Donnerstag, 25. Juli 2013

First article on - The Manhattan Projects #1

Hello comic-friends,

I was given the opportunity to write on an other blog. This step is quite important for me to spread my articles in the web based comic community and I've got the direct inspiring exchange with other writers.

My first article published is "The Manhattan Projects #1". Enjoy it!

Greetings Andy

Mittwoch, 24. Juli 2013

All-Star Superman -- Übermensch

A panel is usually the smallest part in a comic book. Sequences need them to work together, and here lies, like Eisner pointed out long ago, the strongest potential to perform art in comics. To craft a good sequence you need the right panels arranged in a meaningful and harmonic order. But like music, you can achieve a more interesting approach by building tension using a dis-harmonic interval in a chord or scale. In comics and sequences, it can be achieved by inserting a panel that may seem like it doesn't fit and has no connection to the story. It isn't comfortable for us to stop reading because we doesn't understand the just seen. Like in a song with dis-harmonics you want to know why the musician decided to disrupt your hearing-pleasure with a, in you ears, unfitting note. The most time, the artist wants you to listen (or in our case read) mindfully. It's a trick to say: "Are you still listing? There's something important happening here!" So the intention to interrupt our reading-flow lies hidden deeper in the panel and you've got to dig a bit to access his real meaning.


This panel is an example for an element to break up a story and fill it with something that should be focused on. The panel is out of "All-Star Superman" a award-winning comic of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. The story is no part of the regular DC Universe and focuses on the last days of Superman. By saving a team of astronauts crashing into the sun Superman overloads his cells with solar radiation and receives new powers. But this new powers demand a high tribute of him. He's got only one more year to live. In this last year Superman masters twelve tasks which are the core story-line of the book. This panel takes place in the seventh labor: The creation of life. In his laboratory he created a small universe around a tiny earth containing a mankind without superheroes. Earth -Q. The panel we are talking about is set in this new created earth and mirrors our evolution.

The transition from the sequence on mars, where Superman deploys the people of Kandor to be save after his passing, to the chosen panel is very hard. There seems no connection between the  story-line and the displayed panel. But right now it is time to get a shovel and start digging. Here we see a middle-aged man sitting and writing at a table. The clothing, furniture, and a shining gas-lamp suggests the scene takes place in a long gone time. Looking closer, we can read the title of the man’s work: Also sprach Zarathustra -- Friedrich Nietzsche's book about the idea of the Übermensch -- translated as superman -- the parousia and the will to power. Nietzsche, a german philosopher who lived in the end of the 19th century was convinced by the thesis that only the creative man can overcome himself and the burdens of life. The term Übermensch was often misunderstood and used in political or harming ways and the  interpretation of "über" as super is delusive. The primal thought was of a "hinüber" what means across or over to (sth.). So the "Übermensch" should be translated as "man who overcome himself".

The direct connection to Superman in the story around the panel from Earth-Q is obvious. Superman is facing the death but his primal task is not to find a cure and safe himself but rather create a model of a world without him, and be assure that mankind will survive in his absence.  By accomplishing all his labors he overcame himself and finally stated that he is an Übermensch - the Superman. Also creating life in the seventh labor is not a usual task and Morrison subtle and subliminal levels Superman near to a god-like being. In Nietzsche’s work, the Übermensch is the next human stage of physical and mental evolution and Morrison uses this ideas to project their virtues on Superman. Overcoming nihilism and the denial of dreaming or philosophic ideas by stand the ground for a life-affirming sight on the world is a core-idea of Superman's character and Nietzsche's view on the real man within man.

So we explore this panel to the heart of his meaning (of course in context with the story) and now we are at the level of awareness Morrison wanted us to have. He wanted us to listen and interrupted us on mars with a dis-harmonic panel and we experienced that even an aged character like Superman can still be used to teach us higher concepts of philosophy and life itself. That is what art is supposed to do.

Greetings Andy

Post edited by ClumsyG

Sonntag, 14. Juli 2013

Batman #19 and #20

Hello comic-friends,

the retold origin story of Batman just comes down the road. For me, therefore I get and read my issued with
a monthly delay, it is still some time to wait for this storyline. But that's no reason to lean back. Issues #19 and #20 with the small tie-in story "Nowhere Man" was quite entertaining. I appreciate a shorter story frame than the nowadays used five to six issues "graphic novel" approach.

