When was the last time Bruce Wayne took off to the Bahamas just to chill, heal up, and get his mind back in the game? Nope — it just doesn’t happen. When you become a superhero, your work is never finished. Every moment you’re not on the battlefield, it’s research and reaction. Blood pressure probably claims more superhero lives than any particular villain.
The masking will not be televised.
J. Jonah Jameson’s knack for getting in his own way — possibly boosted by Black Cat’s bad luck powers rubbing off on him — keeps Peter Parker’s face obscured long enough for Silk to cover him up. In the chaos that follows, Silk and Spider-Man escape, leaving Felicia and her partner Electro scrambling for another plan to defeat our resident super spider and his partner.
With a dash of dramatic flair, and the subtlety of a bull in a China shop, the Samurai Chef judges his contestants’ dishes with his katana.
The various Kitches competing for an ultimate victory know their dishes live or die by the blade, and they’ll have to come up with some interesting tactics to defeat the Samurai Chef.
Nigel Twumasi of publishing house/clothing company mayamada answered a few questions about their newest project, what inspires him to do what he does, and what fans can expect from a story that involves food, samurai swords, and chefs who’ll have to cook up something tasteful and deadly.
Check out the website for the first volume of Samurai Chef and think about supporting them through crowd-funding sources like Kickstarter.
And to whet your appetite even more, check out this Samurai Chef Origins story arc that Nigel sent over.
Can you introduce yourself and give us information on your company, mayamada?
My name is Nigel, one of the two mayamada co-founders and writer of the Samurai Chef comic. mayamada is a story-driven brand inspired by the anime / manga art style. We’re based in London and our company is a creative mix of clothing, comics, and original characters. Everything we do revolves around on a fantasy television network that we’ve created and filled with an all animal cast of characters.
Think Looney Tunes meets Japanese television, and you’ll get the idea.
Can you give us a quick synopsis of Samurai Chef?
Samurai Chef is an action-comedy story with a lot of food. It begins as a simple cooking competition a la Iron Chef, but when the Elite Chefs turn up with special ingredients that turn their dishes into battle-ready opponents, the contest between dish and judge is taken to a whole new level!
The comic is obviously inspired by Japanese manga/anime and cooking shows. How are these elements being used particularly for Samurai Chef, and what are the creators hoping readers will get out of the story?
The entire mayamada universe is inspired by that style of art and personality in the characters and story. It goes through from our comics to our clothing designs. The Samurai Chef is one of the stories within mayamada, and there are others including 11th Hour and Hot Lunch. We’ll be getting into those once the Samurai Chef story is done.
With Samurai Chef, we want readers to have a light-hearted and accessible entry into reading comics and manga. Different mayamada stories will have a different tone and theme, but overall, our aim is to make them accessible so more people can get into comics, manga, and reading in general.
For instance, we’ve taken Samurai Chef to local schools and bookshops, and the reaction has been great. We’re hoping this continues as we produce more stories.
One of the things that really impressed me about the issue was the art, especially the food panels which actually made me hungry. Are the creators foodies or experienced working in kitchens?
We have a great artist on our team by the name of Pinali (@Pinalinet). She has been working with us from the beginning and does the majority of our artwork from t-shirt designs to the website and, of course, the Samurai Chef comic.
To my knowledge, no one in the team has worked in a kitchen! Both myself and my co-founder Lao are somewhat interested in food, though. Lao likes cooking shows, and I like to parody things, so that’s where some of the influences came from.
The Samurai Chef — is he an actual chef? And what is his scoring based on?
I can confirm Samurai Chef can cook although you won’t see it in either volume 1 or 2 or the story. Last year, we created a free prologue comic called Samurai Chef Origins which gives the background into the character and where his skills came from.
The scoring in the show is based on the difficulty Samurai Chef has dispatching a Kitchen’s dish. Over the course of the show/story, the contestants become increasingly clever in how they cook their dishes until Elite Chefs enter the show, and the competition goes up a few notches.
The story seems to revolve more on the individual kitchens working on beating the Samurai Chef at his own game. What can readers expect to find out about the individual teams?
