Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Criminal #4 Out Now: A Podcast, A Preview, and A Close Look at Coloring.

The next issue of Brubaker and Phillips' new ongoing Criminal comic is out today, and we have a few interesting links for the occasion.

It feels like we can't truly close the book on the previous issue without The Undertow Podcast, and, over the weekend, Episode 31 was released, featuring a review *Criminal* #3, the conclusion to "Bad Weekend" in its original "theatrical cut."


We also had a few recommendations.  Mine were short stories, starting with Lawrence Block's "One Thousand Dollars a Word," about a crime writer weary of being paid the scant rate of five cents a word, incidentally the same rate that Block was paid when the story first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1978.  More substantially, I also recommended Kwik Krimes (note the spelling), a 2013 anthology edited by Otto Penzler, featuring 81 crime stories, each in a bite-size length of no more than 1,000 words.  Both recommendations are currently available in Kindle format; Block's story sells for $2.99, and the Kwik Krimes anthology is on sale for the astounding price of $1.49.

Robert recommended a brand new crime comic from Titan Comics, Tyler Cross Volume 2: Angola, a self-contained sequel to another "Tyler Cross" comic, Black Rock.  Both comics are from Fabien Nury, the French writer of The Death of Stalin, a graphic novel adapted in a 2017.  Titan Comics has published the English-language translations of these comics, and the two Tyler Cross books have been released under the label of Hard Case Crime, the must-read imprint specializing in classic and new hardboiled crime fiction.

(In the podcast, I noted that HCC editor Charles Ardai contributed to Kwik Krimes, along with a couple other familiar names, such as Ken Bruen and Christa Faust -- both published by Hard Case Crime -- but I just noticed that Ardai actually contributed a second story under a familiar *cough* alias.)


Next up is info straight from the source, a new email newsletter from Ed Brubaker, sent out Monday.  It begins with an extended, six-page preview, which we exercpt above.

This preview is longer than what we saw in the newsletter from last month (still worth a look for in-process art from other pages), and we learn that this self-contained story is ominously titled "Orphans."

(EDIT: Also on Monday, Kim Morgan gave Twitter followers a look at Sean Phillips' illustration, below, for the issue's bonus essay, on "William Wellman's depression-era pre-code [film], the tough and sensitive and beautiful, 'Wild Boys of the Road'," from 1933.)



Brubaker also relays that the following story has a new title, just as the previous story's title changed from "The Longest Weekend" to "Bad Weekend."  This upcoming arc was referred to as "The Summer of '88" in the solicitations for issues #5 and #6, but it's now titled "Cruel Summer."

(That's the title of a top-ten pop song by Bananarama, released in 1983 and peaking in the U.S. in 1984, after its inclusion in The Karate Kid.  Ace of Base covered the song in 1998, and the cover also reached the top ten in the UK and the US.  But the closest tie to this long Criminal arc might be a "new jack swing" makeover by Bananarama, which charted throughout Europe.  That song was released in -- you guessed it! -- 1989.)


...now that we think about it, the newsletter didn't begin with "Orphans," it began with the artwork shown above, which we haven't seen before.  It appears to be an upcoming cover, and its monochrome coloring and black background fits with what we've seen for the first two covers to "Cruel Summer," repeated below.


We wonder if the image is of Ricky Lawless from that fateful summer of 1988, and I'm sure we'll find out soon enough; the August solicitations will likely be released in the second half of May.

Brubaker continues his newsletter with some inside info on the Bad Weekend hardcover.  The announcement seemed to come out of nowhere, and that's because the idea wasn't from the team, it was from Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson.  It sounds like the book is already complete -- finished very quickly during the production of issues #4 and #5 -- and Brubaker includes a few panels from the new content, which includes revised dialogue and narration.

Ed Brubaker is practically gushing over the upcoming hardcover, writing, "the book is gorgeous, and we're really proud of it, to the point we nearly killed ourselves getting it done in time."

He also discusses the other big project in the news, Too Old To Die Young, revealing that the Cannes screening will be of episodes 4 and 5 under the single subtitle of "North of Hollywood, West of Hell," and not as separate episode titles.

He also warns fans about the new series and has some recommended viewing in advance of the "hypnotic and surreal" Amazon series:
"Watch VALHALLA RISING, watch DRIVE, watch NEON DEMON, and ONLY GOD FORGIVES. Refn's movies are very divisive, and he's completely fine with that. They're more like insane European midnight movies from the 60s and 70s than anything you'd normally see on TV or a streaming platform, and this show is not in any way like a typical streaming show."
And, in addition to sharing a few random links -- some, very random -- Ed Brubaker strongly recommends that fans not take any chances in hunting down Criminal...
"[Criminal #4 is] out this week, and sadly, I've been getting a lot of emails from readers having trouble finding the issues. Lots of reports of first-day sellouts. So you may want to call your comic shop and make sure they hold one for you or place a standing order.
"I hate to be that 'pre-order your comics' guy, but the market is tightening its belt right now, and many retailers are ordering to sell out immediately. So if you want CRIMINAL every month, make sure your shop knows. Even comics' smartest retailers cannot read your mind."
...and he has a similar request regarding Bad Weekend, asking readers, "Please order it from your local comic shop or bookstore."

Finally, there's a great YouTube video from February that we had overlooked, and we can't recommend it enough:  Strip Panel Naked has a nine-minute video, embedded below, on the history of colorists in the collaborations of Brubaker and Phillips.


It's not comprehensive -- Dave Stewart isn't mentioned, nor is every work analyzed, including Incognito and Fatale -- but the video is surprisingly wide-ranging, from Tony Avina and Sleeper to Val Staples and early Criminal, to Elizabeth Breitweiser with The Fade Out and Kill or Be Killed, and now Jacob Phillips with Junkies and the newest incarnation of Criminal.

Strip Panel Naked takes a very different approach from The Undertow Podcast. While we tend to focus on individual works, Hassan compares and contrasts more than fifteen years of content, and while we're limited to audio discussions, he can show as well as tell, with eight example pages.

In short, the inks and the colors have slowly become less realistic and more impressionistic, but they continue to complement each other. 

(I would add that these different approaches have never been at the expense of clarity in storytelling and characterization, and the work of these talented colorists argues against any future black-and-white reprints.)

It's a helluva video, and we hope that we can get a few more eyes to this channel, which we're just beginning to explore for ourselves.

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