Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Bullets: The Calm Before the Storm.

We've finally wrapped up our extended look at The Fade Out, and none too soon:  April promises to be an exciting month for fans Brubaker and Phillips. 

Ed Brubaker will apparently announce their next project tomorrow at the 2016 Image Expo in Seattle.

...on a related note, Brubaker has just tweeted that copies of the magazine variant for last year's Criminal Special Edition will be available at the Image booth at the Emerald City Comic Con, this weekend in Seattle.

Later this month, the next one-shot will be released, the Criminal 10th Anniversary Special, which has its own magazine-sized variant featuring Fang the Kung-Fu Werewolf!

The creators have been releasing a few glimpses of the artwork for this done-in-one story, including the image shown above, a work-in-progress panel of Teeg and Tracy Lawless on the road and possibly on the run.

And, hilariously, Ed Brubaker has shown fans a detail from the one-shot, of a cover to the "Deadly Hands" comic from the 1970's.

We have a few items that we'd like to cover as briefly as we can, as we clear the decks for this busy month.

• A Comprehensive Retrospective. Early last week, David Harper at SKCHD posted an extensive essay called "This Noir Life," looking back at Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' long and successful partnership through DC Comics, Marvel's Icon imprint, and now Image Comics. 

Harper talks with Brubaker about the origins of what Harper praises as "the finest and most consistent creative partnership in modern comics," and the wide-ranging discussion is worth reading by everyone.  Newer fans can learn about what books they need to hunt down, long-time fans can recommend the essay to friends to expose them to Brubaker and Phillips, and there are insights that even I didn't know.

For instance, I learned that Sean Phillips designed Holden Carver even though the character was first drawn by Colin Wilson for Point Blank, the WildStorm comic that led directly to Sleeper.  Proud as he is of the series, Brubaker's not sure that he'll return to the world of Incognito, and he still hasn't met the newest addition to their team, the fantastic colorist Bettie Breitweiser.

I was heartened to see Ed Brubaker acknowledge the fact that, while many of us dig every project they do, we have a special place in our heart for their purest crime comic: "I'm sure a lot of them would be happy to see us put Criminal out every month."

But looking ahead, "Brubaker said their next project 'has an even more complex narrative than The Fade Out did,' before adding, 'but it’s very different.'"

We're looking forward to it.

• Brubaker Interviews, Recently Collected.  Courtesy of Sean Phillips' Twitter feed, we see that the University Press of Mississippi has recently expanded its Conversations with Comic Artists Series to include a book on Ed Brubaker.  The series features an impressive list of artists -- including Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, Will Eisner, Charles M. Schulz, Carl Barks, Alan Moore, and Art Spiegelman -- and it says something that the series now includes Brubaker.

Published in early March and edited by Judson University professor Terrence Wandtke, the 172-page hardcover on Brubaker features "often little-known and hard-to-find interviews, worthwhile conversations in their own right as well as objects of study for both scholars and researchers."

Going by the back cover preview, the cover art was from a portrait of Ed Brubaker by Sean Phillips, which first appeared on the cover of the Comics Journal #263, published in October/November 2004.

• Under the Radar: Sonic Noir by Ed Brubaker. We mentioned everything else that's on the horizon, but we had completely missed a new series from Brubaker, a licensed property for another publisher with art from unlikely collaborator: Sonic the Hedgehog: Noir, from Archie Comics, by Brubaker and Bill Sienkiewicz.

The first issue was evidently released on the first day of this month -- a Friday, oddly enough -- and on the same day Comicosity published just about the only (spoiler-filled) review I could find online, but it is more than enough to pique my interest.
"You will not look at the world in the same way after reading Sonic The Hedgehog: Noir #1. There are life changing experiences in comics, and this is one of them. Brubaker and Sienkiewicz have crafted something that is equally beautiful and horrifying and while I am scared to read the next issue, I can tell you right now, I won’t be able to avoid it. You thought you’d seen noir with The Fade Out or Criminal…they are nothing compared to this epic story."
I'm not sure my local shop ordered any copies of Sonic Noir #1, but I'll be sure to ask them about it.

• Velvet in Recent Solicitations.  In the middle of March, Image Comics released its most recent solicitations, for the month of June.   Our guess is that the books announced at the Image Expo, including the latest Brubaker-Phillips collaboration, will be released no earlier than July.

In the interim, we can expect a few releases of Brubaker's other title Velvet, the creator-owned spy comic with art by Steve Epting.  ComicList's most recent extended forecast has issue #14 out on April 27th, issue #15 out on May 25th, and the third trade paperback advance solicited for July 20th.

Velvet Volume 3, "The Man Who Stole the World," collects issues #11-15 for the discounted price of $14.99.

• Sean Phillips' Art for Arrow Films.  Regular readers will already know that Sean Phillips has created striking artwork for several movies, including six home video releases for the Criterion Collection -- most recently for two films on colonialism by Bruce Beresford -- and the poster for We Gotta Get Out of This Place, a crime thriller that debuted at the 2013 Toronto International Film.

