Friday, May 28, 2010

"It's my style"

The recent discussion of the lettering in a certain vampire themed comic has brought this argument up to the forefront of my brain again. When is it an artistic style or choice and when is it just wrong? Unfortunately, I don't think there's an answer even though I've been told otherwise. I look at books that have horrible layouts, artwork that is filled with traced celebrities who do not reflect the emotion or action of the comic, no feet, and lettering that looks like it was randomly thrown on the page covering up a good chunk of the art and I think "No, this is all wrong." But then the creators come back and say it's their "style" and the 100,000 readers who are buying it up are quick to jump to their defense because they loved it. So can something that seems so wrong to me (and usually a handful of others) really be that bad if it's working for so many people?

Some might say that yes, that it and the people enjoying it are wrong. Just like how TV shows and movies are always wrong despite working for millions of people. But at some point, it's art and part of that is connecting with the viewer/reader. Even if they seem to be doing it wrong to some of us, they must be doing something right to reach that many people to the point where they will tune in week after week or shell out another $13 to see the movie again (and $30 for the extended director's cut DVD).

This is why I often leave disclaimers like "in my opinion" or "didn't work for me" in my reviews. I know I can sometimes have a pretty analytical approach when I read some comics, picking out times where and reasons why the art or writing failed to connect me with the story in some way. And I know a majority of readers aren't like me but I can only speak for myself.

So I guess the way I see this sort of thing is that I'll try not to say anything in the writing, drawing, colouring, lettering, etc of comics is really done "wrong" but maybe "wrong for me".

But here's where I flip it. I think any comic creator who comes out saying "no, that's my style" is missing an important point. When someone says their stuff was done wrong it means at the very least it was done wrong for them, it took them out of the art and story and ruined the experience to some degree. Now you can decide this was just one, two, or a handful of people and write it off but to simply dismiss it is doing yourself and your future work a big disservice. You're depriving yourself of learning what works and doesn't work for people. You're limiting yourself of never producing anything better than what you're doing now. At a computer conference I went to a while back they had "fly on the wall" sessions where people discussed your paper and you weren't allowed to respond to their feedback. The idea was that your paper had to be good enough to get the point across on its own without you there to defend it. It was a great experience. Sometimes artists need to take that approach to, you can't always be in every reader's ear telling them how they should be experiencing your work, your work should stand on its own. And if it's not working for someone then listen to why and decide for yourself what that means for your work, both current and future.

But this is all just my style and I'm probably doing things all wrong.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Weekly Comic Reviews for May 26th, 2010

Just a couple of quick reviews this week.

Fall of the Hulks: Savage She-Hulks #3 -- As you may or may not know, I haven't been a fan of the whole "Fall of the Hulks"/"World War Hulks" stuff but I did like this particular issue. Solid art and good story telling (though the time travelling nature of Lyra gets a little weird for me). The ending felt a little weird and reminded me that this is just a side story to the major battle. Overall, I enjoyed the series and I'm glad I decided to pick it up.

The Guild #3 -- Like the first two issues, I found this one to be well written. I sort of felt the art in the "in game" parts could have been a bit better in parts but it was still effective in its storytelling. I enjoyed this series as much if not more than the original web episodes. If you're a fan of the series or a gamer you may be interested in checking it out.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quick TPB Review (Spoilers for Ex Machina)

I read the latest Ex Machina TPB (volume9, "Ring out the Old") and I have to admit, I was actually a little disappointed. But be warned, this post will contain spoilers

I have enjoyed this series and one thing I've actually liked about it was avoiding making the story about his superpowers and instead focusing on his role in politics and the people around him with the powers remaining in the background. So I enjoyed the first bit of this TPB that dealt with finding a comic team to tell his story in comic form or the environmentalist story but once it got into talk about magic cubes and preparing Earth for invasion I started to lose interest. I suppose they have to eventually reveal the secrets of his powers but it felt like the story was getting away from what I liked about it. I hope I'm wrong and the next volume changes my mind but we'll have to wait and see.

