Comic Review: Five Ghosts

•April 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

2939304-01Five Ghosts

Writer(s): FRANK J. BARBIERE
Artist(s): CHRIS MOONEYHAM
US Publisher:  Image

Synopsis:

A tale of a treasure hunter who hosts 5 different spirits (Ghosts) all with different skill sets.  Told in a good old fashion pulp style.

The Review:

I hate it when I arrive late to a party, and even hate it more when I discover a great comic so late after its initial publishing.

This comic read from the beginning to end, as a joyous pulp story from the 30′s. I am talking about Doc Savage, The Spider or Fantomas type of pulp.

I was in the comic bookstore, and started eyeing the first issue. I read it all. Right there. And then I went to the counter, and asked the owner for the other issues. He told me they only had what I found on the shelf, staggered numbers like 1, 5, 6, 8 etc… but he offered me the TPB which I took together with my number 1.

The geek in me expects to have it signed one day by Mooneyham!

This comic lured me in with the art. As any comic should. If you want story-driven narrative, that’s what books are for. This guy, very unknown to me until them, Chris Mooneyham, captured me by following a maxim that I’ve been preaching to neophytes in the art world “If you are going to copy, copy from the best, and make them yours!”  

He adopts a harsh style, that will remind the savvy reader of the lines of Klaus Janson, with the pencils of John Buscema. And I don’t write this lightly. I actually found panels where I saw Chris Mooneyham taking panels from the 70′s Conan comics, but making them his. And without looking this guy up on Comicvine, I will venture that he must be in his 30′s, maybe even closer to 40. And this is a compliment, (albeit it may not read like one) praising him on his savviness and choice of artists to emulate.

He puts so much soul and heart into the visual narrative aspect of the comic that makes almost comes across new.  I showed the series to another comic lover of approximately my age, and he was able to relate to all the points I was making when praising Chris mooneyham’s art. Then we showed it to a younger friend, and he was also very impressed, although he had nowhere near the same level of exposure that we had to the breakdowns of Gil Kane, the layouts of John Buscema, the strength and plasticity of Frank Robbins, and a long etc.

He captures with elegance and apparent ease the essence of the comic, the pulp.

fiveghosts02_p4

He brings classic back, and makes it sexy!

His concept on how to frame a panel is so spot on, that he makes me forget my innate abhorrence of pages with no gutters. Which is, by the way, one of my largest pet peeves when reading manga: Lack of gutters, and the art getting all jumbled and confusing.

But look at this guy doing a page with no gutters!

Chris Mnahae23ff432a2

Seriously… I feel gushes of admiration overwhelm me. The treatment of black and white, with the addition of color feels complete. I can tell that if Five Ghosts had been published in black and white it would’ve still been amazing, but the colors are so complimentary that only enhance the final product.

Now, yes, I may be a fan of Mooneyham (as I  will always pride myself to be of good art) but I still have a bone or two to pick with the book. In the first story line, The Hunting of Fabian Gray, we have some action set on Barcelona. Unfortunately, that amazing and bohemian modern city gets depicted as an unrecognizable and anonymous slum of any part of outskirts of Mexico DF.

That is just poor documentation, and I don’t know who to blame. The writer for spelling out such a flawed description of Barcelona, or the artist for not documenting himself better.

But since I was reading a masterful pulp story, I noticed it for 2 seconds and said  “Fuck it” and continued reading, immersed in the story.

The next arch in the story of the title character puts him in the high-seas and has some pirate/buccaneer connotations. Again the avid reader will be able to see lots of winks and references to the Marvel Conan produced in the Bronce age, and particularly John Buscema.

But again, everything made personal, made Mooneyham, with a strong style, attention to detail, attention to story flow, and making the reader admire the work of art that is this synchronicity between script and paneled art, called Five Ghosts.

Here you can find good interview done by David Harper for Multiveristy (http://multiversitycomics.com/interviews/artist-alley-five-ghosts-9-with-chris-mooneyham-interview/) where they even talk about the influences on Mooneyham of the Classic Bronze age comics and his love for pulp.

Well, for that and other reasons on my critic’s rating I give Five Ghosts, by FRANK J. BARBIERE and CHRIS MOONEYHAM

stars.9      Nine Stars out of Ten.

 

 

How I like my SuperHero comics (Part 1 of many)

•February 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

comicwatcher-banner.jpg Continue reading ‘How I like my SuperHero comics (Part 1 of many)’

Meanwhile… at the Austin Wizard World Con

•November 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I was told when I moved to Texas that the Dallas comic con was fun, but the one to watch out for was the Austin Comic con.

