Pop Culture Rules at Comikaze 2015

Comikaze 2015

Photo credit: Bob Bretall

Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo is a great show for pop culture addicts; movies, TV, web-series, cosplay, toys, and content aimed at wannabe creators ruled this past weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  Oh, and there were some comic books there too.

As has been the case in past years, the panel content was very skewed to general pop culture topics with very little specifically related to print comic books, but that makes sense as it seems to be a match for the demographic that attends the show.  Top comics sell in the tens of thousands.  Movies and TV shows are seen by more than 10x that number.  The general population enjoys things that are derived from comics far more than the source comic material itself.

Comikaze 2015 Line

Comikaze Line on Oct 31st – Photo by Bob Bretall

The big day of the show was Saturday, October 31st.  Halloween.  The show opened at 9am and there were a LOT of people lined up waiting to be let in.  Lots of people in costume, maybe a little more than average since it was Halloween.

Comikaze 2015 Loot

Bob’s loot

The big draw right off the bat seemed to be convention exclusives.  A huge line developed almost immediately at the Hot Topic and Stan Lee Collectibles booths, with people grabbing up exclusive Funko Pops.  There were also Loot Crate and Marvel Collector’s Corps booths, both selling subscriptions to their “boxes-o-stuff”.  The Marvel Collector’s Corps booth was even selling individual boxes that had shipped in past months.  I picked up a Stan Lee pop from Hot Topic, which I thought was pretty cool, though I passed on the monochromatic “platinum” version at the Stan Lee booth that was going for $25.  I only picked up a couple of other things: a sketch cover of Man-Thing by artist Lak Lim which I thought was a steal at $20 and the latest collection of the Collectors comic strip (I like this strip so much that I syndicate the strips on the ComicSpectrum site).

The main presence of comic books at Comikaze were on the show floor.  There were a number of creators signing autographs either at books, in the autograph area, or in Artist’s Alley.  There were also a decent number of vendors selling comics.  As far as panels, the panels that were related to comics were more likely to be dedicated to creating them yourself or creator spotlights on the “Hot Topic Main Stage”, which I’m not a big fan of.  Instead of being in a normal panel room, this stage is in the back of one of the halls and fans all crowd around it like cattle.  Standing in a crowd while a creator talks with relatively poor acoustics isn’t my idea of a great time.  That said, it was the main way to see Stan Lee, Grant Morisson, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and others if you didn’t want to stand in a long autograph line.  But for fans who want to meet these mega-popular creators, this con afforded them the opportunity and for people who have never met an idol before, standing in an autograph line for a quick meet-and-greet to get a treasured collectible signed is something well worth the wait.

The artist’s alley was large and right in the middle of the show floor.  A welcome change from cons like San Diego where they have the artists exiled off to a far corner of the convention.

I attended 4 panels on Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed 3 of them:

  • Star Trek Continues: A fan-created series presenting the continuing adventures of the 60s crew of the Starship Enterprise.  This was so well done it could have been shown on TV back in the 60s and except for the fact it has different actors, would fit right in with the originals.   You can watch episodes on the web and I encourage any Trek fans to check it out.
  • YouTube Spaces – A World of Superheroes: A variety of web series created by people were allowed to film on sets with professional quality super-hero lairs and other sets, as well as being able to reserve lighting and sound kits to use for filming.  Not every one was a winner, but by and large they were very entertaining fan films
  • Image Revolution: A showing of a documentary film about the founding of Image comics with archival footage and new interviews with the seven founders and others who were there to see it unfold.  This was the gem of the convention for me, and will be available on DVD in January 2016.
  • Batman Fan Series: The Great Mistake of Dr. Miles:  Wow!  So bad.  Objectively bad.  After seeing the previous fan films of the day I had a bar in my head of what I expected for acting, costumes, story.  This had painfully wooden acting, really poor looking costumes (that looked like store-bought Halloween costumes).  I walked out of this one after about 10 minutes, it was too much to bear.
Comikaze2015 Lobby

Photo by Bob Bretall

Summing up: If you’re a pop culture fan in the Los Angeles area, Comikaze Expo is a great show.  Lots of action on the show floor and a great artist’s alley.  Lots of cosplay action and TV/animation/movie content galore.  They could do much better on pure comic book content, but that’s not necessarily a big deal for many fans.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Managing My Comics Reading/Pull List

Let’s talk about managing your pull list, what are you going to buy, what will need to be cut back?  We’ve all been there, you need to trim back on what you’re reading.  For me, since I pre-order my books when they are solicited in Previews each month, it’s not just a matter of deciding what I pick off the rack at whim, I specifically decide what I’m going to get a couple of months in advance.

