Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Category: lists

The RKL List of #1 Issues

I was recently asked to pick my Top 10 Comics Issues with a #1 on them. It proved a difficult and very interesting task. It told me a lot about myself. [NOTE: between the time I initially wrote this and this publication date, I changed one element, s one comic came in, and one went out. Such is the fickle nature of lists.]

You can read a complete rundown of the overall vote/list I contributed to over at Shelfdust!

I had to really stew on this and consider a lot, so here is some of my thought process, followed by my Top 10, with a little commentary!

Daredevil/Matt Murdock is my favourite character, but I couldn’t find a #1 I cared about to go into this list. I own his first appearance, it’s signed by Stan Lee, it’s awesome, but it’s not exactly an amazing comic. It’s also nowhere near the first Daredevil I ever read, nor the reason I fell in love with him. But I couldn’t pick either Frank Miller runs on the main title because neither start with a #1. Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada relaunched well, but it wasn’t in my top 10. If the Lark/Brubaker issue was a #1 it would have been HIGH on this list, but it’s not.

Then I thought about old comics I loved, and while my childhood was spent in Spider-Man territory, and on to Venom, with some X-books amidst it all, it was rarely a #1 that led me there, Venom was in the Spidey titles, and whatever numbers they were up to, and Venom: Lethal Protector might have gotten a #1, but that’s not gonna make the list [though I would be interested to reread that mini, I still have all the issues here in my office]. Same with the X-books, they were floating in whatever numbers they were at – though did AGE OF APOCALYPSE have a #1 issue? Was it an Alpha? Does that count? Either way, close, but most likely just off the list.

I will say, BARTMAN #1 nearly made the list based on how many times I read and reread that issue [and mini] in my youth, but it just got squeezed off. As did THE WALKING DEAD #1, because it might have been instrumental in getting me back into comics as a young professional – shout out to my brother for buying me that trade for my birthday – it was the first trade and the end it landed on that made me a huge fan, not just the first issue.

So, without further ado, here’s my actual list, each served with a little reason why. Enjoy.

10. VAULT OF HORROR #1

This one was a reprint. It collects a variety of stories from other issues. But this was one of the very first comics bought for me, and it started a long-standing tradition of loving everything EC had once put out.

The stories themselves aren’t the absolute pinnacle of what EC could offer, but this issue is one I’ll remember forever because I remember where I was when it was bought, I still remember its cover, I remember reading it over and over throughout the years, and I know it was the first building block of my own comic collection and the place where I forged my own path as a lifelong comic reader.

10. VAULT OF HORROR #1

This one was a reprint. It collects a variety of stories from other issues. But this was one of the very first comics bought for me, and it started a long-standing tradition of loving everything EC had once put out.

The stories themselves aren’t the absolute pinnacle of what EC could offer, but this issue is one I’ll remember forever because I remember where I was when it was bought, I still remember its cover, I remember reading it over and over throughout the years, and I know it was the first building block of my own comic collection and the place where I forged my own path as a lifelong comic reader.

9. LOCKE & KEY #1

The effective hooks of a first issue are many: deliver characters we can connect with, make the premise simple and enticing, have knock out art, have 1-2 moments that grab our collars and shake, do it all with economical use of pages/scenes with no fat. Yep, it’s gotta be all thriller, no filler.

Gabriel Rodriguez & Joe Hill effortlessly bring us into this world they build through really strong character interactions and a hook that’ll catch you for days. It almost seems simple how well they did it, but don’t be fooled, this is arcane alchemy. And it was so good I bought the #1 issue again when IDW offered it with a full script in it. Absolute brain fuel.

8. THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #1

This is the book that brought me all in on Danny Rand. I previously dug him for the loose Daredevil connection, and the killer yellow threads, but this run from David Aja and Ed Brubaker/Matt Fraction locked me in for life, and the foundation is all laid here in this issue.

Danny Rand is a kung fu master, and there are few better equipped to show that than David Aja. The early double page splash of Iron Fist fly kicking some HYDRA goons in the rain is just stunning [and mirrors the same trick Brubaker pulled over in Daredevil with Michael Lark, and both times they are just as effective].

The whole mythos then gets a little tweak with the introduction of Orson Randall, and the stakes go up, and the tone is set. It’s part superhero story, part gritty 70s action flick, and all billionaire kung fu.

7. CASANOVA #1

I’ve come back to this issue a whole bunch of times, usually when I’m writing my own #1 issue. Maybe it’s because I love Matt Fraction’s writing, maybe it’s because Gabriel Ba builds a whole world in one go, or maybe it’s because this issue covers so much ground and uses so many comic skills that I find it inspiration fuel every time.

I do appreciate the cyclical nature of this issue, and the fourth wall breaking captions, and by the end I know Casanova Quinn, and his job, and his problem. And I know I will read this comic for the rest of my life, no matter what schedule it comes out on.

6. THE IRREDEEMABLE ANT-MAN #1

This is a book no one was asking for. Phil Hester and Robert Kirkman go about building a new super, which is hard enough yakka, but then they make him not very super, and very barely heroic. In fact, he’s a scumbag and by the end of this first issue you want to keep reading because you really want to see Eric O’Grady’s house of cards fall down around him.

And yet I still kind of love him, and have enjoyed reading him elsewhere, but that’s due to the way his character grows over time. In this debut, he’s absolute pond froth. But you just can’t look away at this seedy underside of what goes on behind the Marvel superheroics.

5. SLEEPER #1

Okay, now the list hits the real tour de forces. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips here start something truly special, and I think it’s their second collaboration, and it’s one of the first comics I bought when getting back into comics and it was the one that completely solidified my fall back into things.

This is a phenomenal debut: it gives us a character we can’t look away from, it surrounded them with other people who are interesting and will help/hinder him along the way, and it slowly unpacks why we should care for our character through the main complication of the text.

A spy comic by way of some superpowers, this is hard hitting action and a slew of characters you’ll follow to the grave and beyond. I’ve read this entire series more than once and it only gets better.

4. ELEKTRA #1

I love Elektra. Frank Miller introduced her, he told the best story with her, and he buried her. That really could have been her entire catalogue in story, but I’m glad it’s not because Mike del Mundo and W. Haden Blackmen did something special with her in this maxiseries, and it all starts in this character focused debut.

