Holy Cow! Jim Steranko’s 1981 Adaption of the Movie ‘Outland’!

outland4x5-small

CREDIT: Jim Steranko & Heavy Metal Magazine

I was at my Local Comic Shop this past weekend for ‘Batman Day’ and they were having a 50-cent comics sale.  One of the things that caught my eye was a box full of Heavy Metal magazine from the 1980s and 1990s.  Heck, for 50 cents a pop I was game.  I bought 35 issues.  These are super cool and are loaded with work by creators like Richard Corben, Howard Chaykin, Enki Bilal, John Workman, and many more.

I don’t have many issues of Heavy Metal and I’m not really sure why.  I was buying the hell out of Indie comics in the 1980s, and also anything I could find from these creators whenever I saw them, so it must have been that the comic shops and newsstands that I was frequenting just didn’t carry it.

Outland_onesheet_UK-1

I also loved Sci-Fi & James Bond movies, so I went to and loved the movie Outland in 1981, where Sean Connery portrayed the Marshal on Jupiter’s Moon Io… a movie commonly referred to at the time as “High Noon in Space”.

I never knew there was a comic book adaption of the movie, let alone one done by Jim Steranko!  But what was staring me in the face when I cracked open my 50 cent copy of Heavy Metal from July 1981?  Among other great stories, the 1st part of Steranko’s Outland adaption.  Mind Blown!

A bit of internet searching and I discovered the story was serialized in Heavy Metal magazine in English, but never collected in English, though there was a collection of the 48 page story published in both France (in French) & Spain (in Spanish).  The ‘Bronze Age of Blogs‘ covered it with images of the 1st 24 pages back in 2015, and Steranko has a few pages of it up on his own website as well.

The issues of Heavy Metal with the adaption are as follows:

  • #51 (June, 1981) – Introduction; about the story
  • #52 (July, 1981)
  • #53 (August, 1981)
  • #54 (September, 1981)
  • #55 (October, 1981)
  • #58 (January, 1982)

There’s a lot of other cool stuff in these issues, but the real eye-opener to me was Steranko’s Outland, enough so that I was compelled to come and write this blog entry to share my “discovery” 36 years after the fact.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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A Friend Gave Me a Stack of Indie Comics

A lot of people don’t like having tons of comics around and often downsize their collections.  I’m not one of those people (I still have pretty much every comic I’ve ever bought) but I know people who regularly downsize their collections, culling them of books that are not their top favorites, or things that they’ve read and have decided they’re never going to read again, so why keep them around?  Well, I’m always happy to take those comics off people’s hands (as long as they’re ones I don’t have already).

    Sometimes I let piles of comics given to me languor for months before I look at them.  This time I dove right into it the pile handed to me at Long Beach Comic Con by my friend Andrew yesterday….  I have read them and here are my rambling thoughts on the “Pile O Indies”, from Worst to First:
 

“These came out from actual publishers?”

Vampblade #10 & 11 (Action Lab): I’m sorry to offend the people who love these, but I thought they were pure drek.  Crudely executed art, bad dialogue, and a story that seems to exist to fill out pages so they can sell covers with big boobs on them (and half the variant covers are risque ‘naked’ covers *sigh*).   My assessment is very harsh, but it was my immediate reaction to reading these.
 
John Carter: The End #1 (Dynamite): This is the kind of book that gives Dynamite a bad name.  Dynamite does some really good stuff (I’m really enjoying their current James Bond stuff, for instance), but if this was the 1st Dynamite book someone picked up I can see them framing an opinion that the company is real “amateur hour”.  The art in here was exceptionally unskilled.  I’ve read John Carter books from Dynamite before and none slid to this level.
 

“Mediocre”

Brigands #1 (Action Lab): The art is more enthusiastic than skilled and the story kind of dragged for me, nothing that would get me to come back for more.
 
The Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen #1 (Space Goat): I’ve seen better art, but compared to Vampblade & John Carter: The End, this was masterful.  I’ve not checked out anything from Space Goat yet and this didn’t do anything to make me want to rush out and get more, but I’d certainly try books from them if the concepts grabbed me.
 
Softball #1 (Keenspot): Really mediocre art and seemingly targeted at people who have watched a YouTube series of the same name.  This one had nothing for me.
 

“More enthusiam than talent”

Shy #1 (Vanth Creative): The art was very weak and the dialogue failed to “ring true” in many instances.  That said, this was done by someone who clearly has a passion for the project and a story to tell.  If this was from a “professional” publisher I’d expect more, but it’s right around where I’ve seen things in the past from someone who decides to publish their own book.  This could be improved with a better artist and an editor that can help tighten up the story flow and dialogue.
 

“Not my cup of tea”

Grimm Fairy Tales #1 (2nd series) (Zenescope): Not bad.  A very simple “I’ve seen this a bunch of times before” werewolf story, but not the egregious cheesecake stuff I have previously seen from Zenescope.   I might check out some of the new Zenescope stuff based on this one.
 
The Mighty Zodiac #1 (Oni Press): The Anthropomorphic Fantasy here didn’t really grab me, but it was competently executed.
 
Summoner #1 (Dreamwalker Press): This is a creator-owned & produced comic from Jenni Gregory.  I’ve read her stuff before (the Dreamwalker comics her imprint is named for) and enjoyed them, but this story just didn’t click with me.
 

“Hey! This was pretty good!”

The Hunters of Salamanstra #0 (Keenspot): Another anthropomorphic fantasy, but this one grabbed my imagination.  This is a setup issue and the issues from #1 onward will focus on a different main character, but I’m going to seek out and check out some more of this series.
 
The Rift #1 (Red 5): I skipped this one when I saw it in Previews but after reading #1, I’ll give the rest of this 4 issue series a try.  A WWII fighter pilot crashes in modern day Kansas after flying though a rift in space-time.  Instead of focusing on the pilot, the protagonist is the modern day mother/son that he crash lands near.

“Awesome!”

Dead Inside #1 (Dark Horse): I’m sorry I missed this one.  An excellent crime thriller focusing on a prison murder investigation.  This one is currently up to #7, so I need to track down the issues I’m missing ASAP.
 
