Interview: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Warning: She WILL cut you.
Photo by Doug Hesse

Interview: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Just who is Kelly Sue DeConnick?

She writes comics!  Great ones!  Like Sif and Rescue one-shots, or her Osborn: Evil Incarcerated miniseries!  This week brings the end of her three-issue arc on Supergirl, and on September 28th Castle: Richard Storm’s Deadly Storm, based on the wonderful TV series Castle and co-written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Lan Medina, will be released.  Order it now!

Besides writing comics, she used to translate manga into English!  All of a sudden, I have the urge to read over a dozen volumes of a basketball manga series!

She’s married!  To fellow comics writer Matt Fraction!  They have two children!

Back in July, she raised a metric poopload of money for an awesome cause: Women for Women International’s programs in the Congo!

But enough exclamation points, it’s time for QUESTIONS.

01. SUMMER READING LISTS

C!TB: What are your favourite things you’re reading these days?  It can be anything – books, comics, magazines, etc.

Kelly Sue:  Nonfiction-wise, I’m reading Mercury 13 and Promised the Moon, both about the women of the early astronaut program.  Excellent, excellent, heartbreaking story.  Mercury 13 is particularly well-written.

And I just got an Amazon gift card that I think I’m going to use for the kindle edition of Mind in the Making – a book my son’s school recommends.

Comics-wise, I’m reading Guggenheim and Chaykin’s Blade run—loving the structure.  I think I was six issues or so in before I saw the big picture.  Disciplined crafting—and holy shit, the covers!  What else?  Making my way through the Dr. Strange essentials in preparation for Fraction’s Defenders…which, by the by, is going to blow the top of your head clean off.  Let’s see… right here on my desk today is Jen Van Meter’s Cinnamon: El Ciclo—a title I would not even know about had John Siuntres not mentioned it during our last Wordballoon interview.  I’m hoping to start that today.

I just picked up some American Vampire and Batman Detective because I’ve heard really good things about Scott Snyder.  Really looking forward to those.

What else have I got laying about here… Jon Hickman’s Red Wing (which didn’t really hook me until the last page of the first issue, but once he got me, he got me good), Emma Rios & Nick Spencer’s Cloak & Dagger—which is PAINFUL for me to read, because I’m so crazy about Emma and I seethe with jealousy that she’s working with Nick… who I’m sure is lovely, but I kind of want to get hit by a bus, in the way that you wish horrible fates on your girlfriend’s new boyfriends.  Lucky for Nick, John Boehner and my own karma, I don’t happen to be psychokinetic, so I can give in to my baser instincts a little without actually risking anyone’s neck.

I wish I was reading a novel right now, but I haven’t had time.  I have an ARC of Maria Dahvana Headley’s Queen of Kings by my bed that I haven’t gotten to read yet and the book is already out!  What fun is an ARC if the book is out, I ask you??

Every once in a while I stroke it lovingly.

C!TB: I totally understand the ARC thing; I got an ARC of Alice Bradley & Eden Kennedy’s humour book Let’s Panic About Babies!: How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant Who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain, and Finally Turn You into a Worthwhile Human Being and so far it just sits on the shelf (on top of a Saved By the Bell comic Brandon found me).  It taunts me, though every time I have a chance to pick it up, it sends me into fits of laughter.  I absolutely recommend it, even if that’s just adding to your pile.

Kelly Sue: I love the title!  Have you read Happiest Baby on the Block?  I highly recommend that one if you’ve got an infant.  Though, honestly, you can just rent the DVD and get all the fundamentals.

C!TB: Neither of us at C!TB have children – I follow Alice Bradley’s writing, which is how I found her book – but I’m sure some of our readers are or will be soon, so I’m happy to pass it along!  Recently, I’ve been digging into A Game of Thrones on friends’ recommendations.  Have you checked out Grant Morrison’s Supergods yet?  I keep it on my desk at home to spur me to read faster so I can get to it.  The blurbs and excerpts I’ve read so far definitely make it sound like it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to talk about superhero comics ever again.

Kelly Sue: I haven’t read Supergods.  My favorite excerpt I’ve run across is the one about how a “prolific and popular comics writer could make the same amount [$20,000] in a week.”

Bless his heart, Mr. Morrison lives in a very different universe from ANYONE else I know… Except maybe Neil Gaiman.  Who could absolutely bring in that sum in a week, but wouldn’t do it writing comics.

02. SUPERHEROES, BRIEFLY

C!TB: Your take on Norman Osborn was one that we don’t see as often as we do his more supervillainous side.  How did you approach the character?

