Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Many (Scarred) Faces of Jonah Hex

I LOVE a good western.

With the news last week of the imminent cancellation of Jonah Hex this August, I find myself reflecting on what was, is, and could be. I am disappointed the title is ending.  There is an inherent bitterness in Jonah Hex's world and he carries it with him much more prominently than the scars on his face....and much more ugly than that horrible movie with Josh Brolin.  

What I argue here is that there exists the potential to make an AMAZING JONAH HEX MOVIE, if only DC looked right under there nose.  

Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti's Jonah Hex (top row, 4th book in from the left) was everything a good classic western is supposed to be.  Most issues were stand alone, but there was definitely an element of old Saturday matinee serials present in some issues.  It had rough living and rough language, accents were embraced and the writing reflected it.  Story lines were tight, dialogue spot on, and the pages hosted the lines of some of contemporary comics best artists.   I want to share my collection with you, my awe, and my disgust.  

All of the issues below are in my collection.  I've caught myself staring at them often.  The more I look, the more I enjoy them, the more I appreciate them.  I often feel transported some place else while gazing at them...and I hope you do too.

To understand what Hex could be, we have to understand who he is first.
This guy is so afraid of Jonah Hex he doesn't realize his testicles are on fire.

This is Weird Western Tales #13 September 1972.  Hex's first ever appearance is WWT #10, July,---but I don't own that book so you get this.  Written by John Albano, illustrated by Tony DeZuniga.  DeZuniga is responsible for these first images Hex.  He came up with the scar.  There are excellent write ups here...and here on his inspiration for the character, how he developed the western anti-hero.  DeZuniga says straight away the spaghetti westerns were popular and had a direct influence on the concept.

Albano even wanted him to look more like Clint Eastwood, DeZuniga wasn't so crazy about that.  The scar was the compromise ...and it worked.   
Poor Josh Brolin, he was the best and only thing good about that movie. From the horse mounted double gatling guns to his scar origin to the talking to friggin' dead people, c'mon! and Megan Fox's portrayal of Tallulah "Lilah" Black.  She needed to be harder...Michelle Rodriguez would have worked.  Summer Glau does the vulnerable killer very well...Rosario Dawson, Erica Cerra, Anna Paquin, Katie Sackoff.  More Jodie Foster and less...well...Megan Fox.  Dammit, Natalie Portman could have done a better job.  You see where this is going.            

I don't think there is a comic book fan alive that doesn't realize the movie adaptation of their favorite-fill-in-the-blank hero is not going to get it completely right.  It is the collaborative nature of movie making that makes it special...and can completely shred a concept to shit.

When I found this issue in my uncle's old collection I got really excited.  Then I found almost the first full run.  Most were moldy, but I salvaged what I could. Jonah Hex debuted as a character in 1972, but didn't get his own title until Jonah Hex #1 was published in 1977.  Spaghetti Westerns were all the rage and DeZuniga and Albano knew it.

I love this cover.  The hero is in peril before you even turn a page.
The perspective is great too.

Let's start with Hex's origin, his original-origin. Hex's father was a physically abusive alcoholic who in 1851 sold Jonah to a tribe of Apache when he was 13.

The Apache treated him fairly but worked him constantly, he was their slave.  One day he saves the Chief from a large Puma and the Chief adopts Jonah as his son.  It is 1853.  The Chief's real son, Noh-Tante is jealous of his father's attention on Jonah.  Jonah also has a thing for Noh-Tante's girl (White Fawn) who kind of has a thing for Jonah too.

 Noh-Tante tricks Jonah into the territory of their tribe's enemy, the Kiowa.  They are ambushed by a party of Kiowa and Noh-Tante leaves Jonah for dead.

Jonah's first villain was a Mexican bandit leader...go figure.  

The U.S. Calvary run into Hex incidentally while slaughtering the Kiowa.  They shoot Jonah in the gut when he tries to stop them.  It is 1854, Jonah is 16 years old.

 In 1861 Jonah joins the U.S. Army and becomes a Calvary scout.   The Civil War breaks out soon after that and Jonah goes home to defend his land.

In Sept. 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.  Hex feels he can no longer accept the Confederacy because it condones human bondage (having himself been a slave to the Apache).  He doesn't want to fight his fellow country men so decides to go home and wait out the end of the war.