They can expect each Kitchen to bring its own personality to the story. This is seen in the particular dish each [Kitchen] cooks and the way Kitchen members respond to the Samurai Chef and sometimes each other.
You’ll see the personalities from each Kitchen grow stronger as the book progresses and even more so in the second book which will be out this year.
In the later stages of the story, there is more focus on individuals within Kitchens which allows us to shed some light on what happens outside of the show itself.
You’ve used crowd-funding for your projects. Tell us what the experience is like and what you’ve learned in the process. What advice can you give other comic creators looking to self-publish?
We’ve learned that you have to be consistent about getting news of your project out to those that will be interested in it. Friends and family are an important first step, but it’s also important to find those people interested in your project’s particular niche and start speaking with them.
Ideally, this would be done before the project goes live, but it’s essential either way.
You also have to be realistic in setting your funding goal. That means not going too high that you can’t make the goal and not too low that you can’t afford to fulfill the project if you do get the money.
It can be worrying not knowing if you’ll be funded or not.
As well as the financial side, we’ve learned that is almost as important to use a crowdfunding campaign to raise awareness of your project as it can bring up some unexpected opportunities once it goes live.
After that it’s about being consistent and continuing to find ways to get word of your project out from the first day to the last. There is no guarantee, but it can be done.
At first, The Woodland Welfare Manifesto looks like something you might see in the children’ section of your local comic shop. The colors are vibrant, and most of the characters are … cuddly-ish animals.
And then, the main character urinates on a government document.
The Woodland Welfare Manifesto, narrated by Uncle Stas, details the adventures of Burnt Bear in his quest against the Capitalist Government. The pacing is quick, the characters nutty, and the artwork is brilliant.
I got an interview with artist John Hageman on the process of creating a comic that will be released June 18 on Comixology. Web comics are getting bigger, and it’s given artists and writers a more level playing field to show off their talents, tell their stories, and to play alongside the big boy. Taking a look at Hageman’s art, there’s a beautiful polish to it that rivals the computer-designed artwork prevalent in many Flash-cartoons.
But, as Hageman warns: The comic isn’t E for Everyone.
Can you tell us about yourself?
Well for starters, I’m 38 years old. Married with 3 kids ages 12, 8, and 5. By day I work for an ad agency, and by night I’m doing my art into the wee hours of the morning sometimes. Kind of like a Batman that doesn’t patrol the streets, doesn’t know how to fight, and stays up watching random documentaries on Netflix streaming.
What’s your background as an artist?
When I was 16, I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist. I used comics strips like Garfield and Mother Goose & Grimm to teach me how to draw. As I got older, TV shows like Ren and Stimpy influenced me in how to use expressions in my characters. When I got to community college, I took as many different art courses as I could from printmaking to painting and even sculpting. My final two years there, I was drawing one panel cartoons and various illustrations for the school paper. During the last year, I was continuing to do the one panel strips as well as a three-to-four panel strip toward the inside of the paper. I transferred to San Jose State for about a semester and a half then had to drop out. Years passed, and I was trying to develop a comic strip for newspaper syndication. I then discovered the world of Webcomics in early 2006. From 2006 to 2013, I posted a weekly webcomic called Social Vermyn. The story was about being anti-social and the problems that causes in everyday life. From that work, I was able to get attention from others to work on different projects, so my site has been on hold. Aside from the comic I have participated in many art shows selling a few paintings here and there.
How did this project get started?
I attended a Free Comic Book Day event at the Slave Labor Art Boutiki last year. I met with and sat next to Justin Sane who had already published many books through SLG. We connected on Facebook, and he asked if I wanted to do the illustrations for his script. The rest is history.
From the get-go, it seems like the comic is meant for humor — from the name of the writer to fake record. Is humor something that’s difficult to do, more so than drama or an action comic with superheroes?
For me humor is the easiest. It starts with my art style which allows me to contrast it with darker or more adult humor. It throws people off because they see this very kiddie cartoon style, and they think it’s E for Everyone. I like throwing people off with that. I think it makes for good entertainment. This particular comic takes its inspiration from the Rankin and Bass Claymation specials you usually see during a holiday. Justin’s dialogue comes from the narrator Uncle Stas who is a Russian that speaks broken English. For me, it added a nice layer of humor that went perfectly with the story and the art.
