Top 5 Fantasy Based Comics

Another week and another slightly late top 5 post coming your way.  In my defence, I have a really good reason for this one being slightly delayed in that I’ve had a completely insane weekend of work and other busy things playing Skyrim.  Yeah, a good friend of mine recently got Skyrim for the first time and having heard all about his exploits and adventures in that wonderful, snowy land I decided it was high time I had a blast through it again myself.  And in fairness, it inspired me for my eventual top 5 post so, silver linings and all that.

So, this week I’m looking at my top 5 “fantasy based comics”.  Anything with orcs, goblins, elves, dwarves, magic and generally medieval style capers with extraordinary creatures or situations.  You know the score, I’m sure I don’t have to explain it too much and if you don’t get it now, you will as the list goes on.  For reference, there is no limitation placed on this list as to whether or not the comics were released in single monthly format or just straight up OGN, I’m also ignoring anything remotely sci-fi.  I feel the need to point this out since the reality is most “sci-fi” is really just futuristic fantasy since the “science” part of sci-fi seems to get completely thrown out of the window.  Anyway, I seem to be in a bit of a digressive mood today so I’d better get on with this before I’ve got 1,000 words down and no list done.  I will keep the list relatively spoiler free as I usually try to, for any of you that haven’t read these books and may do in the future, and as always these are my opinions.  You are allowed to disagree, I allow it.

5. Son of Merlin

So I know I banged on about the whole “set in a twisted world resembling the past of humanity with weird and wonderful creatures” thing, but screw it the first one on the list today is actually a tale set in modern times.  But it features magic, lots and lots of magic, so it’s ok.  It’s the story of a young man named Simon Ambrose, a professor at MIT and an all round faith-o-phobe (totally a word).  He is a man of science, pure unadultered science.  He is also the bastard son of Merlin, the greatest wizard there ever was and is pulled into this ridiculous world of magic and mayhem that, up until recently, Simon thought was all a load of rubbish.  Being dragged into this crazy world, and due to his ancestry, he is also pulled into a centuries long battle that he feels he has no place in and is unsure he even believes is happening.  It’s an interesting take on the whole magic-meets-science yarn.  It ran for five issues, so taking the plunge on this is not a huge undertaking and the payoff for a relatively small amount of time and monetary investment is pretty good.  There’s better books out there, sure, but I quite enjoyed it on the whole.  The art was really nice throughout, line work and colouring were fantastic although I think the dialogue suffered with a touch of clunkiness every now and then.

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4. The Witcher

Another lisenced comic book series from Dark Horse, this is one based off the CD Projekt RED games of the same name which in turn was originally based off a prose book series of the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski.  Essentially, it follows a monster hunter, or “Witcher” called Geralt of Rivia who on top of his impressive hand to hand skills and knowledge of the monsters he hunts, also has a firm grasp of magic and displays other unnatural abilities that aid him in his work.  One of the big draws with the original novel series, something the games and this comic manage to portray equally well, is that everyone that inhabits this world does so in varying shades of grey.  There is no outright good or bad, and the game takes full advantage of this with it’s use of (sometimes extremely difficult) moral choices.  This is the only downside to the comic, we’re following a character that we’ve had full control of and shaped into the hero we want them to be over the course of two games, and are then taken on a ride where we have no say whatsoever.  That, however, is the nature of the beast and the comic manages to capture Geralt voice and the general bleakness of the world he inhabits rather well, spinning a convincing tale that has managed to sate my hunger for new Witcher content just enough to last until the new game drops.  Definitely one for the fans though, if you’re not familiar with Geralt or any of the goings on of the long running story you will probably find yourself fairly lost and wondering why you should care.  For me, though, this was a great book.

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3. Ravine

Straight out of the mind of Stjepan Sejic comes this absolute master crafted world, one that clearly draws quite heavily from video game tropes but spins them in a really interesting manner.  Supported by Ron Marz, who takes the reins on the dialogue and scripting side of things, this is a fantasy world that Sejic had been building for near enough a decade before the first volume actually landed.  It shows, too, it has all the signs of something that is truly loved by the creators and it takes you on a hell of a ride.  There are several things that help pull you into this book; the characters jump off the page and practically beg to be read about some more, they are intriguing enough to make you pay attention yet many are mysterious enough to make you read on.  Sejic also manages to make the initial information dump interesting and not really feel like an information dump, you get a brief but necessary history lesson at the start then it jumps into the main bulk of the story.  There’s a heft index at the back that goes into further detail but it’s not required reading to enjoy the story.  Most importantly of all, it has dragons.  Lots of dragons.  As always, Sejic’s art is top notch throughout this book, some of his backgrounds look a little rushed at times but overall it’s well worth picking this up, especially since you can get it for next to nothing if you buy it used.  The only real downside to this is that it was meant to be a volume released roughly every quarter, and we’re yet to see volume 2.  Of a series that debuted in February of 2013.