Kelly Sue: Carefully and from behind…?

Sorry.  That was awful.

Um… hm.  I’m not sure I know how to answer that question.  I guess I thought I was writing the same Osborn that Bendis wrote, the same Osborn that Ellis wrote in Thunderbolts…?  That was my intention anyway. If it didn’t work, I don’t want to know.

C!TB: Oh, it absolutely worked.  The Osborn you wrote is definitely identifiable as the same Osborn that Bendis and Ellis wrote.  I don’t know if it was your dialogue, the setting (no superheroes), Emma’s genius art, or a combination thereof, though, but this was the first incarnation of the character that absolutely truly scared me.  And kudos for that!

Kelly Sue: Aw, thanks man.  That warms my heart…which makes me a weirdo, I think.  But still.

C!TB: From Osborn, you went to something quite tonally different with Supergirl, which is so lovingly indebted to 80s teen movies.  What would “Kelly Sue’s Must Watch 80s Teen Movie Extravaganza” consist of?

Kelly Sue: Ohhhh, hm. Probably the same movies as everyone else, but let’s go… Off the top of my head, in no particular order, some of which are not really teen movies…

  • The Last Starfighter
  • Tremors
  • Goonies
  • Real Genius
  • Night of the Comet
  • Who’s that Girl?
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Heathers
  • The Lost Boys
  • Some Kind of Wonderful
  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • The Hidden
  • The Princess Bride

C!TB: I’m especially glad to see The Princess Bride on there!  It’s definitely one of my favourite movies, which makes it even more maddening that my office hires an intern every year and I’m just going into a third year sharing an office with a university student who either doesn’t it like or hasn’t seen it.    One didn’t even know who Peter Falk and Columbo were!

Kelly Sue: WHAT?!

Have you seen Wings of Desire?  (Most pretentious thing I’ve said today, btw.  Course it’s only 11:40 am here, so there’s still time.)

C!TB: I haven’t seen Wings of Desire yet, but seeing as how I have seen the Goo Goo Dolls’ video for “Iris,” which was on the soundtrack for the English-language adaptation City of Angels, I feel like I’ve seen the original already.

Kelly Sue: I… I… I…

C!TB: Now that I’ve given you a minor stroke, I’ll alleviate your worries of being pretentious by giving an even worse example: in university, I wrote not one but two papers about Disney fairy tale movies, including one where I compared the narrative structure of Aladdin to that of the original story in The Thousand and One Nights, complete with some Michel Foucault and Northrop Frye literary theory.  I also wrote on noir cinematography and detective pulp conceits, but that was just fun.  Ah, the life of a liberal arts student.  I’ll have to check out the few on your list that I haven’t seen.

Kelly Sue: So jealous.  I went the fine arts route. (I did audit a class on the cultural construction of the vampire, taught by a guy named Gudni, who was white as snow and wore black turtlenecks every day… in Texas.) Which ones haven’t you seen?

C!TB: On your list, I think I’ve seen everything except Night of the Comet, Some Kind of Wonderful and The Hidden.  

Kelly Sue: Man, I hope The Hidden holds up.  Here’s the opening car chase.

C!TB: Some of the others like Who’s That Girl? are far back in my metaphorical rear view mirror, but I remember seeing them way back in the mists of time.  Growing up in the 90s, however, has gifted me with a deep and abiding love for any kind of teen comedy from that era, from Empire Records to Can’t Hardly Wait (common thread?  Ethan Embry) with 10 Things I Hate About You making it just before the decade’s clock rolled over.

Kelly Sue: I had to look Embry up on IMDB.  (Sorry.)  You know he was on a TV series called Fear Itself?

C!TB: I didn’t!  Considering my deep and abiding love of both Embry and Marvel’s blockbuster summer event, I’m calling that kismet.

Back to Supergirl, how much did the recent authors’ storylines for the series impact how you pitched your arc?  

Kelly Sue: A good bit, I guess.  I was mostly trying to find a way to stay true to the established character and at the same time distinguish myself from what had already been done.

03. CASTLES IN THE SKY

C!TB: You’ve mentioned that Brian Bendis wrote the first 30 pages of the Castle/Derrick Storm OGN and you did the scripting for the rest of the book from Brian’s plan.  How much freedom did you have in the parts of the book you scripted?  What was (or still is) the back-and-forth and editing process of that like?

Kelly Sue: Brian was really great and gave me tons of freedom.  Maybe he’ll regret it when the book comes out, but for the most part, he read my pages as I turned them in and okay’d them.

C!TB: Does one of you “lead” the art review process or is it a team effort?

