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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.


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.


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.


Graphic Novel Friday: LGBT in Comics

Since 1997 (although their efforts date back to the late 1980s), the Lambda Literary Foundation “nurtures, celebrates, and preserves LGBT literature through programs that honor excellence, promote visibility and encourage development of emerging writers.” Their scope expanded last week with the following good news for comics fans:

"For the first time ever, the Lambda Literary Awards will honor LGBT Graphic Novels in their own category in keeping with the explosion of titles, and talent, that have enriched LGBT literature for years. The new LGBT Graphic Novels category is defined as “any work –fiction or nonfiction– that uses a combination of words and sequential art to convey a narrative and is published in book form (as distinguished from periodical comic books). Open to any genre or topic this category includes graphic novels, graphic memoirs and comic anthologies.”

While we wait for the award winners to be announced in spring of 2014, here is a list of our favorite graphic novels that have LGBT themes and/or characters. It’s by no means comprehensive, and we’re hoping Omni readers will add their favorites to the comments!

  • Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics): Ongoing for over 30 years, the rich world created by an artistic band of brothers is still ahead of its time, involving LGBT characters and issues without pandering or overt “special messages.” These are life stories, told as life unfolds—with humor, heartbreak, and perseverance.  (See also the recent and very cool Covers collection and our reading guide to the series.)
  • Dykes to Watch Out for by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): Here is another long-running literary comics staple, this time focusing on a predominantly lesbian cast that ages and grows as the stories publish.
  • Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III (DC Comics): DC certainly made headlines when it announced the first openly lesbian character in the Bat-family, but Rucka and Williams transformed her into more than a costumed hero; she’s imbued with true character, full of pride, mistakes, and—yes—heroics.
  • Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (Vertigo): Set in the early 1960s and in the American South, protagonist Toland Polk maneuvers his sexuality in a tumultuous time period, set against civil rights, racism, activism, and coming-out culture.
  • Wandering Son by Shimura Takako and Matt Thorn (Fantagraphics): This beautiful literary manga follows the lives of two fifth graders, Shuichi Nitori Yoshino Takatsuki, as they both question their gender identities in the wide-eyed and often cruel period of adolescence.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: LGBT in Comics" »

2013 Hugo Award Winners Include John Scalzi, Brandon Sanderson, the Avengers, and Game of Thrones

The 2013 Hugo Awards, celebrating excellence in science fiction, were presented this weekend at LoneStarCon 3. The event was held in San Antonio Texas Aug. 29-Sept. 2. Here are the results from some of the top categories.

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas

Best Novel

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (Tor) -- winner
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed (DAW)
Blackout by Mira Grant (Orbit)


Best Novella

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications) -- winner
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
"The Stars Do Not Lie" by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)



Best Graphic Story

Saga, Volume One, written by Brian K. Vaughn, illustrated by Fiona Staples (Image Comics) -- winner
Locke & Key Volume 5: Clockworks, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
Schlock Mercenary: Random Access Memorabilia, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (Hypernode Media)
Grandville Bête Noire, written and illustrated by Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse Comics, Jonathan Cape)
Saucer Country, Volume 1: Run, written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Ryan Kelly, Jimmy Broxton and Goran Sudžuka (Vertigo)


Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

The Avengers, Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon (Marvel Studios, Disney, Paramount) -- winner
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson (WingNut Films, New Line Cinema, MGM, Warner Bros)
The Hunger Games, Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross (Lionsgate, Color Force)
Looper, Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson (FilmDistrict, EndGame Entertainment)
The Cabin in the Woods, Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard (Mutant Enemy, Lionsgate)


Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

"Game of Thrones", "Blackwater", Written by George R.R. Martin, Directed by Neil Marshall. Created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (HBO) -- winner
"Doctor Who", "The Angels Take Manhattan", Written by Steven Moffat, Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
"Fringe", "Letters of Transit", Written by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Akiva Goldsman, J.H.Wyman, Jeff Pinkner. Directed by Joe Chappelle (Fox)
"Doctor Who", "Asylum of the Daleks", Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
"Doctor Who", "The Snowmen", written by Steven Moffat; directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Wales)


See the complete list of nominees and winners here.

Weekend Flashback: J.D. Salinger, Seamus Heaney, Stephen King, Helen Fielding, Dr. Martin Luther King, Marisha Pessl, and more

Because the week can get hectic... Here's what you might have missed recently on Omni.

SalingerSara Nelson spoke with biographer Shane Salerno about chasing the mysterious J.D. Salinger.

"I read what had been written about Salinger and I was troubled by how little was written by people who directly knew Salinger. So the same stories were repeated over and over again. It wasn't like the [Salinger] family said "Here's the closet, and good luck with your book." It was like a detective story: I spent years researching and calling people and one thing led to another." Read More



HeanyNeal Thompson remembered Irish Poet Seamus Heaney

"Heaney was the author of over 20 volumes of poetry and criticism, and edited several anthologies. Widely regarded as the most important Irish poet since fellow Nobel-laureate W.B. Yeats, the Nobel Prize committee cited Heaney's 'works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.'" Read More



PesslRobin A. Rothman explored Character Comebacks as Stephen King, Helen Fielding, John Grisham and Roddy Doyle prepare to publish new books.