Can you explain the method to your madness? Did the art come first, or was it more of a direct/indirect collaboration with others? How long did it take from start to finish?
Justin had the entire script written out. He sent it to me, and right away I knew this was something I wanted to work on. I created the character designs and the first four pages to pitch to SLG for publishing. Once they liked what they saw, I began to work on pages. I penciled, inked, then scanned the pages into the computer, then used a Wacom Cintiq tablet to do the coloring. Once all 50 pages were done, I did the lettering. Once I finished all that, Justin would go back and look over the pages to make sure the story flowed, corrected any writing he wanted to tweak, and even added a page here and there to help the overall story along. The process on the whole took a little over a year which wasn’t bad considering it was the largest comic project I’ve done to date.
Your comic will be listed on Comixology. What was the process like working with them?
Luckily, SLG handled that process. What I hear from the editor is that with the advent of comics going digital, there’s a lot of formatting that needs to be done outside of the normal work you would be doing if it just went to print. From what I understand SLG does this process with all their books now as a way to publish digital as well as print. So from my stand point, it’s great when you can pass that task on and just focus on doing the art.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced from creation to finish? What lessons have you learned?
Mainly the size of it. ‘Til [now], I had only done weekly comics which was like a page a week from drawing to lettering. A 50-page book seemed like a lot at the beginning, but once I got into a rhythm it became much easier. My next challenge was making the pages look dynamic and interesting so the story would flow in way that wouldn’t seem stagnant while you read it. Justin’s writing made this task easy since he didn’t cram too much story/dialogue onto each page. This allowed me to push myself and try things I had never tried before artistically on my own comics. I was proud of the outcome on certain pages in particular, and I think it made me stronger as an artist so that I can use what I learned to push myself further on the next project I get to work on.
There’s very little setup for the main character in the first two episodes of Random Cushing’s comic series Refill.
What’s present are quickly paced stories filled with action, characters, and unpredictable plot turns. The art doesn’t settle for two dimensions — the layouts feel incredibly alive with movement.
That each episode is a self-contained story that adds something to the whole gives the series a bit of mystery with a compelling draw.
Check out Refill after reading the interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Random. I was born to a nomadic, scientific family at the start of the 1990s. I’ve always had an imagination for stories and practiced drawing and at a certain point the hand of fate face-palmed me into comicking. I want to adventure and make cool art. I love the work of Bill Watterson, Tatsuyuki Tanaka, Jamie Hewlett, Shinichiro Watanabe, and Ralph Steadman, to name a few; but I am influenced by a wide range of media.
Your comic Refill — what’s the background on the main character? It’s obvious he’s more than just your average errand-boy.
Phil is a grizzled cat from back in the day. He’s seen major changes in the scenes and players and learned to keep it close to the vest. He’s been doing this long enough to be discerning about the jobs he’ll take, so if he’s taking your money it’s either a favor or a worthy cause.
And he can Refill things.
The stories are character driven with the idea being to develop the scope of the world in which Refill takes place. It’s a post-power world. People have had super powers and special abilities for generations, and the society is built around it. It all started with the character Refill and just building his personality and relationships to other groups and individuals. To be natural, it has to be thorough, so there’s a lot to explore before we get to particulars. I like keeping things at a brisk pace. Dynamic scenes are more fun to draw than conversations.
As for the art — there’s a lot of detail and a great sense of setting and movement. How do you go about creating the scenery and panels?
Goodness—I’ve been trying to tone it down for speed. I try to arrange scenes cinematically: character enters here, falls over that, chases that guy there… so the environments are developed around the actions and tone of the scene. I work with rough layouts before I form every scene.
I want Refill to be animated as much as possible using the sense of movement and time generated by paneling. I’m fascinated by movement in static images.
As a writer/artist all-in-one, what’s the process as you create an episode, and what mediums are you using? What made you decide to produce a black and white comic?
I came up with Refill in 2008 and began drawing it — in pencil and Prismacolor fine pens and markers — in 2010, and since then I have co-written the series with Nick Sudar, third-year PhD student in physics at UCLA (he’s the smart one).
