Tag Archives: joe’s comics

DREAM POLICE #2 REVIEW: Sandman’s City Comes Alive

Dream Police 02 coverDREAM POLICE 2
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Publisher: Image / Joe’s Comics
Reviewer: @robpatey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

I don’t review enough second issues, and companies like Image truly need this sort of PR given their deluge of new titles cropping up. See, there’s this dirty little numbers game with comics, issue ones get so much PR love they sell like gangbusters, you can then watch subsequent issues drop in attention and sales quicker than Justin Bieber’s career.

In many cases this drop off is warranted, since it seems the muse du jour is to develop a tits concept that can be used as a TV or movie pitch, while letting the true intricacies of creating a long lasting serial come secondary (or even lower on the list). This is where I truly appreciate the Image sub-brands like Joe’s Comics and Skybound, it’s an extra hallmark that tells us the exec producers and/or writers are imbedded and dedicated to the comics’ medium as opposed to “get less poor” huckster one and dones.

DREAM POLICE is a title that does not deserve a drop off, and quite frankly warrants a second glance even if you found fault with the first issue. JMS’ exploration of detectives who patrol the land of dreams became far more fleshed out this issue, swapping out cute clichés about naptime, for some true world building, exploration and seeds of distress for our protagonist, Joe Thursday.

That’s right, Joe Thursday, a play on Dragnets Joe Friday. Here is one of those bugaboos purists had with the first issue. This type of word play along with when Joe was flipping through the jukebox in a diner where all of the titles were laden with the word dream really kicked up some vitriol amongst the review and reader community. Personally, if this land is a construct of where we humans go at night when our frontal lobe is on REM overdrive, I think this embodiment of the zeitgeist makes sense. So, fuck you other reviewers for not liking it, and suck on the story goodness I got out of issue 2 as reward for not being an elitist snob.

We learned in issue 1, that while this dream city might look like New York it is only a facsimile. Like other famous fabrications of real world places like Disney World, it takes a swarm of serfdom to keep the wheels in motion so the guests never lose their aesthetic distance. This issue is JMS’ chance to build his classes that consist of: our main cop characters Joe and Katie, who respond when dreams go south; the builders who meticulously craft our real-world settings and then immediately deconstruct them once we wake up (kind of like doozers without the Fraggles); the mighty morphing characters of our dreams or who play us in 3rd person dreams; and of course nightmares. There are others, but these are the big ones for now.

Also introduced in this issue is the high concept that the workers of this world were never once human, nor have they simply always “just been.” Essentially every being is “born” as a wisp and then sort of chooses its role when ready. They are functionally useless, but naïve and scamp-like enough to amuse the denizens of dream land so that they want to protect them. The mystery of this issue arises when one of these wisps is wiped out by a dreamer who can’t control his shit…literally. Junkie dreamers are dangerous, so dangerous in fact it brings out the middlemen between the dreamers and well…God.

I know it’s a lot for one issue and my play-by-play comes across as quite clinical. To balance characterization with creation, Joe Thursday is more than a simple beat cop pastiche; he carries a secret that could tear this and ultimately our word asunder. It’s the heart behind the high concept I frankly demand from a JMS title.

If you’re coming back for Kotian, you won’t be disappointed, he gets noir meets supernatural perfectly. The dans are square-jawed, the dames are delectable and the dreams are out there. If you felt wandering after issue one, this follow-up is your map. If you felt you needed more meat on the bone, then strap on your bib.

DREAM POLICE #1 REVIEW – It Ain’t Quite Dreamscape or Dragnet – IT’S BETTAH!

dreampolice_1DREAM POLICE 1 (Preview Orders NOW, In stores April)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Publisher: Image (Joe’s Comics)
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

If DREAM POLICE seems familiar, give your brain an extra special treat tonight for remembering a title from nine years ago. I was pretty impressed at myself for remembering that far back. In addition to comics I write and read a few ten thousand other words each week while on the clock for “The Man.” There’s a reason my memory was able to conjure this title, the publisher, the year and hell even the cover when I closed my eyes without the aid of Google; it was an awesome comic implosion. Not an explosion, that leaves behind marks and shrapnel – evidence it existed. DREAM POLICE before it vaporized in one issue like a nuclear blast showed us a take on the world of the nocturnal that’s the antithesis of the standard set by SANDMAN.

I had to know if I was right, so I went back to my email from whence this preview came and scribed the following…

Joe,

Is this in any way related to the Icon story from like 10 years ago? 

 Rob,

We did a one-shot at Marvel Icon, which didn’t get very much promotion, I think it was marketed to about ten people, and thus died on the vine. 