Elektra has history, so it’s unpacked here in gorgeous detail, and this builds context, which they then quickly move away from. This isn’t yet another story of Elektra circling her boyfriend Matt Murdock. This is her story they want to tell, and she will be the centre of it, so she thinks about the past right before moving forward and taking a bounty hunter style job to find someone. It’s all fairly simple in summary, but the way it’s told is so exceptionally fluid, and it’s juxtaposed against Bloody Lips, a new villain invested here who is truly fascinating.

And then we get the final splash of Elektra descending into Monster Island.

Yes, Elektra, our leading lady/ninja/bounty hunter jumps out of a plane and descends towards Monster Island in her wingsuit. Comics! When they’re this good, they’re better than anything else out there.

3. UNCANNY X-FORCE #1

I’ve not been an X-mark since the cartoon when I was in primary school, so I initially slept on this book. I don’t really follow Wolverine or Deadpool, I knew little of Fantomex, Archangel didn’t feel like anything that had been interesting in a while, and I dig Psylocke but not enough to buy into this comic. But then I started hearing things, so I dug back and got the first issue and didn’t stop pulling it monthly until the run ended.

This issue not only makes me care about an X-team, but it invested me in characters I had little connection with, and made me have to come back to see how it would all unfold over time. The wild adventure style storyline is certainly something a little different, and Jerome Opena elevates it beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. There are funny moments, but also some gore, and the cast selection shows itself to be genius for what is being set up. This run is an absolute titanic force of how good it can get when someone plays with the toys, and it all began in this debut issue I roundly ignored until I realised I had it wrong, and I’m so glad I realised my error.

2. KILL OR BE KILLED #1

Okay, maybe my favourite comic from the past decade, and something so incredibly my specific jam, and the pinnacle of what I’ve enjoyed about what happens when Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker collaborate.

This debut issue is a masterclass.

Brubaker carries us through this all with a resonating first person caption voice that’s captivating. We see Dylan try to kill himself, and then we rewind to build context, and then we shift again to showcase other pertinent information. It’s all dripped out at a delicious pace, but one that constantly gives us something else to add to the pile to astound us.

Phillips uses gutters to isolate characters, and guide the eye, and make us feel the emotional scope of this character and the world around him he feels so constantly attacked by. I’d love to map out how this issue gives up information, and how it does it. Putting something like this together, giving us so many character interactions alongside our leading man’s state of mind and motivation moving forward is a masterclass in how to give an audience everything they need without them ever seeing it coming or having a moment to feel bored.

Every comic writer should read this issue to see why we should never rest on our laurels. We can always do better.

1. Y: THE LAST MAN #1

This is the cliche choice, the one people are told to read, to seek out, to study. And there’s reason for that.

Yes, this issue is that good. You might not dig the story [I guess, I don’t know how, but that’s cool], but there’s little denying this issue does everything it should and does it with the most simplistic style. If you step back, this issue looks so easy, and doesn’t do much, but it really just pushes information into your brain through conversation and dialogue and that’s not easy to do without making anyone feel like a James Remar Exposition Machine.

Every character for the series gets time here, they all get moments that shine, and by the end of this issue you know them all and have cast your lot in with the right or the wrong ones. The hook in this issue isn’t that all the men on Earth die, that’s just doing what it says on the tin, the masterful magic here is in how much you love the characters and need to know what will become of them all.

In a world where most comics end their #1 issue by revealing the hook that’s already been in all of the solicit/prepress material, this comic goes another route. Knowing that Yorick wanted to propose to his girlfriend at the worst moment and got interrupted is the key to this series. Brian K Vaughan never sells this book as a post-apocalyptic tale of every man on Earth dying, bar one. He sells it as the story of the last boy on Earth becoming the last man on Earth. A great reminder than your story isn’t your hook, your hook is there to make people give your story their eyes. Then your job is to make them care.

Reread this issue, see how BKV does it, especially with the world’s finest work from Pia Guerra, and marvel at how he does it. One tip: he has 40 pages, so he’s got that working for him. Good luck to you!

What Is Best In Life? – 2019 Edition 

The final year of the decade, and we’ve gone out with some high quality parts, so it’s nice to sit back and reflect on all the good things, and only the good things, just for one moment.

Comic

Every year, I manage to read a lot of good comics, and this year was no exception. I’m always thankful to find new things, and see amazing things continue to be phenomenal, and to see mates making excellent stuff, as such, here are some comics you should scope out.

November by Elsa Charettier and Matt Fraction is a brilliant OGN with a killer structure and some absolutely brutal pages of character and design. Crone from Justin Greenwood and Dennis Culver only just started but it’s already one of my absolute favourites of the year as it depicts a Red Sonja type adventurer who has grown old and now sees the world and herself very differently. John Lees continues to impress with Mountainhead with Ryan Lee and Sink with Alex Cormack, both showing skill, craft, and care. 

But my comic of the year, yet again, is a Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker jam: CRIMINAL

Absolutely stunning, beautifully put together, intricately woven, and just damn fine crime comics. An absolute MVP on the market.

Novel

I don’t give myself enough time to read novels, but this year I finally sampled Fletch by Bregory MacDonald and did enjoy it, despite the eponymous hero being a fairly decent asshole. Killing Gravity by Corey J. White absolutely won me over and I need to catch up with him to get my hands on the next 2 in the trilogy. But my favourite reading experience of the year was: CANARY

Duane Swierczynski always makes his books feel like arrows flying directly at you, and you can either duck, dodge, or take the hit. This one is very much in that school of his shelf.

TV

There are a lot of good shows out there, but I’m trying to spend my time on the truly great stuff. This year I really enjoyed The Kominsky method as it does something a little different with the sitcom format and allows Michael Douglas to seemingly both stroke his ego while completely deflating it. The return of Veronica Mars was really fun because it truly did posit the concept of what this character would be like travelling into adulthood. Life is hard for her, and that’s about right. How interesting then that my favourite show features the same lead actress: THE GOOD PLACE

It doesn’t seem right that this show can continue to be this good. It’s funny as hell, and deep enough to keep you thinking, and structurally sound like a glass snowflake. Every character continues to shine, the plot goes insane, and the heart of it all never leaves view.