It turns out they were referring to the Wizard World Comic Con.

http://www.wizardworld.com/home-tx.html

 

Well, I took the family with me on Friday, and it turned out that the organization was pretty well setup, the volunteers were very well informed and helpful.

Taking into account that I wen with a small child, I had to rush through most booths.
But as a comic lover, I was a bit disappointed to the quantity of movie/tv stars, and the quantity of space assigned to them versus the comic area.

Well, tomorrow I will be taking my nephews with me, and will be able to spend more time with the artists and creators.
Pictures will be included.

 

If you want to write any good stories, please stop watching television.

•November 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

tv drap

Half way into plotting my latest work, I had to take a step back and rethink a lot of things I was doing.  On my tenth or so re-read I realized I was picking up elements from TV shows I’ve seen in the last 10 years, and that bothered me to no end.

Granted, they were not big things, but what really bothered me is that they were actually pretty crummy ideas.

A professional acquaintance who actually works on TV took the time to go over why TV shows can’t dare to stray too far from their formulas: “We are working with a language that has been agreed upon by the majority of the networks, and has been honed and fined tuned through the decades, and handed down to us by predecessors. “

One of the main problems I see is the perception of the industry on how society is.

Hollywood and TV writers seem to live in some kind of alternate of alternate reality, where kids act stupid and just run into oncoming traffic, chasing after balls, young teens are all moody, and parents refuse to communicate with each other.

Don’t get me wrong. There are those instances in real life, and plenty of them. My problem is that they also are crutches for some very lazy writing.

But then I have a skype session with my longtime friend who left comics in the late 90’s and has found steady work on TV.  To summarize the conversation he said:

“Lots of people who work in Hollywood have never worked a 9 to 5 job in their freaking lives. And Hollywood (include TV production in this statement) don’t have a clue of what real life is, because the industry itself puts them in a unreal bubble. Working writers and successful writers get paid a boatload of money and then they become detached from everyday life necessities.

And I am not referring to the poor schmuck who is serving coffee at Starbucks waiting for a miracle and someone to buy their script. Heck No! I am talking about those insiders, who started 10 years ago as personal assistants, and eventually moved up to assistant producers, and now they are part of everything that is wrong with the cultural machine of mass media that is Hollywood and its TV side-business.”

As he was able to explain to me, there are these producers living in mansions, snorting coke and getting hummers in hot-pools that receive a call from someone higher up who says: “I want a TV show about a dog and cop”

They finish their coke and their oral sex and call assistants to get the whole thing started. Then, they call 10 recent grads from some University and ask them to prepare a few scripts. Much later, after the casting and the scheduling of the shooting, they give those scripts to one hired writer who gets paid a decent amount of money to put up with the crap from the producer, and that writer will put together a frankenstein monster of a script and get the credits.

Agreed, with the advent of good competitive TV, the scenario described above is less and less prevalent, but it still out there. And what is worst, the culture that allowed said scenario to exists, its still there.

This gets fed by the fact that the majority of the public want to consume easily recognizable entertainment, and thus they wouldn’t feel comfortable viewing in a movie theater experimental movies, or avant garde theater, usually they would leave the theater in droves.

And of course this same audiences that I am talking about that consumes movies and tv like they are microwavable dinners, are also the majority of the mass consumers of comics.

People usually want to consume things that are familiar to them, and that translates onto most popular media, like movies, music, or comics.

My advice? Slowly move away from your comfort zone.  Keep a couple of Capt America or Batman’s under the bed, but star reading the independents, the weird, the genres you never though you would enjoy, and the ones with strange art, and strange story lines.

And stop watching TV!! Or watch less. Your brain will thank you.

 

 

Moments that defined your love for comics

•July 30, 2013 • 1 Comment

This post owes its existence to a night hanging out with other creative minds, and amongst beers and wine, and confiding in each other where our love affair with the graphic medium started.
I heard lots of interesting stories that night, but I decided to just tell mine.

Love Affair #1

Warren Publisher does Will Eisner The Spirit.

I was a really young kid, in kindergarten, in The Bronx, in New York, and I had to walk past a few newstands and some bodegas, and some of them had comics on the windows, or in racks.

Of course I would check out the Spiderman or the Superman comic against the glass, but one day I saw this.

