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Graphic Novel Friday: Interview at the Federal Bureau of Physics

Publisher Vertigo Comics opened an extraordinary wormhole in 2013 with FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics by writer Simon Oliver and artist Robbi Rodriguez (originally titled Collider). In this world that is otherwise like our own, the laws of physics have begun to deteriorate. As the world struggles to cope and continue with this new, ever-shifting reality, the Federal Bureau of Physics forms to contain and solve for the bizarre. Agent Adam Hardy is one such member of the FBP and, like his father before him, he begins to suspect there is something even stranger afoot in a world that has lost its bearings.

While the first collected volume will release in February, single digital issues are available now. Vertigo and DC Comics provided the following exclusive interview with both creators:

Q: For the uninitiated, how would you describe FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics in one sentence? Okay…we'll give you two. Two sentences!

Simon Oliver: Physics may be broken but it’s no longer front-page news. Luckily the Federal Bureau of Physics is here, their motto: “To prevent and protect mankind from the impossible…”

Robbi Rodriguez: I was asked at the beginning of the project of what I envisioned for the book and I said I saw it as if Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Springsteen and Wally Wood created a comic. Blue collar sci-fi.

Q: Was there any particular moment or inspiration behind the book’s premise? How long has this idea been with the two of you?

Simon Oliver: I’d been talking to my editor Mark Doyle for a while about doing a new monthly, and I’d been bouncing ideas at him but nothing was sticking. The thing about an ongoing monthly is you need something “big”, some big idea that will keep you supplied with stories to plop your characters down into…anyway it was around tornado season, I was in my car listening to a report about how some tornado had flattened a town in the Midwest and it struck me, “what if the tornadoes weren’t caused by weather? What if it was actually physics? What if physics didn’t work so well anymore? What it the laws of physics were broken?"

I remember calling Mark up and pitching him that version and we knew we had “it”; we had that big idea to run with, so it was just a case of shaping up the rules of the world, and putting the characters together. One big detail, which seems small, but it’s something I think sets the book apart from similar stories, is that it’s out in the open, there’s no big conspiracy to keep it quiet, it’s very much a part of our lives.

Mark had Robbi on a list of artists he wanted to work with, and I think he really nailed it choosing him, and that’s something that goes for the entire art team. Rico nails the colors and Nathan’s covers are second to none. I’ve been lucky.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Interview at the Federal Bureau of Physics" »

Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Buying Guide

Yikes, was everyone else aware that the holiday buying season is almost over? The good news: there are plenty of good-looking comics to give as gifts. The bad news: there isn’t a lot of time! Here are a few noteworthy, stand-out books that would make perfect presents for the comics reader in your life.

For the music buff: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, and Kyle Baker: The cultural fascination with the Fab Four will never wane so long as new stories continue to be unearthed and told. Here, The Beatles’ manager and visionary, Brian Epstein, receives his due in this dreamy, eccentric graphic novel. There are three editions of this book, depending on how “fab” you want to get: standard hardcover edition (and digital edition), a collector’s edition (with bonus materials), and a limited edition (only 1,500 copies) with a slipcase, bonus materials, and a signed tip-in sheet by writer Tiwary.

For the goofball: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. This famously bizarre and manic webcomic is finally available as a collection (with new stories!) and it does not disappoint. Amazon editor Mari Malcolm had this to say in her glowing review: “Neurosis has rarely been so relatable and entertaining.” Brosh captures her childhood and adult awkwardness in deceptively simple illustrations, allowing for a universal appeal and accessibility. Parp!

For the lit major: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz was already a critical hit when it first published in September 2012, but this new slipcased edition includes illustrations by beloved indie artist Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets). There are full-page illustrations for each story, and Hernandez's deep, economical lines perfectly suit Diaz's layered tales [Hope I find this one under the tree!]. Speaking of layered stories, if your special someone does not yet have a copy of The Sandman on his or her shelf, now is the time to remedy such a void with The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman. Presented in a sturdy, richly detailed hardcover (with over 1,000 pages), this is the gift edition to make any Grinch’s heart swell.