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2. Rat Queens

Now I’ve only read the first five issues that make up the first volume so far as I’m trying really hard to keep my pull list under control, but if there was room for another book that falls outside of DC’s main continuity this would be the first one to go on.  Rat Queens is such a fun book, it’s hilariously funny and unbelievably violent all at the same time, with a main cast of characters that are all equally lovable for their own different reasons.  The art is perfect in every single panel, whether it be a quite moment of reflection, a druken brawl in the local tavern or a full blown battle with a huge monster.  The story revolves around an all female band of mercenaries who are almost universally hated by the town they live in, but still get shit done anyway.  There are multiple rival bands that come and go in the town, several of which are also permanent residents and all share an equal rivalry between each other.  If you’ve not had the chance to try this book out yet (no doubt you’ve at least heard of it) then you need to get down to your local comic shop or get online and order volume 1.  Image have these wonderful, introductory priced first volumes which are insanely good value for money.  Go buy it.  Now.

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1. Red Sonja

And finally we come down to numero uno, Red Sonja.  I’m lumping two seperate series into one entry here, because I write my own rules and I say it’s ok.  Both “Red Sonja: She Devil with a Sword” and “Red Sonja” have been favourite reads of mine.  “She Devil…” certainly has some weak points, it’s a series that ran for 80-odd issues so there’s always going to be highs and lows within that length of time, but the lows were never enough to put off buying and reading the rest and the highs were some of the greatest moments I’ve read in comics.  Sonja has this incredible ability to blag her way through so many situations she has no business even surviving, let alone actually winning and that’s one the big draws for me.  I’ve never been one for planning, I like to blag my way through as much as possible so she’s almost somewhat of an inspiration to me in that regard.  Her newest series, the simply titled “Red Sonja” has united one of my absolute favourite characters with my absolute favourite writer, Gail Simone who has a real knack for bringing out the Sonja that we really want to see, one who finds herself in some absolutely ridiculous situations sometimes, but always manages to come out showing why she has a reputation as one of the biggest badasses this side of Hyrkania.  Expect large volumes of blood and booze to flow through each issue.

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And that’ll do me for tonight I think, got another post dropping tomorrow (the one I meant to have up for last Friday, damn you Skyrim!) and at some point this week I’m going to be looking into changing up the appearance and layout of the blog.  I really liked the yellow theme to begin with, but I think it’s outstayed it’s welcome now and needs to go.  I’m also looking at sorting out a header image which will feature a selection of my favourite comics, covers and some of the rarer gems in my collection.  All of this needs to fit around work and other commitments too so it’s not going to be an overnight process.  I’m also in the middle of compiling what has turned out ot be a stupidly big shopping list of comics, something I’ll be detailing tomorrow.  For now, enjoy the rest of your evening/day and thanks for stopping by!

Cover Of The Week 24.09.2014

It’s Wednesday, which means two things; one, I get to be disappointed again at the fact that I can’t go pick up my comics as, guaranteed every Wednesday I work from 11:15 to 20:15 and two, it’s time to check out my cover of the week!  It makes me feel a little better about not being able to pick up new comics.  So same system as last week, short and sweet post with a runner up and my top choice overall.  Interestingly enough neither the runner up or the winner come from the Big Two this week, there isn’t even a pick from the third largest publisher in Image, no this week is all about Dynamite and Dark Horse for the awesome covers.

In second place, from a publisher that has really risen in my estimation over the last few years is a cover for the newest issue of one of my favourite on going monthlies.  None other than Red Sonja #12 from Dynamite with a cover from the ever impressive Jenny Frison.  Frison has been responsible for a lot of the cover work through this series of Red Sonja, written by Gail Simone, and she has this knack for capturing a seriously ass kicking woman.  It’s been a pretty variant heavy series so far, each issue having at least three covers including the standard but I’m picking Frison’s A covers every time because they are so beautiful.  I’d genuinely love to see her take on the interiors of this book, even though Walter Geovanni is absolutely killing it on the interiors too.

Just badass

Just badass

And our winner?  Well I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the winner was picked for nostalgic reason as much as anything, but I think the cover is done really well, conveying the necessary level of fear and intimidation this particular franchise needs.  I have to say I do find the face on the character in the picture a little weird, something kind of throws me off with that but aside from that, I think the cover achieves exactly what it needs to, as I said it has quite an intimidating look about it and boy, it looks like whoever this person is looking over their should, they’re about to have a really sucky day.  Of course, I’m talking about none other than Aliens: Fire and Stone #1 from Dark Horse.  Dark Horse are a real powerhouse in regards to licensed comics, relatively recently taking the reins on Halo, Tomb Raider, running Serenity books for a while and up until recently being the publishing house for Star Wars comics plus many, many more.  I’m a big fan, they’re putting out some great stuff at the moment and I’ll no doubt pick this up sometime over the next week or two.

"Shit."

“Shit.”