And the winning team Snyder and Capullo are still in charge of this title. That's awesome. In almost every book of the DC relaunch the creative team has changed but this one is still assembled and we've got the reason why just laying in front of us. They tell a great Dark Knight with such a positive, and well-earned resonance by the readers away of a just fan-serving storytelling. Greg does a great job in each issue and I'm (how often have I said this?) a long time fan of his art and his development.

But back to "Nowhere Man". Issue #19 comes up like a body-snatcher / doppelganger story. The introduction scene in the front of the Gotham National Bank is quite good after a second glance. The speaking of Wayne just got me caught to think about how he would be if he really would be bad. Like a villainous Batman. Would he rob a bank in this here shown classic style? I guess no. So for the reader the point is crystal clear: this isn't Bruce Wayne. The art includes some "hidden" cool gimmicks. The frame of the last panel on page one consists of the trigger of Harv's gun. This brings in another layer of depth in the ordinary way to transport a sequence from one panel to the other. The second gimmick is the falling shotgun shell on page four. It's is drawn a little transparent but cast the same shadow like Jim Gordon and creates a great diagonal sequence of shot, hit , and slowly falling shell. This collage remind me of a mixing picture style like in movies of the '70 to connect different viewpoints of one event. The shadow of the shell, displayed on the same level like Gordon's shadow, give it a massive weight and amplifies the scene.

The following fight with the Reaper is a nice example of Capullo's very detailed work. Luckily he's got a sense for reducing to support the impact of a panel like in the "Dead Men Walking" Panel. By the way: Greg draws the best Damian. The detailed city streets and flowers enrich the scene and the violet foul colors in the van gives the hole sequence a wonderful stench. The upcoming detective part of this book is a good mixture of investigation and a little bit of action. The revealing of clayface's evolution and his new ability to copy a person's DNA with the sacrifice of loosing his connection to his real himself is a nice character development. Today's villains doesn't alter this much anymore and it is refreshing to see, that writers still try to bring them on new levels.

Starting the issue #20 with the fight in the research & development laboratory reveals the plan of Clayface. Clayface himself is a rewarding task for Greg to draw. The chance to use his new ability to unveil Batman's secret identity just by touching him brings much more tension in the relationship between Batman and Clayface and is a great hook for upcoming story lines. The doublepage of the fleeing false Bruce Wayne works very well almost without any words and underline the sequential work because you just focus on the art and the arrangement. The fight in the Wayne Tower works very well and I love the presentation of Clayface with multiple mouths and the great appearing of other villains. This also lies out new plotideas for the future if Clayface can truly appear like anyone he has touched, even the Joker.

The outburst of Batman at the end of the fight, because Clayface mimics Damian is really significant for displaying his state of mind and his feelings. This time it will be a very long way to overcome the death of his Robin and son. Too, it's great to see how Alfred supports his Master in this hard times. I'm definitely looking forward for the arc after the origin story where the Batman maybe can develop in so far other ways.

Samstag, 6. Juli 2013

Action Comics #19

Hello comic-friends,

so the long Grant Morrison run has ended. Some people are disappointed, some people are speaking of
great two years in Action Comics. Maybe I will write a longer post about the Morrison run. We'll see.

But lets face the new team for Action Comics. Tony S. Daniel and Andy Diggle. Andy Diggle is new for me and so I can relax and judge his work without any preconceptions. Mr. Daniel is another point. I know him of the series "The Tenth" and I didn't liked this title. The pencils were horrible and the story wasn't worth a penny. But Tony developed a nice style since then and his work nowadays is much more appealing than in the late '90. And he delivers a quite good work in this one.

Lets get to the cover. It's a folded double-page with a surprise: Jimmy Olsen is the opponent of Superman in this issue. But this is just a very boring wannabe hook for the issue and lasts just one page in it. Much ado about nothing. The story it divided in three parts and the first and second part takes place "One year ago..." in Qurac. Lois and Clark are reporting from an "arabic spring" and Clark praises Lois up to the skies which is so annoying  that you can throw the book right in the can. But just two pages later it's starting to get interesting. You could say, when you aren't good at writing an interesting story between two characters without using the worst and oldest clichés and doesn't even try to go deeper, you are forced to kick in the f**ing door with a big fight. And this was well done by Diggle.

