Trouble with Comics

Sep 09

PR: Top Shelf’s Massive $3 Sale is Back!

Top Shelf Productions (an advertiser on this site) has brought back their Massive Three Dollar Sale, and from the looks of their online catalog, their prices have never been lower on quality comics and graphic novels. Here are the details, from a press release from the publisher:


Welcome to the 2014 Top Shelf Massive $3 Graphic Novel Sale, where you can pick up our greatest graphic novels at incredibly low prices by ordering direct from Top Shelf!

For the next two weeks — through Friday, September 26th — Top Shelf is bringing back our world-famous $3 sale. When you visit our web site, you’ll find 180+ critically acclaimed graphic novels and comics on sale — with over 125 titles marked down to just $3 or $1!

Each year Top Shelf uses this sale to help spread the word about our incredible recent releases, and raise funds to “kick start” a full rollout for next year. With your help, we’ll keep publishing some of the most beloved graphic novels on earth — from award-winning geniuses and exciting new talents (and yes, even heroes of the civil rights movement!). By loading up your cart with a pile of books, you’ll be supporting a great independent publisher and expanding your graphic novel collection at the same time.

(Plus, for the first time ever, you can complement your order of discounted PHYSICAL books with add-on DIGITAL copies! Simply visit your shopping cart and you’ll see the option to add the DRM-free digital edition of any eligible book for just a couple extra dollars. This add-on option is available on over 180 titles!)

To go directly to the list of items on sale at the Top Shelf website, just click here:

But here are a few examples to get you started:

Slashed prices on brand-new releases and beloved perennials!
— Slashed Prices: League Century HC, Nemo: Roses of Berlin / Heart of Ice, and more!
— Slashed Prices: March, MLK & the Montgomery Story, A Matter of Life, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Pinocchio Vampire Slayer, Alone Forever, We Can Fix It, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Blankets, From Hell, Lost Girls, God is Disappointed in You, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Essex County, Infinite Kung Fu, Swallow Me Whole, Super Spy, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Lost Dogs, Crater XV, Heck, Alec, Night Animals, and more!
— Slashed Prices: Maddy Kettle, Monster on the Hill, Korgi, Johnny Boo, and more!

Acclaimed graphic novels from world-class talents for $3!
— $3 Titles: The Underwater Welder, League Century 1910/1969/2009, and more!
— $3 Titles: Will You Still Love Me?, The Ticking, Gingerbread Girl, and more!
— $3 Titles: Ax, Voice of the Fire, Unearthing, Hey Mister, The Surrogates, and more!
— $3 Titles: Liar’s Kiss, Lucille, The Lovely Horrible Stuff, Undeleted Scenes, and more!
— $3 Titles: BB Wolf & The 3 LP’s, Three Fingers, The Troll King, and more!
— $3 Titles: Owly, Upside Down, Pirate Penguin, Incredible Change-Bots, and more!

Discover a new favorite with these great $1 books!
— $1 Titles: From Hell Companion, Stuff about Sex, Pistolwhip, Mephisto, and more!
— $1 Titles: Tales of Woodsman Pete, The Playwright, Sulk (Vols 1/2/3), and more!
— $1 Titles: Van Helsing’s Night Off, Lone Racer, Regards from Serbia, and more!
— $1 Titles: SuperF*ckers #1-#4, The Surrogates #1-#5, Dang!, and more!
— $1 Titles: Comic Book Artist, Hutch Owen, Okie Dokie Donuts, Yam, and more!
— $1 Titles: The Octopi & the Ocean, Tales of the Great Unspoken, and more!
— $1 Titles: Black Ghost Apple Factory, The Man Who Loved Breasts, and more!


Please note that Top Shelf accepts PayPal, as well as Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and Discover — all secure — and that this sale is good for retailers as well (and comic book shops will get their wholesale discount on top of these sale prices):

Sep 07

New ADD Essay on Dawson’s Dilemma

Over at Comic Book Galaxy, I’ve posted a new essay on “Dawson’s Dilemma,” the struggle of cartoonists to make a living wage in today’s economic and creative environment. It’s called “It’s Unlikely You’re Awesome.”

