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#Kirby100: BBP! Celebrates The King Jack Kirby All Summer Long

Jack Kirby.

His artistry was, and remains, so innovative and influential in the comic book zeitgeist that the industry named awards after him. Heck, they even named a visual image after him: the affectionately known, “Kirby Krackle.”

How pervasive is writer and artist Jack Kirby in pop culture?

You can scan the litany of comic book characters that the man created or co-created and you’d be certain to find dozens that are your favourites. From the globally renowned Captain America, Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men series of characters, to the populace’s burgeoning awareness of Darkseid and Black Panther, to the more niche creations of Kamandi, Etrigan the Demon and Destroyer Duck. With Kirby, the list of great characters goes on and on and on.

Without him, pop culture and comic books wouldn’t be at all what we know it to be today.

This August marks the 100th birthday of Jack Kirby and we here at Biff Bam Pop! mean to celebrate that auspicious centennial with a plethora of written accolades all summer long!

This is your cordial invitation to our #Kirby100 party!

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Make It Population You In “Royal City #1” On The Wednesday Run

royal-city-1Over here in the Biff Bam Pop! community, we’re big, long-time admirers of Jeff Lemire’s comic book work.

For the better part of a decade, Lemire has been awing readers in a multitude of comic book genres with both company-owned characters and original creations.

Whether it’s his ground-breaking Essex County Trilogy in 2008, his post-apocalyptic series, Sweet Tooth, which brought the writer/artist mainstream attention and acclaim in 2009, his take on the “Invisible Man” in the graphic novel, The Nobody, the space/time bending Trillium in 2013, his riveting ongoing science fiction series, Descender, his brilliant take on Wolverine with Old Man Logan last year, or the current Moon Knight and Black Hammer superhero series that he writes for different publishers, Jeff Lemire never disappoints.

Whew.

That’s a lot of writing – and, often, drawing.

Today, we add another title to the ever-growing list of Jeff Lemire must-reads with Royal City #1!

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RIP Darwyn Cooke – It Was Truly A Golden Age

DC The New FrontierDarwyn Cooke was a giant talent in the comic book industry and a titan as a sequential artist. Last weekend, at the age of 53, the world lost the award-winning writer and illustrator to cancer.

I, like many others, became familiar with the work of Darwyn Cooke through his DC: The New Frontier (2004), a six-issue miniseries that reexamined DC Comics’ stable of superheroes within the confines of the mid twentieth century and the changing political shape of America after World War II and into the Cold War era. DC: The New Frontier introduced readers to dozens of world-famous characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash and even not-so-famous-but-beloved characters like the Challengers of the Unknown, meeting each other for the first time – in the same chronological order that they were originally published during the mid-twentieth century. It brought characters and ideas through the Golden Age of comic books (1930’s to 1950’s) to the burgeoning silver age (1950’s to 1970’s), with the story actually culminating in the foundation of the Justice League of America.

It was a brilliant idea. A tribute as much to the publishing history of comic books as it was a rollicking superhero adventure, the acclaimed series would garner multiple awards including Eisner Awards for Best Limited Series, Best Coloring and Best Publication Design. It also won Harvey Awards including Best Artist, and a Shuster Award for Outstanding Canadian Comic Book Cartoonist. DC: The New Frontier has been collected in numerous formats include a Deluxe and Absolute version, and was made into a direct-to-video animated film which preserved Cooke’s distinctive artistic sensibilities.

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SDCC 2015 Spotlight: Lonnie Millsap

fork color tiny

It’s that time again, where nerds rev up to go to nerd Mecca. Yes, it’s time for San Diego Comic Con.

Even if you don’t get to go this year, there are a host of artists and creators you should know about. They’re easy to follow on the web and they have a mountain of nerdy goodness for you all year round.

If you are about to brave the germ pool, you should stop by and say hello to Lonnie Millsap. Humorist and cartoonist, Lonnie has just released a new book entitled: I Asked For A Fork!

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Dead, Stinky, Artsy And Awesome – BBP! Speaks With Author And Illustrator Emily McGuiness

What do you get when you cross a hardworking and talented comic book writer and artist with the ABC’s of early childhood learning?

The answer to that question would be something entirely out of the ordinary.

Whether it’s a road-kill armadillo, a smushed firefly or a drum-sticked flamingo, Dead Stinky Animals A-Z, a recent release from writer/artist Emily McGuiness, is a bright, colorful, and fun look at the darker side of life.

