Another great interview from Modern Masters, replete with interesting questions and illustrated throughout with great work. Chiang is a couple years yAnother great interview from Modern Masters, replete with interesting questions and illustrated throughout with great work. Chiang is a couple years younger than me, but our comic touchstones line up surprisingly well. A little frustrating to read and see at least four or five projects that could have been great but were damaged or eliminated by editorial interference (like Green Arrow/Black Canary) or New 52 (while Wonder Woman is arguably the best thing to come out of New 52, it's pretty clear it would have been stronger without that albatross around its neck)....more
Very pretty, but a little frustrating in its focus on prequel era films and video games, with the puzzling inclusion of Soriyama's generic robot girlVery pretty, but a little frustrating in its focus on prequel era films and video games, with the puzzling inclusion of Soriyama's generic robot girl a weird non-Star Wars diversion. Also a little frustrating to see such gorgeous, intriguing art for the now-cancelled 1313 game. But solid enough for someone with Star Wars in his blood from a young age and a love for the property that even 10+ years of lackluster prequels and prequel-based stories hasn't been able to entirely kill. I imagine a more diehard modern Star Wars fan would find this a real treasure trove....more
Long awaited and well worth the wait. A gorgeously produced love letter to Amanda Connor the person and the artist, and the book does a great job showLong awaited and well worth the wait. A gorgeously produced love letter to Amanda Connor the person and the artist, and the book does a great job showing why she and her art have earned such adoration.
Makes me want to go all completist on her work, which is sadly impossible given the diverse body of work she's put together thus far, so I'll settle for impatiently waiting for more volumes like this....more
My first Modern Masters book, which has made certain it won't be my last. Eric Nolen-Weathington's interviews are accessible, light but not the fluffMy first Modern Masters book, which has made certain it won't be my last. Eric Nolen-Weathington's interviews are accessible, light but not the fluff pieces that make up so much of comics journalism, very well-researched and exhaustive without being exhausting.
This book breaks up Guy Davis's career from the very early days to his current stuff, with a chapter at the end on process, and... wow. I thought I was an uber-fan, but Nolen-Weathington covers a ton of material I was unfamiliar with, and really gets to know the artist and his art.
The book is illustrated throughout with everything from sketches to full pages to full color drawings, a great overview of Davis's work from early to modern. More art would have been great, but there's certainly no lack of it here in the book.
I was already hoping to get the Darwyn Cooke Modern Masters, if it's ever released, but after reading this, I think I want to get the whole line....more
Back at my previous site (*cough*don’t mind the link, fellas!*cough*), I had written a glowing review of DK Publishing’s DC Comics Encylopedia. Then,Back at my previous site (*cough*don’t mind the link, fellas!*cough*), I had written a glowing review of DK Publishing’s DC Comics Encylopedia. Then, a couple months back, I wrote another glowing review of their Guide to Conan. I had every reason to expect greatness from their new Marvel Encyclopedia. Maybe those heightened expectations help explain my disappointment. Maybe it’s the involvement of current Marvel editorial in this edition, as contrasted with DC’s freelancer-driven version. Maybe it’s that there are major glaring character omissions, as opposed to the minor ones that first struck me with the DC Encyclopedia. Whatever the case, though, while the Marvel Encyclopedia is hardly a disaster, it’s certainly a big letdown after seeing what DK Publishing is capable of previously.
I should start by saying that, aside from the Essential Official Handbooks Marvel has produced, this is still the best game in town. It’s got gorgeous production values, is obviously the product of a lot of hard work and features more characters than your average fan will encounter in their comic-book reading lifetime. The basics of the Marvel Encyclopedia are exactly the same as the DC Encyclopedia. An alphabetical listing of characters, as comprehensive as possible, with art selected from throughout Marvel’s history. And in terms of basic structure, the book is still a treasure, especially for those with only a mild knowledge of the Marvel Universe. If you’ve never put your hands on an Official Handbook, if you’ve only been reading for a few years, if you’re a young reader who just wants to read about a ton of characters, the Encyclopedia will do you just fine. But if you’re one of those longtime fans who just loves these character and universe guides, who grew up on the Official Handbooks and were hoping this would be a long-overdue update… well, get ready for some disappointment.
