Category Archives: Spotlight

A quick highlight of comics getting featured or used in a unique way.

Online “Best of 2012” Comics Lists

Happy New Year! The Comics Observer will be returning to our regular weekly schedule (more or less). But first, to kick things off: a list of lists for the listophiles. 2012 was another amazing year for comics. Truly the great modern renaissance continues unabated.

We’ll be attempting to aggregate every online “best of 2012” comics lists covering comic books, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, etc. that we find. (Basically, a blatant rip-off of this Best Of books list of lists.)

As the lists appear online, this master list will get updated. We’ll post on Facebook/Twitter when new ones are added.

Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me with a blog, magazine, newspaper, or other online media list I have missed. (comics, graphic novels)
Ace Comics (comics)
Alec Reads Comics (comics) (comics, graphic novels)
A.V. Club (comics)
A.V. Club (graphic novels)
Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Tales (graphic novels)
Barnes & Noble (graphic novels)
Battle Hymns (graphic novels)
The Beat (comics, graphic novels)
Bleeding Cool (comics, graphic novels)
Bleeding Cool (Irish comics)
Bloody Disgusting (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6) (horror comics)
Boing Boing (comics, graphic novels)
Boston Globe (fiction with graphic novels)
Brain Pickings (graphic novels)
Brian Evinou (comics, graphic novels)
British Comic Awards (comics, graphic novels, creators)
Broken Frontier (UK small press comics)
Co.Create (digital comics)
Collingswood Patch (comics, etc.) (all-ages comics) (comics) (new comic series)
Comic Book Resources (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5) (comics, graphic novels, webcomics)
ComicMix (comics)
Comics Alliance (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5) (comics, graphic novels, webcomics)
Comics-and-More (superhero comics)
Comics Bulletin (comics, graphic novels, webcomics, creators)
The Comics Reporter (comics, graphic novels, webcomics)
Comics Should Be Good (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7) (comics, graphic novels)
Comics Worth Reading (graphic novels)
comiXology (digital comics)
CraveOnline (graphic novels)
Crisis on Infinite Midlives (part 1, part 2) (comics)
The Daily BLAM! (comics)
Den of Geek (comics, graphic novels)
Diana Tamblyn (part 1) (comics, graphic novels)
Drawn (comics, graphic novels, art books, etc.)
Earth’s Mightiest Blog (comics, graphic novels)
East Windsor Patch (comics)
FEARnet (horror comics)
File Under Other (comics)
Filth and Fabulations (graphic novels)
Flashback Universe (digital comics)
Forbidden Planet (comics, graphic novels)
Ghastly Awards (horror comics)
The Globe and Mail (graphic novels)
Goodreads Choice Awards (graphic novels)
The Gauntlet (graphic novels, etc.)
The Guardian (graphic novels)
House to Astonish (comics)
Huffington Post UK (comics, graphic novels)
iFanboy (comics, graphic novels, creators, etc.)
IGN (comics, graphic novels, digital comics, webcomics, creators, etc.)
io9 (comics, graphic novels)
io9 (webcomics
Karen the Small Press Librarian (part 1, part 2) (graphic novels)
Library Journal (graphic novels)
Manga Bookshelf (manga)
Manga Bookshelf: Melinda (part 1, part 2) (manga)
Maybe Blogging Will Help (comics, graphic novels)
MillarWorld (comics, graphic novels)
Mother Jones (books with graphic novels)
MTV Geek (comics)
MTV Geek (graphic novels)
MTV Geek (manga)
Multiversity Comics (comics, graphic novels, creators, etc.)
National Post (books with graphic novels)
Nerdage (graphic novels)
Nerdist/TOKYOPOP (manga)
Newsarama (comics, graphic novels, creators, etc.) (graphic novels)
NPR (comics)
NPR (graphic novels) (books with graphic novels) (‘bathroom books’)
Panel Patter (indie comics)
Paste Magazine (comics, graphic novels)
Paste Magazine (webcomics)
Paste Magazine (graphic novel reissues)
Paste Magazine (comics, graphic novels, webcomics, digital comics)
Patheos (comics, graphic novels)
Planet 46 (comics, graphic novels, etc.)
Publishers Weekly (graphic novels)
Quill & Quire (graphic novels)
Rob Kirby Comics (self-published comics, graphic novels)
Rob Liefeld (comics)
Robot 6 (comics, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, digital comics) (graphic novels)
SciFiNow (comics, graphic novels)
School Library Journal (graphic novels)
She Has No Head! (comics, graphic novels, webcomics)
SFGate (books with graphic novels) (comics, graphic novels)
StarTribune (graphic novels)
The Tearoom of Despair (comics, graphic novels)
TIME (graphic novels)
Time Out Chicago Kids (part 1, part 2) (graphic novels) (concluding comics series)
USA Today (comics, creators, etc.)
Village Voice (comics, graphic novels)
The Washington Post (comics, graphic novels)
The Weekly Crisis (graphic novels)
When Words Collide (part 1) (comics, graphic novels)

Thank you, Comic Books!

