Smash Pages Q&A: Wade von Grawbadger

Over the years Wade von Grawbadger has made a name for himself by bringing out the best of whoever’s work he happens to be inking. The Eisner, Harvey and Inkwell award-winning artist/inker’s most recent work includes Batman/Superman with Robson Rocha and Astro City with Gary Chaloner. Always of note, though, is his work with Stuart Immonen. The duo have worked together on New Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New Captain America and Star Wars, just to name a few titles, and as von Grawbadger describes below, their tight collaboration has helped the inker become more versatile. The duo will work together again on the upcoming Empress, written by Mark Millar.

A year ago you were reintroduced to the awesomeness that is Matthew Clark. What makes his art so great?

There is a life and character to his art that is infectious to me. Many can draw a cool face, but Matthew’s have the depth of thought behind them. Subtle information about the personality is evoked that many can’t quite accomplish … and it’s cool! He also has a great graphic sense; his use of blacks really crank up the drama.

What do you most enjoy about inking the recent issue of Astro City?

Inking over Gary Chaloner was great fun, mostly because it was a challenge for me. He’s out of my usual wheelhouse, forcing me to stretch and use inking muscles I don’t often use. His characters have so much life to them. It was simply a lot of fun.

How gratifying is it to be inking Star Wars prior to the film’s release?

How do you quantify something like that? To be in the conversation when one of the more heralded films in a long time is about to hit the scene is an honor, to say the least. There are so many people getting attention for their work on Star Wars-related books right now, I can only say that I am extremely proud to be among them!

A few days ago you ran some of your work from 2009. How has your work evolved over the years?

Thanks in no small part to Stuart Immonen, I have become more versatile. He changes his approach often to fit how he sees a particular project. So if you look at Ultimate Spider-Man, Next Wave and Star Wars, you will see a strikingly different take on each. This forces me to keep up! We have long email conversations about ideas for the the take on a given project, and then it’s an evolution. I may think I know what he means but don’t, and make adjustments based on his suggestions, or I may do something slightly different that he feels fit the situation and he adjusts. Other changes have come as tools or inks change or are discontinued. It’s a never-ending battle to keep current!

Anything we should discuss that I neglected to ask?

I recently did part of issue 28 of Batman/Superman over Robson Rocha that’s due out in January that was a blast. Intense detail and fun figure work. I love that sort of style and don’t get to do it that often. Check it out!

wade-supesbats

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 5

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here part 4 is here.

Paul Sizer

Creator of Little White Mouse, Moped Army, Mixtape:1984

ms_marvel_10_cover-jpg

1. MS. MARVEL:
The longer this series goes, the better it gets, and seeing Kamala Khan literally become a new comic superstar with an eager brand new audience who has not seen themselves represented in books before now is amazing and heart-warming. Plus, the skill with which G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa craft this book and make it look and read SO differently, yet SO on point is a credit to them all as creators.

2. GRAYSON
I’m not really a Batman family reader, but damn if GRAYSON isn’t a compelling spy thriller, and yeah, I’m going to say it; the beefcake does it for me. But it’s not really just gratuitous; it’s there for a reason. Everything in the book looks great, but seeing Dick look as good as his other fellow spies and enemies, and watching a book knowingly use the art to show equal time to a hunky male lead as they do to the sexy female leads is a nice balancing act. I’m sure it is a welcome gift to any reader who wants to see more attractive men being amazing in their comic stories.

3. BITCH PLANET
This could have gone so wrong, but it’s Kelly Sue Deconnick, and she nails it. Watching exploitation in the hands of the other side is always thrilling, and no less when the creators actually have something smart to say. BITCH PLANET was equal parts social commentary, feminist manifesto and C-movie storytelling, but once again, the balance of those elements proved to be the key to unlocking the good story within. A good shock to the system, that hopefully will rattle loose a few more good stories.

4. SPX and COMIQUE CON 2015
Within 2 months of each other, I got to see how conventions that focused on the less or under-represented creators could really impact me. This year’s Small Press Expo in Bethesda was especially engaging, with some killer panels that addressed needed and (at times) uncomfortable realities that some creators have to deal with because of race, ethnicity and gender. The inaugural year of COMIQUE CON was also inspiring to see a wide, wide range of female creators talk and show instances of overcoming problems that I will never encounter as a white male comic creator. But in both instances, it wasn’t finger-pointing; it was informing and inspiring and letting people know that a well informed community of creators is the first step to making comics better for everyone.

Airboy_01-1

5. AIRBOY
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a creator hang themselves out on the line for all to see (FUN HOME is an obvious choice), but AIRBOY was one of the most bare-naked (sometimes literally) assessments of a creator’s failings I read all year. James Robinson is painfully honest in painting himself as the terrible person he had become, and this comic series seemed to be him building a ladder to climb out of the hole he had dug for himself. Smartly, he wrapped the story in a nice allegory about the unattainable level of the hero trope, but alongside that, Robinson also examines the creative process in all its beautiful and horrible detail, and in the end finds his way to the top of a ladder that puts him back at ground zero. As hard as I fell in love with Robinson during his STARMAN tenure, this was an eye-opening session with him grappling with his creative life after great success.

Renee French

Creator of Hagelbarger and That Nightmare Goat, Barry’s Best Buddy, Baby Bjornstrand

Laura Park’s DO NOT DISTURB MY WAKING DREAM no. 4
Helge Reumann’s SEXY GUNS
Nate Turbow’s Instagram Account
Dustin Harbin’s DIARY COMICS
Rina Ayuyang’s TCJ A CARTOONIST’S DIARY

Christina Blanch

Writer of The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood, co-owner of Aw Yeah Comics

795e23fc-9095-46d3-ae2e-a4cd6ea8f55a

Archie (Waid, Staples, Wu, and more)

Alex & Ada (Luna and Vaughn)

Rachel Rising (Terry Moore)

Daredevil (Waid and Samnee)

Unflattening (Nick Sousanis)

B. Clay Moore

Writer of Great Big Hawaiian Dick, Bad Karma

1. The continued growth of successful comic-related television shows.
2. Image Comics solidifying their rising position in the marketplace.
3. The exodus of high-profile “Big Two” talent to creator-owned books.
4. Marvel mining the Star Wars franchise for massive success
5. Archie Comics’ revival and push toward new directions

Elizabeth Dismang Breitweiser

Colorist on The Fade Out, Velvet, Fatale, Outcast

1. Visiting the set of Outcast the television series and having the opportunity to finally meet fellow creators Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta in person, as well as, getting to meet all the incredibly talented people in television who are bringing our comic book to life. It was an immensely cool, enlightening, and rewarding experience.