Clock! #1-2 (Zoo Arsonist) #3 (Top Shelf): This 3 issue series is 20 years old and I had never seen it before.  As I read #1 I was thinking to myself how much the art on the main series “50s” reminded me of Love and Rockets, even though the writing style didn’t.  Then I got to the letters and there was one from Chris Staros (the main guy at Top Shelf) also talking about the Los Bros Hernandez influence as well as Daniel Clowes, at which point I was able to put my finger on the familiar aspects of the writing (like Clowes’ Lloyd Llewellen).  Staros seems to like it so much that issue #3 was published by Top Shelf and spoke of #4 being out in a “few months”….though regrettably #3 was the last issue that came out.  I’m really glad Andrew introduced me to this “lost treasure”.
While it was good to check all of these out, I’m going to follow up on the 3 of the last 4 that have more issues available, and give my recommendation for “Clock!”, it can be found from various online merchants for a couple of bucks an issue.  Well worth it, IMO.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

Posted in Action Lab, Dark Horse, Dreamwalker Press, Keeenspot, Oni Press, Red 5, Space Goat, Top Shelf | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Long Beach Comic Con 2017 – Sept 2-3, 2017

As a heads up to everyone in SoCal, the Long Beach Comic Con is this weekend, September 2 & 3 at the Long Beach Convention Center.

I’ll be there Saturday, if you’re attending drop me a note so we can say “Hi!” at some point during the day.

I’m looking forward to saying hello to artists Camilla d’Errico (1124), Dave Gibbons (411), Dean Haspiel (D16), Gene Ha (F29), and Howard Chaykin (F30).  Of course, that’s just my “short list” and there are lots of others there that could interest you.  One of my favorite convention comics dealers is also going to be there: Ed Robertson Comics (725).  Seeing Ed is worth the trip to the con for me all by himself, and there are a bunch of other comics dealers there with new and more recent back issues for people who love comics like me.

Add onto this the stuff unrelated to comics that folks keen on various aspects of pop culture can immerse themselves in and it makes this a local show that’s worth checking out….especially for folks who either could not get tickets for or were not interested in the MEGA crowded SDCC.

Here is the LBCC press release, check it out for more info and hopefully I’ll see some of you on Saturday!

Long Beach Comic Con 2017

Annual Pop Culture Celebration Returns to Southern California September 2-3

Vacation time has been spent, and our thoughts turn to children making their way back to school, Pumpkin Spice Lattes and a slight chill in the air. Before you break out your box of sweaters and slip into your usual fall rhythm, we’d just like to remind you… It’s Time for LONG BEACH COMIC CON! The Long Beach Convention Center in Southern California welcomes back the annual Long Beach Comic Con this September 2nd and 3rd for a weekend jam packed with family friendly entertainment, special guests from the comics, video game, toy and film industries, all-star cosplayers around every turn and hours of panels that will pique your geek AND nerdy interests with fun and educational content to inspire our next generation of artists and scientists alike.

Excited at the possibility of meeting your favorite comic book creators and icons of screens large and small? Long Beach Comic Con’s guest list features:

  • William Shatner – Iconic Actor from Star Trek, Twilight Zone, T.J. Hooker, Haven, Kingdom of the Spiders, Boston Legal, 3rd Rock from the Sun, The Devil’s Rain, Free Enterprise & so much more! *VIP Meet & Greet Package Available!!

  • Dave Gibbons – Legendary Artist on Watchmen, Rogue Trooper, Green Lantern, Writer of the Kingsman comic series *VIP Meet & Greet Package Available!!

  • Sherilyn Fenn – Actress on Twin Peaks, Gilmore Girls, The Wraith, Boxing Helena

  • Howard Chaykin – Referred to frequently as one of the principle architects of the modern comic book. Worked on American Flagg!, The Divided States of Hysteria

  • Amanda Deibert – Award Winning TV & comic writer on Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 77

  • Gene Ha – Four time Will Eisner Award winner; Top 10,The Forty-Niners, Mae

  • Pia Guerra – Co-Creator of Y The Last Man / Penciler on Hellblazer, Black Canary

  • Rikki Simons – Voice Actor on Invader Zim / Co-Creator & Writer on Robotech: Clone

  • Tony Harris – Co-Creator of Starman, Ex Machina / Artist on Doctor Strange, JSA: The Unholy Three

  • Sandy King Carpenter – Co-Creator and Editor at Storm King Comics

  • Rikishi – WWE Hall of Famer & former Intercontinental Champion

  • Shawn Kittelsen – Narrative Lead and Co-Writer of fighting game INJUSTICE 2; Mortal Kombat X, Batman: Arkham City

  • Malachi Ward – Co-Creator of Ancestor from Image Comics

  • Arthur Suydam – Artist on Marvel Zombies, The Walking Dead, Deadpool, Batman
    *Arthur will be drawing FREE sketches for the first 150 kids ages 14 and under who come to his table on Sunday between 11 & 4!

And many more! Long Beach Comic Con also features Cosplay Corner with guests:

  • Nicole Marie Jean

  • Angi Viper

  • Bernie Bregman
  • Amber Brite
  • Alkali Layke and more!

Long Beach Comic Con strives to offer a unique experience for hardcore pop culture fans and casual visitors just looking for a day of stress-free entertainment. This year’s festivities include:

– SpaceExpo fills a chunk of the show floor and an entire dedicated panel track with experts in their respected scientific fields talking about our biggest and most current findings alongside displays from actual space exploration and interactive experiments your kids (or big kids) will be talking about for weeks!

– Burger Con provides a fantastic option for Saturday night fun as music tastemakers Burger Records roll out a lineup of incredible bands to keep you rocking into the night. This year’s lineup includes DJ DON BOLLES, NOBUNNY, DWARVES, THE ZEROS AND WHITE FANG. Note that this event has a nominal, separate fee for entry. Further Info HERE!

– GeekFest Film Festival will provide two solid days of indie movie bliss, often with the film makers themselves on hand to discuss the ins and outs of their creations.

– South Bay Gaming Community’s “Fighter’s Ring” where gamers can challenge their friends and rivals at: Super Smash Bros.Wii U, Street Fighter V, Injustice 2 and more. For those looking for an eSports experience, sign up for tournaments throughout the day and compete for special prizes against the best!

