Friday, July 10, 2009

Proof That Matt Busch is Some Kind of Genius

Here's what's posted on Matt's site:

Have a Slave Leia costume? Wanna be in an upcoming episode of How To Draw STAR WARS? Artist Matt Busch and the folks at are teaming up to do a video shoot at Comic-Con International on July 24.

If you want in this fun opportunity, then meet at the Gentle Giant booth at 1:00 PM on Friday, dressed ready to kill... Jabba!

For more information, visit

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Over on Scoop, I've just posted the obituary of Harry Roland, a great artist gone to soon. Harry wasn't a close friend, but I got to know him a bit and worked with him on my McCandless & Company story "No Man is an Eyelid."

I hope you'll check it out. He did some truly great covers over the years, including one of the best Famous Monsters of Filmland covers from the early 1970s.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


For fans of 24 and Burn Notice, or of the original comic book adventures of the Human Target, this looks pretty darn keen...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lovers and Madmen- A terriffic Batman/Joker tale!

I love the Beatles. Almost every song they ever did is a classic, a standard, a pillar of almost total perfection. Even today, many of the music industry's top singers and songwriters freely admit that they hope to attain even the tiniest portion of the Beatles success, ability and creativity. That's why I love it when artists are able to cover a Beatle tune and not just reproduce the original sound but really and truly work with the source material and make it their own. Case in point: Joe Cocker and With A Little Help From My Friends and Earth, Wind & Fire with Got To Get You Into My Life.

In one of my recent blog rants I came down pretty hard on, among others, Batman comics from the past few years. I'm angry at their almost constant reimagineering of the Batman origin story. DC just spent 2 entire issues in a row doing this during R. I. P. I find this spate of "retelling the origin of..." to be irritating, unimaginative and senseless, thus my blog tirade ended with my plea for comics to "just make sense."

A few months ago I started reading Batman Confidential. Liking the current issues I was reading, I went a searching for all it's back issues because it's still a relatively young comic a little over 2 years old. I was able to track down issues 7-12, under the arc title of Lovers and Madmen, which originally came out back in early 2008. The cover stated it contained "the thrilling chronicle of Batman and Joker's first historic confrontation". Great, yet another rehash battle.... Zzzzzzzzzz. Even with this strike against it, I thought I would still give it a chance due to the fact that the current issues were pretty darn good, and that it was being written by TV show Hero's writer Michael Green.

This phase of Batman's career has been tackeled many times by son of the greats of comics including Finger, Kane and Robinson in the 40's, O'neil, Adams, Englehart and Rodgers in the 70's, and Moore and Bolland in the 80's just to name a few. Over the years each crew has added, subtracted, erased and redrew, ignored and explored various facets of the Batman/Joker relationship. So, you can imagine my trepidation upon finding "another thrilling chronicle...".Boy was I ever wrong. Reading this story once again reminded me of why I love comics and why I still hold out hope in an industry gone EPIC crazy. Green's take is very much in line with the then newest and now legendary screen portrayal of the villain by Heath Ledger. In Lovers and Madmen, the Joker is best described by pre-Scarecrow Jonathan Crane. "He's not a criminal. This isn't crime. This is EVIL."

This story is one of the best explorations about the struggle to understand the nature of evil and how far good will go to subdue and overcome it. This battle is best summed up in a conversation between Bruce and Alfred in the Batcave. Bruce has just found out that the woman he loves, whom the Joker sliced open during their latest confrontation, has taken a turn for the worst in the hospital.

Bruce: " I can't do it Alfred. When I began my mission I thought I would battle MEN who were monstrous. I never imagined I'd be fighting actual monsters. Demons. Things I don't even believe in. But DO exist. What killed my parents...he was nothing compared to what's coming. And this one... He's plutonium, Alfred. An atom split, rupturing two more--and two more...and two more after them in an ever widening chain--spreading the damage exponentially...until there isn't an atom left. In the face of that, my methods... are nothing. I can't do it."

In just this one page, this story was able to capture the essence of the entire superhero genre. And later in the story, Alfred sums up the feelings of all the innocents in society, all the friends and family of our heroes, and the pressures that they can come to bear on the superhero's themselves.

