Sunday, September 30, 2018

Goodbye, Norm

I learned that artist/writer Norm Breyfogle passed away six days ago on September the 24th. He was fifty-eight years old. It's been a tough week in part because it broke my heart. His art was an extremely important part of my comic book consumption throughout middle school and high school. This was the second time I was given sad news about him, and the only thing I can possibly hope for is that he found peace.

Breyfogle is probably best known for his run with the Batman family characters. He worked on Detective Comics, Batman, and helped launch The Shadow of the Bat title. Breyfogle co-created characters like Ventriloquist, Anarchy, Victor Zsasz, Jeremiah Arkham, Amygdala, and Ratcatcher. Probably his most important creation along the way was his co-creation of Ultraverse's flagship character Prime. He worked on lots of different comics including having a run on Archie Comics in 2008.

The most influential part of his contribution to the Batman mythos (in my opinion) was not the co-creation of some of the previously mentioned characters, but his redesign of the Robin costume given to Tim Drake. It remains my favorite and arguably inspires every version of Robin's costume since. I can't even look at Damian's horrible redesign without thinking that Breyfogle's original design and Tim Drake wore it better.

I loved remembering Breyfogle and his art, but it was bittersweet receiving the news of his death. I like to remember him and look through his art, but I'm sad he's gone. After working on a Batman Beyond Unlimited digital comic in 2012-2013 (which was collected in print), I thought he was going to have a resurgence drawing mainstream comics again. His work on Batman Beyond was pure joy and I adored it.

In 2014 Breyfogle suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on his left side. He drew with his left hand, and although he did recover movement, he couldn't draw anymore. I can't imagine what it is like to have what you love taken away from you like that. He was pretty honest and upfront about it and chronicled his struggles online through social media. He seemed a kind and gracious creator and I knew he was trying to get into writing comics because he could no longer draw them. They say he died of natural causes, but I still think fifty-eight is way too young and he was gone too soon.

After Breyfogle's health issues in 2014, DC Comics put out a hardback of Legends of the Dark Knight: Norm Breyfogle Vol. 1. DC did this in part to help him financially, but it is truly a wonderful edition to anyone's Batman collection. A second volume will be coming this November. I own the first one and will be buying the second, and I'm hoping to track down the collection of his Batman Beyond Unlimited series as well.

 I recently discovered they also put out a Batman Black & White statue based on Norm's illustrations. I tried to see about buying one, but it is backordered. Maybe I'll get lucky at some point and pick one up. It's pretty cool looking and I think it would do my geeky home justice.

I realize that sometimes people we never meet still impact us and leave something behind that touches our souls along the way. Thank you Norm for your art, man. I always hated Batman's blue and gray costume, but never when you drew it. Your version was the only acceptable one as far as I was concerned. May you be at peace knowing you left behind so many fantastic comics.

Goodbye, Norm.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fantastic Four: Behold...Galactus! OHC -- A Review

Wow, this week really has gotten away from me.  My plans on getting my stuff ready for the 2018 Baltimore Comic-Con (#bcc2018) next weekend epicly (why is this not a word?) failed yesterday.  However, we've got all my daughter's supplies and she's working on fanart to sell.  (See some examples on her FB page.)  So feel free to come by the Who's Mannz  Artist Alley table (A-135) to look at (and hopefully buy) her wares or talk to me about comics.  We got her some business cards and I thought about getting one for myself as a Comics And blogger. : )  We'll be there all three days, Sept 28-30 and Lord willing I'll have an interim update next Saturday just before our next blogger's post on Sunday morning.

Now in case you haven't noticed, something about the blog page is broken (or at least when I look at it).  Gone is the search field and the listing of posts by year.  However, there is a workaround.  If you go to an old post where those fields are still shown, then obviously you can still use them.  So, I'm putting this link here of a post from 2013, which is good background to the upcoming Superior Octopus series coming out.

Enough of this preamble stuff (consider it my warm-up exercise), let talk about the World's Greatest Comic Magazine PRESENTATION:  The Fantastic Four: Behold...Galactus! Over-sized Hardcover (OHC).  In this instance "World's Greatest" is not hyperbole. It. is. simply. beyond. belief.  It's AWESOME to the highest degree (no pun intended) and gives you a never-before-EVER uncanny reading experience like no other.  It's so good that I bought two more copies and had them shipped to friends as surprise gifts. (I wish I could've bought even more.)  This was helped by the outrageously inexpensive price  -- $25 the first week  (50% off) at and afterwards about $29 (40%).  Unfortunately, I think it is already sold out there, but if you can get it for the $50 cover price it is still more than worth it.  $100 wouldn't be too much either. [Just checked - only $38 on amazon.]  The concept is simple: Let's reprint some of the best Galactus stories at a Galactus size.  And Galactus-size it is, the book is nearly two-feet tall!  Bigger than any Omnibus, Treasury Edition, and Artist Edition I've seen.

I had my eye on this book from its first announcement in Previews.  I knew it was going to be great, but I couldn't conceive of the unexpected ways. Find out more after the break:

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Kill or Be Killed

Yeah, I know. Another Image book. What can I say? They publish a lot of good stuff.

Kill Or Be Killed #1 

This one was easy to spot, being another Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips work. Elizabeth Breitweiser worked with Phillips on the art, having first joined with them for Fatale. As always with this team it’s great looking work.


Of course Brubaker and Phillips are deservedly well known for their noir work in Criminal, Fatale, and The Fade Out. Kill or Be Killed certainly follows in that vein in tenor and appearance. The back matter also includes great writing about noir films, most often by Kim Morgan. These essays are worth reading on their own.


