by Jarrod JonesBraving 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 chatter concerning the comics industry. This week: ‘Hey, Amateur!’ gets an Eisner nomination, ‘Black Hammer’ continues to be great, other equally important comics stuff.

So, a Very Cool Thing happened this week: Hey, Amateur! nabbed and Eisner nomination for Best Anthology. Here’s proof:

Some context: Hey, Amateur! was a Kickstarter-funded anthology from the now criminally-defunct Black Crown imprint headed by outright legend Shelly Bond. Shelly assembled a murderer’s row of top-tier talent for a gorgeous series of 9-panel how-to comic strips, or, letting Shelly put it more succinctly (from our interview a couple years back): “In essence, the idea [behind Hey, Amateur!] was to sate the booming DIY economy and create the comic-book alternative; avoid the boring, pedantic textbook tutorial and offer up inventive, personal tricks of the trade and secret skillsets within the parameters of the one page, 9-panel comic.”

The eclectic assortment of how-tos contained within Hey, Amateur! ranged from “How To Do Cheap Horror Makeup” by Delilah S. Dawson & dANI, “How To Carve A Pumpkin” by Jill Thompson, “How To Letter A Comic” by Aditya Bidikar (which, !!!), “How To Make Burritos Right” by Gilbert Hernandez, and so many others. It’s awesome what Shelly pulled off here, a prime-time example of her powers as an editor, a creator wrangler, and a creative in her own right: she designed this entire beast (with direction from Philip Bond) and lettered quite a few of its strips herself under her pseudonym Jane Heir.

As far as talent was concerned (as hinted at in the last paragraph) Hey, Amateur! ran the gamut: Paul Pope, Vita Ayala, John Allison, Megan Hutchison, Aditya Bidikar, Jesse Hamm, Michael Moreci, Jen Hickman, Leah Moore, Chynna Clugston Flores, Gene Ha, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jim Rugg, Sweeny Boo, Chuck Brown, Nick Robles, Philip Bond, and at least one hundred more. From that chaos came beauty. Topped off with a vivid cover by Michael and Laura Allred the end result of Hey, Amateur! was gorgeous.

Art: Michael Allred, Laura Allred. Image: Black Crown

And if we’re only just meeting for the first time today: I had the great fortune to work on Hey, Amateur! In fact, I wrote a one-pager for Shelly at her request (an act of such generosity from which I’m still recovering), which would have been honor enough. But I also had the privilege of working with the terrific artist Kristian Rossi, who took my few notes in stride and made our strip—titled “How to… Fly This Thing!”—truly sing. It was my first published comics job. (An aside: I love how everybody else contributed a how-to that was useful and/or helpful, while I just wanted to do a nine-panel space-age re-creation of Elastica’s “Car Song” video. And Shelly said yes.)

If you want to read Hey, Amateur! (and after reading all that, how could you not) you can purchase it here. Or call up your local comic shop and see if they can score you a copy. Learn a new hobby via some of the greatest creative minds in the land. (And me.)

Now. On to new business.

– After a week away, the latest episode of CASUAL WEDNESDAYS is available on all good podcatchers for your listening enjoyment. This week MJ & I talked about Marvel’s high-profile creator shuffling that will soon take place on two of its biggest books, Hulk and Venom, as well as the publisher’s upcoming gimmick event/thing, The Death of Doctor Strange. Also we discussed the first episode of Loki and spoilers—I didn’t like it so much. (Not everything is for everybody, so don’t go hopping all over my back about it.)

My latest recap of Star Wars: The Bad Batch for The AV Club is ready for those of you who also need to work out their feelings concerning the not-at-all-painful crawl towards Wrecker’s inevitable inhibitor chip malfunction. (Or “proper function,” whichever you prefer.) I’m still very much enjoying The Bad Batch, but I really wish the show would lean into its very necessary character work instead of tossing Hunter, Omega, Tech and the rest into the increasingly tiresome “scrape of the week.” Here’s hoping some shoes begin to drop this Friday.

It seems there’s no way I could ever quit on Black Hammer. Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston’s funhouse-mirror superhero universe keeps expanding and its comics keep getting better and better. And this week’s issue of Black Hammer Visions was a real corker. Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire—the inimitable Kate Bishop Hawkeye team!—plus letterer extraordinaire Nate Piekos. If that roster isn’t a reason to pick up a book, then really, what is?

Art: Leonardo Romero. Image: Dark Horse Comics

Yeah, Skulldigger again. Unsurprisingly, a Batman/Punisher hybrid character mines deeply and yields buckets of rich ore. Lemire knew his math was correct when he conjured up this character. It’s thrilling to see the old Bat-formulas put to use by newer generation of creators, especially a crew as professional-grade as Thompson, Romero, Bellaire, Piekos. Everyone understands the material, knows the assignment and what it calls for, and then they nudge it towards greatness. Pardon my hyperbole, but look at these pages.

