All The Fans should be reading the Adventure Time Comic

Last month the 30th issue of Ryan North’s Adventure Time comic was released which featured a number of zine-style short stories, each told by characters from the world of Ooo. Not only was the milestone issue full of the quirks and laughs like every issue preceding but it was also emblematic of what North has accomplished so far. The 30th issue takes a “five short graybles”-esque approach to its storytelling by lining up a number of quick, punchy stories. What distinguishes the comic, however, is that each story is done in a wildly different artistic style and told by some of your favourite Adventure Time characters. The zine-style comic is entertaining as heck and is able to capture the spirit of the show which showcasing North’s deft writing and showing different artistic takes on the world of Ooo.

What consistently impresses me is how the Adventure Time comics have been diligent in adapting the show but also taking the world to new heights by exploring a new medium. North manages to distill the essence of what has already been established so that the overall tone of the comic remains faithful and authentic yet feels totally fresh. In so many ways I think I look forward to the comic even more than I enjoy the show because it constantly surprises me in both its faithful adaptation and novel innovation. Since the shows popularity seems to be so ubiquitous, I wanted to write a little bit (a lot, actually) about why I think the comic is just so lumping awesome.

The Spirit

More than anything else, the reason why the Adventure Time comic is essential reading for Adventure Time fans is because the comic so ably captures the humour, enthusiasm, and overall spirit of the cartoon. The thing that appeals most to me about Adventure Time is its relentless positivity and its ability to carefully craft humour that appeals to all ages. At its core, Adventure Time is a show that embodies the notion of what all ages should mean and while it clearly ventures down some very dark paths, the show’s overarching tone of positivity is able to steer it through some very mature and very dark areas. It is this spirit in both the sense of humour and the message of the source material that the comic captures so well without simply reiterating what the show has already done.

With a property as prolific and popular as Adventure Time, Boom! Comics could easily coast off of the success of the show and produce mediocre comics that could sell at decent numbers. It would be easy to make simple adaptations of popular episodes and present them in comic book form. Thankfully for both comic readers and Adventure Time purists, Ryan North has much more ambition than that. North is clearly a fan of the show and his love for the source material is evident on every page. Nonetheless, he quickly imprints his own unique humour onto the broader backdrop of Ooo.

North is the creator of the long-running Dinosaur Comics webcomic which relies on punchy lines, quick delivery, and deft dialogue to make readers laugh in just a few static panels. As such, his penchant for strong dialogue and quick one-liners makes him perfectly suited for the dialogue of Adventure Time’s robust cast of characters. As demonstrated in Dinosaur Comics, North has a particular cadence and style to his writing which blends astute observation, a quirky tone, and the ability to tap into the eccentricities of internet humour. For the Adventure Time comic, North transfers this style over and his voice shines through the characters while still being able to evoke the tone of the source material. North captures the sense of humour of the show but also applies his own unique brand of silliness to fill each comic page to the brim with hilarity. By maintaining the spirit of the comic in both its sense of humour and its overarching messages, North understands that he can remain faithful to the cartoon while also adding his own unique way of writing to more fully develop the Adventure Time universe.

The Medium

What fascinates me about the Adventure Time comic is how it takes the established tone of the show and transports it to a whole new medium. It seems like comics and cartoons would have a natural overlap but what I wasn’t expecting was for the Adventure Time comic to so perfectly harness the comic medium to elevate the types of stories that can be told in the Adventure Time universe. It is through innovation and utilizing the medium of comics that North and his artist collaborators find ways to present the reader with a whole new way to experience Ooo and its residents. In addition to the aforementioned zine-style 30th issue, two particular instances of harnessing the comics medium stand out, issues 10. In issue 10, the reader is treated to a choose your own adventure story. In this issue the Ice King’s magic makes YOU are the invisible force shaping the journey of Finn and Jake. You follow along the different paths and ultimately shape the story, taking it in new and hilarious directions. What is so impressive about this issue is its ability to tell a story that stays faithful to the spirit of Adventure Time and stays firmly rooted in a familiar setting but takes fans on a wildly different Adventure Time experience. The interactivity of the choose your own adventure story enabled North and artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb to pull fans deeper into the world of Adventure Time in ways that not only deepen your love for the Adventure Time universe but also adds an element of interactivity unlike anything possible on TV or in movies.

One other prominent instance of exploring an Adventure Time story through the comic medium occurred in issue 15 when Finn and Jake were cursed by Magic Man and found themselves unable to speak in words. Their only option was to turn to communicating in symbols, something that was delightful to see on the page but puzzling for their fellow residents in Ooo. Each time the characters “spoke”, a word balloon hovered over their heads containing clever iconographic representations of what they were trying to say (see above). The beauty of this trick is that, since a comic exists on a static page, you could spend time deciphering what each character was attempting to say and really decipher the symbols being used to tell the story. It’s a great premise that simply wouldn’t work on TV. By allowing the reader to control their own pace and their own experience, North was able to explore a capture of Adventure Time’s regular zaniness while also telling a story that could not be told in any other medium. In doing this, the Adventure Time comic embodies the same silliness and humour of the show while also expanding the potentialities for these characters to be used in innovative ways.

