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The Wheel Turns…

7 Oct

By Darryl Ayo

“Once Upon A Time…” Chapter One
Hinterkind, no. 1
By Ian Edginton & Francesco Trifogli
With: Dezi Sienty & Cris Peter
And: Greg Tocchini

The first thing of note to occur in Hinterkind number one is on the second page when the protagonist Prosper Monday jumps out of the brush and shoots a zebra. Artist Francesco Trifogli uses a repeating-image of the hunter Prosper superimposed over a still environment to indicate not only her precise movements through space but also to imply the speed and clarity of her action. It’s an old comics trick but it’s a trick that I like. It requires more work and it telegraphs to the audience that the artist isn’t shy to put extra effort in when the situation warrants. That was on page two. Got my attention.

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It’s the Five Phone Commandments, what!

10 Dec

By Ayo

I’ve been in this game for years, it’s made me mechanical/
There’s rules to phone comics, go read the manual:

Rule # one: a smartphone orients vertically in one hand, horizontally in two hands and awkwardly if you make people switch back and forth.

Rule number two: every time the user switches the orientation of the device, s/he is pulled out of the storytelling a bit.

Rule number three: it is good to densely illustrate your panels because each one will be in the reader’s eye, holding his/her attention

Rule number four: stuff like splash pages, two page spreads, etc simply do not work. Space doesn’t expand on a screen.

Rule number FIVE: keep an eye on your lettering and general legibility. If the reader has to pinch and zoom, you’re messing up.

Follow these rules you’ll have mad fans when you wake up; if not, the people that loved you will want to break up.

Gotta go, gotta go more rhymes to make up.

Uncanny X-Force number 28

30 Jul

By Ayo


The cover is by Jerome Openã but the inside drawings are by a lesser-known fellow named Julian Totino Tedesco. He’s got a knack for doing everything in this issue. He executes the climactic scene extremely well and he handles the human moments of the story with ease and finesse. I am not familiar with the name but he is clearly a seasoned professional. The colorist is fantastic but also a mystery. The cover indicates “White” which could only mean “Dean White” but the credits page indicates “Justin Ponsor.” Whoever it is, terrific job.

The story of Number 28 is the exact story of “The Minority Report.” Future world with precognitive anti-crime police carrying out preemptive executions. Punisher has found gainful employment. One wonders why Punisher isn’t a cast-character in this iteration of X-Force to begin with. Anyway:

The middle of this dystopian future story pauses to have a scene in which the characters stop running and start talkin to each other. There are six characters in the protagonist side. Wolverine talks to Deathlok about the situation at hand. E.V.A talks to Psylocke about the death of Fantomex in the issue previous. Age-of-Apocalypse Nightcrawler talks to Deadpool about why Deadpool is on missions after losing his powers. Everybody gets their own “moment.” That is usually all I can ask for.

When I was a kid, reading the original X-Force, all I could have wanted is for the characters who I like to have a “moment” in each issue. Just one where they acknowledge that they know one another and that they all risk their lives together.

There is also a moment in this current comic where we see the human victims of this precognitive, “preventative termination” in progress. Just a moment to capture both sides, and just enough for us all (readers and characters alike) to get the idea.

Also observe—

Deathlok: MURDER for any reason is still MURDER!

Wolverine: Sometimes murder’s the price we pay to protect innocents.




30 Jul

By Ayo


Oppenheimer mowing down invaders. Giving zero fucks of any sort.
“Infinite Oppenheimers”
The Manhattan Projects, No. 1
Drawn by Nick Pitarra, written by Jonathan Hickman.
This comic book is batshit bananas. In high school, this is the type of comic book I would have bought the first issue of, respected its gangsta but not returned for another issue. Hickman combines cerebral plotting with visceral violence in a way that appeals to many intellectual comic readers, but I’m more of an emotional reader. This comic is good but it has no heart.

That said, I’m going to likely read more issues soon because I’m not solely an emotional reader, I have grown to like the cerebral stuff. But this story needs to grow an empathetic character at some point or I won’t enjoy it in the long run.

In 1995 I paid a dollar and ninety-five cents for a copy of X-Force # 44 and seventeen years later it occurs to me that nobody fights anybody in that comic book.

18 Jun

By Ayo

“…Already in Progress…”
X-Force, No. 44
July 1995
Marvel Comics
Jeph Loeb & Adam Pollina

Seventeen years and fifty additional cents. I bought another copy of this comic from a local fifty-cent bin. Much of it reads the same as it did back then: overly gestural art, body language more theatrical than real people ever would display. Fascinating graphic approach for a comic series that was born as a more hardline, rough edged X-Men. High school drama club, the comic book. A much greater focus was placed on facial expressions and emotive storytelling. Unfortunately, for all of his graphic ambition, Adam Pollina is undermining the script which is fairly undramatic.
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For no good reason, I am going to use the word “intercourse.”

14 May

By Ayo

Leave the room, authors. Nobody is talking about you. Yes, your name will be used because you are the creator of the work in question, but criticism is not for you. It’s not *for* you. It isn’t about

Criticism is for everybody else. It is for the audience of a work. Any intonations toward addressing an author in a critical piece are strictly rhetorical. That said, critics: we have to stop acting as though we are in conversation with authors. We are in conversation with work.

