Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hat Trick

I have talented friends. I’ve said this over and over the last few years as I’ve gotten to know people in the comic book community. I am impressed every time I discover another friend who makes these books I love. So I set out last week to read collections by my friends...

I started things off with Shawn Pryor’s Mercury and the Murd, Volume 1: Collateral Damages. Now this was a lot of fun! Think buddy cop movie with a little bit of sci-fi tech thrown in. Shawn is the writer of Mercury and the Murd, so unlike the other two books I read there is a certain kinship I feel towards Shawn as a fellow writer. I picked up this trade from Shawn while at the Pittsburgh Comicon a few weeks back, and it came with a CD of music he composed as a soundtrack to the book. That Shawn is a writer, comic producer, and composes music just floors me. Surrounding myself with ridiculously (multi) talented people like Shawn is a humbling yet inspiring way to go through life. (As a bonus, the cover to issue #6 was drawn by the ever-awesome Andy Jewett. Double prizes!)

Next up was a re-read: creator and artist Steve Bryant’s Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon. I got this from Steve at Wizard World Chicago last year when I traded him for a copy of Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan. I have wanted to revisit the book since pledging to Steve’s Kickstarter project a few weeks ago to help fund the next Athena Voltaire miniseries (the campaign ends May 25, so there’s still time to get in on this). The book has a great Indiana Jones vibe – Nazis, 1930s pulp adventure, supernatural artifacts... it’s all good stuff!

Lastly, I read Blacklisted. This one’s drawn by Pat Loika. Adam Witt’s story of conspiracy theories and secret government organizations is a really original tale that doesn’t spoon-feed the reader. Pat’s art is sparse, gritty, focused, and appropriate for the story being told. It’s a self-contained one-and-done that will challenge you without talking down to you.

Two-thirds of these creators – Shawn and Steve – will be at the Summit City Comic Con with me this Saturday in Fort Wayne. Visit with them there and pick up your own copies of Mercury and the Murd and Athena Voltaire. And if you can’t make it to Summit City, or want to get your hands on Blacklisted, you can find all these guys online. Pat is a fellow regular on Marvel Noise as well as producing his own podcast called Loikamania, and Shawn has his PKD Black Box podcast. For a bonus, check out episode #24 of Black Box for Shawn’s chat with special guest Steve Bryant!

Reading these three books back-to-back-to-back over the course of three or four days was incredibly entertaining. Whatever your pleasure – comedy-action, adventure, or dark intrigue – there’s something here for everyone! Check out these great books and support independent comic book creators!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

An Indefinite Article, A Definite Problem

Ok. So I crack open Black Widow and the Marvel Girls trade paperback looking for some all-ages fun to read before passing it along to the kiddo, and on the first page of first issue collected, I’m greeted by this:

Now, I’m a freelance writer and editor. It’s sometimes distracting to see the written word through my eyes, because I see the errors where others might breeze past them. And this “an”/“a” one stopped me dead in my tracks. How does something like this slip through? Did the editor get confused by the “near-” being appended on the front of “ageless”? Or maybe think that the indefinite article is referring directly to the “Asgardian”?

I looked at those words so long that I actually started to doubt myself! Then I did some quick searches online to see if I was losing my mind and called my long-time editor John. According to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab, Grammar Girl, and Compass Rose Horizons (the first three sites that came up in my Google search for "grammar rules an vs. a") and John, I can find no exceptions to the indefinite article rules to make me think what’s printed on that page of the comic is correct.

From Purdue OWL:

The choice of article is actually based upon the phonetic (sound) quality of the first letter in a word, not on the orthographic (written) representation of the letter. If the first letter makes a vowel-type sound, you use "an"; if the first letter would make a consonant-type sound, you use "a." So, if you consider the rule from a phonetic perspective, there aren't any exceptions.
I’m not infallible. I make grammatical errors all the time (there are probably some in this very blog entry), but I also don’t run everything I write by an editor and the writing I’m doing here is for fun. The writing in my book that has passed through my editor’s hands or in anything I have edited, however, should be grammatically sound. I can understand small errors here and there in a publication like this comic, but to be in large font on the first page of the book was surprising.