Why have a pull list?  If you still read physical comics and like stuff a bit off the beaten track (meaning not just the most popular super-hero and licensed books from the big publishers) having a pull list is essential because I don’t go to the comic shop right when they open every Wednesday. If I didn’t have comics saved for me I’d miss them altogether, as the really cool ones may not be ordered by the shop at all for the rack, or else be bought by someone else by the time I go to the shop on the weekend.  If not ordered in advance, there’s really no guarantee that I’ll ever see them at a comic shop.

As an aside, if you’ve “gone digital” the idea of a pull list is obsolete.  At best a digital pull list is just a reminder that a book has come out and is available to buy.  There is no concept of the local shop not ordering it or it being sold out before you got there.  Digital books are always in stock and available to purchase.

BUT, I’m a dinosaur and I like my physical comics.  AND I enjoy a lot of things that are not at the top of the sales charts, so I need to maintain a pull list to order stuff in advance to ensure I don’t miss what I like to read.  That benefit comes with a downside.  Since I order the books in advance, I’m essentially buying them sight unseen and need to make a decision about them based on the advance solicit materials and what I can find on the internet (which is why I do a solicits roundup on the ComicSpectrum site every month).

What deserves to be ON my pull list?
I don’t know about anyone else, but comics I buy monthly are ones that I love to read and feel like I want to read them “right now”.  Even though actually reading them right away may sometimes be overtaken by events, because life happens, I still WANT to read them right away.  I might bend the rules for a creative team I am REALLY in love with (like Neil Gaiman on the recent Sandman: Overture series with J.H. Williams III), in that case after it became clear that it was not going to be coming out regularly, I made a “virtual collected edition” out of the series.  I just let the issues stack up on my “to read” pile and when the last issue came out, I read them all in a row.  So that is a special case.  I am willing to give some creators/characters a lot of leeway because of a creator-reader relationship we’ve built up over time.

What about new books?

Symmetry_CvrA BlackJackKetchum01_Cvr_upd
CREDIT: Image Comics

I order new #1 issues every month.  I order based on a track record with the creator(s) but I’ll also try lots of new stuff that looks interesting.  BUT…Publishers need to meet me part way.  I really like to see interior art from issues not just the flashy covers by popular artists brought in to put a nice show for the comic rack.  I really like that Image Comics will often put several pages of interior art into the Previews catalog for new #1s.  It really helps me make a decision.  In the October Previews this helped be decide to order Symmetry and skip Black Jack Ketchum.  The art on Black Jack Ketchum wasn’t bad, it just didn’t really appeal to me personally.

Replica1 Insexts1 SuperZero1
CREDIT: Aftershock Comics

Then there is the new publisher Aftershock Comics in the October Previews catalog. They have lots of “big name” writers (at least ones I am very familiar with), but I’m not familiar with their artists and they only have images of covers in the catalog, not necessarily by the people doing the interiors of the issues.  In this case, I needed to do some digging on the internet with my friend Google.

200AD Andy Clarke

CREDIT: 2000AD / Andy Clarke

OK…found a nice page by Andy Clarke from 2000AD.  I dig the art, so Replica #1 is on my list.

Logan Legacy

CREDIT: Marvel Comics / Ariela Kristantina

Found a sample of Ariela Kristantina’s art from Logan Legacy (not a book I read).  Nothing wrong with it, but it’s not setting off the “I love this art!” section of my brain.  So I’m skipping Insexts #1.  I’ll check out issue #1 if I see it on the rack at my LCS, maybe her art will look different on this book.  Sure would have been nice if Aftershock could have shown some interior art as part of their full-page ad for this issue.

