Joe Hill, #1 New York Times Bestselling author, is the current go-to creator for a certain quirky brand of horror. Head over to DC Comics and you’ll find he’s been set up with his own fiefdom, Joe Hill Presents Hill House Comics. In there you’ll find such tasty treats as the series, Basketful of Heads. Over at IDW, Joe Hill offers up a five-part miniseries, Dying is Easy, which sets his sights on the often turbulent world of stand-up comedy. It might be fun for you as an audience member but it’s not so easy up on stage, even if you get some laughs. With art by Martin Simmonds, this is a comic that brings on the atmosphere and authenticity of what’s it like to struggle as a comedian. Bad enough that it’s a rough business but it can always gets worse.
On point art by Martin Simmonds.
Our story focuses on an ex-cop comedian who somehow gets in over his head when he finds himself thrust into a blood feud. In the capable of hands of Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds, this first issue sets the tone for what promises to be a satisfying crime thriller. If I was a betting man, which I am on occasion depending upon who is asking, I would place my bet on this comic. Give it a solid 10/10 rating.
Dying is Easy is published by IDW Publishing and is available as of Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
Joyce Chin is a highly respected comic book artist who has suffered a setback. She was on her way to a comics convention in Chicago when she experienced a sub arachnoid hemmorage in the O’Hare airport terminal. A stroke. At the same time, she also fractured her ankle. You can imagine the pain and agony–and the hospital bills. Ms. Chin needless to say, did not attend C2E2. Instead, she spent nearly two weeks in the ICU ward of Presence Resurrection hospital in Chicago undergoing multiple procedures and diagnostic tests. Lucky for her, she is on her way to recovery but she has mounting medical bills to attend to. Visit the Joyce Chin GoFundMe and help in any way that you can.
Joyce Chin cover
Joyce Chin is a comic book penciler, inker, colorist, and cover artist. She has created content under the Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dynamite Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and IDW Publishing labels. A large portion of Chin’s work has been in creating comic book covers. Visit the Cartoonist Joyce Chin Recovering From a Stroke GoFundMe right here.
IDW’s graphic novel adaption of Richard Matheson’s classic 1956 novel, “The Shrinking Man,” holds up very well. Ted Adams, IDW’s CEO and Publisher, has written a script that is faithful to the novel and to the unique pace of comics. Mark Torres (Judge Dredd) provides artwork that zones right into the stifled suburban living of 1950s America. Our main character, Scott Carey, cannot cope with his environment in an extraordinary way: Scott is regressing, reverting, literally shrinking away! No more life as husband, father, breadwinner, and symbol of masculinity. He is going, going, gone. Adams says it was a thrill to bring the novel to the comics page and it shows.
Richard Matheson is an exceptionally vivid writer. He has you experiencing every detail, whether it is a man attempting to survive a vampire apocalyse as in “I Am Legned” or a man confronting a demented truck driver as in “Duel.” Whatever it is, you will believe and be on the edge of your seat as you read it. In this case, the Matheson meticulous attention to detail is focused upon Scott Carey, reducing in size by 1/7” per day. The story alternates between the early stages of Carey’s condition and once he’s near the end, stuck in a cellar, and easily food for a spider.
This book includes an introduction by Peter Straub and an afterword by David Morrell. I read the singles which included Morrell’s afterword which explores the novel’s existential underpinnings. Morrell discusses the 1942 philosophical essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” where Camus compares daily life to eternally pushing a boulder around a dial. The essay was translated into English in 1955 and Morrell considers if Matheson may have read it. If not, then perhaps it was one of those concepts in the air. And, most certainly, existential ideas were not foreign to Matheson.
I believe that Matheson did not care for being labeled a genre writer at all because of how the term is lobbed at writers in a pejorative sense. What the Morrell afterward makes clear is that Matheson was working at a sophisticated level no matter what you call his writing. According to Morrell, Matheson was breaking new ground by including existential themes in a mainstream novel. On top of that, Matheson’s narrative structure, with its flashbacks within flashbacks, predates widespread use of metafiction techniques by some thirty years.
I believe that to label Matheson as a genre writer is very problematic. The actual writing in the 1956 novel, “The Shrinking Man,” is not particularly elegant, per se, but that can be said of any number of so-called “serious” writers. That said, even at this early stage of his career, Matheson does reach lyrical heights. In fact, Matheson reaches a perfect hard-boiled, yet metaphysical, pitch with this novel. Ultimately, as IDW’s Ted Adams states, reading Richard Matheson is time well spent.
