Saturday, December 29, 2012

Interview with Assassin's Creed's Shawn Baichoo...

Shawn Baichoo

CBNAH - First up, Shawn, it was nice meeting you at the mini Montreal Comic Con. What were some of the main highlights for you at the con?

SB - I was very impressed by the amount of cosplay I saw. There was quite a lot of it at the Montreal Comic Con earlier this year (and I must admit I was guilty of doing the same - if you saw a Spider-Man walking around there's a good chance that was me!), and even more of it at FanExpo in Toronto before that. I love seeing people's passion for what they enjoy expressed so honestly. And by its very nature, a con is the perfect place for people to indulge in that side of themselves without fear of judgement. So it's a great atmosphere to be in. I also really enjoyed talking to fans who came by to chat or get things signed. As a huge gamer and an avowed geek, it's really great to be able to relate to people who enjoy the same things I do.

CBNAH - What made want to go into acting?

SB - I've always had a very active imagination, and I'm a very creative person. But when I was younger I always saw acting as an impossible goal, because all the actors I saw in films and on tv were these larger than life heroes that I enjoyed immensely (Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis), but didn't seem real to me. Hollywood was this far-off place that was as mystical to me as the actors that came out of it. And Montreal isn't exactly a mecca of movie career-launching opportunities. So I went into the sciences instead (as I excelled in those areas at school). But my active and creative mind grew unhappy with bio-chemistry studies, so I finally switched to an acting program, deciding that it was worth a shot if it would make me happy, and I haven't looked back since. As an actor I get to live all sorts of different lives and experiences, and to me that's the greatest reward.

CBNAH - While attending Dawson College, what was the greatest piece of advice that a professor or fellow student gave you about acting?

SB - I forget who it was, but someone once told me that there is no such thing as luck. That "luck is when preparedness meets opportunity". I've steered my career by those words, and they've served me well. Study, train, be committed and prepared, and when the opportunity presents itself, go for it. It's a simple but effective formula.

CBNAH - Your first acting roles were on the YTV shows Student Bodies and Big Wolf on Campus. Looking back, what are some of your fondest memories on the set of those shows?

SB - Hanging out with my fellow vampires when we shot "Fangs for the Memories" was a real blast. That was my first ever part, and I remember very clearly hearing the crew shouting "roll camera", "sound", "speed"... a pregnant pause, my heart skips a beat, I think "This is it! I'm actually an actor now!" and then the inevitable "action!".
I also have fond memories of the other episode I shot the next year, "Invisible Merton", which was my first big part in anything. They died my hair blonde, I had three stunt doubles/stand-ins... it was very cool.

Assassin's Creed III

CBNAH - Your name has been associated with the Assassin's Creed series. You voiced many different characters in the franchise. Who's your favorite character to act in the series and why?

SB - That's a tough one, as I've been lucky enough to get cast as some really fun characters to play. But if I had to pick one I'd have to say it was Machiavelli. I have a habit of playing slightly more manic or 'big' characters, so playing Machiavelli was a nice challenge, as he was calm, measured and precise. A close runner-up is St├ęphane Chapheau though, in ACIII, as I really got to go wild with him. I actually haven't played the game yet (it's on my to do list!), but I look forward to it so I can run into myself!

CBNAH - Outside of your voice acting in AC, you've done motion capture for the series as well. How did you get involved on that side of the production?

SB - I'm glad you asked that, as it relates directly to one of my earlier answers! A few years ago I arrived early at a voice studio for a booking, so as I waited I went to sit with my friend (and very talented voice director) Simon Peacock, who was having lunch with someone I didn't know (a wonderful guy named Sylvain Bernard). We were introduced, and when Sylvain told me he worked for Ubisoft I asked him in what capacity. He told me motion capture, which immediately piqued my interest, as I had only vaguely heard of it before. I asked him how one could manage to get such work, and he told me it was largely a question of getting the right gig for the right project. Then I did something I'd never done before: I went on to list to him all of my training and abilities that would surely be relevant to motion capture (basically trying to sell myself as a good candidate), and expressed my fervent desire to try it some one day. He told me he'd keep me in mind, and a few weeks later I got a call to come and do a half day. It went really well, I saw that I indeed had a knack for it, and he started using me more regularly. When I landed ACII, the voice and MoCap went hand-in-hand and the rest is history. I've worked fairly regularly for (mostly) Ubisoft ever since. So my preparedness (my skills as an actor and fighter, my love and knowledge of games, etc) met with opportunity (meeting Sylvain), which equate to the luck I feel for having such a great job.

CBNAH - At the comic con you were promoting the Punisher fan film No Mercy. Can you tell us how this project came about?

SB - A few years ago I started up a collective called The Kombat Krew, which was comprised of former stage combat students, actors and friends who met up on Mount-Royal every Sunday to train together. Our goal was to explore stage combat (stunt fighting) through live performances and filmed projects. We did a number of live shows, and then last year we filmed an extensive 6-man battle up on the mountain that I choreographed. It grew larger than the sum of its parts as everyone involved put in 200%, providing costumes, make-up, cameramen, editing facilities, CG effects, the works. The result was far more impressive than we had planned (our initial idea was not to make a film, merely to record our battle). It's called Mountain Kombat, and you can see it here.

We decided that our next project should be a proper short film, with loads of pre-production work, a secure shooting location, a great script, a crew, etc. Basically all the trappings of a real, professional film shoot.

