We make a regular practice at ComicsAlliance of spotlighting particular artists or specific bodies of work, as well as the special qualities of comic book storytelling, but because cartoonists, illustrators and their fans share countless numbers of great pinups, fan art and other illustrations on sites like Flickr, Tumblr, DeviantArt and seemingly infinite art blogs that we’ve created Best Art Ever (This Week), a weekly depository for just some of the pieces of especially compelling artwork that we come across in our regular travels across the Web. Some of it’s new, some of it’s old, some of it’s created by working professionals, some of it’s created by future stars, some of it’s created by talented fans, and some of it’s endearingly silly. All of it’s awesome.
2013 was a great year for comics. It feels like a similar statement is made after every year concludes, but 2013 unquestionably saw exceptional work from several creators, across multiple publishers and genres within the medium. To close out the year, we offered what we felt to be the best comics of the year, highlighting dozens of writers and artists whose creative output we felt deserved to be celebrated.
But now we want to hear from you. Readers often offer us their opinions, via the comment section or social media, as to what they’re enjoying, or what they think we missed. Now we’d like you to let us know with your vote, as this week we’re launching the first annual ComicsAlliance Reader Choice Awards. We’ll have two categories per day throughout the week, and you can vote more than once if you like, though you’ll have to wait an hour at least before coming back to vote again. Voting will be open until February 11 at 10 a.m. EST, and we’ll announce the winners shortly after.
You can cast your vote after the cut for the best editor of the year.
A good number of of the old comics which continue to influence the aesthetic interests of this website were first discovered by me in 2001, during an epic quest into the deepest, darkest parts of the convention floor at San Diego Comic-Con. I'd pledged to identify and purchase as many hardcover collections, paperbacks, graphic novels or other comics-with-spines as I could, so long as they were things I'd never heard of before (this was very easy to do for a child of the '90s, since Wizard was unlikely to devote any time to anything useful like that). I bought so many comics that year that even today, some remain in my "unread" pile.
One of the books I discovered was The Shadow: 1941, a hardcover graphic novel by the great Denny O'Neil and Michael Kaluta with Russ Heath and Mark Chiarello, published by Marvel. Despite the auspicious pedigree of its creators, I'd never heard of the book, had no idea Marvel ever published Shadow comics, and didn't really know anything about the character anyway. As such, it was exactly the sort of forgotten, out-of-print gem I was looking for.
Subtitled Hitler's Astrologer, this Shadow book is exactly the dark, globe-trotting adventure of war and mysticism that its title and cover suggest. It's a gorgeous pleasure of a comic book, and more than two decades since it was originally released, Dynamite Entertainment are reissuing it this week.
One of my favorite cartoonists, Dave Bullock is well known to comics art collectors and the denizens of artist alley, and in comics has produced covers and illustrated short stories like the standout Deadman piece from Wednesday Comics. Most often he's worked as a storyboard artist and director on such impressive animated titles like Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Batman Beyond, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures and Justice League. Most auspiciously, Bullock directed the Warner Bros. Animation feature Justice League: The New Frontier, adapted from the work of Darwyn Cooke, who shares Bullock's affinity for mid-century stylings.
Naturally, Bullock is an ideal candidate for participation in the enduringly popular DC Comics art project that is Batman: Black & White, which reunites the cartoonist with his Wednesday Comics editor Mark Chiarello for a story that plays to Bullock's mastery of period style and dramatic storytelling. Written by longtime Batman associate Michael Uslan, "The Bat-Man In 'Silent Knight... Unholy Knight!'" takes inspiration from the era and aesthetics of silent film. Given Bullock's filmmaking background, it comes as no surprise that he put together a silent-film-style trailer for his story. What is a surprise is just how well it works, putting the traditional "comic book trailer" to shame.
We make a regular practice at ComicsAlliance of spotlighting particular artists or specific bodies of work, but because cartoonists, illustrators and their fans share countless numbers of great images on sites like Flickr, Tumblr, DeviantArt and seemingly infinite art blogs that we’ve created Best Art Ever (This Week), a weekly depository for just some of the pieces of especially compelling artwork that we come across in our regular travels across the Web. Some of it’s new, some of it’s old, some of it’s created by working professionals, some of it’s created by future stars, some of it’s created by talented fans, and some of it’s endearingly silly. All of it’s awesome.