What Takes a Book OFF my Pull List?
As I said above, I like things on my pull list that I want to read RIGHT AWAY when I get them. What makes me want to take it off?  3 main things:

  1. Continual churn of the creative team – I like some stories, I don’t like others.  When creative teams are like a revolving door with series restarting at a new number one sometimes multiple times a year, I have a hard time sticking around for the monthly books.  This is one of the reasons I tend to favor creator-owned books, at a minimum they’re not going to be rotating themselves on and off the book.
  2. Stops being enjoyable to read – Sometimes I feel like I’m struggling to make it through a comic.  A little voice at the back of my head just waiting for the issue to be over as opposed to me enjoying the read.  When that happens, I know it’s time to step awayt from the series.
  3. Lack of story momentum -When a monthly series ships really sporadically, is late, or is canceled & re-solicited, that kills the momentum of the series, I stop being able to recall what’s going on and follow the story.  I’ll maybe pick it up out of a back issue bin, as a collected edition, whatever….if and when they manage to get a full story published.  If I often feels like it’s something I don’t need on my pull list.  This is related to problem #1, because creative churn kills momentum for me also.

Ultimately, both of these are things that drive me (and I assume others) AWAY from picking up comics as periodicals and favoring instead deciding to read them in collected edition format instead (or not reading them at all).  This kills a regular revenue stream for the Publisher and translates it into maybe an ongoing sale capability if people buy the book at some point down the line.  They totally lose any compelling reason for readers to buy the collection right when it comes out.  People can buy the collected edition any time (or never).

Publishers need to consider the affect that losing momentum with readers will have. Coming out of the gate with a property I am not attached to, it’s a really bad idea to not be able to get comics out on a regular schedule until you have me hooked.  And what about comic shops who need to order your books?  Do you think comic shops like allocating funds to books they order that don’t show up on schedule to be sold to readers so they can make money?

Afterlife7Sabrina 4theshield4a
CREDIT: Archie Comics

Archie has elements on both sides of this.  Their horror line (Afterlife with Archie and Sabrina) are both chronically late.  BUT, the issues they did manage to get were ones I loved so much that the “relationship” with these books was fast tracked in my mind and I’m happy to wait for the issues as they come out.  They also seem to read in a fairly self-contained way issue after issue when they come out.  On the flip side is Archie’s “Dark Circle” imprint.  They started talking about The Shield a year ago (October 2014) with an “early 2015” debut.  They are soliciting issue #4 for December and we STILL have not seen issue #1.  It has been cancelled and re-solicited, and they have built up zero confidence with me about them being able to get this series out.  I’m done ordering it.  I hope they get their house in order with their Dark Circle imprint, but for now they’re going to do it without any pre-orders from me.

Managing My Pull List
This is what it all comes down to.  Cuts need to be made:

  1. Drop books that fall too far away from the “I really want to read them NOW” factor.  If I have 5 or 6 issues piled up in my “to read” pile that are not there on purpose making up a virtual collected edition, then I can safely stop getting that series.
  2. Drop books that are “yet another reboot” that don’t look outstanding/compelling to me for some reason (creative team, “high concept”).  Ultimately, over the many, many years I’ve been reading comics these end up in $1 bins down the road more often than not.  Sure, sometimes I’m going to miss out on the “next hot thing” but I can’t read everything.
  3. Be selective about adding new #1s. Creators RULE!  I add what I like, and this is a combination of writer PLUS artist.  Publishers can help me make the decision to pre-order by giving me information to make a decision, especially including samples of interior art, not just flashy covers.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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TRIP REPORT: Long Beach Comic Con 2015


Photo Credit: Bob Bretall

Another Long Beach Con is over and I’ve had a few days to reflect on it.  I still think this is a great showing for a mid-sized regional con.  It’s certainly not San Diego and I don’t think it’s trying to be.  Heck, it’s not even WonderCon.  That said, the people attending all seemed to be having a great time, which is really what’s important.

I’ll focus on both my personal observations as well as what I got from talking to other people.