Movie

It’s always exciting to find new things in film. Captain Marvel continued the trend Wonder Woman began last year of strong superhero films featuring women in the lead, and this flick really amplified the presence. This flick was funny and full of awesome and Brie Larson can easily carry the MCU for another decade, if she so wishes to. However, my heart belongs to something that’s not a franchise flick because this year I was completely bowled over by: KNIVES OUT

A murder mystery, in the style of old mansion novels, and Rian Johnson nails it all. The tone, the style, the characters, everything. I’m still thinking about the structure of this beast as the audience is given information at different times, and sometimes we don’t even know it yet, and there is so much to learn from this one.

Podcast

Every commute, every time I mow the lawn, I’m listening to someone talk info into my brain. I’ve enjoyed learning more about D&D through their official podcast, Dragon Talk, and it helps the two hosts are great fun. I’ve continued to expand my teaching brain with the Google Teacher Tribe, and my comics brain with Off Panel and Word Balloon, but this year my ears belonged to: SMASH BOOM BEST

This podcast about two people debating two topics through separate rounds got my brain firing with all kinds of rad ideas and desires for the classroom.

And that’s been the best of my 2019, let’s keep the run going into 2020 and the next decade to come.

What is Best in Life? 2018 Edition

Nothing like an end of year round up. A time to reflect, a time to take stock, and a time to project.
Overall, 2018 has felt like a year of building pressure. Whether we get a glorious wave into 2019, I don’t know, and whether I have the balance to ride that wave and not get crushed I also do not know. But I’ve done my best to stay positive and keep wheels behind the scenes moving, so while I didn’t publish a lot this year, I did prep 4 pitches, and put the scripts for one project to bed, and wrote a tonne on another one, and have lined up a few one-shots with artists I’m excited to bring it all together with.

If everything I worked on in 2018 came out in 2019, it would be a stellar year. So we shall see.

And while I said I didn’t get much out in 2018, what did come out was stuff I’m crazy proud of. The BEAUTIFUL CANVAS tpb landed in Feb, collecting last year’s acclaimed mini-series, and the month before it we started the year strong with ETERNAL, and I’ve been saying if you only publish one new thing all year, but that thing is ETERNAL, then it’s been a good year. Eric Zawadzki and Dee Cunniffe deserve all the praise this year.

Now, onto some things we can list!

MY TOP COMIC OF 2018

I really dug some good good stuff this year. Image tops the list with so much quality: GIDEON FALLS was something I got caught up on recently, and that book is very fine, as is CEMETERY BEACH, for totally different reasons. SHANGHAI RED was my jam in the same way SINK at ComixTribe is. PAPER GIRLS and SAGA and DEADLY CLASS continue to be masterpieces, and I really enjoyed MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES, but the top book really has to go to something that’s one of my very favourites from my very favourite creative team:

KILL OR BE KILLED

Just a stellar end to a wicked story where both Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker were on superbly fine form.

MY TOP NOVEL OF 2018

Man, THE OUTSIDER from Stephen King could have run away with this, if I’d only stopped before the final hundred pages. It’s not *bad*, but it is not as blistering as the first half of the book. That first half is pound-for-pound King at his dark criminal best.

I also really dug PLATO WYNGARD AND THE ARMOUR OF THE GODS, the second novel from my two brothers, Marc and James Lindsay, but that feels a bit nepotistic, and would make them far too happy.

I took a few weeks to smash through HANGMAN, where Jack Heath writes such a ballistic crime novel that you can’t help but be impressed with the layers of familiarity he builds into his characters alongside the wild intricate puzzles and violent moments.

But there can only be one, so, I’ll lay this one at the feet of:

WE RIDE THE STORM

This fantasy epic from Devin Madson was something I bought because she showed the opening line on her table, and it’s a banger:

I honestly hadn’t read a fantasy book since my David Eddings days in high school, but I was keen to try this out. It’s Book One of a bigger story, so the opening hundred pages is a lot of table dressing, but by the final hundred pages it’s just fistfuls of food being slammed into your mouth faster than you can chew. And I mean that in a good way. The action and character drama continue to rise, and I was hooked on all three plot threads as they wind ever closer.

There were also two particular chapters where I finished them and thought…damn, that’s some good reading.

If you get the chance, track this down, it’s bloody, glorious, and bloody glorious.

MY TOP TV SHOW OF 2018

THE GOOD PLACE came so so close to running away with this one. The third season has been just as good as the rest, and in a way that’s different from S2, which went about it different from S1. The show is a titanic force, and I’m a better writer for having watched it, but something else from this year jumped ahead of it through sheer force of will. And it wasn’t DAREDEVIL S3, or GLOW S2, or THE KOMINSKY METHOD S1 which came out of nowhere to absolutely thrill me, nor was it my marathon catch up of three seasons of THE LEFTOVERS, which I’m discounting because it’s an older show. No, the top gong is kinda easily held onto by this one which should be absolutely obvious when you really think about it:

ATLANTA S2

This show good, this show real good. Some of these episodes, mostly in the middle in and around the Teddy Perkins ep are just A+ analyses of the modern world as told through gonzo noir small screen cinema. So so perfect.

MY TOP MOVIE OF THE YEAR

It’s one thing to announce a tie, and it’s another to give that tie to two polar opposite things. Both of these flicks did what they needed to do nigh perfectly, and they left me in very different places, and I can barely separate them. One will be endlessly rewatchable, one will be a hard watch again, though I will. One is high pop bubble gum joy, one is brutal art house insanity. Both, though, are long. I can’t separate it, so I’m letting the chips fall where they may – the top flick[s] of 2018 are:

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and SUSPIRIA

Watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe come to this big break moment at the end of Infinity War was something to behold, a truly special feat. The movie is top notch event comic action fun. It’s *BIG* and it’s wild and it’s a smile injected into your lips. It’s not high art, and it shouldn’t be. It’s not a great character study, and it shouldn’t be because there are about 500 principal hero cast at play – though it is a study of Thanos, which is both as bold as it is brilliant, and it’s for that reason it crossed the line at the top.