At the bottom of each page of the single issues of Adventure Time, North also adds little comments. They’re often random musings and clever quips and offer a ‘director’s commentary’ of sorts. some of them range from in-jokes to silly musings with my favourite being the one in issue 29 which simply reads “advantage: this medium”. It seems that North is enjoying experimenting with comics as much as I am reading them. While these annotations do little to expand the Adventure Time universe, they are nonetheless exemplary of how much fun the writer is having working on the comic and adds an easter egg for people following the comic in the single issue format.

Despite the visual and tonal overlap between cartoons and comics, the creative team behind the comic harnesses multiple aspects of comics that are unique to the medium, carefully choosing the book’s layout, panels, symbols, borders, and artistic conventions on each page to be able to create an experience that could not be replicated in any other form.

Spin-offs and Backups

Not only does the Adventure Time comic stand alone in execution but it also adds wrinkles to the Adventure Time universe by experimenting with the stories it can tell and the characters that it can tell the stories with. While the focus of this little write-up is on the main Adventure Time series, I would be remiss to not mention the great work that other creators have done in placing the focus solely on Adventure Time’s incredible extended cast. There is no doubt that extended cast of Adventure Time has contributed to its massive popularity and characters like LSP, Tree Trunks, Gunther, BMO, and Lemongrab have become fan favourites. The show has laid the groundwork for excellent stories to be told with these characters and it seems like each season shares a little bit more focus with the extended cast. His is also evident in the comic as North and other Adventure Time writers are able to explore the amazing Adventure Time cast without necessarily being tied to the two main characters. This is especially prevalent in the various spin-off series and OGNs that are solely devoted to the extended cast. These other projects showcase how awesome these characters are and tell great stories that the show may not be able to execute.

The spin off series and backup features in the main title usually deviate from the ‘house’ art style that is meant to look just like the cartoon. In these back-ups and mini-series, different writers and artists are able to explore the world of Adventure Time and are often able to go off-model for a different take on the distinct visual style of Ooo. As expected, seeing characters and settings explored in different ways can offer whole new ways of envisioning both the characters and the world in the Adventure Time universe. The freedom that exhibited in these artistic divergences are indicative of what makes comics such a great medium as a whole: the ability to try new ideas and explore different artistic possibilities isn’t limited by budgetary, technical, or (from what North has said in interviews) editorial constraints. It is clear that in each artist’s representation of Ooo they are exploring their own style while adapting to an established one, creating an incredible experience from both an artistic standpoint and as a faithful fan of the cartoon.

The ambition and creativity showcased in the regular Adventure Time title and the various miniseries makes them must-reads for any Adventure Time fan, even if there is no interests in comics writ large. The Adventure Time comic’s use of the medium is so masterful and so creative that it is able to serve as both an example of what makes comics such a cool medium and how fruitful the Adventure Time universe is for telling great stories. The humour, creativity, and artistic style demonstrated in the Adventure Time comics makes them one of the very best licensed comics I’ve ever read. The underpinnings of both the show and the comic rest in a quirky sense of humour, an instantly likeable cast, a charming aesthetic, and (most of all) a balance of unbridled joy and a touch of darkness. Taken together, both the original show and the comics are a testament to true all ages media that can resonate with audiences of any age. 

Issue 31 of Adventure Time comes out today and marks a great jumping on point. Drop by your friendly local comic shop to pick up the issue or buy it online on ComiXology.

As a little bonus, here’s a story from a couple years ago about how I started reading the comic and how awesome Mr. North is.

The story of San Francisco’s BatKid saving the day (thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation) is truly heartwarming. It should come as no surprise that superheroes mean a lot to me and it’s amazing to see how many people responded to one kid’s wish to be a hero for a day.The photos are truly enough to bring a tear to this nerd’s eye.
The story of BatKid reminded me of a recent story from Mark Waid’s Daredevil. Foggy Nelson (Daredevil’s best friend) is diagnosed with cancer, sending both himself and Daredevil on an emotional rollercoaster. While in the hospital, Foggy hears that Iron Man is coming to visit some of the sick kids in the hospital and he decides to say hello to Tony. Upon his arrival, he finds out that the kids are making a comic book for Tony in which the avengers kick the shit out of cancer. His reaction is one of shock but it’s the reaction of the kids that make this scene so poignant. Our hearts tell us that our heroes give us power and strength; though our brain may acknowledge that these characters are fictional, the mind is powerless to interfere with the power of hope.

Here are links to the sites for the Make a Wish Foundation if you want to support other amazing initiatives like this one.
Make a Wish Canada
Make a Wish SF and Greater Bay Area

(page from Daredevil 26 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. Goddamn, Samnee kills this page.)

The story of San Francisco’s BatKid saving the day (thanks to the Make a Wish Foundation) is truly heartwarming. It should come as no surprise that superheroes mean a lot to me and it’s amazing to see how many people responded to one kid’s wish to be a hero for a day.The photos are truly enough to bring a tear to this nerd’s eye.

The story of BatKid reminded me of a recent story from Mark Waid’s Daredevil. Foggy Nelson (Daredevil’s best friend) is diagnosed with cancer, sending both himself and Daredevil on an emotional rollercoaster. While in the hospital, Foggy hears that Iron Man is coming to visit some of the sick kids in the hospital and he decides to say hello to Tony. Upon his arrival, he finds out that the kids are making a comic book for Tony in which the avengers kick the shit out of cancer. His reaction is one of shock but it’s the reaction of the kids that make this scene so poignant. Our hearts tell us that our heroes give us power and strength; though our brain may acknowledge that these characters are fictional, the mind is powerless to interfere with the power of hope.