Kelly Sue: Because of some scheduling hijinks, I didn’t actually see pages as they came in–I’m not sure if Brian did either.  Long story, but that was handled on this book by our fabulous and capable editors.

C!TB: Is it different at all writing a favourite comic book property than it is a TV property?  What are other dream properties – TV, comics or other – you’d like to tackle some day?

Kelly Sue: Modesty Blaise.  But that’s the dream of me and half the universe.  The half that doesn’t want to write James Bond, I think.

And I’m not sure it was any different, honestly.  I guess… I had an actor solidly in my head, but… I’m not sure that made a real difference in the writing process.

The only thing that was really any different for me process-wise between, say, Castle and Osborn, was that I was trying to be an active student of Brian’s for Castle.  So, like, there’s a two page spread where I’m clearly aping his style.  And I am not as comfortable with internal monologue caption boxes as Brian is, so I had to consciously choose to use them so it didn’t seem like Storm’s inner voice suddenly went must after page 30.

C!TB: Did you learn anything specifically from being a student of Brian’s?

Kelly Sue: He is a master of the double-page spread and I am a chicken shit.  Does that qualify as a lesson?

C!TB: Of course!  Looking at other writers’ work and being ashamed of your own is simply a fact of life, or at least I’m telling myself that to save my own ego.  It’s like that Ira Glass quote that’s going around these days about how persistence and art consumption/taste are basically the only ways you become any good.

Kelly Sue: Is the Ira Glass thing going around?  Is there, like, a recording or a written piece?  [Ed Note: Yes, there isI had coffee with Wil Wheaton on Monday and he told me about it (Can we just stop here for a moment and acknowledge what a name-dropper I am? Yeah… I had coffee with my buddy Wil on Monday… If the Wings of Desire bit didn’t make you hate me, that ought to do it.) — I don’t remember how we got to it.  Something about… I dunno… beginner’s mind, maybe?  I think we were talking about strengths and weaknesses in our own work and the patience and perspective it takes to just trust that you’ll improve and… not be content with with where you are exactly, but not to waste too much energy lamenting it.  I guess being content with where you are in your evolution isn’t such a bad way of phrasing it.

Anyway, I was saying that I’d written more than ten thousand pages of manga adaptation dialogue before I got my first American comics gig.  So I’m pretty confident in my ability to craft dialogue.  I’ve put ten thousand pages in that pit, you know? And then I think Wil told me about Ira Glass and “the gap,” which is, I gather, the same idea, only less ham-fisted in its articulation.

I should google it, huh?

My pacing and plotting gaps still hunger for pages, I’m afraid.

C!TB: Care to tell the Derrick Storm actor you had in your head, or would you prefer to keep that private so it doesn’t influence readers’ impressions while reading?

Kelly Sue: Nathan Fillion!  C’mon.

C!TB: I’m kicking myself over not immediately thinking of that.  I’m really hoping something like that comes up in the series, as a fun meta joke.  I can’t remember, but I think you’ve said before (maybe on Word Balloon) that the comic itself will come up in the series.  Will it be credited on-air to you and Brian?  Will you be involved in anything past the actual making of the comic or will that be it?

Kelly Sue: Not me.  I think Brian might have a thing happening, but I’m certain I shouldn’t expound on that.

05. WHEREIN EYES ARE THREATENED, BUT WITH A GOOD REASON

C!TB: With so much being said about DC’s relaunch, its lacking of female creators & other issues of gender and diversity, we’re trying to take positive approach.  What can readers do to affect change?

Kelly Sue: I love you dearly.  Truly, I do.  i like your website, your twitter feed and your sense of humor.  I believe that you want to help.  I adore you for wanting to be positive.

But if anyone else asks me about being a woman in the comic industry this week I’m going to pop their eyes out with a heroin spoon.

Don’t make me take your eyes, James.  They’re beautiful eyes.  Let’s leave them right where they belong.

C!TB: Absolutely understood!  I’m definitely trying to keep my remaining working eye (long story), so I’ll do my best not to deserve the spoon.  I definitely understand not wanting to talk about it more for the time being, so my apologies for not guessing that before I asked.

Kelly Sue: You only have one working eye?!  Well now I feel like a heel for threatening the other.

Are you actually blind in one eye?  My friend Jane is blind in one eye–she was born with one blue eye and one brown.  She’s like a gorgeous version of David Bowie… though, honestly, David Bowie is a gorgeous version of David Bowie, isn’t he?

Anyway.  Your eye is safe.  In the future I will threaten your thumbs or something.

(Really, I just… it’s complicated, right?  Diversity needs to be discussed.  But not, right now, by me.)

