Author Archive

Hilary Barta Interview on Working with Alan Moore

8 June 2018

Hilary Barta interview opening spread – via Hilary Barta Twitter

There’s an extensive Hilary Barta interview in Comic Book Creator magazine #17, out this week. Barta covers lots of ground – from The Thing to SpongeBob SquarePants. I was particularly interested in his account of working with Alan Moore on Splash Brannigan, one of my favorite comics series. I like Splash so much that I went and annotated all of his stories here.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Hilary Barta’s interview:

“Splash Brannigan” was another high point…

Alan’s original idea for Splash was a sort of Flash Gordon crossed with Felix the Cat, who would wear a Rapidograph-type gun in a holster. He’d use it to draw a window on a wall to make his escape and such like. Besides doing the actual character design, my biggest contribution to his creation was suggesting that as living ink, Splash didn’t need a magical Rapidograph – or a costume!

(more…)

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Enjoying Watching ‘The Expanse’ – Gripping Humanist Sci-Fi

10 April 2018

The Expanse screen capture: Naomi Nagata played by Dominique Tipper

A short post today to say that for the past couple months, I have really enjoyed watching a science fiction TV show called The Expanse.

I first read about the TV show via a social media post by comics artist Gene Ha. My wife and I started watching. It took a couple episodes for me to warm up to it, then I could barely stop watching. There are plenty of cliffhanger endings that beg the viewer to keep watching.

The first season is very good, and the second is much better. I have now watched all of the episodes available (two seasons) twice through. Tomorrow night is the premiere of season 3.

There’s a lot to like in The Expanse: world-building (a seemingly believable future, only two centuries away, with relatively accurate science), inter-planetary class politics, kick-ass strong women, great pacing… but I think it most comes down to an ensemble cast that are people who I have come to care about.

(more…)

Ten Things A Diehard Alan Moore Fan Learned From the New Annotated Watchmen

8 April 2018

Watchmen Annotated cover

I can remember reading and re-reading and re-re-reading issues of Watchmen as they were coming out in the mid-1980s. At the time, I knew it was a big deal – a great comic. I had already been enjoying Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and was looking forward to Watchmen even before the first issue came out. Among many things, it is a murder mystery and I remember re-reading issues looking for clues for me to solve the whodunit.

I even remember that I was buying a couple copies of each issue, expecting it to become a collectible. So much for those plans though, as I loaned the first three or four issues to a woman I met in a laundromat. I had a minor crush on her, of course. If I remember correctly, she was reading a sci-fi book and we had a conversation while our laundry spun. I ended up giving her my phone number and loaning her a couple of early Watchmen issues that I had extra copies of… then I never heard from her again.

Anyway, Watchmen is now widely acknowledged as one of the greatest comics ever.

It was created by Alan Moore (script), Dave Gibbons (art and lettering), and John Higgins (colors).

In recent years there is a lot of great (and not so great) Watchmen analysis available on the web. Lately my favorite is the Under the Hood podcast where Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou and Kieran Shiach spend 30-60 minutes going through each page. There are also an excellent Kieron Gillen video, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s Strip Panel Naked videos (including Time Signatures, Power through Composition), and a few issue-by-issue podcasts underway including Watching the Watchmen and Watchmen Club.

In late 2017, DC Comics published a new edition: Watchmen Annotated. It reprints the full series in black and white, with annotations by Leslie S. Klinger, who had access to Moore’s script via artist Dave Gibbons. DC puts out lots of collected editions of Watchmen, and after picking up the initial trade paperback in the 80s, I’ve resisted picking up any new Watchmen editions, in part because of the ways that DC angered Moore over the Watchmen contract. I am pretty into Alan Moore annotations, though, so this week I bought a copy of Watchmen Annotated.

One of the really fun things about Watchmen is that I have read it a couple dozen times, and each reading I end up seeing new things. There is plenty in Watchmen Annotated that I was already aware of, but here are ten things I hadn’t noticed before:  (more…)

Alan Moore Rarity – LOEG: The Tempest Ashcan Promo

27 March 2018

Cover of LOEG: The Tempest promotional ashcan – art by Kevin O’Neill

I made it down to 2018 WonderCon in Anaheim last Friday to get my hands on what looks like it could be a somewhat rare collectors item comic: an IDW “ashcan” promoting the upcoming The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume 4 comic The Tempest. The first issue of LOEG: The Tempest is due out in June 2018.