Yes, you may recall her name. Emily is part of the family, after all. Follow us after the jump and we’ll tell you all about it.

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Biff Bam Pop’s Holiday Gift Guide 2013– Art Supplies

Ah, so you’ve got a significant other who fancies themselves an artist? A son or daughter who loves the subject in school? A friend whose been longing to paint like they once did in college, but has never quite gotten around to picking up proper supplies?

Well, now that we’ve tweaked your noodle this holiday season, let’s nudge you in the right artistic direction shall we?

The one thing that every artist needs, whether new or well established, is materials – one can never have enough of them.

Follow me after the jump for a few suggestions that, when unwrapped, will be most welcome in their studio.

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Walks, Landscapes, And A Swear Down – Biff Bam Pop! Speaks With Comic Book Artist And Writer: Oliver East

Swear Down coverMany in North America first became aware of Manchester, England based artist and writer, Oliver East, through his album cover work for the acclaimed English alt-rock musicians, Elbow. His drawings and paintings for the band’s seminal albums, The Seldom Seen Kid and Build a Rocket Boys!, perfectly captured the spirit of that music: at once puzzling and implicit, melancholy and joyous. But East had been hard at work making comics too, eventually releasing four books over the last five years through publisher, Blank Slate Books.

Renown for landscape-fuelled inspiration, his latest comic book offering, Swear Down, is also his most personal story. It debuts at the upcoming Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF), an event that East will fly over the Atlantic Ocean to attend and exhibit as well as meet and greet like-minded sequential art lovers.

JP Fallavollita got a chance to speak with Oliver East via email about his love of exploring the world and understanding life through walking, his evolution as a writer and an artist, and his affinity for American comics.

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Not My Bag Is My Bag On The Wednesday Run – October 17, 2012

October is a time for scary things: lumbering zombies, non-sparkly vampires, serial killers in the closet, the flapping sound of leathery bat wings, strange lesions on the back of an arm, things that go bump in the middle of the night, missing time and surprise property tax bills.

October is also a time when comic book publishing companies release the darker-themed periodicals that they’ve been saving for the past nine months. One of those books, for instance, made this column last week. There will be another before the month is out, I promise.

Sure, monsters and evil and all the other bad things associated with the current change of season are frightening, but what could be more horrifying than the thought of being trapped on the wrong track of life, caught in the wrong occupation, while a special talent is slowly sucked away?

That’s the premise behind Not My Bag by Sina Grace, a new graphic novel from a fairly new voice in sequential art.

 

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Biff Bam Pop’s Holiday Gift Guide Day 15 – The Wacom Inkling

Wow! Fifteen days into the Biff Bam Pop! Holiday Gift Guide and we’ve already highlighted lots of cool things for you, a friend or a loved one to read, watch or listen to.

Finally, here’s something cool to actually do: sure, you might need to be a little artistically inclined, but the brand new Wacom Inkling has got that great “Holiday Artsy-Techy Gift Idea” aura all about it!

Whether you’re a graphic artist, an illustrator or just a doodler, the Inkling could very well be the answer to your paper-to-digital-file prayers.

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Countdown To X-Men: First Class: JP Studies The Work Of 3 X-Men Artists in 3 Different Decades

In preparation for the latest film in the X-Men film franchise, this week at Biff Bam Pop we’re counting down to the Friday release of X-Men: First Class with a series of x-focused articles.

It seems like the X-Men have been around for as long as comic books themselves. The various characters that make up the superhero team: Professor X, Cyclops, Beast, Phoenix, Rogue and Wolverine among others are so ingrained in our consciousness that they seem like good friends. We know them all and we know them well. We know them through their comics and graphic novels, books, toys, video games, cartoons and, of course, films. But since X-Men was first released in the fall of 1963, those characters have undergone stylistic changes, both overt and subtle, by the writers and artists that put pen and pencil to paper.

With X-Men: First Class soon upon us, I thought it might be interesting to go back over the decades and briefly look at three seminal artistic runs on the titular comic book and make note of the changes inherent in the visual representations of Marvel Comics foremost superhero group.

Come. Walk with me.

The 1960’s

Alongside incomparable writer Stan Lee, artist Jack Kirby, himself a legend in the comic book world, created the X-Men. Stories focused on themes of prejudice and racism, concepts at the forefront of the American zeitgeist of the time and, really, ideas that remain constant and true to the series – and Marvel Comics – today.