 I always wanted to revisit that universe and revive that book because I think it’s a lot of fun and I liked the characters.  It had kind of a Dragnet in the Dreamscape vibe to it that appealed to me enormously.  So one of the first things I wanted to do with Joe’s Comics was to revert the book back to us and reboot it once we’d established the line as its own thing. 

 I also fell in love with Sid’s work and wanted to bring him in on this before anyone else could grab him once Apocalypse Al comes out. 

 Point being, it’s a fresh start, a reboot and new beginning, and a great place for folks to jump in.

 joe

Not only did Joe answer my question with the same hyper yet easily digestible detail he puts into his work, he also just half wrote the review.

However, I don’t think Joe’s analogy can stand on it’s own. Let me clarify and translate for the younger generation. Dragnet was a detective drama from the 1960s, it starred Colonel Potter from M-A-S-H and television’s first character suffering from Asperger’s, Joe Friday. Joe Thursday, one of our two stalwart detectives of DREAM POLICE, is not suffering from crippling deadpan nor stuffed into a seersucker suit. Likewise his partner is not Col. Potter, yet the much hipper and constant deliverer of snappy dialog, Frank Stafford. There’s a sadism to these two characters that comes from policing the denizens of dream land. If I had to equate them to two other cops, I’m going with the characters from the American version of Life on Mars.

Dreamscape is was a movie from the 80s where psychics were popped into people’s dreams to consciously control the outcome. I’ll half buy this in the sense that Joe and Frank are certainly in control, but I think the comparison marginalizes the complex world and set of rules Joe (the writer) has set for the book. In Dreamscape dreams are but a vapor – a place conjured by the dreamer that disappears when the dreamer awakens. In DREAM POLICE this world exists separate from the Dreamer. See, we aren’t the true denizens of this dream land, but rather mere transients killing time until morning. The true inhabitants that Joe and Frank need to keep in line are the makers of our dreams. If anything I would compare this landscape to Albert Brook’s Defending Your Life where angels are the worker bees of purgatory, a place that feels very much like home. DREAM POLICE’S landscape is just as familiar; it’s an amalgam of all American cities replete with appropriate landmarks. The makers of our dreams are trollish craftsman that build the scenes, shape changers who play the part of our desires and  of course Johnny Law who keeps them all in line.

I found this all fascinating as the two went on calls, made supernatural collars and even had a run in with the top hat wearing toothy maw gentleman nightmares. Then Joe goes and throws a twist at the end. I don’t need to spoil it here, but it adds a third level to the book that makes you question whether you were just dreaming.

On the art, Joe’s right, Kotian does an amazing job. However, I can not tell a lie, I did not get the full effect. No one’s fault…well…except the archaic nature of the comic retail model. See for a book to make it to store shelves it must be issued in Previews. Previews comes out 3 months before the books are published. Previews gives shit details on what the book is about, so retailers have no means to separate the wheat from the chafe and ordering becomes a game of Russian Roulette, especially with #1s. So, it’s up to reviewers like myself to look at books while they are still in production so retailer’s decisions can ultimately benefit you when you walk into he shop. On one hand it’s awesome, we get to see liner notes, editor cut sheets and other behind the scenes detail usually reserved fro deluxe compilations. There are a few times, my review of the rough cut even swayed the final direction, as was the case with Diggle & jock’s, SNAPSHOT. I, and my review cohorts gushed so much over the black and whites the boys just skipped the coloring. On the other hand, I don’t get to see cool stuff like…color and rich fine Corinthian inks. So, yes, from what I saw of Kotian’s work in skeletal form made me beyond intrigued to see how much richer the details of this world become once the finish and polish is applied.

Joe’s Comics continues to be a welcome beacon for new comic fans. It’s separatist view of titles keeps constraining continuity off the table while an eclectic mix of themes can satiate the thirst of most readers’ favorite genres. I will say though, the universe has a gap. All of the protagonists in this universe are maudlin solitary sufferers. I’d like to present a challenge, I want to see a family book. Not the dysfunctional families of SIDEKICK or PROTECTOR’S INK, I mean a true family, an intricate lattice of inseparable personalities nor matter how dystopian their trials and tribulations become. Or don’t, I’ll still pick up every damn issue until Joe stops writing them.

