Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wizard Chicago 2009: Stuff what I done bought

Link: I'm late on this, but Chris Butcher is posting one FUN! strip by Evan Dorkin each day for something like the next year. Funny stuff; Dorkin is awesome.

Here are some of the comics I took home from the weekend, but not all of them, so there will be more to come at some point, I expect.

The Shortcut

This is the kind of minicomic that was all over the place at MoCCA, but in short supply at Wizard. And that's a shame; surely there are plenty of aspiring cartoonists in Chicago that are doing this kind of work. It's the kind of simple cartooning that looks good in on Xeroxed paper, but when you're trying to emulate the popular superhero stuff like most all the other non-pros at the show, you're worried about shiny coloring and glossy paper stock. But with something like this, you don't need fancy technology, you just need good art. And that's what Brittney Sabo has here, with a clean, expressive line that deceptively hides a good amount of detail. The story involves a boy wandering through a field and spotting some shadowy figures in a graveyard that he thinks are God and the devil dividing up the souls. Are they? If you read the comic, you can find out, but it's definitely a good punchline. This is exactly what minicomics are for, to present a short story in a small package and demonstrate the artist's skill. Sabo's got plenty of that; she's definitely a talent to pay attention to.

Ghost Jars #1
By Brittney Sabo

And for another example of Sabo's talent, here's the first part of a longer story that retains the expressiveness of The Shortcut, but takes the creepy atmosphere and amplifies it, making for a strikingly moody tale. It follows Birdy, a seemingly-normal thirteen year old who is staying at her grandparents' house. She heads into the basement to ask her grandpa for a pop, but can't find him, and as she searches through his taxidermy lab, more details about her and her family become apparent, eventually leading to a pretty horrifying reveal, and a cliffhanger that makes one want to seek out the next installment right quick. It's a nice bit of amplification, going from slightly scary scenes like this one:

To the full on horror of the cliffhanger. Yes, Sabo is one to watch, and I can't wait to get my hands on the second issue.

Johnny Recon #1

The creators of this story have something special on their hands, an action-packed pulp sci-fi story that looks great for something produced independently. Mitch Gerads does some pretty impressive stuff here, both in his clean linework and the explosion of color that he lays over the top of it:

It ends up being almost overwhelming, but it works as a way to make the outer space setting seem bright and exciting and cosmic without going the obvious route of Kirby dots and other old-school depictions of energy. And it's very energetic, with a good deal of fast-paced action packed into a short page count.

The story, on the other hand is interesting, but a bit hard to follow. It has to do with a man being voluntarily abducted by aliens from Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, and then it jumps forward in time to "1947 A.E. (After Extraction)", whatever that means. Is it supposed to be one thousand, nine hundred and forty-seven years later? The characters in the story share the abductee's last name (Recon), so maybe they're his descendants? Anyway, we meet up with the title character at a card game that turns into a shootout and the beginnings of a big chase before ending with a cliffhanger. Johnny Recon seems to be a good protagonist, a Han Solo type of lovable rogue that's prone to wisecracks and impulsive action. It would be nicer if we got to spend more time with him; he doesn't even show up until halfway through the issue.

But even with its shortcomings, it's a great debut, and looks pretty incredible for an independently-produced and -published comic. Dillon and Gerads are other talents to watch, and Gerads especially is an artist that is certain to get more attention. Now when does issue #2 come out?

Amo Jamon

Gabriel Bautista is one of the Pulpo Press crew, a group of young, talented cartoonists that look to be full of energy and excitement about making comics. This short comic (which reprints a story that originally ran in one of Image's Popgun anthologies) fits into their aesthetic, telling a goofy little story about urban slackers that happen to be humanoid animals. It does attempt to hit some emotional beats, but lapses back into humor with the cartoonily bestial expressions of emotion:

And then it ends on a pretty funny punchline that the title kind of gives away. It's kind of lightweight entertainment, but Bautista demonstrates some cartooning chops here, and he's hopefully destined to keep growing and developing his talent. It should be fun to watch.

By Timothy Weaver

This is another Pulpo Press book, but it's more of a short graphic novel than a single-issue story, one of those stereotypical indie books about college-age slackers and their relationships. The protagonist, named Guy, meets a girl and starts dating her while trying to ignore the obnoxious taunting of his friends. And that's about it. Weaver does demonstrate a good grasp of the kind of dumbass guy behavior of swearing, taunting, and name-calling, and he has a nice, cartoony style, most of the time:

The problem is that it goes on kind of long; the story could have used some tightening, and probably would have worked better by cutting the length by a third or so. And the art can often be kind of stiff, especially in movement of limbs and strange facial expressions. But just because it isn't perfect doesn't mean it's not worth a look, and Weaver could definitely develop into an interesting talent with a little work. Yes, he's another one to watch; let's hope he lives up to my (overly high) expectations.

Lucius Hammer #0
Written by Brian Williams
Art by Christian Colbert

Writer Brian Williams stated that the original impetus behind this comic was dissatisfaction with Marvel's treatment of Luke Cage; his attempts to write what he thought was a better version of the character turned into a comic of itself about a black superhero. And it's easy to see what he was going for here in this origin issue, as the character is introduced as a super-competent, upstanding, highly intelligent paragon of strength, justice, and morality. And that's kind of the problem here (although, being mostly a preview, the book could end up being more complex in its final form): Lucius Hammer is too perfect, a hero without any flaws who appears to be up against a world that conspires against him. It's not enough to ruin the book or anything, but one suspects that story possibilities could run out very quickly with such a one-dimensional character.

Luckily, Williams has a talented collaborator on board in Christian Colbert, who has a really nice, clean, cartoony style that gives a rounded, yet muscular feel to the characters:

This is a "rough cut", so presumably the pencils here will eventually be given clean, strong inks and really pop off the page. When that happens, it will be a great-looking book. Hopefully Williams will be able to develop the characters and story around it to match.

There were a few other books that I picked up, but they really weren't of good enough quality to give more than a passing mention. Eric Rampson and Wil Brendel's The Redeemers seems like it could be a halfway-decent story about a rock band that secretly fights demons with their magical instruments; it's best quality is the pretty-good cartoony art. And Guilty Conscience, by "Jeff" and "Nolan" of Albatross Entertainment, is a grotesque murder procedural with a decent twist and some fairly ugly art.

There were some other books I want to talk about though, so expect more soon. Comics!