Tag Archives: Alan Moore

Batman: The Killing Joke ad

6 Dec

by Mike Hansen

With all the recent noise about a newly discovered page from The Killing Joke that was redrawn to be less graphic (and no, in no way does this imply that the Joker is a rapist, you sick bastards: she was shot in the belly), I thought I’d post this cool ad I came across recently from 1988:

Batman: The Killing Joke ad

I dig the logo – it wasn’t used in the actual comic. I wonder who designed it.

(Count me as one of the readers who prefers the original fantastical colors to the 2008 edition’s recoloring. The original colors added another dimension to the storytelling, while to me the newer colors give the book a more flat, illustrative quality. I like them both, but I’d rather read a comic than just look at the pretty pictures.)

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Upgrade or Downgrade? Black Orchid Deluxe hardcover

4 Dec

by Mike Hansen

Black Orchid Deluxe HCI hadn’t intended to do another Up-or-Down so soon, but I’ve gotten several requests for more, and since they’re easier to do as I’m organizing my comics and cleaning up my place, why not?

As I’ve mentioned, in the late 1980s-early 1990s DC Comics was on to something truly special. Few publishers at the time were turning out classic after classic (Dark Horse is the only one that comes to mind) and, though I was too young to appreciate it at the time, DC proved beyond a doubt that comics post-Watchmen/Maus/Dark Knight Returns were validated as true literature.

One of DC’s earliest projects to demonstrate this was 1988’s Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, one of their first U.S.-published comics works (along with The Sandman). A strange, short tale about unintended consequences and beauty in a violent world, Black Orchid was the first story to reveal the sophistication of Gaiman’s later self-contained works (his early Sandman stories were strange, cliffhanger- and superhero-populated affairs) and McKean’s sense of story-as-design he later applied to Arkham Asylum and Cages.

Black Orchid TPB 1st printing

The 1993 trade paperback (1st printing). Note the DC logo blotching an otherwise beautiful cover.

THE GOOD: The 2012 oversized Deluxe hardcover edition of Black Orchid is Continue reading

Upgrade or Downgrade? Hellblazer: Original Sins

19 Sep

by Mike Hansen

Hellblazer: Original Sins (1st printing)

Hellblazer: Original Sins (1st & 2nd DC Comics printing)

Occasionally, I’ll buy more than one edition of a graphic novel. Sometimes it’s by accident (which is surprisingly easy when one has thousands of books!); sometimes it’s because the newer one looks like a better version…

After a big move five months ago, I’ve finally gotten around to organizing my comics again, and I’ve discovered a LOT of duplicate material in some of my books. So as a Public Service, I thought I’d share what I know, so you can make a more informed decision on which books to buy. I’m a giver.

I’m starting with DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer books, as I’ve managed to amass most of them over the last 21 years. It’s one of the best horror comics series of all time, so if all you care about is whether it’s good the answer is YES. Hugely imaginative, massively influential, the stories of John Constantine remain as potent today as they did when they were first published over the last 26 years. Even the character’s creator, Alan Moore, has praised the work of writers Jamie Delano and Brian Azzarello on the series, despite his general hatred of DC Comics.

the 1993 Warner Books edition

1993 Warner Books edition

(It’s a shame that DC decided to incorporate its “mature” characters back into its New 52 superhero line. If only DC knew how to properly manage its intellectual property and branding, instead of taking an “all or nothing” approach to its company-owned material, draining the life and power out of ideas that now fall far short of their potential. I’m grateful that a large enough audience exists for the “real” John Constantine so the Hellblazer stories can continue to be reprinted.)

I’ve given DC Comics a hard time a lot lately (because, let’s face it, that company has done a shit-ton of stupid things in public in the last few years – hell, in the last few weeks), but the company hasn’t survived for over 75 years by being stupid all the time. The DC of today doesn’t Continue reading

A tribute to Karen Berger and Vertigo

4 Dec

by Mike Hansen

Even though this news was expected for a while, it’s still a gut-punch now that it’s happened.

From today’s DC press release:

Karen Berger, Executive Editor & Senior Vice President of DC Entertainment’s Vertigo brand, has announced she is stepping down from her post after nearly 20 years at the helm of the award-winning literary imprint. She will remain on through March 2013 where she will be assisting in the transition to a new leadership team which includes veteran staffers whom she has mentored over the years.