One of my good friends Dav (who also happens to be an award-winning writer) and I came up with No Mercy a few months later. Dav had purchased a number of super-realistic looking Airsoft weapons, and we were eager to use them in some project or another. I still wanted to choreograph more fights, and I had recently read the Punisher Max series by Garth Ennis. I've always liked the Punisher, but that series elevated him to such an incredible level that I was just totally taken with the character. This was compounded by the fact that all of the movies made about him so far had been awful. I was hoping beyond hope that the latest effort (Warzone) would be good, but it turned out to be the biggest disappointment of all. Just terrible. So Dav and I reasoned that a fan film of The Punisher would be the perfect vehicle for gun combat and stunt fighting, and I wanted to show the world that it wasn't that hard to make a good film about a great character with a lot of potential, without being cheap or campy or silly, which is the failing of all his films thus far. So I gathered my friends, got a crew, put my own money where my mouth is and shot it. We're still in post-production, but it's looking amazing so far. I can't wait to share it.

CBNAH - What's your thoughts on Thomas Jane's Punisher short film: #DIRTYLAUNDRY?

SB - I thought it was the closest that anyone has come so far to accurately portraying The Punisher. I thought Thomas Jane was a decent casting for Frank Castle (certainly the best to date), as he is a capable actor with the right look and physique. He was just wasted in the 2004 movie with a terrible script and poor direction. #DIRTYLAUNDRY is much closer to the mark, but, in my humble opinion, still not quite right for the character. I did really enjoy the fighting at the end though, very kinetic and well shot. I understand that my film will invariably be compared to his, but they're very different in style and content. And though No Mercy isn't a response to #DIRTYLAUNDRY (we had already started pre-production long before it came out), I'm thankful for the timing, as it pushed The Punisher back into the limelight, which will invariably help us when we release our film.

CBNAH - Playing Frank Castle is a tough task. Which Punisher comics did you read to find Frank's voice?

SB - The Punisher Max series by Garth Ennis is my 'bible' as far as Frank Castle is concerned. I'd also credit Welcome Back, Frank (also by Ennis) as a stepping stone, which started setting the tone for a grittier, darker Punisher. There's actually a few lines of narration in Welcome Back, Frank that I love so much that they're in the film, word for word. I also have to give a lot of credit to Tim Bradstreet, who did the cover art for the Max series. I love his rendition of Frank Castle, all hard shadows and angles. It was a more accessible Punisher to me (I'm not 6'1", 200lbs like he's often portrayed), so it heavily influenced the look of the film. We used a lot of the same lighting as Mr. Bradstreet in our filming. It looks great.

CBNAH - When can people expect to see No Mercy?

SB - We're hoping for a spring 2013 release. Editing is moving along great, but there's still a lot of work to do (original music, sound effects, CGI, colour grading). We're keeping our fans updated on Facebook, so feel free to follow and 'like' us if you want to be kept in the loop! We also have production stills, photos, videos and more on there.

CBNAH - What comics have you been reading lately?

SB - I'm currently reading Dark Horse's Conan (Vol.7), and I'm about to start Ultimate Spider-Man (the post Peter Parker storyline). And funny enough, I recently finished all 60 issues of Punisher: Max, again, because it's that good.

CBNAH - Lastly, finish this - 'Comic book nerds are hot because...'

SB - ... geek is the new chic. Count me in!

Monday, December 24, 2012

2 Cent Holiday Reviews - Marvel NOW & The DCnU

Hello everyone and welcome back!  This week is going to be all big two comics.  Come back in a few days for some lesser-known publisher reviews, including the newest issue of Saga.  For now, let's take a look at Avengers #2, Avengers Arena #2, Captain America #2, FF #2, Thor God of Thunder #3, Wolverine & The X-Men #22, Uncanny X-Force #35, X-Factor #249, Batwoman #15, Green Lantern #15, Green Lantern Corps #15, Supergirl #15, Sword of Sorcery #3, and Wonder Woman #15.  Let's go.

