Monday, September 29, 2014

Writer Blocks - Batman: Year One

It was 1987, February, and I stood alone in front of the spinner rack at the Shop-Rite in Neptune City, NJ. It was the first time a Batman comic book caught my eye.  On the top, above even the title, it said “By Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli”:


I was a huge Miller fan, and the Daredevil: Born Again storyline by Miller and Mazzucchelli, which I had purchased from that same spinner rack the previous year, was and is one of my all-time favorites, so I couldn’t wait to get home and read what they did with the Batman.

Not only did I get a classic story, but also a lesson in dichotomy and juxtaposition.

Batman: Year One is really the story of James Gordon’s arrival in Gotham City and his struggle against crime, corruption and infidelity.  Bruce Wayne, and thus Batman, is almost a supporting player, acting as a visual representation of what Gordon is going through.  This compare / contrast effect begins on the very first page:

Batman year one page 1

Gordon enters the city, and thus the story, on the ground, while Bruce returns to his birthplace by plane, above the fray.

Above it all. 

This sets the tone for the entire arc. Gordon is already an accomplished cop as opposed to Bruce, who has to learn how to be “Batman”.  While Bruce is getting stabbed by a young prostitute and then arrested, Gordon is taking out his main rival, Detective Flass.  And as the confidence and notoriety of Batman grows, it empowers Gordon to become a hero in his own right.

The two eventually collide at the climax of the book when Bruce saves Gordon’s newborn son, James, by diving into a mud pit, similar to where old man Batman defeats the Mutant Leader in Dark Knight. Gordon lets Bruce know that his secret is safe, saying that he is “practically blind without my glasses”:

year one mudhole

Blind as a bat.

Batman: Year One is also the first time I remember picking-up on visual motifs in a comic book.  The clown painting hanging over Commissioner Loeb’s chair is a clear homage to the Joker:


As I read this I was positive that the book would end with Loeb becoming the Joker. I was half right. Batman: Year One does end with the arrival of the Clown Prince of Crime, but this is used to show the new respect and partnership between Gordon and Batman:

batman-year-one last panel

Batman: Year One and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns will always be the bookends to the Caped Crusader’s career in my mind.  While what Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are currently doing with Batman in the New 52 is excellent, and Zero Year was an epic story, nothing can replace these two works by Frank Miller as how I will always see my Batman.

Next Week – Miller Time continues with Daredevil

Comic Books are Taking Over Your Television

Your guide to when these shows will air.

In the last fifteen years there has been a resurgence of live action comic book based adaptations. From the original Spider-Man trilogy to The Avengers, comic book characters have returned on the big-screen but thanks to shows like the WB’s Smallville, these characters have proven they can also be successful on the small-screen.

With six shows airing this fall and about a dozen more that are still in preproduction, it appears that the comic-book genre is alive and well and that it isn’t going anywhere.

Here's a list of all the upcoming shows.

Airing Now:

Gotham, premiered on September 22, 2014.

Airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox.Gotham-TV-Show-Cast-Photo

Based off of DC’s Batman universe, the series follows the early days of Detective James Gordon in the Gotham City police force. The story will feature a pre-Batman Gotham and will showcase many origin stories of favorite villains such as the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, Poison Ivy and the Scarecrow.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, premiered on September 23, 2014.

Airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC.

A spinoff of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe that’s based off of the organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), a group of spies that want to keep the peace in a world where superheroes exist.


New Shows:

The Flash, series premieres on October 7, 2014.the-flash-2014-tv-series-logo

Airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

A spin-off of Arrow that follows the adventures of DC’s Barry Allen, a young man who gets struck by lightning and gains the ability of super-speed.


Constantine, series premieres on October 24, 2014.constantine poster

Airs Fridays at 9/8c on NBC.

Based off of DC/Vertigo’s popular anti-hero, John Constantine - a conman turned occult detective that battles supernatural forces. Sources say that this adaptation will be a lot closer to the comics than the 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves.


Arrow, season three premieres on October 8, 2014.

Airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

The series is based on DC’s Oliver Queen, a billionaire playboy turned costume crime fighter who is out to stop the crime and corruption in his town.