Here are links to the sites for the Make a Wish Foundation if you want to support other amazing initiatives like this one.

Make a Wish Canada

Make a Wish SF and Greater Bay Area

(page from Daredevil 26 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. Goddamn, Samnee kills this page.)

vicmalhotra:

A Kamandi sketch from my signing earlier today. This was my last sketch of the day so I was able to make it more complete.
Spent some time colouring the picture I took of it.
Happy Birthday Jack Kirby! 
-vic

vicmalhotra:

A Kamandi sketch from my signing earlier today. This was my last sketch of the day so I was able to make it more complete.

Spent some time colouring the picture I took of it.

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby!

-vic

Today marks the kickoff of pride week in the city of Edmonton. My LCS, Wizard’s Comics and Collectibles has given an open endorsement of Edmonton’s LGBTQ community and it inspired me to write up a quick #YEGPride reading list.
The Superheroic
Batwoman: Elegy
Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams took on the task of writing the definitive first story for Kate Kate, the new Batwoman. Rucka deftly tells the tale of a former cadet who chooses to leave the army in order to stay true to herself, painfully giving up one life in order to be honest in another. The story is gorgeously illustrated by Williams who blends fluid action, breathtaking visuals, and balances numerous styles (including a Mazzucchelli Year One homage) to tell a pull the reader deep into Batwoman’s world.
Batwoman: Elegy positioned Kate Kane as one of the most prominent lesbians in mainstream comics while telling an engrossing Bat-family story.

Gotham Central: Half a Life
Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, and Michael Lark expanded the scope of the Bat-universe with Gotham Central, extending the cast surrounding the main Bat-family and exploring new perspectives on superheroes. Rucka uses the street-level perspective on Gotham to explore the life of detective Renee Montoya, positioning her as one of the most capable cops in the Gotham City Police Department. In the Half a Life arc (issues 6-10), Montoya is outed as a lesbian and the reactions to her outing represent a powerful moment for both the character and the GCPD as a unit. 
Gotham Central explores new aspects of the Bat-universe while telling deeply personal and impressively affecting tales of the GCPD, including another of the DC Universe’s most prominent lesbian characters.

Young Avengers by Gillen and McKelvie
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie recently launched a new Young Avengers title which is packed with insane action, slick style, teenage angst, and boys kissing. Wiccan and Hulkling, Marvel’s most celebrated gay couple, take center stage in the first arc of the story and it becomes readily apparent that they will do whatever it takes to make each other happy, even if that involves accidentally summoning parasitic aliens from other dimensions. Gillen balances wit, insight, and humour to tell an entertaining but insightful story which is gorgeously illustrated by McKelvie who pushes the boundaries of structure, style, and even fashion in the comic. 
Young Avengers has only been around for a few issues but it features two of Marvel’s biggest gay characters and has demonstrated expert prowess by the creative team on the book.

Runaways
Superstar writer Brian K. Vaughan launched Runaways in 2003 which remains one of my favourite runs on comics ever. Vaughan tells the story of a group of teenagers who are the children of an illuminati-esque group of parents called the Pride. When the teens find out about their parents’ dark secret, they choose to work together to undo the damage caused by the shady organization. The whole cast of Runaways in phenomenal as each character begins to learn about themselves in ways that teenagers tend to do. In the run, Vaughan introduces Karoline Dean who discovers that she is an alien while also realizing that she is a lesbian. These two features may have isolated her if it were not for the acceptance of the Runaways crew and their chance encounter with a shapeshifting Skrull named Xavin. Xav can change into any form (s)he sees fit and, after (s)he and Karoline fall for each other, chooses a female form in order to further woo Karoline. Adrian Alphona co-created the team and his art is both kinetic and energetic while also demonstrating great expressions and a softness to each character.
Runaways is an accessible and endlessly entertaining book about teens discovering themselves and forging their own path. Vaughan capably tackles the notions of gender and sexuality while also crafting a fast-paced and engrossing superhero tale.

It’s time for me to head down to the parade so I’m going to have to make a part 2 of this post that looks at some titles from outside of the big two. Remember, fellow nerds, if there’s anyone who should be accepting of differences it’s us. Love what (or who) you love unequivocally.
(Photo from Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III which originally ran in Detective 854-860)

Today marks the kickoff of pride week in the city of Edmonton. My LCS, Wizard’s Comics and Collectibles has given an open endorsement of Edmonton’s LGBTQ community and it inspired me to write up a quick #YEGPride reading list.

The Superheroic

Batwoman: Elegy

Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams took on the task of writing the definitive first story for Kate Kate, the new Batwoman. Rucka deftly tells the tale of a former cadet who chooses to leave the army in order to stay true to herself, painfully giving up one life in order to be honest in another. The story is gorgeously illustrated by Williams who blends fluid action, breathtaking visuals, and balances numerous styles (including a Mazzucchelli Year One homage) to tell a pull the reader deep into Batwoman’s world.

Batwoman: Elegy positioned Kate Kane as one of the most prominent lesbians in mainstream comics while telling an engrossing Bat-family story.

Gotham Central: Half a Life

Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, and Michael Lark expanded the scope of the Bat-universe with Gotham Central, extending the cast surrounding the main Bat-family and exploring new perspectives on superheroes. Rucka uses the street-level perspective on Gotham to explore the life of detective Renee Montoya, positioning her as one of the most capable cops in the Gotham City Police Department. In the Half a Life arc (issues 6-10), Montoya is outed as a lesbian and the reactions to her outing represent a powerful moment for both the character and the GCPD as a unit.

