Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best Comics of 2014, No. 14: Miracleman: A Dream of Flying

Well, as the song says, another year older and a new one just begun.
So let's begin our annual countdown of the best comics of 2014.
Curmudgeonly disclaimer: I do these one a day for two weeks, rather than all at once as most folks do. I also wait until the year has actually ended to begin posting them. I mean really, how can you encapsulate something that hasn't ended yet?
That said, here we go.
Number 14 on the list is a book I've taught several times in Comic Book History class, Alan Moore's Miracleman: A Dream of Flying. Together with Watchmen, Miracleman sums up Moore's take on superheroes in the real world: they would either be hunted to extinction, or if they survived the hunt, they'd create an enforced utopia.
Miracleman is the latter story.

This Marvel reprint of the legendary Alan Moore meditation on the superhero is long overdue, but not lacking in problems. The classic tale of Michael Moran, who becomes Miracleman and eventually creates an enforced utopia (before you start wailing about spoilers, come on now, this book has been around online for over 30 years- anybody who hasn't read it hasn't been trying) is given a serviceable treatment at worst and a stellar treatment at best by Quesada and Company. I find the politics of the matter chafing. Marvel has had the rights to this for years now, and has been milking it with reprints of the Mick Anglo late 50s/early 60s British material, which, while fun and highly inventive in its way, is basically watered down C.C. Beck Captain Marvel.Then Marvel does the annoying multiple covers thing. Some of the covers, like this playful one by Skottie Young, are spot on! This book should be exciting above all else. Granted, some of Moore's strongest ideas on the superhero are within these pages, but still, exciting fun first!
But others, like this Neal Adams cover, are just the wrong tone for the series, making it seem like just another superhero book.
And all the gimmicks of multiple covers, coupled with the absurdity of the writing credit to "the original writer"- well, it just chafes. Better to leave off the writing credits entirely than to indulge in that backhanded, feeble attempt to pick at the open wound that is Alan Moore's war on reprinting his past work. Come on, just do as Zack Snyder did in the embarrassing Watchmen film- just credit the artist as the creator and be done with it.
But that's got nothing to do with the contents. The story stands up quite well, these decades later. And while I don't care much for the new coloring, the printing is better. Perhaps it's the nostalgic aspect that gets to me. I like to see this on dimmer paper, despite the storytelling benefiting (sometimes) from the crisper printing.
In fairness, there are moments where the new colors are strikingly effective, as is the case in the first page of the narrative proper:

A very mixed bag. Kudos to Marvel for reprinting The Yesterday Gambit, the story from the original Warrior (UK SF comics magazine where the character first appeared as Marvelman) run not reprinted by Eclipse in the 80s, but frustration at their placement of the story in the wrong place, both in reprint order and in the narrative. Also, with no color guides to work from, Marvel did a rather shoddy job coloring this story, in my less than humble opinion.
But much of this is more about presentation than about the work itself. Marvel has wisely made few, if any, editorial alterations to the source texts, and the story stands on its own merits, even with Marvel brashly boasting about the wonders of all the extras in the collected edition. At least they did that after the story proper, so if these come out in TPB, there will be an opportunity to cut that material from them all, move it to the back and re-bind the books in a more proper form.
And I eagerly await the unpublished Neil Gaiman issues, probably to be printed after the original 23 issue run is reprinted. There's also a new Miracleman Annual out December 31, which I've not yet had a chance to read. 
Hope springs eternal.
Tomorrow: No. 13 of the best of 2014 fades in....

Monday, December 29, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No. 203: Rock History Sketches!

Posting a day late, largely due to working 50 + hours last week and again this week.
In a bit of a holding pattern over the next story, now that the most recent Surrealist Cowgirls story is complete. I did do a small print run of a Beta version of the comic for family & friends. It had a couple burps and blemishes, but I was still quite proud of it.
For this week, something light and a bit different.
As I believe I mentioned before, I was teaching History of Rock & Roll this semester. As the semester proceeded, I got in the habit of doing small sketches on the attendance sign-in sheets. Now that we're done, I've compiled them into one piece. Nothing fancy, none of these took more than a minute or so to execute- just quick ballpoint pen energy!
I've blurred out the student names, which makes for an okay background.

Again, just a fun thing. If I had considered compiling them in advance, I would have rendered some of them in the other orientation! I suppose I could have flipped them in Photoshop, but there's something disinengenuous about overworking doodles!
Next: I do have a smaller Cowgirls project that I've been poking at for a few months. Maybe it's time to finish and post that one. We'll see.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 202: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Bedtime Story, conclusion

As promised, the final page.
I feel like I've been telegraphing my punches on this story, but I hope someone is surprised by the ending!

The strange thing is that I picked the names Phoebe and Nicholas at random, and had no idea where the story was going when I started it. I just knew I had to use that image of the bird and the flame-headed dude and build a story around it.
I wanted the Phoenix image to reference Tezuka's work without aping it. I took select elements (wig span, body type, head feathers) and just drew her freehand.I think I got the effect I for which I was hoping!
This story has careened from hand text to digital text and back, here on the same page. The exposition inside the fairy tale is, for the most part, digital. I'm coming around to digital as a way to letter. It worked well on the story for the Russian comic, which is now out! But you have to be in Russia to read it. I'll post a link to the ordering page after I get my copies.
Not sure what happens from here. I have a germ of an idea for another Cowgirls story, but am toying with some other stuff as well.
Next: we'll see....

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Thursday) No. 201: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Bedtime Story, page 9

This was done by Sunday, but with classes ending today, I haven't had time to post.
The next page of the story is done, concluding the tale, and the final page will post on Sunday, December 21.
Here we go:

This layout is exactly what I wanted. In terms of the figures, I fudged a bit to get them laying down next to each other and still looking at the child. Also, the placement of the "dying names" word balloons was crucial.
Debated whether Phoebe and Nicholas' speeches were over the top, but when you're dying and have something to say, you just say it.
Sunday: the conclusion of this story.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No. 200: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Fairy Tale, p. 8

Done on time, posting a day late. Still working too much! Getting the story done anyway.

Very simple, fast page. The intent is that the closed broken set of panels framed by the splash slow the time of the egg falling.
Phoebe's face can be seen either as a death mask expression or her staring in horror at the fallen egg. While the original intent was the former, I elected to leave it ambiguous, rather than adding a  few lines to clarify. 
One, possibly two pages left to this story. If my other plans are to be fruitful, this must be done this week.