Hex surrenders at the nearest Union post.  They track his path back to the Confederate camp.  They arrest the rebels and throw them in a military prison camp.  Hex and the other southerners escape, in a convoluted manipulation by the camp Captain.

The Union soldiers slaughter the escapees. The escape attempt becomes known as "The Fort Charlotte Massacre."  There really wasn't any Fort Charlotte massacre.  There was a siege during the revolutionary war at a place called Fort Charlotte, but it wasn't a prison camp.

Hex gets out alive, wanders awhile, then goes back to the Apache in 1866.  Noh-Tante has married White Fawn.

Hex tells everyone of Noh-Tante's attempted murder of Jonah by leaving him in Kiowa territory.  There is a trial by combat (seen left).

Noh-Tante rigs Jonah's tomahawk to fail, so Jonah uses his knife to kill Noh-Tante.  This breaks Apache law.

 Jonah's punishment for that "THUK!" (far left) is the Mark of the Demon.

His Apache family give him the scar. Jonah becomes a bounty hunter shortly there after.

See in the movie John Malkovich gives Josh Brolin the mark because he thinks Josh let his son, Jeb Turnbull die.  Jeb Turnbull died in the Ft. Charlotte Massacre in the comic.  Okay could be good motivation.  But why try to fix what isn't broken? I will concede, Jonah Hex volume 2 #13, a retelling of Hex's scar has a Union officer give it to him...and I didn't question it at all. 

All the actors in the Jonah Hex movie are good, some even great actors.  Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender, Will Arnet, Tom Wopat, Lance Reddick, Wes Bentley, Aidan Quinn.

Jonah Hex could have been a good movie.  But Warner Brothers went about it all wrong.  They ignored the quality source material that draws people to the character....and I'd argue they did the same thing with Green Lantern and Catwoman.

DC/TimeWarner figured out a way to take people who were great in other things and make them completely terrible together.

So how do you make a good Jonah Hex movie?                                                                                     
1.  Make it a good western.  Some times people forget what a good western can be.  I often try to remember and make a list in my head of the westerns that really had an impact on me. The Searchers, The Wild Bunch, The Magnificent Seven, Shane, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Fist full of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, Hang'em High, High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Little Big Man, Once Upon a Time in the West, BLAZING SADDLES, Tombstone, Silverado, Unforgiven, Deadwood, True Grit (Cohen brothers).  Read Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy.  Let me know when you get to Blood Meridian.

 2. Draw on source material.  Jonah Hex's life is a dark, dark world maybe-sometimes punctuated with nice moments, but they are rare.

 3. Make a contemporary adult western with a hard "R" rating.  No less than PG13, but I'd argue Jonah Hex's world is no place for children.  Make a statement.  The money will follow.  Jonah Hex could be an awesome neo-spahgetti western if produced the right way. 

This is WB's missed opportunity. They should have seen the draw and made it a modern The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...or Pale Rider, or any of the movies listed above.  Less Underworld...and more Wild Bunch. 

Can you imagine a Jonah Hex-ed version of Hang'em High?

Let the cinematography and the actors breathe.  The sweeping plains, the painted sunsets.  Such a huge, huge missed opportunity.

I look at this cover by Darwyn Cooke and think about what could have been.

The heart shaped hole in his shirt is perfect.

Nothing stops an ELECTRIC WARRIOR!...yeah that's what your mom says too.

I salvaged this is from my uncle's collection too.   After Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) Jonah Hex is thrown into the 21st century and becomes a post-apocalyptic hero ala Mad Max. 

It's just hilarious.

Jonah Hex vol. 1 came to end in Crisis on Infinite Earths.  The series was canceled.  This was a limited series to give the title one more shot at being a monthly (my opinion).

I love seeing Mark Texeira's work at this early stage.  He's got over thirty years of experience now, and his art is really great then.

 In 1985 the future is totally okay with a chick and a python dancing at the club...although where you go now it is always a possibility.  If you notice, in the middle and to the right--the mullet has obviously evolved into some sort of prehensile super-mullet.  Let me say that again so it sinks in: PREHENSILE SUPER MULLET.  Dancing with streamers also seems to be popular.  Noteworthy: There are two topless chicks in this illustration.  One is center, way in the background, she's leaning forward into her dancing partner.  The other is top left, background, kind of coming out of dancing girl in forefront's shoulder.  Both girls have visible red bikini bottoms, no tops. Bonus.

In the future Jonah drives a 5-wheel chopper.