Many of our stories start with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” and then creating a character with that particular power. Then, it’s a matter of fitting them in to Phil’s world in a way that progress the story and world.
A long time back, Negative — one of the last big villains — succeeded in altering the scatter of light through the atmosphere: removing color from the world. The villain purge that followed established super hero dominance. The world’s been black and white since.
How long does it take for you to create an episode, and what are your plans for future stories? When can we expect the next episode?
When I’m really on my game I have done up to four pages a day. But usually it’s a bit harder to get in the zone. The last month we worked out our next script and character designs, and this month I have begun the pages of Episode 2: DP Slid; out at the end of July.
Is Refill something you’d ever want to Kickstart or bring to a major publisher?
That’s the plan. We’ve begun drafting the submission, and after DP Slid that will be our focus.
The cosplayer talent at Big Wow! 2014 was a sight to behold.
I especially enjoyed the group pictures taken downstairs in the foyer. Bill Watters set the groups up, gave directions, and rotated photographers in and out.
(Bill deserves muchos kudos for giving the cosplayers a great outlet that also considers accessibility for the photographers. I had an amazing time, and Mr. Watters did not discriminate between DSLR holders and point-and-shoots. I recommend it for any professional, budding, or amateur photographers next year!)
That provided for some keen photographs, and I had a great time snapping shots.
Big Wow! is only an hour away from me, but I’ve never been.
Why? I don’t know. But this year, I saw what I’ve been missing.
Before the convention, I gathered some information on what I should expect from Big Wow! — I was told it was artist-friendly, a bit more intimate, and less frantic. I checked out the impressive list of attendees and guests — notably, at least for me, Bin Furuya of Ultraman fame and Kenpachiro Satsuma, one of several men who’ve donned the Godzilla suit. Greg Rucka who grew up in my city and Michael Lark — co-creators on my favorite modern comic Lazarus — would be on hand as well along with Humberto Ramos, Buzz, Joe Rubenstein, Mark Brooks, and Stephane Roux.
(The list was a lot longer than the ones I got to meet.)
I started off my first trip to Big Wow! by getting on commission lists before my buddy Joaquin and I walked the floor exploring booths, shops, and artist information. Joaquin came with me to be a second pair of hands because the delicate nature of comics means having to watch out for tape while bagging and boarding — or unbagging/unboarding — and doing things as efficiently as possible without damaging anything. I caught the commission/signature/grading bug at my first convention, and I’ve treated comic-cons as work as much — or more so — as pleasure. Not that I’m there to flip everything I buy, but I have goals I want to meet. Blame it on my obsessive-compulsive nature.
(By the way, I’ve yet to sell any of my sigs or commissions — and besides a few I had Desert Wind Comics do that were multiples and through an artist who was fine with it, I might be holding on to them all, or most of them, for a very long time before some hands me a $1-million.)
If I had to describe Big Wow! to a person who had never been there — it’s got a vibe unlike any other convention I’ve been to. It wasn’t as packed as WonderCon or Wizard World Sacramento when Stan Lee and Chris Hemsworth made their only appearances on a Sunday, so it was easy to snag an autograph or chat for a while. I had conversations with Norm Rapmund who was surprised to find San Jose was farther from Los Angeles than he thought and Buzz who told me he’d hook me up on a commission of Spider-Man. I got a commission from Buzz before at another convention, and I knew what kind of quality he puts into his work. When I picked up my Spider-Man commission, I was floored. Again.
Meeting Rucka was a little nerve-wracking, seeing as how he’s a former Salinasan. I didn’t know if it was a subject I was allowed to approach, but when the area in front of me cleared, and I moved forward to shake his hand, his friendliness opened the doors.
“Hello, Mr. Rucka. I’m from Salinas, too.”
A big smile spread across his face, and he told me how much it surprises him to find people from his hometown. And when I told him I see his father’s commercials — Mr. Rucka’s a lawyer — Greg seemed wondrous. “He’s still doing that?” he asked.
I told him Lazarus was my favorite current book, and then I got my issues signed by Rucka’s boothmate, Lark, who earlier delivered my commission. Lark seemed very sweet, and I thanked him again.
“Which commission did I do for you?” he asked.