The promotional giveaway features three pages of house ads, the cover (right), and two pages of art from the issue. These art pages include the original Kevin O’Neill black and white art, and the colored and lettered version of the same pages, specifically page 3 and page 5 of The Tempest #1. The color images have already been shared at Bleeding Cool, but see also my 2-page-spread photos below.  (more…)

Check Out Nicole Goux’s Comics

12 February 2018

Panel from Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #3 – written and drawn by Nicole Goux, color by Rebecca Nalty

For a couple years now, my friend Federico and I have been participating in a monthly comics-jam anthology thing called Melt-Thology. It takes place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at Meltdown Comics in Hollywood. Sometimes my daughter Maeve and my wife Carrie go with us. Each month attendees draw a page of comics, and pay $3 for printing. The next month, we pick up the completed staple-bound photocopied comics anthology, and we crank out a new page.

There’s more to say about Melt-Thology, but that’s another story.

(Except that I have to say thanks to Chuck Kerr for starting Melt-Thology and keeping it going strong for a couple years, before recently retiring.)

Today I want to recommend the comics of Nicole Goux.  (more…)

Why I Frustratedly Still Support Joe Bray-Ali for City Council

1 May 2017

Today, the L.A. Weekly quoted me in response to the controversy that has embroiled my friend Joe Bray-Ali’s candidacy for L.A. City Council. I wanted to post somewhere to clarify part of my take on this. The other places where I write about bike stuff (Streetsblog L.A., Bikas, and L.A. Eco-Village) are non-profit (either actual or potential), so I can’t post opinions about political candidates there, so I am doing it at my kinda-backwater catch-all blog here.

If you’re unfamiliar with Bray-Ali’s offensive comments and the ensuing scandal, please read my piece at Streetsblog L.A. last Friday.

Up front, I’ll mention that I’ve been friends with Bray-Ali for more than a decade. I know that he can be a mean-spirited attacker, but he was generally attacking anti-bike folks like City Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

Here’s the conclusion of today’s L.A. Weekly article:

Bike activists are split on whether to continue supporting Bray-Ali. The group Bike the Vote rescinded its Bray-Ali endorsement; prominent activists like Damien Newton and Don Ward have done the same. Activist Joe Linton says he’s still supporting Bray-Ali and tries to put a positive spin on the whole affair.

I mainly want to clarify what I meant by what the Weekly calls putting a “positive spin” on this. I don’t and can’t put a positive spin on Bray-Ali’s comments. Bray-Ali’s online comments are offensive. His comments are derogatory to transgender people, blacks, fat people, and others. These comments marginalize and harm people. The comments are not defensible.  (more…)

My First Lunch with Russ Heath

13 February 2017
russheathshopping17feb12

Russ Heath

Russ Heath is a comics artist legend. He has been drawing comics since the 1940s. Mostly war stories and westerns, but he has done a wide variety of work over the years.

He’s now 90 years old, living on his own in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. A nonprofit called The Hero Initiative organizes volunteers to  visit comics creators in need. Last year, I came across a Hero Initiative comic page that Heath created with Darwyn Cooke. I saw a Facebook post from Hero Initiative calling for volunteers to visit Heath, so I responded.

Yesterday, I headed up to the valley, picked Heath up. We had lunch and went grocery shopping.  (more…)

2016 Was a Good Year for Alan Moore Comics Obscurities

25 October 2016

From around 2006 to 2014, being an Alan Moore fan meant mostly re-reading old comics. Moore wound down his ABC Comics line circa 2005, and more-or-less retired from writing comics. He did some League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics, Neonomicon, a one-off God Is Dead, and, in non-comics output Moore wrote 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom and published and contributed to eight issues of Dodgem Logic magazine. There are probably a few things I missed, but during those semi-retirement years, it seems like new Moore material would appear sporadically around once a year, and much of it was not comics.

From 2014 to 2015, Moore’s comics output picked back up with Crossed+100 (Moore’s six-issue run was 2014-2015, and he contributed the series outline for two subsequent Si Spurrier arcs), Big Nemo (2015), and Providence (2015-ongoing.)

Now, 2016 has seen plenty of Alan Moore output. Outside of comics, there have been the Show Pieces DVD, the Unearthing performance film (view trailer), and the 1,300-page novel Jerusalem. In 2016 in Moore comics appeared regularly: Moore-outlined Crossed+100 finished, Providence continued, and Cinema Purgatorio got underway.