And please, if you're reading this monthly please avoid posting any spoilers in the comments.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Another week with no reviews

I had no new books out this week but I did grab volume 2 of Atomic Robo. I'm not sure if I enjoyed this volume as much as the first but I still really enjoyed it. I found myself laughing quite a bit throughout (though it also had a few more serious or touching moments, like in the short stories in the end for example). The art, the writing, it's all really great. So it's official, I'll be picking this series up (in TPBs, I'm still planning to stop collecting individual issues once Buffy's done). I also lent volume 1 to a co-worker and it looks like he'll be picking up the series as well. So yeah, I recommend checking it out. And hey, they have free stuff to try on your iPhone (in the free Comixology app) or online at their site.

I also have the latest Ex Machina and volume one of Promethea to read.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Weekly Comic Reviews for May 12th, 2010

I'll refrain from spoiling the big reveals this week. I only picked up one book, Incredible Hulk, but I also know what was revealed in the other Hulk book.

Incredible Hulk #609 -- Just to get this out of the way, the artwork (from Pelletier's pencils to the colours) was awesome. High energy and great expressive emotion. The writing was good as well and I enjoyed this issue but I'm still just rather tired of this World War Hulks storyline and the whole Red Hulk/Red She-Hulk stuff. I'm glad that after 3 years we finally have the answers but I don't care and it was just painful to go through (not in a "Oh, I need to know way", it was just painful to read what I felt were poorly written stories). As much as I like this issue I just can't recommend it as I don't really care for what's going on in the Hulk books.

And that's it. It also looks like I won't have any books to review next week. In other news, my shop is now selling their TPBs and hardcovers at 20% off the US price which is a huge deal. I guess it's their way of taking on Amazon and other online retailers. I'm definitely going to try to support them in their attempt.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fan Expo Canada 2010

I know it's a little sad just how excited I get for Fan Expo Canada but it's the only convention I get out to (the "comic conventions" in Ottawa consist mostly of stores selling their back issues, unless you are in to Manga/Anime, they have better conventions for those) so I have a full year of build up for it. And now that they are updating their guest lists on their website I'm getting more excited. The horror list didn't really do much for me but I'm not much of a horror fan. The sci fi list on the other hand, I am pretty stoked about. William Shatner, Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, James Marsters, Felicia Day,... It's going to be an expensive 3 days for me. Would it be too cheesy to get Felicia to sign a Codex sketch drawn by me? :)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Weekly Comic Reviews for May 5th, 2010

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #35 -- First off, thanks to some websites putting up a teaser image for issue #36 without hiding it behind spoiler notices the end of this issue was ruined. So thanks again for spoiling something in this series (though not as big as the Twilight reveal). *sigh* I've been tempted to stop reviewing this series because I really haven't been enjoying it but I do have to say, as a single issue this one felt a bit better than the last few. We finally get people actually trying to explain things instead of just speaking cryptically for 2 straight issues. And stuff actually happens. But I'm still not enjoying the story and the end just makes this feel more and more like fan-fiction. I'm actually happy that there's only 5 more issues to go and I just hope it gets turned around somehow.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Goats Webcomic

Jonathan Rosenberg has announced his 13 year old webcomic Goats will be going on hiatus until he figures out what he's going to do next. To be honest I've never read this webcomic but wow, 13 years is damn impressive. I find it sad every time a webcomic has to come to an untimely end because the creators just weren't able to find a source of continuous income, especially when it's clear that the creators have put as much effort into it as Jonathan has.

And I think Jon does bring up a good point, webcomics focusing on long running storylines often are harder to keep going financially. People looking through webcomics have so much to look at and they want that instant gratification instead of having to read through hundreds of pages to understand what's going on. And merchandise based on your comic (like t-shirts, prints, etc) may not do as well against the cute zombie kitten or whatever other novelty the next webcomic has. Not to mention that it will take quite a bit of your time and focus off your comic, always trying to keep in mind "How can I sell this on a t-shirt" while you're coming up with your next few pages.

I don't have any answers to this. Obviously we can't financially support every person who wants to make webcomics/comics for a living, and some really aren't good enough that they should be supported. But it would be nice if there was a slightly easier way for creators (writers in particular) to make a living without their webcomic taking a back seat to the t-shirts, prints, and whatever other merchandise they're currently relying on to make a living.

I guess I should just be happy that I have my full time job and wish Jon and all those other webcomic artists trying to make a living at it the best of luck.