For the history buff: The Boxer Rebellion is told from two perspectives in Boxers & Saints (Boxed Set) by Gene Luen Yang. Appearing on many Best of the Year lists (including ours), Yang’s ambitious examination of the human condition as told through one of the most controversial moments in Chinese history is not as daunting a read as it sounds. Rather, this is a treasure, both in narrative and packaging.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Holiday Buying Guide" »

Paul Pope on "Battling Boy"

Battling_boy

Paul Pope does not write kids' stuff. The comic artist/writer is best known for his Eisner Award-winning Batman series, Batman: Year 100, a gritty dystopian take on the Dark Knight. But Pope's first foray into comics for younger audience isn't strictly kids' stuff either. Battling Boy introduces us to the city of Acropolis, where a young boy must step up and become the hero for a people under siege from a band of monsters, demons, and all sorts of unsavory types. Battling Boy has so much here for both kids and adults alike, and it's why we picked it as one of the Best Books of 2013 in Comics & Graphic Novels.

Pope talked to us about writing for a younger audience, imagining Acropolis, and what's next for the series.


Why did you want to write a comic for teens?

I saw a dearth of really good science-fiction/adventure comics written for a young audience, featuring superheroes the age of the young readers themselves. Battling Boy is good for anybody around nine or older. Also, writing something literally "all ages" was an appealing challenge for me. Most of my twenty years in comics has been in making comics which would be considered R-rated, or at least aimed for adults. As we've been touring the States and Canada for Battling Boy--and soon, UK and France--I am meeting readers as young as ten years old, who are new to graphic novels, and take Battling Boy at face value, and also readers as old as early '60s, people who grew up on Golden and Silver Age comics, who can see all the classic themes and tropes and even cliches I am trying to infuse into Battling Boy.

What differences did you find in the creative process writing for a younger audience?

Actually, the process is pretty much the same as with my other books, although because of the scale of this one, the script had to be much tighter than any others before, even my Batman Year 100 book. I'm not able to really work in my preferred process lately, which is to work straight thru for two or three days, taking a break only to eat and sleep, then take a day off to rest and do other stuff. Since there is so much more management and outside activities I need to engage in for Battling Boy, I find I am trying to work in shorter bursts of daily focused work. No days off lately. I work up thumbnails from my main script, then move to pencils and finally, inks using a brush. My new studio has no internet, which was a move I made to preserve creative concentration. I have an assistant who scans the art for me and does some production work like that.

I loved Acropolis--which is both gritty and hostile but also brightly colored and full of imagination. What inspired the city?

Around the time I was starting work on this book, I had a chance to visit Napoli and Capri, in southern Italy, and I realized I wanted this city to feel Mediterranean, with the volcanic rocks and the blue-green/terra cotta colors. I also wanted the city to feel like a war-torn city, like what we see out of Baghdad or Beirut, a city under siege, half standing and half in tatters. I wanted it also to feel a bit like the old Flash Gordon serials, with the pre-WW2 science and Deco architecture. I definitely didn't want this to be New York or Tokyo or something and see a huge monster scale the Empire Building again, which has been done to death.

Generally speaking, comics feature too few strong, interesting female protagonists, but this is something that young adult novels do very well. Did YA literature influence Aurora at all?

Aurora is sort of based on my sister, who was a headstrong and determined tomboy as a kid. I really like tomboys, and wanted a tough girl to be Battling Boy's foil. It was only later I realized she fits into a mold that is well established for YA fantasy/science-fiction heroines. I wanted to have a girl who is the inheritor of all the power and secrets of an Iron Man or Indian Jones-type hero, whereas Battling Boy is the son of a Warrior God and Goddess. So together, Aurora and BB are like the inheritors of, on the one hand, science, and on the other, magic, or at least an ancient mythic tradition.

When will we see the next installment of Battling Boy?

The next book in the expanded series is The Rise Of Aurora West, a second series focusing on Aurora, which ties back into the larger Battling Boy series. This is next fall, co-written by myself and JT Petty, and drawn by David Rubin. I couldn't be happier than to have David on the book. He was my top pick, and I knew I wanted a European artist on the book (David is from Spain). We are coding the two series with lots of story elements and visuals and characters which appear in both series. I am currently working on the second Battling Boy book, which I am writing and drawing on my own, and it will be appearing sometime within the year following Aurora. After that, there is the second Aurora book. So :01 and I are working to expand Battling Boy into a universe of stories which interconnect. It's all very exciting and challenging.

Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part Two)

In Part One of our interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, we discussed the recent original graphic novel, The Midnight Circus, and his narrative influences. In Part Two of our spirited conversation, we explore the forthcoming Hellboy in Hell storyline, the changing status quo of his universe—where Mike gently corrects my understanding about a particular character—and our favorite new vampire film. 

