Dig Comics

Web-Series Makes Use of Comic Book Talent

The new web-series Shelf Life debuted recently on YouTube. Conceived and produced by voice-actors Yuri Lowenthal (Ben 10) and Tara Platt (Naruto) of Monkey Kingdom Productions, the comedy delivers quick snippets of life as an action figure stuck on a kid’s shelf.

Lowenthal is a life-long comics fan, and through his career (he was also the voice of Superman in the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon and Iceman in Wolverine and the X-Men), he’s befriended and now collaborated with people from comics. Comics writer Paul Jenkins (Hellblazer, Spectaculer Spider-Man) has also written for several video games, and considering how many video games both Lowenthal and Platt have voiced, it was probably only a matter of time before their paths crossed. Jenkins co-wrote the episodes of Shelf Life with Lowenthal and also directed each episode. Additionally comics artist Chris Moreno (Toy Story: The Mysterious Stranger, World War Hulk: Front Line), who collaborated with Jenkins’ Sidekick comic book series, provided artwork for the posters in the background.

Here’s the latest episode so far (and my favorite):

Comic Books Have Heart: Hero Initiative Raises Money for Creators in Need

You might not think it, but the comics community has a big heart. One great example is The Hero Initiative, a Los Angeles-based charity that raises money for creators who are in dire straits (not the band but the financial situation). Here’s a video I put together of a special event held at Meltdown Comics this past Saturday night.

For you savvy comics folks, that’s writer Mark Waid of Kingdom Come fame yelling out “you’ve made a powerless enemy”. He and producer Tom DeSanto were probably the most generous bidders. Mike Malve of Epic Digital Media was the winner of the Alex Ross cover in the video above. The entire night raised about $15,000 for The Hero Initiative.

Cross-Appeal Comics (or How to Get KISS fans to read Archie Comics)

The first installment in a story teaming up Archie and his Riverdale pals with the legendary band KISS was released yesterday from Archie Comics. To celebrate the event, KISS co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were joined by Archie’s writer Alex Segura and artist Dan Parent for a signing last night at Golden Apple Comics in LA.

Jaded comics readers were quick to deride the idea of an Archie/KISS team-up when it was first announced over the summer, but it’s actually not only picking up on several traditions but it’s just plain smart marketing. KISS has a long history with comics, going back to their 1977 special published by Marvel Comics and printed with their own blood mixed with red ink. KISS also has extremely loyal and enthusiastic fans, and a number of those fans are passing their love for the band down to their kids, and they will gladly check out whatever the band produces. The crossover is also reminiscent of the bizarre meeting of Archie and Marvel’s gun-toting vigilante, the Punisher.

I checked out the signing at Golden Apple last night. The first one hundred to show up at 10 am were given wristbands to stand in line for the signing. And the fans definitely turned out. The store had the line weaving around the store and out the front door. The other rule was that they would only be signing the comic (so no signing records, etc.). With 100 people and only an hour to sign, some pressure was on, but Simmons and Stanley treated their fans great. They also reminded them of who actually made the comic, frequently directing attention to Segura and Parent. Simmons in particular is a definite comics fan with extensive knowledge of who worked on what going back to the ’50s and ’60s. And unlike some celebrity-related comics, he was very hands-on in the approval process. Having a rock ‘n’ roll star direct focus to the art form is nothing but good news in my book. How many other comic book signings does the LA Weekly cover? Sure, the only reason they were there was because Gene Simmons was in town. But it still resulted in the LA Weekly photographer enthusiastically getting shots of Segura and Parent in front of big Archie Comics banners, and the LA Weekly reporter taking pains to get it right of which one did “the words” and which one did the art.

Is it the biggest victory ever in getting the act of reading comics back in the consciousness of America? No, but how many other comics are reaching out to glam and heavy metal fans who otherwise maybe wouldn’t buy a comic? A great reminder that almost every demographic not reading comics now is worth pursuing.

Missed It: Dig Comics video review

Here’s a video review of the documentary Dig Comics that I somehow missed when it was originally released. I helped produce the doc short, which won Best Documentary at Comic-Con International: San Diego’s Independent Film Festival, and has also been an official selection at the Cannes and Vancouver international film festivals (among about a dozen other film fests). We shot some more footage a few weekends back and are ramping up for some epic comic evangelism action.

The video was produced by InMag.com, Video Symphony, and Action on Film.

To watch the full 20-minute doc plus a new 10-minute pilot, check out DigComics.com.

(Oh and Miguel Cima’s name is pronounced “see-ma” but otherwise a good review. I hope reviewer Jennifer Marks checked out one of any number of fine comic book stores in Los Angeles, such as Meltdown Comics, Golden Apple, Secret Headquarters, House of Secrets, The Comic Bug, and more!)

Bonus alternate trailer of the original Dig Comics for the NewFilmmakers LA screening:

Best Comics of 2011 – A List of Lists for the Listophiles

Whether published as comic books, graphic novels, manga, web comics, digital comics, or some other form of sequential art, comics published this year continues a fantastic renaissance in the art form that brings more creativity and innovation. Barely able to contain their excitement, several outlets have already released their lists for the year’s best. And since we’re now knee deep in the holiday shopping season, let’s see what has won the attention of critics and reviewers in 2011.

I’ll add to the list as more are released. Check out the artists own webpages and check out the publisher links for more info on each book. Select quotes are taken from the site/publication, visit each for more.

