Atomic Robo or “What Hath Mad Science Wrought?”

I gotta tell y’all about Atomic Robo. Comixology is having a sale, where you can get the first six issues for only $3.99. I did. (EDIT: This sale is now over, but it’s still only $8 for a lot of good content. So instead of buying liquor, or saving for your child’s education, buy some comics). And you want to be like me, right? Of course you do.

I’ve read about 3 or 4 issues of Atomic Robo so far, mainly the free ones that were on Comixology, which meant that I was jumping around a bit in terms of when the issues were published, but it really didn’t matter. Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener have mashed up legit science with absurd characters in a series of (mostly) stand-alone adventures. You can pretty much pick up any issue and not feel lost or like you’re missing anything.

Atomic Robo is a robot designed by Nikola Tesla (I know, I know, everyone loves him now) who goes on adventures around the world, taking place at various times throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. His nemesis is Dr. Dinosaur, an “intelligent” Velociraptor. He also fights Nazis, giant ants, and also fights Dr. Dinosaur a bunch more. There’s not much else for me to say about this series, I don’t think I have to, but if I have to sum it up in some sort of back cover blurb, then I’d say:

“Clevenger’s words and Wegener’s art mesh together beautifully for a maximum level of silliness.” – Paul DeKams, Read This Comic!*

* I will happily blurb things in order to get my name more out there. Please contact my blurbing agent for bookings.

Advertisements

Owly Vol. 1: The Way Home by Andy Runton

After my last grumptastic post, it’s time to get back on track with what this blog’s about: telling you about good stuff that I want you to enjoy! Lately, I’ve been all about Comixology. Comixology is a digital comic book app/storefront that works on your Mac, PC, as well as on iPhone, iPad and most color tablets. I’ve been using it on my Kindle Fire. It’s introduced me to a lot of new comics through either free issues, or heavily discounted issues. I’ll get the BUY THIS portion out of the way now…you can get the first volume of Owly on Comixology for 99 cents, or you can pay $10 for the print version.

Owly is written and drawn by Andy Runton. I’ve never read anything by Runton before, but I’ve heard of Owly, though mainly as “some indie kid’s comic.” I had no idea what to expect, and loved what I found. What I found was a universal tale about obsessions and hobbies. Loneliness and friendship. Owls, worms, and hummingbirds.

Owly’s a solitary guy. He wants companionship, and he looks for it through hobbies. And he’s got a library of books dedicated to his hobbies. Oh, and he’s a big guy who scares things smaller than him. This is for sad fat dudes like myself, or anyone who’s ever felt like a sad fat dude (EDITOR’S NOTE: You do not have to be fat, or sad, or sad or fat all the time to have felt like a sad fat dude. Also, is Louie Anderson still alive? OK, I Googled it, he is).

This comic is in black and white. This comic is completely silent. No dialogue. No animal sounds. The story is simply told through expressions and gestures, and as occasionally seen above, through additional imagery.

WARNING: PAULY TALKS ABOUT ART NOT SO GOOD: Runton tells his story with clear, committed lines. Everything is cartoonish and friendly, yet it doesn’t talk down to the reader. As someone who has no children at all, I feel like Owly would be a good reading tool in that a clear story is told through illustration, there’s no mistaking the actions or emotions of the characters, yet it still leaves things open to interpretation. Whether that be a kid putting in their own dialogue for Owly and his worm friend, or it be me recognizing myself in a cartoon owl. No matter what you read into this book, there’s no mistaking what you’re reading.

So, buy this, it’s 99 cents. Buy this and read it with CHILDREN! Buy this and read it on a rainy day. Or a sunny day. Buy this and read this and make this face:

Note: When I end things on these “Pauly ran out of things to say and then told you to buy it” notes, go ahead and buy it, then discuss it with me in the comments. Or throw some sort of specific challenge for me to further sell you on it.

The Batman Brand

This article over at The Hollywood Reporter is mainly about Christopher Nolan’s hesitancy to embrace digital like so many of his peers have. But the really interesting part to me is this:

Nolan says he did not refer to the Batman comics, and never found the origin story of the characters all in one place in any case. He focused on just telling the best story he could. If he was influenced, it was by earlier Batman movies, some of which he found fanciful. He wanted his movies to be much more grounded in a kind of reality.

“The source material is irrelevant,” says Nolan. “The challenge with Batman is to find what is a believable character. You put your stamp on it.”

Still, he was always keenly aware that Batman is an iconic figure and a “classic brand.”

While I’m trying to stay away from the superhero genre as much as possible on this blog, I’m also using films as a point of reference for many of my recommendations, so this all kind of ties in together. Whenever comics fans, comics media, and comics publishers talk about getting non-readers into comics, it is mostly referring to Marvel and DC not being able to bring the million dollar and billion dollar movie audiences into comic shops to read about the heroes that they’ve just seen on the big screen.

