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Archive for February, 2009

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A sad duck indeed...

It’s been a couple of months since we’ve seen any new issues from Gemstone Publishing, and news of upcoming issues has been scarce at best, leading many to believe that something unfortunate may be going on behind the scenes.  And while we still await official news of exactly what will happen in the months to come it appears (courtesy of the Disney Comics Mailing List) that Diamond Distributors has canceled the  recently solicited issues, including the “Free Comic Book Day” offering, Gemstone’s site now emphasizes back issue sales, and the same DCML source reports that Disney comics are being “re-thought.”

I have really, really enjoyed what Gemstone has brought us over the last 7-8 years (an understatement to say the least) so I hope the best for Gemstone, Geppi & Co. and that we certainly haven’t seen the last of quality titles like the Eisner Award-winning Uncle Scrooge, The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck collections, etc.

I’ll be sure to post more information as it becomes available.

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zorro_ff_hd2Yesterday I was reminded of the incomparable work of Francesco Francavilla, the artist currently behind Dynamic Forces Zorro, the fan-favorite Black Coat & several other projects, and I wanted to encourage any readers that haven’t yet stumbled upon his Pulp Sunday Blog to make it a point to check it out pronto!  Here’s a creative talent that not only reveres the classic pulps, providing regular radio shows and insights for the reader, but who takes the time to provide a lush illustration, or two, for the radio showcase that week.

And what a heck of an artist he is.  His style has been described as a successful mix of Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Alex Raymond and several other industry legends, and just like them, he can tell a fantastic story.  Whether it’s a sequential panel, or a one-page cover/splash, his images are always impeccably composed in their simplicity, and  always convey a glimpse into a larger tapestry where a story is unfolding.  As he once told Rick Remender:

At the core of my being, I am a storyteller. I cannot go a day without drawing or somehow expressing in some way the stories or characters I have in my head.  For me, doing book illustrations or concept art is rewarding because it is drawing. But what really makes my heart sing is being part of telling a story. When I read a comic or watch a movie, it’s like I’m listening to a story, which I enjoy but it’s a more passive experience. But when I create a comic (or maybe in the future direct a film), I become the storyteller. I just can’t imagine a greater joy than that.

ff_black-coat_hd1Francavilla is easily one of the most talented artists working in comics (and pulps) today and good for him that he’s able to stretch his muscles on Zorro, with Matt Wagner, a character obviously very near and dear to his heart.   I’m currently holding out for the TPB collections (as unfortunately I hear that the issues do suffer from serious story decompression) and I hope that we’ll see more of his work on The Black Coat (amazing stuff!) in the months and years to come.

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As the first season of the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series winds down, we’re being treated to a 3-part epic entitled the “Ryloth Saga,” which will begin Friday, February 27th on the Cartoon Network with “Storm Over Ryloth.” I can’t stress enough how entertaining this series has been, and I’ll have my back end firmly planted in my chair this weekend to watch the first installment, which focuses on Jedi Padowan Ashoka Tano and the lessons that she must learn when she disobeys Anakin’s orders and loses a group of a loyal Clone Squad in the process.  I’ve grown to really like Ahsoka so I’m looking forward to seeing how she rises to the challenges she must face as a result.

From the official Lucasfilm release:

Director Brian Kalin O’Connell and writer George Krstic welcomed the opportunity to explore some of the less heroic aspects of the conflict, particularly examining the responsibility of the Jedi in light of the consequences of their actions.

‘It’s easy to make the Jedi into superheroes, but showing their vulnerability really makes them far more interesting and believable,’ O’Connell says. ‘You have this Padawan in the footsteps of the Chosen One. And she fails – badly. Clones die, and that’s horrible – and we really get to feel that weight. But we also get to see how Anakin rebuilds Ahsoka’s confidence, and how she comes back and rises to the challenge.’ Krstic agrees, adding that the episode offered an opportunity to infuse the Saga’s classic space opera elements with a new emotional weight. ‘This is a very epic episode – it’s grand and operatic ala the old days of the original Star Wars,’ he says. ‘There are so many wonderful aspects to this episode because Ahsoka must deal with real life and death situations, and the result isn’t good. She gets her first experience dealing with the burden of command, and finds out that it isn’t all heroics. It really is a burden.’ As the beginning of a three-part story arc, ‘Storm Over Ryloth’ expands the scope of the Clone Wars to illustrate both the far-reaching and intimate effects of the war. Tackling ambiguities and exploring emotional motivations and consequences, this episode sets the stage for ‘Innocents of Ryloth’ and ‘Liberty of Ryloth,’ the continuation and conclusion of the thrilling Ryloth saga.

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green_lantern_33_hd13In a recent interview with Newsarama, artist Ivan Reis revealed that after the “Blackest Night” event in Green Lantern that he’ll be leaving the book.  I’m really sorry to hear that as Ivan Reis has been a huge part of the success of the title, and I’ve loved seeing his work on the book from month to month.  He’s grown leaps and bounds as an artist during his tenure on GL and the look he’s given the characters has really been kind of definitive for me.  Reis brought Hal, Carol, Cowgirl, the rest of the supporting cast and the many classic villains to life in a way that I don’t know anyone has done to greater effect.  Fortunately, it appears that there’s good news yet — that he’ll be staying to play in the DCU sandbox and that he’ll be working with Geoff Johns on another title all-together:

I don’t know about in the future; I might come back some day. But the Blackest Night will be the last thing for me in Green Lantern. And next, after Blackest Night, I can’t talk about. But it will be together with Geoff. It will be a great thing.