APOCALYPSE AL 1 REVIEW – Retailers and Readers Will Rejoice at New JMS Creation

apocalypse-al-01webTHE ADVENTURES OF APOCALYPSE AL 1 (Release February)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Publisher: Image – Joe’s Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

As much as I love JMS’ writing, there’s something that else that compels me to play a megaphone heralding his work – candor. Joe is one of the last strongholds of no bullshit, he tells it like it is even when it comes to his own foibles. Our steady stream of bitching about delays (THE TWELVE), boredom (SUPERMAN walking) and continuity cataclysm (totem SPIDERMAN) are all subjects Joe will gladly bend your ear on for hours and never place scapegoat shields in front of him. It’s important to understand this fact when reading APOCALYPSE AL because Joe is once again taking a no bullshit approach to correcting a common comic book cluster fuck – retailer ordering.

Not to belabor the point, but I think a bit of context is in order. Retailers must order books months ahead of time from a little book called Previews in most cases. Previews offers not a morsel of actual information about books, each title is articulated with 50 words of pure Public Relations pabulum. To leave retailers and ultimately readers further in the dark, publishers place gag orders on folks like yours truly so we can’t open the kimono on pieces until release date in stores. A few publishers, OK one, Titan Comics, has broken this model by at least giving reviewers open speaking rights about books when they are about to come out in Previews. And you know what, it’s worked. They’ve gone from 0 to some big sellers in a short time through this open information sharing. Now, Joe’s Comics is taking the same approach, but expanding it several thousand fold. Not only has Joe thrown reviewers worldwide an issue of APOCALYPSE AL, but retailers will also be getting a copy this Wednesday BEFORE they have to submit their February Previews’ order. Everybody loves free shit, I predict the simple good will of this gesture alone will help Joe’s Comics move more copies than any of the other #1’s from the imprint released this year.

All right, I’ll get off my soapbox, let’s talk about the actual book. When last we left Joe’s Comics I had reviewed my NYCC copy of PROTECTORS INC. Not a bad book, but parts and purpose left me scratching my head. Again, I say “not a bad book,” but that’s a relative statement. Other Joe’s imprints like TEN GRAND and SIDEKICKS are spectacular books, so PROTECTORS had a very high benchmark to live up to. Even though, I only went through a B&W version of APOCALYPSE AL, I’m putting it up on the spectacular shelf.

I’ll skip the PR blurb, because when you read it you’ll have a hard time discerning between APOCALYPSE AL and TEN GRAND. Both deal with the mystical and things that go bump in the night. Annnd…right there is where we end the comparisons. Superficially, Al is a woman (aka Allison) where our hero of TEN GRAND is a dude. Dig a little deeper, Al is a late twenty-something serving an ancient family legacy to keep the world safe from demons. Joe, the hero of TEN GRAND is serving the world to meet his own ends of salvation for him and his deceased ladylove. Plus Joe is a dude in his late thirties/early forties. Anyone with enough time on this earth knows the difference of mindset a twenty-year age gap brings, even if we’re too fucking stupid to realize it when it comes to second marriages. Salty versus sweet would be the culinary description between the two protagonists.

There’s also a geographical shift between APOCALYPSE AL and TEN GRAND. TEN GRAND is all New York, a dark and gritty land suffocated by grittier people who bathe in a brutal honesty with one another and life itself.  Al is all L.A. baby; the demons have all the permanence of a back-lot set and are as equally three dimensional. Al is fully realized, but she’s leagues of happy happy joy joy above Joe. There’s something about constantly being exposed to the sun that makes people infinitely happier and far more optimistic about life even though Al mainly deals with and in death.

Quirky side characters make for better main players. It’s for this reason I beg for character parts versus leading man roles in my annual trip back to the footlights of community theater. Bit parts have the best lines and are often remembered long after the main characters fade into the memory ether. Al has a whole host of these friends that help her on her way to uncovering the absconding of an apocalyptic set of keys that will tarnish Tinsel Town and eventually the rest of the world (kind of like the Kardashians have already). A dead LAPD cop feeds Al intel, and is the voicebox for the shadow organization that has been feeding her father and his father before him jobs against the paranormal. She has a homeless seer with no filter on his prognosticating so Al gets ten times more mundane information than actual leads or clues.

I think (hope) I’ve said enough to entreat retailers into stocking the shelves with the next Joe’s Comics creation. If not, let me say that JMS has given us a strong yet still feminine protagonist. She is as equally cavalier as serious, and is just as conscious of her style as her character. As a man married to a shoe connoisseur, I’ll give JMS uncanny accuracy as Allison gets lost in a dream where she’s a temp forever stuck in sensible footwear. Kotian does a great job with expressions in this book. JMS deals on many emotional planes when he writes so getting the facial structure to deliver snark coupled sincerity is no small feat, especially when some of the faces are half rotted or from a nether realm.

