Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DayBlack Issue 2

Written and Illustrated by Keef Cross

The first issue definitely drew me into the story. This time Cross tells us more about Merce's modern life as a tattoo artist in DayBlack, Georgia. In Issue one, we learn that Merce has figured out a way to suck blood without killing anyone. He became a tattoo artist and used the needles to siphon blood out of unknowing victims. This idea is hip and demonstrates that Cross knows how to write.

Again, we meet Merce while he awakes from his coffin which is covered with promotional stickers for soul artists. That alone gets props. I spent several minutes looking at these stickers to see if I ever owned any. Cross also introduces us to another character who works for Merce. Cross gives her enough dialogue without taking away anything from the story.

Merce continues to have dreams of times past mixed in with fantasies. Lately, they have been happening so much that it's been affecting his work. At one point, he ends up killing a customer. While burying the victim, he encounters a vampire hunter.

Cross does a great job of providing enough mystery and moving the story along. This is very difficult to do when introducing a new character to a new audience. The artwork is stupendous (an adjective I used in the review for issue 1). Cross should be penciling for the major publishers. I look forward to grabbing more issues of DayBlack.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Comic Books and Reading

I thought I wrote this piece a few years ago. I realized that literacy and comic books are topics that I discuss at least twice a day as a parent, sometime educator, and mentor. I talk about it so much, I believed that I must have written about it at some point. Every week, a teacher or parent asks me how to get children to read. Comic books is my first answer. Reading comic books are a great and easy way to get a child to read. Ask any librarian in the United States and they can recommend several comic books and graphic novels.

I have to point out that comic books are expensive. Even digital comics can put a huge dent in any one's budget. Most comic shops have dollar bins where they sell back issues for $1. I give away comic books to children I teach and mentor so dollar bins are a blessing. So for you educators, finding a dollar bin will help you tremendously.

Below are some comics I highly recommend to parents, educators, coaches, mentors, and other people who work with children:

Note: I am a Marvel head. So the small list is strictly Marvel. Both DC and Marvel publish children friendly versions of their flagship titles such as the Avengers, Justice League, Captain America, Batman, etc. I let some children and my own read them and they weren't too excited about them. The ones listed below are fast hits. Also, I don't read Manga and I know many teenagers who are into them. My list does not have any Manga either.

  1. Ultimate Comics Spider Man – This series has ended and the story of the Afro Latino web slinger continues in Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider Man and the All New Ultimates where Morales is now the leader of. The thing is if you just jump into the latter two series you will be confused. Ultimate Comics Spider Man written by Brian Michael Bendis can be found on trade paper back (TPB) now. You might still be able to find some old copies in the dollar bins.

That being said, this is was an amazing run by Bendis with Sara Pichelli on the breakdowns. Bendis deals with race, class, and school inequities. It is a serious book that deals with middle schoolers. All of the children I gave these issues to never complained about the adult themes. At the same time Miles Morales seemed to have a good time being Spider Man right up until the end of the run where he realized he had to step up to the plate as a leader. (See also the Spider Men story where Miles Morales meets Peter Parker of Earth 616)

  1. Ms. Marvel

This is another series I enjoy. Written by G. Willow Wilson and penciled by Adrian Alphona, it is about Kamala Khan, a Pakistani teenager who lives in New Jersey. Her parents are liberal. That part is my favorite but Khan is a teenage girl and it comes with so much baggage. As a parent of a teenager, I can only imagine what her parents go through. Add to the idea that she gains super powers during the events of the Inhumanity crossover after the Infinity situation where Thanos invaded Earth.

The best part of the story is that everyone thinks that the blonde haired Avenger named Captain Marvel is fighting crime in their small NJ town when in actuality its Khan. No matter what she does, she doesn't get the props she deserves. Yup, its a true teenage story.

  1. Nova
    Dan Abnett breathed new life into Nova aka Richard Rider. Before Abnett, I got tired of Nova. Abnett did his thing with this character. When we thought he was killed off, I was not happy. When I heard there was going to be a new character taking up the Nova mantle, I wasn't too happy. It took me a minute to cop issue #1. I was very satisfied.