Joshua Fialkov & Bob Bretall

My thoughts
As always, I was there for comics. I was REALLY pleased that the Artist’s Alley section was right in the middle of the show floor instead of being exiled off to a far away corner (like in San Diego).  I has a great time cruising around the artist’s alley area talking to creators like Art Adams, Tim Bradstreet, Josh Fialkov (who gave me an autographed copy of King #2, his nifty new post-apocalyptic comic series!), Don Glut, Joe Harris, Richard Starkings, Marv Wolfman, Len Wein, and many more.  This is always the highlight of a convention for me, I love making that personal connection with the people who create the comics I love, if only to shake a hand and let them know how much I’ve enjoyed their work.  Typically I get the bonus of having a much longer and more meaningful conversation and it’s this one-on-one interaction that makes a comic con so special to me.

What about comics for sale?  There were a lot of really great comics dealers with older books.  Way more than I had budget for.  I focused on a couple of guys I’ve gotten good deals from in the past and skipped the rest, though there was so much to choose from I wished I had $100s more to spend!


Robert Kirkman & Bob Bretall

The third part of my “comic con triumvirate of comic-y goodness” is the panels.  This is where Long Beach could use some improvement in the comics department.  There were 3 panels that were really interesting to me, and, as luck would have it, they were all scheduled opposite one another so I could only attend 1 of them.  The panel I chose to attend was “Creating Dynamic Covers” with Stuart Immonen, Dustin Nguyen, Andy Kubert, and Kris Anka talking about their artistic process and designing covers while talking to cover images projected up on the screen by the panel moderator.   THIS is the kind of thing I wish there was more of.  As luck would have it, I ended up sitting right behind Robert Kirkman, who was there with a couple of buddies, sitting in the audience with the rest of the fans because he loves comics too!

Long Beach tends to schedule a lot of “how to break into the business” type of panels at this con.  I sincerely hope that the majority of con-goers are not just wannabe industry members.  To sustain comics there needs to be more fans who just want to consume the comics than there are people MAKING the comics.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “how to” panels, but they should be outnumbered by comics panels focused at fans who just like reading the comics.  I’d like to see a lot more panels featuring creators talking about the stuff they’re creating.


Other People’s Fun
There was a crazy long line for badge pickup around noon Saturday.  I think a lot of people all showed up around the same time or something, because lines were not that bad earlier.  On the plus side, it meant a lot of people wanted to be there.  I have a friend who waited in line around this time for a bit over 30 minutes and he was still in good spirits when he got into the con around 12:45 and went right down to the show floor.

There was a lot of Cosplay.  For people who dig that, there is a lot going on.  I talked to a number of people who were having a great time both wearing and taking photos of people wearing costumes.  This is a highlight of a con for many people and one of the primary elements the media latches onto, making any comic con seem like a place where 90% of the people are dressed up when it’s actually more like 10%.
Celebrities.  Again, not my cup of tea, but people who want an autograph or photo op with a celeb, there were a bunch to choose from.  Not A-List talent, but some decent celebs like John Barrowman and Chloe Bennett for people to get pictures with.

LBCC-Space Expo

An Unexpected Pleasure
The was a track of the con focusing on space run by the local SoCal Columbia Memorial Space Center.  Kind of a strange combo with comic books, but I like space travel and in absence of a bunch of comic book panels I sat in on a few of these and they were absolutely fascinating!  There was a presentation from the folks at Virgin Galactic, and also a panel with engineers who worked on the space shuttle program.  It was a hoot to listen to these guys rail about what dunderheads upper management at NASA were.

LBCC-Squaddie Jenga

Wrapping up the Day
The best way to wrap up a day at a comic con is hanging out with friends.  One of my friends had developed an interest in “Squaddies” (Marvel Super Hero Squad figures), and I had a big pile of them in a bin in my garage, I brought 30 figures for him.  He decided it would be fun to pile them up and see how high a tower could be made stacking them before it would topple.  Something fun to do while waiting for food at Rock Bottom Brewery!