Alfred: "I have known you your whole life, sir... your best moments, your darkest nights...I was there. Many times I've said I hoped better for your soul than this mission you say chose you. This disinfecting of man's basest nature. That I wanted for you a LIFE. But this...YOU did this. You unleashed something foul and depraved. On whose lives you swore to improve. A dead thing. Killed by you. That makes more dead things. And now they call on you to rein it in. You cannot do nothing."

And to be fair, Batman's point of views aren't the only ones explored in this series. The Joker starts out as a brilliant but bored criminal, planning and committing ever more elaborate crimes. Yet, each heist, planned down to the smallest detail, brings him less and less pleasure. There's just no surprises, no fun. Until Batman breaks up one of his robberies.Later in the story Joker says "I owe it all to YOU. I didn't know WHAT to do with myself til a man put on a mask and called himself Bat." This is very reminiscent of the scene in the famous fan film Dead End, in which the cornered Joker says to Batman "You made me...Daddy!".

And later still during their climatic battle scene comes this wonderful interaction:

Batman: "You're CRAZY."

Joker: "No. I'm just funnier than you. I see the world right as rainbows and I have you to thank for it. I had nothing. Then YOU came, gave me my spinach strength. And now the world is full of color-- even sick sad bland bad Gotham is bright as sunrise. Or sunset. You pick.

Batman: "All those lives. All those people-- you MURDERED them! Why do you kill them?"

Joker: "Why do you save them?"

In the end, it's hard to tell who is really the crazy one... but it sure is easy to tell That this is a fantastic read. And not only is it a great read but also a beautiful book to look at. Denys Cowans' pencils, John Floyds' ink and stunning colors by I.L.L. combine to make images just jump off the pages. I particularly liked the use of the color red throughout to highlight key points such as sunglass lens, a ballroom mask and of course, blood on the Bat A Rang.

So, as I'm prone to say... Rush out in a buying frenzy and get these issues. By the way, just last week DC made this much easier to do by putting out a trade paperback compilation. So there goes your excuse of I couldn't find them all.
Until my next good read... ENJOY!

Konxari- a treat for all your senses!

A funny thing happened on the way to writing this review, I was forbidden to actually try out the product by my house mate. But I'll get into that in a minute. Matt Busch was kind enough to send me the newest version of IRM Foundation's Konxari (pronounced kon-zar-ee) Cards to try out. Konxari is a form of Cartomancy, which is divination or fortune-telling through the use of cards. Konxari itself dates all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and is said to have been created by their god, Thoth. The word Konxari derives from the Egyptian word Konxar which means to speak with the dead. And this is where the history and entomology lesson ends but unfortunately where my problems begin.

You see, I live in a haunted house. The term Haunted House usually goes hand in hand with the word “BAD”, but not in this case. Have I seen eerie shadows of hanging figures on the stairs leading down to the basement? No. Do I awake at night to the sound of distant echoing voices in the hall. Not really. Is my house a creepy old mansion, built on a sacred ancient Indian burial ground whose previous tenants mysteriously disappeared late one foggy, desolate night? Ahh... No, No, and No. But I do often find my dog just sitting for hours staring at the empty stairwell, tilting her head listening, to things that remain unheard to me. And my roommate, who swears she's sensitive to such things, says that she often feels various presences around the house. So, who am I to argue with the smartest dog in the world and the lady who pays half my rent?

But I digress, and will continue to do so for one more paragraph. So here's my problem. I have this pack of cards that plainly state DO NOT USE ALONE because, well, it would be bad. How bad?

I'll let my friends the Ghostbusters explain:

Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean “bad?”

Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously, and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Total protonic reversal.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Right, that's bad, Okay, alright, important safety tip, thanks Egon.

I think you get the picture. There is absolutely no way I was ever going to actually try these cards in this household. So, I did what all good strong virile dominate “THIS IS MY HOUSE” kinda guys would do. I said a variation of “Yes Dear” and just did an end run around the entire situation. So, here is my non- review review.