Sam has taken the mantle that was previously held by his father, Jesse Alexander, who he assumed was a crazed drunk. Once he wears the Nova helmet, he goes on some huge adventures. Its the stuff of dreams. I forget that Sam is only 15. Really none of the characters discussed in this post are over that age.

Again, I am a Marvel head and these are the titles that speak to me and the children I mentor and teach. I hope this list helps anyone out. Feel free to suggest any other ones in the comments section.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Are Movie Audiences Stupid?

No, I don't believe so. There was a time when I thought that movie audiences were just not sophisticated enough. Hollywood execs would have you thinking that way. This is also not a defense of Hollywood and their racist and sexist antics. I just don't find that the average movie goer is a zombie.

There will always be that debate about low brow and high brow art. Some people prefer to buy fiction that makes them think and is written poetically while others may just want that racy spy novel. When you do the numbers, most people prefer the racy spy novel over the Pulitzer prize winning book. There is nothing wrong with that. It's also perfectly okay for that writer who puts out phenomenal work and doesn't sell that many books to rant about the state of affairs. The same can be said for musicians and other artists.

We have to admit that making a living as an artist is not an easy thing. Ask any famous artist who isn't alive. Most of them did not become prominent until well after their deaths. Very few artists were able to cash in on their genius while still alive. Yet I digress.

It's easy to assume that the droves of people going to watch those summer blockbusters, sometimes over and over, are just extras from the movie “Wall E.” I get mad when a great movie director produces a wonderful film and it gets meager returns. So I find it easy to wastefully rant at dinner parties and summer BBQs about this.

The thing about it is that people want to be entertained. Heck, I want to be entertained as well. I will be the first to admit that I prefer to watch the latest episode of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta over the latest documentary about a particular social issue and I love documentaries. I find that many of us prefer to do the same as well. Many of us work very hard for our money and going to the movies with your family on a Friday night is probably the closet thing we have for a good time. We really can't knock that.

Some people want to go to the movies and forget what happened at work on Tuesday. Many want to forget that their job might be on the cutting block the following week. For many of us, movies are a form of escapism and that's okay. While I am not a fan of car chases, I love fight scenes and explosions. Many others do, too. Don't get me wrong, I want a movie to touch me and remind me of my humanity. I want a movie to remind me of my mortality and the beauty of life itself. Sometimes, I just want to see some crazy stuff jump off. I have to tell myself that I deserve to see something jump off. Don't we all?  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DayBlack Issue 1

Written and Illustrated by Keef Cross

Everyone knows that Vampires and Zombies are in. While the Zombie franchise is still kicking butt, vamps have really taken a back burner unless you are a Justin Beiber fan. The terror and the near invincibility of these monsters has been replaced with teenage angst and wanna be rock star vampires. Pretty much the life blood of Vampires have been sucked out of pop culture. Every now and again someone writes a nice book about vampires. American Vampire is probably the best comic book adaptation of the genre. Yet these stories are few and far inbetween.

Keef Cross, both a writer and artist, really takes the Vampire genre back home. The story itself is more about the town, DayBlack, instead of the protagonist Merce. He became a vampire while still as slave in the South. He calls DayBlack, his home. DayBlack is a town in Georgia where there is no sun light due to pollution caused by a corrupt corporation. This makes DayBlack an ideal home for Merce.
Due to his immortality, Merce takes on several occupations through various lifetimes. Currently, he is a tattoo artist.

DayBlack is refreshing not just to the Vampire genre but to the artwork. Cross' work is stupendous. While his pencils and inks come from modern times and the past, it looks extremely futuristic. His otherworldly illustrations brings Merce's world to life. As Merce scrolls through his smart phone, the pictures of his groupies come from a hip and fresh world that draws the reader in.

In the first few pages, Cross introduces the reader to someone else before Merce comes into the picture. This adds a great air of mystery to the story without losing the reader. So Cross not only can draw, he can flesh out a story. This reader is curious as to how it all turns out.  

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Salute to Run Run Shaw

I didn't know he was still alive to be honest... He passed away earlier today at 106... yes you read that right...

As a b-boy, Martial artist, and Old school head, I have to say I could not imagine my childhood without the Shaw Brothers...

NYT does a nice piece on him here.