 Avengers 2:  Top quality art, top quality writing....but I'm still waiting.  Too much set up can cripple a series.  Luckily, the first two issues were released two weeks apart so my patience isn't being tested.  Yet.  If issue three doesn't take place in the present and only offers more back story then I might just drop this.  I remain to have high hopes.  In Hickman We (still) Trust!
 Avengers Arena 2:  This issue really pulls at your heart strings.  If you thought the last chapter was brutal, wait until you see the barely note-worthy/noticed death here.  The entirety of this month's production focuses on one of the new and more innocent characters unlovingly dubbed as "Deathlocket".  It's exactly in Battle Royale's spirit where we get the perspective of an innocent child trapped in this murder game, alone and filled with fear.
 Captain America 2:  It's been one year since issue one.  Cap and his young charge Ian (the baby) have been surviving the harsh wasteland of Dimension Z on instinct alone.  There are predators everywhere and worse yet, organized monsters with weaponry, armour and transport.  But Cap never falters.  He never gives up hope.  Even when captured.
 FF 2:  The machine that goes "boop boop!"  I loved that.  As expected, the mission that should have taken the official Fantastics away for four minutes is taking longer, leaving Scott and the new recruits as the permanent team.  The media takes a dump on our heroes which leaves many of them not very confident.  Mole Man shows up to get a piece but he is shut down quickly.  And Darla finally dons the Thing's body suit.  All this, plus Allred art.
 Sword of Sorcery 3:  Amaya continues her rigorous training and her aunt calls for a meeting in neutral lands.  The end of the issue also answers how/when she joins up with the JLD, something that was bugging me before.  Meanwhile, in the Beowulf back up, we learn something interesting about the current DC verse.  Something that happened in the stories past, which is our present.
 Thor God of Thunder 3:  The God Butcher story arc continues and it is magnificent!  From the art to the writing, everything is very imaginative.  I may not be enjoying the current Wolverine ATXM storyline, but this Aaron has me gripped by the short hairs.  Things get darker/more complex and Thor remembers feeling fear.
 Batwoman 15:  Strange.  I thought I had purchased Batwoman and not the Guilt-Riddled Diary of Detective Maggie Sawyer.  I hate when Batwoman does this; one, not featuring Williams' art and two, the focus of the book landing on one of its minor characters.  The creators may think it is artsy but it's just dissatisfying.
 Green Lantern 15:  Baz continues his quest to prove his innocence.  The third army is everywhere and they've just landed on Earth.  Our only hope...Lantern B'Dg?!!
 Green Lantern New Guardians 15:  Lesson 5: Greed.  And a lesson hard-won.  Someone sacrifices their life aiding Kyle's troop and it's heartbreaking.  Next:  Rayner VS Ganthet!
 Supergirl 15:  Kara and H'el, sitting in a tree.  I guess even alien chicks dig goth boys.  In this issue:  the city of Kandor, a plan to save Krypton, and super hormones!
 Wonder Woman 15:  Diana's search for her family continues and takes her to Manhattan's underground.  This particular sibling does not want to be found or involved in any more "family business"  but Lenox and Diana give him no choice.  The New God Orion however will make their job more difficult.
 Wolverine & The X-Men 22:  I'm not enjoying this circus arc at all.  Did Aaron's brain take a vacation?  Or is he reserving all his creative fluids for Thor: God of Thunder?  Either way, it's a silly, childish and I hate to say it, stupid arc so far.  I really want it to end.  Also, the new characters Eye-Boy and Shark-Girl are super lame.  You have a generation of students to work with but you invent two of the most ridiculous characters in comics?  Hell, one of the New X-Men kids is even an Atleantan, what was the point of creating Shark-Girl????  Waste.
 Uncanny X-Force 35:  Final Issue.  Remdender tries to end things on as much as a positive note as a book of this nature will allow.  Not a mind blowing ending and some of the character personalities felt a bit forced (Deadpool) but I guess they needed to set up the title for its next version.  I however will be getting off at this stop.
X-Factor 249:  Think I'm starting to lose interest in this book. Once it was a favourite I thought could never do wrong, now I'm just bored.  I was expecting it to get more interesting after its haircut (the shedding of half the cast) but it really hasn't.  The art is always bad which the writing typically saves but it wasn't enough this time.  I'm getting tired of the same formula each issue:  Madrox doubts himself, M is a bitch, Longshot is dumb, Layla is mysterious, Shatterstar is brave, Rictor is whiny, Pip is vulgar, etc etc.  Next month is the title's 250th issue and the last chance it gets.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Current Interview With Retro Blogger, Jason Shayer...

Jason Shayer of 'Marvel Comics of the 1980s'

CBNAH- Can you tell us what made you want to do a blog about one of the most important times in Marvel Comics publishing history?
JS- In the late 1990s, I had a website hosted on Geocities which featured a breakdown of comic runs, rating them issue by issue. I kept getting emails from readers that they really found my ratings useful and then I clued in that people were actually reading what I put up! So I went beyond rating and started to explore and cover story arcs in more detail. I felt I needed to set a scope, otherwise it would get out of hand rather quickly. So I went with what I knew best which was the Marvel 1980s. I’m still amazed at how much Marvel 1980s content there still is left to cover.

CBNAH- The blog has been going on for three and a half years now. Did you ever think you’d still be doing this blog in 2012?
JS- In the early days of the blog, I felt like I wasn’t getting a lot of traction and that there was indeed going to be a hard stop at some point. But, then it really caught on and I kept receiving these great emails that encouraged me to keep doing what I’m doing. There’s nothing quite like getting an appreciative email from a reader who has spent their afternoon clicking through my blog and revisiting their youth.

CBNAH- What's one the main challenges for you of doing this blog?
JS- I’m always concerned that I might run out of material, but I always manage to find some, especially if there’s a current comics news item that has some kind of tie back to the Marvel 1980s.
A sensitive and polarizing topic for the blog has been Jim Shooter. Nothing brings out comments like a good post on Marvel’s former Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, in fact, I’ve had to step in a few times to restore a bit of order to the comment stream.

Amazing Spider-Man

CBNAH- What certain Marvel titles or runs that made you into a Marvel fan?

JS- I grew up enjoying Amazing Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men and always felt those titles spoke to me. Peter Parker was a great role model and always had something relevant that I could relate to as a teenager. The X-Men became like a family to me, especially the Paul Smith/John Romita Jr. team.

CBNAH- Do have any comic recommendations for new readers during this time period in Marvel's catalog?
JS- Marvel has published a series of hardcovers in their Marvel Premiere line and a majority of them cover some great 1980s material, like Captain America: War and Remembrance, Daredevil: Born Again, and Avengers: Under Siege.  Their omnibus hardcover line in recent years has been impressive as well reprinting a lot of fun 1980s titles, like Squadron Supreme, The Secret Wars, and the X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga.