The chopper on closer inspection looks like more of a scooter...or a Hovaround.

I really like the use of sound effect text on this page. 

This is just great, do you see that? Jonah shoots this guy's leg off.....and he gets up.  This freaks Jonah out. Not the python girl with the PREHENSILE SUPER MULLET or the streamer dancing or his chop-around...the cyborg guy freaks Jonah out.

This is the issue that started it all for me.  I got Jimmy Palmiotti to sign it at Wondercon in April 2006. I had bought just a couple months prior.  The Frank Quitely cover grabbed me and I had real hankerin' for a good western.  In January of 2006 I was anticipating the last season of Deadwood. I was knee deep in blood and the F-word.  I craved a good western and had a new standard to refer to.  

Around the same time I was picking up Gray/Palmiotti's Hex, I was also purchasing Azarello's Loveless and Cassaday's Lone Ranger.  Lone Ranger was drawn better than Love Less, but Jonah Hex was the far better overall comic of the three in my opinion.

Frank Quitely's Hex is a grizzled, scarred mess.  This is one of favorite covers.  Truly a scary individual.  Imagine seeing this guy as you ride your horse in the middle of the night and the only other person you see on the trail for hours, is this guy.

This is Jonah Hex Volume 2, #4 April 2006.

The cover is by Howard Chaykin.  I have mixed feeling about Chaykin.  I like his writing very much, but not his art.  They all look like they have really fat heads.  Jonah looks part shark here, his scar has mutated into gills.  I mean no disrespect to Mr. Chaykin.  This is my opinion, that is all.  I can't draw to save my life and I am awed by his talent and career.  But it is not my thing.  It is only my aesthetic preference. 

The color is wonderful.  Very vibrant.  Michelle Madsen did the colors.  When I looked her up I saw that she has done TONS of stuff...a lot of books that I had and didn't realize were her's. Lots of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I can't imagine this being a very easy pose to capture. A man riding horseback twisting around and shooting at someone or something behind him...and kudos to Chaykin for not just drawing a picture of Clint Eastwood and doing something original.  I would like to add, Mr. Chaykin is an incredibly talented man, and extraordinarily gracious.  I have a handful of his titles autographed. Every con I've seen him at he is delightful and friendly.  He truly enjoys talking with his fans.

I got Tim Bradstreet to sign this copy of JH #5 at the Big Wow Convention in San Jose 2013.

His details are great.
Close up it reminds me a little of Eduardo Risso's art in 100 Bullets.  Not the same, but just as impressive.  This looks like much younger Jonah Hex than we usually see.  I don't see the same middle-aged man I usually do ...late twenties, early thirties maybe?

Jonah Hex volume 2, #9, September 2006.  Tony Dezuniga comes back and draws the character he helped create once again.  He was 74 years old when he drew this.  He died six years later in 2012. 

I love being able to see how characters change over time, but I enjoy watching artists change even more.  This is from a page of Weird Western Tales #13. Seeing DeZuniga's art here in 1977, when he was 45 years old....

...and then again here, 30 years makes me feel lucky to be reading comics here and now, in this place in time.

Jonah Hex volume 2 #10 October 2006.  DC had a lot of talented artists work on this book over the entire series.  That's rare, you don't see such a great rotation of artists on any title.

Phil Noto's work is just beautiful.  The softness of the image, the colors, the struggle depicted, great stuff.

I like the blood and teeth a lot.

It's very impressionistic.  The lines are soft, the colors blend. The water is just wonderful.

Noto's interiors are always pretty too. 

The eyes are great.  The right carries pain.  The left is the result of pain, permanently frozen in agony at the moment the Mark of the Demon was given to him.

The scar loses some definition, but you get it, you see the permanent snarl.

Meet Tallulah Black (also Noto's).

 When she was a teenager men came to force her family to sell their land her father said no.  The men killed her entire family, shot her in the eye, and left her for dead.

 A YEAR later when she was working as a prostitute,  one of the men sees her and realizes who she is, rapes her and slashes her up all over her face and body...and leaves her for dead again.

 This image is supposed to be around the time she has become a bounty hunter.  Hex trains her so she can get revenge on the men who killed her family, raped her, scarred her, and left her for dead.

This is who Megan Fox could have been, should have been.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Uncle Vic's Vault, or How Not to Treat Your Comics....or Why is Aqua Man Such a Jerk?