– The LBCC Fashion Show will feature ladies and gentlemen modeling the latest trends from top-level chic and geeky designers who are on the verge of breaking into the fashion world.

– LBCC’s Cosplay Contest will give the West Coast’s most inventive and artistic costuming wizards the chance to show off their fantastic talents and compete for prizes in categories including Best in Show, Best Fabrication, Best Construction, Best Couple/Group, Best SciFi, Best Anime, Best Villain, Best Hero and Best Kid! Register now. Spaces are going fast!

– Star Cars! Relive your favorite high speed chases and escapes from certain doom as you take pictures alongside instantly recognizable, film inspired vehicles including the Blues Bros Bluesmobile, the Back to the Future Delorean, Jurassic Park Jeeps, the Jokermobile, Bumblebee from Transformers, Speed Racer’s Mach 5, KITT from Knight Rider, the Eclipse from The Fast and the Furious and many more!

– Comic Creator Conference on September 1st is an event designed to connect professional comic creatives with other high-level industry professionals to empower them with exclusive and personal insight, as well as providing access to decision makers, peers, publishers, and other leaders within the industry. Learn how to make smart business decisions on the path to taking your creations into film, television, and interactive entertainment. Note that this event has a nominal, separate fee for entry and is open to industry professionals ONLY. Further info HERE!

Two days of geek-tastic fun wrapped around 60+ hours of panels with topics including My Little Pony, Star Wars Collecting, Horror, Star Trek, Writing for Comics & Video Games, Comic Industry Ins and Outs and so much more, a massive Artist Alley where creators in all genres gather and share their original works at the heart of a full show floor packed with vendors selling comics, toys, handmade items and art, and when you’re ready for a bite to eat, you’ll find Food Trucks just outside!

Long Beach Comic Con tickets are on sale NOW. Check in for details on limited VIP packages and photo ops with your favorite guests. Kids 10 and under get in FREE! Grab your tickets and find out about all Long Beach Comic Con has to offer at LongBeachComicCon.com

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and you won’t miss a beat!

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ABOUT MAD EVENT MANAGEMENT: MAD Event Management is an all-purpose event planning facilitator whose owners have 50 combined years of experience producing annual large-scale consumer conventions around the country, including Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Dallas. MAD’s capabilities include: Site Selection, Exhibit Staffing, Marketing Plans, Vendor Selection, Floor Plan Development, On-Site Execution, Sponsor Exhibitor Sales, Travel Management, Contract Development, Setup & Disassembly and Contract Coordination. Visit www.madeventmanagement.c om for additional information.

 

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics For Fans who Love Comics

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The Truth Behind the Complaint “San Diego Comic-Con Is Not About Comics Any More”

SDCC Image Booth

The largest and longest running comic convention – Comic Con International: San Diego (still affectionately known as San Diego Comic Con or simply SDCC by fans) is in a few weeks.  That means that it’s time for people to start decrying it as “not about comics any more”.  This year this common complaint seems to have been fueled by long time retailer Mile High Comics decision to no longer attend the show, coupled with a much shared and not at all complimentary Blog by Mile High Owner Chuck Rozanski. By the way, if you want to see a great rebuttal to Rozanki’s gripe about his freight delivery at SDCC last year, check out the latest Blog by Douglas Paszkiewicz, who shares some great insight into how deliveries work at large convention centers (they are out of the hands of the convention organizers, BTW).  I’ve seen similar complaints from vendors about delivers at numerous conventions over the years, so this is really not something unique to SDCC, and has zero bearing on whether the con is about comics or not anyway.

Let’s take a moment to examine the actual truth behind the claim that SDCC is “not about comics”, and then we can talk about some things that ACTUALLY ARE TRUE, and are likely the root causes behind the shorthanded complaint that the convention is not about comics.

The real question is what does it take to be “About Comics”?   If they have to focus on comics as their main thing, then yes, this is true.  But it is also true about every other “Comic Book” convention of any size.  In order to grow past being a small show, any convention needs to include many elements of Pop Culture that ultimately take the spotlight away from comic books because frankly, the number of people who primarily care about comic books is small.  More importantly, I think, to being “About Comics” is to continue to offer lots of content that is about comics and not let the comic book content be REPLACED by Pop Culture.  A convention can continue to have a lot of comic book content even if that is not the thing that gets all the media attention.

SDCC and Comics

There is a lot of pure comic book content at San Diego Comic Con.  More than enough to put the lie to any claim it’s not about comics by the definition of “about comics” that means having lots of great comic book focused content.

Panels: There are literally hundreds of pure comic-book related panels that run Thursday through Sunday.  I have examined the schedule for this year and there are about 60 panels about comics that I’d like to attend.  Unfortunately I cannot attend all of them, some are scheduled against each other, others will likely have huge crowds that I’d rather not have to contend with.  Even taking that aside, I have a personal schedule with about 35 panels on it that could keep me in panels from 10am until about 7 or 8pm every day Thursday thru Saturday and 10am through 4pm on Sunday.  There are more comic book related panels on any single day of SDCC than I have seen at the entire show of most other comic conventions.

Publishers: Pretty much every publisher that I buy comics from is at the show.  The “Big 5” from the front half of Previews (Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, Marvel).  The main 2nd-tier publishers (BOOM!, Oni, Titan, Viz) as well as a bunch of the smaller guys that I get books from (2000AD, Abstract Studio, Action Lab, Aspen, Black Mask, Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics, First Second, Hermes, Humanoids, Kodansha, Lion Forge, Red 5) plus lots of small/medium press comics publishers that I’m not naming here.
The ones that are missing: AfterShock, Dynamite (who has never done SDCC), and Valiant.  There are not many conventions that can boast the roster of Publishers that San Diego has.  New York Comic Con probably can, maybe a few others.

Pros: There are 100s of pros at the convention.  From people I’d consider legends to today’s hottest names in comics.  They will be speaking on many of the panels I’ll be attending, as well as signing at Publisher booths, their own booths, or in Artist’s Alley at various points during the show.
There are quite a few conventions that can boast great rosters of comic book guests, so SDCC is certainly not standing head and shoulders above the rest here, but the real point is that they have plenty of comic book pros in attendance to qualify them as being “about comics”.