Gotham Central explores new aspects of the Bat-universe while telling deeply personal and impressively affecting tales of the GCPD, including another of the DC Universe’s most prominent lesbian characters.

Young Avengers by Gillen and McKelvie

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie recently launched a new Young Avengers title which is packed with insane action, slick style, teenage angst, and boys kissing. Wiccan and Hulkling, Marvel’s most celebrated gay couple, take center stage in the first arc of the story and it becomes readily apparent that they will do whatever it takes to make each other happy, even if that involves accidentally summoning parasitic aliens from other dimensions. Gillen balances wit, insight, and humour to tell an entertaining but insightful story which is gorgeously illustrated by McKelvie who pushes the boundaries of structure, style, and even fashion in the comic.

Young Avengers has only been around for a few issues but it features two of Marvel’s biggest gay characters and has demonstrated expert prowess by the creative team on the book.

Runaways

Superstar writer Brian K. Vaughan launched Runaways in 2003 which remains one of my favourite runs on comics ever. Vaughan tells the story of a group of teenagers who are the children of an illuminati-esque group of parents called the Pride. When the teens find out about their parents’ dark secret, they choose to work together to undo the damage caused by the shady organization. The whole cast of Runaways in phenomenal as each character begins to learn about themselves in ways that teenagers tend to do. In the run, Vaughan introduces Karoline Dean who discovers that she is an alien while also realizing that she is a lesbian. These two features may have isolated her if it were not for the acceptance of the Runaways crew and their chance encounter with a shapeshifting Skrull named Xavin. Xav can change into any form (s)he sees fit and, after (s)he and Karoline fall for each other, chooses a female form in order to further woo Karoline. Adrian Alphona co-created the team and his art is both kinetic and energetic while also demonstrating great expressions and a softness to each character.

Runaways is an accessible and endlessly entertaining book about teens discovering themselves and forging their own path. Vaughan capably tackles the notions of gender and sexuality while also crafting a fast-paced and engrossing superhero tale.

It’s time for me to head down to the parade so I’m going to have to make a part 2 of this post that looks at some titles from outside of the big two. Remember, fellow nerds, if there’s anyone who should be accepting of differences it’s us. Love what (or who) you love unequivocally.


(Photo from Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III which originally ran in Detective 854-860)

Webcomics confuse me.
As you can probably tell, I’m primarily a “traditional” comics reader. I like to see how panels flow and how storytellers can use pages for pacing. This isn’t to say that I think that traditional comics have any categorical advantage or greater artistic merit over webcomics, only that, for me, I’m fluent in the language of traditional comics and while the aesthetic similarities of webcomics and traditional comics may be apparent, I believed that they are very different creations.

When my friend Sebastian asked me to do a review of his webcomic, The Aversion Bureau, you’ll understand why I was happy to help but also a little bit bewildered. I could heartily appreciate the art and humour in The Aversion Bureau but I didn’t really know how strip transition equated to page turns and how the sequential storytelling of webcomics differed from that of traditional comics. I loved the comic yet I didn’t feel as if I was adequately prepared or properly versed enough to review it. Though I made lofty promises of a fully-written review, time constraints and some nervousness resulted in me giving a brief few words orally rather than delivering what I had said I would.

On New Years Eve 2012, Seb announced that he would no longer be updating the strip. After releasing a comic 5 days per week for 79 consecutive weeks, the artist had grown understandably tired and needed a much needed rest. I missed my window to provide creative feedback and, despite him creating brilliant work for a year and a half, I wasn’t able to pull a measly review together. I’m still no more qualified to write a thorough review, but I can (hopefully) fulfill my promise to write something for him so here it is…

The Aversion Bureau: A Retrospective

5 days per week. 79 weeks. 397 weekday strips. 36 Sunday pieces. Wow.

Just by looking at the numbers you can tell that the Aversion Bureau was a labour of love for my friend Sebastien Ringuette. He poured every ounce of creative energy and free time into it, producing a comic that is original as it is hilarious and as engrossing as it is random. I could write at length about the joys of reading it and comment on my favorite moments, but I won’t because of my aforementioned lack of qualifications and because that would, of course, spoil the fun and adventure of reading it.

The Aversion Bureau was a project that was driven by love and dedication. The fact that Seb didn’t miss an update in over a year and a half is a testament to the willpower and commitment that he had in creating the comic. Honestly, I think that’s pretty incredible. I don’t think I could keep up that pace doing anything: eating well, working out, writing blog posts. Heck, even masturbating with that kind of regularity would probably be exhausting. Seb’s ability to create a wonderful comic with that kind of regularity is admirable in every way and exemplifies a singular focus and a level of dedication that is inspiring at numerous levels.

The creative energy exemplified by the Aversion Bureau can be told by more than just the sheer amount created and the regularity of its release. The tale of the Aversion Bureau, in fact, spans more than just the strips produced and the story told within them; it tells the story of the evolution of a creator and the growth of a fan. The creator, of course, is Sebastien and the fan is, somewhat selfishly, me.

As stated earlier, webcomics aren’t my area of expertise and I was ambivalent toward writing a full review of the Aversion Bureau. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the material; I just wasn’t well-versed enough in the medium to provide meaningful feedback. I realize now, however, what I should have known all along: my enjoyment of the content is all that matters. As a reader of the comic, I could not be more entertained and as a friend of the creator, I could not be more proud.