In our post on the Beresford artwork, we linked to Sean's announcement on his blog. There he included preliminary and final artwork for the first of apparently three projects for the British distributor Arrow Films -- artwork for a DVD and Blu-ray release of an old spaghetti western.

Sean has now worked on at least four Arrow projects: we're linking to his blog posts below, where each post features work by the artist.

Phillips also submitted cover artwork for Takashi Miike’s Audition; it was rejected for different artwork, but he hopes it will be used in some other way, and meanwhile he's given fans a look at his submission.

• Sean Phillips' Convention Appearances.  We saw the Sean Phillips was present at the London Super Comic Con in late February, with a few prints from The Fade Out and Fatale, shown below -- and we also saw that Ed Brubaker was at LA's WonderCon just a few weekends back.

Since the LSCC, several more scheduled appearances have already been announced for Phillips, for later this year.
Only the first few guests have been announced for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal, England, October 14th-16th, but we wouldn't be surprised if Sean returns to the festival: he's made appearances there for the last three years, and last year he curated an exhibit of album covers created by comic artists.

• Recommended Reading and Viewing. Finally, we have a short list of online articles and videos that our readers might find worthwhile.

Sean Phillips retweeted a link to an blog post about the disturbing trend of unpaid work in media, with Phillips noting that the phenomenon "applies to illustrators and designers too."  The UK editor-in-chief for the Huffington Post had made the absurd and self-serving argument that paid content is inauthentic, and the essay's writer strongly suggests that artists should never provide others with content at no charge -- at least, not unless it's for charity or they can afford to.

(A commenter to the blog entry pointed to a short video clip of the irascible, often entertaining, and here quite astute writer Harlan Ellison -- NSFW.)

The author of numerous essays in the back of the Brubaker and Phillips' comics, including The Fade Out, Devin Faraci is also editor-in-chief of his own website Birth.Movies.Death.  He's recently written two very interesting pieces, one on the death of Superman as a truly heroic character, and one on the death of Jesus of Nazareth, prompted by the non-believer's visit to the popular holy sites in Jerusalem -- both articles are somewhat frustrating but well worth reading.

Faraci's best article I've seen is probably his defense of George Lucas as an auteur.  His opinion echoes my own in light of the recent Star Wars sequel by J.J. Abrams, that the vision behind the prequel trilogy -- deeply flawed films, apparently based on undercooked scripts -- is still more interesting than the mimicry driving that near pastiche of a sequel.

Fans of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Cimmerian -- and Zangar the Valandrian, the warrior from last year's "Savage Sword of Criminal" -- might be very interested in the article published two weeks ago in Science magazine, about a "colossal" pre-historic Bronze Age battle, the remains of which were recently discovered.  The battle took place along the Tollense River in northern Germany, near the Baltic Sea, and an archaeologist at the dig reports, "They weren't farmer-soldiers who went out every few years to brawl. These are professional fighters."  He doesn't say so, but they seemed much like the fictional Conan.

At the end of last year, on the twentieth anniversary of the film's release, Rolling Stone published an extensive essay on Heat -- my all-time favorite crime movie -- where writer Jennifer Wood presents a first-person recollection by now 73-year-old director Michael Mann.  Among other aspects of the film, he discusses my favorite scene -- the confrontation in the coffee shop where, at the movie's halfway point, Pacino's cop and De Niro's master thief reveal more about themselves to their adversaries than to their partners or lovers.  Mann talks about how the scene was discussed but not rigorously rehearsed, about the characters' motivation for talking with a known enemy, and about the key insight that is learned in that scene which pays off in the climax.

On the subject of thoughtful and extremely well-made heist movies, Ed Brubaker recently highlighted a piece by The A.V. Club on how, through very clever movie-making techniques, director Christopher Nolan hid in plain sight the secret of his 2006 film, The Prestige.

(Both pieces, on Heat and The Prestige, heavily involve SPOILERS, as one might imagine.)

Finally, Brubaker retweeted a short but profound quote from author Salman Rushdie, posted by Jon Winokur.
"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist."

As cited by Wikiquote, the statement was quoted in a 2004 BBC article, on a subject that remains distressingly current.

I'm sure that these two of my favorite writers would agree on much regarding politics -- perhaps more regarding culture, including Frank Sinatra and the "Great American Songbook" to which both have alluded -- but I find that, here at least, Ed Brubaker shares common ground with the profound (and profoundly funny) Mark Steyn.

On a recent Australian tour, Steyn gave a speech in Melbourne, defending the crucial right to free expression.  On his website, he points out that a slightly edited video of the February 19th talk has been posted online.  At the 19-minute mark, Steyn points out the importance of the seemingly trivial joke.
"A joke is a small thing but a large, profound loss."
We have lost some of the liberty to tell jokes that might cause the wrong people to be offended.  That kind of suppression of speech is what was found in the Soviet Bloc, and it should not be found in the supposedly free West.

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