Comics: Even with the loss of Mile High, there are still dozens of vendors at the show selling comics.  There are 33 vendors listed in the “Gold & Silver Pavilion” which is where the vendors of older comics congregate.  There are lots of other vendors outside this area that sell newer comics, or collected editions.  That said, there is legitimately a downturn in vendors that sell stuff that can be easily purchased online, and with the cost of a vendor space at SDCC, it really is not financially feasible to focus on “50 cent bins”, so that is something that is not represented strongly a the show any more.  What they do have a lot of is harder to find, older, more expensive books that fans can buy and actually see what they are getting (which is a main detractor on getting some of these rarer books online.
There are also quite a few Original Art vendors, for people who are into that.
The bottom line here is not to make a claim that SDCC has more or better comic book dealers than any other specific con, but that they have more than enough to satisfy the bar of being “about comics”.
Personally, I think comics dealers are not really in the “sweet spot” of any larger con any more.  There are too many other things vying for the attention of attendees.  I think that there are quite a few smaller regional shows that specialize in comics and comics dealer that do a much better job at this than the big shows.

Bottom Line: There is a great deal of comic book content at SDCC.  So much so that when I attend I do nothing but comic book related stuff.  I spend all day every day from Thursday through Sunday, and there is far more than I can experience.  The important thing to remember is that comics are there if you look for them.  Just because there is a TON of non-comics stuff does not mean that there are no comics.  These are not mutually exclusive things.

Legitimate Gripes

The Main Focus of the Con is not Comics: I will give people this one.  From the outside looking in, the media focuses mostly on TV Shows/Movies and Cosplay.  If I just watched the news, I’d think everyone was wearing a costume and every panel was about a TV Show/Movie and what everyone came to see was Hollywood actors.  This is unfortunately just the way it is.  Reading comics is a tremendously niche hobby.  Most people don’t like to read, they like their entertainment to be delivered to them in a different way.

I also think that most of the attendees of the con are there for stuff other than comic books.  I just look at the lines for the panels with the Hollywood stuff and compare that to the number of people in the “pure comics” panels I attend (usually with less than 100 people) to understand this is 100% true.  Most people I know who are comics fans split their time at con between comic book panels and ones focusing on Hollywood stuff.

What is true is that the vast majority of the public does not care about comic books themselves but absolutely LOVE the things that have spawned from comics and grown in other media.  Having a lot of focus on these things is just giving people what they want.  In fact, if you look at pretty much ANY ‘comic book’ convention out there and see what they are advertising to sell tickets and pull in attendees, it is typically not comic books.  Cons advertise the actors they have coming to boost ticket sales all the time.  It’s just business.

The difference I see at SDCC is that even though the comics are not the main draw for ticket sales, they still host a tremendous amount of comic book related panels that have fairly small attendance.  What I have seen at other cons I have attended is a drop off in the comic book panels in favor of panels that have more interest to the vast bulk of the attendees.  Less comics, more “other stuff” as time goes by.

Long Lines: Yes.  Lines are brutal.  When you have more than 125,000 people there are going to be lines.  And guess what?  The longest lines are for the most popular things!  That makes sense.  What are the most popular things?  Things related to Hollywood, actors, and big/hot super-hero projects.  If these are your main interests, I’m sorry, but it’s going to suck.  There will be lines.  You may not see everything you want to see or get to meet every person you want to meet.  I think the same thing will be true at any convention that has very popular things that lots of people are interested in.   I think this is actually the goal (or perhaps the unintended consequence) of any convention that wants to have really cool guests/events and a very healthy attendance.  Rooms are only so big, actors/creators can only meet and talk to so many people over the course of an hour or two.  This one kind of “is what it is”.

I Can’t Get Tickets!: Yes.  See “Long Lines”.  When far more people want something than the available quantity, some people will not get what they want.  The convention center is HUGE, but there is still an upper limit to the number of people that can attend.  More people want to go than there are tickets, and tickets usually sell out in an hour or 2.  The limited nature of the tickets causes a lot of “sour grapes” griping from people who couldn’t get tickets.   They cannot get a ticket so make themselves feel better by focusing on how the show “sucks anyway”, is too crowded, and is no longer about comics.

(Vendor Complaint) Sales Are Down and it is Not Worth It: This is one of the things Chuck Rozanski was complaining about.  Totally legitimate. There is a tremendous amount on online competition to ANY physical seller.  If you are not offering something unique that people cannot get online, why is it surprising that people are not bothering to buy from you?  Rozanski runs a huge online comic selling operation himself.  There is also a LOT of stuff competing for the attention of any attendee.  They can be meeting creators/actors, talking to people at the Publisher booths, attending panels where they hear from people they do not normally have access to, or go across the street from the convention center which is like a huge pop culture fair with all kinds of “experiences” and cool things to do.  Why do they want to be digging through a back issue bin getting something they could get from their desk at home any day of the year?  Add in the fact that at least 50% of the attendees of SDCC have never read a physical comic in their life and have no desire to read them.  This is not to say that there are not some people who will come to shop for comics, but it should not be surprising if you’re not swamped with customers if you are not offering some kind of unique experience or product that cannot be had online.

Artists Alley is Marginalized: This is another one I will give to critics of SDCC.  The convention organizers seem to think it’s a good idea to put Artist’s Alley way down at the south end of the Convention center about 3 city blocks away from the comics publishers and 5 city blocks away from the comics dealers.  You have to run a gauntlet of Media booths and aisles crowded with 1000s of people who want to get a look at some star of a TV show or get some free giveway from a studio that they’ll either sell on eBay or will end up at the back of a drawer in 6 months time.
There are lots of conventions that treat Artist’s Alley far better than San Diego and as a result have far better Artists Alley experiences for both the fans and the pros.  I think this is the weakest link in their comic book content portfolio.

Comic Conventions are Changing

Comic Cons are changing across the board.  There is a focus on non-comic things at any con when it grows to a certain size.  I would argue that in order to grow beyond a small size any convention must modify itself to offer lots of things that are not directly comic books.  This is because the size of the audience that is interested in reading comics is very small PLUS people who like to read comics usually ALSO like those other things.

