Gene Colan

Honoring Comic Book Creators #whiletheylive

Tom Brevoort removes his hat to pay tribute

Following the sudden death of writer Dwayne McDuffie last month, Marvel Comics Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort has begun a touching weekly ritual on Twitter. Every Wednesday afternoon, he selects a member of the comics creative community to honor while they are still alive to enjoy the praise. Using the hashtag #whiletheylive, Brevoort encourages everyone on Twitter to join in the tribute by sharing personal memories of the creator and their work.

“The idea, quite simply, is rather than waiting for a member of our community to keel over before we say nice things, we instead do it while they’re still alive, and can appreciate the outpouring of love,” Brevoort tweeted last month to kick off the first #whiletheylive Wednesday.

That first week focused on artist Gene Colan, who worked on Iron Man, Captain America and other classic Marvel comics of the 1960s. Colan has had health problems but continues to work to this day. Yesterday’s #whiletheylive recipient was writer/editor Jim Shooter, who was editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics from 1978 to 1987, and later editor-in-chief and creative architect of the fondly remembered (and recently resurrected) Valiant Comics. Others are artist Neal Adams (known for visually stunning runs on comics such as DC ComicsBatman in the 1970s), John Byrne (writer/artist known for historic runs on The Uncanny X-Men, The Man of Steel and others), writer/editor Denny O’Neil (known for his trendsetting work on Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow and other DC Comics), and artist Russ Heath (known for the Playboy comic strip Little Annie Fanny and countless war comics for DC Comics in the 1950s).

You don’t often see an outpouring of support and community like this in other industries, especially when there isn’t some kind of marketing push or uncontrollable event (like a death) behind it. All too often we take for granted the treasures that are still with us, and it’s about time we let them know how much they mean to us. It’s a wonderful gesture that I hope Brevoort and others continue. I also think it’s a wonderful ongoing tribute to Dwayne McDuffie, who didn’t get nearly enough credit and praise for his contributions to the industry while he was alive.

New Graphic Novels, Comic Books for You – 10/21/09

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of October 21 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip – $35.00
By Stuart Hample
240 pages; published by Abrams ComicArts; available at Amazon.com

Woody Allen’s classic neurosis, humorous life philosophy, and complex relationships, are embodied in the classic comic strip “Inside Woody Allen,” syndicated daily by King Features from 1976 to 1984, illustrated by Stuart Hample. Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip is a compilation of 220 of the best of the comic’s comics, all reproduced from the original art, along with sketches, photographs, and development work.

An all-new preface by Hample provides a rare glimpse into the creation of this material, revealing a long-overlooked facet of Allen’s career that is smart and funny and as timeless as the man who has inspired a generation with his unique vision.

For all of those Woody Allen fans out there. I didn’t even know this comic strip existed until now. There are samples at both the publisher and Amazon links above, although the images aren’t really big enough to read, which is kind of lame.

Sugarshock – $3.50
By Joss Whedon & Fabio Moon
40 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics

Originally presented in the first online issues of MySpace Dark Horse Presents, for which it won the Eisner Award for Best Web Comic, Sugarshock tells the story of a rock band led by charismatic but crazy Dandelion Naizen, a hyperactive singer/songwriter possessed of a mean hatred of Vikings (don’t ask) and a mission for a secret government agency that may only exist in her head. But when her band, which includes a robot bass player, is enlisted in an intergalactic battle of the bands — emphasis on battle — Dandelion gets to prove herself as both singer and soldier.

This is Joss Whedon at his funniest and most hyperactive, with writing that bursts off the page in a way seldom seen in comics. Multiple Eisner Award winner Fábio Moon delivers the outrageous story with equal energy, as well as providing a fourteen-page look at his process, with never-before-seen character designs, page layouts, and promotional images.

For all of those Joss Whedon fans out there. If you thought Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was silly, this is downright zany. The comic may not have a soundtrack (as of this writing, you never know), but it’s still entertaining. Here’s a 3-page preview. Or you can check out the story here on MySpace Dark Horse Presents.

Battlefields Volume One – $29.99
By Garth Ennis, Russ Braun, Peter Snejbjerg & Carlos Ezquerra
268 pages published by Dynamite Entertainment; available at Amazon.com

All three acclaimed Ennis Battlefields books in one massive hardcover collected edition!

