You love comics, right? And everybody loves free stuff. So how about some free comics? On the internet! It’s a lead-pipe cinch!
I’ve been reading a lot of webcomics lately, some of which have been running for a while and I’m just now catching up, and others which have just started. In no particular order, here are four webcomics you should definitely check out.
Bill Walko’s The Hero Business
Last year I raved about Bill Walko’s fantastic Wonder Twins fan art, but at the time I wasn’t aware of his ongoing webcomic, “The Hero Business.” Set in a PR firm that handles superhero clients, the strip has alternated between longer story arcs and done-in-one gags, but along the way Walko is gradually mapping out the boundaries of his world and how it works, and using some clever twists on the conventions of the superhero genre along the way. Well worth checking out.
Justin Pierce’s The Non-Adventures of Wonderella
I was late to the party on this one. Justice Pierce has been doing “The Non-Adventures of Wonderella” for years, but while I was vaguely aware of its existence I hadn’t really sat down to read it until very recently. On the one hand, now I’m sorry I waited so long to get onboard, but on the other hand, I had loads of archived strips to enjoy all at once. Wonderella is the titular star of the strip, a vaguely familiar superheroic Amazon with a tiara and an invisible aircraft, but like the title says, the strip is about her “non-adventures.” She’d much rather go out for tapas or get a drink that fight the forces of evil, and really, who wouldn’t?
Doug TenNapel’s Ratfist
As I said on my blog years ago, Doug TenNapel is a creative genius. A lot of readers might know him for his work in video games (Earthworm Jim) or television (Catscratch), but it was his work in comics that first caught my eye years ago. If you haven’t read Creature Tech, or Earthboy Jacobus, or Monster Zoo, or Ghostopolis, then you owe it to yourself to pick them up. Seriously, they’re fantastic. Now, TenNapel is a man of firm convictions, and isn’t one to shy from sharing his beliefs. But as I said when I first raved about his work online, “TenNapel’s politics in real life, like his religious views, aren’t my own, but that doesn’t get in the way of my appreciating his work as among the best comics being produced in the English language today.” And now he’s serializing his new comic online, for free. So what do you have to lose?!
Faith Erin Hicks’s The Adventures of Superhero Girl
If you’re not familiar with the work of Faith Erin Hicks, you should be. Her webcomic Demonology 101 was all the rage a few years back, and in more recent yeas her OGN The War at Ellsmere was simply fantastic. A few months ago, Hicks started a new webcomic, “The Adventures of Superhero Girl,” about the adventures of, well, a girl superhero. The fact that many of these “adventures” involve doing laundry, shopping, and watching TV, makes the strip all the more charming. Check it out, why don’t you?
One of the highlights of every month around our house is the arrival of the latest issue of Art Baltazar‘s Tiny Titans, the all-ages title from the Johnny DC line. Consistently one of the best reads of the month, it’s at the top of the To Read pile both for me and for my six-year-old daughter Georgia. I like it because it is (a) funny, (b) beautifully drawn and written, and (c) makes great use of the DC Universe that I’ve spent so many years exploring. Georgia likes it because it’s a funny, well-drawn book about kid superheroes–but best of all, because we sometimes get to see their pets.
My kid loves animals, to put it mildly. And her favorite issues of Tiny Titans usually involve the “Super-Pets” in one way or another (she’s a huge fan of the Krypto The Super-Dog cartoon for the same reason). So when we heard last year that Baltazar was going to be doing a line of Super-Pets chapter books with Capstone, we were very interested.
And now they’re here…
There are six books in the line all together (and hopefully more to come), and in the week or so since they arrived from Amazon we’ve read more than half of them. They are FANTASTIC. Anyone who is familiar with the DC characters at all will recognize all sorts of clever little nods and winks, but for young readers who have never encountered that world before these serve as a great introduction. I recommend them to anyone, whether you’ve got kids or not, but if you do have kids then you must get them.
Capstone has posted a “trailer” for the line at YouTube, which is worth checking out if you still need convincing.
Check out the Capstone website for more information. And then go buy them, already! I want there to be more of these titles to come, and that won’t happen if this first round doesn’t sell!
January 23rd, 2011 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
Superman/Batman 80, the second part of the two-part “Worlds’ Finest” story that began in issue 79, is in stores now. Script by me, and art by the amazing Jesus Merino (ably assisted on colors by Blond). I’ve spent hours just staring at these pages (and in particular the spread on pages 16 and 17), and I can say without fear of contradiction that they look amazing. I’d love to post some of my favorite images, but will refrain, for fear of spoiling the story. But if you see it on the shelf, check it out. It looks great!
Superman 707, my first issue as scripter, has been out for a little over a week, and there’s been a bit of talk about it on the internet in that time, on forums, twitter, and comic sites, but there are three reviews in particular that I’d like to point out. All are by reviewers whose opinions I’ve come to trust over the last few years, so the fact that they speak favorably about my efforts on Superman is encouraging.
