Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rob Hanes Adventures #16 Now Available!

Just in time for the holidays, Rob Hanes Adventures #16 is now available! To order, visit our webstore or use the order link below.

The issue offers a fun detour from the series’ usual menu of action and intrigue in a throwback to classic romance comics in a tale called “The Real Julianne Love.”

In the story, globetrotting troubleshooter Rob Hanes gets caught up in a love triangle involving a co-worker at Justice International, Julianne Love, and a costumed crimefighter with super powers known as Guardian Angel. Unbeknownst to Rob, however, Julianne Love and Guardian Angel are one and the same!

Originally produced for a comic-book anthology that mashed up classic romance comics and costumed super heroes, the story is being released for the first time in the pages of Rob Hanes Adventures.

The story also includes THREE additional bonus stories that have been newly re-lettered for their re-release here, one of which, like the lead story, are appearing in the regular series for the first time: “The Glowworm Conspiracy,” “Pact with the Devil,” and “The Bounty Hunters.” An update of a reprinted swimsuit pinup ad also appears in the issue.

Click here for the original press release and to see sample pages.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Book signing and Mini-Con at Meltdown Comics

I was honored to recently discover that I am included in Comic Book People 2: Photographs from the 1990s, a collection of Jackie Estrada’s photographs from the decade covering the comic-book industry. The book is a follow up to Comic Book People: Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s.

To celebrate the books, on Saturday, October 24, noted L.A. comic-book store boutique Meltdown Comics is hosting a book-signing/mini-convention and, at Jackie’s kind invitation, I’ll be there with a table along with many other industry creators and professionals! The show is from 2 to 6 p.m., at 7522 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. A flyer and announcement for the event is posted here.

For those who don’t know, Jackie is a comic-book publisher, writer and editor, and convention organizer. Affiliated with the San Diego Comic-Con for many years, she is the administrator for the Comic-Con’s Eisner Awards—known as the “Academy Awards of the comic-book industry—and co-publisher of Exhibit A Press, which publishes her husband Batton Lash’s long-running comic-book series, Supernatural Law (formerly Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre). I’m proud to say that both Batton and Jackie are friends and longtime supporters of Rob Hanes Adventures.

Jackie is well known and respected in the field, which has given her access to virtually everyone in the industry. Her massive archive of photos taken over the decades (mostly from San Diego Comic-Cons)—now digitized and printed in these books for posterity—provides a valuable historical photographic record of comic-book people that puts a face to the biggest names in the industry as well as to less well-known pros like myself. I’m truly honored to be included in the book and to have my tiny contribution to the field preserved for posterity. It was certainly a trip down memory lane to see people in the book who I know are still active in the industry as well as those who just passed through for a brief time and moved on to other things.

Anyway, I encourage anyone in the L.A. area on October 24 to come by and visit. In addition to Jackie, Batton and myself, there will be many other distinguished guests (see the flyer at the link above), which along with the many comics for sale at Meltdown should make the trip worth it! See you there!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

REVIEW: Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby

If you happen to be in the Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley area, I encourage anyone interested in comics to visit an exhibition of original comics art called “Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby” at the Art Gallery at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The exhibition runs through October 10.

For anyone not familiar with Kirby’s work (who passed away in 1994), he is one of the most visionary and influential comic book artists in the history of the medium. One needs to look no further than the incredibly successful run of films that feature Marvel Comics characters—Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Avengers, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and X-Men—to understand the man’s stunning legacy. While the more visible Stan Lee, a lifelong Marvel ambassador, has sometimes been solely credited for these and other characters that made Marvel a juggernaut in the comics industry and valuable properties—it’s generally understood now that while the two worked together synergistically to create many of these iconic characters in the 1960s, Kirby played a huge role in inventing and developing the characters, often single-handedly.

Curated by noted comics scholar and CSUN English Professor Charles Hatfield, the retrospective provides a great overview of Kirby’s work. While it comprehensively covers Kirby’s career which began during the 1930s Depression—and encompassed in these early days the creation of Captain America on the eve of World War II—it focuses on his work in the 1960s and ‘70s, when Kirby particularly exploded creatively. This era saw the launch of many of Marvel’s iconic characters and, after his move to rival publisher DC Comics in the 1970s due to his dissatisfaction with Marvel, characters and series like Kamandi, Mister Miracle, the Forever People, New Gods, and the Fourth World.