2. Watching my husband Mitch’s new book, The Futurists, start to take shape. I couldn’t be more proud of the work he and co-creator Patrick Stiles are doing, and I can’t wait for everyone else to get to share in the magic they’ve been creating. I’m especially excited about the new approach Mitch is taking with his artwork.

3. River City Comic Con in Little Rock, AR. It’s been great to watch my hometown show grow by leaps and bounds over the past few years. With the new venue at the State House Convention Center in the beautiful downtown River Market District, 2015 was the biggest and the best yet.

4. Getting to add a few beautiful limited edition prints and books to my art collection from two of my favorite modern day creators, James Jean and Mattias Adolfsson.

5. All the great comic industry related films and television shows. The ones that had me most excited: Age of Ultron, Star Wars, and Daredevil.

Denise Sudell’s contribution:

Even though I stopped writing about comics eight years ago, and even though I hardly ever read comics anymore, Tim O’Shea convinced me to contribute to this year-end review. So from least to most important (at least to me), here are my favorite comics-adjacent productions and events of 2015.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones. I’ve never been a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society I’ve been a DC Comics gal since the innocent Silver Age days when Lois Lane dashed around Metropolis in a pillbox hat and white gloves, coming up with harebrained schemes to find out Superman’s secret identity and get him to marry her. And I so loved the first two seasons of the 1990s superheroic romantic comedy Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman that the show actually brought me back to reading comics after an absence of thirty-something years.

So I fully expected to be swept up, up, and away by the new live-action Supergirl TV series. After all, I’d been a fan of both the 1960s version of Supergirl, Kara/Linda Lee (hiding her powers from the world, living in the orphanage where her famous Kryptonian cousin had left her, and longing to be adopted by a family of her own), and writer Peter David’s initially-inspired 1990s reboot of the character. Plus the show and its star, Melissa Benoist, had gotten rave reviews from critics. Why wouldn’t I fall in love with this new version?

But CBS’s Supergirl left me cold. I didn’t like how Kara was saddled with a foster sister who turned out to be a spy for a “super-secret agency, and how the only people in whom she could place her unqualified trust were men. I also didn’t like how she was depicted as wide-eyed and apologetic and more than a trifle bumbling. Yes, I realize that the point was to show Kara growing into her powers, but the character, and the series, didn’t have the depth I was hoping for.

Instead, the comics-related show that grabbed me this year and wouldn’t let go centers on a super-anti-heroine from the Marvel Universe. Unlike chirpy, naïve Supergirl, Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) was deeply cynical and flawed even before the horrific events (seen in occasional brief flashback) that left her traumatized, and that continue to haunt her. And that’s one reason why I love her (and her show) so much: I identify with characters who are prickly and sardonic and difficult to get close to, like Jessica.

Another reason I prefer Jessica Jones to Supergirl is that the Marvel show features a wider range of interesting women characters. Yes, Supergirl’s nemesis is the sister of her late mother; yes, in her secret identity, Kara works for a female media mogul (who has all the warmth and solicitude of Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada). But Jessica’s female supporting cast is far more intriguing: her best friend Trish, whose backstory as a teen TV star could be a series of its own; lesbian attorney Jeri, who is cheating on her wife with one of the employees at her law firm,

and who has her own agenda; and Hope Shlottman, a victim of the same villain who tormented Jessica, to name just a few.

I know the character of Jessica Jones, played by Ritter, will be featured in the upcoming Netflix series The Defenders, and will undoubtedly show up in the Luke Cage series as well. Still, I’m hoping that Netflix and Marvel see fit to bring the character back for a second season in her own show. I’ll be watching.

Fun Home, the Broadway musical. Pioneer lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s multiple award-winning graphic memoir Fun Home (named Best Book of the Year for 2006 by Time.com) was turned into a stunning theatrical work that opened on Broadway during 2015 – the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian main character. It won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score (by Jeanine Tesori & Lisa Kron, the first female writing team ever to win the award), Best Book, Best Direction, and Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris, who played Bechdel’s closeted gay male father). For my money, though, the most unforgettable aspect of the show was the astonishing performance by 11-year-old Sydney Lucas (who has since left the show) as Small Alison. Lucas’s clear-voiced, awed, joyous solo about the moment of recognition she experienced the first time she saw a butch lesbian – a song based directly on a panel from the original graphic novel haunted me for months after I saw the show. (Lucas was nominated for a Tony Award as well, but her competition included two other Fun Home actresses, a situation that I suspect ended up splitting the vote.)

The Queers and Comics conference. For me, the most important comics-related event of 2015 – heck, the most important comics-related event in years – was getting to go to the first-ever university-based LGBTQ comics conference. Organized by veteran lesbian cartoonist Jennifer Camper (Juicy Mother) and hosted by the Center for LGBTQ Studies at the City University of New York, the two-day conference was billed as “bring[ing] LGBTQ cartoonists, comics writers, and artists together with scholars and fans in order to document the history and significance of queer comics.” And did it ever. I got goosebumps watching queer cartooning pioneers Trina Robbins, Mary Wings, Roberta Gregory, and Lee Marrs talk about creating feminist comix in the early 1970s. I got more goosebumps watching the parade of cartoonists – there had to have been at least 20, if not more — whose work was featured in the longrunning series Gay Comix. I marveled at the range of panels presented during the two days: queers, comics, and disability; “Queer Zinesters Do It By Hand”; “Creating Trans* and Genderqueer Characters in Comics”; queer people of color in art and activism; serialized queer comics; queer comics on the web; female sexuality in queer comics; and on and on and on. Plus there were keynote speeches by gay male pioneer cartoonist Howard Cruse and the aforementioned Ms. Bechdel. It was like a big family reunion: I hugged people I hadn’t seen in years, or even decades. More important, I got to learn about queer comics, and queer comics creators, I hadn’t heard about before.

The conference was such a success that the organizers are talking about doing it again in 2017, maybe in San Francisco. But I can’t imagine it feeling as overwhelmingly revolutionary as the first time.

Nolan Woodard

Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Batman”
Matt Wilson’s color
“Southern Bastards”
Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire on “Injection”
Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina as an art team

A. David Lewis

I think we all have to stop and marvel at the phenomenon that is JESSICA JONES. The days of superheroes’ rarity on the big and the small screen are well over, but to have a binge-able, mature series of this quality at our disposal for entertainment (and for thought-provoking discussion) makes this a transmedia Golden

Even though it began in 2014, it was hugely exciting to see how Grant Morrison’s MULTIVERSITY wrapped up. In fact, it has only faded from memory, I’d argue, due to DC’s weak implementation of the flawed CONVERGENCE event.

