Comic books and graphic novels


Afterlife With Archie More Than Zombies

People are talking about the new horror series Afterlife With Archie that finds the familiar Riverdale gang battling -- and more often than not, becoming -- flesh-eating zombies. It's a thrilling story from the team of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla that often gets compared to other comic book zombie epics like The Walking Dead.

But this is more than just a zombie story. It's a horror story that brings together -- very subtly, but with hints of growing -- elements of other horror genres, whether it be the overtly supernatural events of Sabrina Spellman which kicked off the current zombie apocalypse, or the subversively creepy undertones of siblings Jason and Cheryl Blossom, who have this whole Flowers in the Attic thing going on between them.


The Wolf Among Us, Episode Two: Smoke and Mirrors

Telltale Games has, undoubtedly, been working their way up the ladder in the gaming industry within the last two years. Their innovative point and click adventures never cease to amaze with their stunning atmospheres, unique characters, and usage of dramatic and very consequential decision making that keeps you holding your breath until the very end. Now, after a nearly four month wait, the second installment to the newest franchise that the company has to offer has finally arrived. With the cliff hanger ending that left players’ jaws hanging back in October, there was no doubt that this much anticipated game would bring some heavy hitting content.


Afterlife with Archie #1

In forty-some odd years of comics reading, I've seen various treatments of the Archie characters. I've seen them little, I've seen them grown. I've seen them super-powered, and I've seen them done realistically. I've seen them humorously, and I've seen them serious.

In short, I've seen it all. Or so I thought.

Afterlife with Archie seemed at first to me to be a gimmick, a way to cash in on the zombie fandom that's so successful these days given series like The Walking Dead. But after reading this first issue, there's so much more depth, character -- and, yes, horror -- than I had anticipated. This is a very well-done zombie apocalypse story -- that just happens to involve a cast of characters you've been intimately familiar with for decades.


Knightess Rouge: On the Serious Business of Cosplay

Knightess Rouge

Comic conventions have come a long way since I first began attending them back in the mid 1980s. Back then, even the large conventions -- in this case the Chicago Comicon, pre-Wizard World -- were pretty much glorified flea markets with a focus on comics, games and toys, with the big plus being that your favorite artists and writers would be in attendance. Oh, and to get an autograph, you just had to stand in line -- not buy a ticket. (If anyone wants to hear my Peter David story regarding book signings, I never tire of telling it.)

Even then, there were fans who wanted to take things up a notch and create costumes of their favorite comic book heroes and villains. I myself created a hand-made Joker outfit that largely consisted of a white pair of pants and a white Don Johnson cotton jacket that had been soaked in purple Rit, white pancake makeup, lipstick, and a pistol that popped out a "BANG!" flag. That was about as elaborate as things got in those days.


Robin's Requiem: What it Should Mean for Batman and Bruce Wayne

"A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage."
-- William Blake

Last week, DC Comics delivered to readers the death of Batman's junior partner, Robin. But more than his partner in crime fighting, this Robin was also Bruce Wayne's son, Damian.

As any longtime reader of the Batman comics (or Wikipedia) can tell you, this is the second time a Robin has been killed in the line of duty, the first being Jason Todd (Robin II) who was killed by the Joker (and a readers' poll) in "Death in the Family" way back in the late 1980s. Notwithstanding that Jason Todd got better a few years ago and is still kicking around as the Red Hood (the former identity of The Joker -- nothing Freudian there), the fact still stands that not only did Robin II die, but Jason Todd also died.


Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner's Graphic Adaptation

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner presents an eye-opening story of class struggles in Afghanistan, portrayed over the course of a few decades. After winning awards and being adapted into film, The Kite Runner, Hosseini's first novel, is has made the transition to the graphic novel format, available from Riverhead.

We shared a few moments with Hosseini to discuss this new form for his novel as well as some of the elements of his very moving story.

This is probably the first time I've seen a non-genre literary work adapted into the graphic novel format. How did the idea to use that medium come about?


Tom Batiuk: Still Funky After All These Years

Tom Batiuk

Bridging the gap between Archie and Zits, a comic strip was introduced about high school kids, which spoke to the modern events, issues, and styles of the seventies (and later, the eighties). Funky Winkerbean, the creation of cartoonist Tom Batiuk, has grown over the years from the joke-a-day strip around a central cast of students and teachers at the beleaguered Westview High (home of the Fighting Scapegoats) to a serial dramedy where the kids are now grown adults with teenagers of their own, dealing with heavy topics like cancer, the Iraq war, and school administration ethics.

