Tag Archives: Jim Lee

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

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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

Hey, it’s a Brand New DC NEW 52 survey

22 Jun

by Mike Hansen

Frankenstein (DC Comics)

A New 52 character. Also a metaphor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m back, folks!

Looks like DC Comics has stuck with Nielsen to offer another online survey – go here and let them know what you think of the New 52 so far. I just took the survey, and I was happy to let DC know what it’s doing right or wrong.

One thing to watch out for: “Orange Ivy” is the fake title this time. Make sure you mark that you’ve never heard of it, or you won’t be able to take the full survey.

A couple of thoughts on the survey:

Once again, there is no option for indicating that a customer purchased print comics from an online comics retailer. Some of the questions about going to a comics shop and making impulse purchases or whatever don’t really apply if some of the comics were preordered online.

Also, the survey did not ask any detailed questions about the characters, story, or creative teams – there was one question about how important these are to me when I buy comics. I suppose DC doesn’t want its readers second-guessing the always-fine decisions made by its editorial staff.

Anyway, check out the survey – and feel free to let me know what you think…

Is our comics “Art”?

3 Jun

by Mike Hansen

Bleeding Cool says the original cover painting for Tintin in America just sold for $1.6 million, a new world record. To which I say – to my university art professor, who claimed “illustration” was not “art”: SUCK IT!

Tintin in America original cover art

I’ve got 1.6 million bucks that says this is art.

That same “teacher” criticized me for presenting the class with this classic Frank Frazetta cover:

Weird Science-Fantasy #29 cover

from Weird Science-Fantasy #29 (1955). Note the masterful placement of every element of the drawing to lead the viewer’s eye.

The previous year, I had a much more open-minded art professor. For an assignment to replicate a masterwork using the same materials (I assume, to see if any students had a career in counterfeiting!), he let me do this instead:

Deathblow splash by Mike Hansen (after Jim Lee)

photo of Deathblow splash page by me (after Jim Lee), I think from Deathblow #2 (1993).

I learned more from this assignment than from anything I did in art class the following year!

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

Before Watchmen: Not Interested. Here’s Why

1 Feb

by Mike Hansen

Cover of "Watchmen"

Watchmen.

It is what it says it is: Watchmen prequel stories not by the authors of Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

FromDC’s Source blog:

BEFORE WATCHMEN includes:

  • COMEDIAN (6 issues) – Writer: Brian Azzarello. Artist: J.G. Jones
  • NITE OWL (4 issues) – Writer: J. Michael Straczynski. Artists: Andy and Joe Kubert
  • OZYMANDIAS (6 issues) – Writer: Len Wein. Artist: Jae Lee
  • SILK SPECTRE (4 issues) – Writer: Darwyn Cooke. Artist: Amanda Conner
Before Watchmen Comedian cover

Not Watchmen.

Each week, a new issue will be released, and will feature a two-page back-up story called CURSE OF THE CRIMSON CORSAIR, written by original series editor Len Wein and with art by original series colorist John Higgins. There will also be a single issue, BEFORE WATCHMEN: EPILOGUE, featuring the work of various writers and artists, and a CRIMSON CORSAIR story by Wein and Higgins.

“The original series of WATCHMEN is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell. However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire,” said Dave Gibbons, WATCHMEN co-creator and original series artist.

“Comic books are perhaps the largest and longest running form of collaborative fiction,” said DiDio and Lee. “Collaborative storytelling is what keeps these fictional universes current and relevant.”

Because Watchmen isn’t a story, it’s a “universe”? And it’s not enough to be a Cold War-era metaphor; it needs to be “relevant”? Huh.

Before Watchmen Dr. Manhattan cover

Not Watchmen.

From Comics Alliance:

With the exceptions of Wein and Higgins, none of the creators involved in this initiative were involved in the original production of Watchmen. This announcement does clear up where quite a few popular creators, such as Jae Lee, J.G. Jones and Amanda Conner, have been working for the past year or so since ending other projects.

And Adam Hughes hasn’t drawn a published comics story since, what, Wildcats/X-Men? He was working on All Star Wonder Woman, but who knows if that’s still happening…

This explains why DC offered Alan Moore the Watchmen rights back only with the provision that these prequels could be published: because they were already being made by that point. (Moore refused.)

Before Watchmen Ozymandias cover

Not Watchmen.

