High Five! Comics

Posts Tagged ‘Avatar Press

For dubbing our San Diego condo “Hive Five Headquarters,” we sure were quiet during the actual convention. Surely, the other blogs were covering all of the actual news stuff (OMG EYE-STABS) while we were out, you know, having fun and stuff. But we wouldn’t be much of a comic blog if we didn’t talk about San Diego Comic-Con itself, so here’s the day-by-day goings on through the eyes of us High Fivers.

Wednesday, July 21

Not much really goes on at Preview Night, but it’s always nice to get the lay of the land. Early access to the floor and first pick of whatever is for sale is cool and all, but that’s more or less all that happens. The highlight of Preview Night (for me) was definitely getting Bill Willingham to sign my copies of Ironwood #7-10 (pfft, don’t judge me). He was shocked when I pulled them out of their bags, and for a minute I thought the whole exchange was going to be super-awkward, but then he jovially asked for our I.D. cards and starting sharing some insider information with us, like how his former studio mates’ mugs are hidden in the cover art of issue #10.

Maggie’s Preview Night highlight? Shaking Michael Dorn’s hand and mumbling “Thank you,” like a big dumb fangirl.

Aside from that, I managed to pick up Power Man and Iron Fist #50, Flash Volume 1 #289 (first Firestorm back-up, the first thing George Pérez ever did professionally) and DC Comics Presents #17 (Superman and Firestorm team-up, a huge hole in my Ronnie Raymond collection). Hell yes.

Thursday, July 22

All the other blogs are putting in their two cents about this, so we might as well follow suit. Yes, Westboro Baptist Church protested Comic-Con and it’s “worship of false idols.” While High Five! unilaterally agreed with Warren Ellis’ plan of “ignore, ignore, ignore,” some attendees opted to counter-protest. Whatever, go for it. My biggest problem was that while most of the signs mocked religious intolerance (I did laugh at “the Cylons destroyed the 12 Colonies for your sins” and Maggie loved the “Kill All Humans!” sign wielded by a Bender),  some of the signs in the counter-protest (namely “Fuck God”) were just as offensive as Westboro’s signs, more or less giving Phelps and crew exactly what they wanted. Oops.

Inside the convention center, we got Hava all badged up and headed straight for the “BOOM! Irredeemable/Incorruptible” panel. Highlights included the potential for character-specific one-shot tie-ins and listening to Waid and Peter Krause discuss their writing process. Oh, and the Irreedemable perfumes by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (friends of Hava’s, plug plug plug).

Later we hit up the “Mondo Marvel” and “DC Comics 75th Anniversary” panels. Holy shit, I could listen to Dennis O’Neil (Green Lantern/Green Arrow!) and Jerry Robinson (creator of Alfred, Robin, and the freakin’ Joker!) talk all day. Fun Fact: According to Jerry Robinson, Batman’s sidekick was NOT named after the bird, but after Robinson’s own childhood nickname.

Maggie and Hava tried to hit up the “Geek Girls Exist” panel but the place was well over capacity and half-full of dudes. Bummer! Still, rather than pout, the girls gave up getting in and held their own Geek Girls panel at a bar on Fifth Street, because this is San Diego Comic-Con, and you can always find something awesome to do when your original plan falls apart. Big congratulations to the Geek Girls’ Network for hosting a massively successful panel!

Later on, Maggie went over to w00tstock and met Wil Wheaton and Aaron Douglas and Matt Fraction while Hava, Jon, and I went to the BOOM! Studios’ Fifth Anniversary Drink-Up and spent upwards of an hour and a half chatting up Peter Krause. Hell of a way to end a night.

Friday, July 23

Friday was Room 6DCE day. After sitting through the “Marvel Video Games” panel (and, I’ll admit, “Marvel vs. Capcom 3” looks pretty rad), the barrage of DC panels began.

First up was “Spotlight on Grant Morrison” and, my god, that was entertaining. Between his bajillion impressions, he announced the release of an Absolute We3 and revealed that Seaguy: Eternal will be coming sooner rather than later.