Similarly, SANDMAN OVERTURE straddled the calendar line due, in part, to its extended execution. But, all in all, it was worth waiting out the year for.

On a personal note, I’m delighted that the Comics Studies Society (www.comicssociety.org) was approved for official non-profit status just this past month. I’m excited about this organization in terms of the future of high-quality scholarship on the medium in the U.S.

My #1 is without question Nick Sousanis’s UNFLATTENING. It’s a scholarly work like no other, merging the art and the academics of comics in a way we haven’t seen in at least 20 years!

Jane Irwin

i;m more tuned in to the independent side of comics, so here are my Top 5 items of the year, in no particular order:
 
1) The return of Der-Shing Helmer’s The Meek and the introduction of her new comic, Mare Internum. Helmer’s sense of color is jawdropping, her storytelling slow and elegant: design, plot, and characters unfold on each page like a thighfriend.
 
2)  Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel. If you’re into storytelling in any format — comics, writing, songwriting, editing, anything — do yourself a favor and pick up this book on how NPR radio teams craft and hone their final narratives. Each chapter is a brilliant, polished gem.
 
3) Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu: a surprisingly deep webcomic about hockey bros with a devoted Tumblr following and a highly-successful Kickstarter.  Though it’s Ukazu’s first published comic, Check, Please features impressive character development, gorgeous backgrounds, and an amazing use of atmospheric color. 
 
4) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is hands-down my favorite graphic novel of 2015. Jamieson started as a children’s book illustrator, and her style fits this all-ages book perfectly. She also skated for the Rose City Rollers as Winnie the Pow, so all the derby details — including Astrid’s convoluted journey to the track — are refreshingly accurate. 
 
5) The publication of The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by Iron Circus Comics —  C. Spike Trotman officially became the largest comic publisher in Chicago with the release of E.K. Weaver’s sexy stoner roadtrip webcomic.  Weaver’s immersive locations and believable love interests make it easy to see why Iron Circus chose TJ and Amal as their first creator-owned book.

Runner-up: Sophie Campbell’s art in Jem and the Holograms. I thought the 80’s cartoon was vapid and cloying and horribly animated, and I can hardly believe I’m writing this actual sentence, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK AND IT IS GORGEOUS. Campbell is clearly having the time of her life designing all the hair and costumes; the characters vault right off the page, crackling with kinetic energy.

 

 

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 4

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here part 3 is here.

Sensation Comics #39
Sensation Comics #39

Carla Speed McNeil

Sensation Comics, Finder

These things happened, and I learned things from them I didn’t expect.

I wrote and drew a WONDER WOMAN story titled BOTH ENDS OF THE LEASH for Sensation Magazine. I’d never tried to wrap my mind around any of the comic book demigods, but the more I read about this princess, the more facets she reveals. I had some odd and, frankly, rather woo experiences trying to find a story for her, which in itself probably is what made it worth doing. The story is about animal defense, so it hit a lot of nerves, and I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from long-term fans, but none more so than the fan I didn’t know about: my older sister.

I had NO IDEA my sister was a Wonder Woman fan. She’s eight years older than I am, so I guess I missed her Underoos stage. But she’s nearly six feet tall, long black hair, green eyes… How tempted was I to make my Diana’s eyes green just for her! But the fact that I found out late in the game that my sister’s such a fan restrained me from redesigning the Princess radically. This time.

I drew an issue of a horror comic called HARROW COUNTY, written and drawn by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. I’ve never done a straight-up ghost story. This one was about a not-entirely-lost soul, a sad, ferocious little ghost in two parts. The tricky part, the thing I had to keep reminding myself was that, no matter how bad I felt for him, I needed to keep him creepy. That’s what makes him work. Poor little sticky thing.

If that was true of HARROW COUNTY, it’s doubly true of NO MERCY, the book I’m drawing with writer Alex de Campi. She rarely pulls a punch unless it’s for effect, and has been a master class in how fast you can make things happen in a story. It’s all too easy, especially when you love worldbuilding, to get lost in creating the immersive experience, forgetting that stories are about and-then-what.

The storytellers who REALLY surprised me with the depth and deftness of their storytelling are the ones who are making the tv show STEVEN UNIVERSE. If you don’t like goofy, it’s not for you, but that story’s deep heart, complexity of imagined world, and up-close-magic-tricks of throwing down new Plot Cards have left me with my jaw on the floor. I am watching. Taking NOTES.

Dunno if I’m going to be able to get all of these things into the new FINDER story I started in DARK HORSE PRESENTS last November, but they’re all in my head, at the very least. They’ll end up in SOMETHING.

Eric Haven

UR, MythBusters

1. Recidivist 4, by Zack Sally
2. Intelligent Sentient? by Luke Ramsey
3. Cosplayers 3, by Dash Shaw
4. Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet, by Geoff Darrow
5. Idyl – I’m Age, by Jeffrey Jones

Vito Delsante

Stray, Actionverse, Action Lab: Dog of Wonder

Actionverse #4
Actionverse #4

5. The Flash TV show – there’s not enough of it in a week. It’s not even a guilty pleasure. I sit and watch it with a smile from ear to ear. And while I enjoy Arrow (not caught up) and what I’ve seen of Supergirl (not caught up), I never miss Flash.

4. Conventions – I hate conventions, and that’s not a strong hate. It’s just…they’re inconvenient sometimes. But I had great experiences this year in Baltimore, NYCC and New Jersey Comic Expo. More shows are popping up (really looking forward to the 3 Rivers Comicon in May), and I hope the remain a local staple more than the overblown extravaganzas that they can become. Smaller shows are the best.

3. My comics – Stray came out this year. Line Webtoons announced that Dean Haspiel and I are working together again on the New Brooklyn Universe. Actionverse 0 just debuted and I’m writing a new all-ages comic, Action Lab: Dog of Wonder. I’m incredibly fortunate to have such opportunities and such amazing collaborators.

2. My friends’ comics – Beef With Tomato, Schmuck, Smoke, We Are Robin, Ghetto Klown, Plunder, the Bunker…working with my friends on Actionverse. As exciting as it is to see my own stuff out there, it’s just as exciting to see my friends get their work seen and recognized.

1. My kids – Unto us, a son was born this year. And while I’m still in the introduction phase with him, my daughter (who will be 3 in February) has become a huge part of my life and is dictating how I create comics in the near future…in a good way. I don’t know…it’s all new to me, but I’m enjoying the lessons.