Once again I made the pilgrimage to my home village in search of rest and relaxation, inebriation and indigestion, rural debauchery and ritual decompression.  It was my parent's 60th(!) wedding anniversary and my good friends Jacob and Kristen's 15th wedding anniversary in the same weekend.  The wife and I flew into Minneapolis then drove north into the heat and humidity.  It was that stick to everything kind of heat that made you sweat sitting still.  Perfect weather for exploring a dark, dank, musty Silver Age sepulcher. 

I came back with what you see above: Justice League America #10 March 1962, #21 August 1963, #35 May 1965, #56 September 1967; Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #70 November 1966, Adventure Comics #353 February 1967, Plastic Man #10 June 1968, World's Finest #176 June 1968, Brave and the Bold #78 June 1968, Wonder Woman #177 July 1968, and Challengers of the Unknown #77 January 1971---a reprint of Showcase #12 written and drawn by Jack Kirby in 1958.  These were books I didn't see the first time I went through Uncle Vic's collection the last time I visited home.
"Umm Clark, you're squeezing kind of hard..."
The real score of the expedition was Justice League of America #21.  Near mint, bagged and boarded this issue is worth $345, but this copy to the left is worth maybe $45.  It has disintegrated along the edges, color faded, the pages smell of mildew and mold.  Listen up kids, treat your comics right and maybe you'll have a real-and-true-gods-honest ART-I-FACT on your hands, or you can leave them in a damp cardboard box in an uninsulated garage in the middle of the woods and get this.  If the 11 books I brought back were kept dry and clean they would be worth almost $1,000 on the open market.  The JLA/JSA team-ups usually are bit more valuable than other JLA issues.  JLA #21 is significant for the first named appearance of Earth-2. It may be beat up but I still love looking at this book.  The off-set printing lends to certain flatness of color.  The highly limited use of color gradients (only on facial skin tones, none on costumes) is indicative to the technology of the era.  In 1962 off-set printing was less than 100 years old.  See also: Compounding of Information and Technology, Doubling of Information.
In this post I want to focus on JLA #10, "The Fantastic Fingers of Felix Faust" written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky.  

Gardner Fox was a pivotal player in the Golden and Silver age of Comics.  He helped to co-create the Sandman in 1939 with artist Bert Christman, tag teamed early Batman issues with Bob Kane that included the first use of Batman's utility belt, the first use of the Batarang, and the first Batgyro (later Batcopter).  He wrote the first three issues of Flash Comics in 1940 (Golden Age Flash) where he introduced the title character and Hawkman for the first time.

However, what Fox is credited with mainly is the creation of the first ever super team, the Justice Society of America, during the winter of 1940 in the pages of All Star Comics #3.  Fox went on to a prolific amount of work (he's credited for writing around 4,000 comics, 1,500 stories for DC alone ), which I won't get into here, but I do want to mention Flash #123, "A Flash of Two Worlds!"  It is the
This does not seem practical to me at all, it could make shower time a bit....confusing.
introduction to the concept of Golden Age Heroes living on a parallel Earth, Earth-2, thus giving birth to the DC Comics Mulitverse, the source of plot points for decades to come (Crisis, Infinite Crisis, The New 52).

In Flash #123 Barry Allen (Silver Age Flash) smashes the Fourth Wall suggesting comic book author of the Golden Age Flash, Gardner Fox, has a psychic link with Earth-2 and that's why Golden Age Flash comics exist in "his [Silver Age] world." I think it's amazing a 70 year old concept still so strongly reverberates through DC publications today.  Iconic or cop out?  If it's not broken don't fix it?  Or is it still metaphysically relevant to the audience today? They do seem to sell well don't they.
Title page of JLA #10 and an advert for the Greg Land School of Art

Here we see Felix Faust's motivation for taking mystical control of the Justice League.  He WANTS to make a deal with the devil for supernatural powers because it worked out so well for his "name-sake."  I don't think he read the same Marlowe play I did.  Although some reiterations of the story have a redemption of sorts for Faust, most end with him being carted off to hell.  Maybe Felix read the beginning and got distracted? Maybe there was a sale on mystical robes and hats downtown and he just never got around to finishing it?  This brings me around to point #2 kids, always finish reading the stories you start,  especially the classics, because you never know what kind of things you'll learn, like selling your eternal soul to the devil is a BAD idea.  See Also: The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), "The Devil and Homer Simpson"  "Tree House of Horror IV," The Simpsons (1993).
Unexpected discovery, who knew JLA#10 is actually a prequel to the Evil Dead?  