“Don’t Rush Thanksgiving” by Randy Bish (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 9, 2009)

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

You can live in any country to express some gratitude. So, The Comics Observer crew sits down around a virtual dinner table to reflect on what they are thankful for in the world of comics.

Share your own in the comments.

(Oh, and that cartoon to the left has been making the rounds on Facebook and other social media sites but it’s actually been around for three years. A good sign of an instant classic.)

You’ll Never Know Book 3: Soldier’s Heart by C. Tyler

Miguel Cima, Dig Comics columnist:

  1. Boundless creativity and limitless variation – Yes, this is true of ALL art forms. But most narrative art forms are too costly and difficult to control to allow artists to really push against the edges (and no, not ALL comics must be narrative, but most are). Even in comics, only a tiny minority published are in any way experimental, or at least offering of a fresh voice. Nevertheless, there is no other mass-produced art form that walks off the narrow road of all the conservative wisdom norms imposed by the culture at large quite as often.
  2. Surprise – Really an extension of #1, I love to be surprised. I love going to a comic store and really biting into something new. And it’s not just that comics offer the most per capita surprise, but comics are just so much more instantly accessible. A book needs several pages before a reader judges a writer’s style. Music requires several bars before the song can reveal itself. But just flip a few pages of comics and your eyes start talking to you. Sometimes, my eyes bug out and my skull pulls back, the better to soak it all in. You can’t fake that sort of spontaneous, visceral sensation.
  3. Mythology – The Kirby/Lee universe allowed me to develop with a strong sense of perpetual mythos. This is something largely lost outside the often sterile experience of religious sermons. The stories, the drama, the heroes and villains, the losses and the triumphs, and the slavish obsession I felt for so many years to know every little bit of it, is something of an extinct tradition in modern life. I suppose one can lend such devotion and fabled storylines over to sports or military traditions. But REAL mythology makes sure not to have both feet planted in the ground. The impossible, the unknowable, the imagined – none of those qualities can be applied to real people. Even the loftiest of them become all too familiar when closely examined. Submerging oneself into a world beyond seeing is a crucial element to the experience. Comics offered me a portal into that consciousness, and a lot of other people too. I like being a 21st century guy feeling linked to Ancient Greece.
  4. Pretty pictures.
  5. Having lived long enough to see the completion of Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know. Part 3 came out last month and is on the top of my pile. My Thanksgiving present to myself this year is to save the book for reading this coming weekend.

Camp Candy #1 by Angelo DeCesare and Howie Post

Scott Shaw!, Confessions of a Cranky Comic Book Cartoonist columnist:

No. 5. …That having been born late in 1951, I was able to enjoy first-hand, right off the ol’ spinner-rack: the greatest kids’ comics in the 1950s (by Carl Barks, John Stanley, Bob Bolling, Sheldon Mayer, etc.); the Mort Weisinger-edited line of “Superman” comics for DC in the late 1950s/early 1960s; DC’s Silver Age comics edited by Julius Schwartz; the birth of the Marvel Universe as created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, and the birth of the underground comix movement by R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and others.

No. 4. …That, back in 1970, I was one of the kids who organized the very first San Diego Comic-Con, now known as Comic-Con International.

No. 3. …That I’ve been lucky enough to work with many of my favorite entertainers, including Jonathan Winters, Tex Avery, John Candy, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Gary Owens, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, Laraine Newman, Christopher Guest, the Monkees, Henry Corden and others. Hey, Marvel Comics published a funnybook series based on John Candy’s Camp Candy cartoon series – which I produced and directed, Joseph Barbera owned Dearfield Publishing Co., which published “Red” Rabbit Comics, Dexter Comics, Foxy Fagan Comics, Junie Prom and Panhandle Pete And Jennifer) and the Monkees had their very own comic book series from Dell!