I really like this show, but I really wish they’d try to sell it more on comics, but that’s maybe a total pipe dream on my part.  They’re pushing the things that get people in the doors, which nowadays is cosplay, celebrities, and general pop culture.  If people who are drawn in by those are incidentally interested in comics that’s a bonus, but to some extent I cannot blame them for not having “pure comics” panels because they’re not attended anywhere near as much as the general pop culture panels.

Are the panels not well attended because there is little advertising/awareness, or just because there’s really not a lot of interest?  I don’t know for sure, but most “comic” cons tend to focus more on general pop culture as opposed to comics, so it’s nothing unique to Long Beach.  Regardless, if you like pop culture with a side order of comics, head on out to a future Long Beach Con if you’re in the LA area.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Gems from DC’s Convergence


I’m sure fan opinions widely vary on DC’s Convergence event, like they will for any comic, book, movie, TV show, etc.  Personally, I had cooled on DC recently and skipped their Convergence event entirely, but my local shop recently had a 3-for-$1 sale on comics and included in that sale were a tremendous amount of the 2-issue tie-in series that went along with the main Convergence event.

While I was not enthused about paying $3.99 each (or even the $2.39 that would have been my discounted rate from DCBS), I was happy to pick up a bunch of these for 33 cents each.  In the end, there were a handful that I really enjoyed; most of the others were not really “hate worthy”,  the worst I can say is that I was sort of ambivalent towards them.

I have some general feelings that seem to characterize the ones that didn’t appeal to me:

  1. The story – A lot of them seemed to get off to a really slow start.  Given these were 2 issue series, I’d have expected them to hit the ground running and not spend the 1st issue on mostly setup.  Additionally, there were quite a few that seemed to devote a lot of time to tying into the Convergence event, focusing on the fact that these were pocket slices of continuity from different eras of DC Continuity that were preserved inside a dome and being forced to battle other continuity-slices.  Not any kind of universal “nail in the coffin”, since I’m sure some people were loving this exact facet of the stories.  For me personally, it was more enjoyable to see the continuity-slices without the baggage tying them to the Convergence event.
  2. The art – very subjective.  Some of these felt more polished to me than others.   As with any comic, the visuals are a key component and a story has to be EXTREMELY strong to overcome art that’s not appealing to me as a reader (as subjective as liking art is).

Some series hit on both #1 and #2, others one or the other.  I like most of the characters/eras/timelines/Elseworlds represented in these series.  For me the difference between a “Hidden Gem” and an “I’m Not Feeling It” had to do with the writing and art combining in my head to really capture the “look and feel” of the continuity-slice being represented.  I read almost all of these pieces of continuity off the rack and they had a definite “sense memory” in my head that they needed to measure up to.  Gee, not hard at all… (just kidding!)  I freely admit that this was a tough challenge and an interpretation that will be different for every reader.

“Hidden” Gems (6)
These are the series I really dug.  There was a tie-in to Convergence, but it didn’t strike me as overpowering (subjective, I know).

Adventures of Superman – I credit writer Marv Wolfman with entertaining me with pre-Crisis Superman and Supergirl (Kara Zor-El) combined with Kamandi.  The art team of Roberto Viacava & Andy Owens is not one I was familiar with, but they brought a very 80s feel to the issues.

Booster Gold – Nice to see Dan Jurgens back doing Booster & Rip Hunter.  And reuniting the Blue & Gold team hit all the right buttons for me… PLUS, the Legion!  Nice!

Hawkman – Tim Truman’s art rocked this one for me, a visual feast.  Jeff Parker’s story kept me interested, it was so nice to see Katar and Shayera Hol back in action.  I like my Hawkman to be from Thanagar.

Superman – Another Dan Jurgens story I really liked (with Jurgens on pencil art as well), featuring the pre-Flahpoint Superman & Lois along with Flashpoint heroes, primarily the Flashpoint Batman.

Swamp Thing – Len Wein returning to his creation and then combining that with the vampire Batman from the Red Rain Elseworlds GN with the original artist from that, Kelley Jones.  Perfection!

World’s Finest – Bravo to Paul Levitz for weaving a story starring Scribbly Jibbet (who I don’t think we’ve seen outside of a cameo or reprint since 1951) along with the Seven Soldiers of Victory vs. the Qwardians.