Spirit published by Warren #6

It was love at first sight.

The lettering of the logo did remind me of Superman’s but the indentations made it look like they had been roughed up. And the hero really looked roughed up!!! Superman was never worked over like that. And speaking of which, anyone notices how this character actually looks a bit like Clark Kent?

The perspective, the puddles, the wrinkles, the flying papers and trash… i remember noticing  all of these details from the cover and being amazed and coveting this comic for ever…. but a 5 year old barely has two wooden nickels to rub together, so it would pass almost 10 years before i got to read it… and when I read it, I found it even better than what my imagination had made up.

The late Master Will Eisner has pages and pages of admirers on the web, analyzing all aspects of his amazing art, and his unsurpassed storytelling technique, so you don’t need me to add to the lot.

Suffice to say that as a first love, Warren’s publication of The Spirit by Will Eisner was amazing.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Continue reading ‘Moments that defined your love for comics’

Dallas Comic Con 2013: My Recap

•May 21, 2013 • 1 Comment

So, as some of you readers may have noticed, I’ve moved to the South last year.

I left my beloved NYC with ambivalent feelings. On one hand I love New Yorkers, those cosmopolitan people who mind their business, but who band like a cohesive unit whenever a crisis strikes, and who in many ways are always the vanguard of technology, trends, fashion and culture.

On the other hand, New York is being sold to the wealthy, and everyone else who is not wealthy, can go and boink themselves.

Another factor is that NYC is a city with 19th century infrastructure and design, trying to adjust to the 21st century. For example: parking sucks and is prohibitively expensive;  the NYC subway and rest of mass transportation is deplorable in terms of cost and delays; the cost of living is through the roof, both in terms of housing cost, and in terms of daily expenses; people who don’t live in the city and come in, think they have to behave like assholes to blend in (tremendous fallacy); etc…

I got to a point in my life where the beauty of NYC and the pluses did not compensate for the long list of minuses. So a year later the family is now trying to settle in Texas.

We’ll see how that works out. We are still in trial period.

One of the first things I’ve been able to do is go to the Dallas Comic Con Expo.
http://www.scifiexpo.com/DCC/dcc2013.html

Dallas Comic Con

Let’s start by saying that the event was a blast.

Although Texas prides itself in doing everything bigger, but this time it has to be pointed out that the state didn’t live up to that motto.

Held at the Irving Convention center, the venue was large enough for the artists and celebreties in attendance, but not large enough for the quantity of fans that poured over to show their love for the media.  As someone pointed out to me, this is the only event accessible to someone from Matamoros (South) to Dalhart (almost 1,400 miles) in the Spring. I will insert here that fortunately for Texas, there still is the Austin Comic Con on November, and it promises a better line-up of comic-book artists and media stars.

http://www.wizardworld.com/registration-tx.html

There are also Huston Comic con and San Antonio Comic con, but more on that later.

The well-versed traveler will remember Dallas as being the city of the 40K/Year millionaires, and the city of the small-town people who want to behave like they are big-city folk, and I was expecting my fair share of that in the convention. Fortunately, most of the attendees I interacted with were all wonderful open-minded people, doing their best to be affable and have a great time. One thing you have to give Texans credit for is that they try to remain polite and gracious, and it shows in many endeavors they take.

One of the most severe problems encountered at this particular event had to do with the the organizers planing like “small-town” folks, and being disorganized to a fault. The parking situation was terribly disorganized, and often we saw cars leaving a lot, but the attendants were not directing incoming traffic to fill the spots, instead keep sending traffic further down to more distant lots. That, under a 95 degree sun, makes for an unpleasant stroll towards the convention center. And people in Dallas are not accustomed to having to walk. Most of the city has pretty decent parking conditions, and it is fair to say that the residents are accustomed to park fairly near their destinations. Also, in the defense of the people attending, you don’t want to be walking under the scorching sun while in a plastic/foam/leather costume, sweating like a hog in a steam room.

That’s how lots of people felt walking from the distant parking lot to the convention center in costumes…

Another improvement could have been the allocation of rooms. On the big day, Saturday, we found the autograph signing room to be huge but mostly empty, while the room where the costume contest was being held was cramped beyond belief. I even saw the fire marshal entering and advising the organizers to start removing attendees, due to fire hazard/safety conditions.