The thing about traditional comics that I enjoy the most is the ability for creators to create a vision that is clearly communicated to the reader. Comics are creative alchemy: between words, pictures, and panels; between writers, artists, inkers, letters and colorists; and between building a history, revising that history, and developing a future to further build upon. Traditional comics are at once collaborative but also direct. After all, a very small creative team communicates their story to you directly. The best comics are ones in which creators leave clear imprints with a strong narrative direction that captures the voice of the creators in a way that only that specific creative team could do. Unlike film and TV, comics are rarely limited by budget or warped by executive mandate: comics are limited only by imagination.

If that direct line from the creator to the reader is what makes comics so special then webcomics embody this notion more clearly than perhaps any other medium. Webcomics present the opportunity for a singular creative vision where the barrier between the reader and creator is as thin as the screen you read from. As both a reader of The Aversion Bureau and a friend of its creator, I could so clearly hear different aspects of Seb’s personality and his life (and embellishments thereof) within both the characterization and the adventures of The Aversion Bureau’s cast. Sebastien delivers an experience that only he could produce as his creativity and mad sense of humour manifest in the comic; the Aversion Bureau is the imagination of Seb in its purest form, transfused and translated into comic form.


Upon reading the Aversion Bureau, you will find that the pace of the story picks up quickly and delivers consistently. The comic wins the attention of the reader and rewards them by pulling them into a whirlwind of world-building, adventure, and comedy. Each strip advances the story while delivering hilarious lines and gags along the way. Once you become more comfortable with the main characters and the Bureau itself, you can feel the creativity expand and the ridiculousness step up a level. From ongoing arcs to quick gags, every strip delivers a funny and satisfying part of a surprisingly thorough whole. Each strip feeds into a wider narrative yet Seb don’t hesitate to move sideways into moments of self-contained hilarity. This non-uniformity in both storytelling and humour allows for a creative freedom that ensures the very best of Seb’s idea are transmitted to an audience which cannot help but be completely engaged. In each arc, Seb balances humour with adventure while adding a personal touch and a dash of sentimentality (as evidenced by the strips in this post). Over the course of nearly 400 strips, Seb builds a world in which jokes flourish and are infused with a neverending stream of wit, hilarity, and absurdness.

The story itself isn’t the only thing that picks up and delivers consistently, of course. Seb’s evolution as a creator charts a similar arc, rising quickly and impressing at every level. From the evolving quality of art to the selective use of colour and even to the introduction of Sunday pieces, you can feel Seb growing as a creator and the confidence and quality of his work building every day. Each new strip and arc pushes the overall quality of the Aversion Bureau to new heights. Upon re-reading the story from the beginning, it truly dawned on me how much Seb had accomplished in creation and his artistic skill. It occurs to me now that it seems only natural that he would be choose to leave the strip behind, not because his passion for it has diminished but rather because making the comic has driven his creative development and has vaulted him to new levels as he seeks to develop himself as a more holistic artist and even more accomplished creator. The Aversion Bureau imbued a sense of confidence in him that not only improved his stills but also continue to push him to create new things and move into new and exciting directions. Our passions drive us and creativity is the intangible substance that fuels our most earnest desires. Above all things, the Aversion Bureau is a manifestation of unrelenting passion driven by unbridled creativity.


I know Seb has some big plans for the future and it’s a privilege to not only read his wonderful creation but also express a few thoughts about it.
Seb will be representing the Aversion Bureau at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo from April 26th-28th at booth 1024. He’s a wonderful guy and an enthusiastic creator so please come by for some laughs, some comics, and maybe even a hug.
And to Seb (whom I know will be reading this) thanks for the joy, the friendship, and the inspiration.

Webcomics confuse me.

As you can probably tell, I’m primarily a “traditional” comics reader. I like to see how panels flow and how storytellers can use pages for pacing. This isn’t to say that I think that traditional comics have any categorical advantage or greater artistic merit over webcomics, only that, for me, I’m fluent in the language of traditional comics and while the aesthetic similarities of webcomics and traditional comics may be apparent, I believed that they are very different creations.

When my friend Sebastian asked me to do a review of his webcomic, The Aversion Bureau, you’ll understand why I was happy to help but also a little bit bewildered. I could heartily appreciate the art and humour in The Aversion Bureau but I didn’t really know how strip transition equated to page turns and how the sequential storytelling of webcomics differed from that of traditional comics. I loved the comic yet I didn’t feel as if I was adequately prepared or properly versed enough to review it. Though I made lofty promises of a fully-written review, time constraints and some nervousness resulted in me giving a brief few words orally rather than delivering what I had said I would.

On New Years Eve 2012, Seb announced that he would no longer be updating the strip. After releasing a comic 5 days per week for 79 consecutive weeks, the artist had grown understandably tired and needed a much needed rest. I missed my window to provide creative feedback and, despite him creating brilliant work for a year and a half, I wasn’t able to pull a measly review together. I’m still no more qualified to write a thorough review, but I can (hopefully) fulfill my promise to write something for him so here it is…

The Aversion Bureau: A Retrospective

5 days per week. 79 weeks. 397 weekday strips. 36 Sunday pieces. Wow.