Jim Zub

Wayward, Samurai Jack

1) Image’s Continued Creator-Owned Success
2) Diversity in Characters and Creators
3) Convention Culture Continues to Thrive
4) The Widening Embrace of Comics Content From Mainstream Media
5) Disney the Pop Culture Juggernaut: Animation, Marvel Movies, Star Wars

DJ Kirkbride

Amelia Cole, The Bigger Bang, Never Ending

Copra
Copra

5. COPRA makes me giddy. I was late to the game and missed the single issues, but Bergen Press’s trades are so snazzy. Tough characters in tough stories with tough art — I’m in as long as MICHEL FIFFE continues to create the book. Pure comics power!

4. COMIC BOOK APOCALYPSE: THE GRAPHIC WORLD OF JACK KIRBY, both the amazing CSUN exhibit and the accompanying book from IDW, gave me a jolt of energy regarding the whole medium, and art in general. From his early romance comics to of course all the superheroes to his mind boggling collages, there’s a reason JACK KIRBY is THE KING. It was a true delight seeing his pages in person, and reading amazing essays about the man and his art.

3. DAVID F. WALKER taking over comics! I’ve known Dave for a few years and have always admired his work, so it’s been a true pleasure watching him finally get the credit he deserves. From SHAFT in late 2014 to this year’s CYBORG and the upcoming (as of my typing) POWER MAN AND IRON FIST (with one of my favorites artists, SANFORD GREENE), his success this year just couldn’t have happened to a more deserving creator. Good for my pal, and good for all of us comic fans!

2. MICHAEL ALLRED drawing comics is one of my favorite things each and every year. He’s making magic with DAN SLOTT on SILVER SURFER — the Marvel character (along with, I’d say, DOCTOR STRANGE) that Allred was born to draw. He’s one of the nicest and most talented guys in comics, so it’s always a joy to see work from him.

1. HEROES FOR EVERY READER! Since I was a kid, part of my love of SUPERMAN has always been that, lack of muscles and perfectly chiseled features, I kinda look like him. Big jaw, blue eyes, dark hair… it made Halloween fun growing up (as almost every pic of me was in some Underroos-based Superman costume). Identification is important to kids, to see themselves in their heroes. This is just one of the reasons why characters like MS. MARVEL, BATGIRL, MILES MORALES: ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-GWEN, CYBORG, MOON GIRL, AMELIA COLE (I have to mention the hero created by ADAM P. KNAVE, NICK BROKENSHIRE, and myself here, right?), and many more having their own comic book titles is so important. We still have a long, looooong way to go, but it’s great to see some logical and, obviously, long overdue steps FINALLY being made. It’s a no-brainer and win-win for everyone!

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 3

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.

Corrina Bechko

Writer of Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen, Invisible Republic, Heathentown, Star Wars Legacy

HIGH CRIMES – Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa
A comic this good deserves a beautiful presentation, and this lovely hardcover looks amazing on a shelf. The real treat is found inside though, as the story remains engrossing until the very end. Just beautifully done all the way around.

TREES Vol. 1 – Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
I’m so glad I read this in trade, as the story is rich and tragic and bore a lot of flipping back through after I had finished so that I could revisit certain plot threads. Comics don’t get much better than this.

Copperhead
Copperhead

COPPERHEAD Vol. 1 – Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski
This book is just so much fun. A lot of people try to do scifi westerns, but hardly any get them right. At last, here’s one that does.

SHUTTER Vol 2 – Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca
Things here are just as crazy and inspired as in the first volume, but now that we know the characters better their plight is much more poignant. Big reveals happen, but it’s the relationships between the characters that carry the book.

MURDER BOOK – Ed Brisson (various artists, it’s an anthology)
I became a fan of Ed’s work when I first read a couple of his Murder Book stories several years back. I’m so happy they’re finally all collected here in such a nice package. There are some very brutal tales here, each one brought to vivid life by a wonderful artist.

Lorraine Cink

Host & Writer of Marvel’s The Watcher.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix
Star Wars Force Awakens
Squirrel Girl
CritJuice Podcast
Star Wars Shattered Empire

Rico Renzi

Colorist of Spider-Gwen and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, director of creative endeavors at http://heroesonline.com

Russian Olive to Red King
Russian Olive to Red King

Russian Olive To Red King is a BEAUTIFUL object and story.

Southern Bastards is amazing every month.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the superhero action comedy I’ve always dreamed of. (full disclosure, I help make this comic)

The Divine/The Realist, anything made by Hanuka twins forever!

Cheating here, 2 collection that I read in the past but got collected beautifully for print in 2015: The Private Eye and The Complete Eightball

Marcelo Maiolo

Colorist of Batman Beyond, Old Man Logan, Pacific Rim, KING!

On Movies: Mad Max: Fury Road
On TV series: Justified Season Finale
On Brazilian comic book: A Vida de Jonas (The Life Of Jonas)
On comics: Saga
On My work: Old Man Logan #01 – With Lemire and Sorrentino

Patrick Zircher

Artist of Green Arrow

Island
Island

The Rise of the Woman Character: I didn’t add it all up but I think titles with female leads sold more copies this year than ever. And that’s fantastic.

Diversity: I don’t think we’ve reached a point that reflects the demographics of the lives we live but real improvements are being made.

DC You: The creativity embraced by DC You made for interesting new stories.

Island: This anthology showcasing a variety of cartoonists styles in a short story format is an essential venue for comics.

The Indies & Vertigo: Once again comic-makers offered a rich variety of well-craftedCchristianberanek

Christian Beranek

5. The Walking Dead has reached its peak. Have people finally had their fill of post apocalyptic zombie soap operas?

4. DC’s mad push for relevance has actually created some great television. They aren’t able to tie the movies into that continuity, however, and it might end up hurting their overall brand.

3. Marvel’s continued dominance. I imagine we’ll hear about Phase 4, 5 & 6 plans soon. Don’t see them slowing down for decades.

2. Webcomics continue to grow and have the most readership (some upwards of 500k) yet mainstream comics continues to discount their importance.

1. Star Wars. I was an active part of the 1999 excitement leading up to the prequels but more of an observer this time. There will be no one to stop Disney this time. They finally rule the audience they’ve always coveted and they’ve only just begun to exploit the property.

Mike Perkins

Star Wars in the Marvel Universe
Netflix and Marvel
BEST COMIC: Goddamned – Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera
BEST COMIC: Josephine (published by Delcourt) – Penelope Bagieu
PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT – Rowans Ruin with Mike Carey ( published by BOOM!)

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 2

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year. Part 1 is here.