I’ve covered at length in this blog cartoonists like Roy Crane, Noel Sickles, Milton Caniff, Will Eisner, and Alex Toth, who are considered among the finest cartoonists in the history of the field and had great personal influence on me. Indeed, Kirby and Toth are often considered as the leading examples of the two primary differing schools of comic-book art: Toth was the more naturalistic (though still strong on design) while Kirby’s dynamic, operatic style was perfectly suited for the superhero genre. Although my blog posts clearly show that I lean towards the work of the other school of cartooning represented by people like Caniff and Toth, one cannot deny that Kirby is truly among the titans of the comic-book industry. The characters he created or had a hand in creating  remain the foundation on which modern superhero comics—particularly those published by Marvel that have been major source material for the films—continue to build upon.

In looking at the exhibit, it’s fascinating to see how Kirby incorporated his love of myth, fantasy and science fiction into his work. As he gained more freedom, his creative output reached its apotheosis around this period—though Thor was initially about a god living in the guise of a human among ordinary people, the series soon expanded into the Norse myths of Asgard and other realms. Much of his work at DC—under the umbrella of his ambitious Fourth World saga—further advanced his thinking in these areas. Though Kirby, a product of the Depression era and a member of “the greatest generation,” could hardly be mistaken to be a part of the 1960s counterculture, one could see how the transcendental and fantastic elements of his art and stories had resonance in the psychedelic age. His art during this period also became more stylized and impressionistic, but retained the operatic and epic quality that was always a part of his work.

Seeing original comics art in their original full size is always a treat and a different experience from seeing them in print format and in color. It’s a great opportunity to see original comics art up close and learn about one of the giants of the comic-book field.

Interview with curator and comics scholar Charles Hatfield from the Comics Reporter.

Below: A tour of the exhibition with curator Charles Hatfield.

Monday, September 14, 2015

NEWS RELEASE - For Immediate Release

Love Is in the Air in Rob Hanes Adventures #16!

This October, Rob Hanes Adventures #16 takes a detour from the series’ usual menu of action and adventure in a throwback to classic romance in a tale called “The Real Julianne Love.” In the story, globetrotting adventurer Rob Hanes becomes entwined in a love triangle involving his co-worker Julianne Love and a costumed crimefighter with super powers known as Guardian Angel. Unbeknownst to Rob, however, Julianne Love and Guardian Angel are one and the same!

Originally produced for a comic-book anthology that mashed up classic romance comics with super heroes, the story is being released for the first time in the pages of Rob Hanes Adventures.

This is not the first time the series has engaged in genre-bending storytelling. Issue 7, “Death on the Moors,” featured a classic drawing room murder mystery, while issue 10, “The Pride of the Chickenhawks,” was a sports tale centered on semi-professional baseball. (The latter story earned the issue a spot in Tony Isabella’s 1000 Comics You Must Read.)

“I’d always wanted to do a classic romance comic and this story was a great opportunity to do one,” said Rob Hanes Adventures writer-artist-creator Randy Reynaldo. “Although the series is primarily an action-adventure series, I think some variety helps keep the series fun and refreshing."

Also rounding out the issue will be two additional stories, both re-lettered for their appearance in this issue: “The Glowworm Conspiracy,” which originally appeared in the Rob Hanes Archives
trade paperback and “Pact with the Devil,” a 4-page story set in South America.

About Rob Hanes Adventures:
Inspired by classic adventure comic strips like Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates and Roy Crane's Buz Sawyer but set in the modern day — with dashes of light-hearted humor reminiscent of Will Eisner's Spirit — readers and fans have lauded Rob Hanes Adventures for recapturing the spirit of the classic adventure strip while updating it for modern day audiences.

Though themes and characters recur in the series, every issue of Rob Hanes Adventures is self-contained. The entire series remains in print, including 15 issues to date and two trade paperback collections of earlier work. For more information about the series, previews and to purchase back issues, visit the WCG Comics website at wcgcomics.com or facebook.com/rhadventures.

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The permanent link for this press release is http://wcgcomics.blogspot.com/2015/09/rha16.html

Below are sample pages from Rob Hanes Adventures #16:

Cover to Rob Hanes Adventures #16

Splash page to "The Real Julianne Love" p. 1

"The Real Julianne Love," p. 3

"The Real Julianne Love," p. 4

"The Real Julianne Love," p. 7
Re-lettered splash page to "Pact with the Devil"
Re-lettered splash page to "The Glowworm Conspiracy"

Re-lettered swimsuit pinup page to be reprinted in RHA #16

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Harry Potter Hamlet

Every weekend in August, the Actor's Gang in Culver City puts on a free Shakespeare production in the park for families, usually a family friendly one-hour production of a Shakespeare play mashed up with another pop culture touchstone—with plenty of comedy (for both kids and their parents), music, some pointed political satire, and shout outs and plugs for Culver City.

