Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Elaine Lee, writer
Michael Wm. Kaluta, artist
Lee Moyer, painter
Charles Vess, "Galactic Girl Guides" inker (issues 1-3, 5-7, 9)
Todd Klein, letterer
John Workman, "Galactic Girl Guides" letterer (issues 1-4)
Scott Dunbier, editor

There's way more to say about this series than I'm going to get to in this post, but the long and the short of it is this is one crazy book that's gotta be read to be believed. Although it's existed in a few iterations produced by various publishers over the years, I first became aware of Starstruck when Elaine Lee, Michael Kaluta and Lee Moyer gave a long interview to Newsarama in advance of IDW's "remastered" printing. Crazy intrigued, I bought and read the first issue, and was utterly confused. Likewise with the second issue. When the third issue hit the stands, I bought it but made the bold decision to not read anymore until I had in my possession all 13 issues. I was convinced there was something here I'd love, but each issue is so densely packed, my feeble brain just couldn't hold onto all of the information during the month between chapters.

So then, with the series completed (for now!), I finally read through the books over the span of about a week or so, and man, did I love it. Talk about world building--between the intricately woven main and backup stories, the text introductions and encyclopedic "excerpts," Lee and co. have presented readers with a fully realized glimpse of a far-off future gone wonky, full of intrigue and with zaniness to spare. (By the way, nothing is extraneous; the details, "facts" and "rumors" shared in those text sections are a crucial part of the overall story.) Bringing things fully to fruition is Kaluta's gorgeous and intricately detailed artwork. In stark contrast to so many books where backgrounds are simply ignored and any sense of location is sacrificed for endless talking heads, Kaluta draws from a bottomless well of imagination and gleefully reveals every nook and cranny of each of the stories' settings, be it planet, spaceship or "recreation station." And while I haven't read this series in any of its previous forms, I can't imagine it without Moyer's painting. (Also, in case you missed it above, lettering by Todd Klein!)

I have no idea how this thing can be collected, although it is supposed to be, in March of 2011. In the meantime, it's well worth tracking down the individual issues. The cycles-spanning storyline rewards close--and repeated--readings, and Kaluta's art can and should be pored over, over and over again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A portrait of the writer--

--as rendered by my extremely talented fiancee. (I desperately want her to make some comics of her own. I'd read the hell out of her comics, and I'm not just saying that 'cause we're getting hitched.) Yes indeed, that's me, sitting on a pillow shaped like an animal; we saw pillows just like that at the mall while doing a bit o' the old x-mas shopping, but we didn't actually take the plunge and bring one home. So, I suppose it's fair to say that this idealizes things somewhat. Apparently I'm in need of a haircut and a shave...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Peek at the Process

 Still knocking out prep work for the story I'll be launching in February. (Let's face it, I'll still be doing "prep work" even after it's launched.) Here's a glimpse at my outlining method, comprising an old-fashioned use of note cards. (This is also how I outline my bigger stories for American Cinematographer, in case anyone ever wondered.) I promise it'll all make sense next year...

Oh, and in case you missed the short review last week, I highly recommend that book you can see, despite the soft focus, in the background.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


by Mike Mignola
"The Magician and the Snake" by Katie Mignola and Mike Mignola
colors by Dave Stewart
letters by Clem Robbins & Pat Brosseau

Written by Matz
Illustrated by Luc Jacamon
Translated by Matz and Edward Gauvin
Lettered by Marshall Dillon and Mark Smylie

Words and Pictures by Michael Allred
Colors by Laura Allred

written by Jim McCann
art by Janet Lee

Strips 1-183, 1939-1943
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
[Strips by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Paul Cassidy, Wayne Boring, John Sikela, Jack Schiff, Whitney Ellsworth, Harry Donenfeld and Vincent Sullivan]

To this day, Mignola's The Amazing Screw-On Head one shot remains perhaps my favorite single issue comic book ever, and Dark Horse's recently released hardcover gives it all due justice. The other "curious objects" in this collection are also a nice addition, every one of them new to me and a wonderful complement to the main attraction.