That’s a wrap from me for tonight, I’ll be back on Friday with a post about my latest mission within the comic collecting hobby and at some point over the next week I’ll be putting up a permanent page relating to Friday’s post, in the mean time I hope you have a great week and enjoy reading lots of comics!

Gotham: The Good, The Bad And The Unnecessary

SOME MINOR SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED

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Gotham aired it’s premiere episode last night, I didn’t get the chance to watch it until this morning and have now had a full day to reflect on what I watched.  Now, I’m trying not to sound too negative here since the reality is, I’ll be watching this on a weekly basis.  I was impressed by so much, but first impressions are really important and I couldn’t help but pick up on much that I thought they could have left out.  I’ll get started on the positives first though.

Right out the gate, the cast of actors “Gotham” has brought together is absolutely phenomenal.  Seriously, I could sit here for far too long listing off everyone that impressed me and why but I really don’t want to be here until the early hours of the morning on this post so I’m going to pick out the best of the best.  David Mazouz, the young man portraying Bruce Wayne, is stellar.  Every scene he is in, which unfortunately is not nearly enough, he takes away from actors at least twice his age.  It’s amazing that someone so young can already bring such a level of gravitas to each scene, but this is a young talent to keep an eye on, great things lie in his future.  The momentarily happy son with his mother and father, the grieving son both during the killing and directly after.  We even get a window into his darker side towards the end of the episode.

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Ben McKenzie was always an interesting choice for Jim Gordon, I’ve not really seen a huge amount of his work before so I wanted to go in with an open mind and I think he pulled Gordon off really well.  He goes down the gravelly voice route, which honestly I found a little grating at times, but that is absolutely my only criticism of his performance, he manages to portray a newbie cop with plenty of life experience but a hopeful optimism that he can make a difference in a city fraught with crime and a police force rotting from the inside with corruption.  He is the beacon of hope in Gotham, pretty much the only one right now, and unwilling to fall into the trappings of his colleagues.  He also bounces off his partner and co-lead Donal Logue, who is without a shadow of a doubt the best on screen portrayal of Harvey Bullock we are likely to see for quite some time.  Live action, anyway.  He’s gruff, tough and clearly influenced by the crime and corruption around him.  But he cares, he’s not so far down the hole to be completely unredeemable and Logue has a real grasp on this.

Another member of the cast who stood out the most for me was Sean Pertwee, who I genuinely think the last of his work I saw was Dog Soldiers, a cheesy but fun, super-violent B-movie horror.  So now we have him in the role of the butler and guardian of Bruce Wayne, a man traditionally very well spoken and very stereotypically English.  Well he’s certainly still English, but he breathes new life into a character that has been done in a similar manner in so many iterations whereas Pertwee brings in an Alfred who’s a little more rough around the edges.  He has a bit more of a “common” sound to him, at one point saying “master Bruce, get the bloody hell down from there” which I found hilarious.  We don’t know much about him yet, but I’m impressed so far and look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Adding to the plus points are some interesting characters that, given the room to grow and evolve, could become some powerhouses in the world of “Gotham”.  Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) brings a level of sinister to the show, being a local Captain I guess and working for one Carmine Falcone, whose name I was quite pleased to hear.  Cobblepot, Nygma and Ivy all show up at one point or another which we already knew, at least those of us that have been keeping up with previews and interviews in the run up to the release.

Tonally I think they hit the nail on the head pretty well.  We have a city that’s hit hard by crime, policed by a force that’s more interested in lining their own pockets and keeping their own skin on than helping those in actual need of help.  Since it’s Gotham City, there obviously needs to be an atmosphere to this that screams fear and depression, with buckets and buckets of rain.  Check, check and check.  What they also need to do is avoid famous landmarks from any real world city that they may use to film in, since that would break the immersion into this entirely fictional city, so a CGI skyline is used throughout the show to keep us fully involved.  Granted, this is somewhat jarring sometimes, especially where you have a shot of characters with the skyline behind them.

So, on to the less than positive points, though I have to say there aren’t all that many.  First off, I know that this is a pilot but there is way too much crammed into this 48 minute first episode.  A lot of the scenes feel a little rushed and there isn’t a real sense of time passage because everything moves on so damn fast.  The time flew by, so there was plenty of enjoyment to be had from it, but I think some things were glazed over really quickly, like the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  I thought they could have spent a little more time there.  On top of that, I think they tried to introduce us to too many characters in such a relatively short space of time.  We had Jim, Harvey, Nygma, Ivy, her father, Selina, Bruce, Cobblepot, Renee Montoya, Alfred, Mooney, Falcone, all their assorted henchmen, Captain Essen, Barbara, Crispus Allen, Mayor James… and the rest.  You get the idea, I’m sure.  Now while, for the most part, I can forgive trying to cram when it comes to TV pilots I think there’s less of a reason here.  Yes, they need to pull the audience in but this isn’t as hard a sell as most pilots are.  Gotham was in a very strong position where the full season was ordered in advance, there were no suits that needed selling on this, they were already sold.  I think if they’d played some of their cards a little closer to their chest and fleshed a few parts of this out a little more, they’d actually captivate audiences a little more.

