Saturday, July 28, 2012

An Eisner for "Last of the Innocent" -- and Where It May Lead.

We would be remiss to let July come to a close without noting that, this month at Comic-Con International, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal was honored with the Eisner award for Best Limited Series for "The Last of the Innocent."

(It really is a great story, even apart from the references to Archie comics and other classics for adolescents:  it's a dark look at nostalgia and self-centeredness that wouldn't be half as effective without Sean Phillips' shifting between the desperate present and an idealized past.)

Criminal has received quite a few nominations since its debut in 2006, and it won the Best New Series Eisner in 2007. Ed Brubaker has also been thrice honored as Best Writer for his work at Marvel, within the mainstream superhero universe and beyond to his work with Sean Phillips.

In the back pages of Fatale, their surprise hit combining noir and Lovecraftian horror, we've seen an ad for all the previous collections of the most prominent works in Brubaker and Phillips' canon.

There's the espionage thriller of Sleeper, for DC's Vertigo imprint.  In the creator-owned category, we have the straight-up crime stories in Criminal and the "apocalyptic pulp noir" of Incognito, both published through Marvel's Icon imprint.

(For my money, Criminal is the magnum opus, and not just in terms of size. Readers might be interested to note that we've already compiled a more complete list of their collaborations.)

It's my hope that these honors, awards, and stellar reviews continue to encourage new readers to give Brubaker/Phillips a try, so that the market can sustain their moody and sometimes quite sophisticated noir comics.

Earlier this month, in an exclusive interview with Comic Book Resources, John Layman discussed his upcoming work on Detective Comics and put it in perspective alongside his twisted, hilarious crime comic Chew.
The good thing about the success of "Chew" is that I don't have to take work. I am in this really great position where if I am doing something, it's because I want to do it, not because I have to pay the phone bill. Basically, I looked at my schedule and said, "Yes." And also, it's awesome.
That's what I'd like to see for Brubaker and Phillips -- and, really, all the great talents who I see take chances on telling their own stories, their own way:  not just John Layman and Rob Guillory, but Scott Morse (Strange Science Fantasy) and Ken Garing (Planetoid).

A world where great writers and artists work on the intellectual property of others only when they want to:  they can reach for this prize with great work, and they can get there with support from us, their readers.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bullets: Indie Comics and Interesting Links.

A quick clearing of the decks before new comics arrive tomorrow.  For a week without a publication from Brubaker/Phillips, there are still plenty of reasons to visit your kindly local comic shop.
  • Sean Phillips Cover for Tomorrow's Walking Dead #100.  Some of the oldest Criminal fans may remember that the five-page "trailer" for the first arc "Coward" was published, in color, in issue #30 of The Walking Dead.  Nearly six years later, Sean Phillips returns to the series for one of the variant covers for the milestone 100th issue, out tomorrow.

    At his blog, Sean has pulled back the curtain to reveal the process in creating the acrylic painting, including the photos that were used as references.   A comment elsewhere on the blog confirms that I'm not the only person to suspect that the zombie on the left, looking at the reader, is the artist himself.

  • Walking Dead Cover Art Up for Auction. Since posting the cover, Sean Phillips has announced that the original artwork is being auctioned at Splash Page Comic Art, where much of his original work is for sale alongside work from Brubaker collaborators Michael Lark and Warren Pleece. The Splash Page announcement relays that interested parties can bid at the blind auction online or at the San Diego Comic Con, where the work will be on display. Bidding ends at 5 PM Pacific Time this Saturday night, July 14th.

  • Other Great Independent Comics On Sale Wednesday. We're not exactly in a golden age for superhero comics from the "Big Two" publishers, but there are quite a few creator-owned titles that are worth checking this week alone. Along with The Walking Dead, there are the latest issues of Atomic Robo Real Science Adventures, Massive, Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred, and American Vampire.

    There's Chew: Secret Agent Poyo #1, a one-shot branching off one of my favorite comics currently in print, and there's Planetoid #2, a (so far) traditional sci-fi comic that is very well executed.

    In his latest "Tilting" article, Brian Hibbs celebrates the growing success of creator-owned work as The Walking Dead continues to creep up the sales charts with other titles -- like Fatale -- not too far behind. Not every title will appeal to every reader, but we really are getting closer to the ideal of something for everybody, something that really excites the reader.

  • Other Articles of Interest. Along with Hibbs' article, a few more pieces online caught my eye recently, both tying back to our favorite comics.

    First, CBR's Robot 6 blog discusses how DC's soft reboot is too "superficial" for really interesting excursions such as Brubaker and Greg Rucka's Gotham Central. I agree that that's probably the case, but it need not be so: Batman and even the crime-ridden city of Gotham have high enough profiles that the premise of Gotham Central would still work. Since I wasn't familiar with most of the previously established officers who would work for the Major Crimes Unit, I can confirm that the work really does stand alone. If anything, the title suffered from being dragged into the broader continuity, and the only back story that really mattered was that the series took place between "Officer Down" and Gordon and Bullock's return "One Year Later." I thought the series was better without a prominent role for Gordon, both in making every character's life seem more precarious and in hightening the antagonism between the police and the city's nearly omni-competent vigilante.

    Second, Vanity Fair published an article earlier this year on how art is paralyzed from fashion to architecture, and from movies to music. I disagree with Kurt Andersen's diagnosis that the 21st century is less stable than, say, the 1944 or 1969, but he is right that no 20-year gap is as small as between 1992 and today. The changing fashions is probably one reason that books like Fatale and Criminal are so effective. When we jump from one era to another, we can see the difference on every page.

There are lots for our readers to peruse, online and on the shelves, and we hope that you find something that provokes thought and lingers in the memory.

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