by Jarrod Jones. Braving the gauntlet of Big Two events, prestige format risk-takers, off-the-radar indie releases and a non-stop avalanche of floppies is DoomRocket’s HOT PRESS. With so many comics out there screaming for your eyeballs, HOT PRESS is here with recommendations, commentary, and general missives concerning the comics industry and other such good things. This week: John Allison’s ‘Author Unknown?’, AHOY Comics’ ‘Penultiman’, and a Batman card set from 1996.
I know this is going to instill all sorts of confidence in you, but I’m not much of a newsletter-type of writer.
Oddball thing to say right at the jump of this new weekly newsletter-type of thing, I know, but I figure I should at least be honest! Besides, it will expain the peculiar layout of this piece, which I’m sure will shift and change and otherwise transmogrify into something else entirely before the end of the year. It’s just how my brain works—or doesn’t, you get it, everybody gets it.
So! Welcome to HOT PRESS, the first-ever newsletter that belongs entirely to DoomRocket.com. (Wish to subscribe? Follow the sub-portal at the bottom-right of this very page.) To start, I’ll go ahead and answer a question that might be bugging all the DoomRocket irregulars who once thrilled to our various features when we were operating at a full schedule. Why bring back HOT PRESS, of all the DoomRocket features, as DoomRocket’s first written-word piece of content in almost half a year?
I dunno! I miss writing for my site, I suppose, but I’m up to all sorts of other stuff that is currently keeping me from throwing myself all the way back into managing a full team and a full website. So I think this will be a happy compromise between myself and, er… myself? Also, I always liked the title HOT PRESS; it fit the purpose of the original feature (to feature a publisher DoomRocket was “hot” on), and it fits for the purposes of this newsletter (my thoughts, “hot off the presses,” so to speak).
Anyway. So this is how HOT PRESS will break down (at least, for now): I’ll give all concerned parties an update on what I’m currently working on, share a few things that I’m currently reading, prop up a trade paperback/hardcover/ogn that I’ve enjoyed oh-so very much, and then close out the show with a smattering of miscellaneous musings on the comics industry and other odds-and-ends. This is gonna be one of those newsletters, I’m afraid. Now! Forward!
– The latest episode of the much-tolerated DoomRocket podcast CASUAL WEDNESDAYS is now live! MJ & I had a hoot putting it together, as usual. Give it a listen. If you enjoyed it, maybe think about tossing us a review on Apple Podcasts, maybe?
– While I haven’t been writing for DoomRocket for a spell, that shouldn’t suggest I’ve let my opinions rest on their laurels. (Perish forbid.) I’ve signed on to write a recap series for Star Wars: The Bad Batch for The A.V. Club! Go over there and read up on my up-til-now-top-secret thoughts on Star Wars and leave nice things in the comments; maybe my editor will be convinced that I should write even more fun stuff for them in the months to come? My fate, as ever, is in your hands!
Quick non-spoiler Bad Batch thoughts: It’s pretty good so far, two episodes in. It’s not just The Clone Wars Season Eight with an A-Team skin, as a lot of folks seem to fear it might have been (as though that’d been a bad thing?). The new character, Omega, is a lot of fun and really interesting, which is not easy to pull off when we’re talking about kid characters. Grogu felt like Lucasfilm was experimenting with a new child character weaponized with maximum cuteness/broad audience appeal, and that worked like gangbusters. Omega is a different character in many, many respects, however she does provide the Bad Batch a similar story function as Grogu did The Mandalorian (at least, that seems to be the case right now). We’ll see how that works out. Also, BB also has a pretty killer nemesis baked into the series: Crosshair, the comically sinister, toothpick-chompin’ sniper clone who defected to the Empire the very second it seemed smart to do so. And Hunter’s hilarious Rambo headband positions him as my personal favorite character, though Tech is in a close second. Very happy that The Bad Batch is as good as it is, considering I’m writing about it for the next couple months or so.
Also, this happened on the homepage of AVC a couple months back, and it’s still pretty wild to see:
Pinch me; I’m still dreamin’. You can read that piece right here.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this a few dozen times before, but I think John Allison is the tops. As a writer, John’s one of the finest wits we have in the comic industry, and I really like the way he draws, too. His books: sharp, crisp humor without being dry, really good observational, human stuff, and just when you’re busy laughing, Allison sneaks in a moment that flirts with transcendent emotion. Hyperbolic? Probably. But I don’t think we’re reading your newsletter, are we? No, we are not. (Go on, go read all of Giant Days if you haven’t by now, by god, to see what I’m on about.)