I’m saddened by the fact this is only going to be a 4 issue miniseries. Apparently this book was in line with some special partnership for MTV Geek. Don’t know, don’t care – I barely knew MTV Geek existed before it went away. I’m really pissed because there could be a great intertwining between this book and TEN GRAND, the yin and yang of demon hunting would give a nice waft of cohesion in drawing the Joe’s Comics universe together.

Sorry, I’m not an editor, just a reviewer. BUY THIS BOOK, you’ll love Al instantly and will be totally on board with the ultimate antagonist that appears in the final panel.

 

 

New York Comic Con 2013 Day 2 Report

cosplayersIf you missed my first Con Report from this years’ New York Comic Con follow this link here and then come back and read this second chapter in my trek! Day One ruined my feet; this is what happens when one dresses for style versus comfort. I applaud the Cosplay girls (and I guess some of the guys) who hit this thing in seven inch fuck me pumps. Though to be fair, they spend most of the day posturing and posing whereas I moved across the entire center between Artist Alley and the Main Floor to talk to as many creators as I could before the closing bell.

Given the fact my pinky toes were bleeding into my shoes (literally), I took a slightly more relaxed approach to this day. Spending a little more time with creators, banging out a scheduled interview, and actually sitting in on a panel.

First stop though was the main floor while I had some energy!

kill shakespereKILL SHAKESPEARE – I have a personal history with this title. As a theater major in college I grew to abhor the bard, so I have dickishly avoided all requests to review this book that is actually wildly successful and well praised. I asked the guys how they would sway a naysayer like myself to imbibe the three volumes already available, they kindly said, “it’s an awesome action adventure if you like books like FABLES. If you hate the bard, look at your 8th grade teacher and shake you your fist at them for making you that way.” I retorted I’ll bite my thumb in protest or throw a cabbage. Nerd laughter ensues. Pictured are creators Anthony Del Col & Conor McCreery.

ryan browneRyan Browne – Ryan was signing some MANHATTAN PROJECTS issues and hocking his new title GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS from Image. This time around Ryan is taking on writing and art duties to tell the tale of super powered narcissist who are charged with policing barn storming farmers who keep trying to launch themselves into now commoditized space. There’s also talking bears and other crazy shit. Originally a Web comic, this hard cover collects the entire series with some surprise guest artists thrown in for good measure. If you’re too cheap to buy the book you can read it online.

 

 

dave schulner

David Schulner – Author of CLONE from Image about a protagonist who is part of a government cloning conspiracy. With eleven issues under its belt, the book was just picked up by NBC for a series with David and Robert Kirkman at the helm.

 

 

 

 

monty nero

Monty NeroDEATH SENTENCE is Monty’s brainchild from Titan Comics. The book explores a world where an AIDS like virus gives you superpowers for 6 months before you shuffle off your mortal coil. What would you do with that precious time and who would try to stop your before your 6 months are up?

Smoke, 2 Tanqueray & Tonics break so shit can get real down in artist alley where no PR wonks are around to keep things moving.

ben-templesmithBen Templesmith – I loved Templesmith’s work on TEN GRAND, but he’s no longer on that anymore. A big to-do amongst con chatter by the way. Here’s Ben doing some great technique with blood work on the page for a commission. He basically spits it through a straw for a true splatter effect. Get a commission, get some Ben DNA. I also like this picture because I feel like I genuinely made him laugh and spit some blood on the table.

 

 

 

peter tomasiPeter Tomasi – Peter worked his career in reverse from editor to writer and frankly I couldn’t be happier. Damian Wayne basically lived in two books in the New 52, BATMAN INC and BATMAN & ROBIN. All along though, BATMAN & ROBIN stood shoulders above for the heart and trueness of a little boy fighting against his gruesome nurture. I tried to get Peter to spill the beans on when the BATMAN & INSERT SOMEONE ELSE HERE would be ending and he said soon. When I asked him if it would be Carrie Kelly, he laughed at me and mimed zipping his lips. You won today Tomasi.

 

 

bad karmaBAD KARMA – Kickstarter done good. This 200 page hardcover is the culmination of four creators bringing together their ideas in one beautifully rendered trade. The guys were mum on the overall plot, but I did peruse some of the art and it is beautiful. Pictured are Alex Grecian, Jeremy Haun, B. Clay Moore, and Seth Peck.