Dug the Art, Not the Story (3)
Batman & Robin – Denys Cowan & Klaus Janson were rocking the art here, but I was not feeling Ron Marz’ story.

Crime Syndicate – Loved Phil Winslade’s art.  I really struggled with the story.

New Teen Titans – Nice art by Nicola Scott, but Marv Wolfman’s story was just not doing it for me, mostly due to the Tangent Universe Doom Patrol, a set of characters I really don’t care about at all.

I Was Not Feeling It (24)
I won’t belabor the whys and wherefores on these.  They just didn’t hit me right and I’m certainly glad I only paid 33 cents a book for them:

Action Comics, Batgirl, Batman & the Outsiders, Batman: Shadow of the Bat, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern Corps, Green Lantern/Parallax, Harley Quinn, Infinity Inc., Justice League, Justice League International, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, Plastic Man and the Freedom Fighters, Shazam!, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Supergirl: Matrix, Superman: Man of Steel, Titans, Wonder Woman.

Didn’t Read (7)
There were 7 series I didn’t get my hands on at the sale: Aquaman, The Atom, Nightwing/Oracle, The Question, Speed Force, Suicide Squad, and Superboy.

In the End…
Of the 33 series I read, I liked 6 (~18%) which is about 1 out of 5.  Not a great average, but I’m glad I dug through the sale box, because the gems made the effort of reading them worthwhile!

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Jack Kirby Fans: Visit Los Angeles before Oct. 10th, 2015 If Possible


Quite a few people showed up for the reception starting at 4pm. Photo by Bob Bretall

I visited the Gallery Show “Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby at California State University, Northridge this weekend.   It was my first time back on campus since I graduated with my BS degree back in 1985 and it was a great homecoming, highly recommended for any fan of Jack Kirby who can possibly make it to the Los Angeles area before the show closes on October 10th.


The Gallery is open Monday thru Saturday noon to 4pm, and Thursday noon to 8pm.  The day I went they had a special reception from 4 to 7pm.  I got there a bit before 3pm and it was fairly uncrowded, which gave great access to the exhibits.  Around 4pm when the reception began it started to get much more crowed, not overwhelmingly so, but there were quite a few people as you can see from the picture at the top of the Blog.


I’m in this picture to lend a sense of scale! Photo by Janine Bretall.

All in all, in the 3 rooms devoted to the exhibit, there were over 100 pages of Jack Kirby Original art, including 17 double page spreads several larger works, and a number of photos and comics.  This is billed as the largest exhibit of Kirby art to date and I have to believe it, it was quite impressive.  While I won’t put pictures of everything in this Blog, I’ll try to post a representative set.  Let’s start in the main room, which included the large image of Orion shown above.  You should be able to click on any of the smaller images in the Blog to see larger versions.


This room had examples from the Fantastic Four, Kirby’s Fourth World, and Kirby’;s Collages, as well as several display cases containing Classic Kirby comics, photos, and a few additional pieces of art:


Examples of pre-Marvel work. Photo by Bob Bretall


A couple of great War pages, including a picture of Jack in uniform! Photo by Bob Bretall

There were quite a few pages from Fantastic Four #45, featuring the Inhumans.  The FF are my personal favorite example of Kirby’s work, so I really had a great time looking at these pages, here are 2 of my favorites:


Kirby’s version of the Inhumans remains my favorite, though they’re been redesigned for modern readers.


And an awesome double-page spread from Mister Miracle that exemplifies Kirby’s Fourth World:



A great stroll though Kirby’s work at Marvel, DC, Marvel again, and Pacific!

When I was a kid reading Kirby’s Captain America and Black Panther off the rack in 1976-77 I have to admit that I didn’t like it one bit.  It was such a departure from what I had been seeing in Cap’s own book and the Avengers that it really offended my teenage sensibilities.  I came to appreciate it in later years, especially after getting more into the FF via reprints and his Fourth World stuff at DC when I started picking those up as back issues.


There were several examples of Kirby’s collage work, my favorite was this page from FF.