No. 2. …That over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to know and even work with a number of my favorite comic book creators, including Jack Kirby, Sergio Aragonés, Bob Bolling, Sam Glanzman, Carl Barks, Mike Sekowsky, Jack Mendelsohn, Owen Fitzgerald, Roy Thomas and many others.

No. 1. …That at age 61, I’m still a busy professional cartoonist, writing and drawing comic books (as well as animated cartoons, advertising and other applications of cartooning) for over forty years.

Batman: The Long Halloween #2 by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Bree Todish, reviewer:

5. New Discoveries — Being what I will dub a non-comics-reading-comics-reader (meaning my knowledge base is above that of most people who don’t read comics, but my actual comic reading library is pretty small), I love finding new and unexpected comics, or story lines, or characters that intrigue me. It also sometimes inspires me to think in comics terms for what is missing in the medium. (Yeah, I’m one of those people who looks at stuff and goes: well, that’s cool, but what would make it better?)

4. Self-contained stories — aka the One Shot. I’m thankful that comics can have a series with ever-changing plots and characters and rebirths but then have one off-shoot which is self-contained in its own little realm and we just leave it there. There’s a tendency to over-do and over-saturate with all forms of entertainment/artistic media and what is enjoyable about a one shot is the stand-alone novel quality it has. There’s a thing. It happened. That’s it. THE END.

3. Batman — SUPERheroes are great and all, but I’ll always go in for a born billionaire with a depressing past who trains himself for taking vengeance and ends up being a symbol of awesome in a gritty city with some completely whacked out villains. Plus, he’s based on the ultimate sophisticated rich man saving people model.

2. Extreme Escapism — While I may not go in for some varieties of comics in general, I do love that comics allow for the ultimate in written and visual escapism. If you can think it and draw it, it can exist in the comics world. It does provide for an almost inexhaustible supply of creative fodder.

1. Daily Strips — Say what you like about monthly issues and their artwork and story development, my first initiation to comics and what remains my favorite are the daily newspaper strips. The ability of the creators to craft stories on a daily basis and remain interesting, funny, relevant, and touching never ceases to astound me.

Building Stories by Chris Ware

Corey Blake, The Comics Observer editor:

1. A New Golden Age – This has been said before but it’s so true it deserves to be repeated. Over the last 5-10 years, comics have been producing more unique, diverse, inventive, creative and entertaining material than ever before. It’s impossible to keep up with it all but there’s never been a better time to read comics whether it’s for the first time or the millionth time. The level of craft, the diverse choice of material – there has never been a more rich period. It’s a comics renaissance.

2. GoComics Go! – Recently, I finally broke down and set up an account at, the online home for comic strips distributed by Universal Uclick (previously Universal Press Syndicate). When I was a kid, my father would come home from work with a copy of The Boston Globe. Every day, I would grab the comics section and read Calvin & Hobbes, For Better or For Worse and FoxTrot. Now I get an email each morning from GoComics that takes me to the day’s comic strips. What’s even better is I get to handpick the comics I want to read. It’s like getting to create your own comics page in your own personal newspaper. Universal Uclick doesn’t have every comic I want to read, but it’s got a really impressive roster.

3. Print Still Surprises – Yes we’re in the digital age. Comic strips are online, comic books are digital, webcomics… well they figured it out years ago, didn’t they? But print can still impress. Opening up Chris Ware’s Building Stories made me feel like 10-year-old me opening up a brand new board game. It’s a magnificent example that there’s no reason to publish stories in the same old way just because everything else is a traditional book-shaped product.

4. Comics Have Heart – From The Hero Initiative helping creators who have hit on hard time to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund protecting the First Amendment to countless successful Kickstarter and Indiegogo fundraisers that help bring to life creators’ dreams, the community in comics is wonderfully generous. Whenever terrible news comes in of someone’s house being flooded or burnt to the ground, our readers and creators and other comics folk always make a beautiful effort to help.

5. This – More selfishly, I’m extremely grateful for getting to write about comics here at The Comics Observer and at Robot 6, for the privilege of getting to share others’ writings about comics, and for the people that read, share and/or respond.

3D Manga Breaks Boundaries of Page

Initially posted to Twitter, an innovative manga by artist Yūsuke Murata (Eyeshield 21) expands the artist’s canvas, merging elements of arts & crafts, photography and graffiti/street art to the storytelling techniques of comics and manga.