The Walking Dead, season five premieres on October 12, 2014.

Airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.

Based off of Image Comic’s group of zombie survivors. Last season the survivors escaped the prison and went down a very long road towards a safe haven named Terminus. Once they arrived, things weren’t what they seemed and now the survivors have to escape a new threat.


Upcoming Shows

Marvel’s Agent Carter, no premiere date yet.

Airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on ABC.

agent carter

iZombie, no premiere date yet.

When it will air is still to be determined on The CW


Daredevil, 2015 premiere.

All episodes will air on Netflix.


Jessica Jones, no premiere date yet.jessica jones:luke cage

All episodes will air on Netflix.

The show will be based off characters created by Marvel Comics.

Luke Cage, no premiere date yet.

All episodes will air on Netflix.

The show will be based off characters created by Marvel Comics.

Iron Fist, no premiere date yet.

All episodes will air on Netflix.

The show will be based off characters created by Marvel Comics.

iron fist

Marvel’s The Defenders, no premiere date yet.

All episodes will air on Netflix.

This mini-series will included all previous four solo series and will be similar to how Marvel’s Cinematic Universe brought together all their super-heroes in The Avengers.


powers marvel

Powers, no premiere date yet.

All episodes will air on Playstation Network.

The show will be based off characters created by Marvel Comics’ Icon comics.

Untilited The Walking Dead Spin-Off, no premiere date yet.

All episodes will air on AMC.

The spin-off will showcase a new set of zombie survivors.

Titans, no premiere date yet.

All episodes will air on TNT.

This series, Based off of DC Comic’s Teen Titans, will drop the Teen part of the group and focus on Dick Grayson and his team that might include Starfire and Raven.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

GOTHAM "Pilot"

If you are expecting great Batman writing from Frank Miller or cinematic directing from Christopher Nolan, the new television show Gotham may not be the show for you. With that said if you are however a Batman fan like myself, you tuned into watch.


Gotham is the story before Bruce Wayne becoming the caped crusader. Opening the show with panning shots of Gotham the show flies off with a more in depth feel of how Bruce Wayne's family was murdered and Jim Gordon was introduced. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman being on top of the building witnessing the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne was an interesting take, why she is purring around Wayne manor in the show is beyond me but I am sure they will get into that later. With Jim Gordon letting young Bruce Wayne know he will find the man that did this terrible tragedy, we are introduced to Alfred Pennyworth, the english butler in the Wayne family. In the show he seems to be a more rustic butler. I was thrown off by this but then I remembered reading Batman: Year One, Alfred took a big part in training young Bruce Wayne since Alfred was ex military so I like the route this is going. From there the show just seems like a good cop bad cop routine (yes I thought of Heath Ledger after typing that) between Jim Gordon and his dirty partner Harvey Bullock. While watching I found in some parts the dialogue felt like terrible one liners you would try on a girl. Keeping in mind this is the first episode pilot and 75% of TV shows start out edgy, however this is Batman and should be taken seriously. Staying on the negative topics, some of the shots used were not very well planned out. A couple shots looked liked extreme close ups used with a GoPro camera and had no purpose.


With my negative criticism aside, the writers did get creative in the character development. With Gordon and Bullock on the case, Gotham Police Department evidence room worker kept spitting out riddles about the bullet and gun used, Bullock then says quiet Nygma, which hints that being Edward Nygma "The Riddler." As Gordon and Bullock continue on we see a little girl enjoying plants named "Ivy" who's dad is framed for the murder of the Wayne's cause the pearl necklace of Martha's was planted into his house. Fish Mooney is a new character that has Oswald Cobblepot as her assistant who we know as "Penguin". Oswald is my favorite character in this because his acting is creepy and haunting yet he does it with class. Keeping to the character, Oswald tells the team of Carmine Falcone (classic character who runs Gotham in a mob fashion) that the pearls were planted. Fish Mooney finding out beats up Oswald causing him to have his classic penguin limp. The show boils down with Bullock making Gordon put a bullet into Oswalds head and having him fall into sea. Bullock wants nothing to do with the Mooney/Falcone battle and thats the reason he makes Gordon do it. Gordon then whispers into Oswalds ear "Don't come back to Gotham," fires a bullet by his head and shoves him into the sea.

