Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hey, look over there!

No, I haven't resurrected Thought Balloons after nearly a year. That would be too much like work. I have, however, launched a new blog called Comics, Covered, which as the name might suggest, is devoted to comic-book cover art and design.

In the past week or so since the launch, I've touched upon everything from puppet pattern as cadaver on the cover of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service to Soviet propaganda imagery on 52 #8. There's also been bits on Mouse Guard #1, Godland #12, Marvel's Civil War trade dress and American Virgin #1, among others.

So, this is a ploy to get traffic to the new blog because I've been unable to score a coveted spot on the Comic Weblog Updates page. Yeah, I'm shameless.

Monday, April 11, 2005

(Insert appropriately maudlin headline here)

Well, this is it. After some 1 1/2 years, 2,550 posts and 264,865 words (according to Blogger, at least; I think it's more), I'm pulling the plug on Thought Balloons. No more almost-daily linkblogging for me, thank you.

I'm not "leaving" in a huff -- I'm not really "leaving" at all, if you'll read on -- or getting a handsome promotion or anything exciting like that. I just don't find Thought Balloons particularly fun any more. In fact, following comics industry "news" day in and day out has diminished my enjoyment of the comics medium. My head's so full of nonsense about Countdown backlash, publisher misdeeds and monthly sales performances that when it comes time to actually read one of the comics or graphic novels stacked around my office, the interest just isn't there.

So, instead of moping about the state of the industry, or complaining that comics aren't fun any more, I'm turning my attention to what does interest me: horror, fantasy and, to a lesser extent, science fiction.

If you'll pop over to Dark, But Shining, you'll discover a new blog devoted to those very things as they pertain to comics, prose, TV and film. Rick Geerling and I will be joined by a couple of other contributors to provide reviews, essays, interviews and more on everything from the genius of Ray Bradbury to the world of B.P.R.D. to the folklorish elements of horror (and the horror elements of folklore). It's definitely a work in progress, but I hope it'll be an interesting one.

One of the reasons I began blogging back in October 2003 was my desire to escape the insanity of comics message boards. But now I find myself missing some of the interaction and ongoing dialogue (though intelligent dialogue seems in short supply in most forums). Thought Balloons provided me with an outlet, but it never seemed conducive to much actual discussion. I'm hoping a group blog dedicated to reviews, essays and the like will offer a happy middle ground between the solitude of Thought Balloons and the din of message boards.

Thanks to everyone who visited Thought Balloons. I hope you'll give Dark, But Shining a try.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


In a Colorado Springs Gazette article, writer Marv Wolfman talks about his new ibooks novelization of 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, told from the perspective of The Flash: "I wanted to do a story about what it's like to actually be the character. These books are told at a distance, especially something like Crisis, which had 400-something characters. But this, this is a very personal story. It's about Barry."

According to England's Yorkshire Post Today, vicar-turned-fantasy author Graham Taylor (Shadowmancer, Wormwood) will appear in Shadowmancer: The Comic as narrator and main villain Obadiah Demurral: "The middle-aged former priest has been given a dark new look by artists who design the graphically violent manga comics which in Japan are better read than many newspapers." The series will be published by UK's Markosia Enterprises.

The Hollywood Reporter has word that New Line Cinema has acquired the feature-film rights to Naoki Urasawa's Monster manga series, which has sold more than 25 million copies in Japan. Publisher Shogakukan Inc. will serve as an executive producer. Monster is a psychological thriller about a doctor who saves the life of a little boy, only to find out a few years later that he helped a brilliant killer.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review previews Art Spiegelman's local appearance this weekend.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Some items of note from this, the comics Internet:

At Suicide Girls, Charles Vess discusses The Book of Balads, his current project -- a Fables graphic novel set in the world of the Arabian Nights -- and what attracts him to the fantasy genre.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian (scroll down) speaks briefly with cartoonist Seth about Charles Schulz, and mainstream publishing's current appetite for the graphic novel: "I'm not sure why it's happened. Everyone's working along, building up, but somehow in the past few years, there's an awareness of what we're doing. Ten years ago, using comic books to tell a story was a stupider idea. Now it's a mundane fact. You don't have to sell it to anyone anymore, that you're not just an idiot for working on this."