We exchange ideas and methodologies and the work in question is often the ball as well as the court. I am thinking of tennis as a metaphor. But nightmare tennis where you are one player and on the other half of the court are dozens or hundreds of other players. The work you are discussing is the net, ball and court. Your intelligence is your racket. No pun intended. This is a terrible metaphor.
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The comics news

26 Mar

By Ayo

Marvel Comics News:

Avengers: Children’s Crusade is available on Comixology. The first issue is $3.99. Let’s think about this. The first issue came out a year and a half ago and it costs $3.99. Digitally.



DC Comics News:

With the release of issue # 7, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman fell from near-universal praise to public enemy number one. One supposes that it would be justifiable to say “pubic enemy number one.”

A socially-conscious feminist’s nightmare: a comic about an empowered woman becomes a comic about a man-hating, baby enslaving barbaric society.

So after a few months of reprieve, we return to a normal reality where the core market for Wonder Woman comics hates Wonder Woman comics.

Well-played, gentlemen.


Vertigo Books News:

Saucer Country number one came and went. An unqualified failure, of course. Foolish of me to believe that Vertigo would allow a comic book series to launch with any sort of competent editorial oversight to give it a chance to be a successful entertainment magazine as opposed to a “pretty interesting idea.”

Note: I will be writing about this comic and others shortly.


Image Comics News:

Saga number one came and went. It was alright. Benefits from having more pages than Saucer Country. This comic has the strongest potential for being a worthwhile investment. Writer Brian K Vaughan has a track record of following through on his comic series.


Lucas Books News:

Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm is a sexy comic book. Not because the lady has the sides of her pants cut out. The drawings by Jan Duursema and the colors on top of them make this a beautiful, gorgeous magazine.

I don’t much like “Star Wars” but I’m starting to appreciate the look and feel of these things.


Mike Mignola News:

BPRD: The Long Death is in progress. Drawn by James Harren, this comic is absolutely stunning. Tyler Crook is the successor to Guy Davis on BPRD but everybody is not-secretly hoping that James Harren replaces Crook with the swiftness.

Sadly, Harren will be working on Conan the Barbarian after this miniseries. While his work will be welcome anywhere, I was definitely hoping he would take up permanent residence ad an agent of the BPRD.


Newspaper news:

As you know (unless you are a comic book nerd with your head up your butt), Garry Trudeau launched an all-out war against the conservative push for state-sanctioned-rape of women, sometimes known as “compulsory, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds.”

Go Trudeau. Everybody has a moral responsibility to stand up for women’s rights to autonomy and control of their own bodies and of course, to stand against using extortion and intimidation as a tactic to force women into submission.


Extreme Studios News:

Brandon Graham and Simon Roy completed their first story arc on Prophet. It was very interesting. I have no understanding of how well this sort of Heavy Metal-inspired storytelling will ultimately be received by the mainstream North American comic book world. I only hope that some teenager buys these and has his mind blown/flipped/twisted.


KaBoom News:

The Adventure Time comic book is cute. The best part of it is that it gives mainstream comics work to indie cartoonists. I’m not completely sold on how it works as a comic book version of an animated cartoon, but it is quite funny, so one for the win column.


Chuck McBuck News:

Charles Forsman is serializing a tiny minicomic series called (excuse me) “The End Of The Fucking World.”

There are five issues out. That fellow Charles churns out pages at a steady rate. Usually I dislike comics of this type: story stretching over many issues but Forsman does some good things. One, he decided that his issues will be very short. Two, he writes his issues so that one memorable thing will occur in each issue. Three, though the chapters are short, Forsman writes with a slow, self-assured pace that indicates an inner confidence which I find comforting. Each issue walks, not runs, like Jason.

Charles Forsman knows what he’s doing. I trust him more than most of these other guys.

Personally: I am very pleased that with the completion of Katie Skelly’s “Nurse Nurse” and Sarah Oleksyk’s “Ivy” that we have another serialized longform minicomic series going. There are a few others running today, most notably “SF” by Ryan Cecil Smith (next issue of that, please?) but Forsman is making a powerfully strong case for this format and storytelling method right now.


Ayo News:

I am writing comics and when I say “writing comics,” I mean “drawing rough versions of comics that will be published some day.”

Mostly, I am trying to get over the heartbreak and disappointment that comes with the knowledge that newspapers continue on their expanding orbit away from comics and that there is no chance that I will ever stop needing to read these godforsaken pamphlet magazines or self-replicating paperback collections in order to simply read a comic.

Forgotten Names, Forgotten Battlefields

16 Jan
By Darryl Ayo

Frank Santoro writes a regular column for The Comics Journal titled “Riff Raff.” This past weekend, Santoro revisited Eddie Campbell’s 2001 memoir ALEC: How To Be An Artist in the format of a drawn review. The interesting thing about How To Be An Artist is that it concludes with a long list of books which Campbell considers to be the best graphic novels created thus far (again, the year was 2001–only the beginning of the “Graphic Novel Boom”). Santoro, in his review, wonders how well this list holds up, over a decade later.