Set wise, I think a little more variety could be used to great effect, all the locations the detectives visit throughout the episode all feel very samey, I know that this is a run down city under the thumb of the mob, but it doesn’t mean that everything needs to look the bloody same.  Thanks to introducing us to so many new things, people and places nothing is really given time for us to understand or appreciate, many of the characters feel a little one dimensional right now because we just haven’t had enough time with them.  It’s a crying shame, but I think it’s something they can improve on, there’s plenty of time and I really think the show has all the signs of huge potential.

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With regards to the “unnecessary” side of things, there were a few things that popped up that I think they could have just skipped all together.  Nygma was a big one.  I mean, the guy has a few measly seconds on screen and literally spends the entire time spouting riddles at Jim and Harvey.  As a good guy.  On the GCPD.  After being asked for evidence.  It’s totally unnecessary, it’s basically the writers sitting there screaming “the Riddler!!  This guy’s going to be the Riddler!!  RIDDLER!!!!”  We get it, anyone that’s a Batman fan knows who Edward Nygma is, anyone that is familiar with the Riddler but maybe doesn’t know him by his civillian identity has a whole season to get to know him.  Play it a bit more coy.  Same can be said for Cobblepot.  I thought Robin Lord Taylor played him very well as the young, sadistic and over enthusiastic underling of Mooney but to have him screwed over within the first episode and gain an injury which could well provide him with the limp to accompany his general Penguin look was too much, too soon.  Oh, and Mooney’s henchmen calling him “Penguin” as a mocking name was also a little too on-the-nose for me.

We do suffer a little “deus ex machina” at the end too, which I find horribly annoying at the best of times but I had hoped a show like this would rise above it all.  I’m really trying hard to keep a lid on any major spoilers so I won’t go into too much detail on this one, but I just found it really damned irritating.

Still, I don’t want the negativity to play too heavily on this because I came away from the show having really enjoyed it, I’m looking forward to where they take the rest of the season I just hope they avoid some of the pitfalls that have been hinted at in this first episode.  If they can keep the shoehorning of in your face Batman easter eggs down a little, allow the character more screen time to grow on us a little more and slow the pace down a little bit then we’ll be on to a real winner.  As I said they have a great cast, there is the promise for some awesome characters and the development of Bruce Wayne is key to making sure this is the show we all want.  It wasn’t the DC show I’d wanted to start the most, Constantine still holds that honour, but as a start to the new TV season this will do the trick nicely and has me wanting more.  Overall, decent job but needs more work.  There is a real chance that after this they may lose a wedge of viewers, possibly only really hanging on to the big Batman fans until this ship is righted.

Top 5 Covers

Ok, so since I recently started up my cover of the week feature on Wednesdays I thought this week would be good time to go through my all time favourite five covers from across all publishers.  It’s another tough one, but I do enjoy the challenge.  Though five covers out of literally hundreds that I love and thousands that I own (and now need to sift through) is one hell of a challenge.  Now, in the interest of fairness, I will not be using any blank variants I’ve had sketches done on since that would make this far too easy, no this will only be covers available to all but will include variants.  Chances are the majority, if not entirety of these choices will be comics from the modern era, as I’m much more familiar with modern age than anything else right now.  As always, remember that these are my choices and preferences, feel free to disagree.  Let’s get this ball rolling.

 

5. Secret Six #27

One of my all time favourite series from one of my all time favourite writers, this cover just stands out to me every single time.  The art itself is pretty nice, but it’s just so damn cool.  I mean, it’s Bane.  Riding on the back of a T-Rex.  With a big-ass spear made of bone.  Enough said really.

See?  Freaking awesome.

See? Freaking awesome.

4. Supergirl #17

Coming in at number four is the seventeenth issue of the New 52 series of Supergirl, a cover by Mahmud Asrar but funnily enough, one only featuring the hands of Supergirl and the main focus seemingly on Wonder Woman.  Now, this is during the time where (spoilers if you haven’t read but want to) H’El has seriously manipulated Kara and she is attempting to take down various members of the DCU and this was her “vs Wonder Woman” issue.  So the emphasis is placed on this right away, with the cover showing Supergirl gunning for Diana.  What I love though, is the first person perspective of Kara flying at Diana, it’s not something used very often in comics so when it is, and more to the point when it’s used well, I love it.  And Asrar’s art kills it every time.

Super punchy time

Super punchy time

3. Captain Marvel #1

This one is from the latest renumbering of Captain Marvel and, admittedly, is an issue I have neither bought nor read, but it seems almost every comic shop I go into (most recently Close Encounters in Bedford) I see this cover used as a poster.  I love it, the use of nice, bright and bold colours is just perfect, I love the expression on Carol’s face, it’s just a cover that ticks all the boxes for me.  It reminds me too, I really need to get caught up on Captain Marvel…

Bring it!