At IGN.com, Fred Hembeck reveals that while Superman (née Superboy) is, indeed, a dick, the same can't be said of the Boy of Steel's best friend, Pete Ross.

Reuters reports that Pope John Paul II is being reborn in a Colombian comic book as a superhero who wears an anti-Devil cape
and special chastity pants. The first issue of Incredible Popeman features the pontiff meeting with superheroes such as Batman and Superman to learn how to use special powers to battle Satan. No word yet from DC on the appearance of their trademarks in the comic.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Darwyn Cooke, on going 'Solo'

Darwyn Cooke talks to The Pulse about his turn at DC's Solo artist-spotlight series:

"I’ve always preferred the type of protagonist that is something of a loner. Slam and King are near and dear to me because of the Catwoman series and New Frontier. They are probably closest to me in terms of personality, for one reason or another. The Question has always fascinated me, as has [Steve] Ditko’s intractable philosophies. He was the perfect character for a story idea that revolved around cutting through the media clutter surrounding the 'War on Terror.'

"Bradley is bent -- but not broken -- romantic with a fierce streak. He's kind of Philip Marlowe with a switch that converts him to Mike Hammer. King Faraday is smart, amoral, and self-interested, but aware of a need for societal checks and balances. [He's] wryly cynical after a lifetime of trying to believe in Good and Evil. The Question is perfectly insane. [He's] the very definition of focus. He lives in Ditko's world where the high contrast turns even the murkiest greys into startling black and white."

Viz Media emerges from merger

The merger of manga publisher Viz and anime licensor ShoPro Entertainment -- it's more like a realignment, really, since they share a parent company -- is complete, with Viz announcing the formation of Viz Media.

ShoPro Entertainment is an affiliate of ShoPro Japan, which is a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc., one of Japan's largest publishing companies. Viz is a subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc. and Shueisha Inc.

"We are excited to continue expanding our business by developing entertainment content across all available mediums for people of all ages on a worldwide basis," Hidemi Fukuhara, president and CEO of Viz Media, said in a press release. "Having the support and leveraging the combined assets of three of Japan's largest and most respected content creators provides Viz Media with a significant competitive advantage and will create unlimited new opportunities for our company."


Some items of note from this, the comics Internet:

Canada's Exclaim! speaks with Dead@17 creator Josh Howard, who's a little tired of the Buffy comparisons: "I get the Buffy thing a lot, and frankly, it's very frustrating. I've never seen, read, or know anything about it. The themes of destiny and the mentor relationship are prevalent in hundreds of other stories, like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix -- stories going all the way back through time."

Not even the mighty New York Times can resist a "Pow!" headline. Today, it appears over an article about the fashion industry's fascination with Sin City: "I really love graphic novels," designer Isaac Mizrahi said. "There is no pause between the action. The framework of boxes dictates that something has to happen in that box, unlike a different type of writing, like a novel, where the action takes place over a long course of time. I'm not addicted to story. I like things to happen in beats."

IGN.com chats with Josh Fialkov, publisher of Western Tales of Terror and writer of Elk's Run: "Well, we're actually full up in the 'non-pro' submissions category. We'd have to make it to issue 30 something, at this point to use them all. If you've got an indie book out and would like to be in the book, you can contact us on our message board, or via our website. We're really making a point to be sort of a hub where we hook artists and writers up and let them go out and make good on their talent, so we're constantly looking for new people to help hook up with others."