Alan David Doane

Aug 23

Bill Sienkiewicz Weighs In On Concerns Over Frank Miller’s Health

                                      Photo by Richard Burbridge

Frank Miller’s friend and sometime-collaborator Bill Sienkiewicz has gone on the record on Facebook regarding the health of Frank Miller:

Everyone is expressing concern about Frank. It’s the 800 lb. gorilla in the room that everyone has zero qualms about seeing and discussing. We ALL love Frank— even those in the creative community who don’t share his political and creative views. I certainly can’t speak for him—he has actual reps and agents for that—but I’m close enough to honestly and sincerely thank everyone for their concern on his behalf. I’m sure he’d appreciate everyone expressing their best wishes, while at the same time poo-pooing any need for concern. When I saw him in SDCC, we hugged and he smiled and told me he was look forward to taking his first real vacation in 20 years. So Amen to that. He knows I- and so many others- are here for him should he feel the need to talk or whatever—-about anything at all. So we’ve all got that covered 12 different ways to Sunday- and his fans have it covered at least 3 times that. He deserves to be successful, happy, and healthy.

Public concern over Miller’s well-being arose after a recent Wired profile by Marvel historian Sean Howe included pictures by photographer Richard Burbridge that seem to make Miller look far older and more fragile than expected.

Alan David Doane

Aug 22

Ten Reasons to Read Don Heck: A Work of Art


1. The first controversy I remember in comics was when Gary Groth and Harlan Ellison talked in The Comics Journal about how Heck was generally recognized as the worst artist in comics. Heck was condemned as a hack. Even in my early teens, that idea baffled me. By the mid-to-late ’70s, Heck (inspired as he was by Milton Caniff, although I didn’t know it at the time or appreciate Caniff’s art like I do now) looked old-fashioned to my eyes, and certainly he wasn’t a favourite of mine, but there were many, many artists working in superhero comics who had far less appealing and individualistic styles, and whose storytelling chops were far, far worse. Don Heck: A Work of Art, by John Coates (published by TwoMorrows) puts Heck into context and his career into perspective in a way that is long overdue.

2. The book serves as kind of a complement to another well-done TwoMorrows book, The Thin Black Line: Reflections on Vince Colletta. Unlike Heck, Colletta earned his reputation as the worst inker in comics not only with his anemic, lifeless inking, but by erasing backgrounds and even entire characters from the pages and panels he inked, supposedly to save time, but (SPOILER WARNING) I think it was just because he was a lazy artist and didn’t give much of a shit most of the time. In both the Colletta book and this new one on Don Heck, we gain insight and understanding of their careers and talents. In Colletta’s case I didn’t gain any sympathy for his destructive inking technique, but in Heck’s case, I found a new appreciation for the style and consistency Heck delivered throughout his career in comics.

3. I had heard years ago that Heck had suffered some unknown tragedy that affected his artwork. I think most comics readers of a certain age had heard that rumour. This book tackles it. Read it and find out the story.

4. TwoMorrows books and magazines demonstrate great care in reproducing the artwork that is featured in them, and Don Heck: A Work of Art makes it clear that their commitment to quality reproduction has not wavered. Many of the pages reproduced are scans of the original art, and they look lush and lifelike on the page. I am mentally contrasting that with the new book featuring 75 years of Marvel Comics covers, many of which are jagged and do not appear to have been scanned at a high enough resolution for a book of such importance (and $50.00 price tag). My eyes aren’t what they used to be, but they’re still good enough (especially with my reading glasses) that I can see the care taken in the visual elements of the Heck book, a kind of care that is increasingly rare in the comics world, which is ironic given that we should be at the apex of quality reproduction given the tools at our disposal.

5. Related: There’s a pencil scan of an Iron Man sketch on page 7 that is so well-drawn and well-reproduced on the page that I want to cut it out and have it framed and hung on my wall. It’s entirely possible a fan of Heck, Marvel Comics in general or Iron Man in particular might feel they got their money’s worth with that sketch alone.