Bring it!

2. Superior Spider-Man #20 (J Scott Campbell Variant)

Another one I don’t own (yet), this JSC variant for Superior Spider-Man sold out horrendously quickly and now resells on eBay for a little more than I’m willing to pay.  I think.  I mean, for a comic that is less than a year old £50 is a little too much for my taste, and that is the absolute lower end of the price scale.  It is a beautiful cover though, JSC has a knack for drawing awesome looking women, his art in general is always gorgeous to behold but in particular his Black Cat is the stuff of legend.  It’s most likely why Marvel has him do so many Black Cat variants.  I own a couple of them now, but this is the one I am most fond of and would love to own.  I think it’s the ball of wool that really sells me on it, makes me chuckle every time.

Meow!

Meow!

1. Batgirl #9

From the last volume of Batgirl before Flashpoint took away so many wonderful characters and moments with it’s big red reset button, this incarnation of Batgirl is my favourite hands down.  This was, for me, one of the greatest losses of transitioning into the New 52, having Barbara back under the cowl feels kind of cheap and losing her as Oracle is a travesty unto itself.  Anyway, back on topic.  The cover is a perfect Batgirl cover, you’ve got the hallmarks of Gotham City with the gargoyle and the torrential rain and you’ve got a Batgirl that looks like a real person.  A real person who’s really ready to kick your ass.  There is, out there in the wilds of the internet, a really cool photoshop tweak of this cover where someone has made Steph into a Green Lantern too.  Not quite as good as the original cover, but still worth going and having a look at.

Does Gotham get sunshine?  Ever?

Does Gotham get sunshine? Ever?

 

And that wraps another Top 5 list, hopefully next week’s entry will actually arrive on Sunday instead of very late Monday night, we’ll have to see if I get wildly distracted by FIFA and/or Battlefield again.  Sill, I got there in the end and you know how it’s better to get something late than never at all.  Unless it’s something perishable, I guess, since there’s a chance that if it get’s to you late it may have gone off by the time you get it.  Whatever it is.  You know what, I’m clearly talking crap at this point and in need of some sleep so I’m just going to stop now.

Thanks for stopping by!

Cover Of The Week 17.09.2014

So I’m going for a new thing here, two new things actually. Every Wednesday I’m going to be sifting through the comics released for the week, from all publishers, and picking out my favourite.  I’ll pick a runner up too, mostly down to the fact that I’ll have a really hard time picking just one! The other new thing I’m trying out is I’m typing out today’s update from my phone, can’t really imagine this is going to go all that well but I wanted to at least try.

So anyway, onto the business of the day.  My first choice and runner up of this week’s “Cover of the Week” is Batman Eternal #24 from DC Comics. The cover is from Jason Fabok, a real talent at DC who can’t seem to put a foot wrong at the moment. The cover seems less of a pose for the sake of it and more like a snapshot before Spoiler smacks someone in the face. And, you know, it’s got Spoiler on the front so big win there.

Spoiler alert! Heh.

Spoiler alert! Heh.

The winner for this week though come from the House of Ideas, that’s right the big DC fanboy has scoured every release this week and the cover that jumped out to me the most was (drum roll please)…

Edge of Spider-Verse #2, cover A by Robbi Rodriguez, Rico Renzi and Greg Land.  Even more surprising considering I’m really not a fan of Land’s work usually.  I’ll be picking it up and frankly can’t wait to read it, but for now I can look at the pretty cover at least.  It was a toss up between this and the variant cover, but this has a really nice art style and it was the use of colour that really won me over on this

Gwen! Woo!

Gwen! Woo!

Thanks for stopping by for the first of a new regular, going to keep these short and sweet from now on and avoid going into huge detail as to why I’m picking them.  When the day job returns to normal hours next week I’ll be kicking off another new regular for Thursdays too with this feature dropping every Wednesday, so keep an eye out for that one.  Take care everyone!

Top 5 Supergirl Artists

It’s easy to forget how long some of the Big Two’s characters have been around for, those that don’t get such a huge following and maybe don’t get the love they deserve from their respective publisher.  As far as Supergirl goes, it’s been a bit of a rocky road over the years, but things are looking up and, actually, they haven’t been too bad through the New 52 reboot.  Yes, they turned her a little rage fueled for my tastes, especially during the “Red Daughter of Krypton” arc, but actually she has managed to pull in some really good artists.  When volume 4 started back in the 90’s we had a series written by Peter David and drawn by Gary Frank, that’s one hell of a team up, so there is a history of quality creators outside of that example.  While the story arc itself wasn’t to my taste, the quality of writing through “Red Daughter…” was actually really good, and now we’re out the other end of the tunnel hindsight allows me to see that it made sense for her to hit rock bottom so that from here on out, things can only get better.  What we also got was jaw droppingly beautiful art through the arc, it really helped me swallow the bitter pill that was a Red Lantern Supergirl.  But back on to my original point, last year there was a bit of a bustle over Superman turning 75, this year it’s been Batman, Batman, Batman for his 75th (slightly irritating how much more of a push that got than Superman, but that’s for another time) but this year Supergirl turned 55, which is still a really impressive milestone that, outside of her core group of fans, will get no fanfare or recognition at all.  So, as part of my own little 55th birthday celebration for the year, and thanks in part to a rather Supergirl-centric convention weekend, here are my top 5 Supergirl artists.  Once again, I would like to remind readers that this is my own personal opinion, yours may and probably will differ, and that’s totally ok!