The mistakes in this Encyclopedia are relatively minor, but they’re systemic. You can’t flip more than a page or two without hitting something that seems wrong. Maybe Marvel just had more of a flood of bad art in the ’90s and the ’00s than DC, but it seems like some really weird artistic decisions were made here. The Encyclopedia is more the place for definitive looks, rather than experimental takes. Why use Joe Madeureira’s version of Magneto, or the godawful ’90s version of the West Coast Avengers or the Clayton Henry version of Alpha Flight, when a Jim Lee Magneto, John Byrne West Coast Avengers and Alpha Flight are all easily available and far more definitive? I’m not saying that only old art should be used, as the Encyclopedia makes good use of modern work by Adi Granov (for Iron Man) and Tim Sale (for Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane), but for God’s sake, why is Elektra done by Mike Deodato (from the forgettable ’90s series) instead of Frank Miller? Yes, it’s nitpicking, but this kind of project deserves that kind of scrutiny. Especially when the DC Volume placed the bar so high.
To be fair, the Encyclopedia really does cover the obscure, and in some cases the best left forgotten. You’ll find all sorts of relics of the ’90s here, from Sugar Man to Terror, as well as recent questionable characters like Chuck Austen’s Azazel. The focus in a lot of ways seems to be on obscure characters who have premiered since the last Official Handbook, which is probably wise on the surface, except that so many of those characters are so bad, and they get full write-ups where more interesting obscura from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s are lightly touched upon. One also can’t help but notice that co-writer Tom DeFalco’s Spider-Girl universe and Clone Saga stories are unusually well-represented, disproportionate to their popularity. The character write-ups are inconsistent, sometimes featuring up-to-date continuity but oftentimes out of date or just plain wrong. Emma Frost leaves off with Generation X, with no mention of her New or Astonishing X-Men doings. Bucky’s entry mentions that he is the Winter Soldier, but there’s no indication of what that means, and no entry for the Winter Soldier. Meanwhile, the Runaways are nowhere to be found, except for a mention in Swarm’s entry. Given that they’re probably the most enduring new characters created for Marvel in the past few years, this seems like a pretty notable error. Sadly, it’s but one of many.
If you’re a fan who bought the DC Encyclopedia to read with your kids, then the Marvel Encyclopedia will not disappoint. There are thousands of colorful characters and write-ups, complete with power listings, height, weight, all that good stuff. It’s all very well organized, with a spiffy index in the back, and while a lot of the art seems miscast, there are certainly some good choices in there as well. The book looks terrific at a casual glance. But it seems like it was put together with the same care for continuity with which Marvel puts together all of its books these days, which is to say that it’s sloppy and inconsistent.
Where the DC Encyclopedia surprised me with its loving tribute to all characters, the Marvel Encyclopedia seems to show favoritism towards pet characters of the writers and the characters in modern use, with the others given a bare minimum of attention. What impressed me about the DC Encyclopedia was its all-encompassing, something-for-everyone approach, and that approach is not to be found here. If someone puts this under your Christmas tree, thank them, because any comics fan will probably get a kick out of the book… but I can’t quite give the “rush out and buy this” recommendation I gave the DC Encyclopedia two years ago....more
Now that's what I'm talking about. For the longest time, I've bemoaned the seeming inability of DC or Marvel to capture the glory that lay in their guNow that's what I'm talking about. For the longest time, I've bemoaned the seeming inability of DC or Marvel to capture the glory that lay in their guidebooks to their respective universes, the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and DC Who's Who. Given today's lax continuity approach, they're not necessary (if they ever were), but it is still frustrating to see them replaced by half-assed versions like Marvel's Encyclopedias or current flimsy pamphlets trying to pass as the Handbooks, or DC's bizarre hybrid Secret Files. Really, half the knowledge I have about the obscure characters of the DC and Marvel Universes, and thus much of my love of those universes (universi?) comes from having read the Who's Who and Official Handbook back in the day. And so it is that I would like to announce my desire to give the authors of this book a big, wet, sloppy (virtual) kiss for bringing back the truly awesome encyclopedia to the DC universe with this exhaustive, beautifully illustrated hardcover tome. If you are a DC comics fan, or just a superhero fan in general, this one is for you.