First off: congratulations to Ms. Berger for her decades of amazing work in comics. She remains one of the best working comics editors (along with Bob Schreck, Diana Schutz, and a very short list of others). Few editors in comics history have had such a range of success or depth of influence. I’m eager to learn where she lands and what she does next: the sky truly is the limit.

I owe a lot of my evolution as a comics reader to Berger and the Vertigo line. For most of the 1980s, I was a Marvel zombie. The only reason I branched out of superhero comics was thanks to Archie Goodwin’s Epic Comics line at Marvel, with Groo the Wanderer and Elfquest first getting my money only because of the Marvel name on the cover. Those titles led me to search out other non-superhero material, and by the end of the ’80s I was a dedicated reader of titles like Usagi Yojimbo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Aliens, and more.

But as wonderful as those titles were, at that point there were still few comics titles that had the literary aspirations that I was unknowingly missing. There were plenty of other terrific comics out there, but many of them were still seen as “underground” at that point (like most of Fantagraphics’ amazing output), and I was still a few years away from finally discovering essential material like Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Matt Wagner’s Grendel. But the Vertigo line arrived at the perfect time, as an antidote to the Image Comics revolution that led to often poorly written and edited Image titles, and several years’ worth of even worse Image ripoffs from Marvel and DC.

Thanks to a well-marketed launch effort, I gave Vertigo a shot for the same reason that I’d given Epic a shot years earlier: this was a major effort at non-superhero comics from one of America’s biggest comics publishers (though DC, like Marvel, was and is focused almost exclusively on superhero properties). I tried almost all of those initial Vertigo books (Sandman, Death: The High Cost of Living, Shade the Changing Man, Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, Enigma, Sandman Mystery Theatre, Hellblazer), and after that first month of eye-opening work I never looked back. (It probably helped that Vertigo debuted right as I was transitioning from high school to college!)

The sophistication and quality of the Vertigo launch led me to try many other publishers’ non-superhero comics in a way that Marvel’s Epic never had (probably in part because of my age and the era): Bone, Strangers in Paradise, Madman, Sin City, Cerebus, Beanworld, The Crow, Flaming Carrot, The Dirty Pair, Milk and Cheese, Martha Washington… it was a whole new Golden Age of comics, and Vertigo opened my eyes to it. (I was lucky to live near a comics shop that carried virtually every comic published every month – it was a great time to be a comics reader.)

And oh, man – the titles that Vertigo published over the years: The Invisibles, Preacher, Transmetropolitan, We3, Fables, The Unwritten, 100 Bullets, Y: The Last Man, Stardust, Kill Your Boyfriend, Seekers: Into the Mystery, The Filth, Goddess, reprints of Moonshadow and Blood: A Tale, and so many more blew my mind over and over. I am absolutely filled with gratitude for Berger, her impeccable taste in comics, and her talent at mentoring other editors to maintain the line’s quality.

DC tried creating Continue reading

More Links Catch-Up (Walking Dead, Superman, Alan Moore, Joss Whedon, D&D, etc.)

14 Jun

by Mike Hansen

CBLDF

CBLDF (Photo credit: badlyricpolice)

Sorry about the lack of posts yesterday – I’m hammering away on some comics story proposals to pitch to publishers in the coming weeks. I’ll be sharing more info about them in the future. In the meantime, I thought you’d dig these stories:

Awesome story about a kid who asks a comics retailer, “Are you Superman?”

After moving their channel numbers, Dish Network has threatened to stop carrying AMC’s networks next month. That means no more Walking Dead and Comic Book Men (among others) for millions of people. Click here to tell Dish what you think about this.

The CBLDF gives a quick take on the mother who complained about an Alan Moore comic at a library being available for teens. (While I’d call Neonomicon one of Moore’s more “adult-oriented” comics, I’d never suggest that teenagers aren’t mature enough to handle “mature-readers” comics – after all, I happily read Elfquest, Groo, Swamp Thing, Sandman, and Hellblazer as a kid – all of which had nudity, sex, and/or “graphic” violence…)

Now that the Avengers Continue reading

Free rare Neil Gaiman comic available from Steve Bissette (offer ends TONIGHT)

9 Jun

by Mike Hansen

Sweeney Todd TABOO PD cvrI’ve ordered mine. If you want it, you should order right now

Comics legend Steve Bissette (of Tyrant, Taboo, and Swamp Thing fame) has a special offer at his online store: with every purchase (no matter how small!), he will include a free copy of the 1992 Sweeney Todd Penny Dreadful, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Michael Zulli, originally included in the now-very rare Taboo #6. I’ve never seen a copy of this myself, though I’ve searched for it for 20 years – so there’s no way I was going to pass this up.