Tom Spurgeon

Screenshot 2016-01-04 at 2.48.39 AM

  1. Mowgli’s Mirror — I enjoyed this Retrofit comic book follow-up to Arsene Schrauwen quite a bit. Olivier Schrauwen is a major talent and one of those cartoonists whose every work demands attention. It’s always exciting to get to know a cartoonist’s work when they fall into that category.
  2. Money — I’m encouraged by things like Short Run in Seattle getting $20K from the NEA, and Jeff Smith/Vijaya Iyer of Cartoon Books facilitating a $7K gift to the cartoonist Katie Skelly at the show on which I work, Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. Comics-makers and comics institutions need to be supported in a rational, realistic way.
  3. Sprawl — I found it really interesting that nearly every top comics list had different comics on it, and that I’m guessing somewhere around 200 comics made best-of lists this year. My hunch is that this indicates a really interesting conversation going forward. Comics criticism used to be about hammering away at some really tightly-held but ultimately untenable ideas: that humane works, delicately crafted and strongly idiosyncratic, were more significant works of art than the latest, forgettable twists in genre work adhering to a rigidly commercial tradition. Heck, some people still argue this. Now we have to do the hard work of separating the great from the good, and everyone’s armed for bear. There are some fun discussions to have over the next 10 years.
  4. Mainstream Comics Exhaustion — I thought the listlessness of the Marvel and DC lines fascinating. I will never understand why Convergence was a good idea — that seemed an experiment in a laboratory designed to shed readers. Marvel’s shift from a powerful line-up to an average one is really telling, and it’s heartening to see a readership that’s simply baffled by things like two Howard The Duck issue #2s less than a year apart and wants no part of that particular madness. I can’t recall a more listless period creatively in those books since the late 1990s. Some of the more beloved mainstream comics of the moment seem to benefit from simply tweaking ol formulas rather than generating new ones
  5. Tim O’Shea — I’m glad to get this note from Tim O’Shea, and happy he’s working

Zander Cannon

Favorite Comics of 2015

First of all, I have a bunch of series that I always love, but so does everyone else, so I don’t really have anything new to add, just that they’re great. God Hates Astronauts, Saga, Southern Bastards, Gene Ha’s Mae (which I letter), Prez, Bitch Planet, Godzilla in Hell, Groot, Daredevil.

Nimona by Noelle Stephenson I randomly happened upon the web version of Nimona long ago when it was about half-done, and it was this incredible sensation of experiencing a cool new art style, a female anti-hero, and a completely engrossing story. I just got the hardcover recently, and it’s just such a beautiful polished story that still roots as a sort-of gag-a-day webcomic.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson I’ve always loved Ryan North’s comics, and I am perpetually impressed that he always seems to manage to carve out a fun, interesting story that has just the right amount of weight and consequence within whatever continuity he’s given (Marvel, Adventure Time, etc.). More than that, reading the issues of Squirrel Girl is just such a enjoyable experience. The fact that there are little marginal notes — kind of like the mouseover text in webcomics — and the social media feed used as a recap just makes it that much more fun. Erica Henderson’s cartoony, fun art and all the subplots about Squirrel Girl’s roommate are just the best.
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Deep Dark Fears by Fran Krause These are great. Again, I found these online, then just got the book for Xmas — I could barely get a chance to read it because all my family members were cracking up and saying “That’s just like you!”. I also love that since so much work is available online for free, that publishers are putting a lot of slick publication design into their print work.

Luther Strode by Tradd Moore This book is bananas. The story is progressing slowly enough that I don’t have any idea if it’s going to tie itself together, but the art and storytelling that Tradd Moore puts into it is unreal. I like that you can tell that he really gets lost in the art and that he solves visual problems in fascinating ways, some of which are really efficient and elegant, some of which clearly just involve drawing every last goddamn soldier or tree or shard of glass or whatever.

CyberRealm by Wren McDonald No Brow put out this beautiful, short little self-contained comic and it’s just the sort of thing I like. Written like a straight genre story, drawn like an indie comic, and then soaked in a heavy dose of cynicism. 

Van Jensen

1 – RUSSIAN OLIVE TO RED KING

My favorite book of the year, a small, soulful story from the Immonens. There’s nothing quite like seeing extremely talented creators telling a story unshackled by convention.

2 – HEAD LOPPER

Andrew MacLean’s fantasy epic is a visual treat, the most fun I’ve had reading comics in longer than I can remember. Each issue has at least one action sequence that’s something I’ve never seen before.

3 – WYTCHES

I was a bit slow getting to this, but the first collection is exactly the kind of horror I love. Creepy, atmospheric and intense, focused always on the characters and never on the gore. I read it on the beach, since I knew anywhere less serene and I’d end up with nightmares

4 – MULTIVERSITY

What a wild, woolly assemblage of crazy concepts, characters and locales. Not all of it worked, but the best of it was so damn good I kept going back to study it more, hoping to gain some understanding of how on Earth it was made.

5 – MARCH BOOK TWO

Another strong entry in the autobiography of Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis (who actually represents my district). It’s a reminder that there’s still much to learn from one of the most important movements in our history, and it’s all the more fitting that it comes out in an era when we clearly see that much more progress needs to be made.

Shawn Martinbrough

SMartinbrough-Top Five-MPHMPH-A realistic approach to the question of, “If you gained the ability of superspeed, what’s the first thing you would do?” The honest answer: Steal EVERYTHING. Fun writing by Mark Millar with gorgeous art by Duncan Fegrado. Fegrado’s attention to detail and action create really great moments here.
SMartinbrough-Top Five-Outcast
Outcast- I’ll probably get accused of shilling for the home team with this selection but the writing is trademark Kirkman slow burn creepy with exquisite storytelling and design by artist Paul Azaceta. I really love the economy of Paul’s lines, page design and SMartinbrough-Top Five-SICARIOhis amazing ability to convey character emotions. The colo
by Elizabeth Breitweiser are perfect.

SICARIO- The storytelling in this film by director Denis Villeneuve blew me away from the first shot. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is way overdue for sainthood and the score by composer Jóhann Jóhannsson is haunting in the best way. Buy the bluray NOW.

SMartinbrough-Top Five-TheWIRE

The WIRE-My choice for best television series ever created (Breaking Bad and The Sopranos are close seconds) was finally released on Bluray in 2015. I was late to the game but after so many folks whose opinions I respect heaped such praise on this show, I jumped on with Season 4 when it first aired on HBO. I was immediately hooked by the first scene with Snoop in the faux Home Depot. I’m about to start another marathon while drawing at the art table.