Anyway, John’s busy as hell making awesome webcomics as usual, and if you’re in the mood for a proper guffaw (not to mention a good story) you can read his tremendously great Steeple/Wicked Things crossover book, titled Author Unknown? for free right here. He posts new pages every other day or so. And, clearly, the polite thing to do after that is consider becoming a patron for John by grabbing some cash and heading over here.
I suppose this section could be absorbed by “What I’m Reading, What You Should Read” but I was so proud of that title that I decided to keep this segment, despite all.
I love—capital-L Love—AHOY Comics. (In fact, HOT PRESS once served as a bonafide DoomRocket-AHOY love-in, it’s true.) It’s run by comic book veterans who have worked wonders with their decades’-worth of accumulated experience and talent: Hart Seely, Tom Peyer, Stuart Moore, Frank Cammuso, their combined strengths have molded what is in my opinion one of the most consistent (and consistently great) publishers operating today. Invest in some of their comics today. Hell, invest in this one; it’s out this week.
Penultiman is Tom Peyer and Alan Robinson in contemplative mode. That doesn’t mean Penultiman isn’t outright hilarious—good lord, is it ever—but the book’s central premise, where our handsome, brilliant, conspicuously perfect eponymous superhero has run up against an existential crisis of identity and self-loathing, explores emotional avenues that the superhero genre rarely bothers with. (Or bothers with this well.) Robinson & Lee Loughridge’s art is squeaky-clean and expressive; they get up to all sorts of AHOY-branded mischief in this beaut. Penultiman is Alexander Payne by way of MAD Magazine, I’m not even joking. Add it to your shelf.
– A couple weeks back, MJ & I were on CASUAL WEDNESDAYS talking about the 90-card Batman Master Series set that was released by Fleer/Skybox back in 1996. It was a showcase for artists such as Duncan Fegredo (!!!), Scott Hampton, Carl Critchlow, and Dermot Power, who, over the course of 89 cards (all painted, and all gorgeous), told a story where Batman is presumed dead and somehow the Joker isn’t the prime suspect. I remember the series when it came out (courtesy of Wizard Magazine) but I never had a chance to buy the set. Well, because I’m a grown-up now and make grown-up money, I bought the damn thing. And, people, I’m here to tell you—that was money well spent.
Check out the Fegredo sheet to the left. Ridiculous. How art like this got wrapped up in tiny packets and sold next to Snickers bars and People Magazine I am sure I will never know. But we should return to those halcyon days. Imagine being 12 years old and looking at this artwork for the first time. Wild stuff.
– So Marvel is currently in the throes of another weekly event, this time the unfortunately-titled Heroes Reborn, which I’m sure is just fine. I’m not bringing it up because I have things to say about the story; I’m bringing it up because it’s high time we talked about Marvel’s cover game. It has been careening from bad to terrible for a while now, but with the neo-Reborn event it seems we’ve transcended to a new, eye-scorching level of no-good.
Now, I ain’t talking about the art. It’s the logo design. Where’s the energy? Everyone knows that Marvel hates spending money on anything production-wise (I’ll save my whinging about their overall ink quality and lousy choice of cover stock for another newsletter), but slapping scarcely-tweaked white letters over an artist’s beautiful art feels like a sock in the retinas. And not the good kind of sock in the retinas, I’ll tell you. If you’re a comic company looking to lure in new readers from the racks, it’s counter-productive to make the trade dress look as uninspiring as possible, isn’t it? Don’t you want that cover to sing like Pavarotti devouring the National Anthem? Well? Don’tcha?? This is the kind of lazy stuff that happens when you command the majority of the direct market; it’s just no good.
– Inversely, here’s a Very Good Cover™ from Marvel this week: Children of the Atom #3, by R.B. Silva. (I can’t say who colored it because I don’t have the book in front of me and Marvel doesn’t list full creator credits on their website, because… ? I don’t have an explanation for this.)
Anyway. Silva fills the cover with character and peril, punctuated by a dutch angle and some nice computer graphic trickery. Tom Muller’s top-flight logo design loads up the top of the cover, and the company logo/issue number is nestled safely in the top left of the image, as god intended. The only thing that’d put this cover over the top would be a frantic word balloon with something funny and/or dramatic laid out in the bottom left space where all we have is some sparks (and, probably for floppies, space enough for a bar code). It’s my only note. You want to position Children of the Atom as the neo-Teen Titans? This is how that gets done. Great spinner rack cover, right there, it’s got the magic.
That’s all I got for this week. Be sure you hydrate today. And stretch. Those two little things become vastly more important the older we get.
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