5. Gary Frank

 He may have only been on the title for a relatively short while, less than a year in fact, but I think Gary’s work is worth mentioning here.  You don’t have to be on art duties on a title for years upon years to make an impression, and the reality is that Gary Frank has a really great style to his drawings.  His line work is spot on, he has a good appreciation and understanding of anatomy and I think his facial expression work is very good too.  I really enjoyed his short run at the start of Vol 4 of Supergirl from 1996, enough to use his work to kick this list off.

Flying in space, 'cause she can

Flying in space, ’cause she can

4. Mahmud Asrar

My first exposure of Mahmud Asrar came from New 52 Supergirl, and from the moment of opening the first page I was utterly blown away by this guys talent.  He brings an incredible amount of energy to each panel, with far out shots sacrificing only a small amount of detail.  He brought about a real sense of both youth and incredible power to Supergirl, but I think the biggest for me is even when there was a pause in the action, it never felt like Asrar was drawing a pose per se, he manages to capture the feeling of this being a snapshot of a fleeting moment, if that makes sense.  What I’m trying to say is that his work doesn’t read like a 32 page book of pin ups with speech bubbles, it flows naturally and never feels forced.  I’ve since moved on to other works of Asrar’s, most notably Dynamo 5 published through Image, which if you haven’t read, go get volume 1.  It’s huge amounts of fun.

A customary Kryptonian family greeting

A customary Kryptonian family greeting

3. Al Plastino

What can I say?  A legend in his own right, Plastino was the man working on Action Comics when #252 came out back in 1959 and so was also the man that gave Supergirl her look, he designed her.  He was a top class artist for his time anyway, and I think there are very few artists that could truly hold themselves up to his standard now.  But he makes this list not just as a great artist, but also for designing the last daughter of Krypton.  It’s a legacy that has gone on for 55 years, with her appearance rarely shifting too far from his original designs, and as far as I’m concerned that’s a big enough achievement in it’s own right.  I’m a huge lover of modern art, I really am but people through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were so damn lucky to be able to pick these up and read them in the prime of their life, hot off the press and fresh on the shelf.  I’m incredibly envious.

The beginning of something special...

The beginning of something special…

2. Michael Turner

Yes, big shock I know, Turner on another one of my posts or top 5’s, but maybe a little bit of a shock that he isn’t positioned number one.  Turner was on art duties for Superman Batman back in 2004 when it was decided Supergirl would be reintroduced into the DC Universe during “The Supergirl from Krypton”.  It was a great way to bring her back, a really well written story with some great character moments for the Girl of Steel, but wow it had such a great cast of characters throughout.  It proved to be such a big hit that the story line was adapted into the direct to DVD movie “Superman Batman: Apocalypse” which used an animation style almost spot on to Turner’s art.  Turner also did a fair number of covers, both regular and variant, for the fifth volume of Supergirl so he had a pretty decent grasp on how to draw her.  A truly fantastic artist, one I dearly wish we still had around to astound us with more beautiful art.

Top class artist, truly.

Top class artist, truly.

1. Emanuela Lupacchino

Bit out of the left field for some, I know, but seriously if you need convincing of this point then, for starters check out the cover I’m going to use as the example below, but also check out the new wave of Supergirl issues.  So far Lupacchino has only done a few covers featuring Supergirl and a few interiors for the New 52 run, but oh my god I cannot overstate how perfectly suited she is to Kara.  It is a match made in heaven.  I had a terrible feeling when Asrar left the book that I’d not find an artist any where near as enjoyable as him on the book, then Yildray Cinar came aboard for a bit and things looked hopeful.  Then there was a short period of time where DC couldn’t seem to hold one artist down to the series for any real length of time, but having chatted to Lupacchino it seems like she’ll be sticking around for a while, and boy I really hope so!  It was her art that really got me through the “Red Daughter of Krypton” arc, which for the most part I couldn’t stand, but she captures everything about Supergirl I love even when she’s decked out as a Red Lantern.  I can’t think of a better artist to have on the book as it goes through it’s new, uplifting and hopeful run.  Exciting times are ahead for fans of Supergirl, and mark my words, Emanuela Lupacchino will go down as one of the best artists to grace this book.  I state my entire, all be it relatively thin, reputation on that one statement.

Stunning.

Stunning.

And so that’s a wrap.  I’m going to close out fairly quickly here since I said I’d jump in for some Battlefield with Matt tonight, so thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you for some new, fun stuff I’ll be doing later this week.  As always, take care!