The important thing is whether, while growing, a convention holds onto “pure comic book content” as they begin to grow and add things that are not comic books.  The thing I love about SDCC is that they have succeeded in doing this.

A Round of Applause for SDCC

Even though SDCC is huge and comics are legitimately not the main draw for attendance, they still offer a lot of solid comic book content for anyone who comes seeing it out.

And for that, SDCC deserves a round of applause from all fans of comic books.  For holding onto their roots and keeping a core of love for comics alive within the much larger non-comics beast that the convention has grown into.

Opinion by: Bob Bretall  (bob@comicspectrum.com)
https://comicspectrum.com/ By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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Posted in Comic Con International, Comic Cons, Comics, Comics Collection, Comics Creators, Convention | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

2016 Favorites of the Year: Bob Bretall

It’s time for the last installment where the four regular ComicSpectrum contributors for 2016 have each shared their “Top 10” list for 2016.

We are not declaring our favorites to be magically the “best” things produced, but rather just  what they are, our favorite things. As I look at the Top 10 for each of the four of us (Adam Brunell, Al Sparrow, Bob Bretall, Shawn Hoklas), there are only 2 shared items on our lists: Adam and Shawn both named Marvel’s Mighty Thor series and Bob and Shawn both named DC’s Wonder Woman series relaunched as part of Rebirth. 

Looking at how very different the favorites are for four people that have been collectively reading comics for over 80 years, it  drives home just how silly it is to put any stock in a “best of” list published by anyone in absence of a clearly defined set of criteria that is used to judge something as the “best”.  All of those “best of” lists are really just people’s personal favorites that they attempt to lend greater credence to by declaring them best.

I have my Top 12 favorite ongoing series on the ComicSpectrum website, so I tried to make this list somewhat different. I widened the scope beyond just straight comic books and also made use, in many cases, of groupings of books that I have enjoyed or things that are either not strictly comics or are not ongoing series, and as such wouldn’t fit into the Top 12 on the website.

I present these in alphabetic order, not in any precedence of enjoyment.  I’ve really loved all of these things over the course of 2016, and in some cases for many years previous to that as well.


CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Amazing Spider-Man – Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy (Marvel)

I’ve been reading spider-Man since 1970, it’s what got me into comics collecting.  There have been ups and downs over the years, I even stopped buying the title at various points (during the Maximum Clonage era as well as when J. Michael Straczynski was weaving his tale of a Gwen Stacy impregnated by Norman Osborne).  I have been a fan of a lot of the interesting twists and turns Dan Slott has been introducing over the last several years because, to me, they feel like they’re built on a solid base of existing Spider-Man lore and don’t feel disrespectful to stories that have gone before, though I’m certain there are people who feel quite the opposite.  But that’s why it’s my personal favorite and not a declaration of being the best Spider-Man comics in decades, though I am enjoying Spider-Man more in the past year or two than I have at any point in the past 25 years.
I’m particularly fond of the recent Dead No More/Clone Conspiracy storyline.  Slott has woven a tale that makes a lot of sense to me as a logical progression from comics I enjoyed long, long ago, and it’s also fun seeing lots of dead characters brought back to life in a way that makes sense and is “fair play” in the context of the story.

CREDIT: Archie Comics

Archie Comics Reboot (Archie)

I read the occasional Archie comic when I was a kid (under 10 years of age) but they were never something that really appealed to me.  When Archie re-tooled itself with the horror line spearheaded by Afterlife with Archie and then added Chilling Adventures of Sabrina I was hooked.  I was reading Archie comics and loving them.  But those comics suffered only from an exceptionally infrequent publishing schedule.  When Archie gave its core universe a modern facelift with writers like Mark Waid, Chip Zdarsky, and Ryan North and artists like Fiona Staples, Veronica Fisk, Joe Eisma, Erika Henderson, and Derek Charm I had something new to love.  While Betty & Veronica (written & drawn by Adam Hughes) comes out very infrequently (though worth the wait), they have been getting out issues of Archie and Jughead on a monthly basis and I have been enjoying them immensely all year long.

CREDIT: IDW, DC, Marvel, Dark Horse

Artist’s Editions (primarily IDW Publishing and Dark Horse)

I really really love Artist’s editions.  I’m showing just 3 of the volumes that came out in 2016 that I purchased, there were several others. These large books that reproduce original comic book art at original size and in full color are something that I consider beautiful, seeing art at full size as it was originally drawn, with the color scans showing any corrections, blue-lines, margin notes, white-out, etc. is something I think is very special.  The format was pioneered by Scott Dunbier at IDW and he has deservedly won multiple Eisner awards for these books.  Other publishers have imitated the format and put out their own versions (Dark Horse, Dynamite, DC) and while they appear pricey at $100+ per volume, this is really not that bad when you take into account that in most cases, even a single page of the art reproduced would cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

complete-peanuts

CREDIT: Fantagraphics

The Complete Peanuts (Fantagraphics)

In 2016, Fantagraphics published the final volumes of a series it has been working on since 2004, publishing 25 volumes with every Peanuts comic strip from 1950 thru Schulz’s last in 2000.  In October they released a 26th volume that collects art, storybooks, comic book stories and other things related to Peanuts that Schulz created that were not the daily comic strips themselves.  Schulz drew every single strip himself, no assistants or help of any kind over 50 years.  This is a fabulous series and a fabulous achievement reproducing one of the masterpieces of the American comic strip art form.

CREDIT: Hard Case Crime, Titan Comics

Hard Case Crime (Titan Comics)

Titan Comics gets a huge thumbs up from me for bringing the hard case crime genre to comics in 2016 in a couple of excellently executed comics (Peepland & Triggerman).  I even followed the author of Peepland (Christa Faust) back to the Hard Case Crime paperback imprint and read her 1st ‘Angel Dare’ novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I’m now picking up various paperbacks from this imprint to read every month or two.  I really enjoy this genre and the comics are firing on all cylinders for me.  I look forward to whatever they are going to produce next in this imprint.