It appears that mums the word, but this does make the bleak news of his departure from Green Lantern a little brighter.  I just hope the book gets another great artist to work with Johns as I’d like it to remain at the high level of quality that its maintained for several years now.  So, let me take a moment to thank Reis for all his hard work, and while Blackest Night will be a little bittersweet knowing it’s his last GL project for the forseeable future, I do look forward to seeing what’s next!

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soiaf_hd1When I started the blog about a year ago I threw up a quick post cataloging what I was reading, with a note that I had begun George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first book in the critically acclaimed Song of Ice and Fire series.  It had been ages since I read a classic fantasy series and I had heard consistently high praise for this particular one so I bit the bullet and enthusiastically bought the first book.  Unfortunately, life being what it is (with nearly a dozen history books claiming my immediate attention) I had to sideline it for a time when I could really dive in head first and give it the attention it deserved.  A year has passed since, but I’m happy to report that I put the book back on my nightstand earlier this week and have been reading it, having to force myself to put it down, the last couple of nights.

And while I’m not far enough into the book to give any sweeping statements about its many characters (a couple dozen or more that I’ve met already), or the intricate storyline which they’ll likely weave, I am able to say that I can see the fabric of a great book coming together and that the investment in time and money is going to be well worth it.  Jon Snow’s introduction as the ‘bastard son of hero’, for example, was particularly good and that’s a thread that I’m hoping will continue to expand in the chapters [and books] to come (I’ve an idea that it does).

a-game-of-thrones_hd1There’s a lot still left to come for Martin and the series A Song of Ice and Fire, because as most of you probably already know its been  optioned as a full-fledged HBO series produced by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and Guymon Casady, with Martin providing a helping hand with the scripts.  It’s all dependent on the initial pilot going well, but given the reputation of the series and a strong commitment by its creative crew, why wouldn’t it?  Anyhow, the best of luck to the project and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more news on that front.  but in the meantime, it’s the books that I’m most excited about and I can’t wait to jump back in over the next several evenings.

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Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) released a boatload of news today, but of the utmost importance to me was the announcement that Media Molecule is developing LittleBigPlanet for the PSP and that we can expect it in the Fall of ’09.  The game is an absolute blast on the PS3 and that’s likely where I’ll continue to get the most out of it, but I cannot stress enough how great it is to be able to play games like this on the go, or during those quiet times in the office, etc.  LBP is a near perfect game to ‘pick up play’ and given the popularity of the game I imagine that its exactly the kind of thing Sony needed, along with announcements like Rock Band Unplugged, to get people excited about the system all over again, saying nothing of the boost it’ll likely provide Sony.

With a rapidly growing install base, the PSP platform is riding a wave of momentum that will be paired with a new hardware offering and its best software line up to date, demonstrating significant support from SCEA’s publishing partners. Two new limited-edition PSP Entertainment Packs will be available in 2009, bundling everything consumers need to jump onto the PSP platform, from the hardware to games, videos, and other content — all for $199.99 (MSRP).

From a first party perspective, SCEA will bring its biggest franchises from the PS3 to the PSP this year, starting with MotorStorm Arctic Edge and LittleBigPlanet in Fall 2009. These titles will be built from the ground up for PSP, offering users a unique portable experience based on the critically acclaimed franchises. Following are details for each game:

LittleBigPlanet — Developed in conjunction with MediaMolecule, the critically acclaimed game LittleBigPlanet makes its way to the PSP, offering new SackBoy adventures with the same play, create, share experience for gamers on-the-go, in addition to brand new levels and environments specifically created for the platform.

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persona_2upti02Additionally, RPGamer and other online news outlets are reporting that Atlus sent them a press release stating “leak this” (long story) in which they announce that the Japanese Shin Megami Tensei: Persona remake for the PSP will indeed be coming to U.S. shores (kind of a given, but still…).

This new version of Persona is claimed to be a remake by Atlus, as it features a brand new localization, gameplay enhancements, and new additions not seen in the PlayStation release. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona is planned for a fall release at this time.

Great, great news.  Not for my wallet, but then again it never is.

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Missile Mouse creator and all around good guy, Jake Parker, recently finished up a hefty 172-pages of inks forMM‘s first full-length graphic novel, “The Star Crusher.” And if you hop on over to his site you can see a few samples of those pages.  Even better, if you visit this particular post you can view a video of his inking a panel, accompanied by “Rambling Man” as mm_hd-ip_22performed by Lemon Jelly. Incidentally, that song turned me into an instant Lemon Jelly fan.

Be sure to check in at agent44.com often as Mr. Parker regularly updates the site with art, insights, and has a great dialogue with fans there.  As always, you can find the portal to his site on the sidebar.

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