Between the World and Me- An honest and sincere window into the African America experience in America by author Ta-Nehisi Coates. My fiancee “borrowed” this book from me the day it arrived via Amazon. Required reading for EVERYONESMartinbrough-Top Five-BetweentheWorldandMe

Laura Martin

going to make an exception for this Top 5 list. I’m going to do a very overdue shout-out to five people who have been there through my entire career: my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and my brother. This is for you, Nolie & Joan DePuy, Peg & Jerry Theirheimer, and Tom DePuy.

1995 was a banner year for the DePuys. My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary, Peg and Jerry celebrated their tenth anniversary, and I graduated college and started working in comics.

When I first broke the news to my parents that I’d accepted a colorist position at WildStorm, they didn’t take the news well. I was their youngest child, and the one living closest to them; I was fresh out of college, and I could have easily pursued a design job at any of the Orlando theme parks. Mom’s reaction to the news was something I’ll never forget. When I said I’d be moving from Orlando to San Diego, she replied, “Hahahano you’re not.”

The conversation did improve from that point, thank goodness. Within a few weeks and some nudging from my brother, my folks came around, and with a lot of trepidation, they decided to help me get my things in order and send me off to my new life in San Diego.

The family watched closely as I went from scrappy newbie to seasoned colorist, from staffer to freelancer (and back to staffer and then back to freelancer), from renting a rat-hole studio to buying a split-level ranch, from a nobody to a multiple award winner. They celebrated my successes and worried over my low points. My parents visited my various offices and even attended MegaCon one year. They welcomed Randy into the family, and celebrated his successes and worried over his low points as well. They gamely read the comics I brought home, even when they had no interest in the subject matter (although Dad liked Ministry of Space and Mom liked The Rocketeer). Hardcovers of my books became coffee-table books, always on display in their den. Mom and Peg, both longtime tax preparers, waded through our abysmal recordkeeping every year, and kept us safely out of the jaws of the IRS.

The biggest thing that my family did, and continue to do, for me is to be my sounding boards. They always ask really good questions: How am I being treated in the industry? Are my bosses fair? Does the portrayal of female characters bother me? Why are the deadlines always so crazy for colorists? What did the DC purchase of WildStorm mean, and, much later, what did the Disney purchase of Marvel mean? What did it mean when I went exclusive for Marvel? How are my studiomates? Am I hitting my deadlines and taking care of myself? Have I met Stan Lee? Is Jim Lee related to Stan Lee? (I cleared that one up really early.)

The one question they never asked me, however, was the question that too many comics artists get from their families: “When are you going to get a real job?” Whenever I hear of a fellow professional whose family isn’t supportive, I’m so very thankful for my own family. They might not always understand the crazy industry I work in, but they’re all glad that I found my niche early on, and that this niche has been very, very good to me over the years.

Now we’re all getting older; they’re all either retired or semi-retired, and we compare MRIs and worry over our octogenarian parents’ health more often than we exchange career advice. But I know if I were to suddenly decide to quit my job and become a cat whisperer and live off the grid, they might ask me a bunch of questions, but ultimately they know that I don’t make decisions lightly, and they’d support whatever I choose to do.

So thank you, Mom, Dad, Peg, Jerry and Tom (don’t say Tom and Jerry, they hate that). Thank you for being supportive when I chose this path, thank you for embracing Randy and his similar path, and thank you for walking the path with Randy and me — slightly behind us so we could forge our own way, but close enough to catch us when we stumble.

Smash Pages End of Year Survey, Part 1

Comic folks answer the question, “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?”

For this year’s inaugural version of the Smash Pages End of Year Survey I had people answer the question: “What do you consider to be the top five important events of 2015?” I encouraged people to not necessarily answer the question in that manner if it didn’t strike their fancy. I cannot thank everyone enough for the participation during a busy time of year.

Jimmie Robinson

Image creator

Star Wars:

Screenshot 2016-01-01 at 3.50.18 PMA global phenomenon on all levels, even the comic spin-offs have done well in comic & book stores. This film/event has bridged generations together.

Noelle Stevenson:
My pick for comic industry person of the year.  Stevenson is in the right time and place and with the right talent to spur a new era of comic readers.  We love superheroes, but Stevenson has jumped into the arena of a cross audience with Nimona and Lumberjanes.  We need more creators like her, and Kelly Sue, for the next generation of readers.

Comics Journalism:
This might be something not noticed on a lot of people’s radar, but in this information era we should take note that comics journalism has grown and changed a lot in 2015. Sites, blogs, videos, periscopes, live streams and more have brought people together with news & information ranging from blockbuster films to the latest Internet rage, changes in publishing and even in the news sites themselves.

Comic conventions:
I include this because to be honest this has been a great year for comic conventions on all levels.  Sure we’ve had a few hiccups with the growing pains.  Sexual conduct, professional ethics, and such. BUT, the good news is that none of those incidents brought about a knock-on effect on attendance or the attendees.  Tackling such problems and moving on is the sign of a healthy industry.  We should all celebrate not just another good year, but a solid year.

The rise of comic awareness:
This spins off my inclusion of comic conventions for 2015, but *awareness* takes it a step further.  I’m an old fart and I remember the days of the comic industry as something done in backrooms, secret clubs and comic stores.  At that time I advocated that fans and readers bring our hobby into the light and share it with friends and family. It used to be a hidden secret among many of us, but  now, thanks to the popularity of several blockbuster superhero films, we’ve seen a surge of awareness and acceptance in pop culture.  TV, film, books, magazines, conventions, advertising, college classes, online sales and other ancillary spin-off merchandise.  It’s a great time for comics right now.  A lot of kids today don’t realize how good they’ve got it.

Paige Braddock

EVP / Creative Director
Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates

Giant Days  by John Allison (Author), Whitney Cogar (Author), Lissa Treiman (Illustrator)

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson

Doomboy by Tony Sandoval (an import that was originally published in 2014, but I didn’t discover it in the states until this past year)

 dddrAnd a VERY funny illustrated children’s graphic novel titled “Apocalypse Bow Wow” by James Proimos III, illustrated by James Proimos Jr.

I also really liked “This One Summer” by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki (but I think that may also have come out in 2014, sometimes I’m behind in my reading!)

“Fun Home” on Broadway. Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel

Stuart Moore

Editor/writer

Screenshot 2016-01-01 at 10.14.58 PMPAPER GIRLS by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang. The perfect melding of these two amazing talents—a seamless tale of adolescent trouble, time travel, and just plain fluid storytelling. The comic of the year (creator-owned division).

THE VISION by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. An eerie tale of a family of robots living in suburbia, with a deeply existential undercurrent. Reminiscent of an early Alan Moore super hero book, which is high praise around here. Best company-owned book of the year.