“The Batman rising up in the rain.”
Between walking the floor, complaining about being hungry, and shopping, I went to check on Bridgett Spicer, Ace Continuado, Chris Arrocena, and Ray Zepeda, Jr. — fellow Salinasans who had booths. At one point, Ace and Chris let me man their table while they went to check out the convention. I’ve had dreams of writing my own comic for a while now, and I definitely liked the idea of one day being able to talk to comic fans from that side of the booth as a creator.
As for Bridgett — she shared a space with Betsy Streeter — they looked like they were having a blast. Their booth, renamed the Fun Booth, garnered plenty of attention.
“I’m definitely doing this again next year,” Spicer said.
“Better than APE?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” she said, nodding her head, furiously.
And while I was mainly there for the artists, I did have a chance to meet and shake Bin Furuya’s hand. There was an awkward mixup when I went to the wrong booth to get a ticket — Steven Skyler of Power Rangers Samurai graciously corrected my mistake, telling me: “This is a totally different booth.”
When I found the person handling tickets, the man in front of me in line bought 12 autograph tickets with his pick of 12 photographs. The ticket handler threw in a couple more photos which Mr. Furuya signed politely. For an octogenarian, Furuya looked great, and he signed cards and thanked each person after each signing. While I waited, I snapped a photo of Mr. Satsuma as he posed for the camera.
I sort of freaked out when I placed my Ultraman #1 — I can’t believe I had one in my collection — down in front of Mr. Furuya. I don’t know if he’s ever signed comics, and he asked me, “Doko, doko, doko?” as he searched for a place to sign his name. I opened the cover, and he signed it on the inside.
“You sure that’s where you want it?” the CGC witness asked, “You won’t be able to see it when it’s slabbed.”
I slapped myself.
“Can you please sign it here?” I asked Furuya pointing to the slip over the cover.
He did, and then he signed a small card that had a picture of himself with his arm cradling the Ultraman helmet that he was the template for.
“This is the only one in the registry,” Mike of CGC told me, “He never does these shows.” Checking the CGC registry now, I can see there’s only one that’s ever been graded at all. Mine would be the second to get a grade, but it would be the first to be graded for the Signature Series.
I scored commissions from Stephane Roux who told me to return during the last hour of the convention on Sunday for quick sketches. My coworker is the biggest Harley Quinn fan I know, and I wanted to get him something.
I also received a Spider-Man from Joe Rubinstein — he holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for most inks over artists’ pencils — and I got an amazing Spider-Man for my Amazing Spider-Man #1 sketch cover. It was pretty much a Spider-Man weekend as I sort of shelved my Batman project to get various covers for my Amazing Spider-Man #1s. Ramos was the last commission I picked up — it seemed right to have the interior artist give me his own original for the outside.
I got a good number of souvenirs that I’m trying to figure out how to display without light damage. It’s a comic problem that I’m willing to take input on, so if you know of a way to show off CGC books without worrying about UV damage, please leave a comment.
Quin and I didn’t attend any panels until Sunday when we were reunited with a long-lost friend we haven’t seen in years. James and his son stopped by the convention and found us in line. It was great hanging out with the both of them — they were interested in action figures and other toys. James got a commission from Stefano Gaudiano, which seemed like a steal for what he got and how much he paid.
We ended the last day of the convention with a screening of the Batman Chronicles, hosted by Anthony Misiano with a Q&A panel at the end. Misiano made a great impression on me as he kept us entertained even when the projector and sound continued to malfunction. Instead of reacting to the problems with negativity, Misiano displayed a sort of humor and joviality that made a lot of fans, myself included.
The screening and Q&A ended 15 minutes after the convention was over, and I thought I missed my opportunity to get Josh a Roux quick sketch. James somehow got back in, and I chased after him. While Joaquin went to thank Ramos for a commission, I went to find Ace and Chris who were already gone. On the way back, I saw Mr. Roux talking with a few others. I approached him, thanked him for the commission, then asked if he had five minutes.
“Sure,” he said, “Do you have a Sharpie?”
I took out a Batman #29 sketch cover and a gold Sharpie.
“This will be the first gold Batman I’ve ever drawn,” he said.