As the strip approaches its fortieth anniversary, we spoke at length with Batiuk about Funky's origins and evolutions.


Reginald Hudlin: Reinventing the Black Panther

Reginald Hudlin Black Panther

Reginald Hudlin has worn a lot of hats in his time. The East St. Louis native and Harvard graduate entered the entertainment industry with "House Party," and his career has even taken him into the upper echelons of management at BET. Among his many projects, Hudlin writes comics, garnering particular acclaim for his work on Marvel's Black Panther, which has recently been adapted to animation and released to DVD.

What is the road to Hollywood like from East St. Louis? Give the rest of us some hope, how do we pull this off?

(laughs) Well, the thing about roads to Hollywood is that there's no one path -- and usually they're impossible to re-create. In my case, I went to college on the east coast -- I went to Harvard. I shot a little short film at Harvard, and that little short film ended up catching the eye of an executive, and that became "House Party."


Jimmy Gownley: To the Saddest Little Girl in the World

If you haven't yet heard of Amelia Rules!, you're missing out on one of the standouts of the comics medium. Written and drawn by Jimmy Gownley, this series about a middle-schooler in crisis is a clever mix of fun, philosophy, humor and poignancy that will, at times, have you laughing out loud and reaching for a tissue.

We sat down with Mr. Gownley to have a lengthy, in-depth discussion about Amelia, her world, and how her story takes more advantage of the comic book medium than nearly any other graphic novel on the shelves.

(And if you're out this Black Friday looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a young reader, any of the Amelia Rules! books should be something you consider, which is why we've provided helpful links along the way.)

The Simon & Schuster paperbacks are my first exposure to the Amelia Rules! work, so I don't know if it's reprints of prior works or if it's new ongoing material.


Flash Farts: Paradoxes in the Fast Lane

Flash Logo Critical Blast

Doused in chemicals and struck by lightning, police scientist Barry Allen became the Fastest Man Alive: The Flash. He wasn't the first to use the name, and he wasn't the last. When he was exonerated in the killing of Professor Zoom, he relocated to the future to live with his (surprise, she wasn't dead!) wife, Iris. Shortly after, however, he came back during the Crisis and gave his life to save the multiverse.

But he was only merely dead -- he wasn't most sincerely dead. He'd gone into the "speed force" and has now been returned to physicality. As Barry Allen, he's resuming his job as a forensic scientist, having been away only a relative few years and using the story that he and his wife had been in witness protection.

Which, as cover stories go in the comic book world, would work great. But there are other potholes in the Flash's pavement that need some work in this new paradigm.


Where Were You Before the Brightest Day? (or The Need for a Consistent Afterlife)

It's been established many times over that the DC Universe has an afterlife. It's been represented in many different forms, but we know that there is (at least) a Heaven and a Hell. Zauriel, a Justice Leaguer, was a wandering angel who gave the team a Grant Morrison inspired tour of Heaven that was too big and too loud for them to take in. Neron upgraded many of our bad guys during Underworld Unleashed in exchange for their souls. Etrigan the Demon has shown us the nether regions on many occasions.

So in the DC Universe, when you die, there are places to go -- even if that place is nowhere in particular, a la Deadman's limbo.


The Fall of the Green Arrow (And Why Barry Allen is a Jerk)

The Fall of Green Arrow

I initially thought I'd write this up as a review of DC Comics' Green Arrow #31. But the more I thought about it, I found I had too many other things to say, about the story, the events surrounding it, and the contradictions that abound within the DC unified universe.

Way back when, when DC Comics unified their titles and demonstrated that, yes, Batman and Superman (and thus all their other heroes) actually lived in the same shared setting and were not isolated from each other in storytelling islands, it opened up a new vista of potential adventures for writers to explore. These days, however, it also provides a panoply of rules and precedents that work against each other, with the whim of the current writer being the only deciding factor as to how a character may react, prior experiences notwithstanding.


Lora Innes: Bringing History and Comics Together

Lora Innes is one of many new friends I made on my annual trip to Pittsburgh this year. She is the creator of one of the finest webcomics I've ever seen, The Dreamer. She's a die-hard history buff, a fantastic artist, and a wonderful person. She even took time off from her comic recently to help the people who were devastated by the floods in Iowa. Lora was kind enough to share with me her thoughts on The Dreamer, her creative process and her views on gender in the industry.

How were you first introduced to the world of comics?