If you’ve ever read a Batman comic book that featured Catwoman, you know what you’re in store for here. Rooftop romance between two doomed would-be lovers. Crime and grit and shadows black as pitch, but also humor and heart. In short, good art, great comics. Romero & Bellaire are incredible collaborators. Their panels snap into place like they were always supposed to be there. I would love to see a creator-owned book from them some day.

I haven’t read Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1 yet (it’s on the coffee table, however, so it’s imminent), but this variant by Ed Luce (of Wuvable Oaf fame) made me smile. Clean art, splashes of rainbow, hilarious character work. The tile grid is magnificent, excellent use of color.

Seeing a book’s logo at the bottom of a cover, even a variant cover, makes my teeth grind, but the overall execution of the piece works so magically I can dodge it. Plus, I used to live with a guy who would drink actual beer in the bathroom and even drank it in the shower (there’d be empty-ish PBR cans next to the shampoo bottles, etc.), so this landed for me. Happy Pride Month.

– So Herb Trimpe tributes have been popping up all over Comics Twitter this week in a unified squashing of an ill-advised poke at his mid-90s work for Marvel Comics. It’s entirely possible the OP was ignorant of this, but there were a few Silver/Bronze Age artists who chose to adapt to what was “hot” back in those days, the Extreme Studios stuff, the crosshatch-until-you-die style that made up a good majority of the “edgy” content that was getting cranked out back in the day. (Check out Steve Epting’s early-90s Avengers work for another wild example of how artists either pursued or entered the professional field with that particular style.) It was a frustrating hustle for guys like Trimpe to keep a steady paycheck coming in. Changing times called for a change in approach.

I can’t imagine the struggle he had in reconciling every impulse he ever had as a graphic artist and modifying them to sate a newer, and vastly more abstract, comics style. It’s admirable that he went the distance to even meet that challenge. Was it up to him, or was he instructed by Marvel to adapt to the trends? CBR’s Brian Cronin ran a piece on Trimpe’s artistic metamorphosis in his “Comic Book Legends Revealed” feature back in 2009, where Trimpe freely offered up what is decidedly a very revealing explanation:

Truth was, it was a lark–but a lark with a purpose, all devised by myself. No one at Marvel suggested I change the way I draw or ink. I looked at the new guys’ stuff, and thought, hey, this is great. Very exciting. You can always learn from somebody else, no matter how long you’ve been doing a thing.

I did, however, think the style might lead to new work at a time when Marvel was already in trouble, and it did. FF Unlimited was my last series at Marvel, and contrary to what a lot of fans think, I think it was the best work I’d done–and, I had a whole lot of fun doing it. Very expressive. I think the newer influences in comic book art brought out a better me. Like I said, most of the fans of the earlier stuff would not agree. On one occasion, I inked a whole story with a brush, which is what I was raised on, and the editor objected asking me not to do that anymore. But in general, no one pressured me into a change.

Alex de Campi shared a vital thread of Trimpe’s journal entries, where Herb detailed his exit from the comics industry; they are very much worth your time. It’s a part of comics history that doesn’t get as much Twitter engagement as tribute posts, but a lot of these legend-tier artists were being shuffled out of the way by the major publishers in favor of hungry young pups, and some of the ways they did this was pretty cruel. Important lessons can be learned from reading up on this stuff. Somebody ought to write a book.

– Andrew Farago wrote a lovely (and lovingly thorough) tribute to writer/artist Jesse Hamm over on The Comics Journal this week. Even if you’re not familiar with the comics work of Hamm (who passed away on May 12), it’s terrific reading that articulates the craft and care and passions that went into an artist’s entire life. A solid example of fine comics journalism.

– There was a lot of righteous tsking about the Eisner’s Best Writers category this week, which is about as white as the driven snow and largely unsurprising even if the writers listed there did bring their absolute best last year. Still, I think Brubaker, Fraction, and Hickman might have been cool with not topping the category this time around? I dunno. I will say that having James Tynion on the list is exciting, considering a queer writer is actually getting the same oxygen as his hetero-contemporaries, and for the most part the other nominations are as diverse as they should have been. But what a biff. Maybe instead of the wildly celebrated Brubaker, Fraction, and Hickman trifecta there could have been some nods for Ram V, NK Jemisin, and Alex de Campi? That’s just three off the top of my head.

– One more recommendation before I turn out the lights for the week: read Pornsak Pichetshote & Alexandre Tefenkgi’s The Good Asian; the first two issues are available now, and they’re beautiful. You’ll be glad you did.

Take care of yourselves, and if you’re feeling charitable, tag a creator (be they an artist, writer, colorist, letterer, or editor) you admire on soical media and tell them you enjoy their stuff. More of that, please.


HOT PRESS 6/3/21: ‘Everfrost’, ‘Nice House on the Lake’, and the trade release of ‘Skulldigger’

HOT PRESS 5/20/21: ‘Red Room’, Moore’s ‘Violator’ & RIP Kentaro Miura of ‘Berserk’

HOT PRESS 5/13/21: Yep, another newsletter, ‘Author Unknown?’, ‘Penultiman’, and other good stuff

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