“Actually, my coworker is a huge Harley fan.”
“Well, this will be the first gold Harley I’ve ever drawn,” he told me.
One of the others that Roux was talking to said, “Check this out. You’re going to see some magic.”
“I saw some magic earlier,” I told him, “Roux did a commission for me.”
“Was it on the sketch cover?”
“Yes,” I said.
“That one was awesome,” he said. We both nodded at each other as we saw a familiar face appear on a once-blank page.
I was first introduced to Andrez Bergen through the Comic Book Community on Google+. A fan of comics, Bergen has worked with artists from around the world for several stories. He’s also a novelist and a musician — a sort of Renaissance Man.
Corresponding with Andrez, I’ve become acquainted with a humble yet confident author with a range of interests. I’ve had the honor of reading Black + White, an anthology of Bergen comics that share a common thread — a love for the noir genre. With a sharp wit and a handle on the written word, Bergen’s stories come across as multi-dimensional with subtext hidden in between the lines. There are twists and turns that leave you hanging, which only serve to prove that you’ve been noired. Bergen’s passion for the genre is plain to see, and the stories lend themselves to several readthroughs.
Check out Black + White for a mere $1.00 after you read this interview.
First off, can you tell us about yourself?
Sure — I’m an Australian, born in Melbourne, who’s lived in Tokyo for the past 13 years. I do electronic music (as Little Nobody), I’m a journalist, and I write novels and do comic books. I’m a dad (my daughter is eight), I love sashimi and chocolate, along with beer and saké. I used to run IF? Records for about a decade and now co-run IF? Commix. Reading-wise, I’m right into the older detective-noir of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and with regard to comic books, I worship at the artistic altar of Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Frank Miller, David Aja, Matt Kyme, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Steve Epting.
You’re an Australian living in Tokyo, Japan. Can you tell us about how you ended up there?
I came here basically to pursue my music and journalism careers — since electronic music has so much of its roots in Japan (think Yellow Magic Orchestra, Fumiya Tanaka, and Merzbow), and one of my specialties as a journalist is manga/anime. I also teach English over here to cover the bills, ended up meeting my wife Yoko, love the place, and stayed.
You’re a novel writer. Did you start off doing novels before going to comics or the other way around?
I’ve actually been writing short stories and novels since I could hold a pencil, from early primary school, but I started making my own comics a bit later in high school. The writing has been a continuous thread, whereas comic books have been a haphazard passion. Then again, I was publishing a comic in the TAC Insurance newsletter in Melbourne way before I published my first novel (in 2011).
Black + White is an anthology that’s aptly titled. Not only is the artwork in black and white, but I’m assuming it’s also a nod to the noir genre. What is it about the genre that makes you want to tell these kinds of stories?
Definitely it’s that nod to noir. I mentioned that, literally speaking, I’m a big fan of Chandler and Hammett, and also Cain. And I love hardboiled cinema, from the old films with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, or by Akira Kurosawa — ‘Nora Inu’ is sensational — to contemporary versions. Noir’s dateless and can be applied to so many genres. Canny dialogue and offbeat characters are essential to good noir yarns, and the finale in no ways needs to be a happy one or even final. It leaves a lot to the imagination and is usually a darker ride. I find it downright energizing, and I know people like Ed Brubaker feel the same way.
The stories end on cliffhangers with a sort of unexpected twist. From inception to finish, how do you approach these stories?
They’re actually intended that way — short riffs that bounce out of my first novel ‘Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat’ but with new characters and intended as standalone tales. All of them began as short stories that ended up in the anthology ‘The Tobacco-Stained Sky’ (2013) either as written or sequential art pieces. I approached artists I liked and asked them if they would be interested in working together — and I was very, very lucky. I thought the stories deserved to be seen at their proper size rather than the much smaller paperback anthology they were originally printed inside. And I love the diversity in visual styles.
Can you describe the process you went through to choose/collaborate with the artists? I know of several writers looking for artists, and you’ve worked with a good number here. I also noticed you did the art for one of the stories. What was it like creating the visuals for your own story?