 

 

 

 

JMSJ. Michael Straczynski Panel – My devotion to JMS stories is no secret. We’ve done about 6 interviews together and I always pester him personally when I know a new book is on the way. Here’s the thing though, instead of ignoring me, he actually responds. Granted if it’s a book like EARTH 1 we need to vet things through proper PR channels, but when it comes to creator owned stuff like JOE’S COMICS, the man is a machine of deep and honest responses to even my most ridiculous of questions.

I abhor panels and I hate lines even more. Thankfully they put JMS in a big enough hall there was no line and secondly once the door shut, this was a conversation not some PT Barnum like spectacle like the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY screening (and screaming happening next door).

As much as I’ve “hung” with Joe and read his work, I realize I am but balls deep in one of Joe’s many genres. When he finally opened up the floor for questions the Babylon 5 flood gates opened wide, along with a shit ton of movie questions. There was also some Dutch kid that kept trying to make him eat cookies. I would say I wish I were tripping if it I didn’t feel like I already was. Joe ended the, hell let’s call it what it is, the discussion, with some very uplifting words about following one’s dreams and handing out copies of the newest Joe’s Comics title, PROTECTORS INC #1.

With the panel over and an hour to kill before my Scott Snyder interview soon…

Back to Artists’ Alley I go!

glen brunswickGlen Brunswick – I love talking to creators who offer me a copy of a their book and my quote is already on the cover. To be fair though, I only read issue 1 of Brunswick’s NON HUMANS. We still had a good laugh though. I rectified my 1/5 review and gave the full TPB the review treatment last week. I love the concept of dolls coming to life spurred by humanity’s imagination so I was happy to see the tale come to a close. In addition to volume 2 of NON HUMANS coming out in April, Glen also recently wrote REALITY CHECK, the story of a creator’s super hero coming to life and not having a freaking clue what to do.

daniel coreyDaniel Corey – Author of MORIARTY from Image was selling the recently dropped trade. In Corey’s world, Moriarty wins at the falls and must find meaning without his greatest nemesis. For anyone who read the first two volumes and enjoyed them, help Daniel out by contributing to the volume 3 Kickstarter campaign.

 

 

 

 

peter davidPeter David – I simply love this man, he hits all the East coast cons and hasn’t seemed to age a day in the 7 years I’ve been pestering him for Ain’t It Cool (An even more remarkable feat at this con giving the recent stroke nonsense. Personally, I don’t buy it, he was Peter through and through) The coolest thing about Peter is that he talks all original properties at his table despite having written one of the best X-titles of all time, X-FACTOR. At this show Peter was all about SIR APROPOS OF NOTHING, the tale of an amoral knight thrust into destiny despite his best efforts to simply make a galleon. IDW has released the graphic novel version or you can read some of those non picture books to learn more about this less than chivalrous knight.

james tynionJames Tynion IV – It would almost be easier to list what isn’t Scott Snyder’s protégé doing right now for DC? Starting as a back-up writer for one of the best runs DETECTIVE Comics has ever seen, he has now moved into the big chair in RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS and the recently announced BATMAN ETERNAL (for more on B.E. read my interview with Scott Snyder). In Artist Alley though, the guys like to talk pet projects; James’ is a web series called THE EIGHTH SEAL where politics is infested by things that go bump in the night.

 

 

Scott-Snyder-Rob-PateyIronically I now had to run across the building (make that hobble) for my 3:15 with Tynion’s Obi-Wan, Scott Snyder. I’m not retyping the full interview, just go here to read it.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been to enough cons now to know when the shift times flip. After my interview with Scott I knew I had an hour to kill before there would be new folks to talk to in Artist Alley. I hunkered down in the press room with my cohorts Ambush Bug and Matt Adler to plan the evening’s shenanigans.

Drunk, I’m now drunk. Fuck you, Ambush Bug. And fuck you Matt Adler for laughing at the lushes. My feet feeling fine at this point I stumble to artist alley in hopes of some last few coherent conversations. All of you have my deepest apologies from this point forward.

ed brissonEd Brisson – While best known for his new Image book called SHELTERED, a tale of the pre post apocalypse gone wrong, Brisson was also at the con showing off some of his pre-discovery titles like MURDER BOOK and COMEBACK.

 

 

 

 

brian clevengerBrian ClevingerATOMIC ROBO is the name of the book and it is already 8 volumes strong. I know a ton of people who are fans of this little indie that could which is an amalgam of every 80s adventure you could imagine all wrapped into…a robot, so this is shot is for you folks.

 

 

 

 

unmaskedUNMASKED – Mike Sarro and John Broglia. Another Kickstarter team done good. UNMASKED is about a young journalist going around unmasking new heroes who have no problem with killing. She does it all in hopes for a return to the true golden age of heroes. Get volume 1 now from Arch Enemy Entertainment before volume 2 launches.