Next up was the “Batman: The Return” panel. The stage was packed, with Grant Morrison, Bryan Q. Miller, Gail Simone, Paul Dini, Paul Cornell, Judd Winick, Scott Snyder, Frazer Irving, David Finch, Dustin Nguyen, and Mike Marts (I probably forgot somebody). Biggest news was that Morrison will be replaced by Peter Tomasi on Batman and Robin while Morrison starts a new Batman team-up book called Batman Inc. Paul Cornell will also write Knight and Squire (which we’re all pretty psyched for) and a Batman Beyond ongoing was hinted at. Also, the whole panel kept joking about how Dick Grayson is about to get “a bullet in the brain” meaning that I’m pretty sure Jon and I were right (at least about something).

Next was the “Superman: Man of Tomorrow” panel with J. Michael Straczynski, Jeff Lemire, Sterling Gates, Shane Davis, and Paul Cornell. Straczynski discussed his upcoming run on the “Grounded” storyline in Superman (nothing we didn’t already know) and the Superman: Earth One graphic novel he’s writing, with art by Shane Davis. Cornell revealed that Neil Gaiman’s Death will be a major character in Action Comics #894. The biggest news (to us, at least) was that the Phantom Stranger would be a major character in an upcoming Superboy book by Jeff Lemire. YES.

The last panel of the day was “DC Nation.” Dan DiDio, Straczynski, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, and Jim Lee (flanked by fans in costumes, including a Darkseid who stayed frighteningly in-character) revealed a few future projects, but nothing too crazy. Mostly that Geoff Johns will write a book starring Bart Allen and the other speedsters called Flash: Speed Force, that he’s writing a Dex-Starr Valentine’s Day special, and that he has an upcoming secret project with Grant Morrison.

On the way out, after nearly six hours parked in 6DCE, we ran into fellow blogger Kelson from Speed Force. Who’d have thought people from the internet have, like, faces and stuff!

Maggie and Hava headed over to the Geek Girls Tweet-Up while Jon and I went to Tweet House Party on the U.S.S. Midway and watched William Shatner, Brent Spiner, and LeVar Burton promote a website they knew nothing about and then run away to a VIP area. At least we got to be serenaded by Alice Cooper’s son’s band (Oh God. No).

Saturday, July 24

By this point, we were exhausted, and we still needed to get a ton of shopping done. The only panel we attended on Saturday was “Avatar Press and Max Brooks” where they talked endlessly about Crossed and Lady Death before casually mentioning that Warren Ellis is working on a second volume to Ignition City and that Supergod #4 is fiiiiinally ready to ship next Wednesday. While there wasn’t much news on the Ellis at Avatar front, listening to Max Brooks riff for 45 minutes was a hoot. He even touched on inter-fandom animosity, saying, “Everyone gets to have something, even teenage girls who are afraid of penises. Suck my blood, but don’t touch my tits!”

The rest of the day was dedicated to buying books and gathering sketches (we’ll share those in a separate post) and autographs. Jon managed to track down a sweet copy of October 1976’s Captain Britain #1 (complete with mask) and Maggie got June 1967’s Strange Adventures #201 (featuring an old Animal Man story that’s screaming for the Silver Age Recap treatment).

The most awesome thing of all, however, was talking extensively with Frazer Irving (who drew a three-second Batman for Maggie even though he wasn’t supposed to) and getting a bunch of books signed by Grant Morrison. Oh, and this.

We win at everything.

Sunday, July 25

I guess Hall H had nothing going on because the Exhibit Hall was fucking packed. Everybody walking past the immense line to get signatures and sketches from Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Francis Manapul asked what the deal was and then walked away, unimpressed by some of the best artists in the business.

Maggie gathered 3 out of 4 signatures for her copy of 52 #1 last weekend, with a bit of Con luck on Sunday. We were talking with Greg Rucka at the Oni Booth about some of his upcoming books, including the next issue of Stumptown and a new Queen & Country novel.  As Rucka signed some comics for Maggie, up walked Geoff Johns. Rucka signed 52, then turned around and handed it to Johns for her. The two writers shared an “Aw! Remember the good old days!?” moment, and Maggie did a fist pump because in case you didn’t know, now that Johns is running half the DCU, his signing lines are enormous.

The only panel we attended on Sunday was the “DC Town Hall Meeting.” Dan DiDio and Jim Lee really, really wanted to know what we thought of digital comics. (Answer: We like them, but don’t you dare fuck with our weekly books.) Also, Maggie may have terrfied poor Mr. DiDio. He brought it on himself though, when he asked (albeit jokingly) if she didn’t mean to be at a Harry Potter panel instead.  Sorry, DiDio. You mess with the bull, you get the horns.

