2016: Year of the (Black) Beetle?

Francesco Francavilla takes to Twitter to tease the return of ‘The Black Beetle,’ his well-regarded pulp comic from Dark Horse.

Our long, national nightmare may soon be over, as creator Francesco Francavilla teased on Twitter the return of The Black Beetle. Francavilla posted an image of the pulp hero with the hashtags #TheYearOfTheBeetle and #BlackBeetleReturns.

The Black Beetle originally appeared on Francavilla’s website back in 2009, then Dark Horse brought him to comic shops in 2013. Their first miniseries, Black Beetle: No Way Out, received many accolades (including an Eisner nomination for best miniseries) and appeared on several “best of the year” lists. But a second miniseries, “Necrologue,” was scheduled but never made it out of the gate. But it looks like that might be changing this year:

No word yet on when the excellent series will return, but we’ll keep our eyes peeled for it.

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The Grumpy Color | Tom and Carla retire 2015, Part 1

Smash Pages contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman continue their end-of-year tradition, looking back at the year in Big Two superhero comics and looking forward to 2016.

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World’s Smashiest

[Smash Pages contributors Tom Bondurant and Carla Hoffman continue their end-of-year tradition, looking back at the year in Big Two superhero comics and looking forward to 2016.]

Carla Hoffman: Time to get off the couch, put down the Ben and Jerry’s and stop listening to Moonlight Sonata on repeat, it’s the end of the year! Marvel and DC have cast their nets wide through event books, new titles, TV shows and movies to reel in new readers, viewers and mass market appeal and somebody’s has to sort through it all, sir! For somebody, read: us.

Continue reading “The Grumpy Color | Tom and Carla retire 2015, Part 1”

Valiant teases 2016 slate: Bloodshot Island, new Archer & Armstrong, more

Get a glimpse of what the future holds for Ninjak, Divinity and more.

With 2015 winding down, Valiant Entertainment has released several teasers for upcoming storylines and returning titles from the publisher. Of note: Jeff Lemire, Mico Suayan and David Baron journey to “Bloodshot Island,” while Matt Kindt and Diego Bernard plan a siege for Ninjak. And oh yeah, Archer and Armstrong return! I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rafer Roberts does on the title.

Check out all the teasers below …

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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

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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.

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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.

 

The Moment: Huck

huckIn this week’s edition of The Moment, I detail how in some ways Huck reminds me of Mark Millar’s 1998 Superman Adventures run.

Superman Adventures remains the high point so far 0f Millar’s work, serving return to that form dating as far back as 1998. Huck is an incredibly likeable character in the way he is characterized in these first two issues there’s an unseen optimism to him I don’t know if it will last but all I know is it’s really a refreshing change from a lot of comics currently on the market. The moment that hooked me was from issue 2 when he could have quit but he chose to presevere and help people as he always does.

Rafael Albuquerque on art is merely icing on the cake.

RIP Luis Bermejo Rojo

According to Down the Tubes website:

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“We’re sorry to report the passing of Spanish comic artist and editor Luis Bermejo Rojo (frequently credited as Luis Bermejo or, simply, Bermejo), best known in the US for his work on titles such as Creepyfor Warren Publishing. His work for British comics included strips such as “Heros the Spartan” for Eagle (taking over from Frank Bellamy), and “The Missing Link”, which became “Johnny Future” for Fantastic in the 1960s – but who also drew for titles as diverse as Boys’ WorldGirl’s Crystal, Tina, Tarzan Weekly and the private eye stories “John Steel” for Thriller Picture Library.

He was also notable for his war stories for Fleetway’s Battle and War Picture Libraries, and strips such as “Phantom Force Five” for Buster.”

Down the Tubes has far more info.

Lovern Kindzierski Looks Back at P. Craig Russell 2002 Spectre Colored Covers

You cannot be more understated than what colorist Lovern Kindzierski said the other day.

And then there were the Craig Russell Spectre covers I coloured.

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One of my favourite Craig Russell covers! I love playing my colours off of a stark white.

