Sunday, February 26, 2012

London Super Comic Convention

This past weekend I attended the London Super Comic Convention at the ExCel Centre in the London Docklands. It was the inaugural event of what I'm sure organizers hope becomes a European San Diego, and while there were a few kinks -- notably the excessively long queues -- it was a good event and featured an impressive array of talent including George Perez, Howard Chaykin, Paul Cornell, Fred Van Lente and the LEGENDARY Stan Lee. 

Here are some choice photos from the day, including some of the trip there. I also found some great British indie comics and will be reviewing them shortly, but for now enjoy the photos and my commentary.   
Walking to Bank Station to head to the London Docklands.
Bank of England, Royal Exchange and a bus
Leaving the Docklands Light Rail to the ExCel Centre.
London Docklands -- once the world's largest port.
ExCel London
Waiting to get in. The queues were were rather long and a first detracted from the overall experience. 
Retailers and fans
The How to Write A Comic Script panel. Unfortunately, the woman on the left was an ad hoc addition and I didn't catch her name. If you know please comment. Other writers (L to R) Mike Carey, Fred Van Lente, Kieron Gillen and Andy Lanning.
While waiting for an autograph from Fred Van Lente, Stan appeared to continue signing. It got crazy shortly after I took this photo.
Most of Stan Lee's bodyguards looked like they're former Soviet Special Forces.
Spidey, Stan & Spetsnaz!
Stan Lee: Living the Dream from 1940 to Present Day. At this panel Stan regaled us with some great stories about the beginning of his career, working with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko on the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man as well as his current and future activities in the entertainment business. Most of the stories were well documented, but it was great to hear them from 'The Man' himself. 
Nuff Said!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thinking about Before Watchmen

The comics world erupted in controversy February 1st when DC Comics announced to it was producing seven new limited series and a one-shot epilogue titled Before Watchmen; prequels of Alan Moore's and Dave Gibbon's masterpiece Watchmen.  Is it crass opportunism or a great strategic move? Protagonists from both sides have been arguing over Twitter, YouTube and the blogosphere in the past weeks and here's my modest contribution to this pan-industry debate. 

A cover to DC's upcoming Rorschach Before Watchmen mini

A cover of DC's upcoming Comedian Before Watchmen mini
From DC's Watchmen #2 originally published October 1986, reprinted in 2008
Frankly, I'm looking forward to them. When the original Watchmen was published in 1986, I had only started reading comics and because of this didn't read the originals when first released. By the early 90s, I had managed to complete them but being used to shorter X-Men and Batman books, didn't take in as much as when I read them again in my 20s. Since, I've enjoyed Watchmen three more times and come to appreciate the story as both a masterpiece of the genre and great introductionary story for my non-comic reading friends.

Nite Owl in DC's Watchmen #1, September 1986 republished in 2008
This history is probably one of the reasons why I'm okay with these prequels. Being relatively new to the story, I'm not as emotionally attached to its original twelve issue presentation as others seem to be. Moreover, I'm also a realist. I know the industry is in a scrap and if this brings in new readers or gives comics publicity in the battle against other forms of entertainment, then I'm all for it. Yes, I know that has me siding with the corporate big-wigs in New York and LA, but there's a simple reality out there -- a profitable comics industry means better stories for us readers and more jobs for comic creators. 
A cover of DC's upcoming Silk Spectre Before Watchmen mini
Which brings me to much used Star Wars argument -- likely something I don't need to explain. And while I'm willing to concede the Star Wars prequel trilogy was a disaster, these new films didn't ruin my love of the original trilogy and Empire Strikes Back remains my favourite film to this day. Because of this, I'm taking a similar view regarding Before Watchmen. If they bomb, the greatness of original series will not be diminished one iota. That said, DC knows it can't drop the ball on this one and that's why they've assembled a great team to do it. Look at the list and you'll see what I mean.
Ozymandias in DC's Watchmen #10, July 1987 republished in 2008 
So if you're already against Before Watchmen, then send DC a message and don’t buy them. Me, I'll be reading, reviewing and (hopefully) enjoying seeing how Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan became the great characters I know them as. I know not every Before Watchmen comic will be perfect -- but I'm willing to give them a chance and hope they're a successful enterprise for DC. As stated above: the stronger the industry the better the stories for all of us. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

WGTB reviews Winter Soldier #1

This Wednesday, Marvel's Winter Soldier #1, (Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser) appeared on the shelves of my local comic shop. And being one of the most hotly anticipated and vigorously promoted new books of 2012, it was one I just couldn't resist picking up.   
Cover of Marvel's Winter Soldier #1, April 2012
There's a gritty, near photographic realism to Winter Soldier #1, April 2012
Like most first issues, there was somewhat of a learning curve to get up with exactly what is happening. I know, I know, this may come as a surprise: Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier has been very active in the Marvel Universe of late. But I've never been the biggest Captain America reader and had to go back and get caught up with the back story to a degree. But after reading the comic, with Civil War and the Death of Captain America fresh in my mind, I realised that wasn't all that necessary. Brubaker's writing pulled me in and kept the action brisk so that I didn't have time to think about the history of the character. Indeed, the agenda and motivations of Winter Soldier and Black Widow were clear and this, along with the Cold War back story, was more than enough to keep the book moving on its own merits, at times even giving it a Jason Bourne feel.
From Marvel's Winter Soldier #1, April 2012
From Marvel's Winter Soldier #1, April 2012
Guice and Breitweiser's art, with its gritty near photographic realism, really worked with the gritty realist nature of the story, and this series although clearly situated in Marvel's superhero world, has a welcome spy/war comic feel to it. Indeed, at times it actually reminded me a lot of another Brubaker story I've always liked, Gotham Central, which also took place in a world of superheroes yet was not so much about them.

All in all Winter Soldier #1 is a good book even though it will probably take a couple more issues to gather a momentum that will really get me engrossed. That said, the $2.99 price point makes this a real possibility and because of the low price, what would content wise be a 3.5 is actually getting a 4 out of 5 stars.