This year's show was one of their best—"Harry Potter Hamlet"—and, spoiler alert, in this production, everyone survives and learns a life lesson, thanks to the magic of the wizards and audience participation!

Here are some photos from the production.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

What Comic-Con Dreams are Made Of

Here's my report from the floor of the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con. To go straight to the photogallery from the show, click here.

As a longtime exhibitor and attendee of the San Diego Comic-Con, the words that come to mind to describe the show are exhausting and invigorating. For exhibitors—especially those like me who are  a one-man operation and tethered to a table for pretty much the duration of the show—the 4-plus days of the convention is a bit of an endurance test. But it is not much easier for the attendees either, who are running around all day, standing in lines, or sitting in a darkened exhibition hall for hours, or sometimes all day. At the end of the show, when the announcement is made that Comic-Con has come to a close, cheers go up around the floor—not simply because another successful show has hit the books, but also out of relief.

But, of course, the show is also incredibly invigorating. Originally created as a comic-book convention for hardcore fans in 1970, the show has morphed into the world’s largest mainstream pop culture mega-event that embraces all things geek, bringing under one umbrella movies, television, gaming, cosplaying, books, science fiction, art, comics, and more. Movie studios have been known to shut down their sets to bring their cast and crew to the show and no other event gives fans such close access to the artists and performers who are responsible for their favorite movies, shows and comics.

At its core, Comic-Con is a consumer show—but the palpable excitement of everyone in attendance makes it also feel like a big celebration with a crowded party atmosphere (as evidenced by the bagpipe players who snaked around the convention floor at various times), which spills over into the streets of the Gaslamp District outside the convention center, both during the day and night. The comparison people have made of Comic-Con to Mardi Gras is no exaggeration.

Some of the stories that came out of this year’s show served as a reminder why Comic-Con is the ultimate fan experience. Perhaps the most indelible was the Star Wars panel in the infamous 6,500-seat Hall H. After a surprise appearance by Harrison Ford at the panel, who joined the film’s director, J.J. Abrams, and cast, including fellow Star Wars original cast members Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher on stage, at the end of the presentation, the entire hall was escorted outside and treated to a surprise concert by the San Diego Symphony of composer John Williams’ Star Wars score outside the convention center by the San Diego Bay, which culminated with a fireworks show. It was, of course, a deft piece of promotional showmanship, but also a genuine gift to the fans.

It’s what Comic-Con dreams are made of….

Life as an Exhibitor
As a small press exhibitor, my table is just a small spec in a sea of booths on the immense convention hall main floor, which provides one with a rather narrow view of the show. I’ve written in the past that the show's changing nature has made it quite a challenge to be a pure small press comic-book publisher at Comic-Con, which others have now reported. Not everyone who attends Comic-Con is there for comics any longer and it’s hard work trying to get noticed among the sensory overload that’s Comic-Con. Many small press exhibitors rely on other merchandise to amp up sales, such as prints and t-shirts, often featuring characters and properties that have nothing to do with their comics. And while it’s still heartening to have attendees be instantly drawn to my comic-book by the art, being at Comic-Con requires strong salesmanship and the drive to put yourself out there. It’s not a role I’m entirely comfortable with, but fortunately my enthusiasm for the series still comes through as I hawk my work. I feel fortunate Rob Hanes Adventures has developed a modest fan base at the convention—many from overseas—and I enjoy the opportunity to introduce the series to new readers every year.
Below: I'm not in this report on the status of the small press at Comic-Con, but my booth can be prominently seen in the background during the interview with my booth neighbor, Lonnie Millsap!

It’s been oft said that Comic-Con is what you make of it—with so many programs and activities running concurrently and 24/7, there’s no single Comic-Con experience and it would be literally impossible to attend and see everything. As an exhibiting self-publisher, I’m bound to my table for most of the show. I’m fortunate to have friends and family to watch the booth when I’m away, but as the single artist-writer of my series, I’m beholden to be at my booth most of the time. I usually explore the floor in the hour or so I arrive at the convention hall before the doors open, taking photos and scoping out what I might want to purchase so that I can do so quickly on breaks during the show.