Two more books from Archaia here, and both are must-reads. This first volume of The Killer is a masterfully executed study of a man who exists without remorse in a world that only he can inhabit, governed by his own code and none other; Jacamon's art (including his tremendously deft use of color) is every bit the equal of Matz's script. And at the other end of the spectrum of What Comics Can Be, Return of the Dapper Men delivers a new fairy tale that already feels comfortable and familiar, while introducing us to the uncanny talents of artist Janet Lee. McCann is an exceptionally creative and talented writer, and while I wish him the best with his work for the Big Two (or at least Marvel, anyway), I hope he gives us a lot more in the way of creator-owned material. Thank whatever god watches out for comics that Archaia exists!

So far as capes and/or tights go, this Superman book made for spectacular bathroom reading. I was sorry it didn't have the historical information provided by the similar Batman collection I read some months back, but the early adventures of the Man of Steel nevertheless entertained in their own right. I'll be honest, I'm not much of a Superman fan, but I do love seeing these early works when even his creators, Siegel and Schuster, weren't quite sure what they had on their hands.

And so long as we're talking about costumed heroes, Mike Allred's Madman is a masterpiece, and this Gargantua! edition is a perfect showcase for all of its crazy energy. I love this kind of comics, the kind where anything--anything--can and does happen. Time travel! Dinosaurs! Robots! Mutant street beatniks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Peek at the Process

More than once here at the blog I've teased that I'm working on some comics projects of my own making, and as 2010 winds down I figured I'd start pulling back the curtain a bit more. The image in the lower left of the above photo has appeared before on this blog; it's the format I've chosen for a story I'll be launching here in February 2011. Underneath that panel are two pieces of Strathmore bristol board I've gridded out; to save myself time once I get into the panel-by-panel drawing of this story, I'm taking care of this setup work now. More peeks at my process to come as we approach February...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Written by Phil Hester, David Hine, Ian Edginton & Matz
Art by Frazer Irving, Chris Burnham, Lee Moder & Hugo Petrus
Colors by Imaginary Friends Studios, Caravan Studios & Lizzy John
Letters by Troy Peteri
Created by Trevor Roth
Character Designs by Dale Keown

Written by Brian Churilla and Jeremy Shepherd
Illustrated by Brian Churilla
Colored by Jeremy Shepherd
Color Assistant Lisa Tran
Lettered by Sean Glumace and Jeff Powell

Written by Tom Pinchuk
Art by Kate Glasheen
Letters by Shawn DePasquale

Written and Illustrated by Hub
Colors by Hub and Stephan Pecayo
Translated by Edward Gauvin

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Matt Wagner, Dick Giordano, George Pratt, Craig Russell
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorists: Steve Oliff, Daniel Vozzo
Covers: Dave McKean

Another glimpse at what I've been reading in recent months, while here on the blog I was racing towards the finish line of "60 Weeks with the Justice League." (And yes, I know, one of the above is not like the others....) Seriously, folks, if you haven't dug into the Archaia catalog yet, you're doing yourself a grave disservice. Also, Sandman continues to blow my mind, although I must confess my journey through those books has stalled after this fourth volume--there's just too much to read! Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's a nice problem to have.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


David Petersen

Neil Gaiman, writer
Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, artists
Todd Klein, letterer
Robbie Busch, colorist
Selected recoloring by Daniel Vozzo
Dave McKean, covers

Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Mike Dringenberg & Malcolm Jones III
With Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli & Steve Parkhouse
Colored by Robbie Busch
Lettered by Todd Klein and John Costanza
Covers and design by Dave McKean

Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Kelley Jones, Malcolm Jones III, Charles Vess & Colleen Doran
Colorist: Robbie Busch & Steve Oliff
Letterer: Todd Klein
Covers by Dave McKean

SYNDROME: A Graphic Novel
Created by Blake Leibel
Written by Daniel Quantz & R.J. Ryan
Illustrated by David Marquez
Colored by Bill Farmer
Lettered by Dave Lanphear
Cover by Michal Dahan for Studio Dahan

I do indeed recognize that I should have, before now, begun my journey through Neil Gaiman's Sandman, but as often happens with the classics, I set them aside knowing they'd always be there. And while it does indeed appear they aren't going anywhere--DC just released yet another softcover edition of a number of the volumes--I do feel the fool for having not picked them up sooner. They're every bit as brilliant as people say. Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III et al. bring Gaiman's scripts to life with artwork that seems to be energized by Dream itself, and they consistently come up with stunningly original layouts that always enhance the story being told without distraction.