There were also some great example of Jack’s pre-Marvel work with Joe Simon:

20150829_145454 20150829_145500

As well as a page featuring of my favorite Marvel Western heroes (who pre-dates the super-heroes), the Rawhide Kid:



Rawhide Kid – panel detail

This was quite a surprise to me: A comic strip Jack did that was inked by none other than Wally Wood!  Sky Masters of the Space Force:



No mistaking the Kirby touch in the design of this spaceship!!

The second room of the exhibit has the original art to the entire issue of Kamandi #14, loaned from the collection of Image founder Erik Larsen!



Kirby holds an appeal even for non comic fans! Photo by Bob Bretall.

My wife read the entire issue (and she never reads comics) and really enjoyed it.  She said she never thought she could feel bad for a bug before she read Klik-Klak’s final fate.


Entering the third and final room of the exhibit I was treated to a pencil piece that was my favorite from the entire exhibit.  An unused Thor cover:



Detail from unused Thor cover

This room also held the complete art to Thor #155.  There is a placard talking about Vince Colletta’s inking on Thor, explaining his tendency to simplify work while inking and entreating visitors to compare the inked pages to the Kamandi pages inked by Mike Royer or the FF pages inked by Joe Sinnott.


Thor #155 splash page


I love the Warriors Three, so this full-page splash was a real treat to examine up close!


Thor #155 panel detail: The Warriors Three


Thor #155 panel detail: Sif and Thor

Reading the issue, my wife declared that she didn’t much care for Stan Lee’s pseudo-Shakespearian prose, much preferring Kirby’s own writing on Kamandi.  Personally, I have a soft spot for Stan’s purple prose: “Where goes the God of Thunder, there must he go alone!”  I love it!!  But it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea! (NOTE: I’m a fan who loves BOTH Kirby and Lee.  I don’t think you have to vilify Stan in order to sing Jack’s praises.)


2001: A Space Odyssey #2

We also got treated to pages from 2001: A Space Odyssey (with a definite Fourth World feel), The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur, and OMAC.


The Eternals #9

I loved the page of pencils shown here:



Devil Dinosaur #4


Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy panel detail



On my own personal walking path through the exhibit, this led to my “final wall” of the exhibit:


Photo by Janine Bretall

My personal highlights on this wall were pages from the Demon, Tales of Suspense and Captain America.


The Demon #6


The Demon #6: Panel detail


Tales of Suspense #95: Cap vs. Batroc the Leaper


TOS #95: panel detail with some dynamic Kirby action!


Cap #211 panel detail: I absolutely love the design of bad guy Arnim Zola

As I said at the top of this Blog, there are over 100 pages of original art and numerous other artifacts on display, I’ve only scratched the surface here, but hopefully I’ve given enough of a taste so that any Kirby fans who can reasonably make it to the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles before October 10th will be beating a path to this fabulous exhibit.  Visit the web-page for the CSUN Art Gallery for more info and get out to the Gallery!!

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Visiting IDW Publishing


Photo of IDW Entryway by Bob Bretall

When a comic book publisher asks me if I’d like to stop by their offices some time, I can think of only one answer: YES, PLEASE!!!!

When I was talking to the IDW VP of Marketing, Dirk Wood, at the San Diego Comic Con this year he said that I should come and visit the IDW offices some time.  After waiting a few weeks to let them recover from con I got ahold of Dirk and set up a day & time for my visit to the IDW offices.  They’re located in a beautiful location (albeit a bit noisy due to the proximity of the San Diego airport) right next to the fabulous San Diego Comic Art Gallery that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.


Photo of IDW reception desk by Bob Bretall

The first thing that I noticed as I entered the IDW offices and Dirk was showing me around was all the fabulous comic book and comic strip art on the walls.  They’re equal opportunity comic lovers, as befits a publisher preserving comics as an art form with such things as the Library of American Comics reprints, Artist’s Editions, Craig Yoe’s wonderfully weird vintage reprints, and many others in addition to new material original to IDW like Locke & Key and V-Wars.