C!TB: I am actually blind in one eye.  Childhood, “mild” hit to the head, partially detached retina, glaucoma, yadda yadda yadda.  Long story short, my tennis game is not particularly good for much other than my opponent’s laughs.  I didn’t get any of the cool Bowie-ness, sadly.

Kelly Sue: Let’s just pretend you’re Odin. Wait, does that work if you still have the eye?

You might have to cough up the eye.

04. JAMES AND KELLY SUE’S MEALTIME VARIETY HOUR

C!TB: What is your workday like?  Do you and Matt both work from home or in the same office?

Kelly Sue: We both work from home but we have separate offices.

Summer schedule:

I get up with the kids, generally around 6:30/7:00.  We hang out until around 9, when the sitter arrives.  When Fraction wakes up varies wildly, depending on when he went to bed.  Once Beth arrives I, take my coffee and go down to my desk.  If it’s a good, orderly week, I have blocks of time chopped out for various projects, if it’s not, I’m in panic mode. I usually start with email and try to set a time limit for myself so I don’t get stuck.

At 5pm, we knock off, send Beth home and play with the kids.  I usually make dinner.  After dinner, we have some family time (hello, dance party!) then Fraction gives them their baths while I clean the kitchen.  Story time, then bed. I go to sleep with the kids, Fraction goes back to work.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

C!TB: What dishes have you been enjoying cooking lately?  I’ve recently been dipping my toes into the world of pan-seared meats and homemade ice cream.  Last weekend I made a saskatoon berry chutney without a recipe that really surprised me with how good it was.

Kelly Sue: I love you for saying saskatoon.

Let’s see… I made some blueberry frozen yogurt and coconut crumble the other day.  That was pretty great.  I just a few minutes ago put some chicken breasts in the crock pot with onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, cilantro, ginger, coconut milk and broth.  I was just kind of throwing stuff in… no idea if this’ll turn out.  We might be ordering pizza–who knows?

(My confidence is waning a bit because I made some marshmallows over the weekend that weren’t very good.  And I took them to a party where a couple of teenaged girls tried to hide that they were throwing away the ones they’d bitten.  I wanted to chase after them and explain that I’d used the wrong pot and I couldn’t get the sugar to the right temp without it boiling over, consequently they were on too long too low… I came to my senses and decided just to live with the failure.)

C!TB: Don’t feel bad, I wouldn’t even attempt marshmallows; recipes always make them sound so finicky.  I’m scared of making/ruining candy in general – I really only make orangettes at Christmastime, since it’s only moderately easy to set my apartment on fire while candying orange peels.  Candy making is not for me and I admire you for even trying.

Kelly Sue: Given my recent failure, you’re not going to believe me when I say this, but they’re not that hard.

C!TB: I don’t!  Truthfully, I stick to savoury dishes more than sweet ones; I’ll make galettes now and again, or a pavlova with some jam, but roasts, savoury tarts, biscuits and vegetables (I make a mean layered ratatouille) are my wheelhouse.  I also made pea pesto for the last time last night, which I am bragging about because I spent too long shucking peas last night to not be at least a little proud of myself.

Kelly Sue: Oh, I hear you.  Have you ever made anything with fresh fava beans? They’re awesome, but you have to peel them TWICE.

C!TB:  I haven’t, and I don’t mean to point fingers, but you might have ensured I never do.  Actually, I’m really looking forward to making that lamb recipe that was in Casanova and posting the process and results as an article on the site when Avaritia comes out, under the CASANOVANAUTS banner.

Kelly Sue: Sweet.  Did you submit a letter for the new letters column?  You totally should.

C!TB: It’s been sitting open on my home computer for a few days now.  It might be a tad unseemly to just write, in all caps, “THANK YOU YOUR COMIC IT HAS BEEN A MASSIVE INFLUENCE ON ME I RECOMMEND IT TO EVERYONE I CAN,” you know?  I’ll figure something out.

Kelly Sue: Matt and I used to cook together more.  I miss that.  We should do that again.  With the kids, one of us is on baby duty while the other one is preparing the meal – save for once or twice a year when we make a Timpano.  The last two of those have been rushed though.

Wahwah.  Look at me with my beautiful happy family and dream job!  Don’t you feel sorry for me that we don’t get to cook together like we used to??

::sad trombones::

05. SHIT GETS SERIOUS, GUYS

C!TB: Some creators have mentioned that having children has had a big effect on their writing, in terms of the projects they take and how they tackle the actual subject matter – like gender and violence.  Have you noticed this with yourself?