Just by looking at the numbers you can tell that the Aversion Bureau was a labour of love for my friend Sebastien Ringuette. He poured every ounce of creative energy and free time into it, producing a comic that is original as it is hilarious and as engrossing as it is random. I could write at length about the joys of reading it and comment on my favorite moments, but I won’t because of my aforementioned lack of qualifications and because that would, of course, spoil the fun and adventure of reading it.

The Aversion Bureau was a project that was driven by love and dedication. The fact that Seb didn’t miss an update in over a year and a half is a testament to the willpower and commitment that he had in creating the comic. Honestly, I think that’s pretty incredible. I don’t think I could keep up that pace doing anything: eating well, working out, writing blog posts. Heck, even masturbating with that kind of regularity would probably be exhausting. Seb’s ability to create a wonderful comic with that kind of regularity is admirable in every way and exemplifies a singular focus and a level of dedication that is inspiring at numerous levels.

The creative energy exemplified by the Aversion Bureau can be told by more than just the sheer amount created and the regularity of its release. The tale of the Aversion Bureau, in fact, spans more than just the strips produced and the story told within them; it tells the story of the evolution of a creator and the growth of a fan. The creator, of course, is Sebastien and the fan is, somewhat selfishly, me.

As stated earlier, webcomics aren’t my area of expertise and I was ambivalent toward writing a full review of the Aversion Bureau. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy the material; I just wasn’t well-versed enough in the medium to provide meaningful feedback. I realize now, however, what I should have known all along: my enjoyment of the content is all that matters. As a reader of the comic, I could not be more entertained and as a friend of the creator, I could not be more proud.

The thing about traditional comics that I enjoy the most is the ability for creators to create a vision that is clearly communicated to the reader. Comics are creative alchemy: between words, pictures, and panels; between writers, artists, inkers, letters and colorists; and between building a history, revising that history, and developing a future to further build upon. Traditional comics are at once collaborative but also direct. After all, a very small creative team communicates their story to you directly. The best comics are ones in which creators leave clear imprints with a strong narrative direction that captures the voice of the creators in a way that only that specific creative team could do. Unlike film and TV, comics are rarely limited by budget or warped by executive mandate: comics are limited only by imagination.

If that direct line from the creator to the reader is what makes comics so special then webcomics embody this notion more clearly than perhaps any other medium. Webcomics present the opportunity for a singular creative vision where the barrier between the reader and creator is as thin as the screen you read from. As both a reader of The Aversion Bureau and a friend of its creator, I could so clearly hear different aspects of Seb’s personality and his life (and embellishments thereof) within both the characterization and the adventures of The Aversion Bureau’s cast. Sebastien delivers an experience that only he could produce as his creativity and mad sense of humour manifest in the comic; the Aversion Bureau is the imagination of Seb in its purest form, transfused and translated into comic form.

We all scream for eye beams

Upon reading the Aversion Bureau, you will find that the pace of the story picks up quickly and delivers consistently. The comic wins the attention of the reader and rewards them by pulling them into a whirlwind of world-building, adventure, and comedy. Each strip advances the story while delivering hilarious lines and gags along the way. Once you become more comfortable with the main characters and the Bureau itself, you can feel the creativity expand and the ridiculousness step up a level. From ongoing arcs to quick gags, every strip delivers a funny and satisfying part of a surprisingly thorough whole. Each strip feeds into a wider narrative yet Seb don’t hesitate to move sideways into moments of self-contained hilarity. This non-uniformity in both storytelling and humour allows for a creative freedom that ensures the very best of Seb’s idea are transmitted to an audience which cannot help but be completely engaged. In each arc, Seb balances humour with adventure while adding a personal touch and a dash of sentimentality (as evidenced by the strips in this post). Over the course of nearly 400 strips, Seb builds a world in which jokes flourish and are infused with a neverending stream of wit, hilarity, and absurdness.

The story itself isn’t the only thing that picks up and delivers consistently, of course. Seb’s evolution as a creator charts a similar arc, rising quickly and impressing at every level. From the evolving quality of art to the selective use of colour and even to the introduction of Sunday pieces, you can feel Seb growing as a creator and the confidence and quality of his work building every day. Each new strip and arc pushes the overall quality of the Aversion Bureau to new heights. Upon re-reading the story from the beginning, it truly dawned on me how much Seb had accomplished in creation and his artistic skill. It occurs to me now that it seems only natural that he would be choose to leave the strip behind, not because his passion for it has diminished but rather because making the comic has driven his creative development and has vaulted him to new levels as he seeks to develop himself as a more holistic artist and even more accomplished creator. The Aversion Bureau imbued a sense of confidence in him that not only improved his stills but also continue to push him to create new things and move into new and exciting directions. Our passions drive us and creativity is the intangible substance that fuels our most earnest desires. Above all things, the Aversion Bureau is a manifestation of unrelenting passion driven by unbridled creativity.

Closure

I know Seb has some big plans for the future and it’s a privilege to not only read his wonderful creation but also express a few thoughts about it.

Seb will be representing the Aversion Bureau at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo from April 26th-28th at booth 1024. He’s a wonderful guy and an enthusiastic creator so please come by for some laughs, some comics, and maybe even a hug.

And to Seb (whom I know will be reading this) thanks for the joy, the friendship, and the inspiration.