I think the organizers didn’t expect the amazing attendance they had, and were unprepared to deal with the contingency (something very common in the business world in Texas, if I may say so. If you don’t believe me, just look at the construction in the road 114, one of the access roads leading to the Irving Convention Center, and how incredibly poorly signaled the changes are on the road. Locals tell me that construction was supposed to be done 1 year ago, and they still have 1 year to go! But the signals indicating lane changes, alternate routes, etc… DEPLORABLE!  Keep in mind that has nothing to do with the organization of the Dallas Comic con)

Kudos and congratulations have to be given to the fans themselves and the guests.

John Romita Jr. and Jim Steranko where the headliners of the event on the comic side.

The ironic thing is that despite trying to catch them for a few years (more than 5) at the NY Comic con, I ended up meeting them at this comic con in the heart of Texas.

JRJR was there with his adorable and wonderful wife Kathy.  She made the amazing request that anyone with small children or handicapped conditions were moved towards the front of the line.  I feel the pain for the ones without kids or disable relatives, but in this case I applauded and congratulated her profusely.

Also, standing in line you get to listen to more conversations of the artist with his wife, and realize what a wonderful chemistry they have, so you should thank her twice for making you stand in line longer, and letting you in a small window of their interaction and their human kindness.

Romita was a pleasure to talk to, even though it may have been the customary 5/7 minutes you can spare in a table as busy as that one. But I repeat, he (and his lovely wife) made it completely worth it.

And right next to him was the Master of Elegance and Graphic Storytelling himself, Jim Steranko.

Amazingly his table was not as full as it could be expected, but that only gave me more time to enjoy his company.

I had him sign a couple of Nick Fury’s that I’ve had with me since the 70′s, and I finally got to express to him my admiration, telling him how I’ve always ranked him up there with Will Eisner himself in the realm of graphical storytelling.

He regaled me with some stories about living in PA and how he is contemplating moving down south, but he is indecisive between which state to choose.

I mentioned how I kept missing him at different conventions in NYC and how ironic is that I finally got to meet him at Dallas.  I never mentioned anything of my brief incursion in the field as an artists, nor my work in Europe. (I never do. I’ve learned to just show up as a fan, and convey my admiration for the artist. Been doing so for the last few years.)

I know this makes me look like fanboy, but I left Jim’s table feeling I had met a beautiful being, and feeling as an improved human myself for having met him in person.

NOTE TO FANS: Always ALWAYS ALWAYS put your money where your heart is. Even if it is just $1.00. Try to buy something at the table of the artists who is signing your stuff. Otherwise you are just acting like a leech. Seriously. Like those guys who arrive at a table with a stroller and boxes of comics, and pull 20 or so issues and ask to get them signed, but DO NOT PURCHASE a single item at the table.

At JRJR he had a large charity box, where I dropped $20.00, since he didn’t have anything for sale, and at Steranko table, I bought a print, and payed a few extra $5 to have some extra items signed. IT IS NOT about saving money. It is about supporting the artist with your dollars. I made a mental computation regarding how much I could spend, and I spent it on the artists.

I am not saying walk in the room with $1,000 in cash and make it rain on the artists. Heck! I couldn’t be more strapped for cash myself right now, so I know the economy is tough, and we are in a recession! But all you have to do is be selective with your money.

Instead of buying a Tshirt or some other frivolous item like that at the kiosk of some merchant, you should make sure you have covered the artists you appreciate first. The merchant should understand that if you don’t support your artist, he/she would have nothing to sell either!

If you are counting your pennies (a very commendable virtue) know that most artists will have small ticket items at their table, (like $5.00 prints/cards or something like that) but everylittle bit helps.

I can count myself blessed to have in my small collection one of the last books the master Gene Colan signed in one of his last public appearances, before his sad sad passing. He did sign some Tomb Of Draculas for me, but that book I bought at his table will always have a great emotional value for me!

Anyway, that needed to be said.

After that I returned the next day with my young nephews to get them to enjoy the fanfare and the costumes. Being barely under 10 they still don’t have a grasp on the concept of autographs and creators nor artists, and they still think that comics magically happen, so getting so see some artists doing their craft right there at the table was an eye opening experience for them.

Well, suffice to say that the organizers got a commendation for effort, but an “F’ for actual implementation.

I hope they listen to the complaints for the irate fans in a constructive way, and learn for future conventions how to not make the same mistakes.

Other issues that needed addressing, for example: The signing room for the TV celebrities was MUCH larger than the room where the costume contest was being held. And the convention was all about showing off your costumes.
On Saturday, tickets were sold out, but they still allowed people without tickets to parch, and pay the $5.00 fee, only to find out they couldn’t get in. I hope they refunded those visitors.