Kelly Sue: It’s certainly affected what media I consume.  I used to love salacious violence–true crime crap.  Guilty pleasure.  I can’t stomach it anymore. And I get pissed when people use violence against animals or children (or rape) as a lazy writing device.  I did it myself once (I killed a dog to show that a villain was Really Bad) and I haaaate myself for it. It’s shit writing and there’s no excuse.

C!TB: I had a similar experience with crime procedural shows.  I spent two years working at an inpatient treatment program for convicted sex offenders and, while I learned all sorts of incredible skills and things about my own capabilities, it pretty much took away my ability to enjoy any true crime or crime procedural and absolutely destroyed my ability to stomach any kind of fictionalized sexual violence.  I never liked it, but now Law & Order: SVU will send me out of a room faster than anything.   

Kelly Sue: Oh… oh my god.

Holy shit.

I simultaneously want to pick your brain and beg you to never tell me a single thing.  Are you… okay?  Jesus.

I kind want to feed you spaghetti now.

C!TB: Don’t worry, I’m okay.  It’s definitely an intense work environment and they actually hired me afterwards to design some research on what kind of effects (“vicarious traumatization”) those environments could potentially have, but the combination of tremendous and supportive coworkers, necessary black humour and a long commute home really helped.  It was a great experience working there, but a few years of no longer having to hear firsthand descriptions of some of the worst things people can do to one another has definitely been good.  But yeah, needless to say, there are a lot of TV shows and movies that have become off-limits for me.  

Should you ever have any questions, feel free to ask me; I’ll answer as much as I am legally allowed to divulge.  And I’ll always accept spaghetti.

Kelly Sue: Okay.

Can I mail spaghetti?

06. I AM NOT TOO PROUD TO BEG, PEOPLE

C!TB: You’ve said a dream project of yours is a 70s-style revenge western comic done with Emma Rios.  First, please make this happen, we want to buy this.  

Kelly Sue: Well… okay.

07. WHEREIN C!TB GETS A NEW FAMILY, I AM HOLDING YOU TO THAT, KELLY SUE

C!TB: Finally, a C!TB tradition: Will you adopt us?

Kelly Sue: Yes. But you have to share a room.

C!TB: I call top bunk.

XX. THE PART WHERE YOU BUY THINGS

Wasn’t that great?  Talking to Kelly Sue was definitely just about the best thing this site has ever led to me doing, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run around the office pumping my fists in the air for a minute.

While I’m doing that, check out Kelly Sue’s author page at Amazon.ca (Americans, go here ; Europeans?  Work for it) and buy everything you can.  Just clean them out.  Should you want to empty the shelves at a physical store, visit your local comic book shop and remember to ask them to save you a copy of Castle: Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm on September 28th.

This isn’t an option.

You Read These With Your Eyes! – June 1st, 2011

Read about these, earth-man.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

CRIMINAL: LAST OF THE INNOCENTS #1 (Marvel Comics/Icon)

The long awaited return of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal is here! Look, I like Incognito as much as the next guy, buy there’s something special about Criminal. I’m not entirely sure I can put a finger on it – though I suspect it has something to do with the fact that it’s a style of comic that’s more rare in the business, the straight up, down and dirty crime noir, rather than pulp noir. But I digress.

Like every arc of Criminal, you can come at this baby fresh. The book is not so much the continual tales of the same criminals, more like the continual tales of people in the worldof Criminal. In fact, this story is a bit of a departure from previous ones, in that Brubaker has said it was inspired by Archie, of all things. Basically, this is one of those “what would happen if some all-American archetypes grew up” deals, meshing this underbelly world with comics history. It should be a fantastic read.

REED GUNTHER #1 (Image Comics)

You don’t see very many western books anymore – let alone westerns that are appropriate for all ages – but low and behold, there’s this! Reed Gunther is a new ongoing from Image that features the titular cowboy who rides a bear and goes on old west adventures. And that’s something you can’t miss out on. SO DON’T.

THE TOOTH HC (Oni Press)

This is going to be an interesting. From the minds of Cullen Bunn (Fear Itself: The Deep, The Sixth Gun, The Damned, etc.) and Matt Kindt (Superspy, Revolver, 3 Story, etc.) comes this horror-pulp fisticuff spectacular, featuring the adventures of… well, Cullen really explains it best in his elevator pitch, which is this:

“A guy finds a magic tooth… which nests in his mouth like an inverted sabertooth tiger fang… and occasionally leaps out, grows to the size of a gorilla, and fights demons.”

Which sounds just crazy enough to work, amirite? Be on the look out for it.