Click on any of the above to view at larger size, there are comic strips with Dick Tracy, Rip Kirby, and Batman, as well as a couple of immense cover reproductions.  The main conference room is all decked out in “Locke & Key” dress, but unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures in there that came out very good.


Production to the left, Locke & Key conf. room to the right!

As we walked around the offices, I was introduced to lots of production folks who help assemble the comics.  A key role and one that generally doesn’t get a lot of attention.  Scott Dunbier, multiple Eisner award winner for his work editing and assembling the IDW Artist’s Edition volumes, was kind enough to take 20 minutes or so out of his day to chat.  He has Eisners covering the top of several file cabinets as well as book cases loaded with all the Artist’s Editions (in their brown cardboard boxes with the names written on the spines in black sharpie) and other comics collections.  We chatted about tracking down original art and he shared some very cool info about upcoming projects (that I am unfortunately sworn to secrecy about).  I know that there’s a lot of great stuff coming and we can look forward to 2016 being just as great as each year in the “Artist’s Edition Era” have been so far.  They’re such a boon for original art fans on a budget.  While they may seem pricey at $100 or so per volume, you have to realize you’re getting original art that sells for $1000s per page at a price of about $1 per page or less.  A great deal in my book.


Kids enjoying 3D comics! What a great piece for the wall of a comic fan!

I was a bit bummed because IDW CCO and Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall was busy, but getting to spend 30 minutes chatting with IDW President and COO Greg Goldstein made up for it!  Greg was very forthcoming and we chatted about both of our “secret origins as collectors”, including some of Greg’s reminiscences about early comic shows in New York.   As I wrapped up with a visit to a “wall of comics” with many of IDW’s recent comics where I was allowed to avail myself of an armload of free samples of series I was not already buying, and it added a couple of new items to my pull list!

My overall impression of IDW has always been a good one, but they raised themselves up even more as I saw the passion for all comics genres and comics as an art form permeated their offices and their people.  Seeing this first hand “behind the scenes” helped me appreciate that the comic preservation projects they’re putting together on a daily basis are in very good hands.  My thanks go out to Dirk, Greg, Scott, and all the people at IDW.  They’re a real class act and are doing a lot to enrich the comics landscape for all fans and collectors.

Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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GUEST BLOG: Review of CLZ Comics App for iOS

Bob here:  I’ve been meaning to get a survey of different solutions for tracking/maintaining records about your comics collection for some time.  Personally, I use ComicBase, so I’m not going to be able to give a balanced set of information on the various solutions out there by myself.  To help with this, I reached out on Facebook to people who use different solutions to help me out by giving their opinion of method they use to keep track of their collection.  1st up is Jesse Hardesty, who I know from the Comic Lovers group on Facebook, who is talking about the CLZ App that he uses on his iPhone and iPad.

Take it away, Jesse!

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Since the moment I began collection comics, I wanted to be able to keep track of my collection. The only app that I’ve been able to fill my mobile need has been CLZ Comics for iOS (http://www.clz.com/comics/ipad-iphone.php).

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Right off the bat one of its best features is the ability to add comics just by simply scanning the barcode with the camera on your phone. It almost always finds your comic unless it happens to be a lesser known indie title or an uncommon con variant. If you happen to be adding in lots of books without barcodes, they’ve made that a cinch too. Simply typing in the series name and checking off the books you’re adding makes it nearly impossible to mess up.

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The rest of the app is pretty straightforward, you can sort your books in a variety of ways depending on how you like to flip through them. You can edit some things on the app(most of the other features are reserved for the PC/Mac apps) and even manually add in books that are not available in their central database. It does feature a tagging feature to be able to lump certain books together to find more quickly.

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In about the last year or two they decided to give every user free space on their servers to backup your entire collection on their online database (which also is how they add books to their central database that aren’t in it).  You can access this on any browser to view or share your collection.

This app meets my basic needs, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for much more than those basics.  It’s not filled with unnecessary features and doesn’t look very pretty, but it gets the job done.

NOTE: CLZ is also available on the PC and Android.  Want to review either of those versions?  e-mail bob@comicspectrum.com.

Jesse Hardesty: jessehardesty@gmail.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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