Meanwhile, I've continued devouring Archaia's catalog, at last reading the first Mouse Guard volume and also taking home the recently released Syndrome. Both of these books are highly recommended, and they serve as great examples of just how diverse this company's output is--the oversized (roughly 7.75"x11.5") Syndrome explores the darker facets of our human nature with a story about a no-holds-barred pursuit for a "cure" against evil, while the square-format (approximately 8.25"x8.25") Mouse Guard presents an all-ages (in the best sense of the term--it can be appreciate by anyone of any age) adventure story pitting Medieval mice against the entirety of the world around them, and against some of their own, as well. Mouse Guard is also richly illustrated by its creator and writer, David Petersen, and Syndrome introduces the extremely talented David Marquez to the Archaia fold; he's currently working on the company's second Days Missing miniseries.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


As this latest post in the ongoing "Bag It and Board It" series should make clear, we're changing up the format here at the ol' D.D. Following the grand expedition that was "60 Weeks With the Justice League," I'm finally buckling down and getting serious about making some comics of my own, for which this blog should ultimately serve as a home. And with that in mind, I'm moving away from reviews--if you can even classify any of my ramblings in such a fashion. I will, however, keep you all posted, from time to time, on the books I've been reading (and by "books" I mean trades and graphic novels, although maybe at some point I'll toss in some floppies, to boot). This'll take us through the next few weeks; I let "Bag It and Board It" fall to the wayside while I was wrapping up "60 Weeks," and so I've got some catching up to do...

Charles Burns: editor
Jessica Abel and Matt Madden: series editors

Tim Hensley, "Shh!"; Daniel Clowes, "Justin M. Damiano"; Peter Bagge, "Artist vs. Artisan"; Kaz, "Underworld Strips"; Doug Allen, "Hillbillys 'R' Dumb"; Aline Kominsky-Crumb, "Why I Write Only About Myself..."; Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb, "Our Beloved Tape Dispenser"; Michael Kupperman, "Indian Spirit Twain & Einstein"; Dan Zettwoch, "Spirit Duplicator"; Matt Broersma, "The Company" (excerpt); Adrian Tomine, "Shortcomings" (excerpt); Mimi Pond, "Over Easy" (excerpt); Art Spiegelman, "The Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@#*!!"; Ron Regé Jr., "Cruddy"; Gabrielle Bell, "When I Was Eleven"; Tim Hensley, "Gropius in 'Ring Tones'"; Gary Panter, "Dal Tokyo"; Ben Katchor, "Disinfected Youth," "Gravel Migration," and "The Wide Riders"; Jerry Moriarty, "Annoyed X Girlfriend," "Dad Coming Down the Cellar Stairs," "Sally in the Public Toilet," "Tree Pee," "Summer Shower," and "Church Miracle"; CF, "Mosfet Warlock and the Mechlin Men"; David Sandlin, "Lo-Bot-O-My-Heart," "Slumburbia," and "Heart of Darkness"; Dash Shaw, "The Galactic Funnels"; Jason Lutes, "Berlin" (excerpt); Tony Millionaire, "Maakies with the Wrinkled Knees Strips"; Sammy Harkham, "Black Death (Chapter Two)"; Chris Ware, "Jordan W. Lint"; Ted Stearn, "Fuzz & Pluck in Splitsville" (excerpt); Laura Park, "Freaks"; Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, "Skim" (excerpt); Koren Shadmi, "Antoinette"; Kevin Huizenga, "Glenn Ganges in Pulverize"; Tim Hensley, "Jillian in The Argument"; Al Columbia, "5:45 A.M."; Gilbert Hernandez, "Papa"; Anders Nilsen, "The Hand That Feeds" (excerpt); Tim Hensley, "Hope Gropius"