However, across the aisle, SUSPIRIA does everything different, and is most likely the more true superior flick. It is high art, it’s weird, it’s a character study, or more of a location study, a look at witch hierarchy in dance schools. It’s unsettling, and everything holds huge gravity – which is funny when you consider the death count in Suspiria must be about 0.0000001% of the other cape-inclined movie. I feel like Suspiria is more likely to sit atop Best Of lists when we look back in 20 years, but Infinity War will be more remembered, and more wildly remembered, and will sit on its own Best Of lists, too, for its own reasons.

MY TOP PODCAST OF 2018

I’ve gone deep into WOW IN THE WORLD and STORY PIRATES with the kids on all commutes, and they’ve fed my brain in wonderfully small ways. SERIAL returned and was interesting, but lacked that central narrative engine that makes it a binge-worthy podcast. I also found it crazy depressing, to the point where it almost felt like it was inducing anxiety in me after listening for an ep, and maybe that’s a huge point: if listening to it all give me the shivers, imagine living it 😐

I’ve caught up on a tonne of the GOOGLE TEACHER TRIBE PODCAST just to keep my dayjob game tight, and it’s worked a treat, making me feel energised about all kinds of things for work, especially going into 2019.

But, I think this year goes again to OFF PANEL, the comic interview podcast where the creators are well picked and always get down to real talk. I still love this podcast, and still get a constant stream of quality inspiration and joy from it.

MY TOP MUSIC OF 2018

There was new Sarah Blasko this year, I got DEPTH OF FIELD and it’s a great writing record, but it lacks the punchy catchiness of her other albums, so I think sneaking in at the top might be the SUSPIRIA soundtrack.

And I think that’s a wrap. 2018 had some good stuff, and it also felt like mental quicksand. But walking into 2019 will feel like walking free, so I better make the most of it.

Here’s to building a better stronger list of live in yet another year.

What Is Best In Life? – 2017 Edition

I love a good year end list. And this list is very much about me, and my year, and what works for me. If you dig what I usually dig, then seek these things out.

Oh, and this just means things *I* did/imbibed in 2017, not necessarily things *from* 2017 because I’m crazy behind on things all the time.

Okay, roll the thing!

Read the rest of this entry »

Top 100 Flicks List

Man, this took me far too long to put together.

I’d take a few minutes each night to consider what my top 100 flicks of all time were, and the list filled up, I ran past 100 quickly and easily, but then I had to cull. And then I’d remember one I’d forgotten and things would shuffle. And then I could never align the order.

This list, right here and now, is correct at time of publication but can and will change instantly as soon as I hit Publish, and it should. Trying to line up where OFFICE SPACE fits on a list somewhere alongside APOCALYPSE NOW brings up all kinds of sweats. But the flick is definitely on my list, no question, so it becomes placing it in the ‘right’ spot. bah, like art, this list wasn’t finished, it was abandoned.

For all of this, I blame John Lees – the Scottish gent put up his 100 list and my brain wouldn’t let it go [go see his here – LINK]

This list is an insight into my brain. It’s a wholistic picture of things that inform me, that make me smile, and that I dig. This isn’t trying to state what’s ‘best,’ nor what should be here. This is me across ~200 hours of cinema. I hope you dig, and maybe find something new to tuck into.

100 AMERICAN HISTORY X
99 28 DAYS LATER

98 TRADING PLACES
97 PSYCHO
96 THE RUNNING MAN
95 THE SHINING
94 MOON
93 BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
92 COMING TO AMERICA
91 THE ‘BURBS
90 SE7EN
89 OFFICE SPACE
88 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
87 ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
86 WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
85 PREDATOR
84 DIE HARD
83 COOL HAND LUKE
82 DAY OF THE DEAD
81 BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
80 THEY LIVE
79 FIRST BLOOD
78 ZODIAC
77 ZOOTOPIA
76 THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
75 THE SOCIAL NETWORK
74 THE CONVERSATION
73 THE INCREDIBLES
72 IRON MAN
71 ARMY OF DARKNESS

70 BOOGIE NIGHTS
69 DONNIE DARKO
68 THE EVIL DEAD
67 LOOPER
66 IN BRUGES
65 BONNIE + CLYDE
64 AMELIE
63 CITIZEN KANE
62 THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
61 OUT OF SIGHT
60 FLETCH
59 CASABLANCA
58 BLACK SWAN
57 ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN
56 THE PAPER
55 THE FLY
54 THE BROOD
53 ALIENS
52 SHAUN OF THE DEAD
51 APOCALYPSE NOW
50 STAND BY ME
49 LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL
48 GOODFELLAS
47 VIDEODROME
46 TRUE ROMANCE
45 12 ANGRY MEN
44 THE TOWN
43 FIGHT CLUB
42 THE IDES OF MARCH
41 BRAVEHEART
40 THE FRENCH CONNECTION
39 STAR WARS IV – A NEW HOPE
38 RESERVOIR DOGS
37 THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
36 THE DARK KNIGHT
35 GOOD WILL HUNTING
34 THE PRESTIGE
33 ENTER THE DRAGON
32 ALIEN
31 INCEPTION
30 ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
29 STAR WARS V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
28 HALLOWEEN
27 KISS KISS BANG BANG
26 REAR WINDOW
25 JFK
24 THE GODFATHER
23 CHASING AMY
22 RAGING BULL
21 THE BIG LEBOWSKI
20 RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
19 THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
18 BODY HEAT
17 [500] DAYS OF SUMMER
16 MEMENTO
15 INSIDE OUT
14 THE PROPOSITION
13 M*A*S*H
12 TAXI DRIVER
11 THERE WILL BE BLOOD
10 CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
9 VERTIGO
8 CHINATOWN
7 THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
6 AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
5 JAWS
4 BLADE RUNNER
3 PAN’S LABYRINTH
2 MILLER’S CROSSING
1 THE THING

What is Best in Life? – 2015 Edition

2015, I believed.

BEST COMIC

DEADLY CLASS by Wes Craig and Rick Remender

Just loved every single panel in this crazy messed up book. It’s a wild idea, wrapped up by a wide array of intriguing characters, in a $10 intro trade, with some of the most nuanced and superb comic making I’ve seen in a while. Just an utter joy to behold – well, in a sense of how it is made…most of the actual narrative is as bleak as leftover coffee the next morning.