CBNAH- Comics historian Peter Sanderson compared Marvel in the 1960s to the comic equivalent of the French New Wave of cinema, in terms of methods of storytelling. How do view Marvel in the 1980s and can you find something equivalent that Marvel was doing in their books?
JS- I like to think of the 1980s as a period where comic readers grew up, following the talent around more than the characters. That decade for me was a time where I followed creators like John Byrne and Frank Miller wherever they went. The early Marvel 1980s had an explosion of talent that grew under the leadership of Jim Shooter. Walt Simonson, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, Art Adams all became the rock stars of comic books during the time. There was a definite peak though around 1985 and then it was downhill from there, with Shooter losing control of his talent by perhaps squeezing them a bit too tight. The late 1980s fed into the corporate greed of the early 1990s and was a bit of a train wreck directly leading to the implosion of 1993.

CBNAH- Have you got any feedback from past or current Marvel talent about the blog?
JS- I've had folks like Ed Hannigan, J.M. DeMatteis, Mark Evanier, Joe Jusko drop by occasionally to post a comment or to clarify a blog entry.

CBNAH- What are your thoughts on the current Marvel product?
JS- I've been having a difficult time with Marvel Comics in its current state. The Marvel Now! event or soft reboot hasn't really wow’ed me, compared to DC’s total reboot with their New DC 52. The execution of the Marvel Now! is a bit awkward with titles restarting at different times (some already suffering from delays). There doesn't seem to be much of consistent theme or unifying theme throughout the books.

CBNAH- What non Marvel books have you been reading lately?
JS- I’m really enjoying Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan. It’s an amazing book unlike anything else out there and a book that’s very hard to explain to friends. Scott Snyder’s Batman is usually at the top of my reading list, as is his American Vampire.

Adastra in Africa

CBNAH- How long do you think you'll continue doing your blog?
JS- Good question. I think I’ll keep going it as along as I still enjoy it, which I still really am. The Marvel 1980s has a wealth of information and material that I’ve only scratched the surface of, so I’m looking to keep the blog running for awhile.

CBNAH- Before we go, can tell our visitors where people can contact you or if you have any other sites?
JS- Visitors with any questions about the Marvel 1980s can reach out to me at I’m also a writer of fiction and have a blog for my writing here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2 Cent Post-Weekend Reviews - Everything second week of December

Welcome back to another instalment of Oz' 2 Cent reviews.  Come back after Wednesday for a massive pile o' goodies for third-week of December books.  Today, I'll cover Avengers Arena #1, Fantastic Four #2, Archer & Armstrong #5, Green Lantern Corps #15, Demon Knights #15, Batman & Robin #15, Stuff of Legend Volume 4 parts 1 & 2, Clone #2, and Rachel Rising volume 2.  Let's dig in eh?

Avengers Arena 1:  Cover of the year!  Arcade is back and this time, he's taking no prisoners.  Unless you count the 16 youths he's placed (against their will) into Murder World.  Someone read Battle Royale over their summer break and now he's using it as a business model for his typically low-murder rated, profit free practice.  Intense from the first panel, glad I picked it up.  I'm here to stay.

 Fantastic Four 2:  Why are we still in the introduction faze?  I thought the Four took off last issue?  Let's get a move on already.  It's been far from Fantastic.
 Demon Knights 15:  Three armies gather on the soil of Avalon and our Knights are stuck in the middle.  The issue felt a bit rushed as it is Cornell's last, but he finally got to the place he wanted to be, showing the clear connection between Storm Watch and our Knights.  Next issue is entitled "30 years later" and that should be cracking!
 Green Lantern Corps 15:  The "All Guy Gardner" issue.  He's my favourite lantern so I really liked this month's installation   It's hard to get your groove back when you fall from the top and Guy just proves that can get you into trouble.  Meanwhile, the Guardians are still fucking shit up in outer space and Salaak is their latest victim.
 Batman & Robin 15:  Death of the Family part 7 million.  Robin is on his own and decides to search for the missing Alfred.  What he ends up finding is the Joker who quickly incapacitates him.  The rest of the issue plays out like a psychological chess match.  Joker is sick of the bat family, he wants Batman all too himself and he'll do anything he must to be rid of them.  All this plus Joker Vision!
 Stuff of Legend - The Toy Collector Part 1:  This book doesn't come out very often so when it does, it's a nice surprise.  The story so far.  A human boy is kidnapped by The Boogeyman into the strange dimension known as The Dark.  He is followed by his dog Scout and 7 of his most loyal toys who all have a different physical manifestation in The Dark .  The present; the toy soldier is dead. Quackers and Harmony lead a small band of rebels. Scout has stayed behind with the recently crowned King Max and his subjects.  There's no trace of the Jester or Percy.  And The Princess remains with her people in the Indian territory.  The boy is still accompanied by the deceptive Boogeyman (disguised as a child himself) and the ex-mayor of Hopscotch who is seeking redemption.  This first chapter is all set up.  The Boogeyman has plans in motion and Max relieves himself of his new throne to continue his original mission:  find the boy!