Aside from the dialogue needing much work and some of the shots adjusted, this is a great show for comic book lovers or just fans of the Dark Knight. While watching keep your eyes open for hidden pieces that connect with the Batman story. For example, the picture up above and how the bodies are laid out resemble a bat, coincidence?



The Slave Hunter - The Sword Is My Lady #1

The Slave Hunter by Malik Shabazz Takes Us On Our First Trip Into the World of Altaire...

The Slave Hunter is just the first piece of a bigger picture known as "The Sword Is My Lady,  The Lady Is My Sword." At first, the book may come across as unassuming. Then, you open it up... and you immediately learn that this ENTIRE BOOK was created by one man. That fact, in itself, is an amazing undertaking, but once you actually delve into the world of Altaire and the story of "Mad" Maddie Grimoire, it's easy to see that this book is the result of a creator who revels in hard work.

The story arc does a good job of hooking the reader in and then twisting things on us, more than once even. While this issue does a good job of drawing us into the world of Altaire, it still leaves quiet a bit unanswered about the larger plot at hand. We see the story open with a brief history or Altaire and its warring races. Three races populate this planet, Humans, and then two Majik-wielding races, the Majin and the Thessans. Each race has its own unique relationship to Altaire's life force, Majik, but we don't get to learn an enormous amount about that in this issue. The opening scenes cut off quickly with what seems to be the set-up for this entire series. The Majin and The Thessans say "peace out" to the humans and their non-majik wielding asses. The Majik-wielding races build a barrier, leaving the humans out in the cold and thus the world has peace. (Imagine that, getting rid of all humans is the only way to achieve world peace.)  We're then launched into the more character driven part of the story with a foreboding message that "peace is not everlasting."

The Slave Hunter - TLIMS_02

Enter Maddie Grimoire, the slave hunter and namesake for this issue. Presumably, Maddie is just one of three or maybe even four main characters (judging by either the placard on the cover or the teaser at the end of this issue). We catch her mid-hunt and a beautiful hunt it is. One multi-page spread in the midst of the hunt is just down-right gorgeous. As you might expect, Maddie gets her man and delivers the only remaining piece of him to collect her bounty. And then there's a great twist. I don't want to spoil it for you here, because I want to urge you to go get this book.

The Slave Hunter - TSIML

The story unfolds quite unexpectedly for our Slave Hunter, and it seems that the following events are only the beginning of bigger things to come. The last page teases the story for the next book, "The Baddest Warrior There Ever Was." From the page previews that Malik, aka Night M.A.I.R.S., shares on his Facebook page, the next book really looks like a doozy.

Aside from the narrative itself, the thematic elements of the story are also exceptional. Malik has lovingly crafted a world with a diverse population. This is important because it creates a setting where the race and gender issues that we face in our own world are still present in the undertones of Altaire. At one point, we see a female human who has put out a hit on a Majin slave surprisingly break down in tears at the news when Maddie comes to collect the bounty. When asked why, the woman replies that we're more alike than we admit, and that "sometimes being a woman can feel like being a slave." This is powerful stuff that is often rare in the comic book medium. I, for one, salute Malik for taking the visual storytelling forum to a deeper and more meaningful place while still showing and telling us a fascinating tale.

To give a brief critique, I think the writing and the art, from illustration through to the color, are excellent. And then, once you factor in that all of this is a one-man show, it's truly extraordinary. The only underwhelming parts of this book are the cover and then some small issues with the lettering. The art for the cover is not bad, but it doesn't portray the depth and girth of the pages within. This is unfortunate because it does a disservice to the rest of the book. I wish that Night M.A.I.R.S. would have collaborated with another artist to possibly capture the entirety of the book in a single breath-taking image versus just the character art that we see as is it. On the lettering front, there are no large complaints there, only that the bubbles feel crowded and the way the bubbles are arranged doesn't always lead the eye across the page in the proper reading order. These are all minor issues that could be easily solved in future issues.  I think the future of this franchise is very bright.