6. Page 83 has a quote from Barry Windsor-Smith about the phenomenon of artists trying to draw like Jack Kirby at Marvel in the ’60s. He shared the very same insight with me privately many years ago, and I am glad to see it in print. It puts a lot into perspective, and in the case of Heck, really sheds a light on how Heck’s talents were used (and to an extent, abused) by Marvel.

7. In the past, some TwoMorrows books have been printed on super-glossy paper that seemed not to be simpatico with the subject matter and didn’t take well to the binding process. This book is on an extraordinary matte-finish paper that is a delight to behold, and that really shows off the artwork superbly. They should stick with this paper stock, it’s a winner.

8. I am definitely a process junkie; whether it’s music, movies, novels or comics, I love to peek behind the curtain and see how it all came together. There’s a wonderful section toward the end of the book where we see page after page after page of Heck in combination with a huge variety of inkers. If you’re at all curious about how the art of comic book inking is done and how very much visual variety can stem from just one penciler, this section is a goldmine.

9. Many of the most important creators in comics who are still with us today weigh in on Heck, both as an artist and as a person. Not just BWS as I mentioned above, but Tony Isabella, John Romita Sr., Stan Lee, Joe Sinnott and many more contribute comments. There’s also a note from Steve Ditko, but that has to be seen to be believed.

10. TwoMorrows is a great resource for those interested in the history of superhero comics (I find that history more interesting than the actual superhero comics being produced today, for what it’s worth). Buy this one, and hopefully they’ll keep making more books like it. 

Alan David Doane

The publisher provided a copy for the purpose of review.

Aug 07

Reporting on Comics (Miracleman #9, Specifically)

Over at Comic Book Galaxy, I’ve posted a few thoughts on the curious lack of coverage of Marvel’s re-release of the controversial Miracleman #9 (the childbirth issue).

— Alan David Doane

May 16

Amazing Spider-Man 2 Video Game Review

Guest review by Topic Zero. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a good game, but not great. They had a few promises in this game that I thought they did not deliver on. The new web swinging mechanic promised that you would need a surface for it to stick to and it would eliminate the grid from the previous game. For the most part it delivered on that unless you are in a mission, then web swinging wouldn’t need any walls. That grid mechanic was lazy at best and only makes a few appearances.

The game has added a few new costumes and for the most part they are all really awesome with some more recognizable ones like the glow in the dark suit from the previous game and the 2099 suit. They even went as far as to bring some lesser known suits into the mix like Ricochet. These were a nice addition to the game. They even had a small reference to the ’90s animated TV series, with the costume of Spider-Carnage. This costume was a reference to the multi-part story arc in which Spider-Man travels through dimensions and visits other versions of himself. In that episode he met people like the Scarlet Spider, Stan Lee, and some other, stranger Spider-Men. That storyline is my most favorite part of the entire series. Just seeing that costume made it all worthwhile.

The story in this game, however, is sub par. I found that almost nothing in it was compelling until the end. Towards the end the developers decide jam packing it with boss fights is the way to go. Which I can say from playing this… It really is not. It felt all mashed together with no breaks in the final four missions to just enjoy web swinging. The developers decided to add in this new conversation choice system. Or so I thought. All it really does is let you chose what Peter says first. This Mechanic does a great job of ruining the flow of conversations. without the regularly voiced conversations when you decide to say one thing over the other you instantly realize that this conversation feels patched together to give you the illusion of choice. There is nothing I hate more than a developer trying to make it look like you have a say when you really don’t. It is lazy and that is really all I can say about this game: It’s lazy. It doesn’t measure up to Spider-Man 2 on the PS2 but it is a good start. They need to focus more on the story and mechanics and less on shoving big name villains into it. all and all I would rate it a 7/10 because of the fun of web swinging around the city. The fighting mechanic is fantastic as always. The web rush has made a return and I personally like the web rush. Good game but not great. It is what I would expect from a Spider-Man game; fun, but don’t expect a new groundbreaking storyline. 

Mar 16

Face it, John Byrne never got better than this. The only thing that could have improved it would be if Terry Austin had inked it.