As soon as I opened up the pack and started flipping through the cards I noticed these weren't like any other divination cards I'd ever seen. They are beautifully designed with a central photograph surrounded at the edges by a main title, such as DESIRE and a letter, number or symbol meant to further elaborate on the theme of each card. As I slowly scanned through all the cards, I was amazed at how many memories, thoughts and feelings were invoked by the imagery portrayed. Creepy would be the primary feeling I had while looking through them. Thoughts filled my head of Blair Witch and abandoned buildings with shattered glass, John Carpenter's Halloween and old 1950s war department Nuclear bomb tests, The Ring, The Grudge and One Missed Call, and walks late at night when you just know someone or something is following just beyond the fading streetlight. Like I said, Creepy.

But freaked out as I was by this flood of memories, I was often totally surprised by the occasional card that led down other interesting paths. The Desire card made me think of the first girl I ever kissed. And the Hatred card made my thoughts jump to Martin Luther King's struggles for freedom against intolerable and seemingly insurmountable odds. Great works of art can do that to you. Make you stop in your tracks and suddenly think and feel... I mean really think and feel.

Did I just call this pack of cards a great work of art? Well yeah, I guess I did.

The photographs for the Konxari Cards are taken by award winning photographer Paul Michael Kane. Amazingly, each photograph is 100% pure with zero Photoshop effects. In this age of digital manipulation and spending hours adding just the right shadow where one never existed, Kane's startling array of haunting and otherworldly images is astonishing in their natural beauty. The entire project is being over seen by Matt Busch, best known for his work on such mainstream projects as Star Wars, Witchblade and Battlestar Galactica, and Matt's also representing IRM Foundation as their chief spokesman for the cards.

I highly recommend going out right away in a buying frenzy and picking up a pack of Konxari cards to see what amazing doors of perception they trigger in your mind. And while your sitting there in the dark, candlelit recesses of your house, and just before you try to cross between the realms to retrieve the hitherto veiled and hidden messages the spirits have for you... Please... Please... don't forget...

Give me a call... I'm dying to try these suckers out!

PS: I just read this review to my roommate. The only response:”I'm still not trying the damn cards.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Powers. Hammer of the Gods. Mice Templar. Ship of Fools. Six. Parliament of Justice. Rapture. Thor: Blood Oath. Omega Flight. Foot Soldiers. Bastard Samurai. Red Sonja.

The list of Michael Avon Oeming’s projects could go on and on and on and on (it does, just trust me on this one), and he always has something more on the way.

Whether as an artist, a writer, or even a filmmaker, there is always at least one project he’s working on now, one in some stage of development and one he’s just contemplating. The level of his success over the years has definitely changed, but for those who have known him for an extended period, that’s one of the few things that have.

“I've known Mike since he was in high school, I think. He was working at a comic shop run by a friend and helping with their small line of comic books that they were publishing,” said Mark Wheatley, his collaborator on Hammer of the Gods.”

“Mike was one of those irritatingly talented kids. But unlike a lot of irritatingly talented kids who get success easy and stop growing artistically, Mike has always had a need to reinvent himself,” a trend that continues today, he said.

“He is always trying on other art styles. And he is good at it. His sketches are like a walk through a Who's Who of the very best comics artists of all time. So he learns by assuming the style of others. And then he turns it all on its head and comes up with his own distinctive style that carries over the essential thinking and design of the original artist that influenced him. It might sound like cheating to someone who isn't an artist. But to do this really well means you have to leave your ego at the door. And that is almost impossible for most talented artists. Because what we do often gets propped up by a healthy dose of ego!” he said.

His work on Jim Krueger’s Foot Soldiers is as different from his art on Powers as the Powers material is from Hammer of the Gods. His writing, likewise, changes to suit to the project, whether Thor: Blood Oath or Parliament of Justice.

And as much as he infuses outsides elements into his craft on a regular basis, there are definitely also some constants, Wheatley said.

“Two things never change about Mike. He is a basic, good person. And he is one of the best storytellers I've ever worked with,” he said. “And I'm proud to say I've worked with some of the very best.”

He met his best known collaborator, Brian Michael Bendis, at a signing in Philadelphia. Soon after that, Bendis said, Mike was working on a new style that evolved into the style he would use on Powers.

“Mike faxed over a version of [BMB’s character] Jinx and David Mack's Kabuki. I loved, loved, loved it! I dove to work with him. We became family very soon after,” Bendis said.