 

 

 

joe harris Joe Harris – Last, but certainly not least Joe Harris showed off his Image series GREAT PACIFIC, his IDW X-FILES project and GHOST PROJECT from Oni Press. GHOST PROJECT was intriguing not only for the fact it is being courted for TV, but also it’s just a cool concept about weaponized supernatural beings built by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Flash-forward to today and the cadre is unleashed on the world by a few bumbling thieves.

And with that the closing bell rang and I hobbled back to my hotel to recharge for an evening of parties and glad-handing. NY Comic Con 2013 I thank you for an experience I will never forget.

PROTECTORS INC. 1 REVIEW – NEW YORK COMIC CON SNEAK PEEK

PROTECTORS INC 1PROTECTORS INC 1 (In Stores November)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Gordon Purcell
Publisher: Image
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool news)

PROTECTORS INC at the high level is Joe’s Comics answer to the JUSTICE LEAGUE. Naturally though, it has the JMS flourish of cynicism and truth powering the masks. There’s nothing idealistic here. Just like SIDEKICK and TEN GRAND, PROTECTORS INC. takes the traditional superhero tropes and indicts the bullshit black and white moralities that tend to permeate the capes and spandex site.

I received my copy of PROTECTORS INC during New York Comic Con last weekend. Actually everyone who decided to attend JMS panel on writing and well…anything that came into Joe’s head, received a copy as well. Joe didn’t do a hell of a lot plugging of the book, in fact he did a very cursory overview of the entire Joe’s Comics line. That’s a compliment, not a slight. Between advice and frivolity he made the panel about us and our questions. He left the panel by giving all of us a copy to let us go off and draw our own conclusions.

Now, I’ve interviewed Joe about six times over the years, the man is a bastion of candor and honesty. As a fellow Jersey boy, I can’t handle pretense either. If you’re going to say something, just fucking say it. So here it goes. I’m confused. There are many streams feeding into the tributary of the story about people disappearing amidst strange lightning storms and the first superhero The Patriot.

JMS PANEL NYCCIn the world of PROTECTORS INC., capes arrived on the front lines of WWII in 1944. After kicking some kraut ass The Patriot comes home and the next seventy years see the rise of 50 other powered individuals like the beautiful Angel, the machismo endowed Huntsman and a host of others. They don’t get a lot of play in the book, merely serving as exposition fodder for our narrator detective lamenting his very laisez-faire feelings towards the whole lot. In this world there are no caped bad guys, everyone with a power is good (or at least we’re supposed to believe they are) and the heroes serve as more celebrity in the skies than thwarting any real danger. Joe is definitely sending a message here about the corporatization of American ideals (like Times Square), but it might be too early for that. I think we needed a few less characters and a little more why we should care about these fifty fuckbags filling the skies.

I’m not an overly obtuse person, so I think part of my confusion stems from Purcell’s artwork. There’s a CIA agent in the beginning of the book, looks like a middle-aged blonde white guy. His human cargo disappears by lightening.  That’s the last we see of the guy. Now he may very well be The Patriot who simply disappeared ten years ago, but I’m not sure. Next is our detective who looks a lot like The Patriot both in and out of garb and the CIA dude (again assuming they aren’t the same person).

Despite my grimacing on the overarching plot, the book is rife with Joe’s natural dialog and flair for humor. This means I’m definitely in for the first arc. I have a feeling that will give enough time to crystalize why I should care about these incorporated protectors.

SIDEKICK 1 REVIEW: Deconstructing Robin

sidekick01-coverSIDEKICK 1
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Tom Mandrake
Publisher: Image (Joe’s Comics)
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)

As a child of the 80s I imagined a time when THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS would one day move from “What If” to actual continuity. A day when a Robin, any Robin would actually don the Cowl and take on his own little grunger, gother, emo or hipster as an assistant in short pants. As we all know this is a pipe dream, as soon as characters become too long in tooth a mystical reset button is pushed that forces fountain of youth elixir down the throats of all our heroes. With the exception of Nightwing, it’s virtually impossible for sidekicks to graduate to full-blown heroes.

Not in the Joe’s Comics world though. If you’re looking for a love letter to those that live in the shadow of heroes, look elsewhere. By Straczynski’s own admission in the letter that closes this inaugural issue, he has little love or respect for the mighty tykes put on sentry duty. In short, JMS has never bought the bullshit that kids are competent and disciplined enough to take on the mighty task of saving lives.