I may have mentioned that I’m writing the Superman comic for a few months, but if you haven’t yet heard the news… Hey, I’m writing Superman for a few months.
A cursory glance of past entries on my blog will show that I am a huge fan of Superman, and have been since I was six years old. Back in September, I was absolutely floored when Superman editors Matt Idelson and Wil Moss gave me the chance to write a two-issue fill-in on the Superman/Batman title. But I had barely begun work on the second of those two scripts when they called with an even more awesome offer–the chance to write Superman, the flagship title of DC Comics that’s been running continuously since June of 1939. Well, how could I say no?
My first issue is Superman 707, which is in stores today. It picks up from the first chapters of the “Grounded” storyline that’s been running in the title for the last few months.
Last week, the Austin American-Statesman ran an interview with me conducted by Joe Gross, in which I got to rave at length about my love for the character, and about why he means so much to me. Statesman photographer Jay Janner did a portrait of me to accompany the piece, which I think says it all.
Seriously, y’all, I’m writing Superman, for crying out loud. Me, a guy who literally spent his entire childhood reading Superman comics, watching Superman cartoons, making up stories with my Superman Mego figures, even dressing as Superman. Don’t believe me? This isn’t a new thing for me…
That’s me in the back, still wearing on Christmas the Superman costume I wore for Halloween.
But I managed to convert all of my siblings to the side of the Man of Tomorrow, too. (The kid in the Spider-Man underoos is my cousin, so we forgave his pulling for the other team.)
Underoos were a godsend to a kid who insisted on dressing like Superman, and I kept wearing them long after I was really too old to do so.
And here I am, years later, in 2000 at DisneyWorld with my wife Allison Baker on our honeymoon. I was still at it, though it was skillfully hidden under red flannel.
And now I’m writing Superman. Who’d have thunk?
The good folks at War Rocket Ajax interviewed me recently for their podcast, and if you want to hear me bloviate about my favorite Superman stories and writers, and why I think Superman is as important for moral instruction as any religious figure, head on over and give it a listen.
Superman 707, in stores today. If you live in Austin and want to get a copy defaced by me, come by Austin Books between 4 and 7PM, and I’ll be happy to decrease the value of a copy for you.
The Most Dangerous Island on Earth - North Sentinel Island
Throughout human history a typical theme has been the domination of more technologically advanced societies over “simpler” or “more primitive” ones. In fact in the past 500 years, European societies would come to dominate the world, spreading their culture, often through force of arms or outright genocide. More often than not, the meeting of Old World peoples with New World natives tended to end very badly for the natives. Many cultures were wiped out, many more assimilated or adapted their cultures with European culture. Today there are few places where people living have not in some way been touched by the modern world. One notable exception is North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal.
Officially North Sentinel Island is territory of India, part of the Andaman Islands. In reality the people of North Sentinel Island are their own people, free from any known government or modern organization. Apparently, the Sentinelese are very much happy to keep it that way. Throughout their entire known history, the Sentinelese have been known to viciously fight against any trespass or incursion on their small island. Going back to ancient times the Indians called the island “Cannibal Island”, and told many tales of the dangerous and ruthless natives who inhabited it. Those tales were passed on to the ancient Greeks after the invasion of northern India by Alexander the Great, and thus the infamous legends of the island were mention by Ptolemy. Marco Polo recieved word of the island during his travels to China, writing about the islanders, “They are a most violent and cruel generation who seem to eat everybody they catch.”
Since then, every expedition to island has been met with extreme hostility, and as a result the island has been left untouched to this day. Throughout the 16th-18th centuries many an explorer or shipwrecked sailor met their end on the island at the hands of the Sentinelese. In 1867 a British merchant ship shipwrecked on the island, and its surviivg 110 man crew spent several days fighting off the islanders with guns and swords. Many were killed and wounded in the battle before rescue. This prompted an expedition of reprisal by the Royal Navy who landed marines on the island a short time later. Most of the Sentinelese had disappeared into hiding, knowing that they couldn’t fight a battle against such overwhelming force. In the end the British left in frustration with two elderly Sentinelese and four children.
Today the idea of angry natives attacking shipwrecked sailors or explorers might be something you’d only see in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, however Sentinelese resistance to the outside world continued so that even in the 20th century people tended to steer clear of the island. In 1974 a film crew from National Geographic landed on the island in modern boats in an attempt to make contact with the islanders with peace offerings of a box of coconuts, a baby doll, and a live pig. The Sentinelese met the crew fully armed and ready for war. As a result, a the National Geographic director took an arrow to the knee, the pig was mutilated alive, and the crew was forced to bug out under a hail of arrows and spears.
