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Juliet Kahn

Amy Reeder Talks Rocket Girl, Kickstarter And Redeeming ’80s Fashion [Interview]

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Amy Reeder made a name for herself in the comics scene with Fools Gold from Tokyopop, but became a favorite of comics art lovers for her excellent occasionally breathtaking work on Vertigo's Madame Xanadu, which saw the versatile stylist to depict a complex and beautiful heroine across vast expanses of time and in all the aesthetic luxury that affords. Her profile rose further with a major level up on Batwoman, synthesizing her manga storytelling influence with tightly rendered yet loose and dynamic action. Whether you quiet scenes with exquisite facial expressions and palpable mood, or diverse body types in the throes of big splash-page comic book action, Reeder's got you covered.

Possibly the most Reeder book ever, Rocket Girl is about a teenage girl who's a cop in the future sent back to the middle of the 1980s to investigate Time Crimes, and in so doing discovers secrets that reveal her utopian home-time isn't so great after all. The premise allows Reeder to indulge herself fully, and in the best sense possible. Full of action, fashion and drama, Rocket Girl is a pleasure to read -- partly because it's obvious that its artist has so much fun drawing it.

We sat down with Amy Reeder at Comic-Con International in San Diego to talk about Rocket Girl, Kickstarter, and the evolution of her unmistakable style.

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From Under Mountains: Marian Churchland, Claire Gibson and Sloan Leong Subvert Clichés With A New Fantasy Adventure

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There will be magic in From Under Mountains, an ongoing fantasy series coming from Image in 2015 and announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Set in the world of Akhara, the story introduces us to a lord's daughter, a disgraced knight, and a runaway thief whose unlikely partnership will change the course of a world locked in a bitter conflict between rival clans. There will be goblins and witches and knights as well, lost in the churning of a world in turmoil. Great houses will square off for power. Thieves will dash into the shadows. Naïve youths will learn that the world is vaster and more terrible than they ever imagined. In these warm, well-worn ways, it will embrace the best that fantasy, as a genre has to offer: sweeping scope grounded in the lives of heroes, villains, and everything in between.

Creators Marian Churchland, Claire Gibson, and Sloane Leong have worked on everything from Elephantmen to magical girl comics about anthropomorphic wolves, and they are bringing their varied experience to bear upon From Under Mountains and the fantasy genre in ways both familiar and innovative. ComicsAlliance talked with them to discuss breaking new ground with thoughtfulness, experience, and memories of Ursula Le Guin.

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Nostalgia As A Weapon: The Sailor Moon Renaissance Is A Feminist Mission Behind The Lines Of Pop Culture

sailor moon feminism

Sailor Moon is inescapable. There’s the new anime of course, and the new musicals, the merchandise, and the retranslation of the manga. But it’s the emblem of a wider renaissance as well, a resurgence of love for mahou shoujo, or magical girl anime and manga — a movement led by women well out of their childhood years. A quick stroll through Tumblr reveals Sailor Moon cupcakes, punky Sailor Moon jackets, heartfelt essays about what the portrayal of lesbianism in Sailor Moon meant to the reader, dozens of artists working together to reanimate an episode of the anime, Sailor Moon nail art tutorials, cats named Luna, Beryl, Haruka and everything in between, hand-sculpted figurines, ornate embroidery projects, and an endless avalanche of fanart. Sailor Moon as an Adventure Time character. Sailor Moon cheekily clutching a Hitachi Magic Wand. Sailor Moon as a vicious biker chick. Sailor Moon protesting the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling.

Sailor Moon fans have not so much rediscovered their love for Naoko Takeuchi’s sword-and-sparkle epic as they have elected her queen mother of their imaginations and ultimate aspirational self. She is, simultaneously, symbol, cause, and leader.

This resurgence is animated by more than typical fannish passion. This is a need to return to a world where young women are in charge. This is an anger at the pabulum of Good Role Models for Girls, at boob windows and “fridging" and “tits or gtfo.” This is 15-year-olds covering their notebooks in “MERMAIDS AGAINST MISOGYNY” stickers, yet also gravely serious grad students applying bell hooks to Takeuchi’s use of Greco-Roman myth. This is a collective invoking of spirits, made more potent in their absence — Usagi Tsukino and all her friends as saints and saviors, carrying the light of childhood optimism to an adulthood in sore need of it. This is nostalgia as a weapon. “Pretty soldiers” indeed.