OSBORN: EVIL INCARCERATED TP (Marvel Comics)

This series was one of the best things we’ve read this year to date, and stands a good chance of making it onto our Inarguable Best list for 2011. Working together to produce pure goddamn magic, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios (with a touch of help from Becky Cloonan) put together a tense prison drama with just a touch of that fantastical Marvel flavouring. Each issue ratcheted up the stakes and the tension, and when things came unwound, we at C!TB were left reeling, simultaneously exhausted and wishing for more, more, more as though it was the midnight hour, or something. Anyway, this book launched alongside the soon-to-be-departed Spider-Girl ongoing, as part of the Big Time launch and both books were criminally overlooked. Don’t miss your second chance to experience it here.

THE FEAR ITSELF/FLASHPOINT GANGBAG SEX-STRAVIGANZA! (Amalgam)

What, a guy can wish, can’t he?

Look, we’d me remiss if we didn’t mention the fact that both Marvel and DC are giving a big push for both of their big events this week – and we’re both fans of what Matt Fraction and Geoff Johns have been doing on their respective books, so we’re pretty excited. If you’re into this kind of thing, both of these guys (alongside Stuart Immonen and Andy Kubert) are killing it on these books, and you really should pop in and see what they’re saying. Big company crossover madness has never been this good.

These are just five books being released this week! You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

Recommendation – Osborn #5

Goddammit, Spider-Man.Osborn #5 (Marvel Comics)
By Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Becky Cloonan, Jose Villarrubia & VC’s Clayton Knowles

Synopsis: So Norman Osborn has escaped prison and roofied the reporter who could expose him.  This should go well.

01. I missed Norman Osborn.  Not necessarily the scenery-chewing villain from Dark Reign, who was also awesome, but the guy you weren’t afraid of because he was powerful, but just because he was absolutely fucking terrifying.   Because that guy, the one who’s never more dangerous than when he’s secretly hidden in an underwater superprison away from the world?  That guy is one of the greatest villains in comics, and I’m so, so glad that Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios have helped bring him back.

02. Three weeks after posing as a false messiah to the secretly imprisoned before blowing them all up to cover his literal and metaphorical escape, Norman Osborn is nowhere to be seen.  Daily Bugle reporter Norah Winters, who followed a lead right up to Norman’s jailbreak and who has since published a series of articles about Norman’s escape, is testifying in a US Senate hearing chaired by one of Norman’s erstwhile allies and co-conspirators, who is doing everything he can to discredit her.  Despite Senator Muffoletto’s efforts to back up Norah, everybody’s plans are thrown out the window when Norman resurfaces to turn himself in.

This is where things get interesting.

03. Because nobody plays that game better than Norman Osborn, with the possible exception of the person writing him.  He’s got his own plans, but what are they?  Nobody’s happy to see him, even the guy who helped break him out of jail.  The rest of the issue is pure, delicious reaction, with Norman dodging and toying with Norah, Muffaletto and the media itself.  Inscrutable as ever, he has plans.  And I, for one, am scared absolutely shitless by this.

04. Every page is drawn with incredibly powerful effect by Emma Rios and some support from Becky Cloonan.  I challenge anyone to come up with a more intimidating representation of Norman Osborn than the pair’s angular, leering monster, smiling all the while.  Look at his smile as he opens the lid of escape vessel, as he taunts Norah and Muffaletto, or even as he bites down on his lunch.  I mean, just look at it!  The artists on this issue have outdone themselves and created something that could be iconic.

05. Of course, much credit has to go to Kelly Sue DeConnick, the mastermind, along with editor Alejandro Arbona, of this miniseries.  It’s an artfully and intricately crafted series that makes excellent use of the compete absence of Spider-Man from the story of the return of his greatest villain.  Because Norman should terrify everybody, and this series shows us why.  He’s not just a superhero problem.

06. One last thing before I go.  Remember the part earlier before where I suggested one of the only people as smart as Norman Osborn is the person writing him right now?  I meant it.  Stories about smart people sink or swim based on the person writing them, because none of the characters can be smarter than the writer can think.  Now, Jonathan Hickman isn’t a genius scientist because he writes Reed Richards as one believably, and neither is Dan Slott because of his work on Amazing Spider-Man.  But their characters can only think big and be smart because the writers are smart people.  And even if Kelly Sue isn’t actually a megalomaniacal evil genius, the fact that she can write one so well in her comics is absolutely incredible and a testament to how smart she is.

I cannot wait to read every single thing she writes from now on.