The Michael George Murder Case

Michael George, founder of the Pittsburgh Comicon and only suspect of the 17 year old murder case of Barbara George, his first wife, was found guilty of the crime in Michigan. I'm not here to suggest otherwise, because that isn't my job. Guilt or innocence is the providence of the court system. However, I do feel sad for nearly all parties involved. The victim's family has suffered the grief of their lost loved one for almost two decades. That's sad. Michael George's children, pending some legal maneuvering, are going to lose their father to life in prison. That's sad too. This cold case might have been solved swiftly and without national commentary were it not for the Barney Fife ineptitude of the investigating police. I have several friends and family who are police, and they undoubtedly suffer by association whenever their brothers bungle a case this badly. That's sad.


Not Just Once Upon A Time!

I thought I'd take some time to talk about "time," in comic book terms. Many moons ago as a young reader, it never really occurred to me that Peter Parker was in high school longer than I'd been in school, period. It barely registered on my subconscious when young and plucky sidekick Dick Grayson doffed his youth-sized green scale-mail underwear for the dark, full-length and decidedly more mature pants of his Nightwing uniform. I didn't think much about aging. I mostly just thought about Scooby-Doo, Super-Friends and where in the world my G. I. Joe with the fuzzy beard and the Kung-Fu Grip was hiding (my mother would find him in the laundry--the old clothes chute was hours and hours of fun).


DC Geography 101 - Where in the World is Clark Kent?

Where in the world is...Clark Kent?

No, no. He's not missing. He's in the Justice League, his own titles, guest appearances and so forth. No, I mean where is he geographically? Get out your atlases, school is now in session.

Let's start out with an easy one, multiple choice.

If you live in the Marvel Universe, you most likely reside in __________.

a. Menomonie, Wisconsin
b.Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
c. Fullerton, California
d. New York, New York


It's Time for Comic Books to Show Us What They're Made Of

The Texas jury was tired, eager to render a verdict and go home. The Prosecuting Attorney was making her passionate closing remarks.
"This medium," she intoned, "the medium that this obscenity is placed in, is done so in an appealing manner to children."
Obscenity? Appealing to children? What new horror was upon us?
"Comic books," she continued, " -- and I don't care what type of evidence or what type of testimony is out there -- use your rationality, use your common sense! Comic books, traditionally what we think of, are for kids!"
It was bloviating, and it was grandstanding. And it was working. Jesus Castillo was on trial for selling an adult comic book to an adult. But all the jury saw was drawings in boxes with word balloons, depicting things they'd never seen Captain Marvel Junior do back in the day when they plopped down a dime for their funnybook fix.


Geoff Johns, Engineer of Destruction: On Crisis, Continuity, and Consistency of Character

If you're not familiar with the impending Crisis occurring within the continuity of DC Comics... well, you probably aren't reading this article. For those of you who are, you're very likely aware of the role one of the main architects, Geoff Johns, plays in the current restructuring.

Plans for the future of DC have been kept Top Secret. And while we tried to worm as much out of Geoff as we could without resorting to violating the Geneva Convention, we were only able to glean a few nuggets of information -- not enough to inspire a Sutter's Mill rush, but enough to keep us panning away until Infinite Crisis debuts in just a few short weeks.

You've recently been appointed the official "Keeper of the Continuity" for DC. Can you elaborate on what this entails?

I'm a Consultant Editor along with Grant Morrison and Mark Waid. It's not just about continuity -- it's about "One Year Later" and all the stuff going on during Crisis.


Geoff Johns: Man out of Time

Geoff Johns is, by many accounts, one of the more prolific writers in comics today. Following a fan-favorite run on Marvel's AVENGERS, he currently writes TEEN TITANS, JSA, FLASH and, recently, HAWKMAN. He also has another hot project up his sleeve planned for later this year. One assumes Mr. Johns must have perfected a time machine--or at least a method of making it stand still long enough for him to keep apace with his current rate of output.

We were able to coax Geoff away from his scripting for a precious few minutes to get some of his insights into the characters he's currently working with.


Stan Lee: On Green Brutes and Blonde Strippers

Stan Lee 2003 Critical Blast

Stan Lee. If you want to talk about comic book creators with your non-comic friends, his name is one of a select few you can bring up with a good chance he'll be someone they've heard of. He's not the father of the modern comic book--that title goes to men who came before him. He's more the favorite uncle, the one your mother isn't crazy about, but who never forgets to bring you a surprise whenever he comes to visit and who always has a treasure trove of amazing, incredible, and uncanny stories to tell, some of which might even be fantastic enough to be true.

We spoke with Stan "The Man" Lee a little over a week after HULK--another one of his marvelous brainchildren--debuted on the big screen, and even snuck in a question or two about PUNISHER and STRIPPERELLA.


Subscribe to RSS - Comics