 Stuff of Legend - The Toy Collector Part 2:  Max, Monty and Scout reach the Deep Dark.  The boy and his companions find Percy, about to be spit-roasted by a handful of savage toys.  The Princess discovers a broken half of the Jester's mask and fears the worst.  The Jester himself is a few meters away, hidden in cave on the same shore and grievously injured.  And finally, Harmony loses all hope for her quest as she finds Max' domain empty.  Quackers calms her down with his new found wisdom.  The adventure continues!!!
Archer & Armstrong 5:  The all out action issue, it's none stop fisticuffs from page one to page twenty two.  Double A are chased by Armstrong's ancient brother.  He is the eternal protector of Earth's Geomancer (who btw,  was murdered last issue), he is the honourable and noble Gilad.  Not to say that Gilad is a bad guy, it's just that he's bonded to his sacred duty.   Not even death itself can retire him from his job.  He's stuck until he avenges the murder and unlucky for Archer, the target has landed on his head.  The only thing that can stop his savagery is to locate the next Geomancer.  Will the boys make it in time?
 Clone 2:  This is such a cool freaking book, I'm really glad I gave it a chance!  We get a little bit more insight on the clone program and, OF COURSE, like anything structured and evil, it's connected to the government.  We discover in this issue that it is an experiment that has been active for over 30 years in silence.  Until it met its ultimate whistle blower, Facebook.  I'm not even kidding here.  This is just a small part in the overall bizarre awesomeness.  You must check out CLONE!  It's fast and fun, political without the bore and it even has time to be packed to the brim with violence.
Rachel Rising V2 - Fear No Malus :  Nothing I say can do this book justice.  It's my pick of the year.  But without mangling the plot or giving away spoilers,  I will simply use the quotes at the start of each issue to give you an idea of how it rolls.  Issue 7:  "Death is not a game that will soon be over.  Death is a gap you can't see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes not a sound."  Issue 8:  "Fear not death for the sooner we die, the longer we shall be immortal."  Issue 9:  "Hell is empty and all the devils are here."  Issue 10:  "Lilith wanders about at night, vexing the sons of men and causing them to defile themselves."  Issue 11:  "Let my enemies devour each other."  Issue 12:  "You never realize death until you realize love."  Some pretty grim shit right?  This book has it together so damn well and this second volume ups the stakes and reveals a lot!  If this isn't picked up and made into a movie, then I really have no faith in human kind left.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Superior Interview with Marco Checchetto...

Marco Checchetto

Marco Checchetto has been drawing rave reviews for his Punisher work. He's got a gritty style that really works well with Frank Castle. He was kind enough to share some insight into what's made him one of the most revered pencillers at present. Here's my interview with the esteemed Marco...where there's a more personal and endearing touch than I first anticipated. This is the most emotional interview I've did with a creator.

CBNAH: What got you into comics and drawing/sketching as a career?

MC:  My first comicbook, when I was 7 or 8 years-old, was a big book with stories of Thor, Fantastic Four, Asterix and Spider-Man. Spidey shocked me. I started drawing everyday and I said to my parents and friends: “One day, in the future, I’ll be the artist of Spider-Man”!!! I had very clear ideas before becoming a professional artist and it was this love for Spider-Man that helped me decide to start this career. I started with small projects, advertising and comics for small publishers. My real professional debut was with the cover of PSM - Playstation Magazine (USA edition).

CBNAH: How did you break into the field and were your family supportive of your dreams?

MC:  My parents supported me a lot, but, as it should be, with a bit of fear. They didn’t know the world of comics. They hoped for me a career such as a doctor or lawyer. I lost my mother one week before the publication of my first important comic in Italy. It’s something that haunts me. My father passed away a couple of months ago, but at least he was able to get some satisfaction, as he saw my dreams become reality. I owe a great deal to my parents and I will never stop telling them “Thank you, I love you!”.

CBNAH: What were your favorite memories from the books you did?

MC:  I never forgot, obviously, the day when Marvel (editor: Stephen Wacker) asked me to draw some issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. I remember every single emotion and every single line I drew on the first page. 

The Punisher on Comixology

CBNAH: I loved your Punisher work, so how was it working on that book?

MC:  This is another period in my career that I’ll never forget. I really loved to work with Greg Rucka, Matt, Steve and Ellie on this series.
I loved every panel we did together. The writer and the penciler sometimes don’t speak to each other during the story development but I had a lot of feedback with Greg. We worked together for almost 2 years and it was wonderful. Greg is a fantastic writer, professional and a very kind person. Greg gave me the opportunity to grow as a storyteller.  I’ll miss working with him on Punisher.

CBNAH: Some of your artistic influences?

MC:  I’ve got a lot of artistic influences. Two artists in particular were very important for me. John Romita Jr. and Rick Leonardi. So, guys, if you read this interview, thanks a lot for your work… it's gorgeous. I read all of my script and I start working on the page with a little layout on a post-it. Now I’m working digitally with a Cintiq tablet. The method is the same as the classic method like paper and ink… so, I layout, add pencils, inks and after that I put the grey scale.

CBNAH: Favorite character to draw?

MC:  Spider-Man. I’m boring I know. Haha. I like to draw beautiful stories, so the character is not important.

CBNAH: What's your favorite thing about being an artist for a living?

MC:  The freedom to manage my time. I work when I want without having set times. Another thing is the idea that I get paid to have fun. Maybe I should not say this last thing? Haha

Punisher: War Zone #2 on Comixology

CBNAH: Best advice you ever got?

MC:  "This page is bullshit, do it again!" (My brother Massimo)

CBNAH: How has the digital age/internet impacted on comics for you and your work?

MC:  The Internet has given me the chance to work with Marvel. It has globalized the world of comics. The social networks allow me to get immediate feedback from readers and talk with a lot of writers and artists. Personally I try to reply to all as soon as possible. If someone has taken the time to write on my wall because he liked my last comic, I think it is nice to answer to him. I don’t like talking about myself on socials. This is why on my wall you can’t see many pictures of me and my family, for example. I love my privacy.

CBNAH: What would you like to see happen to the industry over the next two years?

MC:  I’d love to see people read more comic books.