"In the next few months, four authors will reunite us with four vastly different fictional characters ... old friends we haven’t seen for years. You might remember them as a kid coming to terms with his supernatural powers, a single gal infatuated with the idea of love, a controversy-courting lawyer trying to do the right thing, and a working class music fanatic grasping at success." Read More



MLKSeira Wilson presented a guest essay from Kadir Nelson about illustrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

"The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I HAVE A DREAM speech is a powerful occasion for me--every time I listen to the speech, it stops me in my tracks. I can remember the first time I heard it. I was in the 5th grade and my class assignment was to memorize and deliver the speech." Read More



PesslNeal Thompson got to know author Marisha Pessl and her debut's followup Night Film a little better. 

"Pessl spent a lot of time building the detailed world of Cordova, his family, his films, his oeuvre, and his legacy. And she wanted the details of that world feel real. So she watched and studied the works of Kubrick, Roman Polanski, and other psychological thriller directors, as well as horror film director Dario Argento." Read More




MLKSeira Wilson presented an author to author interview between Leonard S. Marcus and Brian Selznick discussing Randolph Caldecott, namesake of the Caldecott medal.

"I first began to understand what an innovator Caldecott was when I read Maurice Sendak’s essay collection, Caldecott & Co.:Notes on Books & Pictures, in which he talks about how much he learned from him about bringing drawings to life on the page." Read More




SalingerRobin A. Rothman got geeky with David Ewalt, author of Of Dice and Men -- the history of Dungeons & Dragons.

"I wrote this book for a mainstream audience. It always bothered me that D&D has a somewhat dodgy reputation, and that so many people have heard of it, but have no idea what the game is actually like. So I set out to explain D&D to the outsiders -- I want them to see what they’re missing, and to understand why those of us who play the game are so devoted to it." Read More



GNFAlex Carr recapped "What I Read Over Summer Vacation" for Graphic Novel Friday.

"Regular Graphic Novel Friday readers might be aware of my annual summer trip into the Canadian wilderness, where I unplug at a family cabin and read as many comics as I can. This year the weather was especially uncooperative, which made for fine morning, noon, and night reading. Upon my return, a nutritional detox was necessary but I read an especially healthy batch of books, including..." Read More

Graphic Novel Friday: What I Read Over Summer Vacation

Regular Graphic Novel Friday readers might be aware of my annual summer trip into the Canadian wilderness, where I unplug at a family cabin and read as many comics as I can. This year the weather was especially uncooperative, which made for fine morning, noon, and night reading. Upon my return, a nutritional detox was necessary but I read an especially healthy batch of books, including:

  • Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Like everyone, I wondered if Vaughan and Staples could possibly top their Vol. 1 efforts (which we selected as one of our Top 10 Best of the Year picks in 2012), and like just about everyone, I was so happy to see the indie duo succeed. There is more charm, fantasy, action, science fiction, romance, and grotesquely nude giants in this volume than any comic on the planet. It’s the best ongoing comic that I read, and I gobbled it up before anything else this summer.

  • Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust and Kim Thompson: Being one of the late Thompson’s final translation efforts makes this a must-read—plus, that title. Graphic memoirist Ulli Lust recounts her 1984 journey across Italy, which is nowhere as idyllic as it sounds. Lust is a broke, defiant punk at the time, and the aggressive sexuality she endures is shocking. She travels without passport, money, or GPS, and it’s an adventure that makes me glad I have all three.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: What I Read Over Summer Vacation" »

YA Wednesday: Happy Birthday, Harry Potter (and J.K. Rowling)

Okay, so I know Harry Potter is not a YA book (though they did get progressively darker, no?) but since Harry's birthday falls on a Wednesday this year, and I have these cool new covers to share, I figured, why not?  And in case you aren't up on your Potter trivia, Harry and his creator, J.K. Rowling, share their July 31st birthday.  That's handy...

In just a few weeks something big is happening with the series--Harry's getting a makeover.  If you love the Mary GrandPré covers you grew up with, no worries, they aren't going away, but are being joined by new paperback editions with covers designed by graphic novel author and illustrator, Kazu Kibuishi (which I'm loving).  The new editions aren't available until August 27, but here's a look at a few of them, along with the originals--what do you think?

HP1_new_cover  HP4 HP6

HP1_old HP4_Old HP6_old

The Last of Us with Neil Druckmann (Part Two)

Spoiler Alert! The Last of Us is a new, bestselling video game for the PS3 that has players talking about its secrets, reveals, and fascinating storytelling. In this interview, we do not delve too deeply into specifics, but general plot and characters are discussed. The Last of Us is best enjoyed with as little information as possiblefair warning!