I want to stress that the organizers made a fairly good attempt at making things smooth. They were present at the premises, and were trying to correct the mistakes. They were just rookie mistakes, and all people who attended the convention and found a serious problem with the organizations should communicate what they saw/experienced in a very courteous manner to the organizers, and ask them politely to try to correct it next time.

In Texas and in the rest of the world things go smoother if you are courteous and polite. Something we all should learn from the Lone Star State.

In my next post, I will comment on some items I purchased and some new artists I met.

 

What I want for 2013….

•January 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Another year has gone by… And although it was full of good surprises and brave endeavors, I still look back and somehow find it lacking.

Yes, Darick Robertson has produced amazing work, David Finch has graced some new myths with his amazing inks, and Millar and Ennis have consolidated themselves as more comic book icons, and the list goes on. DC relaunched all his pantheon of heroes (minus some, of course), and managed to give collars to most heroes, put some pants on others and steal the clothes of the backs of alien princesses who didn’t mind having them stolen in the first place.

Why then am I feeling so… blah? Maybe because mid year I got involved in the relaunch of a series that I had peddled (unsuccessfully, of course) to the Big Two back in the 1990′s.

Being the visionary that I am (I say this humbly and sarcastically) y got turned down often while receiving statements to the effect of “This stuff is not good for this market. We don’t do things like that here in the US. Maybe you should try Europe.”

Now, 20 years later, and one V for Vendetta later, they are telling me that maybe the market could be ready. So here I am, working on the vision of a superhero that is commercialized and disfranchised and dragged through the mud of his city, and the backers are pulling out saying “Wow, man. This is too dark. Too ambitious. Too real. Too close to home, man.” And nope, I am not feeling betrayed, nor am I feeling desperate nor desolated. I put away my new sketches, I actually bundled them with the old ones from 20 years ago, and just lean back and wish things were different.

I wish… that our market was totally composed of IDW’s. Publishers that have an investment with the creators, and want projects to move forth, be successful, make money, gain fans. Imagine a whole industry where the actual creators are the direct responsible for the successes and failures of the creations, and sharing into the profits to a higher degree… Oh my god… I am sounding like one of those confounded socialists!!!   6258690704p

I wish… that the superheroes give way to a more mature audience and a more mature creators. I am so sick of going over seas to comic cons, and getting constantly asked about the american classics, like Milton Cannif, Alex Raymond, Al Capp, Will Eisner, Richard Corben and only as a perfunctory annotation do they ever stop to talk about people in tights… I want to see Ltnt. Blueberry next to Superman, and Corto Maltes next to Spiderman. I want to see their equivalent counterparts be created on this side of the Atlantic.

254347739_580e58baff

I want to see the American Incal, or the counterpart sagas of Jodorowsky. Heck, I don’t even think the US has produced the American Manara.

I wish…to see the hardcover album become a normal staple in the American comic book stand. The format with Album pages, with hardcover luxurious colors, with a page count between 46 or 64. The way Pilote use to publish them, or Darguard use to. What is the comic Album? No, it is not the graphic novel with a hardcover. Here, we publish a floppy monthly, with barely 14 pages of story, and eventually, when we gather enough issues we release it on a graphic novel. It it really sells well, we release it as a luxury hard cover. But in Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and lots of other European countries, the artists and writer put together a work of art that is between 40 and 60 pages long. It gets drawn in large paper,  A4-sized, approx. 21×30 centimeters  that is 8.4×11.6 in, but also often we find  11.657″ x 16.93″ .And then it gets published in a luxurious hard cover album. Eventually it may sell as a softcover. And not as an afterthought, not only if the comic is wildly successful. From the get go. No cheap floppy-cover 16 page issue comic, but a full fledged album.

I wish… for more digital comic releases, in an affordable and profitable manner for all involved. Alas, much in the manner that the book publishers were revealed to have done recently by being in cahoots and plotting to keep digital books artificially high, so have comics books not gotten there yet. The main thing that digital comics have going for them is the voragine and appetite for digital media that youngsters who have grown up in the digital age seem to profess.

I assume they are going to follow the tactic of waiting it out. Waiting it till people who want digital comics no matter what, they stop caring about the overpricing.  Maybe it will reach a plateau , maybe not. Time will tell.

newyear1

 

 
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