Recommended if you like: Amazing Spider-Man, Thunderbolts, Ex Machina, and good comics

C!TB's Best of the Week | March 28th, 2011

Ta-daaaahhh

Welcome, ladies and gentledudes, to a brand new week of Comics! The Blog goodness! As always, we like to kick shit off by handing out a couple of awards for things and shit, so uh… let’s… let’s do that. With our hands.

He just wants to give you a hug!GIVE US A SMILE NOW

Norman Osborn is a sick, sick motherfucker.  We all know that, but sometimes we have to take that a little bit more on faith than we do on other occasions.  I mean, it’s been how long since he murdered Gwen Stacy, and what’s he done in the meantime?  Well, sure he was the head of H.A.M.M.E.R., and he wasn’t exactly all sunshine and roses.  Asgard probably wouldn’t say he was a nice guy.  But in Osborn?  He is absolutely terrifying.

Maybe it’s the way Kelly Sue DeConnick writes him as a calculating, megalomaniacal monster willing to embrace that insanity to build an army and then turn around and spit on it because hey, he’s not like them, he’s special.  Or maybe it’s Emma Rios‘ skin crawling, crooked depiction of him as an angular, grinning devil.  Between these two, however, Norman is the scariest he’s been in years; for once, he really feels like the biggest Spider-Man villain of them all for more reason than something he did 38 years ago.  For terrifying us so well, C!TB gives Osborn #4 the Jeepers Creepers, Where’d You Get Those Peepers? Award. (J)

BLUFFIN’ WITH YOUR MUFFIN

Pokerface is a man that has a poker in his face. He runs a secret underwater casino that is advertised to the super rich and famous through a secret internet. He is the best character of 2011 and he’s found in the pages of last week’s Power Man and Iron Fist.

Now if you’ve wasted pretty much any kind of time on this site, you know that we’re a big fan of Fred Van Lente. The man not only knows how to write fun comics, but he also researches the holy hell out of them when the time comes. Anyone who has read Action Philosophers and Comic Book Comics knows what I’m talking about – the dude is well read, and he can turn cold hard facts into fun with a few turns of phrase – and that is no easy task. I will readily admit that, out of the two of us, James probably lives a bit more in the real world and obtains facts by doing things like actually listening to the news and reading non-fiction booksbut look, that doesn’t mean I don’t like knowing things. I just have a hard time dealing with the real world sometimes, when fiction just seems so much more fun. But if I’m afforded the opportunity to learn about THINGS in a slightly more entertaining package (like The Daily Show or The Bugle or the aforementioned Fred Van Lente comics) I’ll do it. And heck, I’ll buy all the other comics the guy does, because sometimes? He even slips in some learning inside of them! Like his Dark Reign: Mr. Negative mini-series that dropped a heap of real-ass Chinese mafia/immigration stuff into it, or his Incredible Hercules comics that dig through bits of, uh… “real” mythology to inform superheroic slug-‘em-ups. The dude is just an amazing writer.

Now I have to admit – I’m pretty sure this book had absolutely no learning in it what-so-ever (unless Mister Professor Van Lente knows a little something about the internet that the rest of us don’t) and so that long, rambling gush fest was really nothing more than me getting some love out of my system in a way that doesn’t involve police. But whatever. This book was rad, and absolutely all of you should be reading it – and not just because of Pokerface or Fred Van Lente, but because we’re awarding it the highly coveted Chairface Chippendale Award for Excellence in Villainy.

Better than alllll the restPicking something for this slot seems to get harder and harder each week, because – let’s face it, there’s a ton of great comics out there, and if you’re doing this right? You’re enjoying quite a lot of them. I know last week, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized it was James’ week to pick out something from the flood of amazing books that hit the stands last week. But dammit, if this week didn’t stab me in the eyes with awesomeness too.

And so my pick this week is made not because it outshone others, but because, goddammit, I couldn’t stop smiling as I read it, and I was just in the mood for something big and silly this week.

Damn RIGHTS.

In this issue, not only do we get another appearance by the current Batwoman, but the old Batwoman shows up inside these pages, and details exactly how Bruce learned the dreaded tango of death. Once again, Grant Morrison’s ability to seamlessly blend silver age Bat stories in with the more modern “serious” Batman takes this little story to a very special place, in which I start getting the vapors. Plus, new rotating series artist Chris Burnham explodes out of the gate by nailing some pretty stunning artistic transitions – from channeling J.H. Williams with the current Batwoman scenes, to matching silver age art beat for beat with the flashback stuff (and hitting some Paquette style moments near the end). The guy is amazing, and DC definitely made the right choice with locking him down right away.

The next issue of Inc. should be on the stands in a few weeks – and if the quality maintains? We’ll be in for a great ride.