GET IN TROUBLE by Kelly Link. A collection of stunning, character-oriented short stories, each and every one of which carries an emotional punch. Several of them have comics connections; “Secret Identity” takes place at a hotel hosting conventions for dentists and super heroes; while “Two Houses” concerns a pair of spaceships called House of Secrets and House of Mystery.

MAD MEN THE FINAL SEASON, created by Matthew Weiner. The last episodes were absolutely on fire; this series stands as a writer’s model for multilayered dialogue, unexpected twists, and the delicate balance between symbolic meaning and character logic. Comics connection (and MINOR SPOILER): Lou Avery’s fuck-you to the advertising business when his monkey-themed strip “Scout’s Honor” becomes a Japanese animated series.

YOU’RE THE WORST, created by Stephen Falk. The best sitcom that no one’s watching, focusing on the frequently dysfunctional relationship between a British writer and an unstable L.A. publicist. Bonus points for Falk’s hilariously honest interviews, and for not being afraid to take things to a pretty dark place in Season Two. Hilariously weak comics connection: Chris Geere plays Jimmy like John Constantine if, instead of being driven to fight demons, JC decided to just write a book and buy a house he couldn’t afford.

Honorable Mentions:

JESSICA JONES

DOCTOR WHO – season finale and Christmas special

SHOW ME A HERO (which is not what it sounds like)

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

TRANSPARENT

Carmine Di Giandomenico

freelance artist

DK III  

Miller-Azzarello- Kubert

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Millar- Albuquerque

Catwoman

Valentine- Messina

Star Wars

Rucka – Checchetto

Tokyo Ghost

Remender- Murphy

Ethan Young

Young Illustration

1.) nnnnnnnHow incredibly entertaining the Marvel Netflix series have been. Although Daredevil is intensely drab in parts, it is 90% how I imagined a live-action Daredevil would play out. And Jessica Jones has given us a great mix of dark humor, crime intrigue, and action

2.) Steve Skroce’s return to comics storytelling with We Stand On Guard. Man, I’d buy almost anything that dude draws. Kinda sad that Burlyman never released the collection of his storyboards for the Matrix sequels. Woulda loved to have owned that.

3.) Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops made me laugh out loud more than a few times. I’d be really interested to see what she’d do with a superhero sandbox (and more than just a Strange Tales short), but that’s just me projecting what I want to see.

4.) NYCC reaching over 160K attendees was both incredible and frighteningly claustrophobic. I had to take several stress shits over that weekend.

5.) On a personal note, having finally released a book through Dark Horse, I’ve discovered that people feel more forthcoming with blunt critiques of your work, as opposed to the practiced constraint when reviewing small press creators.

Tim Seeley

http://timseeleyart.blogspot.com/

Okay, I have to admit that once again this year, I didn’t really read many comics, and even fewer that I really enjoyed. That’s not to say that their weren’t a whole hell of a lot of great comics out this year…there definitely were. But it turns out that when you spend so much time writing comics, you can’t really read ‘eHey, I gott

MAD Max Fury ROAD– A great sci-fi action movie that was also just a damn great film. It’s impressive just how wide the appeal of this movie became, considering the relative “cult status” of the previous films. And, it’s got friggin’ AWARDS BUZZ. Sure, it’s not a comic book, but I think anytime a “genre” product gets this kind of acclaim, it’s good for the comic industry.

Screenshot 2016-01-03 at 6.14.44 AMBLACK MASK STUDIOS– The rise of this small publisher was heartening to me for a couple of reasons. One, it’s run by two old buddies of mine, Matt Pizzolo and Steve Niles. Two, they make quality content with a very distinct voice and vision. And three, a healthy alternative comics publisher does wonders for the industry. Though “We Can Never Go Home” seemed to get most of the hype, I actually totally preferred the excellent and provocative “Young Terrorists” and the weird retro futurism of “Space Riders.”

THE DIVERSITY CONVERSATION– Sure, much of what actually got published was lip service, and a fare percentage of those shouting loudly on the internets didn’t seem to put their money where their mouth was…BUT, many who were unaware of the problem were made aware, and some outreach was made to expand the creative voices and audience for comics. Comics (especially superhero comics from the Big 2) should do a better job of reflecting the world outside our doors, and hopefully the conversations of 2015 are the beginnings of a better industry in 2016.

DCYou– Yeah, everyone will tell you the launch of DC’s “new audience friendly” line wasn’t met with big sales, but fuck everyone. There were some great comic books in that launch (Prez, Omega Men, Black Canary, etc) and in five years we’ll look back and remember it fondly for being ahead of its time.

DIGITAL DIDN’T KILL THE PRINT STAR– Some people buy their comics in print. Some buy them digitally. And apparently a whole hell of a lot of people do both. Sure, digital comic sales leveled off somewhat in 2015, but they’re still goddamn good, and they haven’t come at the expense of print comic sales. The comics industry is primed to accept new and varied means of distribution, and that can only be a good thing in a world that’s rushing right up that Curve of Accelerating

Chris Schweizer’s Paper Nativity Informational Notes: Part 6

Over the next month, Chris Schweizer will be offering thoughts on the Nativity set model (a large papercraft crèche) mentioned a week or so ago that you can find and download here:

https://gumroad.com/l/ThkR

Rather than run it everyday Chris has given us permission to run it every few days.

Advent Calendar Day 21: The Innkeepers

innnYou’ve probably seen a Christmas pageant or cartoon or book or something where Joseph, leading Mary atop a donkey, knocks on the door of the inn (Bethlehem’s population was small enough that just one inn is probable) and is told by the innkeeper (sometimes sternly, sometimes regretfully) that there’s no room.

The Gospel of Luke states that there was “no room in the inn,” and from this line we’ve extrapolated an innkeeper to convey that bit of exposition.

I don’t know when the innkeeper first appeared, but I’d expect it was in the middle ages, once crèche scenes led to dramatizations. Sometimes the innkeeper is depicted as a married pair, with the wife a hard-hearted harpy impatient at yet another traveler, or even a cutthroat capitalist granting the limited rooms at a premium beyond the financial means of the Holy Family, with the husband secretly offering them room in the stable out of pity over the notion of a pregnant woman without a roof. There’s a definite message in this, the old “if you let your wife have the power in your marriage then you’ll be dragged along in decisions to which you have a moral objection and become complicit” warning, which is why I suspect we don’t see a gender reversal of this interpretation; there isn’t really a cautionary narrative tradition associated with the husband taking the reins with business decisions.
It’s not unusual for characters to spring up to fill in the missing pieces in stories about important moments in religious stories (as we’ve seen with previous entries), but what’s unusual about the innkeeper(s) is that, despite being textually absent from the gospels, they’re yoked with mainstream theological interpretation, which is surprising to me.