A Couple of Fan Art Sketches

I've been wanting to do up some fan art for a while now but just haven't had the time. So I decided to cheat and double up the sketches. All characters are owned by their respective creators and were used without their permission.
First up we have Smash from the "Smash" webcomic by Chris and Kyle Bolton and the Araknid Kid from "The Araknid Kid" by Josh Alves (though Josh is currently working on Heropotamus at the moment).
And next we have Billy Butterman from Andy Belanger's Bottle of Awesome (hence the bottle) and Sam (as the Peanut Butter Genie, hence the peanut butter jar) from Caanan's Celadore (Caanan is current working on Max Overacts).

Monday, May 03, 2010

A Couple Quick Reviews

Going through my Free Comic Book Day pick ups (including the freebies and the ones I bought)...

WE3 -- I think you know where this story is going right from the start for the most part. The question does remain as to exactly how it will end though. And it does do a good job of going through the story. I'm not always a fan of Quitely's artwork but I enjoyed it for the most part here. I'd say it's worth checking out but it didn't really blow me away or anything.

Atomic Robo volume 1 and Free Comic Book Day issue -- I read a couple of the older Atomic Robo Free Comic Book Day comics on my iPhone and it seemed like a fun read. Sort of a less intellectual/spiritual Hellboy in my opinion. Both the free comic and the first volume were enjoyable with witty dialogue and nice artwork. I'm still on the fence as to whether I'll be picking up any more, perhaps if I need a book to put me over the $39 limit for free shipping on Amazon one of them may find their way into my order.

Mouse Guard Free Comic Book Day issue -- I've read elsewhere about how this book didn't really fit for kids which was a bit of an issue as it came with some Fraggle Rock stories. I do sort of agree, the narrative story telling was more for the older readers. I think it was great for older readers, it recapped the stories we've seen and led in to the stories to come, but coming with Fraggle Rock and being about little mice I think parents may have been a little surprised by it. Still, I enjoyed it.

Stuff of Legend -- I don't know if we really got to see much of where this story is going. We get a few character moments but nothing that gave me a real sense of "Oh, here's where the story is going in this chapter", at least nothing that really stuck with me. I'm still looking forward to this series continuing, I guess I was just hoping for more from this book. And that's probably unfair in some ways.

So that's it. Anyone else find anything of interest to them on Free Comic Book Day? How did the event go down in your area?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Quick Free Comic Book Day Follow Up

Back home from Free Comic Book Day. Just wanted to touch on something Caanan said in the comments section of my previous post. I understand stores are losing money on giving away these free comics, and I understand how frustrated they should be when people are coming in to grab stacks of the free comics never to be seen again (and not even thanking the store for the comics) so limiting the comics is understandable. Putting a limit of "You have to spend $10 to get one free book, $20 for two..." seems like it may be going too far. And really, if you want to bring in new readers to your store that's probably not the way to do it. You're almost guaranteeing that they won't be back.

Of the three shops I went to two of them were saying one copy of each book per customer which I felt was generous. One (the store I usually go to) did keep some of the free comics (the non-gold ones) behind their counter though and you had to ask for them. He said he did this because in previous years people came in grabbing every book they could but they really had no interest in all of them, they were just grabbing what they could. Limiting it to people who knew about them and asked for them seemed to limit that. I saw that first hand when I went to the other store, they had all their books out for grabbing and when I asked the owner about some of the non-gold books (Atomic Robo for instance) he said that they disappeared early. He bought a lot of them but not as much as the cheaper gold books and with everyone just grabbing everything they could they disappeared quickly.

The crowds were also very different. The local store was quiet as expected. Their advertising for the event consisted of two 8x10 pieces of pink paper in their windows with "Free Comic Book Day" in small print. The second (my usual shop) was also fairly quiet when I went in but the manager said he was getting steady business. It had a couple families in there shopping and it was cute to see the kids expressing interest in some comics. The third store was a mad house. They had a lot of people in costumes having their photos taken and there were a lot of families with a lot of kids in the free comic book area of the store (the front part). There were also a fair amount of people browsing the comics (further back in the store).

In the end, I ended up buying Atomic Robo volume 1 and We3. And of the free comics I got the Mouse Guard, Stuff of Legend, and Atomic Robo (which I ended up finding in the closest/quiet store).