It may be difficult for some to put in perspective now, but Bendis had a mainly indy track record with Goldfish and Jinx and Mike was known for either illustrating Ship of Fools or inking Daredevil when they got together to do Powers at Image.

It was anything but a sure thing.

They clicked in working together, though, and what they were doing clearly clicked with the fans as well. Powers built into a hit and each of the creators established themselves further. Bendis wrote Sam & Twitch for Todd McFarlane and then moved to Ultimate Spider-Man before running off a list of hits at Marvel Comics.

Mike set himself on a course that has seen him alternately writing, inking, designing or playing cover artist on a string of creator-owned properties and company-owned titles.

“I think Mike will tell stories in any medium that comes along,” Wheatley said. “And he will make it a lot of fun whenever he does.”

“He's grown as a storyteller, writer, businessman and publisher,” Bendis said. “Honestly with the right diet and sedatives, there is nothing Mike could not tackle. Next year Mike and I will be doing another creator-owned project together that is as different from Powers as Mice Templar is, and I know he will destroy on it just like he did on those books.”

First, though, he has to deal with the 20 Questions:

JCV: What compels you to create?
Mike Oeming: Hmmm. It's probably psychological. Some kind of OCD. I'm not kidding. I look back at my life, I've been drawing constantly since I was 12 or 13 and there's a lot things I never did because I chose art and drawing first, even simple things. It was pretty compulsive for me and still is.

JCV: What was the first story you can remember coming up with or actually writing down or drawing?
Mike Oeming: It was a superhero team, a brother and sister, the brother could run at super speeds and the sister could turn into animals. I had them racing for like 30 panels on one 8 ½” x 11” page of typing paper. I think I was 13. I still have it somewhere. I have almost everything I've ever drawn. I don't know what to do with this old stuff. Throw it away? Burn it cathartically?

JCV: When did you know that you wanted to pursue art as your career?
Mike Oeming: When I was 12 or 13. I started reading comics and I knew right then and there what I wanted to do. I had all this want to draw, but draw what? It was frustrating. Then I found comics and my inner compass led the way.

JCV: What type of education did you have? Did you have any particular formal focus on art or was it just something you picked up?
Mike Oeming: Honestly, I have very little education. I was a terrible student. If it weren't for the art, I’d be a blue collar drifter. Seriously, other than art, I had no focus and I was practically raising myself. My mother was sick most of the time. I did the shopping with food stamps while she was zoned out on Prozac and stuff like that.

I never finished high school; I was kicked out for skipping too many days. I was passing though. I was skipping school to stay home and draw or I was up so late drawing I couldn’t get up. We were too poor for art school and I didn’t have anyone around to tell me I could have gotten a scholarship or something, so the idea of even trying for higher education wasn't even on my plate. I just had no idea. I thought of the Joe Kubert School, but there was no way I could afford it.

But I was head strong and beleived in myself, so I never saw those things as a problem at the time! I do wish I went to art school, Kubert or the big one in NYC. That would have been an amazing experience.

JCV: What was your earliest exposure to comic books that you remember?
Mike Oeming: About five or six years old, getting my haircut in Bordentown, New Jersey. It was an issue of Spider-Man.

JCV: Did you collect comics after you discovered them or were they just something incidental to your art?
Mike Oeming: I collected not for value, but for love. I had lots of Amazing Spider-Man, New Mutants, X-Men, Nexus. Then it became about collecting artists like Art Adams, Steve Rude, and Mike Mignola.

JCV: What other early influences inspired or sparked your creativity?
Mike Oeming: Music. It's always influenced me. Lyrics, a sound, a vibe... I drop lyrics into dialogue sometimes like Led Zeppelin. In Rapture there’s some lyrics by Bright Eyes that were very influential.

JCV: What was it about comic books as an art form that helped you find that inner compass?
Mike Oeming: Hmm. Could be that I spent so much time as a kid in my own head. My own fantasy world and such. I spent a lot of time in the woods, wandering around my mind and imagination taking hold of me... or listening to my aunt and uncle’s ‘70s music, the singer-song writer thing, creating stories in my head. It was all pretty unfocused until I found comics and it all came together.