CBNAH: Did the language barrier ever prove too stressful?

MC:  Oh man, yes!!! When I started working with Marvel I didn’t speak a single word of English. I‘m a guy who talks a lot and jokes a lot and it’s stressful not to be able to approach people with my 100% humor. 

CBNAH: If you weren't doing art, what would you be doing?

MC:  I'd be Indiana Jones. 

Superior Spider-Man #6

CBNAH: Dream book you'd like to work on and with whom?

MC:  Spider-Man obviously. There are a lot of writers with whom I work. I'd like to do something with Mark Millar one day. I love his stories and his writing. 'Ultimates' is a masterpiece.

CBNAH: Advice for upcoming writers and artists?

MC:  Be modest, professional and devourers of comics, books, movies and video-games.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2 Cent Reviews Pre-Weekend: Everything first week December

Today, I'll take a look at my entire pile for the first week of December.  These include Avengers #1, X-Factor #248, Dial H #7, World's Finest #7, Earth 2 #7, Animal Man #15, Swamp Thing #15, Great Pacific #2, Storm Dogs #2, and The Hypernaturals #6.  Come back after the weekend for another helping of reviews for the second week of December releases.

 Avengers 1:  This book is dripping epicness.  I don't want to get into it too much, but the story is VERY reminiscent to Giant Sized X-Men #1.  The last page knocked me off my socks.  In Hickman we trust!
 X-Factor 248: So remember a few issues ago when Pip the Troll got shot in the head?  Well, I better not say anything or else I'll find Peter David at my door with a baseball bat (he hates people spoiling his books).  The team gets set up for something big and it all leads to their milestone issue, #250.
 Swamp Thing 15:  Rotworld, The Green Kingdom part 3.  The final War against Arcane continues as Holland makes his way to Gotham City with the aid of Deadman.   But not without resistance and not without a price.  Alec finally arrives to the batcave to find a very familiar face, one that has taken a shocking manifestation.
 Animal Man 15:  Rotworld, The Red Kingdom part 3.  Buddy Baker continues to build alliances and a crew of insurgents in this chaotic future.  A certain classic monster shows up to lend a hand and tips the gang off to the location of a powerful being who can help the crew stand a chance against Arcane.  The location is Metropolis...but it's not who you THINK!
 The Hypernaturals 6:  The rookies shine in this one.  The storyline is getting so complex and multi-layered that a re-read for better comprehension is in order.  Still, it went by fast which is always an indication of a good book.
 Great Pacific 2:  Lots of big ideas, lots of intelligent and interesting real-world concepts.  But is it entertaining?  Maybe one day when I'm older and I spend half my time sitting in front of the news channel.  But for now?  Not really.  Dropped.
Storm Dogs 2:  Hine is amazing at world-building.  Never thought I'd enjoy a comic with 22 pages of talking heads.  Yet every sentence was fascinating.  This will satisfy your sci-fi fix without a doubt.
 Dial H 7:  How is that a book with such sub-par art keeps me entertained so much each month?  As a comic fan, I am more of a visual-reader but I do recognize and enjoy good writing and this book has that in spades.  The hunt for a new dial continues and takes our two mismatched heroes on a quest out to sea.  Meanwhile, we meet the next antagonist in the series and he has some pretty funky powers.
 Worlds' Finest 7:  Damian continues guest starring and it's a pleasure.  Not a bad issue, but as typical of the title, not much happens.  Still entertaining enough to warrant another issue, but my patients does grow thin.
Earth2 7:  The slow process of the book can be quite boring but I have to admit that I am excited about upcoming characters.  Mr. Terrific.  Red Tornado.  Sandman.  Doctor Midnight.  Add those to the already "gathered" Hawkgirl, Green Lantern, The Flash and The Atom, and you've got a start to gathering the JSA.  I just wish they would get together faster.  All this politics is doing my head in.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bad Karma/Good Interview with Jeremy Haun...

Jeremy Haun

Jeremy Haun has been kicking ass at Top Cow comics and he's done so in style. The guy's highly underrated to me so I caught up with him for a few words...and I don't have much to say except that Jeremy more than covered enough bases here with some very strong words. Have a go!

CBNAH: What got you into comics and drawing them as a career?

JH: Comics were always a part of my life. Some of my earliest memories were looking at and drawing the characters from comics. That just carried through as I grew up. I remember being in third grade and figuring out that these were epic continuing stories. I think that was the thing that hooked me. This would have been right around '84. I pretty much started grabbing every Spider-Man and X-Men book I could find. In high school, I kind of lived in terror that I wouldn't get to work in comics and would have to flip burgers my entire life. Somehow though, I was one of those guys that was just dumb and thick-headed enough to stick with it.

CBNAH: How did you break into the business and were your family supportive of your dreams?

JH: Comics were never discouraged at home. My mom worked in a pharmacy in the tiny town where we lived, growing up. She was always coming home with comics for me. I think like all parents she was worried about me being a destitute artist, but she was always supportive of my wanting to work in comics. My break into comics was more a slow and steady climb. Like most people in the 90's that wanted to draw comics, I drew my own thing and went to shows hoping to get a gig from one of the big guys. I stood in a LOT of lines. As I said, I'm pretty thick-headed. I took the advice I was given and I just kept working at it. 

I ended up really breaking in with a book called Paradigm. It started out as a self published thing by writer Matt Cashel and myself. Image saw the book and was awesome enough to let us do our crazy little black and white book there for twelve issues. It was a hell of a learning experience. From there I did project after project. Paradigm lead to Battle Hymn, which lead to work for IDW. I've steadily worked since then. I think the big break came with The Leading Man at Oni, with my frequent collaborator, writer, B. Clay Moore. The book was well received and got me on Marvel's radar.

