Blackhawks Down(town) at Midtown Comics

Yesterday evening I went to the Midtown Comics located on Fulton Street (which would technically make it “Downtown Comics,” I guess) for the latest of their comic book creator signing events.  Midtown was having two artists from Madrid, Spain at the store to autograph copies of the latest issue of Blackhawks, one of the “New 52” titles from from DC Comics.  CAFU (short for Carlos Alberto Fernandez Urbano) and Bit became the art team on Blackhawks with issue #5.

To be honest, previously I had not been following Blackhawks, or really most any of the other New 52 series from DC.  The only two I’ve been reading month after month beginning with the first issue were Wonder Woman and Justice League International.  And even there, I’ve been seeing how each series has been from one issue to the next, sort of half-committed.  So Blackhawks definitely fell under the radar along with the rest of the New 52.  But when I heard that CAFU and Bit would be in town to sign issue #7, I picked up the previous two issues, which they also illustrated.

The event at Midtown was, in a certain respect, a bit of a disappointment.  The store had promoted it by announcing that each person who purchased a copy of Blackhawks #7 would be able to get a free sketch from both CAFU and Bit.  Unfortunately, the artists were only able to sign and sketch for one hour, from 6:00 to 7:00 PM, and they turned out to be drawing more slowly than the store probably thought they would be.  I think only the first six or seven people in line got a sketch.  I was not one of them.

Truth be told, I did not especially mind.  Yes, it was disappointing, but I shrugged it off because I was able to meet a couple of talented artists who only visit the States maybe once or twice a year.  I got several books autographed, including two issues of Marvel Adventures: Avengers that CAFU penciled in 2007.

Listening to some of the other people on line, though, I was amused at how big a deal it seemed to them.  Some people were of the attitude that they wasted their money (three whole dollars) and weren’t getting anything in return, that the book was no good, that Midtown was just doing this to drum up some sales on a title which is scheduled to be canceled in another month.  I think the lesson here is that if you are going to a comic book store signing, it should be for book that you are potentially interested in, or by a creator whose work you like.  That way, if you do not end up with a sketch, at least you will have still gotten an autographed book that will mean something to you.

I want to add that this is the first time I remember anything like this ever happening at Midtown Comics.  In the past, if they have promoted a signing to include sketches from artists, I don’t recall anyone walking away empty-handed.  So I just view this as a one-time occurrence.

Of course, maybe I am feeling charitable because at last year’s Spanish Inq signing event, when Bit was in NYC with Pere Perez, he drew a very nice sketch of Wonder Woman for me.  So I already had something by him in my sketchbook.

In any case, what do I actually think of the Blackhawks series?  CAFU and Bit’s artwork is stunning.  But, more to the point, I am impressed by Mike Costa’s writing.  It is not especially groundbreaking or revolutionary, but there is a fun and intelligence to it.  I like the idea of an international “black ops” type group of normal humans tasked with facing down technological menaces within the DC universe.  Judging solely by the three issues I have read, I feel the concept by Costa is sound and full of a great deal of potential, but perhaps the execution is lacking.  There is also an absence of details explaining who these characters are, and what exactly had taken place within the first story arc, which did not make them “new reader friendly.”  Having said that, I am intrigued enough that I am currently searching for copies of those initial four issues, to see what happened in them.

Blackhawks is being canceled with issue #8.  This is something of a pity.  As I said before, the concept holds much promise.  I like the characters, and if they survive the finale of the series it would be cool to see them resurface in some of DC’s other titles.  The art team of CAFU and Bit is really outstanding, and I look forward to seeing them receive another series to illustrate, hopefully soon.

A marvelous G.I. Joe reunion at IDW

I’ve been enjoying the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series that IDW has been publishing for the past couple of years.  The main drawing point has, of course, been the return of writer Larry Hama to the characters he made such a phenomenon in the 1980s.

(I previously did a review of the first two IDW trade paperback collections on Yahoo Contributor Network, but that’s no longer online.  One of these days I should re-post it on this blog.)