THE SHRINKING MAN has recently been collected into a 104-page trade paperback, priced at $17.99. For more details, visit our friends at IDW right here.
You can also get the complete 4-part series through Amazon right here.
You have to hand it to Chris Ryall and IDW Publishing for creating a long line of heart-felt and artful tributes to books, movies, and television. Well, a comic book based upon Douglas Adams’s “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” is one of IDW’s best yet. Written by Chris Ryall, with pencils by Tony Akins, inks by John Livesay, and colors by Leonard O’Grady. It is a most vivid revisit to Dirk Gently placing him in new digs (San Diego) and a whole new challenge (copycat killers and ancient ghosts). The artwork is lively and it all adds up to be one of the most promising comics I’ve seen in quite a while.
With Dirk Gently, Douglas Adams gave us a kaleidoscopic surge of reading joy. It was dapper wit and quirky hijinks. And it was far more than that as Adams played with a wide spectrum of ideas. So, for IDW to tackle Dirk Gently is ambitious–and IDW does not disappoint. The opening story for this first issue is very well paced and full of fun intrigue stacking itself one upon the other like a house of cards.
Dirk is like a whirling dervish right out of the gate. He begins by bolting out of the airport determined to make his way into San Diego with a stolen duffle bag. He bumps right into the owners of the bag and they pursue Dirk all the way to a mystery-themed teahouse, Gumshoes & Tea Leaves. The beautiful bold colors by Leonard O’Grady totally take over in the glorious use of green throughout the café. Our characters come to life in this space as our story unfolds. Dirk has a chance to introduce himself, all sorts of suspicious, dangerous, and supernatural things are already in play. And we know we’re in for something that Douglas Adams himself would have approved of.
“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency #1” is out now, 32 pages, and priced at $3.99. For more details, visit our friends at IDW Publishing right here.
IDW Publishing at Emerald City Comicon this year brings a wide variety of comics goodness. I wanted to point out that Top Shelf Productions, now an imprint of IDW Publishing, will be at booth #1225, where you can meet the creative team behind the hit satire “God Is Disappointed in You,” Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler! The book is very funny and informative. Read my review right here.
“God Is Disappointed in You,” by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler
Shannon Wheeler is a cartoonist best known for creating the satirical superhero Too Much Coffee Man, and as a cartoonist for The New Yorker. Find him here. Mark Russell is a writer and a cartoonist. His writing has been featured in McSweeney’s, The Nib, and Funny Times, among other places, and his cartoons are featured regularly at Nailed. Find him here. And, of course, you can definitely purchase “God Is Disappointed in You,” from Top Shelf Productions, right here.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the ebullient quality of Shannon’s cartoons. I include above a video interview I did with him at last year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego. Seems like the perfect blast from the past to share with all of you. Below are the details on the panel with Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell:
Saturday, 2:00 – 3:00 Room Hall C (TCC 301)
God is Disappointed in You (The Sequel), with Mark Russell & Shannon Wheeler—Last year’s standing-room-only hot ticket returns — now with even more Biblical bewilderment! God Is Disappointed in You, published by Top Shelf, is the tongue-in-cheek “condensed” version of the Bible you never knew you needed — hilariously modern, but surprisingly authentic — packed with cartoons by Eisner-award-winner Shannon Wheeler (The New Yorker, Too Much Coffee Man). Join him and author Mark Russell (writer of DC Comics’ upcoming Prez) for an hour of unforgettable irreverence, including Q&A, audience sketches, and the hilarious-yet-accurate “ten-minute Bible.” PLUS: a taste of the Audie-nominated audiobook, read by Dr. Venture himself, James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros), and an exclusive announcement about the upcoming sequel!
For more details on the IDW schedule at ECCC, go right here.
Okay, let’s get this figured out: “Jem and the Holograms” was an animated show that ran from 1985-1988. Now, was it a show and then it became a line of dolls? No, it was a line of dolls and then it became a show. You know, Hasbro. Same deal like Transformers. The Jem dolls were similar to Barbies (looks like the same mold was used) but with a glam rock vibe.
Yeah, talkin’ about Transformers, Jem is set to be very much a similar deal. The major motion picture comes out October 23, 2015. And, leading up to that, is this six-issue comic book published by IDW Publishing. Let’s take a closer look.
In the front seat writing the limited series is Kelly Thompson. I’ve read her pieces in Comic Book Resources over the years and I appreciate what she does. She sees herself as a voice for women. She does a good job although she has a weakness to overstate herself. She does this, I think, deliberately. You can see this as something of a style choice. Women in comics is her beat. She is certainly an unbashedly enthusiastic fan, the type that speaks of characters as if they were real people and the most awesome ever.