Mr. Bissette asked me to spread the word about this offer, which I’m happy to do! As he posted yesterday, this offer is in its final hours – at midnight TONIGHT, unless he runs out of copies before then – so if you want a really cool and rare piece of ’90s comics history, go place an order now! There’s a lot of great stuff available, from Tyrant (one of the most acclaimed self-published series of the ’90s) to Taboo (one of the greatest horror comics series ever, containing the first chapters of From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell) to many other terrific books.

From his announcement (sample page in the link):

This genuinely rare Gaiman & Zulli gem was originally offered in 1992 as a pre-order special with all pre-ordered copies of Taboo 6. It was available only through Direct Market distributor pre-orders of that Taboo volume, shrinkwrapped with Taboo 6 all initial shipments to retailers. That was the one and only time the Penny Dreadful was made available to the market.

Since only a few thousand copies of Taboo 6 were preordered, this exclusive Penny Dreadful is among the rarest of all Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli‘s 1990s comics/graphic novel creations. Continue reading

LOTS o’ Links (May 30 2012)

30 May

by Mike Hansen

Jack Kirby with Avengers cover

Hail to the King, baby.

The best links I’ve come across in the last few days/weeks – bookmark and read at your leisure:

The Bonfire Agency has put its money where its mouth is, and created FanPan, an online consumer focus group for comics readers. Sounds interesting.

The ONLY Avengers film review you need to read.

Possibly the most important comic you can buy and/or download this year: STEAL BACK YOUR VOTE, from one of America’s best investigative journalists (whose work towers over the often-shoddy reporting of U.S. corporate media). Check it out.

Since I’ve been talking about bonus features, here’s something everyone should know about DVD bonus features. Mark Evanier shines a light on something rather messed up about multimillion-dollar movie studios.

On a related note, here’s a horror story of how Warner Bros treats the translators of Harry Potter novels around the world. They’re even not invited to the film premieres, even when their work is used for the films without credit or payment. Classy.

Would WB treat J.K. Rowling the way DC treated Alan Moore? (Or just their translators?)

Did you know that the first appearance of Batman has rarely been reprinted in its original form? Most “reprints” are actually an edited and REDRAWN version of the story – see this post for a dramatic comparison of a few panels. Ugh! (If you want to read the real deal, it seems that the Batman in the Forties trade paperback is the only recent reprint of the actual original.)

Nice interview with Matt Wagner on his final Zorro story arc – Wagner remains one of the best writers (and artists) in comics, and his Zorro work is one of the best things Dynamite’s ever published. I recommend it for, well, pretty much everyone.

Have you seen this adorable story of how Marvel created a deaf superhero to convince a child to wear his hearing aid? Big points to Marvel for this one.

In the wake of the Avengers movie’s success, Image publisher Eric Stephenson republished his essay on Jack Kirby.

Legendary Marvel writer/artist Jim Starlin (whose work was credited in the Avengers film) had to buy his own ticket. And didn’t get any money for the use of his work. Sigh.

A surprising profile/interview with Stan Lee (who, unlike former freelance Marvel writers and artists, gets $1 million a year for life from Marvel) actually got his take on creators’ rights. Here’s another interview with Lee along the same lines.

Here’s Chris Roberson’s full interview with the Comics Journal in the wake of his departure from DC.

Batman in the Forties TPB cover

The only place to read the REAL original Batman story?

The CEOs of Disney (which owns Marvel) and Time Warner (which owns DC) were each paid millions of dollars last year. I wonder how much the creators of the superheroes they own made.

This is old news at this point, but the comments thread of this piece on Before Watchmen at The Beat is well worth reading – lots of comics pros have things to say, including Toby Cypress, Stuart Moore, Ed Brubaker, and Kurt Busiek.

Former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter has a lot to say about the “shared-universe” concept and a new business model for work-for-hire. Can it be done? I dunno, but it raises some interesting ideas. (This post is also the last of a series reacting to brilliant futurist Cory Doctorow (of BoingBoing, the best must-read website on the planet) and his ideas about using technology to share ideas and work. Obviously, I recommend them, too.)

A just-released German Donald Duck reprint accidentally misused the word “holocaust.” Oops.

An Iranian cartoonist was recently sentenced to 25 lashings for daring to draw a member of Iran’s parliament wearing a soccer jersey. Dear Iran: Go fuck yourselves.