The biggest misstep that has been made with the new attempts at this kind of project by DC and Marvel has been their limited scope. Rather than trying to cover their entire universe, they focus in on the characters that everyone already knows. Really, who needs a book on Spider-Man and the Green Goblin? Every five-year-old who saw the movie knows their deal. It's not that I want the big guys skipped over, but the real job of an encyclopedia or secret files or handbook or what-have-you is to include a sense of the universe, of just how many characters there are and how they relate. On this score, DC Comics Encylopedia shoots big and scores big. These creators have covered everyone from the modern-day big guns to the golden age greats, and tossed in any number of obscure characters from the '70s, '80s, '90s and beyond. If you look really really really hard, you can find some omissions, like Erik Larsen-designed Superman/Suicide Squad baddie Shrapnel, but you won't find any major omissions, and you will be astounded by the number of smaller characters who are represented. I know I was.
I could go on and on about this, but let me just give you a few examples of who is covered in here. '80s private dick Nathaniel Dusk. I... Vampire. The Action Comics Weekly version of the Secret Six. Cameron Chase, from the late lamented '90s series Chase. The Hayoth, one of the coolest teams from the '90s Suicide Squad. Individual entries for 2002's Power Company. And on and on and on. For a fan of DC's more out there or obscure heroes, there is nothing better than these books, which seeks not to ignore (like so many creators today) or degrade (like the big event books of 2004) but to catalog, to shine a spotlight on them. They say "every character is someone's favorite," but too few people actually buy into that and give equal respect to all characters as the creators of this Encyclopedia have.
The last thing I want to do, though, is to give the impression that this is strictly focused on comics obscura. No, the really big guys get gorgeous two-page spreads that detail their history, notable story events, who they are and what they do. There are standouts, like the beautiful page for Starman that serves as a loving tribute to James Robinson's series and what he did for the legacy of that character, and then there are the expected spotlights like a nifty two-page spread on Superman. There are even some cool two-page spreads focused on other stuff that makes the DC Universe cool, like Vehicles, Bases, Weapons, Alien Races, Great Team-Ups, Romantic Moments, Great Battles and Strange Times and Places.
All of this information is packed into amazingly well-designed pages that appears modern without being cluttered. The book is a treasure of graphic design, and it is packed to the gills with great art. Unlike the modern-day Marvel Universe handbooks, which seem to forget all artists before the past five years and weirdly bring in different peopple to draw feet or hands on panel shots grabbed from different comics, the guys who chose the art for the DC Encyclopedia have done a phenomenal job. Work by a variety of legendary artists from a variety of eras is to be found here, and somehow they've picked perfectly for 90% of the characters in here. There are pinups drawn from both eras of DC Who's Who as well as art taken from comics dating from the Golden Age through just the last couple of months. The characters who get larger entries, which includes a lot of them, even get some well-chosen panels showing them in action. Even if the info and the writing weren't so strong, this book would be worthwhile as a visual catalog of the DC Universe.
I can't properly credit the artists who are involved in this book, as it takes a full page at the back of the page to do that. I would like to single out the writers who put this whole thing together, a mind-bending task that I can't even fathom trying to do with this kind of skill. Scott Beatty has previously worked on the DK Books Ultimate guides for DC characters (as well as writing Batman, Green Arrow and plenty of others for DC) but this is a huge step up in terms of information, and he has come through with flying colors. Bob Greenberger is one of those names who has been around as continuity cop and production guy at DC and Marvel for a long time, and his presence here is unsurprising, but definitely welcome. Phil Jimenez is probably best known for his loving stories and art on Tempest, Teen Titans and Wonder Woman, and he brings that same sheer joy and work ethic to this book. Dan Wallace is the only guy whose previous credits I don't know, but it's quite clear he can hold his own, and these four men, each bringing a different expertise, have truly created something spectacular.
That they had a design department equal to their writing skills is, in these days of disappointing guidebooks, a small miracle as well. I already mentioned the strong graphic design, but let me also point out that this book has that indispensable (and often overlooked) feature that a book like this absolutely needs: a kickass index. It is clear that everyone, from writing to design to editorial, has put their heart and soul into this, and to them I offer a hearty thank you. To DC and comics fans everywhere, I offer a strong suggestion that you seek this book out, as it should be on every superhero fan's bookshelf. And to DC and Marvel editorial, what can I say? You guys just got schooled....more
Just excellent. Portraits of every American President along with a page of facts about their tenure. Given that it has no obvious political slant in tJust excellent. Portraits of every American President along with a page of facts about their tenure. Given that it has no obvious political slant in the writing, it could easily have been dry, but instead it's fun, informative and, with Templesmith's art, gorgeous to look at....more