CREDIT: John Allison + BOOM! Box

John Allison Comics (self-published + BOOM! Box)

I fell in love with John Allison’s portrayal of a quirky group of college kids in the UK in 2015 thanks to the series from BOOM! Box.  IN 2016 I upped the ante by buying the 1st 3 self-published issues directly from Allison’s website, in addition to getting turned on to his wonderful series Bad Machinery, a webcomic that follows a group of UK school-age kids.  Better still, Oni Press will be bringing us pocket-sized hardcopies of Bad Machinery starting in Mach 2017!  I’ll be picking up these volumes as they’re published!

CREDIT: Marvel Studios

Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (Marvel Studios)

I have loved each Marvel movie that has come out so far that has been a part of their shared cinematic universe.  2016 kept up the pace with 2 movies that were off the charts enjoyable for me.  Civil War had my favorite portrayal of Spider-Man on the big screen to date and has me eagerly anticipating 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Doctor Strange did a great job of integrating magic into the cinematic universe and had a great use of 3-D.  At least for me, Marvel has the magic.  They make extremely enjoyable movies that I can watch over and over.

CREDIT: Abstract Studio

Rachel Rising (Abstract Studio)

2016 saw the conclusion to Terry Moore’s horror epic that has played out over the course of the past 5 years.  Set in his Moore-verse along with the romantic dramedy Strangers in Paradise and the sci-fi Echo, this is another eminently re-readable story and is one of the few series I double-dipped on.  I read the monthly issues, which all worked for me as periodical installments, but then re-read the entire series in Omnibus format and it worked in that format as well, allowing me to pick up on connections and cross-references that I missed along the way as I read it played out over 5 years.  Moore is a master story-teller and I highly recommend any of his work, including his current psychological dramedy “Motor Girl”.

CREDIT: Marvel Comics

Vision – limited series (Marvel)

This series played out perfectly across 2016, with issue #1 cover-dated Jan 2016 thru #12 cover-dated December 2016.  My absolute favorite piece of work from writer Tom King to date and my #1 favorite thing from Marvel in 2016.  King did a great job of adding layers and nuance to a character I’ve loved since I was a kid (my first comic with this character was Avengers #106 in 1972 and he quickly became my favorite Avenger).  But it’s been a long time since I’ve really enjoyed the character (probably since the Busiek/Perez run on Avengers that kicked off in 1998).  Thanks to Tom King and artist Gabriel Hernandez-Walta for bringing the character I loved for so many years back to a form/interpretation I love again.  This is typical of a lot of super-hero series.  New teams love to shake things up and over the years I’ve often gone through long periods where I no longer cared for a particular interpretation of a character I once loved.  Eventually yet another re-interpretation occurs that puts the character back in my sweet spot, and that’s what happened in 2016 for this beloved character.

CREDIT: DC Comics

Wonder Woman: Rebirth (DC Comics)

This is on my “Top 12” list of ongoing series and is one of the very few DC super-hero titles I am currently enjoying.  It stands head and shoulders above all the other DC books for me as my only “top of stack must read” DC comic.  I wanted to give it special attention by calling it out on this list as well as my regular Top 12.  When presented with the bi-weekly schedule, the other DC writers went on ahead and wrote their story arcs, living with the fact that artists would have to be swapped out in mid-arc since most artists cannot complete 2 entire issues of a comic per month.  Greg Rucka did something different.  He lined up 2 artists: Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott.  Then he told 2 parallel stories, one in the odd numbered issues and one in the even numbered issues.  This allowed him to tell 2 stories with a consistent artist on each.  I really appreciate this and would rather get the issues spaced out the way he has done it than to have the jarring art style change in the middle of each story arc that drove me away from many other DC Rebirth bi-weekly series.  Bravo to Rucka, Sharp, and Scott for bringing me back to Wonder Woman after a several year lapse.


There you have it.  Four ComicSpectrum contributors and 38 different things we all loved in 2016.  Not a lot of crossover, but tons of variety which I think is really an accurate reflection of the taste of comics fans.  Everyone likes different stuff and there’s a tremendous amount of thing to choose from to like.

My thanks to Shawn, Adam, and Al for helping balance out the ComicSpectrum site throughout 2016.  Shawn is our go-to “DC fan” and is getting back into Valiant Comics as well.  Add in his love for back issues, horror comics, and knowledge of CGC and he provides a great resource to round out the overall coverage we provide.  Adam is our go-to guy for X-Men, Inhumans, and a lot of generally popular mainstream Marvel books.  Al provides a wealth of knowledge on the manga, ‘bad girl’ comics, and the crowdsourcing/small/independent press front, as well as being an all-around expert on all things Supergirl.

I am thankful on a regular basis for having them all contribute to the site!  Thanks guys!

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2016 Favorites of the Year: Shawn Hoklas

It’s time for Shawn Hoklas’ list of favorites as the regular contributors to the ComicSpectrum site each share their “Top 10” list for 2016.

We are not declaring our favorites to be magically the “best” things produced, but rather just  what they are, our favorite things. We were not constrained to any specific categories this year.  Each contributor was asked to pick 10 things they really liked that hit the stands in 2016.  Whether they were individual issues, series, trade paperbacks, books about comics, comics related toys, whatever. 

Take it away, Shawn!


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CREDIT: DC Comics

 1. DC Rebirth
Last year I had DC’s Convergence on my Top 10 list. It was definitely not on there for the story, but for the simple fact that it had all of DC continuity matter again. This year, we got Rebirth which acknowledged much of DC’s missteps while moving the DC Universe forward, and bringing back legacy. We got Wally West and Ted Kord back, but also have DC’s New 52 all working together, at least for now. The Watchmen tie in was a shocker for almost everybody and although that storyline remains to be played out, I’m excited for all the possibilities! I’m really enjoying most of what DC is offering right now and it all kicked off here.

p27

CREDIT: Image Comics

2. Fade Out
This one may not “officially” count for comics that came out in 2016, but I read most Image Comics in trade and the final trade of The Fade Out came along right at the beginning of the year so I had to add it. The Fade out is a look back at the Golden Age of Hollywood and follows two Hollywood screenwriters looking to find a starlet’s killer while trying to live within a world where they truly don’t belong. Creators Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser may be one of the best teams in comics and it shows with their work here. This is definitely my favorite series these guys have created yet, and may be the best thing I read all last year.