This is something I'd gladly welcome back to the pages of DC comics, a "Science says you're wrong if you believe that" page.  They could talk about creationism or Pres. Obama's birth certificate, it'd be a huge hit.  If they would only sacrifice ONE PAGE of self promotion.  I genuinely did not know that female reindeer have antlers too...but I also didn't really give it much thought in the first place.  I suppose if the question would have occurred to me I would have looked it up.  But that's the point of the random knowledge page isn't it?  To spur the real world imagination of a kid?  I like it.  They should do it now.  It would be good for them and good for their audience.  DC needs to do something in service to comics for comics, something better than Batman and Catwoman grinding on a roof top, or killing off the black Green Lantern,  or not letting Batwoman get married to her girlfriend.  What's strange about that is they just made a big to-do about their new Earth-2 gay Green Lantern last year.  
What's worse, having the title character on the cover "flaming" or killing off his boyfriend in the opening pages?  Their social policy is schizophrenic at best. Too many corporate cooks in the kitchen man.

JLA #10 also features the first appearance of Epoch, The Time Lord.  I dig the's epic...see what I did there?

I also enjoy the warriors emerging from the Time Lord's computer wall through some sort of portal or screen.  I want to see a spinoff of Viking vs Centurion vs Mongol where they team up for sure.  That is a Mongol down there right?  You tell me. 

What's happening here is Batman and Flash are going to confront Epoch but, as fate would have it, Felix Faust has simultaneously cast a spell to bring the heroes under his control.  When Flash touches "the wing of the bat" and when Batman touches "a clam shell" they will be under Faust's control.  Batman's cape does the scarlet speedster in, and a mother of pearl light switch foils the caped crusader.  Yes, a light switch.

 You know how you can tell Epoch, the Time Lord is a time lord? He has a sword and a (presumably laser) gun...and his tight, tight yellow pants.

That friggin' helmet man, where were you when I was 13 tooling around on a 75cc Honda mini-bike?  Cruising with my big yellow goggles...that would have been so sweet.

 That is a Mongol warrior down there right? What's up with the hat, is he Dutch? What is that on his chest? Patches?  His bus pass? Two swords, one scabbard? Thank Jar Jar Greedo is coming from the future to back him up.  Pro-tip #3 kids, don't bring a sword to a laser gun fight, you will not win.

Oh Flash, I can't count how many times I've thought the same thing, last call sitting at the bar, next to some bleary-eyed young lady who can't seem to stop talking about her job...or her dog...or something else I couldn't give a damn about.  Flash looks how I feel after too much beer and someone has passed a joint around the party...oh god just make everything stop moving, please oh please please of please, blargggghhhhhhh (me getting sick).

I have a soft spot for anytime the Flash tries to vibrate through solid matter, later it would allow him to travel through space-time.  This is Gardner Fox at his best, introducing children to the mystery of quantum physics.  You have to remember this is 1962 and the main demographic of this comic is 10-14 years of age.  Good job Mr. Fox, good job.  See also: Quantum Tunneling, Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, Wave-Particle Duality of Matter.

"Aquaman...dude what the hell!? My shell is not spear and arrow proof!"

This panel sequence really grabbed me.  To save the hammerhead shark from being hit by arrows and spears Aquaman picks up a sea tortoise and uses it as a shield, "brother tortoise" indeed.  I think PETA is going to be calling Aquaman soon to have a little talk...not cool bro, not cool.

At this point you may be asking yourself, "Self, who the hell is that guy?"

Why, that's Snapper Carr!

I lifted this straight from wikipedia...basically because I didn't want to waste my time talking about this throwaway character: "Lucas  "Snapper" Carr is a fictional character in the DC Comics universe, most famous as a supporting character to the superhero team the Justice League of America.  He has often been referred to as the team's mascot.  Snapper Carr, along with the Justice League, first appears in The Brave and the Bold #28, written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Mike Sekowsky. As the JLA could not have the sidekicks of all its members wandering through its secret headquarters, but needed a character to whom the reader could relate, the group needed a distinct character not associated with the home town of any of its members.  In order to rationalize that an ordinary person could become an honorary member of the JLA, he had to be important to them at the moment of that group's formation."