Overall, The Slave Hunter is a behemoth of a book. On top of that, it's just the first phase of a story with a greater narrative to come (presumably). Night M.A.I.R.S. has revealed that he will be doing three issues leading up to a graphic novel Kickstarter campaign. We'll keep you posted on when all that starts to happen, but until then you can go pick up your own copy here at IndyPlanet: - The book is now on special for a very limited time at the price of $3.99. This is a steal for an indie comic of this nature, don't sleep on this. Go support your independent (and when I say independent, in this case I really mean it) comic book creators!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Buffy Gets A New Animated Adventure

Into every generation a slayer is born ...

I’m a fan of opening credits and miss the days that shows had them, instead viewers are now stuck with a four-second bumper with the title of the show they are currently watching. Only a few shows on cable TV networks such as AMC, FX, HBO, and Showtime still have opening credits. It’s fun to watch those intros and Stephen Byrne, a talented illustrator, created an awesome opening that continues Buffy’s adventures of slaying the undead.

Buffy the Animated Series

Back in 2002, we almost got an animated version of the slayer that was going to take place during the show’s first season. Unfortunately that project didn’t move forward. Thanks to Byrne, we can see another animated version of our favorite slayer titled “The Animated Adventures of Buffy.” He’s gone above and beyond by adding many Easter eggs from the seven years it was on air and adds elements from it’s comic book continuation from Dark Horse comics. Check out the opening below and to see more of his artwork, including another animated video with Doctor Who, check out Stephen’s Facebook page:

Writer Blocks - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

If you were to pierce the fabric of spacetime and ask eleven year old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer “Frank Miller.”  Go back a little further to Coles Books at the Seaview Square Mall just before Christmas in 1986 and you’ll know why - there, in the science fiction section, stands a wide-eyed boy reading a book unlike anything, ever.  That boy was me. This is the book:


Batman: The Dark Knight Returns made me want to create.  This was a classic superhero presented in a manner that was bold and new.  I was too young to truly appreciate everything Miller was doing, and there are plenty of resources available that deconstruct the work, but upon reading it again, for the first time in about 20 years, I can see how it made its way into the pages I write.  My penchant for “talking heads” scenes is a direct correlation to the repeated television screens used throughout Dark Knight Returns, only without the subtext that the newscasters, experts and pundits bring to Miller’s work.  Early in my writing I tried to jam as many panels onto a page as possible, subliminally borrowing from the 16 panel grid layout Miller used to heighten the sense of a claustrophobic Gotham City.  I just didn’t know how to tell a story.

As a kid, the grand vision of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was lost on me.  What wasn’t lost on me were the images - iconic and beautiful.

Like this, the Dark Knight ready for battle:

DKR Batman

Or the Dynamic Duo leaping through the night:

DKR B and R

And of course the simple cover from Issue #1:


But the image that stuck with me the most was this page, and what Bruce says before dying:

DKR vs superman

Followed by Superman cradling the body of his fallen friend, telling the soldiers “Don’t touch him.”

This is the type of book I wanted, and still want, to create, and every time I sit in front of another blank page, eleven year old me appears as a reminder that I will never be able to “touch” this masterwork from Frank Miller.

Next week - Batman: Year One

Monday, September 22, 2014

Spider Gwen... I Heart You!!!

So, How Would A Guy Go About Getting An Upside Down Kiss From Spider Gwen?

Edge of Spider-Verse continues, and so far it's only getting better. Personally, I don't think I was looking forward to any character more than Gwen Stacy: Spider-Woman or as the Internet has taken to calling her, Spider Gwen.

Spider Gwen in Actio

Spider Gwen feels like the freshest breath of air for the Spider-man concept in a long time. I have so many things to love about this comic that I'll just do my best to keep the gushing to a minimum. One thing I'd like to touch on that I have a unique perspective on as a letterer was the bubble styling on this book. It's not the first time I've seen this style, but it is only the second. I thought it was simply a fluke or a gimmick when I first saw this particular bubbling style in Marvel's 100th Anniversary Spider-Man issue, but now I've caught on to VC's Clayton Cowles. As a letterer, it seems to be a style that he has been using for some time, but I can't say I've seen it often before now. I think as a style it could catch on as a trend, so I'll be keeping an eye out for Clayton. (Although I'm sure some of you might be able to point me to a few things I should have seen already. Please leave any suggestions in the comments!) I also thoroughly enjoyed Clayton's style with the action words having a hand brushed look and gradient overlays. It has a very visceral feel that I think really goes well with feel of the characters.