BATTLEFIELDS: THE NIGHT WITCHES
By Garth Ennis, Russ Braun and Tony Avina!
Late summer, 1942. As the German army smashes deep into Soviet Russia and the defenders of the Motherland retreat in disarray, a new bomber squadron arrives at a Russian forward airbase. Its crews will fly flimsy wooden biplanes on lethal night missions over German lines, risking fiery death as they fling themselves against the invader- but for these pilots, the consequences of capture will be even worse. For the pilots of the 599th Night Bomber Regiment are women. In the deadly skies of the Eastern front, they will become a legend- known, to friend and foe alike, as the Night Witches.

BATTLEFIELDS: DEAR BILLY
By Garth Ennis, Peter Snejbjerg and Rob Steen!
1942: In the tropical splendour of the South China sea, as the Second World War spreads across the far east, a young woman finds herself in paradise… and then in hell. Nurse Carrie Sutton is caught up in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, suffering horrors beyond her wildest nightmares- and survives. Now she attempts to start her life anew, buoyed up by a growing friendship with a wounded pilot- only for fate to deliver up the last thing she ever expected. Carrie at last has a chance for revenge… but should she take it? In the midst of a world torn apart by war, you can fight and you can win- but you still might not get the things you truly want.

GARTH ENNIS’ BATTLEFIELDS: THE TANKIES #1
By Garth Ennis, Carlos Ezquerra and Tony Avina!
After D-Day came the battle for Normandy, when largely untried Allied soldiers met the seasoned veterans of the German army. As Panzer units and SS troops turn the French countryside into a killing ground, a lone British tank crew struggle to rejoin their squadron. Cut off behind enemy lines, their only hope lies in their fearsome commander, Corporal Stiles- but no one in the crew can stand him, and Stiles isn’t too fond of them either. And there are Tigers lurking in the undergrowth…

This massive 200+ Page Hardcover Edition also features bonus materials such as sketches and commentary from Ennis along with a complete cover gallery by series cover artists John Cassaday and Garry Leach! Recommended for Mature Readers.

Here’s some war comics for you. Yay war! Not really, but some compelling stories can come of it. Garth Ennis is a well-read writer who seems genetically hardwired for this genre. There’s a great big 12-page preview at the publisher’s link above.

Detectives Inc. – $24.99
By Don McGregor, Marshall Rogers & Gene Colan
160 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com

Detectives Inc. is the groundbreaking story of two New York private detectives, Ted Denning and Bob Rainier. It is as provocative and relevant today as when it was first released nearly 30 years ago. Detectives Inc. was one of the first graphic novels to deal realistically with homosexuality, bisexuality, abortion, race relations, and domestic violence. Featuring stunning art by comic greats Marshall Rogers and Gene Colan.

This reprints two graphic novels, one from 1980 and one from 1985. To be honest, this is the first I recall hearing about them but they were historically significant early steps of comics reaching out to the book market in graphic novel form and reaching beyond the superhero genre in a mass market outlet. And it helps that it was, by most accounts, very well-done.

The Waiting Place: The Definitive Edition – $29.99
By Sean McKeever & Mike Norton
456 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com

Collected for the first time in a single volume, this highly-acclaimed teen drama of spinning wheels and racing hearts helped make Eisner Award-winning writer Sean McKeever (Spider-Man Love Mary Jane, Teen Titans) and fan-favorite artist Mike Norton (Green Arrow/Black Canary, Runaways) into mainstream comic-book mainstays. This edition also includes a brand-new story by McKeever and Norton, making it a must-have for long-time fans and new readers alike.

These comics first came out in 1997, and have since won a lot of praise. There’s a good article/interview with McKeever that gives a 3-page preview of the new story right here.

Cowboy Ninja Viking #1 – $3.50
By A.J. Lieberman & Riley Rossmo
32 pages; published by Image Comics

It started with Dr. Sebastian Ghislain: rogue psychotherapist/covert op/DJ. Tasked with creating a counter-intelligence unit, he turned to those long thought useless to society… patients with Multiple Personality Disorder. These agents became known simply as Triplets. Misguided? Yeah. Impractical? Sure. But did it work? Absolutely not. Now someone has located each Triplet and created a band of ridiculously disturbed, but highly effective assassins. Our only hope? A Triplet known as Cowboy Ninja Viking!