Buy Civil War Iron Man/Captain America

CBNAH: What were your favorite memories from the books you did at Marvel and DC and which titles stood out most to you?

JH: Working for both Marvel and DC were wonderful...and slightly terrifying experiences. was given the opportunity to work on Civil War Iron-Man/Captain America right out the gate at Marvel. It was a hell of a first project there. Working on the book, I had the opportunity to not only draw a story centered around two of the biggest Marvel characters, but also do these great bits featuring a HUGE cross section of the Marvel universe. 

I've always been a Batman fan. Getting to work in the Bat-office at DC was a real dream come true for me. Everything that I got to do over my nearly two years there was great to work on. The thing that easily stands out was the Arkham Reborn story that I did with David Hine. It ended up being this wonderfully horrific arc that ran through a one-shot, a three-issue mini and wrapped up in two issues of Detective Comics. Arkham Reborn also paved the way for David and I getting to work together now on The Darkness. We worked too well together not to move onto something big together after our DC work.

CBNAH: What's it like working for 'smaller' publishers such as Top Cow, IDW, Oni Press, Image, Devil's Due etc as opposed to the big 2?

JH: It's a completely different pond to play in. There are positives...and at times a few negatives to every company. Marvel and DC are producing their brand. Working for them, you understand that. Companies like Oni and Image are all about creator-owned work. While I love working for the big two, there's something really exciting about doing a creator-owned project. There is a lot of wonderful stuff coming out from Image and Oni Press, right now. It's a great time to be a part of that. 

Working for Top Cow has been a pretty fantastic combination of independent and company comics. I'm drawing the Darkness, which is a book that Top Cow has been doing for over 100 issues. It's Marc Silvestri's baby. The interesting thing about working for Marc and Matt Hawkins over at Top Cow is that while we're doing their big book, it's treated a lot like an independent project. They give us the opportunity to take the book and really do our own thing with it. There is a lot of freedom to that. It's kind of the best of both worlds. 

CBNAH: Can you describe your creative process of materializing the visuals from a script?

JH: In the beginning it's always mostly a lot of blind panic and me pacing around muttering "How the hell am I going to draw this thing?". After that initial read-over and bit of worry, I sit down and re-read the script and begin to break everything down into thumbnails. For me, thumbnailing out a book and really nailing the storytelling is key. I spend most of that time trying to make sure that things are clear as well as visually interesting. Once I've nailed down the thumbnails, I gather all of my reference for an issue as quickly as possible and then dive straight into penciling the pages. 

Penciling has really become the part of the process that I enjoy the least. I've already figured everything out in the thumbnails. Penciling is just me trying to get the general information on the page just clearly enough so that it makes sense to me to ink. Over the past few years, I've really grown to love inking. With my simplified pencils, the inking is where I'm really doing most of the work. It took a while for me to learn to really appreciate inks, but now it's the step where everything really comes together. 

CBNAH: Some of your artistic influences?

JH: From comics, the guys that I'm constantly going back to aren't necessarily creators that you're going to see much of in my work. Maybe a subtle feel here and there, but I'm more inspired by creators that are pretty stylistically different from me. I'm consistently going back and looking at work by Wally Wood, Jim Steranko, Joe Kubert, Walt Simonson, Moebius, and Dave Mazzucchelli. 

And of course Mike Mignola. I'd say that Mignola is my single biggest creative influence. There are a lot of current artists that are absolutely outstanding. I'm constantly blown away by guys like Chris Samnee, Brandon Graham, Greg Tocchini, Marcos Martin, Paolo Rivera, Frank Quitely, Stuart Immonen, and James Harren. I said, I'm all over the place with influences. 

The Darkness

CBNAH: How has the Darkness ride been treating you?

JH: Working on the Darkness has been an absolute dream. It isn't often that you get invited to work on a project and it ends up being even BETTER than promised. I owe so much of that to the support of Top Cow and my creative partners on the book: David Hine and John Rauch. We've come up with some crazy stuff so far in our first year on the book. We've really hit a groove. We're even taking things farther next year. It's going to make for some exciting, horrifying stories.

Bad Karma on Kickstarter

CBNAH: Can you describe your Kickstarter project to us? We love hearing the new stuff...

JH: I'm working on a new project as part of a writing collective with Alex Grecian (Proof, The Yard) B. Clay Moore (Battle Hymn, The Leading Man, JSA: The Liberty Files-- The Whistling Skull) and Seth Peck (Sorrow, '76, Wolverine, X-Men) called "Bad Karma".

The project we are producing is a 200 page hardcover original graphic novel debuting five original concepts (in self-contained stories). On top of that we're going to have prose pieces, full page illustration pieces, and short comic stories all based on the five main concepts. 
We've brought in some of the industries leading artists on the project including: Phil Hester, Chris Mitten, Tigh Walker, Mike Tisserand, Chris Samnee, Rafael Albuquerque, Jenny Frison, Robbi Rodriguez, Menton Matthews III, Riley Rossmo, Tony Harris, Francesco Francavilla, Scott Morse, Nathan Fox, Ben Templesmith, and many more. We have a brilliant cover designed by Jonathan Hickman. These people are just fantastic and have graciously contributed to the book. 