JCV: Do you think the lack of formal art training actually held you back in any way or do you think it made you more open to trying different approaches?
Mike Oeming: Well, I did have an art school of sorts. A circle of friends, most never made it, but they all had skills. It was like an art studio every weekend for a few years, making our own comics.

I met Adam Hughes and Neil Vokes early on. They were really my mentors and schooling. Had I gone to school, hell yes, I would have learned even more, pushed myself harder. Still, the past is the past and I seemed to have done pretty well...

JCV: What was your first experience with comic professionals and how did it come about?
Mike Oeming: The first pros I met were Neil Vokes and Rich Ranking, creators of Eagle, at a small con in New Jersey around ‘86-87. Rich showed me how to use spatter with ink and toothbrush!

JCV: What was your first professional work and how did it come about?
Mike Oeming: The inking job on Newstrallia when I was like 14. I was just handing in samples and somehow I actually got work from it. I was too young to know I could follow up and get more work, so there was quite a time between that and when I was 17 and got some real inking work again. Well, I guess three years, but it felt like forever.

JCV: What were the next steps in your career?
Mike Oeming: Grinding it out as an inker and doing indie comics. Then I did an issue of Lyrcra/Spandex with Bryan Glass and caught the eye of DC Comics somehow. During that time I started some inking gigs on Daredevil and somehow leapt right to penciling and inking Judge Dredd. I was not ready in many ways. That was a harsh lesson.

JCV: What were your early influences?
Mike Oeming: Art Adams, Steve Rude, Frank Frazetta, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Mignola Kevin Nowlan, Mike Golden and Jamie Hewlett. Quite a contrasting bunch of folks. For years I couldn’t sort it out in my head. If you have the Ship of Fools trade, you can really see those styles colliding.

JCV: What influences did you pick up later? There was a point not all that many years ago when one could see a lot of Alex Toth in your work. Now that’s much more subtle, for instance. Has this been a constant evolution?
Mike Oeming: Yeah, Toth and Bruce Timm came in later, a real growth. I don't think I would have understood their work if I was not into Steve Rude first, though.

JCV: What was the lowest point of your career and how did you rebound from it?
Mike Oeming: Which one? The one where I was fired from Judge Dredd or from inking Force Works? During the five months I stopped drawing after some personal hell? Or the one where there wasn’t any work coming my way and I had to get a regular job?

I've had quite a few lows, been kicked a few times while I was down, but it never kept me down. The idea is that bad times happen and bad times pass. You just have to remember that, learn from it and move forward!

JCV: Some years back, we talked about perceiving yourself as more of a storyteller than specifically an artist. You’ve been a writer, penciller, inker, layout guy, cover artist, photographer and filmmaker. What other roles have you undertaken and what do they have in common?
Mike Oeming: Well, that about covers it! When it comes down to it, storytelling is about communication. I think the only other role I've learned well over the years is about communicating and that spans a lot of things, not just art but day to day stuff. How do you get your point across in a conversation? Well, it's not a story, but the goals are the same, aren't they? Writing and drawing has made me better at simple communication, and vice versa.

JCV: What do you perceive is different about expressing yourself in each of those roles?
Mike Oeming: Point of View. Always have one, or do your best to find one as soon as possible, or you’re lost.

JCV: You’ve had a lot of collaborations. Are they all different?
Mike Oeming: Yes, but I've been pretty picky about who I work with and for the most part, they become very similar in the process. I think a lot of that has to do with trust, both in ego and creativeness. Show trust, earn trust and the working goes smoothly.

JCV: In terms of synthesizing two different sets of ideas, what’s the best or most effective collaboration you’ve ever had?
Mike Oeming: Wow, that's hard to say. I'd have to go with working on Rapture with Taki, but we are married, we live together, so it's not quite fair to compare. I mean this morning we were working out, jogging and watching Chuck on our iPod when an idea struck and we were able to talk about it right there. I don't work out with any of my other writing partners!

JCV: When you see an aspiring creator with talent, what is the advice you give them?
Mike Oeming: Patience. Always be on a learning curve.

Mike's new series, Rapture, is due out from Dark Horse Comics in late May 2009. He's working on the new Powers series, as well, and you can find out more about him at on his new website. You can also sign-up for his email newsletter by dropping a request to