N.I.C.E. 2014

Northants Internation Comic Expo, usually my last major UK convention of the year as Thought Bubble is tough to get the time off work for and usually a little too close to Christmas (ick, hate saying that word before November) for me to be able to spend any decent amount of money.  So, NICE is my last opportunity of the year to go meet some cool creators, have a good hunt for comics and maybe get some sketches done.  So, based on last year, I was really looking forward to this year’s show and, for the most part, it didn’t disappoint!  This year was scaled back somewhat in size, at least in terms of the number of sellers at the show which meant that there wasn’t even one of the good old 50p sellers in attendance.  That was pretty much the only part of the weekend that let me down, where everything else was concerned it was fantastic.  A well organised, reasonably priced and enjoyable convention which seems to attract only the nicest sellers and attendees.  I’m going to break today’s post down into three sections, first we will look at the show itself, who was there, how it was laid out and what worked.  Then I’ll let you have a look at the particularly cool stuff I walked away from the show with, then we shall have a look at the sponsors of the show, local comic shop Close Encounters.

Started off on the Saturday and, unlike LSCC, doors opened at 10am and there weren’t early entry tickets available to buy so it meant that I could get a bit of a lie in after driving from Birmingham to Bedford the day before.  We managed to time it pretty well so that we were relatively near the front and by the time the doors were opened, the queue had snaked quite far down the road as you can see below.

Inside the main room was incredibly well laid out, with tables for sellers and creators going all the way round the outside of the room, with an island in the middle purely housing more artists and writers.  There were two parts upstairs too, a balcony overlooking the main room where the “sketch roulette” took place and another room the other side of the stairs which contained more artists.  Spreading the artists over two rooms like this allowed the organisers to use last years seller room as a panel room this time around.  Addmitedly I didn’t manage to make it to any panels, there was only really the one I wanted to see which was a discussion around a popular modern comic argument; traditional art vs digital art.

There were some impressive guests lined up for this year’s show again with the likes of Esad Ribic, Guillem March, Emanuela Lupacchino, Tomeu Morey, David Hine, Carlos Ezquerra, Adi Granov and Charlie Adlard being some of the bigger names there, with many more dotted around the show.  Some were Saturday only but there still seemed to be a whole lot of people around on the Sunday too, with all of the above doing all weekend.

The sketch roulette is an interesting idea too, something I’ve only ever seen done at NICE and I think more conventions should put this into practice.  The way it worked was if you were one of the first 100 people to buy a ticket for the convention (I think) then you would be notified by email that you were eligible for the roulette.  On the day of the roulette, you’d queue up inside the convention and be sent into a room with a row of artists at tables and make your way to the next available artist.  Doesn’t matter who, you don’t get to choose (hence the “roulette” part) and then you get a free sketch for your trouble.  Pretty sweet deal, and it means you get to leave with a free sketch!  Purely just for buying your ticket plenty in advance.  I think it’s a genuinely great idea, and it’s smart from a business point of view for artists to agree to do this.  Think of it like this, if someone who has never paid for a comission or never bought any original art comes along and has this opportunity, comes along to your table and gets a free, awesome sketch, there is a very good chance they’ll want more.  But realistically, unless you are incredibly lucky, you’ll not get another one for free unless you manage to get into the roulette again next year.  There’s also a good chance they’ll remember you, as the artist, and want something else from you knowing that they really liked your roulette sketch.  It brings people into the original art collecting that had maybe never considered doing it before, it makes perfect sense!

The final thing I want to touch on were the organisers and staff that were on hand, and frankly this is one of the most important thing for me.  First, the organiser himself (whose name I was told and, like an idiot, have forgotten and feel terrible about) really surprised me.  Me and Matt headed down on the Friday evening to reduce the rushing that would be needed travelling on the Saturday morning, and when we checked into the hotel and went into the bar after dumping our stuff, we had the realisation that this was where most of the guests of the show were staying too.  We grabbed a drink, sat down, and proceeded to relax after the long trip.  After a little while, a friendly guy comes over and asks us if we were attending tomorrow, which turned out to be the organiser.  He’d been at the hotel to meet and greet the various artists and writers, was surrounded by this incredible talent who were all really friendly people, and yet he took the time to come over, introduce himself and have a chat with us about the show and comics in general.  This was huge for me, he had no reason whatsoever to come over and chat with two random guys, and yet he did, and that was awesome.  All the staff in the con itself were of the same attitude, happy to be there and happy to help and answer any questions you had.  And that’s what NICE is all about really, it’s a smaller and much more personal convention where you got the chance to have a good chat with some of the guests and nobody considered themselves above the rest.

So before we move on to all the cool stuff, here is a quick gallery of the convention floor and the upstairs artist room.