The short story is a relatively simple comedy about a Murata stand-in being hounded by his editor about his deadline but it’s packed with lively slapstick that plays with perspective similar to some of the eye catching 3D street art that you’ve probably seen either online or in person. The manga also makes use of folded papers with cut out pieces and white-out to build the world around the characters to create the coolest dioramas you’ve ever seen. Once the individual moments have been created, Murata had to light and photograph them to create each panel of the manga, being sure to frame each scene with his camera from the right angle to get the best effect out of his artwork. Sometimes he even used a direct light source in the panel itself as in the picture below.

To read the full story, you can go here if you know Japanese, or here for the English translation.

Web-Series Makes Use of Comic Book Talent

The new web-series Shelf Life debuted recently on YouTube. Conceived and produced by voice-actors Yuri Lowenthal (Ben 10) and Tara Platt (Naruto) of Monkey Kingdom Productions, the comedy delivers quick snippets of life as an action figure stuck on a kid’s shelf.

Lowenthal is a life-long comics fan, and through his career (he was also the voice of Superman in the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon and Iceman in Wolverine and the X-Men), he’s befriended and now collaborated with people from comics. Comics writer Paul Jenkins (Hellblazer, Spectaculer Spider-Man) has also written for several video games, and considering how many video games both Lowenthal and Platt have voiced, it was probably only a matter of time before their paths crossed. Jenkins co-wrote the episodes of Shelf Life with Lowenthal and also directed each episode. Additionally comics artist Chris Moreno (Toy Story: The Mysterious Stranger, World War Hulk: Front Line), who collaborated with Jenkins’ Sidekick comic book series, provided artwork for the posters in the background.

Here’s the latest episode so far (and my favorite):

Stan Lee: Real vs. Fake

After the last two days, I think we need something to lighten things up before we head off to the Thanksgiving weekend.

If someone thinks about comic books long enough to consider that people actually make them, that person is probably aware of Stan Lee. The head editor and face of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, Stan “The Man” Lee helped plot and script nearly the entirety of Marvel’s then growing line of groundbreaking superhero comic books. He also either helped write or oversaw the western, romance, suspense, humor, war and other comics back when Marvel wasn’t primarily limited to one genre. He was also an innovator in fan interaction for the comics world of the time, taking on a carnival barker persona that remains to this day. While he hasn’t been involved in Marvel’s day-to-day operations for a long time, he’s still thought of as the guy who created the Marvel Universe, even if that title almost completely ignores the contributions of the brilliant artists working at Marvel at the time (most significantly Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko). Despite the controversies and legal issues of who really created Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and all the others, and to what extent, Stan Lee remains a beloved public figure of Marvel and a legendary force of goodwill and visibility for comics in general.

These days, he remains as active as ever with his POW! Entertainment, where he’s provided concepts for a mini-line of superhero comics published by BOOM! Studios, superhero characters for the NHL, manga, and countless other projects, along with a first look deal with Disney and other production partnerships. (But not Stripperella. Nobody had anything to do with Stripperella.) And on the side, he makes cameos in Marvel Studios’ films:

To expand his Twitter and Facebook presence, Stan Lee is getting ready to launch, which is going to be a community-focused site. Here’s the promotional video that was released yesterday:

And thus we get to the real point of me posting all of this. Included in the above video is a clip of Stan Lee meeting The Fake Stan Lee. Played by cartoonist/improviser Kevin McShane, the Fake Stan Lee hits the right balance of playful tribute and pointed satire. For a few years now, McShane has been posting funny videos of himself as Stan Lee attending comic book conventions and interacting with attendants unabashedly being Stan Lee. And if you don’t know what that means, you got a glimpse at the above video. Now check out the below two videos. The first includes the two Stans meeting at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con.

And they had another showdown in last year’s Comic-Con:

For more Fake Stan Lee videos, check out his YouTube channel.

Simpsons writer lampoons comics world in Learn To Draw vids

The Simpsons writer/producer and The Doozies cartoonist Tom Gammill has a fun video series called Learn to Draw that, despite the title, will not teach aspiring cartoonists how to draw. Instead it offers a fun glimpse into the world of comics as what is possibly the world’s first comedy web-series about comics and cartooning.

