Weekly Process Roundup 3/11/11

The weekly process roundup is a collection of sketches, pencils, inks, thumbnails, everything other than finished product, from The Long and Shortbox of It's favorite artists and illustrators, hitting every Friday.


It's early in the morning as I write this and, clearly, I've lost at least a little bit of my mind, so I'm going to go ahead and do two things:

1. I'm going to claim, based on the above photo evidence alone, that I am the Immortal Iron Fist.
2. I'm going to review an old comic.

Well, not a comic that is that old, just one I am behind on-- in this case, the only relevant comic, Power Man and Iron Fist #1. Those of you who read this blog regularly probably know that my favorite superhero comic of all time is the sixteen issue run of a book called The Immortal Iron Fist written by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker and drawn by the incomparable David Aja. That comic is nearly perfect, uncannily written, beautifully drawn, edited in such a way that it takes advantage of some aspects of a monthly publishing schedule that I would usually consider flaws; The Immortal Iron Fist is the book that I point to when people ask me how one could possibly take super hero comics seriously.*

When I finished with that, I was convinced I loved Danny Rand as much as I loved Captain America and, perhaps, it was true; since then, however, I have come to believe that creators are more important than characters and I have taken to saying that it's not Iron Fist on the whole I love so much as I love the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja Iron Fist. This, too, may very well be true-- I don't buy New Avengers even though he's all over that book these days-- but when my boy Danny shows up in a book written by Fred Van Lente, well, it's a reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Let me tell you, after reading the first issue, the optimism is warranted. FVL handles these characters perfectly and, although he doesn't approach the character from the same direction that Immortal did, he doesn't give short shrift to that book's overwhelming legacy. I was a little worried that he was going to drop the mythical aspects all together and just play the veteran martial artist off of the new Power Man in a straight up buddy cop comedy (an idea that Van Lente himself may have put into my head when he spoke to us last year) but I really shouldn't have been, in hindsight. FVL is one of the best writers in comics these days and this is among the best things he's ever written-- it's both charmingly funny and deadly serious, and he mines the difficult relationship between the crime fighting duo for gold.

While Danny struggles in his mentor role, the new Power Man-- a young man named Victor Alvarez-- wears the cocky rookie cliche like a glove, with one major exception: those guys think they're immortal, and, as Danny puts it, Alvarez really is. Van Lente gets extra credit here for recognizing how tired these tropes are, both in superhero comics and buddy comedies, and for playing with them so that they seem fresh even though they aren't, not really. In some ways, the whole book feels like that, like something that we've seen before but that's also... different. FVL, in taking old ideas and making them feel new, is doing here what he's done perfectly elsewhere (particularly with Incredible Herc). Comics like these are precisely what the modern age needs, precisely the antidote to the sixteenth or seventeenth iteration of the same old story with the same old tensions. There are new villains here, incredibly intriguing ones, even as the plot ties back into the history of Luke Cage and Danny Rand, into things that even I didn't know, things that go further back even than Immortal. Every thing old is new again, and everything new feels classic.

The art is damn good, too. I don't know that I would say Wellington Alves is one of my favorites, but he does a great job here-- not quite photorealistic, but not completely stylized either. It's a nice look, and he mixes up his style to fit the tone as it changes, although this might be the work of inker Nelson Pereira. Whoever's responsible, it looks great. It's not David Aja, not by any stretch, but it's hard to overstate how much the fact that the book just looks nice helps here.

Power Man and Iron Fist #1 is a great book in a good looking package and, despite my fears, I can't wait for the next one. Luckily for me, being behind is a great advantage in this case-- it's already out. Sweet.

*Well, ok. That and Brubaker's Captain America.

"The Spirit" of Will Eisner is Warmly Remembered

Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of a man credited as the 'father of comics', a man who was among the first to push the formal boundaries of the comics medium (most definitely the first to utilize the unique aspects of the comic-book format). He chose to leave behind the creative effort of commercial comic-books in the 1950s for something even more commercial: instructional illustration. And after making a bundle of money doing that, in the Sixties he suddenly encountered the underground 'comix' movement, sold his company, and began a third career creating, publishing, and codifying what we now call, thanks to him, graphic novels. Sadly, we lost him in 2oo5.

That man was, of course, Will Eisner.

Google knows how to show respect, the famous corporation's search-engine homepage looked like that yesterday! That fun and inventive manner of showing and telling at the same time is all Eisner. His comics splash pages usually looked like this (but often far more elaborate) in the series starring the character he created, and is attached to by posterity, The Spirit.

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (@MoCCAnyc) wins by bringing even more respect to the day. The museum held a screening of the excellent documentary by Andrew and Jon Cooke (@jonbcooke) "Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist" at their gallery on Broadway in grand old Manhattan. I own this particular documentary on DVD and I've seen it multiple times. Bought it at NY Comic-Con directly from the director. Love it. [Read more about it here!]

In fact, MoCCA is holding an exhibit currently called "Will Eisner's New York: From The Spirit to the Modern Graphic Novel" curated by publisher of Kitchen Sink Press and friend to the late Eisner, Denis Kitchen; and former Marvel editor, Danny Fingeroth (@DannyFingeroth).

MoCCA is located at 594 Broadway Avenue and the exhibit focusing on Eisner will be held until June 30th of this year. See a bit of comics history, New York City history, and support a great independent museum at the same time! Or order the documentary on DVD/BluRay and support the creation of high quality film about comics. Most importantly, learn about this truly remarkable man and the huge amount of varied work he produced in his long lifetime. You won't regret it.