We’ve got more San Diego news in store, including some reviews and the High Five! Sketchbook, San Diego edition. Stay tuned!

“Mark Millar” is a name recognizable to anybody who reads modern comics. One cannot deny his enormous impact due to works like Marvel’s Ultimate Universe or the acclaim he has received for works like Kick-Ass. Enter a little-read title from my favorite indie publisher Avatar Press called The Unfunnies. I’m not sure whether to laud The Unfunnies as a self conscious satire of modern comics, or denounce it as supremely immoral and grotesque. While certainly not sinking to the depraved depths of a title like Crossed (shudder), Millar makes one hell of a stab at flagrant exploitation by depicting acts no decent human being would find acceptable to commit or even read about. At this point I’m sure I have whetted the appetites for any of the sick-o fan-boy types who seem to get off on the Gross without an appreciation for what it might mean, but to the rest of us I’d like to talk about the relevant commentary The Unfunnies offers.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
I will be breaking one of my personal rules by revealing specific plot points under the assumption that most of you have either read this book already (it debuted in 2004) or will never read it anyway. The Unfunnies can be ordered from Avatar Press, and if you’re in to this sort of thing I recommend buying your own copy and coming back to my review later. For the rest of you, here we go.

The Unfunnies is set in a Hannah-Barbera-esque cartoon world of anthropomorphic animals with cutesy names like “Sally Gator” and  “Birdseed Betty”.  From the first panel Mark Millar is forcing us to acknowledge that comics are simplified, surreal, and most importantly: a world already familiar to readers. This idealism is extremely short-lived, but is perhaps the most integral part of the analysis. When we read comics, we already know basically what we’re getting in to. Whether found in newspapers, monthly subscriptions, or even the “indie” trades that make us feel cool, we expect to see thick, black lines and bold colors depicting a world of good and evil, and we know the good (or better) side is going to win in the end. This is, of course, only natural. Humans love novelty, but we love predictability even more. Nobody wants to take a sip of coffee to find out it was replaced with urine. That would be terrible. Human beings build rigid patterns for perceiving the world and dislike when those sensibilities are challenged. This may not be profound, but it is important to this piece.

Yes. They are doing what it looks like they're doing.

As I said, the world of The Unfunnies is familiar, but this only lasts a few panels. A cute family of crows is unsettled when the police enter to arrest husband/father Moe the Crow on charges of child pornography. Expectations: shattered. This act of immorality (chosen as one universally despised for maximum effect) sets the tone that will embody the rest of The Unfunnies . Acts of increasing depravity continue. Birdseed Betty (former loving wife of Moe the Crow) is forced to prostitute herself to the landlord to avoid eviction for herself and her young flock. A chicken youth named Chick-Chick Chickie is wandering about the town offending adults with the most unsavory language the horrified listeners have ever heard, and Dr. Despicable is convincing patients to undergo life-changing procedures they do not need to satisfy his growing sadism. All the while local policeman Sheriff Dribble is attempting to understand how his once pleasant world of capers and comedic misunderstandings has become so hellish. Millar is contrasting the world comics once were with the world they are quickly becoming.

Somewhere in the first issue of The Unfunnies the reader is shown a rather confusing image. Local mailman Frosty Pete (a penguin) is trading pornographic images via email when we are shown a real-life picture of a human. This is not a drawn image. Rather it is a real picture of a real person. The contrast between the comic and the reality is so abrasive it offends the reader’s eyes. Though confusing, this image is key. I will not ruin any more of the misery by recalling every character’s horrid tale except to say: there are more characters, and their lives are completely ruined in horrid ways.

As the tragedy unfolds the heroic Sheriff Dribble gets closer and closer to uncovering what powers are at work, and the name “Troy Hicks” becomes more frequent. Readers are lulled into expecting a happy ending when our pitiful protagonists begin to see their lives turn around. A silver lining emerges! This is, of course, smashed as it is finally discovered that the world of the Unfunnies is the creative project of one Troy Hicks. After being handed a death sentence in the real world (our world) for raping and murdering 8 children, Hicks hatched a plan to swap places with one his own comic characters, thereby living forever in a comic. Frosty Pete was the unfortunate soul who took the bait of pornographic images sent in an email, and now finds himself on Death Row in our world for Hicks’ crimes. Troy Hicks, now transplanted into his own comic world, is free to wreak any havoc or obscenity he sees fit. The comic ends as Hicks, possessing the body of Frosty Pete, walks down the road with Sally Gator’s newborn baby – presumably to have his way with it.