Below is my email to Santoro, reprinted here at his suggestion.


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Comics Festival, version 2.0

12 Dec
By Darryl Ayo

I don’t feel comfortable with the culture of comics festivals and I am advocating for a culture of true arts festivals. I would like to visit a comics festival that is not only free to attend but also largely void of direct sales on the show floor. The average comic show is something along the lines of a craft sale. There is no tradition in our culture for a festival of comics in which exhibitors are not trying to pitch their wares at passers-by.

I want to go to a comics festival in which the show floor is comprised of various booths which can act as miniature galleries, small viewing areas, small reading areas, entertainment spaces and so on. I would like to visit a comics festival in which there are activities such as panel discussions, artist Q&As, documentary screenings, reading spaces and presentations…all without any cartoonists actually sitting behind a table, smiling nervously and hoping that enough people buy their book that they might afford their plane ticket home.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a comics festival didn’t have that awkward pressure of introverts trying to sell their heart’s work to strangers? Wouldn’t it be pleasant if we could all speak with one another without the sad ritual of buying each other’s work, sending that poor, single twenty-dollar-bill traveling around the room and back?

If you’ve chatted with me about comics between MoCCA 2011 and BCGF 2011, you may have already heard my rough drafts for this before. We will surely speak of it again if you let me.

A cartoonist in every newspaper

12 Dec
By Darryl Ayo

Comic books and graphic novels are wonderful but I’m at a point where I realize what the comics field has left behind when it largely abandoned newspapers. Let us reach across the aisles and get reacquainted with our syndicated brethren.

Here’s the short of it: comics in North America began in the newspapers, and they have never been more popular and successful than when they were the highlights of newspapers. Now I can hear that guy in the third row from the back: shut up guy. Newspapers are NOT dead, nor are the comics within them. The newspaper is alive and kicking–although competing with television and the internet for media control.

Right now, there are wonderful comics coming out of the comic strip syndicates. I personally love:

Tina’s Groove by Rina Piccolo

Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson

Zippy by Bill Griffith

I hasten to warn you that none of these comic strips are published in New York City newspapers. I know, I’ve checked.

I also like:

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Mutts by Patrick McDonnell

Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

These CAN be found in New York City newspapers.

But to me, this isn’t enough. This simply isn’t enough. I realized that from the comic strips I personally like, only Doonesbury attempts sustained longform storytelling. Meanwhile, in the past, the popular comic strip Dick Tracy by Chester Gould was brilliant at keeping newspaper readers at the edges of their seats day after day. I can only imagine that these 1930s comic fans had their old-timey hats leaping off of their heads every day. Dick Tracy predates comic books’ Batman. There were other longform comic works that kept the daily commuter pumping sweat and gritting their teeth in anticipation. Buck Rogers, Little Orphan Annie, Popeye, Mickey Mouse, to name some of the popular ones.

Today, we look at this type of storytelling and say that it doesn’t work in newspaper strips, it’s better to put it in a graphic novel. Now–no disrespect–nobody is going to see that graphic novel. Whereas everybody and their mother saw Popeye in the ’30s. There’s no question about it–if you want your longform magnum opus to be seen by anybody outside of the same 200 people, you need to get those comics into the hands of the common man and the common woman and the common child. Common people! It’s common sense.

So I’ve sworn off graphic novels for the time being. Not because they’re bad, but because I believe that if we want comics to be successful, we have to think big…by thinking small. Small enough to fit in the comic page of the local newspaper.

There are too many cartoonists in the United States syndicated comics industry. Or alternately, there are not enough. Syndicated cartoonists make money by having their strips licensed for modest fees to many newspapers. What if those newspapers only hired cartoonists on an exclusive basis and paid them higher individual rates? What if a cartoonist worked for Journal News and produced a daily strip to entertain the community of Lower Hudson, New York? What if the editors of newspapers pulled their heads out of their hindquarters and remembered why so many Americans fell in love with the newspapers in the first place?

For cartoonists, the benefits would be clear: if newspapers were competing on a local market and comic strips were being distributed in small geographic arenas, there would be more jobs for “cartoonist,” just as a matter of course. This is where North America’s vast landmass becomes an economic asset for small businesses. Over the last forty years, with the ever-rising ubiquity of large, global businesses, North Americans have been struggling with the opposite: losing local jobs to monopolizing businesses. Comics largely wiped themselves out of competitiveness decades ago because of this. Before the weight of monoculture crushed the rest of North American small business culture.

I think that the North American Comic Strip is a perfect tool for varied storytelling, both longform and short form, both comedy and tragedy, from vignette to continuity. I think it’s about time we started thinking honestly about what we as a comics culture have lost when the comic book world largely divorced itself from the comic strip world and vice versa.

And I think that the role of the syndicate in newspaper comics is in flux but that this institution still has a great deal of ability to help broker cartoonists and advocate for their clients. The syndicate, to my mind, could still function in its current role of agent, facilitator and liaison for comics-bearing-newspapers and their client cartoonists.  What I’m interested in is a shift in focus.

There’s potential markets out there, but we have to restructure the way we think about things.