in upon itself after a tragic event. Of course, I’m not going to spoil what that event is, and in fact, we, the reader, don’t fully know what happened yet anyways. The Pike family — comprised of three brothers, a sister, a mother, and a father — has so much history, such painful memories, that they can barely manage to interact with one another or those close to them in a civil manner. If it wasn’t for the one common thread to which each clings (I’m not saying what), I suspect this family would fall to ruin.
If you are familiar with Lemire’s art, then you can expect the looks of pain and hopelessness in his characters’ eyes, or the resentment and disappoint in the lines of their faces, and the weariness that burdens their frame. In other words, you’re not going to be smiling by the time you finish reading an issue of Royal City, and even though there doesn’t appear to be any bright spots in the near future, the  emotions on display, the character development, and the heartbreaking honesty of the story will keep you coming back for more. Lemire looks to have yet another masterpiece on his hands.

Slice into the Woods

The Traitorous #45 - Here is hoping that #45 and all those involved in destabilizing our country, including Pence, get what is coming to them: impeachment, disgrace, and severe prison sentences. Heck, let #45 get those high ratings he’s so preoccupied with. I’m more than fine with #45’s arrest having the highest ratings ever seen.

Roger Ailes - Speaking of vile human beings…good riddance to a sexual harassing fearmonger.

The Letter I Sent to My Dad

Hey Dad,

Comics are definitely one of my most favorite things on the planet. I’ve been reading them for 40+ years, I’m a comic book creator, and I pay attention to the industry as a whole. I’m kind of a fanatic, but I’ll try not to go full on War and Peace here.


Bleeding Cool (online site about the stuff I love) points out quite nicely why Marvel is hurting.

Being PC and trying to be more inclusive—whether via artists or writers, or via comic book characters—is NOT killing Marvel Comics. Short-sighted, short-term money grabs, high cover prices, accellerated shipping schedules, multiple books for a group (9 X-Men comics per month for example) and an adversity to risk taking in an effort to appease shareholders as opposed to building their fanbase, is what’s hurting Marvel Comics. To be fair, Marvel receives mixed feedback from fans: “We want more heroes like me,” “We want things to stay exactly the same, “We want something new,” ”We want skimpy outfits and huge knockers so we can have boners,” “You are being sexist.” The thing is, most of Marvel’s readership falls predominantly on white dudes in their 40s. Translation: me. Marvel says they want to bring in new readers, but they predominantly only cater to older, white dudes. This blows my mind as women make up 51% of the population, there are tons of youngsters which most of their offerings are not geared toward, and they fail at every turn to capitalize off of their kickass movies. I never see free, promotional comics being handed out to moviegoers at every film, or collectible posters with links to Marvel Unlimited (digital comic book service), or to Comixology (digital comics purchases). These things are generally looked at as too big a risk, or too costly, yet these movies make 100s of millions of dollars.

*Note: Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is a FANTASTIC history of Marvel Comics and its creators and the multiple near deaths Marvel has suffered over the decades. I’ve listened to the audio version twice and will definitely listen to it again as it is a fascinating history about the carousel of egotistical, ignorant, and abusive head honcho moneymen hellbent on destroying an industry. Also, selling off The Fantastic Four and X-Men rights to FOX, and selling off the Spider-Man rights to SONY didn’t do them any favors either.

Where I stand…I am now reading ONE Marvel Comic. I used to read a ton, but dropped series after series primarily because of Marvel’s decision to constantly run “Event” books, which are special storylines that start as a separate new comic book series (Secret Invasion comes to mind) that sprawls out into every other series they publish, interrupting storylines, and requiring readers to buy dozens of titles in order to get the complete story. This is a money grab, and the sad thing is it works…at least in the extreme short-term. The first issues of event books usually sell quite well, but then flounder as the series suffers through delays, art changes, and, frankly, erratic stories that only serve to lead into yet another “Event.”

This has little to do with diversity. Diversity does not hurt comics and has actually saved Marvel’s ass on a few occasions with the huge popularity of Ms. Marvel (a teenage, Muslim hero written by a Muslim woman) among teen girls, or of the character Thor recently being replaced by a woman (I love this book btw). 

Oh, and that one book I currently read…the creator is leaving Marvel to focus on his creator-owned work, so I will be reading zero Marvel books in the near future. I’m hopeful this will change.

Marvel’s other huge problem is the hemorrhaging of creative talent, which also applies to DC Comics. Unstable working conditions (most everyone is an outside contractor with no health benefits), disparate pay, demands to accommodate “Events,” exclusivity contracts, unexpected ramps in shipping schedules (rushed work), and creators having little to no ownership of their creations that can potentially go on to make 100s of millions of dollars if those characters end up in a movie, all contribute to creative talent leaving. The old model to break into comics was to create your own work, pray you were noticed, and that Marvel or DC hired you. Now, creators look to make a name at Marvel or DC so they can leave with an established fanbase and work on their creator-owned books where they own the property and are rewarded for their efforts. I GREATLY prefer these creator-owned works as I follow the writers and artists versus blindly following characters I might have once historically loved.

Alright, already at War and Peace length here. So I’ll wrap up. The guy who wrote that article is an idiot. He is more interested in spreading ultra-rightwing nonsense about an industry he does not fully understand. He’s also a white male commenting on something he has no comprehension of: being LGBTQ, a woman, black, hispanic, etc. He’s more interested in slamming an admittedly left-leaning creator like Nick Spencer (who regularly gets death threats on Twitter for recently having the black superhero The Falcon, step into the role of Captain America) or Brian Michael Bendis for being liberal (I never noticed this being a big thing with Bendis, but the article author slams him for making a new version of Spider-Man who is half Puerto Rican and half black and loved by most comic readers while an overly vocal minority send Bendis death threats). The article author is bolstering a narrative that mostly isn’t true. Yes, some of the books come off as ringing false as they attempt to be more inclusive, but at least Marvel has made some attempts to be inclusive. Diversity is not hurting Marvel, an inability to retain talent, to release consistent quality products, high cover prices, over-saturation of properties in the market (too many X-Men and Avengers titles), failure to reach broader markets, and short-term money grabs are what is hurting them.



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