What’s happening here?! Well, Finn and Jake have been hit by a spell that forces them to speak ONLY in symbols. What time is it? Ad+ vent+ (urn-n)+e Time!
I have an equal amount of love for both the Adventure Time show and the comic but it’s amazing visual gags like this that not only reiterate the quality of the comic but really make it stand on its own. The comic continuously pulls things off that would be impossible in the cartoon while maintaining the same outrageous humor.
(From Adventure Time 15 by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Brandon Lamb)

What’s happening here?! Well, Finn and Jake have been hit by a spell that forces them to speak ONLY in symbols. What time is it? Ad+ vent+ (urn-n)+e Time!

I have an equal amount of love for both the Adventure Time show and the comic but it’s amazing visual gags like this that not only reiterate the quality of the comic but really make it stand on its own. The comic continuously pulls things off that would be impossible in the cartoon while maintaining the same outrageous humor.

(From Adventure Time 15 by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Brandon Lamb)

That Jack Kirby guy can really draw. Also, this is some of Stan Lee’s finest writing.
(Tales of Suspense 85 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)

That Jack Kirby guy can really draw. Also, this is some of Stan Lee’s finest writing.


(Tales of Suspense 85 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby)

Action Comics Fantasy Creators List

With Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics wrapping up and his replacement, Andy Diggle, stepping down after just a few issues (one?), Tony Daniel will become the writer and artist on the title. From the outside, the DC offices look like a mess. They may have a master-plan that they’re executing (or just biding time until the Superman movie and the Snyder/Lee Superman: Unchained come out) but right now things look pretty chaotic.

I don’t want to dwell on the current state of DC but instead reflect on the stories I wish were coming out. I’m going to take this moment of upheaval to create an Action Comics fantasy roster and outline the kind of stories that I would like to see. I’d encourage you to do the same because Superman is a character that people can fall in love with for a multitude of reasons.

I’m going to be focusing on writers that aren’t currently working on major superhero works in order to give a fresh spin on Action Comics.

 

First Pick

What I want

The essentials: Superman as a hero, a paragon of social justice, and a beacon of hope.

Why I want it

I really enjoyed Morrison’s run on Action Comics. While it was a little bit inconsistent and had its rather absurd moments, I felt that the run had some truly superb moments and explored different aspects of the Superman mythos in an intriguing way. With that said, as the definitive first story of the new-52 Superman, I feel like it left a lot to be desired. In Morrisonian fashion, the writer plunged into the deep history of the character yet only spent minimal amounts of time examining the core of Superman’s character. Morrison played with the thematic notion of Superman as a groundbreaking and inspirational hero but only teased aspects of his character that would allow new readers to fall in love with him.

Ideal writer:

Jen Van Meter

Jen Van Meter is a tremendous writer who excels at writing character-driven stories infused with humour and wit while adding shades of social justice and societal examination. She is best known for her series at OniPress Hopless Savages but it is her work at DC, namely Black Lightning: Year One and Batman: the Golden Streets of Gotham, that make me believe that she would write a great Superman book.

Van Meter is one of my favourite writers because she delivers characters so earnestly. In Hopeless Savages, Van Meter examines the dynamics of a family and slowly sheds lights on the perspectives of numerous individuals. By giving an earnest and passionate portrayal of each character, Van Meter is able to examine the differences between individuals and the sympathies and frustrations that we encounter while also being able to subtly examine the composition of individuality. She examines drug use, sexuality, bullying, and counterculture without ever drifting away from characters which comprise the core of the story.

In her takes on Black Lightning and Batman, Van Meter examines how a hero serves as an embodiment of the highest ideals of a given community, even when corruption runs rampant and the bleakest outlooks are a reality. Van Meter delicately balances the notions of the superheroic and the symbolic to craft tales that are truly about inspiring justice.

Black Lightning: Year One taps into the humanity of its titular character while acknowledging that the battles between good and evil extend far beyond one man. Evil has a way of permeating culture and embedding itself deep in the psyche of individuals and communities. Black Lightning: Year One shows the story of how the passion, drive, and relentlessness of one hero can serve as a rallying point for an entire community to believe in itself.

Superman should be an embodiment of hope: a character that not only punches evil but dispels it from the minds of the people he inspires. If we learned anything from the Orson Scott Card debacle, it’s that people want Superman to tap into the best parts of humanity while fighting off the worst parts of it and we want a writer who can tap into those ideals. Van Meter has demonstrated before that she can write a strong character-driven story that illustrates how a hero can serve as a figure that people can believe in and rally behind.

Ideal artists: Becky Cloonan, Phil Noto, Marcos Martin

image

(from Black Lightning: Year One #2)

Second Pick

What I want

High-flying Action and/or Space Adventure

Why I want it

There is a distinct lack of fun across the board at DC. While the new 52 launch contained OMAC and Frankenstein, there are very few comics in the DC line that intentionally distance themselves from the tight-fisted, gritty brand that DC is trying to promote. What better way to introduce a little bit of fun to the line than putting the action back in Action Comics?

Ideal writer:

Jim Zub

I was really excited for Skullkickers scribe Jim Zubkavich to take over Birds of Prey. Sadly, that did not come to fruition but I really believe that Jim Zubkavich is a writer that can adeptly balance action, adventure, humour and deceptively compelling storylines. A high-flying Superman tale with wacky adventures but also a little bit of world building would do wonders for not only promoting some fun in the DC comics line but also providing a jumping-on point for readers of any age or experience.