 

 

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Craig Russell, orange and me!

 

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Craig Russell and me-self muddling about with that Spectre fellow.

 

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I hope this Craig Russell / Lovern Kindzierski piece doesn’t bug you.

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SmashPages Q&A: Tim O’Shea on Interviewing Comics Creators

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I first got to know Tim O’Shea in 2008, when he interviewed me about a new blog I had started, Good Comics for Kids. Later on, when I joined the Robot 6 team, he welcomed me warmly and was always quick with a kind word.

Tim blogs here at SmashPages now, but you can find his older comics interviews, as well as his music and other pop-culture writing, at his blog Talking with Tim. When he was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier this year, he asked me if I would be interested in interviewing him, and we spent a lot of time on the phone talking about comics and other matters, including his struggle with depression. This Q&A is edited from those transcripts.

I came to know you as a comics blogger. When did you start reading comics?

The first comic I read was in 1975. It was a Fred Flintstone comic. It was a piece of shit. I hated that I read it and I didn’t read another till 1977. I have read comics ever since on a daily basis.

When did you start writing about comics, and what made you make that transition?

Jennifer M. Contino [the writer for the early comics site The Pulse] had no time to interview Geoff Johns about Stars and Stripes so she said “Could you?” I had never done it, but she said “Give it a try!” David LeBlanc of CBEM [Comic Book Electronic Magazine, a now-defunct website] ran it.

When I realized I was good at writing I started doing it.

Did you ever aspire to make your own comics?

No, because I enjoy comics and I enjoy helping people succeed in comics and I enjoy reading comics. I don’t aspire to do my own comic book, I aspire to help promote people and for people to succeed. All I want is for Jeff Parker to write two titles that can make sure he pays his bills and has time to spend time with his family. I want every single person who wants to be active in comics to be active in comics. I don’t want to be the guy who Tom DeFalco can’t get a job because I am competing with him.

You are particularly known for your interviews. How do you approach an interview? How do you prepare for it? Is there a particular balance of questions you are looking for?

I always go back to past interviews I have done, and I look at Tweets where they have talked about aspects of things. I prepare by doing 10 questions. I say “Once I get you the questions, ignore or revise them to satisfy your needs, because if I am asking you about shit that doesn’t matter to you you are going to talk shit and we are both going to be pissed off.”

The way I do an interview that is balanced is I engage the person in a way that gets them to consider something they hadn’t been thinking of before I told them that. I had an interview with Scott Allie about a Dark Horse issue where Kevin Nowlan was drawing 20 different Murder She Wrote-type characters in this book because that was amusing the hell out of Scott, the writer. All of a sudden I said, “Take out Jerry Orbach, who were the best guest stars on Murder She Wrote?” And Scott said “Well, fuck! Thanks for taking out Jerry. Now we can talk about the others.” The number of people in Murder She Wrote who got blacklisted and couldn’t work for years was astounding.

The way I do an interview that is balanced is I engage the person in a way that gets them to consider something they hadn’t been thinking of before I told them that.

What’s the hardest part?

I didn’t do phone interviews until the past year because my depression made it that I thought I was always going to get facts wrong. When I first started doing email interviews, so many people wouldn’t do them. Then there were a lot of years when nobody wanted to do a phone interview. I have gone through waves of never being able to interview anybody, then everybody wanting to interview me, and now I have a balance. If I can figure out a way to auto-transcribe stuff I will probably go to phone interviews by 2016.

The hardest part is people who will not do an interview with me. Gail Simone. [Tom] Spurgeon has been reluctant to be interviewed by me. Kurt Busiek I would interview every week if I could, but he will interview with me once every blue moon.

Is there an interview, or maybe more than one, that you are particularly proud of?

There are numerous ones, but for now the one that will stand out is the one with Joshua Cotter several years ago where he point blank discussed in detail his depression, because of the number of people that recognize themselves in Josh and because of the number of people that reached out to him. The fact that he took that risk, he changed people’s lives—how can you not be proud of that interview?