This guy. This eff-ing guy.  He's popped up all over the DC universe in the last 40 years.  I like him the most in The Dark Knight Returns.  See also: The Brady Bunch "Oliver," Different Strokes "Sam," Growing Pains "Luke", The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show "Poochie."
Unlike today, the letters-to-the-editor page is midway through the book.  It's comforting in a way to see somethings don't change.  The letter section of JLA #10 is full of anal nitpicking and general sucking up, much like any comic book letters page today.

This one is especially stupid are you DC?  Green Lantern's mask is green, not blue, duh!  I feel for the poor printer, the fact they printed their letter as an explanation must mean they got lots of mail about it.  Can you imagine if that happened today?  The corporate backlash of then versus now?  No thanks.  If I was their printer and I get a call from Geoff Johns...I'm at lunch....all week.

Something occurred to me when I read this issue...Aquaman is the Tom Sawyer of super heroes.  He doesn't really do anything, he gets the sea life to do it for him with his telepathic powers.  He literally coerces animals to take the risk for him.  What kind of hero is that?  A lazy one, that's for sure...and people wonder why Aquaman gets no respect.  He's a jerk!  He's like any other king who has his supplicants and armies do all his dirty work for him. He's no Geoffrey Lannister, but he sure seems content to let his little minions do the hard work for him.

Green Lantern should have let the rocks bury Aquaman.  He'd probably just get some octopi dig him out anyway...lazy A$$H@!3.

So after gaining control of the JLA and getting them to assemble the three magical items he needs to take over the universe, Felix Faust casts his spell to release the demons that will put him in charge.

But unfortunately for him his magiks need time to take, and although he has power over the JLA physically he doesn't have power over them mentally.

Guess who comes to the rescue, Aquaman! He gets a whale to flip a bunch of flying fish through the window hitting Faust in the face.  I do love the slapstick of it all, "wap wap wap wap" I can hear them slapping him in the face.  Faust falls down and hits his head, releasing his control over the JLA. *Slow Clap*

Faust is defeated but his plan is still in's just going to take a 100 years to come to fruition.  That's a pretty crappy plan Felix. 

So what have we learned from all this?  Keep you comics dry and clean.  Read the classics all the way through.  A laser gun is always better than a sword.  Aquaman cares more about hammerhead sharks than turtles, and he's a big blonde jerk.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mr. Kirkman are you a bottom? Image Expo 2013

It's been a month since I attended the 2013 Image Expo held in the Lam Research Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.  I think I've been repressing it a bit.  It was a hot, sweaty mass of pear-shaped male awkwardness.  Record heat temperatures, the beautifully glassed lobby of the YBC, and already questionable hygiene standards all combined to create micro-climate akin to rural equatorial Africa.  I don’t blame the architect.  It’s San Francisco, most likely it's going to be cool-ish.  But not today.

I was excited to see many of the guest writers/artists: Ed Brubaker, Robert Kirkman, Nick Dragotta….and Mark Millar.  That I thought that was really cool.  I have to find the email Image sent out but I really thought Millar was going to be there…and he was…by Skype.  By-muth-a-frackin’ SKYPE.  I pulled a lot of books for him to sign.  I was disappointed.  But I may have set myself up for it if I didn’t read that email right.   The guy who does Peter Panzerfest was there too.  I really haven’t had a chance to look into that one too much.  I gotta find that email.    
Image also announced some special surprise guests.  This was all speculation but I thought Jonathon Hickman might be there, since Nick Dragotta was going to be there and East of West is a big hit for them right now.  Image was pumping a new Matt Fraction/Howard Chaykin book on the Expo website as an Expo exclusive giveaway so I thought one, if not both, would be there for that.  I grabbed some Frank Quitely covers for the current Image/Millar/Jupiter’s Children connection…because Millar was going to be there, right?  Then I pulled some Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis books, just on the crazy one in a million chance they’d show up.  So with a backpack full of comic books, bottled water, snacks, and a camera I attacked the day.