Alex Carr: While young Hellboy begins his adventures in The Midnight Circus, his career, as we know it, ends in Hellboy in Hell. What awaits him in Hell?

Mike Mignola: A lot of family stuff; I’ll say some old “friends” with quotations marks around it; a lot—a lot of stuff [laughs]. The first volume of Hellboy in Hell is really settling him into Hell. We get a tour of that world—not the complete world, but Hellboy gets shown around a bit. We get to see a little bit of how my version of Hell works. And most important, we see that by Hellboy appearing in Hell, major changes have happened with the guys who have been running Hell. Hellboy gets in there and throws a pretty big rock in that pond.

There are some major changes that happen, and really, after that first volume I want to focus on doing smaller stories for a while and go back to my spin on fairy and folk tales. My long-term goal with Hell—we’ll see the Greek underworld, we’ll see the sort-of Asian underworld of Hell so I can do Asian-related fairy tales and folklore and use the creatures from those mythologies.

AC: There’s an apocalyptic theme running through your entire universe at the moment. We’ve got Hellboy in Hell, and in B.P.R.D. there’s a multi-year arc called Hell on Earth. Why so grim?

MM: You know, things do look pretty grim, but I think there are more laughs in Hellboy in Hell than there are in B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth. I think Hell is getting nicer and Earth is getting worse [laughs]. Once we figured out what we were doing, the whole point of the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. stuff has always been evolution. The kind of evolution we’re seeing on Earth is nasty evolution—part of this kind of evolution is that you have to wipe out what was there before you can replace it.

In B.P.R.D., a lot of the old ways of doing things are being replaced, and people are going to struggle against things like, you know, giant monsters coming down to re-pave the planet. Human beings are going to try to stop that. Can they do it? I don’t know. Everything is changing, and there’s a lot of destruction that goes along with it.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part Two)" »

Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part One)

Before we finish the leftovers from Thanksgiving and head into December, let’s revisit one of the Best of the Month picks for November in Comics and Graphic Novels: Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo. Demons and dark prophecies await young Hellboy as he sneaks away to find the circus, making for a classic Hellboy tale, but the way in which Mignola weaves familiar narratives into the compact story elevates it to must-read canon. In part one of our interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, we discuss his narrative influences in The Midnight Cirucs, the art process, and why he dislikes the circus.

Alex Carr: The Midnight Circus stars a young Hellboy, whom we recently saw in B.P.R.D.: 1948. Was it a conscious decision to release these two stories so closely together—and why the sudden focus on Hellboy at an early age?

Mike Mignola: You know, I think that was one of those happy accidents. Since we started using young Hellboy in the B.P.R.D. stories, 1946 and 1947, it just made sense to continue in 1948, but I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I started The Midnight Circus. When I started thinking about The Midnight Circus, I was looking for something to do with [artist] Duncan Fegredo that was different than what we’d done before [in The Wild Hunt and The Storm and the Fury]. Since Duncan killed off Hellboy, I thought, “Well, let’s go to the other end of the spectrum.”

It’s set in the 1940s, so I was thinking Ray Bradbury—what does a young kid in the 1940s do? He sneaks off and goes to the circus. Obviously, I was thinking about Something Wicked This Way Comes, that coming-of-age type of thing, where you’re not a little kid anymore, but you’re not quite an adult. And of course Hellboy grows up to be a guy who’s always smoking a cigarette, so I thought about making that a moment. Is this somehow his rite of passage, you know, stealing a cigarette? So, Hellboy sneaks off and has a smoke.

And I’m a big fan of Pinocchio, the original book, and I’d always seen these funny parallels between that character and Hellboy—with the whole real-boy thing. It was an excuse to do the circus, and once I got into the circus, I didn’t really know what the hell to do because I don’t really care about the circus. But I thought it would be a chance to do my spin on Pinocchio.

AC: Well, you’ve pretty much touched upon every question I had for you about the book [laughs]. You dedicate The Midnight Circus to Ray Bradbury: “Who confirmed my worst fears about the circus.” When did you first encounter his classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes?

MM: Probably college. It remains my favorite Bradbury novel. I love that thing.

AC: I have to believe there is some sort of story behind your “worst fears about the circus.”