Basically, I approached artists I already knew for their other work — Drezz [Rodriguez], for example, for his online noir comic ‘El Cuervo’, and Michael Grills has done stunning work with ‘Runnin’ With a Gun’. Nathan I knew through his graphic novel ‘Baja’. Marcos and Andrew I discovered from work on their sites. When I thought about each story, I tried to imagine which artist would be the best work with which scenario. My own story was a great chance to bounce back into doing the visuals, since I’d taken a breather for a long, long time and to test out new digital technology in the process. It was a great warm-up for the ‘Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat’ graphic novel I’m currently assembling and pretty easy to bounce out of my own words.
What’s your view of comics in general, living in a country that cherishes the artform — an artform that’s vastly different than Europe and North America?
Oh man, I love all comic books — so long as they’re good. I grew up early on British comics, ‘The Phantom’ and Tintin, and discovered Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four when I was about six or seven years old. That segued into the manga I found in Australia, most of them by Katsuhiro Otomo, Yukito Koshiro, Kazuo Umezu, and Masamune Shirow. I love the storytelling differences that occur between countries, and the people who try to push the perimetres and disregard the “rules” — like Otomo, Umezu, Will Eisner, Kirby, Steranko, and David Aja. It’s all great.
The correspondence page found at the end of the issue will tell you the creative team needed two extra pages for Lazarus #7.
After reading the issue, it’s plain to see why.
In terms of density, Lazarus #7 earns the title of heaviest issue of the series. Jumping from plot to plot, the events this issue are wrangled into a thick storyline wringing readers through an emotional gauntlet.
And it does it by bringing us even closer to the characters and seeting via flashback and sudden bursts of emotional and physical violence.
Dealing with a possible terrorist threat to her family, Forever Carlyle performs her duties by gathering intelligence and interrogating the lone suspect, Emma. Unable to get anything out of her — backed into a corner, Emma’s responds with, “There’s nothing you can do to or take from me that your family doesn’t already have” — Forever brings in her sister Johanna.
We already know from this vantage point that Johanna’s intentions for her family are traitorous, and we get a good look at why she’s gone undetected for so long. As the good cop to Forever’s bad, Johanna tempts Emma with a lure of fame and serfdom.
In those scenes, we get the political and military wings of the Carlyle Family. Forever, as the armed hand, sees what a bit of diplomacy can do, especially from one so treacherous as Johanna.
We also get to spend some time with the displaced Barrets. With about a week to go before Lift selection, the family camps out somewhere in Wyoming.
The scene brings to mind the best elements of a Western — wide open spaces, the unfiltered relationships between travellers, the fear of the present, the hope for the future, and the ugliness of humanity that threatens peace.
Lazarus continues to be pull-list worthy, and the creative team deserves that Eisner nomination for Best New Series.
Greg Rucka’s world continues to reveal itself, warts and all, from the Family peaks to the Barret valleys. The major event is the Lift, and all paths look to be crossing there. It’s a testament to Rucka’s writing prowess — there’s no direct threat and imminent threat just yet, just the possibility of one, and we feel the tension and paranoia on the Carlyle side because it all feels very familiar.
The writing could have easily gone the path well-traveled with the Barret tragedy, but instead of drudging up emotion and preying on our sympathies, Rucka gives us just enough to play the rest of the details in our own minds.
The Barret scene also shows how perfectly matched the visual team is with the story. Michael Lark and Brian Level on art and Santi Arcas on colors get down to the nitty and gritty with profound fluidity. In one issue, we’ve gone from the sci-fi and sanitary dwellings of the Carlyles to the dirt and debris of the Wild Wild West, and not once did it feel like the two couldn’t exist in the same world.
The last page reveals the Lift is in reach, but at what cost? A lot of comic stories rely on that tried and true method of leaving readers with a cliffhanger, and Lazarus puts a twist on that by giving readers a glimpse of hope to go along with that bitter taste left in our mouths from the scenes previous.
Some keep their eyes on the goal, waiting for it to be achieved. What makes Lazarus so sweet is the journey itself — the lives of the characters and the state of the world they live in. The questions are just as important as the answers, and the experience is enriched because of it.
Lazarus #7 (2013)
Words: Greg Rucka
Art: Michael Lark and Brian Level
Colors: Santi Arcas
Letters: Michael Lark and Brian Level