The upcoming fight with three biomechanic, by "War of the Worlds" inspired, giant human controlled robots is well paced and entertaining. Tony does a good job on them and some panels got a very cinematic look. The panel where one of the robots launches the Hellstreak-Missiles is very patient and takes his time. The sequence in your head easily creates the picture of the slowly starting missiles, the expanding smoke, the swarm searching for his target: the floating Superman in the foreground. One little example of a good composed comic panel. Dear artists: more of that. Regarding the development of faster and faster cuts in movies and tv-shows, which inspires the comic genre too, we need more time for recognize what is really happening in the moment and feel what the author and artist wants to show and tell us. Of course we expect that the action in superhero comic is dominating but many independent publishers showed long ago new ways for superheroes. The more space (and in comic, space is time) and depth you reserve for a panel and his content the more attention it will get.

Another good action filled panel is the one in which Superman smashes one robot with the other. Its full of force and movement without loosing the focus of what is happening. Maybe the "sound-effect" is a little big and dominant but it still looks great. There is no need for a background because you are right in the middle of it all and the red tone of the page transports the rage and anger subconsciously to the reader. It's a big bang in this final panel of the fight.

The next part takes place in Luthors hideout / secret lab. The analysis of Dr. Lagarde is a nice read but why does Luthor hold her captive? What is he searching for and what does he expect of his own psychologic examination? Right now it just looks like a flat (and boring) way to show the reader the evil-genius of Lex and his uniqueness. The only way to put it out just more strikingly is to draw it right on his forehead: I'm the mastermind of evil! And again we need more of in deep character writing in this title. Lets hope that the upcoming issues will hold a lot more of good writing. After the Morrison run this is a shameless reduction of demanding content and does no justice to this series.

Dienstag, 2. Juli 2013

Avengers #1 - #3 - Marvel Now!

Hello comic-friends,

today I will write my first lines about the Marvel Now! campaign of Marvel. I will start with the first three
issues of "Avengers" and I must confess this series picked me up for Marvel. But lets do it step by step.

In fact I didn't like the Avengers movie and in the atmosphere of the hype I was really sceptical about the "R"evolution of Marvel with Marvel Now!. Nevertheless I like characters like Thor and Captain America and I was fancy about the upcoming group titles like "Avengers", "New Avengers" or "All-New X-Men" but wasn't brave enough to invest in those series. But, lucky me, I had the opportunity to borrow the "Avengers" title. And it was awesome.

The first statements of Marvel that in "Avengers" will be dealt with the really big problems turned out to be true. The first pages of issue No. 1 give a short flash-forward overview of what to come and starting the first two panels with "There was nothing. Followed by everything." was like writing down the hole creation and set a god-linked and inspired meta-plot. What else do you want?

The mainframe of the story is quite simple but a classic. A super-villain on Mars(!) wants to shape earth by his own conception and the Avengers have to stop him. This is combined with a big "Avengers" group lead by Iron Man and Captain America. The relationship between those two characters is great and the flashback-picture of frozen Cap catapults a long history right in the present. The idea to "We have to get bigger" isn't just a set phrase. For the events to come you need the best of the best. But to write a good story you also need a great foe. This is an unwritten law of a good comic book or modern fantastic film and in this case the opponent is well designed. Ex Nihilo is a incalculable being and virgin in comic history. You can espect nothing and everything of him and the omega on his chest is a direct sign for divine origin or omniscient which gives him a mysterious aura. He is a creative character, less destructive and congenial and in the first place you can't think of him as a threat. Also his golden, yellow skin and the wise speech supports this first impression but also gives a bad taste of worshipping a golden calf.

So we've got a powerful opponent, the hole world on the razors edge and a big group of Avengers but
where is the touching, the real good of the story? It is, like I said, an old formula but it is told and drawn very well. Jonathan Hickman takes his time to introduce little glimpse of a meta-plot and lays out thin strings which (hopefully) will form a strong final at the end of his run. Nowadays it is art to wire a story this way and satisfy (and surprise) readers with the turnings and spins in a plot. It's always easy to lay out something mysterious and state that it will culminate in a big all exegetical end. But some people have LOST the faith in this kind of storytelling ;). Building a story in comic books this way hooks on the reader and the "Previously in Avengers" is another indicator where the inspiration came from. So is it really written well? Yes. The sequences work very well and are building enough tension to keep reading. But also the detailed art slows you down to explore this Avengers World. Combined with a colourful, but not flashy colouration almost each page invites you to stay a little longer or to take the book again in you hand.

I don't want to spoil this book so I will keep this short. The first three issues build a brief introduction of "The Avengers" and is very good composed. Luckily the level of writing and art continues in the further issues and the story is still appealing. You've got my full recommendation to read this series. And I will further explore the Marvel Now! Revolution.