Face it, John Byrne never got better than this. The only thing that could have improved it would be if Terry Austin had inked it.

Mar 09

ADD Reviews Andre The Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown


I’ve been a fan of Box Brown’s comics for years now. His style (somewhere near the intersection of Seth Boulevard and Kochalka Avenue Extension in the artcomix part of town) really resonates with me as a reader. From Everything Dies to The Survivalist, I’ve really liked everything of Brown’s that I’ve come across. So that’s why I set aside my loathing of professional wrestling (I lost interest in the sportsertainment of it all around the time my age hit the double digits) to check out the cartoonist’s new biography of Andre Roussimoff, a now-deceased pro wrestler who looms largest in my memory for playing Bigfoot on The Six-Million Dollar Man. (I looked up some YouTube clips, but they are pretty dire. If you have fond memories of those TV appearances, I’d recommend not revisiting them, just let them glow nostalgically in your mind.)

Brown humanizes Andre without painting him as a saint, sympathizing with Andre’s pains suffered as a result of the disease that terribly distorted the man’s biology; the same distortion that made him a superstar in the seedy world of pro wrestling, at a time when it was unusual for there to be 600 pound human beings. Brown balances whimsy with candor, here showing us how Andre’s phone looks like a tiny toy in his giant hands, there showing us Andre using race-baiting to pick a fight with an African-American colleague.

The world was a challenging place for Roussimoff to make his way in, and I suppose the mid-to-late 20th century was still backward enough that using his size to make a living was more out of necessity than cynical opportunism. His career began, after all, not long after the days of Vaudeville and when entertainers could make more money driving or flying from place to place rather than entertaining through mass entertainment media like TV or the internet. Much of Brown’s narrative involves depicting Andre in transit, and given that that was a large part of the man’s life (to the detriment of his family relationships, as we see), that seems appropriate.

Brown appears to have conducted copious research in the creation of this book, and it pays off. From recounting an appearance on David Letterman to a series of anecdotes from Andre’s fellow wrestlers and other people he worked with (like actors Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Guest), an expansive vision of who the man was begins to open up. He was bigger than life in more ways than one, and he clearly made an impact on the people he met and worked with. No doubt Box Brown and publisher First Second are aware of the lingering fascination with Andre the Giant, or this graphic novel would not have been produced. As I said up front, my interest in wrestling is non-existent, and my interest in Andre The Giant isn’t far behind. Despite that, Box Brown kept my attention throughout and fascinated me with the details he discovered in his research. If you don’t care about the subject matter, I suspect you’ll still enjoy Andre The Giant: Life and Legend; if you do care about wrestling in general or Andre in particular, I have to think you will love this book.  

The publisher provided a copy for the purpose of review. Buy Andre the Giant: Life and Legend on

Jan 26

A Few Thoughts on the Justice League: War Movie


* Thank God there’s finally an animated film that explains how the Justice League met.

* There’s something really wrong with the writing when my visceral, gut response to the bad guy breaking Green Lantern’s arm is “GOOD!”

* I’ll give you a pass for Superman snapping DeSaad’s neck because he was not quite himself, but I can’t help but wonder what Jack Kirby would have thought of having the heroes consciously plot to stab Darkseid in the eyes and then carry it out with no reservations whatsoever. 

* Thank God it’s finally okay for Green Lantern to call Batman a douchebag. That’s really what’s been holding comics back.

* Thank God Cyborg can finally say “Shit!” when something goes wrong. That has ALSO really been holding comics back.

* Why doesn’t “Shazam” turn back into Billy when he tells people his name is “Shazam?”

* Especially later when he says “Shazam!” to bring down the lightning to power Cyborg’s Boom Tube generator and DOES turn back into Billy?!?

* (I will never not think of him as Captain Marvel, because, HE’S CAPTAIN MARVEL.)

* Wonder Woman’s new costume would be so great if it had pants.

* Why did they make Cap’s lightning bolt look more like Superman’s S? Irony?

* Why did they make a New 52 cartoon and use the OLD Superman S? It’s maybe the one change I kind of like and they don’t use it!

Jan 15