This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcasting week.

You Read These With Your Eyes! — March 23rd, 2011

Read about these, earth-man.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

That's a sex mustache if I ever saw one.CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BALTROC (One-Shot, Marvel Comics)

Finally, a Captain America villain who has nothing to do with Nazis!  Now, Batroc the Leaper has actually been around since 1966, but he often gets overshadowed by guys like the Red Skull or Baron Zemo, who were like Hitler’s best friends or something.  They even had hateful little picnics.

Anyway.

Marvel is continuing its celebration of Cap’s 70th anniversary with a series of one-shots looking at his friends and foes, and they’ve tapped C!TB favourite Kieron Gillen and Renato Arlem to delve into the character of Captain America’s most dashing, most Gallic enemy.  As we prepare for a big Nazi-heavy event (Fear Itself) and a Nazi-heavy summer blockbuster movie (Captain America: The First Avenger), it should be a nice palette cleanser to keep things from getting played out.  Because Nazis?  They’re the best villains, but mustachioed Frenchmen will always have a place in my heart.

What?

FF#1 (Marvel Comics)

We all miss Johnny Storm.  He was one of comics’ greatest characters, the kid brother in Marvel’s First Family and Spider-Man’s best friend.  So where do Reed, Sue and Ben go from here?  How do you keep going about your life when a part of it just… goes away?

We’re about to find out.  FF, the new adventures of the former Fantastic Four, from the team of Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting, begins tomorrow.  Despite the hugeness of Johnny’s death, we know there are still stories to tell.  Reed knows the world will end, and soon.  Dr. Doom and Valeria still have their secret deal.  The Four Cities are still going to go to war.  Nathaniel Richards is back.  And we’re about to see all this happen, even as Spider-Man fulfills his lifelong dream of joining the team.

The death of Johnny wasn’t the end.  It wasn’t a gimmick.  It was part of a story – a big one – that’s still being told.  Let’s see what happens.

Oh Ryan Kelly, making me fall in love with imaginary women.NEW YORK FIVE #3 (Vertigo)

I only watched part of the first season of Gossip Girl, but I like to think that if the show was more like New York Five, I’d have kept watching.  Brian Kelly and Ryan Wood’s story of four New Yorkers trying to get by in school, deal with their families, with even a little bit of romance and bad boys thrown in.

Now, I get if this doesn’t seem like something you’d like.  It sounds like it could be pretty damn trashy.  But you know what?  It’s not.  It’s a beautifully told, wonderfully drawn story about interesting people, with the backdrop of New York in all its glory, expertly rendered by Kelly and Wood.  So check it out.  Tell yourself you’re doing it to see little neighborhood dives and classic New York architecture so expertly rendered it’s practically a character itself.  But you’ll keep reading, because the whole thing is just damn good.

OSBORN #4 (Marvel Comics)

Norman Osborn stories are hard to tell.  They just are.  He’s evil.  He’s crazy.  He smart.  We get it.  But this?  Osborn?  This is something else.  Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios are telling maybe the most interesting Norman story we’ve seen in years.  He’s not the Green Goblin, he’s not the director of H.A.M.M.E.R., he’s a prisoner.  A prisoner with smarts, power and a crazy cult of supporters, and that could be all he needs.  What are his goals?  Can one reporter find the truth and break the story?  How big is the Goblin Cult?  I can’t wait to find out.  Because this is comics in all caps, that’s how much fun I’m having.

Does he ever get his claws tangled?WOLVERINE AND JUBILEE #3 (Marvel Comics)

Every time I read one of her comics, Kathryn Immonen needs to make more of them.  I mean, look at this!  Vampire Jubilee and Wolverine go on an adventure in Siberia, except things go sideways, and how.  How is that not one of the greatest things you’ve heard today?  Nobody writes the way Immonen does, and her talents give a great spin on the classic Logan/Jubilee relationship.  To Logan, she’s still the kid he used to keep an eye on, to whom he was a second father.  Except now she’s a depowered mutant, a vampire and kind of pissed about the whole thing.  She’s not too thrilled about being reliant on a supply of his blood, either.  But hey: family; what are you gonna do?

I’m gonna read this, that’s what.

And there you go.  Those are just five of the incredible-looking comics hitting the shelves this week.  Does it look a little Marvel-heavy?  Well, don’t worry, because DC also has some great series out, like Batman Incorporated #4 and the next two instalments of War of the Green Lanterns.  Last week, I was telling Brandon about how after a couple of heavy weeks, this one would be a bit lighter, and he just laughed and laughed and laughed.  Now I know why.

You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.