That type of enthusiasm has its place. Even in the relatively limited depths of this project, that enthusiasm can be misplaced. Getting too wrapped up in your characters being these living and breathing entities and, on top of that, being awestruck by them, leads to tepid writing. Your characters never ever do much of anything so as not to risk making them look bad. This is the wrong kind of character-driven storytelling. It takes away from a more challenging story. It does a disservice to young women readers who get a story with everything floating along the same mellow register.
You know that feeling of satisfaction you get when you go see a movie you weren’t expecting much from and then leave the theater impressed? That’s because compelling things were going on. It was good solid writing. What I’m getting so far from this first issue is very soft conflict and very soft focus. Was that part of the charm of the original Jem posse? I don’t think so. Exactly like the Transformers, Jem was and is an empty vessel. It’s not these totally amazing women, as Kelly Thompson endlessly refers to them in her afterword, a masterpiece of hyperbole. But, like I say, that’s how she rolls.
So, what exactly transpires within the pages of this first issue? Our lead singer Jerrica has got the worst case of stage fright in history. She’s a portrait of shivering inaction. Kimber tries to coax her back into the studio while Shana and Aja helplessly look on. There’s some bickering. Later on, we find the solution and it will not involve Jerrica taking responsibility for her actions. Will that change over the course of the story? Maybe so. In all fairness, maybe so. Overall, this issue just plodded along too much. There was room to bring in more elements.
But I don’t want to dismiss this comic. No, because I can understand that the original animated show did leave some comforting mark on a lot of childhoods. It stirs emotions. And, it is what it is. Who knows, maybe the major motion picture of Jem will be one of those movies that leaves me oddly impressed. I’m just thinking about how it can all be better. That said, one thing we cannot overlook is the other major force of creativity on this book, artist Sophie Campbell. Simply for having the sensitivity to have different body types for these characters deserves recognition. These are all distinct characters.
You know, I wish Kelly Thompson, and the whole creative team on this book, the best. And, if we should meet at some convention, I’m sure we’ll have a good conversation. I’m serious when I bring up these writing issues. The mellow pace to the story and then the gushing over the characters in the afterword just left me concerned. The best piece of advice I can offer, not that anyone is asking, is to know that characters like these have got a lot of potential to go far. Forget how awesome they may seem. Just let them go and then don’t be afraid to push them, have them fall, and then push them again. They won’t break. Maybe then you, as the writer, will have the characters, and the story, do something truly amazing.
JEM & THE HOLOGRAMS #1 is available as of March 25. For more details, visit our friends at IDW Publishing right here.
Here we have the “dean of science fiction,” Robert Heinlein, in the pages of this new comic book limited series, “Citizen of the Galaxy,” from IDW Publishing. Welcome to Jabbul. We follow Thorby, a slave boy who has just arrived off a slave rocket ship. He is put up at auction. No one is impressed, except for, Baslim, a beggar who buys Thorby at a great bargain. This strange planet of Jabbul is not Earth and yet it’s not so different, not when you pause to reflect on our own history. Slavery officially ended in America only 150 years ago, right? That’s what you call less than a blink of an eye in a historical perspective. On Jabbul, slavery is very much alive. And if Thorby stands any chance of carving out a decent life for himself, he had best listen to Baslim.
Adapted by Rob Lazzzaru and Eric Gignac, this is a great gateway to Heinlein. And the art by Steve Erwin, with colors and inks by Eric Gignac, provides a pleasing narrative all its own. You’ve got what amounts to an interstellar action/adventure coming of age tale. The pacing is nicely handled as we get to know our two main characters in this first act. Baslim, apparently a mere beggar, appears to have the best of intentions for Thorby, his new slave. For one thing, Baslim has a keen sense of where best to reside. Why not squat in what remains of an unfinished lavish amphitheater? And Balim proves to be highly intelligent. Before Thorby realizes it, he’s becoming something of a junior scholar under Baslim’s tutelage. This is all well and good as this tranquil period proves to be only temporary. Before long, Thorby must prepare for the next phase of his life away from Baslim.
“Citizen of the Galaxy #1” is a 32-page comic book, priced at $3.99, available as of March 4. For more information, visit our friends at IDW Publishing right here.
IDW Publishing has got the comics industry in quite a buzz regarding its acquisition of Top Shelf Productions, a relatively smaller comics publisher. So, what makes IDW special? Well, they do seem to have a geeky love for comics. And that leads to stuff like this collection of Star Trek stories. This is an IDW speciality so let that tell you something about IDW.