GI Joe Annual 2012 cover

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero has continued to be enjoyable.  The recently-released 2012 annual was definitely a highlight.  Hama took a break from the monthly storylines to present a stand-alone tale focusing on a rogue Cobra Crimson Guard unit attempting to carry out a terrorist plot, with both the Joe team and Zartan’s outlaw Dreadnoks racing to thwart them.  The writing may not have been nearly as strong as Hama’s work on the monthly book, but it contained an abundance of his trademark dry wit & deadpan humor.

(I don’t think Hama likes the term “deadpan humor” but I’m not quite sure how else to describe it.  Well, whatever you want to call it, it works very well.)

The main selling point for me was the line-up of artists.  Ron Frenz, Ron Wagner, and Herb Trimpe shared penciling duties, with Sal Buscema inking the entire story.  In service of the multiple artists, Hama cleverly structured his storytelling to shift focus between the three groups.  The Guardsmen pages were penciled by Frenz, the Cobra and Dreadnoks pages by Wagner, and the G.I. Joe pages by Trimpe.  Buscema’s inking gave the overall book a certain uniform feel, so that the transitions back and forth between the trio of pencilers were not jarring.

GI Joe Annual 2012 pg 18

The annual was something of a mini-Marvel Comics reunion, both in terms of the G.I. Joe title and in a broader sense.  Each of the four artists produced a large body of work at Marvel in the past.  In regards to G.I. Joe, Trimpe was the book’s original artist in the early 1980s.  Even though he has drawn numerous covers for the IDW series, this annual features his first interior work for the revival.  Wagner also worked on G.I. Joe, penciling the book in the late 1980s.

Additionally, both Herb Trimpe and Sal Buscema had momentous, nearly-uninterrupted runs penciling Marvel’s Incredible Hulk series.   Trimpe was the artist on the Hulk from 1968 to 1975, while Buscema drew the Hulk between 1976 and 1985.  So you have two men who are almost universally regarded as the definitive illustrators of one of Marvel’s most recognizable characters.  And, as far as I am aware, they have only worked together on a handful of occasions in the past (I believe Trimpe was inked by Buscema on a few issues of Incredible Hulk way back in 1971).  So, for a long-time Marvel fan such as myself, it was a thrill to see the two collaborating on this annual.

GI Joe Annual 2012 pg 19

Of course, I would be even happier to see Trimpe & Buscema together again on a Hulk story.  I don’t know if Marvel would even be interested in such a project.  But occasionally they do publish a “retro” special or flashback sequence, so it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility.   Until that happens, this G.I. Joe annual serves as a nice reunion between the two comic book legends.

In any case, considering the very unfortunate tendency of Marvel (as well as DC) to offer less and less work to older artists such as Trimpe and Buscema, or even to such talents as Frenz or Wagner, who both had regular monthly gigs as recently as the 1990s, I certainly appreciate them being given the opportunity to produce new work.  For that reason alone, the 2012 G.I. Joe annual is well worth picking up.

In My Not So Humble Opinion: An Introduction

About twelve years after the fact, I’ve decided to finally join the 21st Century and set up a blog. Before now, I’ve been sticking to message boards, Facebook, MySpace, and various other means to post my opinions online. I really did not want to establish a permanent blog because, let’s face it, there are a lot of them out there that really have nothing but nonsense on them. So I will definitely be striving to avoid falling into that area, and actually write material of substance & relevance.

Additionally, for the past few years I had been posting reviews of comic books and sci-fi shows such as Doctor Who on the Yahoo Contributor Network. You can view them via this link:

http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/638971/benjamin_herman.html

My latest review is of the excellent six issue miniseries The Grim Ghost, published by Atlas Comics, which was written by Tony Isabella, with artwork from Kelley Jones & Eric Layton. I highly recommend it.

Grim Ghost #1

In any case, for those who care, I shall be back in the near future with future thoughts on a variety of subjects. Thanks for taking a look. I’ll see you later.