OK, so onto the bit where I ramble on like a lunatic fanboy about the stuff I bought.  First up, I managed to find the J Scott Campbell variant to Superior Spider-Man #29 (the La Mole Comic-Con exclusive) for a price I was willing to pay, it’s a variant I’ve been after for a while being a fan of both JSC and Black Cat, so that was good.

DSC_0210

JSC Superior Spider-Man variant

After having a little look in the main room, we headed to the upstairs artist area as I wanted a sketch by Guillem March (which I didn’t bother with in the end) and while in there spotted Tomeu Morey and his little sign that said A5 sketches were £10.  Now, I know that he’s primarily a colourist, but no one would put themselves out there to do sketches if they couldn’t pull it off, at least no one that already works in the industry and has a reputation they could ruin.  So, I took him up on his generous offer and got a Batgirl sketch on Batman/Superman #1.

Tomeu Morey sketch

Tomeu Morey sketch

At a mere £10 I couldn’t say no, and I’m actually really happy with the end result, a gamble well worthwhile.  Now, by the time Morey had finished mine and Matt’s sketch requests, Guillem March had built up quite a queue and wasn’t making a list, you got a sketch off him there and then while you waited and if he didn’t get to you by the end of the day then you missed out for the day.  Seemed a bit risky, especially considering the size of his queue, and I had a blank copy of Justice League United that I really wanted a Supergirl sketch on.  So off I went, on the hunt for an artist to complete this task.  I already had Emanuela Lupacchino in mind for a comission, but as I wandered over to her table it dawned on me that she was the artist on the “Red Daughter of Krypton” arc, and to be honest it was the art that got me through those painful issues of Red Lantern Supergirl (I hated the story, still do).  Who better, then, to do this sketch?  No one it would seem, as the picture below will show.  My jaw dropped when she showed me the final result, I couldn’t believe it and while I was at her table collecting the sketch I bought an original page from issue #30 of Supergirl, page 14 to be exact.  A few things I want to say before the next pictures though, one that Lupacchino is one of the nicest creators I have met, she gave me a little insight into what’s coming with Supergirl over the next few months (nope, not telling), she was generally happy to interact and chat and altogether for the original page and comission I spent only £190 at her table.  I think that’s really good, I know a lot of artists who’d charge a fair bit more than this (£150 for the oage, £40 for the comission) and sure, a lot of those artists would be very big and popular, but look below and tell me this artist is not seriously talented.  Bet you can’t.

There were a handful of comics that I picked up throughout the show too, but on the whole it was stuff that I’m hunting down to fill gaps in the collection, mostly some JLA to be honest.  But the stuff above made my weekend worthwhile, the things you can’t get at regular comic shops, the things that absolutely make conventions.
So finally I’m going to let you guys in on the sponsors of the show, Bedford’s very own local comic shop Close Encounters.  I’d encourage you to go check out their website here and have a look at their really good pricing, but more to the point if you ever find yourself in the area, go in and have a look.  The downstairs area is dedicated to new releases, trade paperbacks/hardbacks/graphic novels, statues, toys, prints and various other goodies while the upstairs section is a dedicated back issue section.  Now, some of the back issues upstairs I felt were maybe a little overpriced, but then I found a lot of cool stuff I wanted in the “comics from 30p” boxes against the back wall.  Everything was very clearly labelled up and well organised as far as the non budget boxes go, and even popping in on the Sunday after they must have been hit pretty hard on the Saturday the place was still looking very neat, tidy and organised.  The last time we were in this shop, funnily enough when we were at NICE last year, the upstairs section was a bit of a daunting shop, messy, cramped and pretty disorganised but over the course of the year it’s all become very shopable with a nice little seating area so you can sit down in a pressure free environment and have a read.  Downstairs was very well organised too, with a nice window display of glass cabinets full of cool statues and the like, the new release rack immediately to your left and organised by publisher, then alphabetically within the publisher order.  The trade shelves were better if you’re shopping for Marvel, since Marvel had their own section while DC was lumped in amongst everything else.  That bothered me a little, as the only trade I really wanted was a Teen Titans trade missing from my collection, so I had to follow the alphabetical order of an absolute tonne of books to find T.  That minor gripe aside, I thought they’d done a great job.  The staff in there are equally awesome, very friendly and chatty even while the shop was busy, while managing to get through the queues at the till so you weren’t standing there for ages waiting to pay, they struck a really good balance.  I have to say it, they’re no Nostalgia & Comics, but for anyone that knows me that goes without saying, Nostalgia is my home away from home.  The trip to Close Encounters was made even better with a discount at the tills on ALL items in store with a quick flash of your convention wristband.  Brilliant!

 

So overall, I’m marking this weekend down as an absolute win.  Even though the size of NICE felt a little smaller this year, I don’t think it really suffered for it too much and even if that had made a significant impact on the amount of sellers, and therefore range of comics to buy, I would have still walked away from there with all that beautiful Lupacchino art so really, I don’t care!  Thank you to all the organisers and staff involved for making it such a fun and memorable weekend, and I will no doubt see you next year!