Tom Gammill started the web-series three years ago (almost to the date – the first video was posted to YouTube on November 12, 2008) and has since seen guest appearances by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman (Zits), Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine), Tony Carrillo (F Minus), Mell Lazarus (Momma), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy), Jeff Keane (The Family Circus), Matt Groening (The Simpsons, Life in Hell), Bill Amend (Foxtrot) and even Jeannie Schulz, the widow of Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts). Gammill and/or his writing partner Max Pross is an excellent director able to get these non-actors to loosen up and do some pretty silly things. Or maybe it’s that after year years and decades of creating comedy every day, cartoonists have built a natural ability to perform with good comedic timing. Whatever the reason, it’s a

Here are a few favorites, culminating in the crazy Arnold Roth episode:

Theater and Graphic Novel Hybrid to hit Los Angeles in 2012

Nick Cernoch as Josh Jaxson

The acclaimed Furious Theatre Company is producing the world premiere of a unique show that brings the graphic novel and theater together. NOgoodDEED is the creation of Furius Theatre’s award-winning writer-in-residence Matt Pelfrey (An Impending Rupture of the Belly) and illustrator Ben Matsuya. The stage production is being directed by Dámaso Rodriguez, co-founder and director-in-residence of Furious; Nick Cernoch stars. Originally planned for 2010, the show will open January 21 as part of the respected [Inside] the Ford play series in partnership with the L.A. County Arts Commission.

Furious Theatre’s award-winning writer in residence exposes the dark side of good deeds in this skillfully drawn, dark comedy about young Josh Jaxson, who is driven to ruin by his own act of bravery. Josh and two fellow “heroes” unite in the afterlife and vow to undo their courageous feats by adopting superhero personas and an unconventional brand of time travel. NOgoodDEED is a savagely humorous ride that is part play, part graphic novel, and part something utterly new and extreme.

The Hellbound Heroes (art by Ben Matsuya)

Just how the two forms are being merged isn’t clear at this time, but the website promises to unveil lots of information as we get closer to opening day.

Seeing theater, which has certainly been no stranger to the struggle of finding new audiences, embrace comics like this is interesting, and maybe a touch ironic. While sales of comics and graphic novels have been struggling, the energy behind them for movies and TV shows has grown significantly over the last decade. With high budget stage productions starring Spider-Man and Batman filling seats, can a brand new story made with both the page and the stage in mind bring that same kind of interest and enthusiasm to theater?

NOgoodDEED plays January 21 to February 26 at the Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Los Angeles, CA 90068. Tickets are $25, although there are special engagements and discounts.

Tag Team Art Battle: Axel Gimenez vs. Chris Faccone / Hordak vs. Skeletor

Here’s a fun collaboration idea with some ’80s nostalgia to give it that extra oomph. Two artists jam on a piece of two characters battling it out.

Axel Giménez (Action Comics) started out drawing the below pencil drawing of Hordak, a villain from the Masters of the Universe franchise (he was the main villain in the spin-off She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon). Click on the images for larger versions at Axel’s DeviantArt page.

Hordak by Axel Gimenez

He sent that off to Chris Faccone, who added in his half: Skeletor (the main villain of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon), and then went ahead and inked the whole thing.

Hordak vs. Skeletor by Axel Gimenez vs. Chris Faccone

And then Chris colored the whole thing:

Hordak vs. Skeletor: Axel Gimenez vs. Chris Faccone (finished)

Who won?

7 Billion People in 6 Pages of Comics

7 Billion, Unpacked by Lisa Hymas, Thomas Pitilli & Warp Graphics (Grist)

Even environmental news and commentary site Grist understands the power of comics.

Grist co-founder Lisa Hymas teamed up with illustrator Thomas Pitilli and design studio Warp Graphics to tackle the issue of over-population in a 6-page web-comic titled 7 Billion, Unpacked, which was posted yesterday to the non-profit organization’s website.

As Lisa explains in the intro, the world’s population is estimated to reach 7 billion people at the end of this month, according to the United Nations Population Fund. The comic is part 1 of Grist’s series of articles on the topic. It presents the impact and issues surrounding this milestone with clarity and accessibility in a digestible package. There’s even an extensive footnotes section for all you fact-checkers.

Grist has featured comics before (such as this excellent 8-page comic by Stuart McMillen about the ill-fated reindeer of St. Matthew Island) but to my knowledge this is the first time they’ve commissioned an original comic of their own.

(Hat tip to Dirk Van Fleet)

Turnstyle News features Secret Headquarters in new comics-themed series The Funnybook Business

Turnstyle spotlights hipster Silver Lake comic book store Secret Headquarters in a new NPR-style slideshow/audio series by Noah J. Nelson called The Funnybook Business.

I’m interested to see how the rest of Nelson’s series turns out. Turnstyle features often get picked up by NPR, The Huffington Post, Time and other larger outlets.