Bill Willingham: writer
Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Aaron Alexovich, Andrew Pepoy: artists
Lee Loughridge: colorist
Todd Klein: letterer
James Jean: original series covers

Bill Willingham: writer
Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Niko Henrichon, Andrew Pepoy: artists
Lee Loughridge, Niko Henrichon: colorists
Todd Klein: letterer
James Jean: original series covers

Geoff Johns, writer
Francis Manapul, artist & cover
Brian Buccellato, colorist
Steve Wands, letterer
Special thanks to Richard Zajac for Part 5

Words: Josh Finney
Visuals: Josh Finney & Kat Rocha
Guest Contributors: Martheus Wade, Emil Petrinic, Michael Colbert, Jules Rivera, Damian Smith

Just a few thoughts while we're here. First, the Best American Comics series continues to impress me (even if I am behind in reading them). Sure, not everything scratches my itch, but the books have consistently introduced me to works I hadn't found elsewhere--and I spend a fair amount of time looking into this sort of thing. Second, Fables is a really, really great series, and I'm ashamed it's taken me so long to get this far--and that I'm still a number of trades behind. Third, I didn't know anything about Superboy before a friend let me borrow this book, and now the character makes a lot more sense to me; the story was pretty damn entertaining, too, although not enough to get me to go out and buy any Superboy material. Finally, Titanium Rain was the sleeper hit out of this pack. Flipping through it in the store, I was a bit put off by the heavy use of photo referencing, but I decided to pick it up anyway, based on the fact that it's published by Archaia, whose books I tend to really, really dig. And boy howdy, I'm glad I did buy it. The story is outstanding, and the art, existing as it does in the almost photo-real uncanny valley, perfectly suits the themes of enhancing humanity with an advanced integration of technology into the body. Wonderful stuff, highly recommended. Book Two can't get here soon enough!

All images this post copyright their respective publishers.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Few Notes From APE 2010

So, for the first time, I made the journey up to San Francisco to check out the Alternative Press Expo--APE for short. (That's my haul from the show, pictured above.) My fiancee and I walked the floor and sat in on panels and a workshop, and all throughout the two-day show I took copious notes, which I'll break down momentarily. The long and the short of it, though, is that APE is an amazing experience. The Concourse Exhibition Center oozed with the love of comics, and it was all wonderfully unspoiled by Big Hollywood and the Pop Culture Sideshow that's come to dominate the San Diego Comic Con. I was thrilled to be there, and I hope to make it an annual pilgrimage.

So then, on to my notes (edited to make sense).


First up, we checked out the Megan Kelso spotlight panel, moderated by Marc Weidenbaum. I won't lie, I haven't read any of Megan's work, but I was at APE to discover new (at least to me) comics, after all, and Kelso's crazy talented and tremendously smart about comics, to boot. It was great to listen in on her early toils with projects like Girlhero and the 10-year effort that resulted in Artichoke Tales. As she limned her comics career, she broke things down into an evolution of themes she's been alternately interested in and obsessed with, including feminism & politics, sex, Alexander Hamilton, homesickness, hiking, and "the mystery of adulthood." Her influences have included Julie Doucet, Jason Lutes, Jon Lewis, Ron Regé Jr., Brian Ralph, Matt Brinkman and the films of Yasujiro Ozu. She concluded by noting that her stories are a detailed study of ambivalence--a state she spends most of her life inhabiting.

Then, it was "The Bay Area Comics Scene Through the Years," moderated by Thien Pham and featuring a distinguished panel: Susie Cagle, Andrew Farago, Dylan Williams, Ben Catmull and Hellen Jo. Now, as Christopher Butcher noted in his coverage of this year's New York Comic-Con, it's perhaps unfair to judge a panel (or event) based on what you hoped it would be, but I'm not gonna let that stop me. I was hoping to walk out of this inspired to get some people together here in Los Angeles, empowered with a blueprint from these folks, all of whom I respect. Unfortunately, the panel mostly had an inside-jokey feel to it, a vague sense of reminiscence, and little concrete detail. We split a little past the halfway point.