I truly believe that the only reason Continue reading

Frank Miller: The Dennis Miller of Comics

14 Nov

by Mike Hansen

Miller at the 1982 Comic-Con

Frank Miller in 1982, when his greatest works were still ahead of him. (Image via Wikipedia)

I haven’t seen this big a left-to-right swing since [insert your own stupid Dennis Miller obscure reference here].

A week ago, Frank Miller wrote some ignorant bullshit about the Occupy Wall Street movement, in a post entitled, “Anarchy.”

A lot of folks have called him out – just check out the comments below his post for a taste.

Ty Templeton had the cleverest response: a comic strip letter from a master cartoonist to a writer who can barely be bothered to do comics – certainly not any great comics – anymore. Here’s a taste:

Ty Templeton Frank Miller Funnies

It would be so easy to tear Miller’s retarded rant to pieces, but why bother? Anyone on the planet with access to Google can decimate its entirety in seconds.

I’ve loved almost all of Frank Miller’s work. Virtually everything he’s created since becoming the writer on Daredevil over 30 years ago has been a masterpiece (excepting his two pointless Spawn cash-grab stories). I still remember when I was assisting his editor at Dark Horse, Diana Schutz, and opening the FedEx box containing the entirety of Sin City: Family Values – it was such a rush and a privilege to be one of the first to read it, to experience a master of raw communication at work. But that seems like a long time ago now.

It was even a treat to see Miller at play, doing masterful, stupid comedy in his “Lance Blastoff” strips and The Spirit film. But I don’t see that in Miller today, either.

How did Miller go from creating works of genius like this:

Frank Miller CBLDF

to obvious, pointless junk like this?

A Nice Thought by Frank MillerSuicide bombers are bad? Really? That’s the best Miller can accomplish these days?

If Miller really had balls, Continue reading

I Watched GREEN LANTERN (Extended Cut)

1 Nov

by Mike Hansen

Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan in Green Lantern.

(Image via Wikipedia)

…and I am profoundly disappointed.

SPOILERS.

Green Lantern isn’t a bad movie, per se, but it is chock-full of missed opportunities. And, unfortunately, Warner Brothers has continued that theme with a Blu-Ray release that’s equally half-assed.

The movie itself has some great effects work, strong and believable acting from Ryan Reynolds and Mark Strong, and a decent origin story. But it feels like a rough draft – that all of the interesting little details that give a film character were either not developed or sanded away. Like: it sure would have been nice to see a close-up of Hal Jordan’s face as he flies for the first time on Oa, seeing the thrill and joy of experiencing the thing that gives his life meaning as if for the first time. But no, the plot just has to move him from A to B, so that’s all we get…

I’d also love to know why Carol didn’t follow Hal out of the bar after he runs out to get his ass kicked, or why nobody addresses why Hal’s car was left in the parking lot when he flew to Oa (or what happened to it – did it get towed? Did Carol drive it home??). Why doesn’t Hal Continue reading

DC New 52: I read All Star Western #1

29 Sep

by Mike Hansen

Wow, I’m actually writing about a comic the week it came out. I’m so relevant now…

First, some mood music…

I had mixed feelings about whether to pick up All Star Western #1. On the one hand, it’s a continuation of the solid Jonah Hexseries by writers Justin Gray and  Jimmy Palmiotti, and the handful of issues I’ve read have all been very good. On the other hand, it’s now $3.99 an issue: granted, there are now 28 story pages, but considering that I can often get used graphic novels for $4-5 with 80-200 pages of story content, it’s hard for me to justify the price. But I figured, what the hell; it’s the first issue, and it’s a new story direction, so I gave it a shot.

All Star Western #1 cover

"DO YOU KNOW THE WAY TO - never mind."

Bottom line? Overall, Continue reading

TRUE BELIEVERS REVIEWS Returns with Reviews of DC New 52 Titles!

27 Sep
Cover art for Justice League: Generation Lost ...

Justice League: Generation Lost featured Aaron Lopresti's previous work on the JLI. (Image via Wikipedia)

Hey folks, Mike here – Chris Lemmerman at True Believers Reviews has taken a look at several of the DC New 52 titles, including some that I either haven’t had a chance to read, or haven’t wanted to read – so I’m glad he can share his take on them with us! As usual, click on the links for the full reviews – and give us your comments! What did you like, or love, or hate about the New 52 so far? (And check out some True Believers Reviews for Marvel’s Spider-Island here!)

Justice League #1: [Geoff] Johns captures both of the main characters essences very well in this first issue. Whilst some have complained that his Batman interpretation is too much of a jerk, he comes across well here…

…Supes doesn’t Continue reading

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