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CREDIT: DC Comics

3. Superman
Back in my 2015 list, I had commented that I was happy we had the original Clark Kent and Lois Lane back.  Superman was my favorite series of 2016. For so long, both DC and Marvel have gone away from relationships and marriage, arguing that the character is more interesting when they’re not “tied down”, allowing more potential story opportunities. Superman has proven that theory wrong by showing Clark, Lois and son Jonathan as a family team, not just a heroic team with Superman and Superboy, but a team for everyday life. The issue where the family spends a night at the carnival was just as strong as the multi-issue battle against the Eradicator. This is what I’ve missed about DC for so long and can’t recommend this series enough.

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

4. Thor
I have to agree with Adam’s choice of Thor this year. For all the reasons he mentioned, but also for Russell Dauterman’s art. Dauterman fills each and every page and panel with characters and backgrounds that are each as beautiful as the next. I also love the fact that for the most part, Thor stayed away from Civil War II and allowed Jason Aaron and Dauterman to maintain their vision for the series and spend the time growing Jane Foster as a character.

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CREDIT: DC Comics

5. Wonder Woman
It’s been a while since I’ve read and enjoyed Wonder Woman. The last time was probably when Greg Rucka was writing the character so it’s no surprise that I’m loving the character again. Rucka definitely has a handle on the character and artists Liam Sharp and Nicola Scott are a powerful one-two punch on the visuals. As much as I’ve enjoyed the storyline in the present, it’s Rucka and Scott’s take on the character’s origin that I love! I really can’t say enough good things about their take on the character from her learning how to speak the language, to her innocence in a modern world. This is a DC series that really shows the potential a rotating creative team can have on a series, and could be a model for other DC books that can’t pull this off as well. I’m happy I’m reading a Wonder Woman book again…it’s about time!

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

6. Spider-Woman
This may be my surprise pick for 2016, I was surprised at just how much I loved this series. Dennis Hopeless didn’t have Jessica Drew’s biggest battle be fighting Hydra or some cosmic baddie alongside the Avengers.  Instead her biggest fight was raising a baby on her own. With gorgeous and colorful art by Javier Rodriguez, Spider-Woman at times was my favorite looking book in certain months this past year. While at times, crossovers like Spider-Women and Civil War disrupted the book’s simplicity, it still did its best to remain true to focusing on Jessica and how her whole life has changed now that she’s a different type of hero…a mom.

wrath-of-the-eternal-warrior-9-2016

CREDIT: Valiant Comics

7. Eternal Warrior
This past year I caught up on most of what Valiant has to offer and Eternal Warrior was my favorite of them all, and that’s saying a lot. Writer Robert Venditti made me love this character as he showed just what happens when an immortal character dies, and how he keeps coming back. Not only that, but there was an exceptional storyline called Labyrinth with stunning art by Raul Allen that shows how a villain attempts to trap an immortal, killing him over and over agin to try and find the secrets to eternal life. All of this while showing a softer side of the character I hadn’t seen before. Although I’m saddened to see this series end in 2016, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s fourteen fantastic issues that you need to read and I’m sure it will be back with a new #1 soon enough.

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CREDIT Sideshow Collectibles

8. Sideshow Aquaman
I was beyond pleased when Sideshow picked up the license for DC a few years back. Since the Bowen and Marvel partnership seems to be over, I’ve been buying more and more statues and figures from Sideshow and Aquaman was my favorite this past year. He’s part of their “premium format figure” line so he’s a pretty big piece (that’s a normal apple next to it). Although these carry a hefty price, they’re worth it for collectors since this statue has plenty of detail from the scales on his shirt, to the intricate waves on the base. You also get multiple heads, including one with a beard and a harpoon hand if you’re a fan of Peter David’s run on the character. I prefer the classic version though, and hope to have the entire Justice League soon.

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CREDIT: Image Comics

9. Descender
It was hard to limit myself to just one Jeff Lemire book this year. Moon Knight, Bloodshot, Thanos…all great and that’s not even counting Black Hammer which I loved! I was going to choose just Jeff Lemire as a “favorite thing”, but I forced myself to pick one book and that would have to be Descender. Tim-21 is a robot boy living in a world that has rebelled against robots and it’s a visual treat with art by Dustin Nguyen. With Sony picking up the rights to this comic, I feel as though this could make an amazing movie. Jeff Lemire is firing on all cylinders right now, and this is probably my favorite work of his this year…or maybe it’s Black Hammer, or maybe it’s Bloodshot….or… well the list goes on and on.

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CREDIT: Marvel Comics

10. Carnage
As surprising as Spider-Woman being on my list was, I was even more surprised that Carnage made my list! Carnage? It’s a fun and smart comic that doesn’t take itself seriously and embraces some wonderful and quirky characters from Marvel’s past. Gerry Conway is writing a modern day bronze age Marvel horror book that always surprises me with just how much I enjoy each issue. I know that a Carnage book may be a turn off for most fans just because of the titular character, but it isn’t anything you’d expect…it’s better!


Thanks for sharing your favorites with us, Shawn!   We’ll wrap up this series of ComicSpectrum contributor favorites next time with what tickled Bob’s fancy in 2016!

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2016 Favorites of the Year: Al Sparrow

Al Sparrow now adds his list of favorites as the regular contributors to the ComicSpectrum site each share a “Top 10” list for 2016.

We are not declaring our favorites to be magically the “best” things produced, but rather just  what they are, our favorite things. We were not constrained to any specific categories this year.  Each contributor was asked to pick 10 things they really liked that hit the stands in 2016.  Whether they were individual issues, series, trade paperbacks, books about comics, comics related toys, whatever. 

Take it away, Al!