OK enough of all of that somber realistic stuff. Here’s some weird action/adventure for you. 9-page preview right here. I think this actually came out the week before but it’s on my list, so you get to hear about it now.

Lenore: Noogies – $17.95
By Roman Dirge
128 pages; published by Titan Publishing; available at Amazon.com

Take a trip into the dark, surreal world of a little dead girl with a knack for (often) unintentional mayhem in this gothic classic, now remastered and colored up by creator Roman Dirge for the very first time!

Lenore might only be small, but her talent for mischief — and occasional wanton destruction — is anything but. Featuring stories about limbless cannibals, clock monsters, cursed vampire dolls, taxidermied friends, an obsessed would-be lover and more fuzzy animal mutilations than should be legal, never has the term ‘something for everyone’ seemed more sinister and bizarre.

A massive cult hit on both sides of the Atlantic, Lenore is one of the funniest, darkest, cutest, creepiest characters on the marketplace today, and this collector’s edition hardcover is a must.

If were doing these lists in a more timely fashion, you would’ve heard about this in time for Halloween. But I ruined everything. Still, this is worth checking out any time of the year.

Comic Diorama – $5.00
By Grant Reynolds
48 pages; published by Top Shelf Productions

Nautical and astronomical themes abound in this collection of five short tales: the long lost journals of famed explorer/adventurer Chance Oxblood; the most significant year in the life of the personified former-planet Pluto; strange happenings in the Black Forest; mermaid dreams and sacrificial rites to a Grendel; and the tribulations of a recovering alcoholic gone model-building novice.

I flipped through a friend’s copy of this and it looks fantastic, at times bizarre and crazy. In fact, here, you can take a look too.

New to Comics? New Comics for You! 4/29/09

Comic books, graphic novels. They’re all the rage! Have you read one recently? There’s lots of stuff out there. Why not check out some of these new items that are getting released tomorrow?

Since I don’t live in the future, I can’t guarantee the quality of the below items, but based on word-of-mouth, early reviews, buzz and other intangible factors, I think these are safe bets. They should require little to no previous knowledge. You ought to be able to go into these stories cold and enjoy them just fine. Get yourself a copy by following the links below (the Amazon.com links will give a little to the “Help Corey Do What He Loves” Fund) or head over to your local comic book store.

If you pick any of them up, let me know what you think?

Archie: High School Chronicles Vol. 1: Freshman Year – $10.95
By Batton Lash & Bill Galvan
112 pages; published by Archie Comics; available at Amazon.com

Archie and his friends have forever been stuck in the latter portion of high school, but now, after many long years, the story of how “the gang” all met up is finally being told in this, the first edition of “The High School Chronicles!” This pioneering storyline, captured in issues #587-591 of ARCHIE and now again in this graphic novel reprint, brings us the beginning of the “eternal love triangle,” the introduction of Mr. Weatherbee as principal of Riverdale High, the formation of Moose and Midge’s relationship (and Reggie’s subsequent schemes to split them up), and other Archie staples! It’s all brought to you by fan-favorite writer Batton Lash of “Wolff & Byrd” and “Archie Meets the Punisher” fame, along with popular Archie Comics artist, Bill Galvan. So get your Homecoming dress, pack your brand-new backpack, and pick up your school map to find your way to the biggest Archie story of the year!

Some simple and clean fun with an American staple.

Female Force: Michelle Obama – $3.99
By Neal Bailey & Joshua LaBello
32 pages; published by Bluewater Productions; available on Amazon.com

This one-shot features the United States’ latest First Lady, Michelle Obama. A mother, political force, and now, wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, it’s obvious that Michelle Obama has lived a life many have only dreamed of. Continuing Bluewater’s examination of strong female figures in politics, this visual biography will examine Michelle’s life in detail to help find her context in modern history.