The BART Strike, Episode I, gave me the opportunity to ride the San Francisco Bay Ferry Service’s Blue and White fleet, the nine port trans-bay aquatic people mover. The strike also tripled the number of ferry commuters.  The line (the first of what was to become a Day of Lines) was filled with easily eighty to one hundred, mostly jovial and friendly commuters.  I was in a line of slowly cooking humanity.  I could feel the heat on my neck.  I took a swig of water. Standing…shuffling…Standing…shuffling.  WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD.
The ferry was fine.  Got a spot a stern, and settled in.  It was cool.  The bay is beautiful in the morning.  I have sailed on the bay maybe a dozen times.  It’s just so pretty, so much fun.
I got to the Ferry Building and walked a few blocks up to Yerba Buena Center.  There was a line out the door.  I am accustomed to lines.  I am an adult…you have to wait some times, wait your turn.  I can do that…I can wait. I'm a big boy.
 I saw the proprietor of Alameda Cards and Comics and a shop employee (my local purveyors of fine sequential art) in the crowd.  We ended up hanging out most of day.  The Expo was billed as a retailers-professionals/fan-fest.  The morning kicked off with CEO Eric Stephenson’s keynote speech. During the speech he introduced the scheduled and surprise guests.  This was followed by lunch, then panels and signings simultaneously throughout the rest of the day.  

The business information presented felt like a comic book shareholders’ meeting.  Stephenson did a good job of selling the Image creator-owned work model.  All the bars and charts looked very pleasant and were easy to understand. I am glad Image is doing well.  They announced a new digital endeavor, current issues for sale right from the sight.   Wonderful.  I hope digital comics are great.  The only digital comics I have read I pirated because I couldn’t afford to buy them.  The art and stories that really struck me I ended up purchasing as trade paperbacks, REAL PAPER OBJECTS I CAN HOLD IN MY HANDS, LIKE A BOOK.  Maybe that is why I’ve heard/read that the only thing pirating has done is to weed out the bad work from the good.  People still buy good comics. I'm pretty sure it was Eric Stephenson who said that.
The surprise guests were Jason Aaron, Jason  Latour, and Matt Fraction.  It's hare to tell from this picture but Aaron has almost a full ZZ Top beard going on. I was a little jealous.  I really like Aaron’s current Thor run with Esad Ribic, full of so much cool. He and Latour are putting out a book together called Southern Bastards. It looks great.

I am becoming more and more willing to go along with Aaron’s story telling.  I really enjoyed his run on Wolverine too, very dark.     

 J. Michael Stracyinski came out to talk about his new stories.  I never watched Babylon Five, but his comics have entertained me.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the sheer volume of his work.  There is no substitute for experience. The only real TV work of his I’ve seen is probably some Murder She Wrote.  

 I picked up Superman, Grounded (it helped Neil Cassaday was illustrating) but after the second or third issue I only felt so-so about it. The first issue is really great though.  Later on in the afternoon I got Superman #701, Silver Surfer Requiem #1, and Bullet Points #5 signed.  To do this I had to get in another line.  It ended up being the shortest of the day. It also allowed me a chance to ask him some quick questions.

 I asked if he had a favorite beer, said he doesn’t drink.  I then said “what about LSD?” He told me someone in college slipped it in something of his.  He didn’t give a trip report, but I’m guessing it was not the most positive.  “What about Cannabis?”  He said it should be legal.  So what do you know, me and JMS see something eye to eye.  If Superman would’ve gotten high and walked from coast to coast maybe I would have like the story more.  

After JMS, Stephenson introduced Matt Fraction.  I've been a big Matt Fraction fan since a friend of mine turned me on to Cassanova many years ago.  His Hawkeye run right now is something special, if you haven't checked it out. Two words: "pizza dog."  His dialogue is snappy and the issue arcs highly entertaining.   

Fraction announced two new books with Image, ODY-C and Sex Criminals.  ODY-C is a retelling of the Odyssey but gender flipped and set in space.  Fraction promised big cosmic gods toying with the heroine. 

Sex Criminals is about a woman who can stop time when she is having sex and then finds a boyfriend who can do the same thing. So what do they do with their new found erotic power? They start robbing banks. It's drawn by Chip Zdarsky.


Robert Kirkman's panel was first up after lunch during the JMS autograph siging.  Kirkman took questions from the audience...stuff about comics, stuff about the show, stuff about an older video game release (maybe AMC online?) that was pretty bad, stuff about the creative process.  Not bad questions, just kind of pedestrian.  I got in line.

Me: “Can you talk a little about the obvious homosexual undertones in ‘The Walking Dead?’…maybe elaborate a little on your relationship with Norman Reedus…he seems kinda butch, does that make you a bottom?”