In the blogosphere, Franklin Harris announces that Franklin's Findings is going on an indefinite hiatus because of changes at work. Meanwhile, Sean Collins resurrects ADDTF.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Feminine heroics: from Wonder Woman to Elektra

In The Fray, "an online magazine devoted to issues of identity and community," considers the history of female superheroes, many of whom started out with "feminine" (passive) powers or as muted copies of their male counterparts. Then came the Reagan Era:
Moral ambiguity ruled the day in the 1980s — or so it would seem. Marvel Girl had grown in power, sacrificed herself on behalf of the X-Men, and was reborn as the Phoenix. A sympathetic hero, she was driven insane by her newfound power and destroyed an entire universe. The beloved Jean Grey had gone bad and had to be punished, but at her trial she once again sacrificed herself to save her friends. Whether hero or villain, she was dead.

Catwoman, with a longer history than Jean Grey, gained prominence as well. Always acknowledged as a villain, but with a clear hold on Batman’s affections, Catwoman played a role in the landmark Dark Knight Returns, a story of Batman ten years after his retirement, and in Batman: Year One, the first year of Bruce Wayne’s crime fighting career.

... Into the midst of these longstanding characters came a new woman with a nebulous history: Elektra Natchios was an intriguing romantic interest for fan favorite Daredevil. She appeared out of nowhere and prompted a mild revisionist retelling of Daredevil’s history — a college love of Matt Murdock, she witnessed her father’s killing and lashed out at Matt: “I used to love the world. ... You’re a part of that world. And you love it. You let it hurt you and you love it all the more. I’m not that strong, ” she said in Elektra Saga. Her innocence lost, Elektra channels her rage into a job as an assassin. Even after dying (more than once), Elektra remained a popular character who would ultimately make the jump to film — not simply as a foil for the male hero, but as the center of a storyteller’s universe.

Giffen responds to 'Countdown' kerfuffle

Amid the Internet furor over DC's Countdown to Infinite Crisis, Keith Giffen talks sense to Comic Book Resources:

"It was like, 'Oh, well, that's not the way I would have done it,' and really, when you think about it, 90% of comics criticism is just that. Would I have killed Blue Beetle? No, I wouldn't have, but I'm not the guy writing it. It's not like they went out and took the guy out back and shot him. Any one of us could get a call a month from now saying, 'Bring him back' and you type 'Blue Beetle walks in the door' and everyone goes, 'Oh, he got better!' It's comic books! Did anyone really believe, except for those who don't read comic books and fell for it, that Superman was really dead?

"... Would this be the way I'd handle things? No, but if you check the book my name is no where near it. It's not as if I'm storming around saying 'How dare DC mess with second rate characters!' Let's set the record straight: Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Fire, Ice and those characters, the only reason why we used them is they were the only characters we were allowed to use. Captain Marvel was only on loan to us for the first six issues, we knew he was going bye bye. [Editor] Andy Helfer had to fight every single day to keep Batman in. So, it wasn't like we said, 'Let's bring in Booster Gold,' it was much more like going to DC and asking who we could have. And don't forget we were handed a certain Justice League membership and Blue Beetle was front and center. It's not so much that I adopted Blue Beetle, but that all these characters came to be very convenient mouthpieces for the types of stories we wanted to tell. Their personalities were the kind that Mark DeMatteis and I both enjoyed exploring. It's an unfortunate circumstance, but it's also business. Is the book selling? Yes! Did they make the right decision? I'm going to have to go with yes."

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Do people still say 'e-zines'?

I've been a curious mix of lazy and busy, so I think I'll only make one entry today. Regular blogging, for what it's worth, should resume tomorrow.

The April edition of Animefringe features a Q&A with Scott Pilgrim cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley, who discusses his anime and manga influences, work process, and the autobiographical aspects of his comics:

"I guess my comics are kind of like dreams. When I look back at them, I see all these little fractured bits of my memories and stuff popping up as characters, situations and stuff. Every little bit of the story is just a different reflection of some part of me. It's really kind of bizarre and hard to explain. But yeah, a lot of the little details that get mentioned, things that happen, snippets of dialogue are things that happened to me or friends."

The online magazine also spotlights the 15th anniversary of the CLAMP collective.

Meanwhile, the new edition of Sequential Tart features an interview with Brian Wood about The Tourist, an overview of manga publisher Viz, and more.