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: Interview with Mike Mignola (Part One)" »

Best Books of 2013: Comics & Graphic Novels

Marble Season Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez

In June, Gilbert Hernandez's Marble Season topped our Best of the Year So Far list for Comics & Graphic Novels. Since then, it's been a strong season for comics, but after revisiting Hernandez's touching, nostalgic tale of kids in Southern California when assembling our Best Books of 2013 picks, I was reminded that nothing else has delighted me as much this year. Beneath the innocence of Hernandez's cast of eccentric troublemakers is the conflicting desire to grow up without understanding what that means; as a reader we approach Marble Season with the opposite perspective: we long for our childhood but appreciate it with the wisdom of adulthood.

Very Casual Very Casual by Michael DeForge

Collecting the bizarre works of Michael DeForge's mini-comics, Very Casual marks the arrival of a fresh, bizarre talent. Even in his early twenties, DeForge has already won numerous awards (including the 2013 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Anthology of Collection for Very Casual). DeForge's aesthetic sensibility is hinged on the compellingly weird. Kids get high on squid ink; absurdist deer mate; and a rock band is made out of weird blobs. Revealed within Very Casual's psychedelic stories and grotesque geographies is something sublime.

Solo Solo: The Deluxe Edition

The collected works of DC's Solo lets many of the most well-known comics writers/illustrators, including Darwyn Cooke, Paul Pope, and Michael Allred, go hog-wild with the DC universe. It's a showcase of familiar heroes getting strange makeovers — an eclectic mix of talent and imagination not to be missed.

The Property The Property by Rutu Modan

Israeli-born artist Rutu Modan's first work, Exit Wounds, was an Eisner Award-winning trek through Tel Aviv. The Property, her second full-length comic, takes us to Warsaw, where a young woman named Regina accompanies her grandmother on a trip to secure property owned by her parents during the Holocaust. Modan's work is extremely subtle. But despite her penchant for earth tones and nuanced expressions, The Property feels so alive with compassion and humor and humanity.

Authors @ Amazon: Allie Brosh, "Hyperbole and a Half"

HyperboleMonths before it was even published, Allie Brosh's debut collection of comics and essays, based on and named for her wildly popular blog, became an Amazon bestseller. Since its publication earlier this month, Hyperbole and a Half has hovered among Amazon's top-selling books, was named one of our Best Books of the Month, and has attracted widespread praise. 

I asked Brosh if she had a theory--or maybe a superpower--to explain readers' devotion to her autobiographical MS Paint figures and their struggles with the game of life. "Probably how much I think about my own thinking," she said. "I spend a lot of time analyzing my own thoughts." 

In particular, her blog posts about depression have resonated with fans, as has her brutal honesty, her quirky humor, her crazy dogs, and her frequent f-bombs. Andrew Sullivan has called her blog "inspired" and Cory Doctorow calls Brosh "an Internet-era treasure, an unexpected wonder of the 21st century." As our reviewer, Mari Malcolm, put it, "Neurosis has rarely been so relatable and entertaining."

Authors @ Amazon: Allie Brosh from Amazon Books on Vimeo.

Happy Halloween Comics!

Happy Halloween! This special collector’s edition of Graphic Novel Friday arrives on a Thursday—just in time for the greatest holiday of them all. With no familial baggage or end of year expectations, Halloween’s all party. In keeping with that sentiment, our Top 10 Halloween comics of the fall are less about the fright and more about the groovy monster mashed-ness of the evening. Raise a dark chocolate and let’s get spooky.Witchinghour_1_

10. Marvel Zombies: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman, Mark Millar, Sean Philips, and more.

9. The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard. 

8. The Witching Hour #1 by Various.COFFIN_Cv1__

7. Creepy Presents: Steve Ditko by Steve Ditko and Archie Goodwin.

6. Creepy Archives Vol. 17 by Various.

5. Revival: Deluxe Collection, Vol. 1 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

4. Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo.

3. Coffin Hill #1 by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda. 

2. The Halloween Legion: The Great Goblin Invasion by Martin Powell, Thomas Boatwright, and Diana Leto.

1. Colder by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra. 

By now it’s almost sunset, Omni readers. Take a peek outside the window. Do the pumpkins look mischievous tonight? Are their grins a little grim? Maybe save a piece of candy in case the doorway darkens once more.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Sabertooth Swordsman!