A Swedish manga translator was put on a sex-offenders list and forced to lose his job and “manga expert” title for owning comics that were ruled “child pornography.” This, of course, does not do one damn thing to protect actual children from actual offenders. Good job, Sweden.

Steve Bennett has the most interesting take I’ve seen yet on the “gay people in comics” issue:

Why now?  Because we’ve undoubtedly reached the tipping point where homosexuality has become so ubiquitous in American life if it’s absent in popular culture its noticeable.  And as to why comics?  Because comics are, hopefully, still a part of mainstream American popular culture, and to be that it was to reflect reality… even if there are people who reject it.

This ties in to something that drives me nuts about most movies and TV, which is the continuing near-absence of minorities besides “token” characters with race-based dialogue (“Aw, hell no!”). And, of course, there’s the Bechdel Test

Okay, so WHY am I linking to things that criticize Marvel and DC while interviewing people who work for Marvel? Well, Continue reading

The videos that shook the comics world, Part 2: Q&A with John Ferrier!

27 May

by Mike Hansen

In my opinion, not enough comics sites offer the perspective of the comics fans. Sure, there are plenty of sites offering “scoops” on upcoming comics (especially from the handful of big Direct-Market publishers), but the world of comics is a lot bigger than that: one just has to go to any comics convention to see how passionate every creator and consumer of comics can be. I’ve always believed that there’s an audience for anything, no matter how many folks may ignore or deride something: heck, even Sci-Fi (SyFy?) original movies have their own sincere, hardcore following.

Every comics fan has their own reasons for buying and reading comics, whether for entertainment value, artistic worth, collectibility, etc. But with the decline in independent comics shops, and the vast areas of the U.S. lacking even a single brick-and-mortar store (my entire county has one), the “talking comics” aspect of being a fan isn’t what it once was. Online message boards are a great way to touch base with fellow fans, but even those have their limitations when it comes to in-depth fan conversations. The comics industry really needs its own Ain’t It Cool News (though that site does have some great comics posts, like the League of @$Holes reviews!). I hope that some of these posts on All Day Comics can help steer us towards that. I’d love to hear what you readers think, so send an email or post a comment: Despite what some publishers would have you believe, your opinion matters!

Kris Shaw’s hardcover-comparison videos and crusade to Make Comics Better couldn’t have been made without the help of his partner-in-crime, fellow comics fan John Ferrier. I talked with John to get the view from the other side of the camera:

John Ferrier

John Ferrier

Tell me about how you became a comics fan, and a fan of collected editions. Any particular examples that hooked you? Was it your first comic, or was it a more gradual evolutionary process?

Very gradual for me. I was more of a baseball-card collector when I was a kid. My first comic experience was when my family went up north (where Michiganders go on vacation) to a cottage and I ran into the local party store. On the magazine rack was a Nightcrawler #1 that I picked up, from 1985, I think. But baseball cards were my only love, so I didn’t buy any more until the late ’80s: I picked up the first 7 Star Wars comics from a local comic shop. After that, I dabbled a little in the boom of the early ’90s as I let go of my love for baseball cards. I found comics were more fun to collect, since the baseball card market was getting way out of control, making it less fun to collect. My favorite back then was Battle Angel Alita.

Almost a decade later, I went into a Barnes and Noble and saw the softcover Spider-Man Masterworks: Then it was all over. I loved the idea of the collected edition. I’ve always wanted to read Spider-Man from the beginning, but it was never realistic to buy the originals. I met Kris a couple years after that. I had a couple shelves’ worth of books at the time. He showed me what else was available out there; I really had no idea. Because of him, now I have more books than I’ll ever be able to read!

My wife is a HUGE Battle Angel Alita fan. I’ve barely read it, since I’ve still got so many comics of my own to catch up on. She’s got a huge manga collection, but it hardly overlaps with mine – most of my manga is from Dark Horse (since I used to be the Manga Editor there), and most of hers is Viz/Del Rey/TokyoPop. Are you into any other manga?

I was mostly into Anime back then. I have a ton of DVDs from back then. I do have almost all of the Ranma 1/2 graphic novels!

Me, too! That’s one of my all-time favorites. So are you as frustrated as we are about James Cameron taking forever to make a Battle Angel movie?

Yes. I doubt it will ever happen. If it does, I think it should be CG.