First, here are some Black Friday shopping guides that are still worth consulting and will no doubt influence those site’s final Best Of lists:

Also of note is the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs blog sending out an open call for nominations for this year’s Best Webcomics. Let me know if I’ve missed a Best Of list worth reading. OK, on with the lists!

Amazon.ca – Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels (published November 28, 2011) [mostly the same as Amazon.com’s list below except for 4 items]

Zahra's Paradise by Amir & Khalil

Publishers Weekly – Best Books 2011: Comics (published November 7, 2011)

“An Iranian blogger goes missing and his family enters a hellish twilight zone of obfuscation in a story that captures the uncertainty of living under religious dogma.”

Host of NPR’s On the Media, Gladstone uses a cartoon persona to take the reader on a thoughtful and entertaining excursion through the history of the media from ancient Rome to the rise of digital technology.

“In this epic work of science fiction, Rachel Grosvenor, an outcast in a world ruled by a complex network of clans, looks to find a place for herself by attempting to join a very exclusive clan.”

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Amazon.com – Best Books of 2011: Comics & Graphic Novels (published November 8, 2011)

Habibi, Craig Thompson’s intricate and moving fairy tale about familial and romantic love, one’s relationship to their environment, the shared roots of Christianity and Islam, and the effects of industrial modernization, tops our list of the best Comics & Graphic Novels of 2011.”

The New York Times – Holiday Gift Guide: 100 Notable Books of 2011 (published November 21, 2011)

“In this capacious, metaphysically inclined graphic novel, a flock of finches act out Nilsen’s unsettling comic vision about the food chain, fate and death.”

Stan Lee: Real vs. Fake

After the last two days, I think we need something to lighten things up before we head off to the Thanksgiving weekend.

If someone thinks about comic books long enough to consider that people actually make them, that person is probably aware of Stan Lee. The head editor and face of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, Stan “The Man” Lee helped plot and script nearly the entirety of Marvel’s then growing line of groundbreaking superhero comic books. He also either helped write or oversaw the western, romance, suspense, humor, war and other comics back when Marvel wasn’t primarily limited to one genre. He was also an innovator in fan interaction for the comics world of the time, taking on a carnival barker persona that remains to this day. While he hasn’t been involved in Marvel’s day-to-day operations for a long time, he’s still thought of as the guy who created the Marvel Universe, even if that title almost completely ignores the contributions of the brilliant artists working at Marvel at the time (most significantly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko). Despite the controversies and legal issues of who really created Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and all the others, and to what extent, Stan Lee remains a beloved public figure of Marvel and a legendary force of goodwill and visibility for comics in general.

These days, he remains as active as ever with his POW! Entertainment, where he’s provided concepts for a mini-line of superhero comics published by BOOM! Studios, superhero characters for the NHL, manga, and countless other projects, along with a first look deal with Disney and other production partnerships. (But not Stripperella. Nobody had anything to do with Stripperella.) And on the side, he makes cameos in Marvel Studios’ films:

To expand his Twitter and Facebook presence, Stan Lee is getting ready to launch TheRealStanLee.com, which is going to be a community-focused site. Here’s the promotional video that was released yesterday:

And thus we get to the real point of me posting all of this. Included in the above video is a clip of Stan Lee meeting The Fake Stan Lee. Played by cartoonist/improviser Kevin McShane, the Fake Stan Lee hits the right balance of playful tribute and pointed satire. For a few years now, McShane has been posting funny videos of himself as Stan Lee attending comic book conventions and interacting with attendants unabashedly being Stan Lee. And if you don’t know what that means, you got a glimpse at the above video. Now check out the below two videos. The first includes the two Stans meeting at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con.

And they had another showdown in last year’s Comic-Con:

For more Fake Stan Lee videos, check out his YouTube channel.

Cartoonists’ child tragically dies

Please don't comment on this one, just let it be, thanks. on Twitpic

Rosalie Lightning

As if yesterday’s blog wasn’t heart-breaking enough.

Two-year-old Rosalie Lightning, daughter of cartoonist and Sequential Artists Workshop instructor Tom Hart (Hutch Owen) and illustrator Leela Corman (Crafternoon), passed away in her sleep the night of November 17th.

On his Twitter page, Hart initially only posted “Miserable world”. Later, once word had spread, he tweeted “Thanks everyone for your words. They mean a great deal to us, thank you”. He also posted a picture of his daughter (right) with the comment, “Please don’t comment on this one, just let it be, thanks”.

Their friend and fellow cartoonist Lauren R. Weinstein (The Goddess of War) was the first to make the tragic news public. She has set up a PayPal account to receive donations to help Hart and Corman with expenses.

Just to be clear, this is not an ongoing charitable foundation; it is a bunch of Tom and Leela’s friends passing the cup around to help them surmount the short-term challenges arising from this tragedy.

Rosalie was a wonderful girl.  She loved lizards, Miyazaki movies and duck ponds.

If you want any more information about where to send your condolences please email rosalielightningmemorial@gmail.com.

Cartoonist Jon Lewis (True Swamp) offers further context, explaining how the new family had only recently moved down to Gainesville, Florida, from New York City on a shoe-string budget with the hopes of Hart opening up a new comics school. In the comments section, Hart posted of their new home, “It’s a magical place, this town, where her soul was set free.”

My deepest condolences to Leela Corman, Tom Hart and their families.