Staying on the art tip for this issue, I also fully enjoyed the simplicity of the colorist Rico Renzi, keeping with the color immersion trend, and the detail of Robbi Rodriguez on digital illustration. Everything about the style of this book feels young. I think that's quite an accomplishment in the Marvel realm as a lot of the teams based around younger characters have just been garbage (IMHO). As some of you may have read in my previous articles, the All-New Ultimates has been a major disappointment. I loved the initial volume of Young Avengers, but the current books have just fallen flat and I lost interest in that run pretty quickly. The art of this book is crisp and fresh and feels hip. It makes me want to care about younger characters. Whereas a lot of youth oriented books either make me feel old, (like, "Is this actually GOOD to young people, and that's why I don't like it?") or just guilty for reading the books and then hating them.

Spider Gwen in actionI could continue to gush about the art, but I think that the writing must be appreciated here as well. I think that for a one-off this is a very bold story arc. I only say this because of the final twist at the end of the issue, which you should just go and read for yourself. The major guts of the story are not that unique in all honesty. We see a super fast set-up of the premise for this book. Then enter bad guy, bad guys loses, enter Captain Stacy. Enough about that though. More specifically, I love the dialogue in this book. The writing is believable and funny. It's so easy get the voice of young characters wrong. I feel that often times the dialogue is just trying too hard to come off as believable, but once again, this book just plain works. Spider Gwen is probably one of my favorite new concepts in Marvel comics and I hope that they consider creating an on-going series out of this concept once Spider-verse is done.

I've see lots of buzz on the Internet for Spider Gwen and even some rumors to take with a grain of salt that all this interest has really been noticed at the creative offices of Marvel. With all that being said, I'll encourage you to go check it out for yourself. And as is abundantly clear here, I HEART SPIDER GWEN!




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Spider-Verse, Here I Come!!!

Send me straight to the Spider-Verse, no stops along the way!!!

The Edge of Spidethe Magnificent Mysterior-Verse event has officially begun and I couldn't be more thrilled. With the return of Spider-Man Noir in issue one, Marvel has set us up for a heck of a ride through "every Spider-Man ever." While I can't say this was the alternate Spidey I was looking forward to the most, I thought issue one was a lot of fun. The alternate version of Mysterio was clever and worked as a good one-off antagonist.

I've personally been pretty bored with the big events going on in both the DC (*cough* Future's End *cough*) and Marvel universes, but I really want to believe this one will be good. Personally I am a sucker for alternate universes and timelines, so maybe I should just reserve my judgement for another month or so... With that being said, let's talk more about Edge of Spider-Verse #1.

The best thing about this issue (and hopefully the whole event) is that it's basically a series of one-offs. While, yes, it's planned to lead into something with a slightly more continuity, you don't have to care about that right now. The story opens and throws us right back into the world of Spider-Man Noir. Without touching on spoiler territory, some time has passed and Spider-man hasn't been seen in sometime. While there is a good bit of exposure that feels slightly slow to develop at first, once the main plot kicks in, everything moves real fast.

I won't talk plot anymore because this book is just too quick to get into it without spoiling things. What I can talk about is what I feel this book did right. Within just 24 pages, you get to see plenty of noir versions of your favorite Spidey characters. The elements of this story run their course very quickly and lead into the bigger plot of Edge of Spider-Verse without missing a beat.

The art of Richard Isanove is crisp and believable and sucks you into the past. And then immediately leads you into the far future. If you've kept up with the latest unexpected issue of Superior Spider-Man, then you already know what's going on here. If not, I urge you to jump on board before you miss another installment of this extra-dimensional spider-tale.

I, for one, can't wait to see Gwen Stacy and Spider-Woman in #2!

Gwen Stacy in Edge of Spider-Verse #2