This one is recommended with some reservations. I’m always glad to see comics explore non-fiction genres like history and biographies but I can’t say I’ve heard much response to the publisher’s previous issues on Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin beyond, “Hey look! Comic books about modern day politicians! What a novelty!” Hopefully it’s a biography that actually digs in a little, but I don’t know if that’s possible in only 32 pages.

Star Wars Adventures Volume 1: Han Solo and the Hollow Moon of Khorya – $7.95
By Jeremy Barlow & Rick Lacy
80 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com

No one ever said being a smuggler was easy!

Before they ever met Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca had already lived a lifetime of adventures. In this action-packed tale, Han and Chewie are caught between gangsters and the Empire, and their only help is Han’s former partner — who may be worse than either!

Star Wars Adventures is a new series of graphic novellas designed for readers of all ages!

I can’t say I’m a big Star Wars fan. Sure I enjoyed the original three movies and have a healthy amount of disdain for the prequel trilogy, but that’s kind of the extent of it. I realize there are many people not like me. And come on. It’s classic Han Solo and Chewie. It’s probably a safe bet if you liked those characters and want more without a huge boatload of overwhelming mythology to weigh it down.

Blazing Combat – $28.99
By Archie Goodwin, et al.
208 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

A comic book classic with timely resonance. Blazing Combat was an American war-comics magazine published by Warren Publishing from 1965 to 1966. Written and edited by Archie Goodwin, with artwork by such industry notables as Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, John Severin, Alex Toth, Al Williamson, Russ Heath, Reed Crandall, and Wally Wood, it featured war stories in both contemporary and period settings, unified by a humanistic theme of the personal costs of war, rather than by traditional men’s adventure motifs. As one letter-writer in the third issue put it, “Do you seriously expect to make money with a war magazine that publishes nothing but anti-war stories?”

While most stories took place during World War II, they ranged in settings from the 18th century to the present-day. Some dealt with historical figures, such as Revolutionary War general Benedict Arnold and his pre-traitorous victory at the battle of Saratoga, while “Foragers” focused on a fictional soldier in General William T. Sherman’s devastating March to the Sea during the American Civil War. “Holding Action,” set on the last day of the Korean War, ended with a gung-ho young soldier, unwilling to quit, being escorted over his protests into a medical vehicle.

What proved to be the most controversial were stories set during the then-contemporary Vietnam War, particularly the classic short “Landscape,” which follows the thoughts of a Vietnamese peasant rice-farmer devoid of ideology, who nonetheless pays the ultimate price simply for living where he does. While writer Goodwin evenhandedly portrays the North Vietnamese Army’s brutal summary executions of village officials, and a well-meaning U.S. Army fatally bludgeoning its way through the village in a counterattack, the story caused key distributors to stop selling the title.

Fantagraphics is proud to present a deluxe, hardcover edition, magnificently printed and bound, of these stories, superbly reproduced from the original printer’s film negatives.

Considered by some to be the best war comic. Or is it the best anti-war comic?

Mister Universe – $3.50
By Vassilis Gogtzilas & K.I. Zachopoulos
32 pages; published by Image Comics

Everybody needs Mr. Universe -– the superhero whose adventures ring throughout the cosmos! Day and night, he watches over the city, offering help to the helpless! Without the luxury of a secret identity, unable to remain invisible among the crowds, he continues to fulfill his duty! Mr. Universe! The restless superhero! At least, that’s what Tommy thought…

There probably won’t be too many super-hero comic books in this column because most of them require a lot of knowledge about their world and history, which is frequently near-insurmountable for casual readers and of mixed quality. But every so often the people that make comic books remember that super-heroes don’t have to be done that way. I really hope this is one of those.

Second Thoughts – $9.95
By Niklas Asker
80 pages; published by Top Shelf Productions; available at Amazon.com

Jess is a novelist without a novel. John is a photographer running away to New York. Though it lasts only a moment, their brief encounter in Stansted Airport will transform both of their lives.

How do you measure the distance between satisfaction and settling? At what point does wishful thinking take on a life of its own? In Second Thoughts, the clean, emotional ink-work of Swedish newcomer Niklas Asker guides two characters, in two worlds, through modern city life and love. Reality and fiction overlap in this haunting, deceptive, and inspiring graphic novel about the lives we imagine for ourselves, the lives we imagine for others, and the lives we ultimately must live.