Here is revealed the ultimate point of Millar’s story. By inserting their own depraved concepts into their work, modern authors have contaminated the once innocent world of comics. Take that Garth Ennis.

I do not know if Millar was trying to make this commentary, or if it was just an interesting by-product of the most disturbing comic I’ve personally read. Given the intentional nature of every aspect depicted I’m inclined to think it was on purpose. If not, I wonder how Millar can sleep with such grotesqueries floating in his head. Now I would like to take a moment to point out that I do not actually recommend this book. Though well written, expertly drawn, and highly provocative The Unfunnies was just too disturbing and gross for my tastes. In High Five! Comics tradition I will end this post with the drink I pair with The Unfunnies. Bourbon. Or whiskey. Just get smashed with something strong.

-Jonny

In a world so distinctly sci-fi as Doktor Sleepless, Warren Ellis has found one hell of a twist on this Philip K. Dick meets Chuck Palahniuk vision of the future. If you have ever mused to yourself, “We live in the future. Where is my jet pack?” then you should know Warren Ellis feels the same way, and he managed to write 16 issues of a comic dealing with that very idea.

Doktor Sleepless: Engines of Desire is one part disenchanted 20-something, one part Americana’s eternal boredom, one part mysticism, two parts science fiction, and just a smidge of Cthulhu for flavor. It’s damned interesting despite the fact that I’m not yet sure what story Ellis is trying to tell. Though the ambiguity can be annoying, I get the distinct impression that Ellis is painting our protagonist John Reinhardt as a man of questionable integrity. The beginning of our story shows Reinhardt adopting the “cartoon” persona of “Doktor Sleepless” to usher in some grand change for humanity. Throughout the book we are taken between rooting for our champion of change, and fearing him as the ultimate destroyer of mankind. Is he an antihero, or a villain? I don’t know.

While it’s tempting to write off Doktor Sleepless as Tyler Durden in goggles and a smock there are too many different ideas swimming and churning in juxtaposition to pan the work. Visually stimulating and intellectually challenging, Engines of Desire delivers that unsettled paranoia that Warren Ellis is famous for and has me anxious to read the next trade whenever Avatar Press gets it in stores. While I don’t yet know where the good “Doktor” will take us, I do know the conclusion is likely to leave me where Ellis usually does: amused, satisfied, and just a little bit afraid. Here’s to chaos! Cheers.

-JonnyC

Warren Ellis and Garrie Gastonny started a new story in November called Supergod with Avatar Press publishing. Intended as the third installment of a thematic trilogy (Black Summer and No Hero being parts 1 & 2), Ellis and Gastonny explore concepts of superheroes, divinity, and religion. I know the idea of supermen as gods isn’t exactly new, but Ellis does manage to present a fresh feel and an engaging presentation of this underplayed concept in the mythoi of capes. Thus far we’ve followed Reddin, a scientist for the British government, as he recalls the story of how the world went to hell at the hands of gods we fashioned for ouselves – amidst the burning ruins of London.

The real strength of this book comes in Ellis’ tasteful, provocative musings on religion and the meanings of gods to humanity. Given that Ellis is an outspoken atheist it’s no surprise that he takes a somewhat pessimistic take on it all, but his thoughts are no less genuine, and regardless of any bias a reader may have, they come off as genuine rather than preachy or nihilistic. Most importantly, while Ellis is forcing us to pick apart basic values held dear by the majority of humanity, Supergod never loses focus on being entertaining.

We’re only two issues in, but Ellis’ concept of what might happen if Superheroes were real, and more importantly, how little they might be inclined to care about the humans is damned interesting. Post-apocalyptic and dystopian, Supergod is graphic, gratuitous, and more than a little unsettling at times. It’s far from light reading, but Ellis has remained fresh and interesting with this piece. He’s got me hooked and I’m anxiously awaiting issue 3.

As an aside/post-script I feel compelled to mention that Avatar Press has some seriously good titles. I recommend perusing their website for some quality indie stories.

Enjoy.

-JonnyC


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