Of course, doing it through Kickstarter we're doing more than just the book. We're offering rewards of t-shirts, beautiful hand-pulled screen prints, slipcase editions, original artwork, and opportunities to be drawn into the stories. We even have a special edition of the book that comes in a hand-crafted clamshell box. This thing is going to be great. We're hand building and wrapping these boxes and setting them with a zinc printing plate that we used in creating some of the prints. The box will come with a slipcase edition of the book, a special screen printed book showing hints at the secret history behind the nefarious Kraken corporation from the project, a headsketch from me, and a ton of other cool stuff. 

We're really working hard to make this book special for people. And as with a lot of Kickstarter projects, if our backer pledges stretch beyond our original goal we have some pretty crazy stuff planned. There is a lot of talk about what people do with the money given beyond the initial goal. I donate to a lot of Kickstarter projects myself. I'm always curious. We have a definite plan to do some cool upgrades to the book and give back to our supporters. They're the people that are making this book happen. We appreciate that and want to create something exciting for them.
It's going to run from December 10th through to January 10th. It's a hell of project. We're excited about it. 

CBNAH: Why opt for Kickstarter rather than pitching it to Image etc?

JH: Everyone has been talking about Kickstarter, lately. It's something new and exciting. A way for creators to produce something absolutely the way they want to. It's also an opportunity for fans to help support a project AND get a more special edition package than we get with most comics. We wanted to get together, the four of us, and build a project from the ground up. We all started out in independent comics, doing creator-owned work and since then have gone on to do a lot of big, varied things. This was our chance to create something that got back to those independent roots. Kickstarter really allowed us to do that. We've had our hands all over this project from moment one. 

While on one hand it's really nice to have a publisher package something for you, with "Bad Karma" we're able to make every aspect of this special. We wrote the stories, hand-picked everyone involved, chose our printer, and the materials that went into physical production of the book-- everything. 
The product that we're giving people in the "Bad Karma" Kickstarter is unique. Sure, there's a possibility that we might re-print it down the line elsewhere, but it will never be available in this exclusive hardcover with all of the added bells and whistles again. It's an opportunity to give fans something special. They can be involved in it. We like it that way.

CBNAH: How has the digital age impacted comics for you and your work?

JH: It's certainly allowed for more readers to have easy access to the books we're putting out. I was recently in Dubai for the Middle East Film and Comic Con. I talked to fans from all over the Middle-East that said that thanks to digital comics they were finally able to read them before they hit trades in book stores. Personally I still prefer to read traditional comics, but it's nice to be able to easily buy and read stuff digitally. There have been plenty of times lately where I needed some visual reference from a book in the middle of the night and was able to buy it digitally for a couple of bucks. It's definitely convenient in that sense.

I'm REALLY digging the way Marvel is doing their digital download codes in books. I've found myself picking up physical copies of books at my local shop and then downloading them to my iPad to read on the road. It's nice to have both options. I think we're certainly going to see a lot more of that in the near future.

CBNAH: What would you like to see happen to the industry over the next two years?

JH: Growth. Continued excitement. I want to see both creators and readers continue to get excited about comics.  There is so much wonderful, exciting stuff coming out right now. We need to keep this trend going. As much as I love mainstream comics, I'd like to see more creators continue doing their own thing. 

Kraken Original Watercolor Painting by Jeremy Haun

CBNAH: As you are soon to see with your project, how do you think Kickstarter is going to change the way that indie comics, music etc are put out? Do you see this as the biggest revolution for creators in some time?

JH: Oh, absolutely. I think it's going to change a lot of things. Beyond just the creation of something, there is a LOT of financial risk in producing an independent project. Kickstarter is going to allow a lot of people to take some chances on projects: comics, movies, music, all. I think Kickstarter and the development of digital media on top of some major support from publishers like Image have done amazing things for creators over the past couple of years. I think the revolution is just beginning. 

CBNAH: Which writer has impacted the most on you during your working career?

JH: This is where I sound like a jerk for singling someone out. Great. I've said it a few times, but I've been remarkably lucky in my career to have worked with so many fantastic writers. Each of them has helped me grow creatively. I think both B. Clay Moore and David Hine have had the most impact creatively. They're guys that I've worked with several times on different projects. Even though they have pretty different styles, they are guys that I definitely clicked with. Liking someone's work is important, but being able to really connect with a co-creator is key for a long term collaboration.

CBNAH: Dream book you'd like to work on and with whom?

JH: Hell...I don't know. I've been lucky in my career. Batman was always my dream character. I did that. Of course, I wouldn't mind revisiting Gotham City someday. I'd certainly like to do some more work with Marvel at some point. Daredevil is a favorite of mine. Marvel has a stable of great characters and creators over there. Jonathan Hickman is someone I'd like to work with at some point. I'd love to work with him. Honestly though, I'm having a lot of fun at Top Cow on the Darkness with David Hine. It's kind of perfect. I don't see that ending any time soon. Other than doing my own stuff, I'm probably going to be drawing the Darkness for a good long while.

Bad Karma Coaster Set

CBNAH: Advice for upcoming writers and artists?

JH: It's the one you're going to hear time and time again. Just create. Do the work. If you want to get better, draw or write one hundred pages. You'll be twice as good as when you started. And honestly, a harsh truth-- if you don't want to work hard, for long hours, on tight deadlines, do something else. You'll probably be happier for it. 

CBNAH: LASTLY, finish this - comic book nerds are hot because _______?

JH: We get it, right? I mean we've always known that this stuff is great. It's just taken a while for everyone else to catch up and realize that we were pretty damned hip.