Zubkavich’s Skullkickers is one of my favourite creator owned books coming out. It’s a swashbuckling adventure story that adds humour and a touch of camp to a rich fantasy world. While the story is infinitely entertaining, beneath the outlandish jokes and over-the-top action lies a surprisingly dark underbelly. A rich world is being built over the course of numerous other adventures and, while the jokes and action may be the most entertaining aspect of Skullkickers, it is the world building that keeps it at the top of my read pile every month. The ability to tell satisfying and entertaining stories while building a rich world would serve Superman well, especially if a little bit of humour and levity was injected into the title.

Another Zub-penned book, Makeshift Miracle, tells the story of the young Colby Reynolds whose life is dramatically changed when a girl comes crashing into his life… literally. In Stardust-esque fashion, the young boy finds out that a girl has plunged from the sky and into his world. In Makeshift Miracle we see a boy juggling his own anxieties and fears with these same feelings mirrored by this new stranger. If we consider Superman, we can ask: what is more heroic that attempting to manage your own anxieties while trying to fulfil the expectations of others? Zubkavich’s ability to balance the desires of others with the duty imposed on heroes would provide an added layer that would deeply enrich a Superman story.

In addition to being an immensely gifted writer, Jim  is also incredibly passionate about writing comics. He is a vocal supporter of other creators and genuinely loves the work he does. This kind of enthusiasm is infectious and I truly believe that if he channelled this passion into the Man of Steel he could thoroughly bewitch the audience.

Ideal artists: Ramon Perez, Edwin Huang

Third Pick

What I want

A focus on the extended cast (specifically Lois and Jimmy)

Why I want it

I’ve heard a few people complain that they don’t know whether Superman or Action Comics is providing the definitive new-52 Superman story. Again, Morrison’s run has been a cool piece of storytelling but has failed as the cornerstone book of the new 52 Superman. In order to clear this confusion up, I would love to see Action Comics focus more heavily on the extended cast of the Superman family namely Lois, Jimmy, and Lex.

Ideal writer

This one is tricky, especially since I’m trying to avoid writers who already have projects at Marvel or DC. Paul Cornell wrote a great Lex story, Gail Simone would write a great Lois and Jimmy, and I’d like to see what Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray could come up with. Since I can’t really choose, I’ll cheat a little bit and go with…

Matt Kindt

(Yes, I know he’s contributing to Justice League of America right now but I’m choosing him anyways.)

Matt Kindt has been a favorite creator of mine every since first reading his graphic novel Super Spy. Kindt is exceptional at telling jam-packed smaller stories that intertwine to make an exquisite whole. Super Spy demonstrates that he can examine numerous facets of characters and delve deep into the psyche of the people that inhabit his worlds. His attention to detail and ability to craft unique spins on stories makes me think he could do a great job penning Lois or Lex.

Kindt’s work on another graphic novel, Revolver and the (sadly) cancelled Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. also proves that he is comfortable delving into the weird side of stories, exploring new worlds and topsy-turvy settings to deliver compelling adventures to the reader. This would fit a Jimmy Olsen story exceptionally, and I believe Kindt’s unique skillset could make for a balanced, thorough, and incredibly entertaining take the rest of the Superman family.

Fourth Pick

What I want

A truly all-ages Superman story that is light on continuity

Why I want it

The sole reason that I want this book is because I because I want Superman to be available to readers of any age.

Ideal writer

Art and Franco.

I’ve written before about how much I love these guys. They would be able to write a great Superman… wait… they already did this? Oh, it’s called Superman Family Adventures! Neato! Oh… what do you mean it’s cancelled?

Damn.

In all seriousness, I really love(d) Superman Family Adventures but it was still skewed toward a very young audience, despite the treats that older readers could latch on to. I would love to see Action Comics appeal to older teens while also being able to satisfy older readers. For that, I’m going to choose…

Faith Erin Hicks

I was pretty late getting into the works of Faith Erin Hicks. I read Friends With Boys just a few months ago and immediately fell in love with Hick’s ability to tell entertaining stories while tapping deep into the emotions of each of her creations. Hicks is able to contrast the mundane with the fantastic in a way that feels completely organic and would lend itself well to telling accessible and entertaining Superman stories.

Her webcomic The Adventures of Superhero Girl was recently released in hardcover by Darkhorse and I devoured it. Hicks once again demonstrates the ability to make the mundane entertaining and the superheroic accessible to any reader. The tales of Superhero Girl show that Hicks is well-versed in superhero comics and, when chanelled into Superman, Hicks would be able to showcase how Superman is the prototypical hero while infusing him with a strong emotional core and examining his character from numerous angles.

Wrap Up

Well anyways, that wraps up my Action Comics dream-list. I know it was a little unorthodox, but it was a fun exercise in thinking about what I want to see from not only Superman but from DC writ large. Once again, I encourage you to come up with your own list because Superman is a character that can be showcased in so many different ways.

Oh my goodness I can’t wait for this. Tiger Lawyer puts all other tigers to shame.

… Except Hobbes. Hobbes is always number 1.

Oh my goodness I can’t wait for this. Tiger Lawyer puts all other tigers to shame.

… Except Hobbes. Hobbes is always number 1.

(Source: rferrier)

iamdavidbrothers:

I want you to keep this two-page story by Matt Wayne, John Paul Leon, Noelle Giddings, and Dave Sharpe in mind this month. I want you to think of this every time someone — anyone, myself included — invokes Dwayne McDuffie’s name.

I want you to think about what they have to gain when they say the man’s name.

(Source: iamdavidbrothers, via brianwood)