It’s interesting that both you and Kris got hooked on comics thanks to the first Spider-Man Masterworks volume. (I actually just got a copy of the softcover a few weeks ago!) I wonder how many comics have that kind of power to create a lifelong love of comics like that. (For me, it was early-’80s X-Men comics that finally hooked me.) It seems to me that there’s some material that should always be available in one format or another – given how old the comics audience is these days, I think we need more books like that to bring in new readers. What do you think?

Spider-Man Masterworks vol 1

The comic that made a collector out of John (and Kris).

That’s a tricky question. The market is dwindling for comic buyers every month. Barnes and Noble is still around, and that’s where I discovered the Masterworks. It got me buying collected editions. But since Borders is gone, how much longer can Barnes and Noble last as a place to discover new books? I rarely go into a bookstore anymore. I already spend most of my money online for books each week, for usually around 40% off with free shipping. Here’s an example: Circuit City went out of business; now Best Buy is struggling. A lot of people are using stores as showrooms and going home and buying items online. I do. So, do I think there should always be a softcover volume 1 Spider-man Masterworks available? Yes. Though I also believe that there are very few books you can do that with, too.

My Continue reading

Quote of the Day: J. Michael Straczynski on BEFORE WATCHMEN

17 Apr

by Mike Hansen

Cover of "Spider-Man: One More Day"

Cover of Spider-Man: One More Day

Actually, TWO quotes, from the same event:

“On an emotional level, I get it. What is interesting is that in a conversation with the pissed off people, you have to chase the logic tree. ‘DC doesn’t have the rights to do this.’ Actually, they do. ‘Alan Moore doesn’t like it.’ Well, Alan Moore is a genius, but he has been abusing characters in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen like having Mr. Hyde anally rape Invisible Man to death which Robert Louis Stevenson wouldn’t have approved of.”

“Did Alan Moore get screwed on his contract? Of course. Lots of people get screwed, but we still have Spider-Man and lots of other heroes.”

J. Michael Straczynski at C2E2’s Before Watchmen panel

Just a few questions for JMS…

– So it’s cool for a publisher to rip off the creators of a comic, including lasting works of greatness like Watchmen and Spider-Man, as long as everybody gets screwed? Or as long as you get to work on it, whether or not the creator approves of the project?

– What’s it like working for a publisher that you know screws over your fellow creators? Is it not your problem, as long as you get paid?

– Imagine if the publisher of Rising Stars and Midnight Nation, your acclaimed works that you created and own, found a contractual loophole that allowed them to publish new material without your permission or control, while you’re alive and the work remains under copyright (not that Image Comics would ever do that). How would you feel about that? Do you think it might feel worse than having your acclaimed run on Amazing Spider-Man end with a completely rewritten final story without your say or control?

Enjoy sleeping on your big bed made of money, sir.

MUST-READ: massive Alan Moore interview on Before Watchmen and much more (with COMMENTARY)

13 Mar

by Mike Hansen

Cover art for the 1987 U.S. (right) and U.K. (...

One of the best books you'll ever read. (Image via Wikipedia)

DUDE. A few comics sites and fan boards are already quoting from this, but it really has to be read in full.

Drop everything and CLICK HERE NOW.

Alan Moore has the balls to stick to his guns and tell the truth as he sees it about comics. A lot of fanboys and professionals (who are mostly fanboys) are going to hate him for this, but I loooooove it. Personally, I agree with a lot of what he says. Not all, but so what? He’s got my respect for telling it like he sees it. (And even if he was batshit crazy and spitting nonsense, like some clueless folks try to suggest, his work changed EVERYTHING, and that speaks for itself. Respect is due)

A few important bits, to get you to click over if you haven’t already:

…Yes, I still get a little bit of the money that I consider myself to be owed for these things.  But, it’s not really the money that’s the principle.  It’s the fact that I was lied to.  It’s the fact that the reason they offered us Watchmen was that they’d seen what I could do with their regular comics.  They could see that I was capable of moving them to a new area that comics had not ventured into before.  So, they offered us Watchmen and it worked out very, very well for them.  They were able to suddenly claim that all of their comics were “graphic novels” now–that they were seriously committed to a progressive comics medium that could produce works of art and literature.  But, that is never what they were concerned with.  It was always purely to do with commerce.

Man, the number of actual “graphic novels” that DC has published since Watchmen is probably less than 5% of its total output. It’s almost all serialized, unending bits of stories strung together. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, if it’s done right.

But, I resolved that I didn’t want to work for DC Comics ever again–or their subsidiaries.  This worked fine for a number of years until Continue reading

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