Normally, I try to feature a book close to its publication date, but in the case of Dark Horse’s Sabertooth Swordsman by Damon Gentry and Aaron Conley (out in late November) I need to talk to someone, anyone about it—-anywhere.

I’ll start with the subtitle: “And the Mayhem of the Malevolent Mastodon Mathematician.” Love. It. And it’s this spirit of self-aware humor that progresses throughout the compact hardcover, where a young farmer loses his wife to a roving band of marauders and swears revenge. It’s at this point where the farmer meets a benevolent cloud, and this cloud grants him the power and body of—yes, a Sabertooth Swordsman. From there the adventure begins, with plenty of slicing, dicing, gore, and cleaved appendages.

Over at Comics Alliance, Chris Sims likens it to “some half-remembered NES game that you would’ve gotten at a video store in 1988 because it kind of looked like a Mario game.” Exactly, only with a heavy dose of hallucinogens because the Sabertooth Swordsman traverses the surreal and mystical as often as he cuts a gushingly bloody swath. At the end of significant “boss battles,” the swordsman is awarded various upgrades (“Juice box,” chicken leg,” “laser eyes,” etc.), and yet he is constantly dismissed by locals and villains.

Damon Gentry’s script is full of quick puns (“Tiny kitten, feel my math!”), but he leaves plenty of room for Aaron Conley’s art to shred and shine. No stone is left un-pencilled in Conley’s meticulously detailed, hyper-frenetic artwork. It’s fantastic to behold and daunting to process. Due to the black, white, and  Swordsman03grey rendering, depth is occasionally lost, so images can blend within panels. This does not, however, take away from the gorgeous visuals. The reader simply has to spend a little more time with them, as there are finer points in the corners of everything. The art is so layered that it recalls Brandon Graham, so it’s no surprise that the fellow indie artist provides a pinup and blurb (“Sabertooth Swordsman is fantastic comics. It’s the kind of work I hope to find when I go into a comic shop.”), along with Mike Allred (whose pinup is great!), Johnny Ryan, John Arcudi, and more.

My enthusiasm got the best of me—I cannot wait to talk about Sabertooth Swordsman. It's one for wishlists and the comics fan in your life who loves the weird and beautiful. I recommend being an early adopter here, ahead of the (scimitar's) curve. This one’s all animal.

--Alex

Graphic Novel Friday: Very Big Fall Comics

With comic collections, size does matter—especially thanks to recent advances in archival packaging, resulting in exceptionally bound, carefully curated, and lovingly restored books that stand head-and-shoulders above past collections in both actual size and merit. What follows below are but a few that release in time for fall and cause our bookshelves to sway:
  • RASL by Jeff Smith: Smith’s follow-up to his wildly successful and beloved Bone series has been presented in a number of formats, but this spectacular hardcover, in color for the first time thanks to Steve Hamaker (who also colored Bone), is the definitive way to read it. Just shy of 500 pages, RASL follows a reality-hopping art thief who also happens to be a disciple of Nikola Tesla’s unified field theory.
  • Love and Rockets: The Covers by Los Bros Hernandez: For all of Fantagraphics’ lovely collections of Love and Rockets stories over the past 30 years, the iconic, weird, and eye-popping covers have rarely been highlighted. That changes in this 200-page, tall-as-an-Amazon hardcover (with a clear overlay as dust jacket), which features every L&R cover from the first volume of stories, sometimes in original pencils, inks, and/or without the trade dress. It’s a rare opportunity to see such high quality, independent work in one sharp location.

  • Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps by Art Spiegelman: This oversized cultural artifact chronicles the career, both famous and obscure, of Art Speigelman. Work for RAW, Playboy, and The New Yorker are highlighted, as are the artist’s book designs sketches and fascinating esoterica. It’s a hodge-podge, albeit fastidiously organized—and a companion to Spiegelman’s Paris retrospective at the library of the Centre Pompidou.
  • The Art of Archie: The Covers by Victor Gorelick and Craig Yoe: Building from the foundation of The Art of Betty & Veronica, this latest deluxe package follows the same format: full-page spreads of original artwork scans along with spotlights on artists such as Dan DeCarlo, Harry Lucey, and Bob Montana. The chronology of stylistic shifts in character portrayals and subject matter makes for an engrossing coffee table flip-through, as the older, intricate covers hold rich detail and surprisingly risqué gags.

--Alex

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