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Ms. Marvel: Alienation, Exhilaration, And The Beating Heart Of Superhero Comics

Jamie McKelvie
Jamie McKelvie

I was excited for Ms. Marvel from the moment it was announced. I reblogged it, retweeted it, called my mother about it, chatted it up at my local comic shop. But secretly, I was more than a little certain that it would suck in all the usual ways. Sure, the cover was splashy, and sure, I was hearing good things about G. Willow Wilson. But I was girded for — and expected — twenty or so lackluster issues before cancellation.

The first issue came out, and it was good. Really good. It was bright and fun and electric with personality in every way a comic can be, from its color palette to its ending splash. Still, though, I was unconvinced — fantastic first issues have given way to mediocrity before.

But the second issue was great. And the third. And the fourth. And with the fifth issue and the first arc completed, I feel that I can finally let out the breath I've been holding and say that Ms. Marvel is truly wonderful work.

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Stop The Press: Vicki Vale And The Superficial ‘Strong Female Character’

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Ah, I thought, as the camera panned lovingly down Vicki Vale’s high-heeled, black-pantyhose-clad legs — here she is. The Strong Female Character. The 1989 model had fluffier hair than her successors, but that's really the only significant difference. She establishes her Totally Empowered cred early, makes eyes at the hero, then gets the hell out of the way as he and the (male, naturally) villain go about the business of advancing the plot. She snaps a photo once or twice to remind us that she's a globe-trotting photojournalist — the kind of photojournalist with no compunction toward sleeping with her subjects, but hey, whatever. She ends the film in the hero’s arms, fulfilling her role as reward for his victory, with nary a whisper of the professional goals that drove her to him in the first place. She is pretty and in need of rescue and almost entirely in service to the male characters’ plot and characterization—but she gets to be vaguely spunky and is slapped with a typically male career, so it’s totally okay.

I can only imagine the interviews that took place upon the release of Batman, touting her modernity, her break with the damsels of the past, her ineffable 1989-ness. I’m sure the crew patted themselves on the back heartily for providing the women and girls of America with such a vibrant reflection and role model.

I'm sure of these things because 25 years later, very little has changed regarding how women like Vicki are portrayed: superficially empowered and ultimately disposable.

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The Revolution Will Be Pastel: ‘Bee & Puppycat’ Embraces Manga, The Web And Femininity To Maximum Effect [Video]

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Bee and Puppycat is really, really cute. It is also funny, bizarre, and occasionally wistful. Above all though, it is cute: there’s the pastel palette, the fat pink bows on Bee’s shoes, the warm roundness of its characters, literally everything about Puppycat. Its absurdism is soft and its softness is absurd -- “I got fired today,” Bee intones flatly, the rain spattering her cat-faced pinafore dress. She’s a dumpster-diving Sanrio character, Strawberry Shortcake late for her appointment at the temp agency. The beginnings of a plot prod gently at her from time to time, but never with anything like urgency -- two issues into its run, Boom! Studios' Bee and Puppycat comic has meditated on strawberry donuts, embarrassing pajamas, and platform shoes, but not much else. Creator Natasha Allegri (along with collaborators Madeleine Flores and Garrett Jackson) would rather devote three pages to QR-coded music boxes than set about untangling Puppycat’s origins or the nature of their magical, mysterious employer.

In these qualities, Bee and Puppycat is right in line with Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and Bravest Warriors, its closest brethren in tone and form. Beyond the creator overlap between the four franchises and the fact that all of them now span both animation and comics, they’re all content to hunker down in that pocket of the zeitgeist that brings together childhood nostalgia and bizarre Internet-age humor, where atmosphere reigns over plot.

But Bee and Puppycat stands out among them, and marks a sea change in comics -- particularly in how franchises are formed, what is considered marketable, and what demographics are seen as worthy of being catered to. In its weird, witty way, I believe that Bee and Puppycat emblematizes the future of this industry.