And inevitably an argument is made about the difference between the films that are out at the time and what’s in the comics being published at the time. The blame is always put on the publisher or the parent company for not capitalizing on the movie to push the comics.

But Nolan’s right. The source material IS irrelevant, and it’s because these characters have become iconic, and have become brands. These characters are well defined in the public consciousness and have defined what comic books are to most people. He isn’t approaching this series with the goal of legitimizing super hero comics, he’s focused on telling a story.

So maybe it’s about approaching comics in the context of comics. In the context of: THIS IS GOOD, CONSUME THIS, like you do with a book, album, or movie, or a kitchen sink cookie. Not, if you liked the film, check out THIS! But, if you like good stuff, here’s more good stuff.

I don’t know. Some people seem to be okay with comics defined as a niche medium, but right now I’m not. I’m going to end on this slightly off note, and jump in next time with thoughts on a comic that made me smile: Owly.

 

 

 

 

Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson

I know, I know, I need to follow up on my last post on Y the Last Man, but for now, let’s put that on the back burner. Today, I’m going to look at Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson. But before we jump into that, I’m going to intro a concept. If you are friends with me, I might ask you to read and review something. I’ve picked my first two victims: my dad, and my sister-in-law. My dad is going to be reading a mystery comic, possibly something by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. My sister-in-law is going to be reading the first volume of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore.

So, anyway, Box Office Poison. If I’m framing my recommendations in terms of movies, then I recommend Box Office Poison to readers that have enjoyed the work of Kevin Smith(the really good heartbreaking stuff like Clerks or Chasing Amy) as well as the films of Noah Baumbauch(Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and The Whale). In other words, indie drama films that concern themselves with slackers, intellectuals, or intellectual slackers.

Box Office Poison is written and drawn by Alex Robinson. (File this away for a future piece: artist and writer teams versus singular writer/artists). It’s a story that revolves around Sherman, Ed, Stephen, and Jane, as well as their friends, family, and a collection of book store customers who grow dumber by the second. They’re all NYC-based creative types, Sherman wants to be a writer, but works in retail; Ed works for his father but wants to be a comic artist; Stephen’s a liberal arts professor; and Jane is also a comic artist, though she’s a little bit ahead of Ed. The main character is Sherman, though the focus does shift at times to Sherman’s best friend Ed, as well as Sherman’s roommates Stephen and Jane.

While not knowing Robinson or his story fully, it seems as though he’s split himself into two characters. On one side, the self-defeating and self-sabotaging Sherman, who wants to be a writer, who is never satisfied with the woman he’s with, and ultimately never happy. On the other side: the idealistic, yet hard working Ed, who wants to create comics, who can’t seem to even get up the nerve to get with the girl, but when he makes a go at both, succeeds. Sherman gets too locked into the drama of his job, of his girlfriend, while Ed throws himself into his dream. Ed pays his dues, while Sherman wonders why his talent goes unrecognized. There’s something very interesting in how Robinson plays with the dynamics of the protagonist and schlubby best friend, slowly transforming each until their positions have reversed.*

The chapters of the book are broken up with “confessional” sections in which the main and supporting characters are asked a question, and give their answers. This TRULY speaks to the strengths of Robinson as a creator in that he manages to reinforce the individual performances and voice that he’s established for each character. It also builds on the “indie-film” feel, which eagle eyed readers will notice is one of the reasons I recommend this to non-comic book readers. (“See second paragraph” — Smilin’ Stan)

Robinson also plays with that oh-so-difficult-to-deal-with aspect of comics, the speech bubble, in dynamic ways. Too often, I’ve heard people say “I don’t know which bubble to read first,” or “I don’t know which direction to read them in.” Well, to that I say, “Hold onto your butts.” There’s points in the book when Robinson is dealing with two characters meeting, or connecting with each other. The above pages feature Sherman meeting his girlfriend Dorothy, and as the two get lost in conversation with each other, the reader does too. Sometimes, comics fall into the trap of trying to be movies or television, and then you’ll get 5 pages of talking heads that appear to have been copied and pasted with different dialogue. Here, the dialogue is condensed, and is allowed to fade in and out from page to page. It’s a great approach to storytelling and one that shows how the medium is separate from movies, from television, and from prose.

So, why should you read this comic? You’ve worked in retail. You’ve said the phrase “I only read non-fiction.” (You turd) You’ve had your heart broken. You’ve pursued a dream. You’ve failed at that dream.

How can you read this comic? You can buy it for $10 on http://www.comixology.com, and also check out a preview for free there. Or, if you want to read it in print, buy it on Amazon, your local bookstore or comic book store. It’s a bit pricier in print, but it is a huge honkin’ book. If you do read it, let me know your thoughts, as I’d love to feature them here.

* If you read More Box Office Poison, which is basically a collection of deleted scenes, there’s a brief full-on biographical section about how Robinson met his wife and started publishing comic that seems to suggest he has been both Sherman and Ed at points in his life and career.