Quite honestly, incompetent is the best way to describe a Sidekick’s value sans their hero counterparts. JMS has a definitive dark take on heroes. Not as dark as Ennis, but there’s little sunshine and rainbow unicorn droppings when JMS takes on capes outside of already established brands. Fly-Boy of Sol city is one such fallen angel.

The book starts with optimism to help herald the true nature of a heroics. Sadly this golden age tarnishes quickly when the Fly-Boy’s mentor, the Red-Cowl, is assassinated during a parade of all places. Actually it happens before that. To keep the exposition moving JMS jumps time periods more often than Marty McFly. An opening of heroics in way back when, followed by a present day extorted blow-job for Fly-Boy from a hooker who is more Julia Childs than Julia Roberts. Back to remember when and we see the Red-Cowl, Fly-Boys mentor take a slug to the chest during an honorary parade, back to present and Fly-Boy is drinking himself into a stupor.

Apparently the Red-Cowl didn’t leave his affairs in order and superheroing is a much bigger drain on corporate coffers than Batman ever let on. I’ve always hated the concept of Batman Inc., but then I never considered the tax shelters it apparently provides. Also, being a super hero is a less coveted job than being President. No one and I mean no one wants to step into Red-Cowl’s shoes. No other Playboy millionaires, no even guerilla heroes like Rorschach. No one wants the gig and sadly our friend Fly-Boy sprouts one pube too many to be taken seriously as a Sidekick anymore.

The metaphor is apparent; Fly-Boy is the comic equivalent of so many child stars who ride the wave of cuteness only to grow up with the face of Fred Savage instead of Danica McKellar. These reflections of real life slathered in fantastic always make for the best books and are becoming the running theme for Joe’s Comics.

The book ends with a surprise I refuse to ruin; it will obliterate the aesthetic distance you need to enjoy the pages prior. I will say though, that Fly-Boy’s suffering has been needless.

With only the second offering from Joe’s Comics, we can’t claim Skybound success yet however I can applaud JMS’ commitment to variety over Kirkman’s offerings. Kirkman has been a slow bleed over the years with spin-offs more than original books. JMS is creating universes instead of suns within one contained spiral. Read SIDEKICK for the story, to revel in Mandrake’s pretty pretty pictures and to get in on the ground floor of Image’s true next big thing. TV and movies make or break comic value people, and JMS studios is the only #1’s from Image that have the clout to get there quickly.

P.S.:  +2 creativity and marketing attributes for the QR code driven audio plays of the books that Joe keeps Easter Egging inside his #1’s.

J Michael Straczynski Talks on Another Dimension with New Twilight Zone Comic Book

J. Michael StraczynskiHello true believers, non-believers and all others in between. Dynamite Entertainment recently unveiled their plans to  release a new series of TWILIGHT ZONE comics penned by none other than past show writer J. Michael Straczynski. I recently had the opportunity to popcorn a few questions off of JMS during the week of San Diego Comic Con, and while the project is still in its infancy, Joe was willing to share a few morsels about what’s to come when the floating door finally opens.

Rob Patey (RP): This isn’t your first time playing with Serling’s brainchild, how did you come about writing for the New Twilight Zone back in the 80’s? 

JMS: Before TWILIGHT ZONE, I’d primarily been an animation writer. I had no live-action TV credits. But having grown up a massive fan of the Zone I was desperate to write for them, so I wrote a spec that — despite some opposition from a few folks there, for the very reason that I was an animation writer then and there was a lot of prejudice about that — got me in to pitch some stories.  One of them hit, I got the assignment, and we shot the episode.  A couple years later, MGM and CBS decided to commission another 30 half-hour episodes to fill out the syndication package, and I was hired as story editor — later, executive story editor — by executive producer Mark Shelmerdine, head of London Films.

I loved working with Mark because he gave me absolute and total freedom to write whatever I wanted, and was willing to go toe-to-toe with studio execs who at times wanted to chip away the corners of the stories I and others were trying to tell.  To this day it remains one of the most salutary experiences of my writing career, so the chance to go back and revisit that storytelling universe is ridiculously appealing.

Rod Serling Twilight ZoneRP: You’re known most for your original creations, how do you approach writing such a venerated property versus your own ideas? 

JMS: With one’s own ideas, you do have an element of recklessness, which is sometimes a good thing.  You have the option of burning down the house if you so choose, an option that doesn’t exist when it’s someone else’s house.  But in the case of TWILIGHT ZONE, there’s not a single standing house, it’s all about telling character-based stories that, with luck and hard work, will take us somewhere we haven’t gone before.