Some other general impressions and comments:
  • I resolved to be a bit more present on social media this Comic-Con. My limited presence in the past was partly technological: posting on Facebook and Twitter prematurely drained my mobile device’s battery, so this year I invested in an external battery booster for the show. My social media skills, however, continues to be a work in progress—I can see that I need to plan my social media strategy in advance as much as I do the other logistical elements of the show.
  • While my work has always appealed to an international audience, it seemed especially so this year. Classic adventure comics like Rob Hanes Adventures are a particularly popular genre overseas, and this year readers both new and old from the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia were among those I had the pleasure to meet.
  • This year was the first time I wholly embraced the Comic-Con app on my mobile device rather than used the traditional print program, and found it incredibly convenient. It was easy to peruse the daily program and save specific items as a customized list, as well as to find other exhibitors and pin-point them on a map in the app. Having an aisle booth, I often had attendees requesting directions who didn’t know to use the program to find their way around. The app made helping them much easier! Having said that, I attended few panels due to the need to man my table—I simply saved those scheduled panels I might want to see or bring to the attention of my wife and children.
  • In the last year or so, the harassment of female cosplayers has been an issue that has come to the fore. I noticed that one woman cosplaying as Elastigirl from the film the Incredibles pointedly said politely, “Thank you for asking” to everyone who asked to take her photo—a gentle way to remind attendees of respecting cosplayers.
  • However, I didn’t take as many photos as I have in the past because, having attended so many shows, I thought it was getting a bit repetitive. (It also felt like there were fewer cosplayers.) In writing about this year’s Comic-Con, writer Mark Evanier wrote, “It always amazes me each year the first time I enter the exhibit hall that everything is exactly where it was when I left here a year ago.” A lot of the exhibitors (even in the small press, including myself) maintain their same location year to year, creating a comforting familiarity for those who attend every year (in fact, my kids, who have become old enough to walk the floor now on their own know how to navigate the floor because of the familiarity of the booths).
  • Nevertheless, there were a few photos I wished I had taken: a trio of female Ghostbusters; a gentleman cosplaying as the old man from the Pixar film, Up; and, one night in the Gaslamp, a group of guys I’m pretty sure were cosplaying as the crew from the film, the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Obscure cosplaying references are the most fun!
  • I heard various, conflicting reports that the floor felt less or more crowded this year. Personally, overall, this show felt fairly mellow and the walk across the street from the convention center into the Gaslamp District on Friday and Saturday evenings were way less crowded than I've experienced in past years. There had to be at least the same number of attendees as in past years (if not more), so I suspect this is primarily due to good programming that spread out the crowds and skillful crowd control by the Comic-Con staff. (Starting years ago, the organizers snaked many of the lines of attendees in the mornings to the upper levels, which helps greatly reduce the congestion at the front of the convention center. Nevertheless, there seemed to be more lines than ever for signings and exclusives—even lines for the privilege to stand in a line later. Just in front of my own booth every morning, people lined up past my table at the Peanuts booth.
  • Being tied to my table during show hours—and too tired to party after hours—makes it difficult to catch up with colleagues and friends. Nevertheless, people who stopped by included the maestro himself, Sergio Aragones, syndicated Funky Winkerbean cartoonist Tom Batuik, Andrew Pepoy, cartoonist and historian R.C. Harvey, writer Bill Shelly, Diamond Distribution’s Steve Leaf, and others. The sole celebrity I saw was Cameron Diaz. She seemed so relaxed, I decided not to intrude by asking for a photo when she walked by.
  •  When I do get a chance to walk around, one of my favorite pastimes is to visit the various boutique comic-book/graphic novel publishers like Fantagraphics Books, Bud Plant, First Second Books, and the original art areas.
    • As usual, the weather was great in San Diego. It had been unseasonably humid in Los Angeles leading up to the convention, but San Diego was cool and pleasant. The immense convention center, of course, maintains its own weather patterns—even with the crowds, it is kept fairly well air conditioned, so I always keep a hoodie at my booth.
    Being held earlier than usual, just after the July 4 weekend, was a bit disorienting for folks, but for 2016 the show will return to its more traditional spot on the calendar later in the month, July 21-24, 2016.

    See you there!

    Below is a sampling of photos from the show, but to see the full gallery, click here.