But none of that is what I was planning to write about. 2016 has also been a good year for picking up some reprints of hard-to-find early Alan Moore stories. Many of these have been out of print since they appeared in the 1980s. I was lucky enough to have picked up Moore’s long out-of-print Miracleman/Marvelman series when it was first printed in the U.S., then enjoyed additional materials as it was re-printed in 2013-2014. This year I’ve enjoyed my first reading of 1980s-1990s Moore rarities: The Spirit, The Puma Blues, and Monster. I review each of these briefly below.

Will Eisner's The Spirit: The New Adventures, second edition, published by Dark Horse Books

Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The New Adventures, second edition, published by Dark Horse Books

Will Eisner’s The Spirit: The New Adventures collects issues 1-8 of the 1990s Kitchen Sink comics revival of the famous Will Eisner hero The Spirit. Eisner is one of comics early greats, alongside Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, and others. Eisner did The Spirit for a dozen years, and went on to more-or-less invent the “graphic novel” and contribute to understanding how comics work (work that Scott McCloud subsequently built on.) Eisner allowed for other folks to create Spirit stories in the 1990s, which I missed at the time. Dark Horse apparently collected these in 2009, which I also missed. This year they released a second edition, with some additional newly collected material.

There are four Alan Moore The Spirit stories, all of them very good. Moore is, of course, lovingly referential in following various great Eisner conventions: spelling out The Spirit on splash pages, having The Spirit somewhat tangential to the action, etc.  (more…)

Nearly 3-Year Old Maeve on Girl’s Roles

18 July 2016
First page of Oliver Button Is A Sissy

First page of Oliver Button Is A Sissy – photo via Where the Bear Rugs Are Still Growling

This morning I was reading Tomie diPaola’s book Oliver Button Is A Sissy with my nearly 3-year old daughter Maeve. It’s a sweet poignant 1979 kids book that takes on some gender roles. We’ve read it dozens of times. The opening page states that “Oliver… didn’t like to things that boys are supposed to do.”

I asked Maeve what thought little girls are supposed to do. She thought about it a bit, then responded that little girls are supposed to “sit up straight” especially “when watching Madagascar” (one of her preferred videos these days.)

So it would seem that she’s not all that consciously aware of gender roles. She knows that she and mommy are girls, and that daddy and Silvio, next door, are boys. But, mercifully, she’s not so clear on outdated ideas of what girls are supposed to do.

The neighborhood posse: Silvio, Maeve and Juliana earlier this month

The neighborhood posse: Silvio, Maeve and Juliana playing cardboard swords earlier this month

(I haven’t posted many daddy blogs lately – apologies. I was trying to think about doing big updates like 2015 in review, but then I don’t get around to it. So I think it’s going to be easier to post short stuff like this, hopefully more frequently… we’ll see.)

Reading Some Books About Comics

28 April 2016
Books on Comics - by Wolk and Klock

Books on Comics – by Douglas Wolk and Geoff Klock

Recently I’ve really been enjoying reading two prose books about comic books:

How to Read Superhero Comics and Why by Geoff Klock (2006)

Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk (2007)

I mostly found these books in search of more commentary about Alan Moore – and they’re both very good for that purpose. I’ve already read plenty of very good books about Moore himself. I recommend (in order of my favorite to least favorite): Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore by Lance Parkin, The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore by George Khoury, Alan Moore: Conversations edited by Eric Berlatsky, and Alan Moore: Storyteller by Gary Spencer Millidge. If you’re interested in Moore, check out my annotations of Moore works.

But back to those two books I just finished reading. I am lumping them together here, and though they overlap, they’re also pretty different. I should start by saying that neither of these books are likely to appeal to people who don’t already read comics. If you’re looking to read comics, I’d suggest starting by reading some comics first.

Klock’s book, as the title suggests, is specifically about super-hero comics. I don’t read too many of these lately, but part of what appeals to me about Alan Moore, which I initially wrote about here, is that he does have one foot in the super-hero genre comics I grew up with, and one foot in a deeper more meaningful literature that I now love. Klock explores a lot of comics as commentary about comics. Primarily 1980s and 1990s superhero comics, foremost Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, as commentary on the ways that comics critique comics continuity. This makes Klock’s book have a somewhat less broad, more insider appeal than Wolk’s.

Wolk’s book is, at least genre-wise, more expansive. Though Wolk writes some about superheroes, his focus is quite a bit broader, encompassing more serious adult comics creators from Craig Thompson to Alison Bechdel to Art Spiegelman to the Hernandez Brothers.

I don’t have enough time to write extensively about these, so I’ll launch into some excerpts about Alan Moore:  (more…)