Top Shelf Productions is accurately named. They consistently put out high quality material.

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed – $14.00
By Brian Cronin
256 pages; published by Plume; available at Amazon.com

Fascinating and often bizarre true stories behind more than 130 urban legends about comic book culture

Was Superman a Spy? demystifies all of the interesting stories, unbelievable anecdotes, wacky rumors, and persistent myths that have piled up like priceless back issues in the seventy-plus years of the comic book industry, including:

· Elvis Presley’s trademark hairstyle was based on a comic book character (True)
· Stan Lee featured a gay character in one of Marvel’s 1960s war comics (False)
· Wolverine of the X-Men was originally meant to be an actual wolverine! (True)
· What would have been DC’s first black superhero was changed at the last moment to a white hero (True)
· A Dutch inventor was blocked from getting a patent on a process because it had been used previously in a Donald Duck comic book (True)

With many more legends resolved, Was Superman a Spy? is a must-have for the legions of comic book fans and all seekers of “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Not a comic book but an entertaining and informative book at those wacky comics and the even wackier stories behind their creation. Plenty of the content is brand new, but a percentage of the book collects favorites from Brian’s column Comic Book Legends Revealed. Some of it might be too enmeshed in the convoluted super-hero mythologies for newcomers, but it should be great for anyone returning to comics.

Liked Iron Man? Be a Hero and Help Out

So, how ’bout that Iron Man movie? Pretty cool, huh? You bet it was!

It’s, like, totally over 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. It MUST be awesome.

It is so totally the best superhero movie ever in the history of ever since ever first started.

Way.

Yeah, it was tons of fun. You know what’s not fun? Liver failure.

Sorry, I know. Bummer seque.

Sadly, one of the comic book artists that made Iron Man so memorable for hundreds of thousands is suffering. His name is Gene Colan.

Yes, yes. Funny last name. Go on, get it out of your system. I’ll wait.

(*snicker*)

Yes, okay, where were we? That’s right, Gene Colan.

In late 1965, Gene Colan took over drawing the Iron Man stories in an anthology comic called Tales of Suspense. He replaced Iron Man co-creator and artist Don Heck, who is credited in the Iron Man movie along with fellow Iron Man creators Stan Lee, Larry Lieber (Stan Lee’s younger brother) and Jack Kirby. Gene Colan’s time with the character proved so popular, that in 1968 the character graduated to starring in his own comic book series, The Invincible Iron Man.

Gene Colan also had a significant run of drawing Daredevil in the mid-1960s to early-1970s, but most people don’t really have fond memories of the Ben Affleck movie, so we’ll just gloss over that part. He also made his mark on Howard the Duck, which was an even worse movie, but the comics were great satire.

Anyway, on May 10th, writer Clifford Meth announced that Gene Colan was sick and because people in comics back in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t get health insurance or 401K plans or anything else beyond a simple flat rate per page, Gene and his wife are facing immense medical bills. As the Iron Man movie rakes in over $200 million worldwide, it seems a shame that some of that financial gratitude can’t be passed on to one of the first artists to portray the character. Without his hard work and talent, it’s possible the character never would’ve lasted long enough to make it to the big screen. So, if you would like to help out in some small way, there are a few ways you can help:

  1. Donate to The Hero Initiative – This not-for-profit organization exists for the sole purpose of helping establish a safety net for comic creators like Gene Colan who did not financially benefit from the success of the comics and characters they worked on. And there are many. Make a donation and ask that your contribution be directed to help out Gene Colan.
  2. Bid on a fundraising auction item – Writer Clifford Meth has begun an auction to help raise money for Gene Colan. The auction started today and includes (or will include) lots of fun stuff by Stan Lee, Harlon Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Gene Colan himself, and lots of others.
  3. Buy cool Gene Colan stuff – Marvel Comics and The Hero Initiative have teamed up to help raise money for Gene Colan. If you’re going to any comic book conventions this summer (I’ll be at Comic-Con in San Diego), be sure to look for limited edition art prints. Additional Gene Colan-themed items will be released by Marvel in August and September.

Okay, that’s my spiel. And if you haven’t seen Iron Man yet, go see it!