Next on our docket was a spotlight on Daniel Clowes, in which the artist and his interviewer, Dan Nadel, dove deep into comics' history, both real and perceived. This was deeply inside baseball, so to speak, with questions such as "Gil Kane or Burne Hogarth?" "Mad or Cracked?" "Al Jaffee or Don Martin?" "Eric Stanton or Steve Ditko?" and "Wally Wood or Jack Kirby?" A lot of this was admittedly beyond my ken, and I'm sure my fiancee was likely bored to the brink of tears, but it was awesome nevertheless to listen to these cats just sit there and jam. I hope like hell that Clowes is able to realize his desire to someday present The Complete Eight Ball, replete with letters pages. Also, it was great to hear his story about "meeting" Ditko.

By far the best panel/spotlight/what-have-you I saw on either day was Lynda Barry's. Barry and her husband, painter Kevin Kawula, flew in from Wisconsin for the weekend show, and no moderator was needed as Lynda went through a slide show taken form her latest book, Picture This. Along the way, she defended Family Circus, talked neuroscience, inspired my fiancee to start drawing, and kept the room in stitches with one hilarious line after another. If you ever have the chance to hear to her speak, drop everything you're doing and by god, man, listen! She took us back to that proverbial day when everyone "learns" they "can't" draw, and she replaced that memory with instructions for drawing chain-smoking, trash-talking turkeys. It was glorious.

Unfortunately, the great height of Lynda's talk was followed by the depressing low of Tony Millionaire's spotlight, in which the artist fielded a series of pre-selected, mostly non-comics-related questions from Renée French. The queries, such as "did you ever splatter the blood of an enemy on a friend's walls?" essentially gave Millionaire a chance to talk about fighting and fucking. Entertaining stories, to be sure, and they'd be great to hear at a bar, but again, it's not what I was hoping for. A bit more about technique and process would have been welcome from the man, whose work I do greatly admire--Drinky Crow is one of my favorite comics characters of all time.

We wrapped up Saturday's festivities (following dinner at the delicious Bossa Nova on 8th Street--I highly recommend it; the mashed potatoes may well have been the best I've ever had, and I'm something of a mashed potato connoisseur) at the Isotope (The Comic Book Lounge, pictured below), where the shop's proprietor, James Sime (second photo below, holding award, dressed to thrill), presented this year's Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics to Pete Hodapp for his fantastic The Possum and the Pepper Spray. (Go to his blog and buy his stuff. Now!)


To kick off APE's second and final day, we ventured into the workshop area (admittedly a bit noisy, situated near the check-in tables and looking pretty slapdash) to glean from marketing's master, Larry "Beanworld" Marder, who laid it down with "Marketing a Comic That's Easier to Read Than to Describe." Marder walked our small group step by step through his own marketing efforts from back in Tales of the Beanworld's earliest days, and while the Internet has changed things somewhat since then, the examples shared nevertheless gave me ideas aplenty for getting the word out about my own projects. We almost skipped this, but boy howdy, I'm glad we didn't.

"The Art of Storytelling" served up a second helping of Lynda Barry, this time joined by Renée French, Megan Kelso, Tom Neely and Jen Wang. Moderated by Greg Means, the panel was ostensibly about the role of art in comics storytelling, and while it kind of touched on that, a highlight was the discussion about what the panelists hate to draw and go to great lengths to avoid. (French went to great lengths in her older work to avoid drawing hands, having her characters casually position their arms through doorways in order to minimize her contact with their digits.) Another great nugget, which Kelso learned from Kim Deitch: When you're stuck artistically, take the setting of the story point at which you're stuck and draw it in tremendous detail, and eventually your brain will power through the block.