BEST TV

HANNIBAL

Just the best in show for everything, really. This year was S3 and it closed out the show and did it so masterfully that I’m still in awe. This is one of the few things I just keep bringing up to people and gushing to them about. It’s a show I want to share because it represents so many things about storytelling I love, and I wish I could do.

I’d love more seasons but I also love how tight and wonderfully this is all stitched up. This year, everything else paled in comparison.

BEST MOVIE

INSIDE OUT

And I mean hands down, best flick of the year. I crazy loved the idea but the execution was better. With a simple narrative throughline, they then explore emotions in such a deliberate and delightful way that my 5yo man dug it but I was floored by it. I cried twice in the damn flick and then when I got home and tried to explain it to the wife I started tearing up again. She thought I must’ve had a stroke. So good, and who knew we needed HERMAN’S HEAD the kid adaptation so bad?

BEST MUSIC

NEW BLASKOOOO!

Yes, a new Sarah Blasko album dropped and she’s still amazing. ETERNAL RETURN has fuelled some words in the last few months.

BEST PODCAST

COMIXLAUNCH

Every time I listen to this podcast about using Kickstarter for making comics it inspires me to make some more comics. I just get the fire in the gut again. You need to have that fire, and stoke it, and shift it, and kick it, if you’re going to survive this stupid ride we repeat again and again making comics.

The ComixLaunch podcast is just gasoline all up in my bonfire of life. I was also on an ep, dig it, it’s all about kickstarting DEER EDITOR and doing a digital only campaign from Australia [LINK]

BEST BOOK

ELEKTROGRAD: RUSTED BLOOD by Warren Ellis

This ebook was like two bucks or something stupid and it was a tight, short, very interesting read. And I’m finding it hard to hang on to novels because they are taking me crazy amounts of time to get through so short novella stuff is just right and this book was aces [LINK]

Are there other best things from this year I should be considering? No app jumped out at me this year, and no way could I single out all the cool art I’ve been able to scope in my travels with collaborators, so I think this is it.

2015 was a building block year, and it built in me patience. Hopefully I can use it to calmly slaughter 2016.

#fourcomics – Prominent Childhood Comics

The #fourcomics hashtag burst into life – thanks Jim Zub – and it’s the sort of thing I love seeing, and love doing. So, I chose 4 comics I can remember that were prominent in my childhood. I’d love to do plenty of other #fourcomics pieces but time only permits one, and nostalgia is king.

Now, doing this was hard – I cannot remember a time when there weren’t comics around. There is no remembering the very first comic I ever read because by the time memory was forming, everything around the house already felt old hat. But there are comics that meant a lot to me as a kid for various reasons, so let’s get into them.

G.I. JOE #60

1694941-gi_joe__1982_marvel__60

One of my earliest memories in life was being dinked on my eldest brother’s handlebars [sounds dirty – totes isn’t] into town and he had this part time job and he’d saved some of the money and he was taking me to the toy store [because back then you didn’t have mega-retailers selling everything, you had to go to dedicated and ludicrously overpriced toy stores] and he was going to buy me one G.I. Joe action figure. I was pretty stoked. G.I. Joe was totally my jam. I cannot remember which one I bought. But I remember thinking my brother was the bee’s knees and having the time of my life. I also remember my mother being in town with me another time and saying she’d buy me one and I think I chose Muskrat. My childhood was pretty ace and filled with amazing family.

Anyway, so onto the comics, so my earliest memory of the Joe comics was with the family on some sort of road trip – could have been around the corner, or interstate, to me all instances of road travel in our speeding automobile were akin to sorcery. So there we are in some road side stop – it felt long, like a split level, and near some stairs was a spinner rack. Now me and the middle brother are looking over all the mostly Marvel titles and I think Mum said we could get one, so we got a G.I. Joe comic. Now I wanna say it was this one but unlike the rest of the world my memory isn’t great. I don’t remember those covers and numbers and stuff others do [NOTE: I always assume they’re lying to sound cool] but I know we got that Joe book and it begat a cavalcade of Joe books in our world.

Quick side note – how bad ass is this cover – it’s totally just how we’d play with those toys, and I love that the art just makes everyone and every vehicle look like the toys. Also, neither of these guys is firing anywhere near the other, seriously, look at those trajectories. Whatevs…

I can remember reading all about Zoltan, or Zartan, or were they both twins [can’t I just research my own damn thinkpiece – NO! TimE!], and they were dragging people down halls to be brainwashed. I remember all the ninja shenanigans and realising that Snake Eyes was cool but I thought Shadow Storm was just a touch cooler – or maybe I had to think that because my middle brother – who read all these books with me and played all the action figure games with me – always got to be the ‘coolest’ characters, so he was default Snake Eyes and Han Solo and I was always left with the squares or the 2iC’s of cool. I remember reading all those crazy storylines and just loving them.

G.I. Joe comics were a staple of my childhood, and a bunch of artifacts I remember clearly and dearly. I also think they shaped me immensely.

Oh, and a side-story – I can remember playing with the figures with my middle bro – we had them laid out on our massive pool table, Cobra V Joe, epic battle. And a Cobra spy, or maybe the Commander hisself, infiltrated the Joe camp, and my bro was holding the Commander. So he takes a Joe hostage to give himself time to villain-splain to the Joes. While that’s happening, I take a Joe and start sneaking around one of the vehicles hoping to pop a cap and end this ridiculous posturing straight up. My bro makes the Commander tell me/the Joe to quit it. I keep moving. They tell us to quit it for real. I don’t. Cobra Commander whacks this hostage Joe right in the head and everyone freezes. Commander tells the Joes he is serious and not to be trifled with, and then makes his exit. My bro puts the CC away and looks at me and says that Joe is dead now because of me and that we can’t just take it back or resurrect him, he’s out, for realsies. I remember this as being a huge lesson to me in the importance of keeping your villains real, and that dead is dead, there are no easy ways out.

Props to my bro for making a fun game with toys a masterclass in mortality and war.