In Part One of our interview with the game's Creative Director and writer, Neil Druckmann, we discussed character storytelling within video games, and in this final installment we discuss Dark Horse's The Art of The Last of Us and forthcoming graphic novel prequel, Neil's influences, and what lies ahead in The Last of Us universe. We covered storytelling, characters, and backstories, but what about locations? In particular, I loved the Bill’s Town “stage,” but players do not stay there, or in any location, for long. It’s one thing to design a game with a sense of urgency, but these levels all have such depth—more than any one player can explore upon first visit. How do you balance design and storytelling?

Neil Druckmann: It’s really difficult. You have to know that you are going to create more content than any one player will ever see—but also knowing that there will be nooks and crannies that one player will find that his or her friends do not. There might be a garden that you discover, which kicks off a conversation about “garden gnomes” with Ellie, and you think, “I never would have heard this if I hadn’t stumbled upon this location. And I understand [Ellie] more as a result of that.” It’s a constant struggle, because the more stuff like that you create, the more of a burden you are putting on the team to build. It’s a balance, where you ask yourself, “Is it okay if 30 percent of players find this, if 40 percent of players find it? What if it’s five percent—when is it too little?”

You try to save the really meaty storytelling for the main path, and the further you explore beyond the main path, the more secondary and tertiary the storytelling. But if you do find those layers, I believe you gain a deeper appreciation for the characters and world that we’ve created.

Omni: Right. There are notes between unseen characters that can be collected and read, along with other subplot threads that can only be accessed by exploring. In the bookstore stage, I noticed faux film posters and advertisements. Who created these posters and who wrote the notes that characters can discover?

Neil Druckmann: It’s a team effort. The notes were written mostly by our editor, Ryan James, and me. The movies posters were [a result of] background artists coming up with stuff. The only one I did was “Dawn of the Wolf,” and then a bunch of things, like the store names and stuff, is between the art director and the background guys. I’ll just filter it out if it’s a little too satirical or if it takes you out of the experience.

Omni: One sequence that felt very new to gaming was the upside-down moment that occurs early in the game. When it comes to designing and planning these sequences, are they a subversion of familiar gaming mechanics or do they stem from some place wholly different from that?

Continue reading "The Last of Us with Neil Druckmann (Part Two)" »

Graphic Novel Friday: The Last of Us with Neil Druckmann (Part One)

Spoiler Alert! The Last of Us is a new, bestselling video game for the PS3 that has players talking about its secrets, reveals, and fascinating storytelling. In this interview, we do not delve too deeply into specifics, but general plot and characters are discussed. The Last of Us is best enjoyed with as little information as possiblefair warning!

I hope regular Graphic Novel Friday readers won't mind a break from routine. I heard enough buzz about The Last of Us game that I picked it up on release day—sleep did not soon follow. This terrifying game stars hard-edged Joel as he reluctantly leads young Ellie out of a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

Dark Horse Comics (publisher of the new The Art of The Last of Us and a forthcoming graphic novel prequel) coincidentally approached me with the opportunity to speak with the game's Creative Director and writer, Neil Druckmann. We discussed character storytelling, origins, game mechanics, the art book tie-in, the graphic novel, and more.  Part One of our interview follows below: In The Last of Us, beyond the gameplay, the visuals, the scares, what fans keep coming back to is “the storytelling.” What sets this game’s story so apart from its contemporaries?

Neil Druckmann: If I had to put a finger on it, the focus on it all along has been [that] we are not telling a post-apocalyptic story; we’re not telling a survival story—although the story is those things—we’re telling a story about a relationship between two characters who, over the course of the game, come to love each other as if they were father and daughter. In making this game, every decision along the way has been with that in mind.

The writing, the music, the environment, the mechanics we’ve implemented—where you are learning to rely on one another, has been in service of that relationship. That clear focus has allowed us to do some pretty subtle stuff in the storytelling but also some engaging, immersive stuff from a gameplay standpoint that has really allowed gamers to take part in forming that bond, that relationship, in a way that you couldn’t experience in a movie, or a novel, or a graphic novel. They’re engaged with these characters on a level that they’ve never experienced before. They are there every step of the way as they form that bond between Joel and Ellie.

Omni: Is beginning from a pair of characters rather than a set-piece or overarching story an anomaly in gaming? Is this unique to your brand of storytelling?

Neil Druckmann: I think it’s unique to Naughty Dog [Studios, the game's publisher]. The way we think of story is that “character is story and story is character.” For me, a lot of video games aren’t as interesting when they become more about the world or the lore, and to me, it becomes very exposition-heavy. I might be engaged with the game because of its gameplay or aesthetics, but for the most part I find video games are lacking in character storytelling.

I’m sure you’ve noticed, we don’t have to use as much dialogue, because so much of the storytelling can be told through expression or a gesture. Coming back to mechanics, as Joel comes to rely on Ellie more, the player does as well—so when you are separated [in the game], you begin to miss this person, because you’ve begun to rely on them.

Continue reading "Graphic Novel Friday: The Last of Us with Neil Druckmann (Part One)" »

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