But Kill or Be Killed is a book that uses the form of noir to examine consciousness. It never once uses that term, but that’s what it is. What is reality? Kill or Be Killed leaves the reader wondering.


Kill Or Be Killed #10Lead character and narrator Dylan has a history of suicide attempts, self medication, and complicated romantic relationships. His father, a talented but frustrated illustrator, was a suicide when Dylan was young. His father’s sexually charged horror illustrations were porn in the woods to young Dylan and his friends.


When the story opens Dylan is a serial killer targeting people who are unsavory, whether child molesters, Russian mobsters, or American oligarchs. Taking a nonlinear narrative approach that parallels Dylan’s own mental process, Kill or Be Killed jumps around to fill out Dylan’s story that includes girlfriends Kira and Daisy, roommate Mason, dealer Rex, and detective Lily.


Throughout the story the reader is pressed to determine how reliable Dylan is as a narrator. Is his perspective what’s really happening? Is it an adverse reaction to harms to his mind? Is he suffering from an organic brain problem? Better yet, the question includes whether Dylan is morally and ethically right in his actions even if he is unreliable as to why he he’s taking those actions.

Kill Or Be Killed #15Brubaker, Phillips and Breitweiser don't tell the reader whether to believe Dylan or whether his actions are justified.  They weave a complex story that's full of questions, as well as a lot of violence and a little bit of sex.  The reader can take the surface joys of sex and violence as sufficient entertainment, or the reader can have the added enjoyment of thinking about what is consciousness, reality, and morality/ethics, and who decides any of those for anyone but themselves.


Coincidentally I was recently in a group discussion about consciousness in the philosophical sense. This book, which concluded at 20 issues, fell right in with that discussion, certainly as much so as the Force from Star Wars that owes its genesis to Jung and which was a part of the group discussion.

I should also mention the covers.  A small sampling here shows several of them.  Different arcs within the story merited a different theme to the covers.  The opening arc all had the dark background like the first issue.  In the middle there was a run of orange and the demon that Dylan says is his impetus.  No detail is too small for this creative team to use in telling the story.


Kill or Be Killed is an excellent read, full of tension like any great noir story, that has the addition of an insightful look at what is reality, who can be believed in telling a story, and the uncertainty that is life.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Public Domain and Gwandanaland Comics

So I started drawing a blank for what I wanted to talk about this week. Lately I have been immersed in Gwandanaland Comics. They are a small company who specializes in reprinting material that is in the public domain. I have included a few pictures of the collections that I have ordered. I have sent two collections onto fellow contributor Lee for his enjoyment after I read them.

As this is all public domain material so anyone can essentially work with the material. Many companies have in fact obtain copies of the material and cleaned up the pages and published them as hard cover collections. Often recoloring the books.  While a great way to enjoy these comics it also takes away from the book having that feel of being the actual comic. Especially the coloring as it is way better in many collections, which is both a good thing and is like colorization of old black and white films is a bad thing. Something is lost and gained at the same time.

This format has the feel of almost sitting down and reading the comic itself. Every page is not always crystal clear, but it has been great fun for me to read books and material I have never heard of before and no one else would ever have collected this material. Even better they can create almost any collection that you want within limits. Take the Jane Martin War Nurse collection. I was not interested in all of it, I was more interested later in the series as the art and stories got better. I learned at that point that two different female artists worked on the series. I have also learned some female writers did comics but used a male name for purposes of publication.  It becomes a history lesson as well as entertainment.
Often when possible the collections will include the ads from the comics. The ads from the 40’s and 50’s are almost as entertaining as the comic themselves.  Dated to be sure, but also a reflection of the way society viewed itself at that time.

What was very cool is that they produced an artist edition version on Nyoka the Jungle Girl. I own the art for the full seven pages and found a local person who was able to produce high quality scans of the pages. I sent the scans to Gwandanland Comics and they produced a book with the color pages and the original art plus some extras to make the book big enough to publish.

Lance is the central contact point and he is cordial friendly and very helpful in explaining options. You can buy the books on Amazon or pay them direct – cheaper but slower mailing time. They only produce books when ordered as they have a huge catalog to choose from and are constantly adding material. Recently they had to delete material as they found some material that appeared to be public domain was in fact copyrighted.  I asked about how they could publish all the Charlton material they publish when DC had purchased Charlton characters. I was told Charlton published their material without a copyright. While the characters are owned by DC the Charlton material is public domain.

There is such a wide variety of material. Some is dated and some of the writing and art are weak, but there is also an amazing amount of beautiful art and fascinating stories. A lot is pure fun and enjoyment. It gets crazy at time as before the comic code the companies were pushing the envelope. Gwandanaland has a series of collections call Wertham’s Weapons that publish most of the comics that were referenced in the infamous Seduction of the Innocent.

The material here has captured most of my reading time at this point. It has the plus of telling complete stories often in eight pages. You can easily see how it might be expanded into 20 pages or more but I sometimes enjoy not having every comic book story I read be a Homeric epic.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

DC Universe Streaming

I've been debating whether or not to pull the trigger on pre-ordering the new DC Universe service that will start on September 15th. There are many pros and cons to pre-ordering and I can't seem to make up my mind. In case you are in a similar state, I thought I'd share what I've learned about this digital endeavor and maybe we can make up our minds together by the end of it.

It is no secret I love DC Comics if not the direction the company has taken in the Dan Didio era. I think Rebirth was a success while the Nu52 was a failure. (I don't care what the numbers might have said, at least, in the beginning.) The DC Universe digital service seems perfect for a fan like me. So why am I hesitant?