RP: Will the comic stories be ripped straight from the original show, new stories, or somewhere in between? 

JMS: I’m doing just the initial 12 issue run, comprised of three, four-issue arcs that seem totally separate at first but then begin to merge into a much broader narrative structure that eventually turns back on itself. Thematically, it’s very much in line with the kinds of stories that the original Zone told, but obviously done from a modern perspective.  Serling’s work was about the human heart silhouetted against extraordinary circumstances, and what those circumstances ultimately reveal about who and what we are at our innermost core.  So that’s the target I’m hoping to hit with these issues.

RP: Agreed on the reflection of humanity, but another quintessential element to TZ were the “twists” (which I almost hate saying since Shamalamadingdong has now made it a dirty word). Can we expect those kind of pig noses under the surgical masks at the end of each issue or each arc? 

The-Twilight-Zone-episode-guideJMS: Much has always been made in the press about the twist or snap endings of the original Zone episodes, but only a relatively small percentage were as blatant as the example cited above. Most times they grew organically out of the main story rather than being a surprise (such as The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street), and sometimes there was no twist ending at all. The emphasis I think was more on irony than a twist per se.  (Time Enough at Last being a good example.)

So I’m not going for the surprise twist as much as the ironic turn that comments upon and builds on the momentum of the main story.

RP: How about some of the other staples like a smoking narrator or a floating mathematical equation?

JMS: I think we need to be careful in using likenesses that we may or may not have the rights to use.  Certainly this is a broader conversation that all of us involved need to have to properly use (or not use) some of those elements.

RP: Can you give us any morsels from the first year or first arc plot wise?

JMS: One story involves an older man who never got over the loss of his murdered son twenty years earlier because the assailants were never identified. His quest for closure prompts him to hire one more PI in a string of such assignments…and the investigation begins to twist time in unexpected ways. Another story involves a Wall Street style financial czar who needs to escape the consequences of his actions and discovers that the trail goes far deeper than expected.  And the final story involves a waitress who abruptly finds herself able to glimpse the future.  She may end up being the only thing standing between us and the apocalypse, if she’s willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

RP: Can you give us any waft of the connective tissue between the three lives? It can be in the form of a riddle or cryptic Haiku. Honestly, I think your readers would enjoy the challenge of cracking the answer. 

JMS: Their lives each intersect one another in either big or small ways, and part of the fun of the story (or stories) is in seeing how a small decision or action by one person can have a massive impact on someone else’s life. It’s kind of a larger metaphor for the ways in which our own everyday decisions can have huge effects on the lives of people we may never know.

RP: Did you have any set criteria for the visuals of the pieces?

JMS: Not as such, no.  With rare exceptions, however, I generally go for a more realistic look to the art, and I suspect this will be in that category.

RP: Have you seen any art yet for the books or know who you’ll be working with? 

JMS: Not yet, we basically just closed the deal so all of those elements are still in process.

joes-comics-logoRP: Since I’m bothering during comic’s annual trip to Mecca, do you have any other big announcements from SDCC this year…TEN GRAND…SIDEKICKS…JOE’S COMICS…S: E1…cure cancer… 

JMS: We mentioned at Image Expo that we’re bringing both Dream Police and Book of Lost Souls from Marvel/Icon under the Joe’s Comics umbrella, as well as doing a new six-issue mini with Bill Sienkiewicz called ALONE, all of which are slated for 2014.

There’s one other comics related announcement that will come after SDCC, which is pretty much all I can say about it at the moment.  I’ve also just signed a contract to write another movie for a major studio, but again that’s all I can say about it until there’s an official announcement.  And pending closing a few deal points it looks like there will be another TV series deal to come in under the Studio JMS banner in a month or so.

Sadly, due to all the prep work that is going to be needed to launch Sense8 (the first TV series from Studio JMS, written and produced with the Wachowskis for Netflix), it looks like I’m going to have to push filming on The Flickering Light, my feature directorial debut, to 2015.  I hate doing it, but I need to ensure that what’s in the works already is given the amount of time necessary to do them correctly.

If there’s been any one really surprising thing to come along it’s been the extent to which Studio JMS has been not just well received but encouraged and embraced by the bigger studios.  I figured it would take a year or more to get a deal for just one show; we had that almost instantly, and more offers and deals have been coming in.  It’s been just a hugely positive reception and there’s every chance that by this time next year we will be in a position not that different from Bad Robot.  I think that would be amazing.

RP: Thanks for the interview Joe and a whole lot to look forward to over the next two years.