In 1981 the cargo ship Primrose shipwrecked on the island, and the Sentinelese immediately surrounded the ship, shooting at the crew with bows and several times attempting to board the ship. The crew not only radioed for help, but asked for an urgent airdrop of firearms so they could defend themselves. The drop was delayed by weather but the crew were able to fend off the attacks with a pistol, firefighting axes, and flare guns. They were rescued after a week long siege. The Sentinelese dismantled much of the ship and used the scrap iron for arrow and spearheads. It’s remaining hull can still be seen from google earth.
The only known man to peacefully visit the island was an anthropologist named Trilokinath Prandit in 1991, who several times landed on the island with gifts which he left upon the beach. When he did meet the natives they shot arrows at him and waved their genitals at him. However at one point he was able to make peaceful contact with some of the natives. However as as he left the island, the natives had a change of heart and began shooting arrows at him once more, he hasn’t been back since.
Today North Sentinelese Island is protected by the Indian Government and it is illegal to land there. The reasons for this are to keep the Sentinelese culture intact, and prevent the spread of disease from the island. Note that in history native peoples often suffered deadly diseases after making contact with newcomers. Another reason for creating a 3 mile exclusionary zone around the island is because in 2006 two drunk fisherman landed on the island and were murdered. Thus the Indian Government set up the contact ban to protect outsiders from the Sentinelese as much as protecting the Sentinelese from the outside world. In 2004 an Indian Coast Guard helicopter flew over the island to see if the Setinelese were OK after the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, and to offer help if needed. The helicopter found that the Sentinelese were not only OK after the tsunami, but didn’t want anything any aid at all as they fired arrows at the helicopter.
Today we still no nothing about the language, culture, and ethnicity of the Sentinelese Islanders. The only pictures we have of them are from the occasional illegal drone which buzzes over the island, and is typically met with a hail of arrows. It seems that despite seeing things such as ships, helicopters, and robotic drones, the Sentinelese don’t want fuck all to do with the modern world.
Debbie Reynolds tells the story about how Fred Astaire encouraged her to keep working hard on the dance routines for Singin’ in the Rain. (x)
Okay, we need to talk about this because I haven’t heard near enough about what a freakin’ boss Debbie Reynolds was on Singin in the Rain. Because that was the first dance role she’d had EVER. She had gymnastics training so she knew how to move her body, but she hadn’t danced before, and here she was thrown right into the deep end with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Kelly in particular was a huge asshole to her and gave her a lot of crap because she wasn’t performing to his standards, even though she was putting on tap shoes for the first time and he was Gene Fucking Kelly. Hence the nervous breakdown under the piano and encouragement from Fred Astaire. (Kelly, to his credit, owned up to the assholeness after the fact and said he was surprised Reynolds was willing to put up with him afterwards.)
And she DID IT. She didn’t give up busted her ass and danced until her feet bled (literally, she had to not be carried off the set after filming “Good Morning”) and she held her own alongside two of the best dancers in Hollywood then or ever and she smiled through what by all accounts was one of the most physically demanding movie musicals ever. She worked through her self-doubts and met the challenge and made history.
Debbie Reynolds. Carrie Fisher. The badass is strong in their family. Never forget it.
Last three “elite cosmopolitan liberal” presidents:
-From Georgia, *actual* peanut farmer
-Raised in Arkansas, poor, by an abusive stepfather
-Raised by single mom and grandparents in Kansas/Hawaii
Last four “everyman, white-working-class conservative” presidents:
-Hollywood actor from IL
-Son of borderline-royal Massachusetts family with banker/politician patriarch
-Literally the previous guy’s son
-NY millionaire at birth and later reality show star who probably owns a bunch of ponies but won’t talk about it or tell us their names
2017 note: Hey, guys. With Black History Month just around the corner, I wanted to repost this so that teachers have a chance to print the (FREE) poster before February so that it can be used as a classroom resource if anyone feels like it might be worthwhile to have on hand. Let your teacher pals know!
2016 edit: a lot of teachers and librarians asked if there was a poster for this that they could buy. Nope! This post was made as an educational aid and teachers oughtn’t have to pay anything to get it in their classroom. So here’s a link to download the poster’s print file to print it yourself: https://gumroad.com/l/Exvau I did include the series in my recent art book 555 Character Drawings, so if you want it in a book with a lot of other stuff, that’s available, too. http://crogan.bigcartel.com/product/555-character-drawings-preorders
My favorite parts of history (as might be obvious from my choice of subject matter when making books) are the ones that fall into easily-categorized genres, genres with associated visual iconographies. This is the sort of stuff I loved as a kid: pirates, knights, cowboys, explorers, romans and Egyptians and flying aces. Stuff you could find featured in a bag of toys or a generic costume.
For Black History Month, I thought I might visit some of these adventure-leaning periods and pick a few historic black people from those eras to draw, just for fun. If you’re doing a project or report in school this month, you could do worse than to tackle one of these toughies. Feel free to share some of these with youngsters that you know. And call them youngsters, they LOVE that.