Alex's column, The Issue, looks at a stand-out standalone comics single every month. In his life as a non-comics journalist, he writes about videogames and all things mobile for publications including Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun and Killscreen. He also has a dog, who may or may not be named after a comics character. Find all this and more rambling on Twitter @AlexJaySpencer.
Costume Drama: The Ever-Changing Look of America Chavez
After a couple of years as the undisputed champion of ‘character most bafflingly lacking their own comic’, Ms America Chavez finally has a solo title. With the second issue about to land, it’s a good time to look at one of the very best things about the character: her costume design.
Costume Drama: How Iron Fist’s Classic Costume Channelled His Chic
It's obviously not the most disappointing thing about the series, but when it was confirmed that Netflix's Iron Fist show wouldn't feature the character's classic duds, my heart sank. Partly because it meant more screen time for Danny's civilian look (best summed up as "rich white kid who won't stop telling you how he really discovered himself on his gap year in Asia"), but mostly because the Iron Fist costume is a design classic.
Image at 25: How ‘Sex Criminals’ Proved That Comics Can Do Rom-Coms
Rom-coms are all too rare in comics. Most stories have a romantic plot threaded through them somewhere, but books dedicated to telling a love story are few and far between in the modern market. So when Sex Criminals came along, nearly a decade into my relationship with comics, it stuck out like an especially sexy thumb. It was funny, it was romantic, and I loved it. Much like the person I shared the comic with.
10 Forgotten Comics From Real Musicians [Music Week]
Music and comics have a long history of influencing one another, whether it’s story titles borrowing lyrics, band names taken from dialogue, or that one time that Matt Fraction had a Britney Spears analogue punch a bear in The Order. Sometimes, though, that connection goes beyond nods and winks, and a band or artist releases their very own licensed comic. It happens more often than you probably realise. It’s no secret that, say, My Chemical Romance have their own official comic. (A comic, lest we forget, featuring a villainous cravat-wearing Grant Morrison.) But there are plenty of other artists with comics you may have never even known existed. Artists like, oh, I don’t know…
Eat Nuts And Kick Butts: The ‘Unbeatable Squirrel Girl’ Mixtape [Music Week]
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Ryan North, Erica Henderson and Rico Renzi is a vibrant, self-reflexive, upbeat and funny female-led comic --- and those happen to be all the qualities I enjoy in my pop music as well! So stick on your headphones, grab some nuts, and let me kick your ears' butts in this playlist inspired by Doreen Green.
Pin Ups: Comic Artists Cover David Bowie For ‘Moonage Daydreams’ Exhibition [Music Week]
Moonage Daydream is an art exhibition that describes itself as an "illustrated tribute" to David Bowie. Twenty-one artists from comics and beyond have taken on 21 different albums or singles, creating new cover art inspired by the music. That includes Iain Laurie of And Then Emily Was Gone covering Scary Monsters, Marc Laming of Planet Hulk tackling Station to Station, and Jamie Coe of Art Schooled taking on Changes.
Repetition and Replicants: The Use of Sampling in King and Walta’s ‘Vision’
Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's The Vision features a lot of quotation and repetition. Dialogue and scenes are reprised a few pages or issues later; objects that make a quick appearance in issue #1 play a vital role in the climax; dialogue is lifted directly from comics published nearly 50 years ago, and from plays published more than four centuries ago. These aren’t unusual techniques. They’re just examples of structurally sound storytelling, of how to make a book feel like an extension of the histories, real and fictional, of the world that it exists within.
The Issue: Double Exposure In ‘Shutter’ #23 [Fantasy Week]
Throughout its run, Shutter has delighted in pushing the boundaries of comics. Leila Del Duca turned her pen to pastiches of everyone from Hergé to Winsor McCay to Richard Scarry. Owen Gieni separated his colors out into cyan, magenta and yellow to tell three stories on a single page. One memorable sequence depicted the creation of a single panel of the comic itself, from Joe Keatinge's script to final lettered product, before being printed, delivered, and finally read by someone in a coffee shop. By those standards, the storytelling in issue #23 is almost disappointingly conventional. It's the most straightforward the comic has been since it debuted. Since the very first issue, in fact. Come to think of it, doesn't that cover look a little familiar?
The ‘Saga’ Continues: Catching Up With Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples’ Masterwork [Sci-Fi Week]
When a comic runs for a long while at a consistent level of quality, with a single reliable creative team, it can often slip out of the conversation. When it launched four and a half years ago, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga was the talk of the comics town --- a critical darling and one of the crossover hits that helped make Image Comics what it is today. With the comic now in its seventh volume and approaching its fortieth issue, I decided to revisit Saga and look at how it has changed, and ask whether it still deserves the kind of attention it enjoyed in those early days.
The Issue: Cold And Alone In ‘Transmetropolitan’ #8 [Sci-Fi Week]
Welcome to The Issue, where we look at some of the strangest, most interesting, and most distinctive single issue comic stories ever to grace the medium. For Sci-Fi Week at ComicsAlliance, we're looking at one of comics' best single issue science fiction stories. Transmetropolitan writer Warren Ellis is probably the king of the single-issue story. Transmet is absolutely packed with memorable one-off issues. “Another Cold Morning” might just be the best.