What If…the X-Men Had Stayed in Asgard? #12

wif012

I cannot be certain I ever actually read this issue but I know I spent a whole mess of time looking at the cover. It intrigued me in ways I could not explain. The pink background the fact I knew enough to know this story wasn’t ‘real,’ the giant frog wielding a hammer. This cover is just always something that speaks to me, and I think it’s forever telling me that comics need to be eye-catchingly rad. And I am down with this lesson.

It is also the truth behind What If…? books being the raddest.

Vault of Horror #1 [a reprint]

vault 1

I was in a newsagent with my eldest brother when I saw this. I instantly knew I needed to have it. I was about 12, I considered myself a horror aficionado, and this ‘new’ horror comic had to come home with me. So my bro ponied up the cash and bought it for me [again, rad fam, right?]. I read this issue cover to cover an insane amount of times. And some of the stories aren’t even that great but I loved everything about this book from the hosts, to the tone, to the art, to the fact it led me down the spiralling rabbit hole of tracking down as many EC comics as I could find.

As luck would have it, I was right at the start of the reprint era of all the EC books and I spent the next few years gobbling up as many as I could [Tales from the CRypt, Haunt of Fear, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Crime SuspenStories, ALL OF THEM!]. And many I did get. I got them in newsagents, I got them in back issue bins in out of town comic shops, I got them by looking hard and long. I got so many, and I treasure them to this day.

Though I remember getting a mammoth oversized issue of Tales from the Crypt – it was like WEDNESDAY COMICS large, but with a harder cover – and I loved it so. Now…I have no idea where that issue is. Still bums me out. The closest I came to making up for this was buying the JACK DAVIS EC STORIES ARTIST’S EDITION a while back. Book is a bruiser and sits behind me in my office making me smile daily.

Spider-Man: Carnage

carnage

This is one of the first comics I bought with my own hard-earned Empire Credits. It was at Minotaur Comics [then the largest comic shop in the Southern Hemisphere and regular train-ride-away comic haunt for me and the bros] and I had recently been sucked into the Spidey vortex of Venom and Maximum Carnage. I insanely loved both [I still have nearly all the issues of MC and so so many issues of those Venom minis they kept pumping out – I doubt I could ever find the heart to part with them] and Carnage was a character I just thought was super interesting. So I snapped up this weird little trade collection – of which there weren’t many at the time – and I read these issues a lot. Looking back, it’s just OTT 90s gorno in spandex but at the time it marked this transition from the Uncle Scrooge stuff I had been reading. It showed I was ‘maturing’ into an ‘adult’ reader, ha, wink.

Anyway, I still love Carnage [come at me, brah] and this book has not been cracked open in a long time but I know when I do, I’m going to love it with all my nostalgia feels.

——-

So, those are my #fourcomics – they certainly aren’t perfect but they speak miles to me as a young person, and me as a progressive reader, and me as a comics reader and where my foundations lay.

In writing this, I can’t help but wonder which comics I should/would/could have included. Presented because I care [and am certain you do, too] here’s some alternate suggestions.

Uncle Scrooge – I’d have no idea the number, but these comics [and I wanna say some Goofy ones] got me through Year 2 in a big way when I was dealing with my father’s death, had moved towns, and came down with this harsh asthma that was probably more psychosomatic than real but it dropped the ass out of my year either way – but these comics were there to keep me focused.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #4 – before we’d even seen the show, this comic came into my life because my middle bro moonwalked into a plate glass door. Relax, he was fine, just a few stitches – but he was in hospital and I remember overhearing the call that he was in hospital, and my Mum raced off to see him [said moonwalking took place at a mate’s place] and as she left I just burst into tears. I thought he was gonna die – I obvs didn’t get the idea of a cut leg – but I was calmed when I found out we were gonna deliver some reading material to him the next day. Mum randomly picked out some comics and #4 here got us tracking down more, and then the show dropped, and we never looked back. I dug the show just fine but these comics were gold dust, and only just behind the Joe books for us.

Mad Magazine – again, I’d have no idea the issue # but my middle bro and I inherited the eldest bro’s collection when he went off to join the Army. So we got sucked in, and then one summer we spent countless hours riding from town to town looking in all newsagents for any different Mad mags we didn’t yet have. They were glorious and inform so much of my stupid humour now.

Bartman #1 – I read this issue, and the subsequent 3 that make up the mini, soooo many times. I really wanna read them again to see if they hold up is some sort of way because man was Young Ryan hard into these guys.

And I wanna do more, SuperPro #1 [which I speed reread this week and it is not good], and Daredevil #201 [I think it is, him with the broken arm], and some of the covers to the X-Men Classic issues, but I’m realising with the comics loitering in my childhood peripheral I could rage rage against the night forever.

I will close by saying, I hope you peeps have #fourcomics that shaped your youth in a rad way, and I hope you’ve shared them with the world.

Best Comics of 2014

I like to read comics, I like to share what I’ve read. I like to, where and when possible, expose people to new books. I hope this post does this in spades because 2014 was a bloody ripper of a year for comics.

Disclaimer: I have not read all books from the past 12 months. In fact, my reading has been sparse, though I’ve been hitting at least one floppy per day, just because I like to show the kids how you can set a goal that’s achievable, thank you New Year’s Resolution. Anyway, as I was typing, I haven’t read them all. I need to catch up on plenty, and I surely will. One day. So there is no EAST OF WEST because I have to get back in, etc.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS
The following books are ace. Get into them. I am safely vouching for them.