Eric Stephenson: *facepalm*

Robert Kirkman: (laughing) “aaah I don’t think I’m a bottom…I…I don’t even know how to answer that question…My relationship with Norman Reedus is strictly platonic…for now.”

Everybody laughed.  There were a few more questions.  Seeing that my work there was done, I left to go get in line for the Nick Dragotta/now Matt Fraction signing.

I first met Nick at the Free Comic Book Day event at Alameda Cards and Comics this year.  He was friendly and very personable.  He signed East of West #1& #2, and a Marvel Zombies Return #1 for me...while cranking out individual sketches for people on white cardboard bag backs with a profound ease.  It was impressive. I gave him a series of questions at the signing in Alameda.  They are not….superficial.  I told him to take his time with them.  This was also my way of reminding him about them.  He said he has completed three of thirteen.  I thought that was pretty good. I didn’t have anything new for him to sign this time around.  I did bring the color reissue of Cassanova #1 and the #1 from Matt Fraction's recent Defenders run for Fraction to sign, but when I was about 10-15 people from the autograph booth Nick and Fraction were sitting at, Fraction had to leave to attend a scheduled panel in the theater.  I was a little bummed, but I stayed in line just to say hello to Nick. He is good people, his work is great and everyone should buy his books. The battle scene depicted over the recent issue of East of West (#4) is amazing and beautiful.  

Nick had to leave pretty soon after we got up to the front to say hello.  Ed Brubaker came up to the signing booth just as I had to move along in the line, past it.  I immediately realized if I was going to get my Criminal #1, Incognito #1, and Daredevil #100 variant signed I had to get back in line.  I'm a schmuck.  I brought them and I wanted to get them signed.   

I did it.  I got back in line...and that's when I saw what was the fist 20 people or so starting the line for Robert Kirkman.   My legs were starting to give out.  Now I exercise regularly, my legs are like that of Adonis, or Michelangelo's David, but I was tired.  These guys around me, these men with trunks for legs, these men whose sheer mass dwarfed me on average by a hundred pounds at least...they stood like Sentinels, unwavering in their conviction.   I brought a Marvels Zombies #1 variant and a Walking Dead #100 variant cover drawn by Tod McFarlane (also on the sheer chance TMcF would be there) for Kirkman to sign, but I really wanted to see the 4-5pm Comics and Creativity panel with most of the guests. 

I did it again.  I got back in another mother-f-ing line...and I knew in that moment it would not be the last of the day.  There would be the ferry.  Life is full of lines.  There would be tomorrow and the tomorrow after that and my whole life there after will come mother-f-ing lines, daily. And I will get into them because patience is a virtue and I AM F-ING VIRTUOUS. 

There has to be a better way to create a autograph line that moves efficiently.  Image wranglers tried to keeping the signing to one or two copies of something or another, but the guests were signing whatever you had---which was great. The guest artists/writers knew what was up, you bring it, they'll sign it happily, and tell you thanks for buying it.   There has to be a way to average out how long each person will take and figure out how many people can get through in an hour, then CUTTING THE LINE OFF.  There is no other way.  What's worse, standing in line for 2-3hrs then not getting your stuff signed or getting in line and having an active handler enforce the end of the line and helping you figure out don't waste your time? Wondercon had active handlers on the ends of lines, and it sucked when you got cut off before you even got there, but at least you could go do something else. It's the most fair to the guests, retailers, and press who don't want their time wasted either.  It was the One Day Only time restriction of the Image Expo that limited how much program you can pack.  I get that. I just wanted it to be more. Though I am reminded to be thankful for what I have when I look at all of the autographed books together.

San Francisco Ferry building Pier 41, local news van satellite relay mast.
I'm a little bitter too because I took the ferry in and the latest I could get back on the ferry was  8:15pm...and because of the BART strike I'm going to have to get back IN LINE for the ferry by 7:15.  There was a press/retailer mixer for a half hour at Jillian's in the Sony Metreon at 7pm.  Then there was supposed to be an Expo after party.  That I was really interested in, but dammit I had to go get in line for the ferry long before that. 
Looking back at the city from the ferry.
“Flood-tide below me! I watch you face to face;
Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see you also face to face.
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you
are to me!
On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home,
are more curious to me than you suppose;
 And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me,
 and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.”
-Walt Whitman,  “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Leaves of Grass , 1856 -1881, 
published and edited throughout various editions.