The standard reflection on them is this: the innkeepers, who are either awash in the prosperity of their business or so frazzled by the bustle as to be indifferent DO permit the Holy Family lodging (this operates on an assumption, likely born of that first narrative inclusion, that the innkeeper has proprietorship of the stable), but in the little space that is left, not that which would inconvenience them. This is used as a metaphor for religious folks who profess sincerity of faith but who only give their time/attention to God when all other earthly matters have been attended. God, in this metaphor, is relegated to the stable of the person’s life.

dguyThere’s a current school of thought that the “inn” isn’t an inn at all, but a mistranslation of guest room, suggesting that it was Joseph’s relatives that turned them away, itself an interpretation rife with meaning (Joseph’s relatives, judging Mary to be an unwed mother, refused her entry, can be easily read as a refutation of those whom would deem to judge others based on their own assumptions of legality or morality). I think this is unlikely, though, as there’s no context in the verse to suggest anything other than that which is stated: there was no room. The relative idea puts a lot of emphasis on “for them”, and in doing so likely misses the point.

If the guest room translation is valid, it probably refers to one that functioned much as an inn would have: a community guest room in lieu of an inn, in which case the innkeepers remain its administrators even if their title is no longer the same.

I don’t like any of these interpretations, partially because I like to think the best of people, and partially because of personal experience. When Liz and I were first married, we managed a hotel in Mississippi, on the river across from Louisiana. When Katrina hit, we were, thankfully, spared all but the most minor cosmetic damage, but (as many of you will remember) our neighbors across the river weren’t so lucky. With more people needing a place to stay than there were places for them, we ended up housing much more than our commercial capacity, with guests bringing families and extended families, packing into every corner of the building

Liz did her best to accommodate as many as we could, and I like to think that the innkeepers in the story (which I’ve depicted as a married pair, absent those aforementioned associations with which the wife is sometimes saddled) made no less of an effort, and that the stable was a creative way to extend their hospitality well beyond their means.

Advent Calendar Day 22: The Tempter

putxThe Eastern Orthodox Church has its own nativity traditions, and one of them is depicting an old shepherd dressed in animal skins. Byzantine art pretty much always shows sad-sack Joseph sitting despondent and pouty off in a corner (just google search “Byzantine Nativity Art” and take in dozens of Josephs who make Keanu Reeves look positively jubilant by contrast). Nature, and with it any semblance of Joseph’s paternal/husbandly authority, has been vanquished by a sexless conception, and Joseph, his world upended, doesn’t take it well.

Though there are shepherds, including old hide-wearing ones, in early nativity icons, one in particular becomes a narrative figure by the early 1300s: The Tempter, who stands next to Joseph, stoking Joseph’s doubt about Mary’s virginity. This is either a man doing the devil’s work (though some early versions treat him instead as a man doing the Lord’s work, reminding Joseph of ancient words of Isaiah that Christians would take as prophecy regarding a virgin birth) or the devil himself in disguise.

By the mid-1300s, you see James, Joseph’s son, interceding, attempting to ward this tempter (this is also, I believe, the first usage of James in Nativity art) to save his father from doubt, or maybe to just give the really, really sad guy a little space.

Advent Calendar Day 23: Roman Soldier

There are plenty of traditional nativity characters whose inclusion is meant to foreshadow something in either Jesus’s adult life, including having a burial shroud as his swaddling and an encounter with the thieves with whom he’ll later be crucified. To my knowledge, though, there isn’t a traditional Roman soldier character (though they do often turn up in more sprawling nativity sets with other Bethlehem denizens and are a staple of church walk-through-Bethlehem setups).

The soldier here isn’t, like you see in the walk-throughs, a fancy Roman in the lorica segmentata armor of popular imagination. He’s a rural reserve, stuck in Bethlehem, a deputy constable in a podunk hamlet. So his armor is the minimum a provincial soldier might be issued while still being identifiable as a Roman soldier.

Advent Calendar Day 24: La Befana

lfLa Befana is the Italian gift-giver, just like we get Santa Claus, the Spanish get the Three Kings, and the Austrians get Baby Jesus (he doesn’t come down the chimney; I checked). Her original story is heartbreakingly sad, and its traditional alternative is kind of lackluster, so I’m offering a variation that marries the two.

The Three Kings, on their way to see baby Jesus, ask for shelter for the night at a rural house. In it, La Befana (whose name derives from a mispronunciation of “Epiphany” and who probably has OCD) is busy cleaning, as she always does. Learning that they’re taking gifts to a baby, she volunteers to go, too; her kids are grown and she’s itching to get rid of their old toys. Following the kings, she gives Jesus the toys, delighting him, and in thanks he bestows upon her immortality and a magic hamper perpetually full of toys so that she can bring other children as much joy as she did him. She also uses her broom to tidy up the manger for Mary. You could eat off that floor.

La Befana now rides her broom from house to house, leaving toys for youngsters and flying up the chimney.

Advent Calendar Day 25: Baby Jesus
Merry Christmas, friends!
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Tom Palmer in Splendid Black and White

What good is running a website if you cannot feature majestic Tom Palmer uncolored art?

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Avengers #287 cover. Marvel Comics, 1987. Pencils by John Buscema. Inks by Tom Palmer

colan

Comic Book Artist #13 cover. TwoMorrows Publishing, 2001. Pencils by Gene Colan. Inks by Tom Palmer.

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Captain Britain #28 page 5. Marvel UK, 1977. Pencils by John Buscema. Inks by Tom Palmer.

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 Star Wars #76 cover. Marvel Comics, 1983. Pencils and inks by Tom Palmer.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154368750481258&set=pb.605636257.-2207520000.1451035416.&type=3&theaterseaa

 

Star Wars #86, page 3. Marvel Comics, 1983. Pencils by Bob McLeod. Finishes by Tom Palmer.

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Punisher #2, page 8. Marvel Comics, 2004. Pencils by Lewis LaRosa. Inks by Tom Palmer.
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X-Men: The Hidden Years #1, pages 2-3. Marvel Comics, 1999. Pencils by John Byrne. Inks by Tom Palmer.

 

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Avengers poster. Marvel Comics, 1989. Pencils by Paul Ryan. Inks and painting by Tom Palmer.
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Star Wars #62, page 22. Marvel Comics, 1982. Layouts by Walt Simonson. Finishes on duo-shade board by Tom Palmer.

 

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