HIGH CRIMES – Mt Everest action in 99c chunks from Moustafa/Sebela
BATMAN – just flat out fun cape comics, top shelf high concepts from Snyder, superb Capullo art, lots to love
ELEKTRA – really dig the vibe/tone of this book, and the art is pretty top notch most of the time, plus those covers
STRANGE NATION – quirky and smart conspiracies from Romera/Allor
DAREDEVIL – always good, has shied away from great for me, lately, but is always so close, or gets there on occasion (I sound like I’m complaining, it’s a good book, ‘kay, Ryan, jeeeeez)
BLACK SCIENCE – very good, just missing out, I’m always enjoying the structure and pacing from Scalera/Remender
COPPERHEAD – came out of nowhere, has made me intrigued instantly
SOUTHERN BASTARDS – very good low level crime stuff from the Jasons (Latour/Aaron) – EDIT: on NYE I caught up on issue #4 and am now wondering if this should have been in the Top 10, it probably should/would/could have, but I’m lazy with my edit fu
THE FUSE – digging this low key high space procedural from Greenwood/Johnston
NAILBITER – enjoying the smooth flow of this serial killer jam from Henderson/Williamson
DEAD LETTERS – really intricate and insane stuff from Visions/Sebela
THE PRIVATE EYE – digital-only book from Martin/Vaughan is consistently well crafted, paced, structured, and fun
LAST BORN – weird and frenetic jam by Zawadzki/Meaney
AMBIENT YEAST – dysfunctional apocalyptic funtimes from Pat Grant
ORIGINAL SIN – I really dug the first two-thirds of this Marvel event from Deodato Jr/Aaron – the structure of the end was different – nature of the beast – but there’s a lot of fun stuff to dig on here, I think I was mostly just impressed that the Orb got to headline an event, man, what a world in which we currently reside
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE – a book I’d not have said would be in my wheelhouse but this McKelvie/Gillen jam is just bloody well told
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA – this was way more fun than I’d expected, thoroughly digging delving into the Churilla/Powell pages every issue
SOLAR: MAN OF THE ATOM – a really slick take on an old propety from Bennett/Barbiere
PRIME 8s – I wish there’d been more of this Latino/Moreci insanity

DIY SPOTLIGHTS
I love great creator owned DIY comics. Below are some books that have been made because their owners screamed at the world and demanded to be heard. They’ll be hard to find, but they’re ace.

DUNGEON FUN – Slorence/Bell really pack in the fun and cool in this all ages fantasy romp
EXIT GENERATION – great interstellar hijinks and 80s action from Oliveira/Read
FROM ABOVE – an intriguing Aussie superhero dystopia from Craig Bryun that I think shows us a great creator on the scene down here
THE BROTHERS JAMES – the best grindhouse fast car revenge comic you’ll find anywhere in the world, Level/Ferrier are suh-laying it on this one
PROPELLOR – a superhero concept played low key and for the character beats, the pacing from Mo is on fire, and the art from Muriel is captivating

Aaaaaaaaand, now for the big show.

The Top 10 Comics of 2014

10 – SHELTERED
by Johnnie Christmas + Ed Brisson

Yes, I write essays in the back of this book, no, it’s not bias showing through. SHELTERED is just damn good comics. The pacing is great, the voices are clear, and Christmas with Shari Chankhamma colours is just all sorts of beautiful. This story of a prepping community gone wrong is pretty spectacular and wild, and with the recent events as we wind into the final reel, I truly cannot wait to see what happens next. And that’s the perfect sign of a damn good book.

9 – FIVE GHOSTS
by Chris Mooneyham + Frank J Barbiere

I come away from every issue of this book wanting to go back, read it again, and take my time. Because Mooneyham and Barbiere make each issue look easy, they make it seem simple. But the structure is key. The way stories are broken, the way pages are assigned, this book is a process nightmare for me because it does all the things well that I believe I can’t do. The dialogue is sparse. The iconic visual moments are plenty. And yet the story still hangs. I always worry I cannot do these things but FIVE GHOSTS gives me hope.

8 – SAGA
by Fiona Staples + Brian K Vaughan

I know this isn’t the best book on the stands. I know this, and so sometimes I worry I steer away from it just to prove this to myself every month. It gets adored like everyone knows it’s made with magic pixie dust and I don’t see it that way so I almost tell myself maybe it’s not that good. Like some sort of four colour hipster. And I do this because I am a BKV a acolyte and I want to make sure the book is this good.

And it is. It is this good. Because when this book is on fire, nothing can stop it. It succeeds, and this’ll come up a lot for me, because it’s a genre dirty bomb, taking in lots of things, heating them, and throwing them in your face. And the fact, at its core, this book is about parenting just double makes me smile.

7 – RAT QUEENS
by Roc Upchurch + Kurtis J Wiebe

I never would have said I needed some sword and sorcery comic in my world. I never played D&D as a youth, though did dig the cartoon and played my fair share of GAUNTLET. But this isn’t a genre itch I ever needed scratched and yet Wiebe lured me in and then I realised what this book is. It’s about the characters, these women, and their relationships, and their connection to their world, and their ability to kick ass and be funny.

I never thought I needed this book but now I’m so incredibly happy the whole world gets to enjoy it.

6 – THE MASSIVE
by Garry Brown + Brian Wood

This book has that density of world building I loved in DMZ, and it has strong characters like all his work, and it has Garry Brown on art with Jordie Bellaire colours and that’s always a treat for the peepers.

The idea of a post-post-apocalyptic book was intriguing, that it also then became something more is pretty damn cool. This is a character deconstruction of what we can become with a clean slate ahead of us but only the same old skills available at our hands. And from there the book goes to places I did not see coming. It is nice to be surprised.

5 – SEX CRIMINALS
by Chip Zdarsky + Matt Fraction

Another book I was pretty certain I didn’t need. And then it landed and completely defied my expectations. A time stopping sex comedy sounds like fun but instead what was delivered was this beautiful and haunting deconstruction of the minutiae that makes up our relationships, our sex lives, and the ways in which we see and categorise ourselves. Instead of some His Girl Friday with time stopping spunk we got a love story. A real love story. With problems. And laughs. And all the inappropriate stuff you shouldn’t mention. And it’s funny.

It probably goes without saying for all my top books but this book has some seriously fun and inventive craft on display. The way Zdarsky and Fraction use a page, or where words come from, or how to frame a joke is something worthy of being studied. You will be a better wholistic person for having read SEX CRIMINALS.

4 – FATALE
by Sean Phillips + Ed Brubaker

This weird fiction horror noir came to a close this year and I’m sad to see it go, though I’m also happy to see a series run a decent course without needing or go to 60 issues. The messed up story of Josephine though the years was a true noir pulp classic and it will be sorely missed, though THE FADE OUT is already filling that Phillips/Brubaker sized hole I keep in my heart.