After that, Gary Sassaman interviewed Rich Koslowski. It was an interesting discussion that touched on Koslowski's mainstream work as well as his graphic novels for Top Shelf, and it was also noteworthy for speaking in glowing terms about working for Archie Comics. I'm not sure I'd ever before actually heard someone talk about working for that company, but man oh man, they've been pumping out comics consistently for a long, long time, and god bless 'em for giving Koslowski steady employment.

The last panel we hit was the "Indie Comics Survival Guide," moderated Keith Knight. Despite the panel's composition--Stephen Notley, Matt Bors, Barry Deutsch and C. Spike Trotman--it was ultimately a bit of a disappointment, as Bors, Deutsch and Notley (especially Notley) got little mic time. As interesting as Spike's impressions of are, I would have liked to have heard more of what the rest of the panel had to say.

All the same, I left APE jazzed, encouraged and totally inspired. We didn't see everything--for a much fuller view of the APE experience, I recommend poking around Tom Spurgeon's archive of links--but everything we did see pointed to the same conlcusion, and our new motto here at The Danger Digest: Comics is alive, and anything is possible. Yo-ho!

Text this post copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Justice League America #60
Mar. '92
Breakdowns Part 15
Andy Helfer presents:
The long-awaited conclusion to Breakdowns
by Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis
Kevin Maguire, pencils
Terry Austin, inks
Bob Lappan, letterer peculiaire
Gene D'Angelo, colorist
...and let's not forget that wide-eyed kid from College Point who grew up right in front of our eyes...
Kevin Dooley

Justice League Europe #36
Mar. '92
"Breakdowns: Postscript (Part 16 of 15)"
Assembled by Jones, Wozniak, Campanella, Schubert, D'Angelo and Augustyn from pieces left lying around by Giffen, DeMatteis, Dooley and Helfer. Thanks to Dan Jurgens.

Lest we end on a sour note, let me begin with the briefest of rundowns on JLE #36. I love the Kevin Maguire-penciled cover--one last variation on the old theme--but there's really nothing beyond the cover worth anyone's while. The Wozniak/Campanella art is disappointing, to say the least, and the story--which ultimately serves as nothing more than a setup to Justice League Spectacular #1--reads as though the usually solid Jones didn't even bother to skim JLA #60.

But, ah, JLA #60--now that's another story altogether, and the true point at which to bring these 60 Weeks to a close. First and foremost, there's Kevin Maguire's return for one last go-round on penciling duties, and a wonderful go-round it is. (Compliments to Terry Austin's inking skills, too, of course.) And then, there's the pitch-perfect script, a loving farewell to this most eclectic cast of characters. While Max Lord's own rise from the ashes of despondency to reclaim his well-earned place at the head of the League (with Oberon by his side, natch') provides the script's throughline, Giffen and DeMatteis still manage to give all due attention to the rest of the bunch, including General Glory and Catherine Cobert...


...Ralph (Elongated Man) and Sue Dibny...

...Guy Gardner and Power Girl...

...Metamorpho, Rocket Red and Flash...

...Blue Beetle...



...Crimson Fox...

...and, of course, J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter.

Oh, yeah, and did I mention Guy Gardner?

There will be "More Weeks with the Justice League" at some point down the line. After all, we still have the Annuals and Justice League Quarterly to discuss, not to mention the miniseries Formerly Known as the Justice League and I Just Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League. So, yes, the adventure will continue. But not for a little while. For now, I'll sign off, but in so doing, I'll kick things over to the far more capable and qualified J.M. DeMatteis. Here's how he finished this run back in '92:

The complete 60 Weeks with the Justice League on The Danger Digest:
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25/1, #26/2, #27/3, #28/4, #29/5, #30/6, #31/7, #32/8, #33/9, #34/10, #35/11, #36/12, #37/13, #38/14, #39/15, #40/16, #41/17, #42/18, #43/19, #44/20, #45/21, #46/22, #47/23, #48/24, #49/25, #50/26, #51/27, #52/28, #53/29, #54/30, #55/31, #56/32, #57/33, #58/34, #59/35

All images this post copyright DC Comics. Original text copyright Jon D. Witmer/The Danger Digest.