Regardless, I did enjoy the collection of four one-shot Black Widow team-ups (along with a bonus reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #86 and the debut of the Widow's modern costume). And that typo on page one is nothing that a black Sharpie won't fix.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Return of Marvel Adventures

I pick up quite a few single issues for the kiddo each month. The Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Super Hero Squad, all based on their respective animated shows, are always on the list, along with miscellaneous other books that either strike my fancy for him while going through Previews or pique his interest on trips to the comic shop.

In my April DCBS box, there were two reboots of the Marvel Adventures line I had ordered for the kiddo: Spider-Man and Super Heroes. I am a big proponent of all ages and age-appropriate comics for kids, and when I saw these in Previews I knew I needed to give them a try and support them.

I don’t regularly read the comics I buy for the kiddo. I’m confident as an informed
consumer of what I’m letting him read, so it’s more about him having something that gets him jazzed about comics. But I couldn’t pass up giving these two books a go for myself. (Plus, I love the look in the kiddo’s eyes when I come to him asking if I can read one of his comics that says, “You want to read something of mine? Sure you can, Dad!”)

Both of these Paul Tobin-written books are a lot of fun. The Spider-Man is one-and-done, but has the feel of something that will have some continuity to it over its run. There’s dirty politicians, a young Captain Stacy, high school drama, and a cranky J. Jonah Jameson. And I think I enjoyed this single Spidey issue more than the five-issue Bob Gale-penned Peter Parker mini currently underway.

The Spidey book also benefits from two Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius backups. The kiddo and I are both big fans of Chris Eliopoulos’ work, so it’s nice to hav
e these here, along with his Zabu (Ka-Zar’s sabretooth tiger) backup set in the Savage Land in the Super Heroes book.

Tobin’s work in Super Heroes is the kind of story you can’t help but get excited about. Inside the Iron Man cover, it’s actually an Avengers story with Shellhead, Cap, Black Widow, Thor, Nova, Invisible Woman, and Vision on the team battling Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants. Based on the “Next Issue” teaser inside the back cover, it looks like Marvel is going to rotate the “headline” character in this book, with Thor getting his turn above the title next month.

Tobin seems to have carved out a nice little corner of the all-ages Marvel Universe for himself, and I couldn’t be more appreciative. The kiddo and I both enjoyed Tobin’s Fantastic Four Giant-Size Adventures one-shot last year, his Black Widow and the Marvel Girls trade paperback arrived in the same box as the Spider-Man and Super Heroes issues, and I have his Spider-Man and the Secret Wars trade paperback on order.

I love having some books that both the kiddo and I are digging. For me, these two single issues were like a wayback machine to the stories I first discovered as a kid. And for the kiddo, I hope these are the books that are among his earliest memories of issues leaving a permanent impression on his comic reading psyche. I hope more people buy these books and keep them going. For our part, Marvel Adventures Spider-Man and Marvel Adventures Super Heroes will stay on our pull list as long as Marvel continues to offer them.

(And, on a similar note, Roger Langridge and the ever-awesome Chris Samnee’s Thor: The Might Avenger, launching in July, is already queued up to join Tobin’s books this summer.)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

This is a blog post about The Black Keys. The name of this blog post is The Cure for What Ails Ya.

Northeast Ohio might collapse under the pressure of LeBron’s pending free agency, but there is one thing that can cure an Akronite’s ills: A new Black Keys album. I’ve been rockin’ to the advanced tracks (“Tighten Up” and “Next Girl”) and the bonus download (“Ohio”) for a while now... completely in love with the return of one of my all-time favorite bands. Nothing can buoy hometown pride like a new Black Keys album arriving Tuesday and tickets at the ready for a late July Cleveland tour stop.

To tide you over for the next couple of days, check out the return of Frank, the sweet dancing, eharmony profilin’ funkasaurus rex and the subversive Monty Python-esque video crawl genius of the “Next Girl” video.

Buy the new Black Keys album May 18. Do it for Frank.