A new volume of Batman: Black and White kicked off last week, continuing the DC Comics anthology's tradition of high quality. Debuting in 1996, the original Batman: Black and White series quickly set the comics world ablaze with a collection of short, powerful tales told by some of the industry's finest. Edited by Mark Chiarello, the four issues gathered sixteen original eight-page black and white stories from a who’s who of influential creators, including Archie Goodwin, Joe Kubert, Howard Chaykin, Brian Bolland, Bill Sienkiewicz, Neil Gaiman, and several more. It won the Eisner Awards for “Best Short Story” and “Best Anthology,” inspired a ton of great statues (one of which you can win), and two follow-up volumes in 2002 and 2007, mostly made up of backup stories from the Batman: Gotham Knights series.
In celebration of the new series, I read all three volumes of Batman: Black and White (I also did other stuff, I have a life), and after poring over all 600-plus pages, I can confidently say that these are the ten best stories from the original volumes, presented here in chronological order.
Originally launched in 1997, Batman: Black & White was an anthology in which DC Comics editor and art director Mark Chiarello got the best people he could find to draw and write new Batman stories with an emphasis on creative vision -- particularly that of the artists, whose contributions were enhanced both by the Dark Knight's compelling visual presence and the book's colorless format. The first run proved to be an award-winning and influential hit, bringing readers the first Batman work of Jim Lee, inspiring DC Collectibles' most popular line of statues, and leading to similarly tasteful, aesthetically sophisticated and critically acclaimed Chiarello-edited books like DC: The New Frontier, Solo, Wednesday Comics and Catwoman: Selina's Big Score.
Then after the last Black & White short story was published as a backup in Batman: Gotham Knights, Chiarello readied an all-new volume of Batman: Black & White that's basically the same deal but with different creators. As with the original, the new roster is a mix of the top artists of today and accomplished masters, including ComicsAlliance favorites like Joe Quinones, Sean Murphy, Neal Adams, Chris Samnee and Michael Cho, with covers by Marc Silvestri and Phil Noto. The book goes on sale this week but courtesy of DC, you can take an early look at some preview pages below.
Launched in 2005 by what was then called DC Direct, the Batman: Black & White statue series is DC Collectibles’ three-dimensional spinoff of the hugely acclaimed, Eisner-winning 1990s comic book anthology edited by Mark Chiarello that invited some of the world’s best and most idiosyncratic artists to express their own uninhibited visions of the enduringly popular and graphically compelling Dark Knight. Like the original book, the Black & White statue line has become a favorite among collectors and illustration enthusiasts for its high quality craftsmanship and impeccable taste in collaborators. Some of the artists who’ve designed for the Black & White series include Paul Pope, Simon Bisley, Eduardo Risso, Mike Mignola, Steve Rude, Alex Ross, Frank Miller, Matt Wagner, Neal Adams, Bruce Timm, Cliff Chiang, Darwyn Cooke, Frank Quietly... the list is very long and almost embarrassingly auspicious.
Having collected numerous DC and Warner Bros. Animation-related statues from the days when they were still licensed out to sculptors like Randy Bowen, the artists of Graffiti Designs and the talents at the much missed Warner Bros. Studio Store, I’m obviously a great admirer of the work of DC Collectibles. There’s something very hard to describe about how a great statue or other three-dimensional representation of your favorite hero can express their true, well, awesomeness in a way that’s utterly distinct from line art or even film or animation. It’s arguable that no collectibles line possesses this power in greater quantities than Batman: Black & White, as the line’s success with fans and creative professionals continues to demonstrate as it releases its fiftieth statue this week, designed by longtime ComicsAlliance favorite Sean Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus, The Wake).
To celebrate the occasion (which also syncs up nicely with the long-awaited return of Chiarello’s beloved anthology, for which a photograph of Murphy’s statue will serve as a variant cover), we connected with DC Collectibles VP - Creative Services Kevin Kiniry and Design Director Jim Fletcher to talk about the history of Batman: Black & White, the possibility of a Black & White villains spinoff, and why so many comic book artists consider working on the line a “badge of honor.”
Each year at Comic-Con, amidst all the chaos, there's one moment that stands out. It's a significant moment that, even if you don't witness it, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard it happened. And while I've not taken any kind of formal survey, I feel confident saying that this year, that unforgettable moment happened when writer Christopher Yost closed his eyes and drew Batman with a giant set of balls.
Inspired by the website Blind as a Bat, artist Olly Moss approached a bunch of industry friends at Comic-Con with a task: close your eyes, pick up a marker, and draw Batman. Among those who stepped up to the challenge were Becky Cloonan, Mark Chiarello, Jock, Jhonen Vasquez, Duncan Jones, Mark Buckingham, and many more, and the results are amazing. You can check out a few examples, including Yost's masterpiece, below.
Check out today's links from around the web after the cut!