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Tanpopo: Camilla d’Errico Draws A Beautiful Line Between Pop Surrealism, Classic Literature and Sailor Moon [Interview]

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My college dorm room was a dizzying collage of prints, posters, and postcards — but nothing drew as much attention as the Camilla d’Errico pieces I had pinned up over my bed. People would peer at them, asking who drew these strange portraits of girls entwined with pythons, wearing huge, complicated helmets, and melting into candy-colored puddles. Every time, I’d wish that I had something discrete to point them towards, something that gathered the style and themes of d’Errico’s work into a coherent package.

Enter Tanpopo. Originally self-published, d’Errico’s passion project tells the story of the titular Tanpopo, a brilliant, yet emotionless girl, and Kuro, the devil who persuades her into a journey of self-discovery. The text is taken entirely from the work of such luminaries as Goethe, Coleridge, and Pu Sungling: in the first volume, excerpts from Faust explore Tanpopo and Kuro’s meeting, while text from Rime of the Ancient Mariner chart the former’s growing distrust of the latter. Tanpopo’s 170-page second volume, on sale now from BOOM! Studios, uses Shakespeare, Poe, and the 1001 Arabian Nights to similar effect.

To explore this unique work more deeply, ComicsAlliance spoke with d’Errico about pop surrealism, teenage girls, and more.

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Umbral: Johnston & Mitten’s Anti-Disney Princess Adventures Through A Deep And Dark Fantasy World [Interview]

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Rascal, the savvy young heroine of Antony Johnston and Christ Mitten’s Umbral, is a thief with both feet planted firmly in the muck. She lives by her dexterous fingers, her knowledge of the city’s side streets, and an arsenal of four-letter words for anyone who stands in her way. Whispers of myth and monsters at the fringes of her world fail to turn Rascal’s head—in fact, she fears and loathes magic and its practitioners. Too bad she’s the heroine of a fantasy story.

Over the course of its first volume from Image Comics, Umbral creates a world rich with ethnic conflict, class struggle, human emotion and totally wicked looking monsters. A cast of scholars, refugees, thieves, and magicians populates its pages, simmering with glimpsed backstories and murky intentions. At its heart is Rascal, staring down a grand destiny she never wanted. As the first volume hits the shelves, ComicsAlliance spoke with Johnston and Mitten about fantasy tropes, developing character voices, and the importance of The Dark Crystal.

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Adam Warren’s ‘Empowered’ Shatters Superhero Comics Conventions Of Storytelling, Sexuality And Representation

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Adam Warren's
Empowered is one of the best superhero comics being made today. Sometimes I think Empowered might end up being one of the greatest superhero comics ever. The elements are all there: engaging characters, a plot that springs from them organically, an inventive setting, and scads of emotion. Its parodical beginnings -- based in the jokey premise of superpowered woman Empowered de-powering as her delicate, stereotypically skintight super suit gets shredded in battle -- has transitioned smoothly into a darker present, and it’s an evolution that’s been met with little in the way of fan whining for “the good old days.” Yes, Empowered is funny, surprising, moving, and original.

And it's softcore.

Shrinkwrapped, bondage-based, can't-read-it-on-the-bus softcore.

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Joe Kelly Talks Escapism, Loss And Dungeons & Dragons for I Kill Giants’ Fifth Anniversary [Interview]

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Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura’s I Kill Giants is one of the best and most honest depictions of a child’s reaction to loss in the comic book form. Barbara Thorson, our heroine, is precocious, prickly and daring, devoted to her career as a giant killer. Actual, mythical giants, she insists -- beasts only she is able to keep at bay with her legendary warhammer, Coveleski. After a long day of being the weird kid in fifth grade and researching giant lore (in Dungeons and Dragons manuals), she returns to a harried household living within the shadow of terminal illness. Her guidance counselor pleads with her to address her issues head on, to abandon her fantasy life -- but Barbara stands firm, maintaining that her work is essential. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Stories about of grief are tricky, and quickly made maudlin when a child enters the mix. But Barbara is real child, reacting the way real children do to trauma -- and Kelly isn’t afraid to err on the side of brattiness. She is hopeful, steely, caustic and lonely, and because of it, the story shines.

With the deluxe fifth anniversary edition of I Kill Giants on sale this week, ComicsAlliance spoke with writer Joe Kelly about escapism, loss, diverging from his superhero and adventure writing, and of course Dungeons & Dragons.

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