2016 was a crazy year all around. I don’t think I have to tell anyone that. It did, however, give us some great comics to read. Here’s a few I really enjoyed:

blastfurnace

CREDIT: Ryan Browne

Favorite Book to Silence Anyone Who Says They Can’t Make Comics:
Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief! By Ryan Browne. (Crowdsourced)

Browne’s method for making this book is outlined right on the cover: One Hour Per Page + Zero Planning = One Sweet-Ass Story.  This book makes almost no sense, jumping from ridiculous plot point to even more ridiculous plot point. Yet it may very well be the most entertaining book I’ve read in the past few years, mostly because of that semi-organized chaos. Simply put, if Ryan Browne can devote an hour a day to create something this much fun to read, the rest of us are out of excuses.

slichman

CREDIT: Rapoza + Warren

Favorite Book for Anyone Who Played Dungeons & Dragons in the 1980s/1990s:
Steve Lichman, Vol. 1 by David Rapoza and Daniel Warren (Crowdsourced)

Ever wonder what all those monsters who dwell in the dungeon of your favorite RPG do while they’re waiting for your intrepid party to show up and do battle? Wonder no more…they live lives just a hair’s breadth removed from our own. They support (and ridicule) each other just like we “normal” humans do. A must for anyone tired of all the vampires showing up in our funnybooks these days.

monstergirl

CREDIT: Seven Seas

Favorite Book for Anyone Who Ever Wondered How to Have Sex with a Gargoyle: Monster Girl Encyclopedia Vol. 1 by Kenkou Cross (Seven Seas)

Not so much a comic as a…well, an encyclopedia (says so right in the title!)…this lavishly illustrated and meticulously thought-out book is chock full of information on pretty much any type of monster girl you could imagine. This being only the first volume, I’m guessing the author’s imagination might stretch a bit further than mine, so I’m interested to see what beastly femme fatales show up in volume 2.  A good companion book for anyone heavily into Monster Musume or the numerous other monster-girl books hitting the stands these days.

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CREDIT: DC Comics

Favorite Book Designed to Sell You (or Your Children) Toys:
DC Superhero Girls: Finals Crisis by Shea Fontana and Yancey Labat (DC)

Make no mistake, this book (and its follow-up “Hits and Myths”) are out to get you to go the store and buy dolls, action figures, playsets, etc. It’s not the first comic to do this, and it certainly won’t be the last. That it’s able to be as charming as it is can (almost) make you forget its mission. Labat’s stylized artwork ties in nicely with the animated series as well as the toys themselves. Fontana, meanwhile, crafts fun all-ages stories that even the most disgruntled fanboy can enjoy. When was the last time Crazy Quilt was this much fun?

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CREDIT: Dynamite Comics

Favorite Book for the Superheroine Fans of Yesteryear (and Today!):
Swords of Sorrow: The Complete Saga by Gail Simone and more! (Dynamite)

They had me at Gail Simone overseeing a host of the comic worlds best writers and artists. They kept me with the characters these creators would be tackling: Red Sonja. Vampirella. Dejah Thoris. Ms. Masque. Lady Rawhide…all mashed together in a multi-issue epic. I resisted the temptation to pick up the individual issues because a crossover of this magnitude pretty much demands a collected edition. You can simply drool over the amazing artwork Dynamite has become known for, but with writers like Simone, Nancy Collins, and G. Willow Wilson at the helm, you’re doing yourself a disservice to ignore how well the stories all tie together.

insexts

CREDIT: AfterShock

Favorite Book to Scare the Hell Out of Male Chauvinists:
InSEXts by Marguerite Bennett and Ariela Kristantina (Aftershock)

It didn’t take long for Aftershock to become one of my favorite new publishers and this book is one of the two reasons why (the other one is a bit further down the list). Two women with a very dark, sinister secret trying to survive in oppressive Victorian England? Written by Marguerite Bennett? Yes, I’ll have some more of that, please.

thisdamned

CREDIT: Dark Horse

Favorite Book for the Air Guitarist Inside Us All:
This Damned Band by Paul Cornell and Tony Parker (Dark Horse)

In my younger days I played bass guitar in a number of bar bands you’ve never heard of, so I’m very critical of any comic that involves rock and roll but treats the bass player as an afterthought (or worse, doesn’t even include a bassist in the band). Alex Lodge, the troublemaking bassist for Motherfather, the titular “damned band” in this book, is my new hero, and Cornell and Parker are my heroes for giving him life. If you love “The Song Remains the Same” but wish it’d had a bit more Satan in it, pick this one up.

superzero

CREDIT: AfterShock

Favorite Book for the Hero-Wannabe Inside All of Us:
SuperZero by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Rafael de Latorre

I mentioned earlier that I had two reasons to put Aftershock down as my favorite new publisher. This is the second reason. Dru Dragowski doesn’t just have the desire to get superpowers and save the world…she’s putting her dreams into action. How hard could it be to get a radioactive spider to bite you? What harm could there be in hiring a hitman to kill your parents so you’ll become the next Batman? If Kick Ass is the rude reality of becoming a superhero, SuperZero is the fun flipside to getting there.

CREDIT: DC Comics

Favorite Book(s) from the Not-So-Distant Past:
Daring New Adventures of Supergirl Vol. 1 and Supergirl Vol. 1 by Peter David (DC)

Thank Rao that the Supergirl show on CBS was as successful as it was, because we’re seeing more and more of her comic-book adventures from the past getting the trade paperback treatment. Two in particular made me quite happy this year. Daring New Adventures collects the early 1980s run with artwork from Carmine Infantino, and was one of the books I loved reading in my teenage years. The Peter David run from the 1990s remains one of my favorite takes on the Maid of Might and it’s my fervent hope we’ll see the entirety of that run get chronicled.

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CREDIT: Vertical

Favorite Book about the X-Men Without an “X” in the Title:
Tokyo ESP by Hajime Segawa (Vertical)

While this series began publication in Japan in 2010 and stated US publication in 2015, each new volume released in 2016 immediately went to the top of my reading stack. Quite simply, it does the X-Men better than the X-Men do the X-Men. The war between ESPers (nee Mutants) and humanity is an ongoing struggle between those who want to use their powers for good and those who’d rather do evil. Sound familiar? Perhaps, but this series blends enough amazing writing and artwork to make you forget all about the word “Snikt!”


Thanks for sharing your favorites with us, Al!   Next time we’ll see what tickled Shawn Hoklas’ fancy in 2016!

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