Kirby was the perfect artist for the times. Just as the American civil rights and anti-war movements were gaining strength, Kirby drew his characters as monumental as those ideals, as if they were sculpted from immense stone boulders, a style that perfectly echoed the speeches of Martin Luthor King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

Looking at the cover of the first issue of X-Men (and saying nothing about Iceman’s poor aim with his snowball attack!), Kirby’s characters are squat in appearance, but full of kinetic energy, ready to quickly uncoil and snap into action. Indeed, they could fly right off of the page! His inked lines here are thick and deliberate, giving a sense of weight and gravitas to the page while his powerful, artistic storytelling is truly evident. With one look at these new characters, the reader, simply by glancing at the cover and following the action from the top of the page to the bottom, knows the powers of each of the main characters – a very clever form of visual storytelling, inherent to the sequential storytelling medium.

Even though they are costumed differently than what twenty-first century audiences are used to seeing, Beast, Angel, Iceman and Cyclops are easily identified – a testament to Kirby’s design sense and the timelessness of those characters.

The 1970’s

The decade of the 1970’s saw a drastic change for the X-Men in that many more characters were brought into the team. Still, the stories of this decade were built upon the themes that had come before. Where once X-Men was about human rights, it was now about diversity in all of its forms. The character of Colossus, he of communist origins, was brought into the fold, as was Storm from Kenya, the Native American, Thumderbird, and the character called Sunfire from Japan.

Dave Cockrum lent his considerable cinematic artistic skills to the series through the middle part of the decade and the beginning of the next. Coupled with esteemed writer Chris Claremont, the duo took a more realistic, gritty, noir slant to storytelling. In fact, this new sense of realism would arguably be what Marvel Comics would become synonymous with over the years.



In the above example, taken from page 3 of X-Men issue 147, one can see that noir realism evident. Cockrum makes strong use of black inks on this page, imbibing it with a sense of extreme drama at Nightcrawler’s near drowning, tricks akin to a Hitchcock or Scorsese film. His storytelling is another strength on this page witnessed in the lonely, long plunge into darkness in panel four, echoed in the plaintive gasp for air in the sixth panel. Cockrum, in one page, makes the reader feel the intense despair and isolation of the character – but not before letting us know that the hero survives this dance with death, if just barely. We need to turn that page!

X-Men, during this time, would flourish as a monthly series and become one of the tent poles for Marvel Comics. Dave Cockrum was instrumental to that success, his stylistic choices tapping into the imagination of that decade’s audience.

The 1980’s

The 1980’s, specifically, the latter part of the decade, was one of extreme makeover for the comic book industry. The realism of the 1970’s gave way to hyper-realized, nearly abstract art.

Audiences craved more and more action in their comics and a new breed of young artist would heed that call. The late 1980’s saw the rise of pencillers like Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Eric Larsen, Todd McFarlane and Marc Silvestri. Interestingly, it was the artist now that was becoming the superhero – where names alone could sell hundreds of thousands of units of a single comic book!

Silvestri worked on X-Men for nearly three years and reinvigorated the action found both on and between the covers of the comic. His style was loose and highly kinetic. Backgrounds were secondary to foreground combat. Movement, speed and force were sought on the page and audiences clamored for more of this innovative type of design.

Characters were, of course, recognizable, but they were elongated, stretched or inflated to suit the action occurring on a panel. The female form was drawn with accentuated legs, high hips, (sometimes nearly no rib cage) and large breasts. Bypassing realism in this way had the visual effect of adding a sense of energy to the drawing, helping to entrench these characters beside their male counterparts as a realistic physical threat. If they were abstract, so too was their intimidation. The merits of this style are debatable.

Silvestri’s run on X-Men was highly acclaimed and he garnered a strong and loyal following. Eventually, he would leave Marvel Comics and co-form Image Comics along with some of the biggest names the industry has ever seen.

X-Men has had a very successful twenty-first century thus far, with new, fan favourite artists like Frank Quitely taking turns on the infamous characters. With the new film, X-Men: First Class, the ideas first investigated in the pages of the monthly comic book in 1963 look to be revisited yet again, a testament to the longevity and universality of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original vision.

Enjoy the film and as Stan would say: “Excelsior!”

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