3 – D4VE
by Valentin Ramon + Ryan Ferrier

At least now you’ll know why I hate Ryan Ferrier. He is this good. D4VE is another book skirting between a score of genres, and in the end defining itself as its own island in the seas of narrative conventions.

This is easily one of the funniest comics I read this year, while also having some kick ass action moments, and it was all strung together by dense, fun, and well acted art from Ramon. The story of D4VE’s midlife crisis amidst an alien invasion is so perfectly done. For $4 all up on ComiXology, I defy you to find better value.

Also, this book has been picked up by IDW for issue distribution before a trade collection in 2015. Get on that.

2 – DEADLY CLASS
by Wes Craig + Rick Remender

This book came out of nowhere and sledgehammered me in the face. But that’s not fair, it didn’t come out of nowhere, I saw it coming the whole time. BLACK SCIENCE was the Remender jam I was looking for – I’m a child of EC comics and I super dug his FEAR AGENT. And I am enjoying that sci fi romp over there but here, in the tumultuous school for assassins where Remender dumps all his youthful truths, I am at play with the synapse fireworks of a god.

And if the delightfully truthful teen yarns cranked up to eleven in the stakes don’t do it for you, then bloody well sit down and let me introduce you to Wes Craig. His art in this book is another process cache where we see scenes play out in different ways, pages used in the most experimental ways. I love everything about this book. That’s the gods honest truth.

1 – HAWKEYE
by David Aja, Annie Wu, + Matt Fraction

A weird yet sublime crime comic mashing up other genres…yeah, ‘You rannngggggggg?’ — this is exactly where my wheelhouse lays its foundations.

But seriously, this book is a process wonderland. And it’s funny. And it handles action perfectly. And it made me care about two leads I could not have cared less about for all the last three decades of my life. HAWKEYE is the book here I’m most looking forward to dusting off my old floppies of and revisiting in a few years’ time. This is a four colour storm in a teacup and we all need to be glad it’s been captured, and then learn the subtle lessons on display.

And so, these are my choices for books I dug this year. I hope you have a tidy list of 10 at hand. Tell a friend, they’ll thank you for it.

2015 NYE Resolutions

I love resolutions, they’re the sure fire way to level up (ymmv). I dig ’em, and found 2014 to be a good time to add another arrow to my quiver. The big add on for 2014 was my goal to:

READ ONE COMIC EVERY DAY

In 2013, I found there would be days where I was working late, stressing about writing, writing for too long, and so never reading at all, and it just wasn’t a great idea. In fact, it was no doubt a fast track to burning out. Plus, I like to read, and I was missing it because reading is rad and fun and shouldn’t be seen as this devil taking me away from writing. So I set this goal so I would allow myself that spare 5-10 minutes to just pick up a comic, read it guilt free, and enjoy it. As such, I read well over 365 comics for the year, which is a lot of trades, and floppies, and digital copies, so I kept up on good stuff, and caught up on old rad stuff.

I know feel like I’ll make this part of my daily routine. It’s a lifechanger, and that’s part of a resolution, it shouldn’t just be for the 365, it should be for life. And I believe this is. Like in 2013, I dropped chocolate completely, and then in 2014 I ate chocolate maybe a dozen times, if that. I’m happy to have the very odd piece, but it was nice to eliminate it and feel that echo out beyond 2013.

And with such success, here we go for another round.

Continue to read, at least, one comic a day.

I crushed this in 2014 and want to consciously keep it rolling. Good things should not fall by the wayside, this kept me up on a few books, and made me feel it was okay to set aside this time.
I am thinking about making this part of the night’s warm up, but I also know I like having a little four colour reward waiting for me when I get to it – the problem lies in when I feel like I never get to it.

Read 10 novel pages a day

My novel reading is zero, let’s be honest. I have some rad novels sitting around, waiting, hoping – hell, my brother just wrote one, and I need to read that business – it’s time to crack into them. It’ll keep my brain sharp. It’ll broaden my horizons. I’m looking forward to allowing myself time to do this again. I was also gonna add on ‘read one article a day’ but think maybe that can wait…maybe until I’m full time (hahahahaha, so never :|).

Start the night with an hour of Internet free writing
Sub goal, this will require a list before those 60 minutes start so no time is wasted at all.

This one feels like it could be key. At night, I make my coffee, I sit down, and now I want to write. No email yet, no Facebook scrolls, no alt-tab to Twitter, none of that. Just time to bash out what’s been waiting all day to happen. I gotta stop writing until 1am and thinking I can teach the next day with a straight brain/face/soul. I need to be more effective, and early. This is my aim.

Surprise your wife – hopefully once a fortnight
Date nights, sleep ins, small gifts, sneaky messages – putting it here to remind myself, and show I’m not some remorseless process machine.

She deserves it, and I get wrapped up. Let’s change this.

Think of my kids – always
Get them gifts, call them up, leave them sneaky messages in their room and on Facebook for their mother to show them.

This I’m excited for, just to ensure I see the world differently – I see a range of opportunities to please them. Because that is my job.

Aaaaand, this is enough. You never want to go overboard on these ones. I’m keeping one that’s working, making it a lifelong thing. I’m adding a warm up of the 10 novel pages, and I’m hoping this hour right into the writing comes around.

Beyond that, just be a better person/man/husband/father. I should be doing these already, but we can all always do better. Make it happen, however you can.

Have a rad 2015, peeps, let’s tear a hole in the sun *fly kicks the air*

I Make You A Mixtape at Eat.Geek.Play

Over at Eat.Geek.Play they asked me to make them a mixtape.

The RKL Mixjams Vol. 2

I tried to slap together a variety of things, the sorts of things that inspire me and fuel my process. A peek into what’s on as I work, but also what’s been on before that’s shaped my brain. Because when I work, I have playlists for tone and projects and I use them like prescription. Music has always been a great mental trigger for me. That’s why music also attaches to memories so well for me. Certain songs/albums/bands really define periods of my life, friendships, and relationships. I like having that ability to delve into an album and have my heart transported somewhere else for 45 minutes. It can really help the writing sometimes.

Rereading the post, I realise how real I get in a few entries. It’s nice to write about real stuff. We should always be honest.

Enjoy the tunes, peeps.

%d bloggers like this: