Mar 032015
 
I'm pleased to announce that the Femme Noir team - Yours Truly, artist Joe Staton, inker Rick Burchett, and colorist Matt Webb - have begun production of a new Femme Noir miniseries, "Cold, Dead Fingers."  I can't say when it will be finished, but I'm hopeful that it will be completed this year, and probably see print in 2016. No publisher yet, but I have been having some encouraging discussions.

To celebrate this new beginning, I thought you folks might like to take a look at the first page of our forthcoming supernatural crime saga. To make it more special, I'm going to share with you the process that we employ in making our Femme Noir funnybooks.

I. It Begins With The Word: In this case, I wrote a detailed plot, breaking down the storytelling in some detail. No dialogue or captions as yet - I write those after I have Joe's penciled pages in hand; as I am the letterer as well as writer, I basically do both at the same time. Here's how the plot described this first splash page:
PANEL 1. And here we go…. We begin with a movie poster-styled splash page. In the center of the image is a full-length shot of Le Femme, hat pulled down low, guns in hands, trenchcoat whipping in the wind. Behind her is a sketched in Port Nocturne skyline. On the left, there’s a huge, spookily-lit “ghostly” head shot of our brutish killer – in this iteration, he’s called “Crusher” Corrigan – and below him, a full-length image of mad scientist Dr. Karl Boroff. On the right hand side of the page, opposite Corrigan’s scary melon, is an equally spooky “ghost” head of Madame Morella MaCabre. Below her, opposite of Boroff, is a full-length figure of plainclothes dick Lt. Rod Riley, pistol drawn.

Below that, room for the title lettering – ‘COLD, DEAD FINGERS’ - and a breathless introductory caption.
II. Joe's Deadly Pencil: From this florid description, Joe draws the page in pencil, employing his considerable talent and experience, working his magic:

FN_CD_01_01A

Joe then e-mails me a lo-res jpeg to review. Once I've looked it over, and am sure that we're both happy with it, Joe then e-mails the page as a hi-res image file to...

III. Putting The Noir In Femme Noir: ...inker Rick Burchett. Joe and Rick have worked together numerous times before, perhaps most memorably on the 1980s incarnation of E-Man. In this case, Rick is applying his atmospheric blacks digitally, using his Cintique tablet.

FN_CD_01_01B

Once completed, Rick sends jpeg files to both Joe and I to see if we have any notes. If everything's cool, as it is here, the image is then sent on to our last teammate.

IV. Dangerous Hues: Colorist Matt Webb gets his hands on the page next, and with the original script for reference (and having colored several Femme Noir adventures before), Matt digitally - and dramatically - colors the page.

FN_CD_01_01c

Nice, huh? Once again, a lo-resolution copy of the colors is sent out for approval of all and sundry. Then, it all comes back to me.

V. The Final Words With the finished page in my e-mail box, I take it into Photoshop and fit it into the appropriate page template. Having scripted the dialogue - or in this case, caption - when I got the pencils, I then do the lettering in Illustrator. Finally, I drop the text in on the page back in Photoshop...  and voilà!

FNOIR_CDF_01_01

So that's how we do it. Repeat for pages 2, 3, 4 and so on... until the book is complete.

Stay tuned here for future Femme Noir updates, sneak peeks and announcements (which will always appear here first!).
Feb 022015
 


Have you pre-ordered BLACK HOOD #1 yet from Dark Circle Comics yet? Read what the critics are saying! @drkcirclecomics 

Tremendously excited for the first issue of The Black Hood, which will be available the same week as Duane Swierczynski’s new novel, Canary

Today’s the last day to call up your local comics store to ensure that they’ll have a copy waiting for you on February 25th. 

Jan 142015
 
Back in 1997, Kitchen Sink Press published several issues of Will Eisner's The Spirit - The New Adventures, for which they invited a number of the comic industry's top talents to contribute original stories featuring Central City's masked crimebuster. A lot of great names were involved, and many of the stories were extremely good, sometimes rivaling the master's own tales. They sported some terrific covers, too - including this Brian Bolland masterpiece from Issue #3. It was also released as a limited edition print (shown below).

Jan 072015
 
This hardback collection reprints a mini-series published in 2009 and 2010, a short time before I started reading comics again, but somehow I'd never heard of it until I came across a copy at the Half Price Books in Corpus Christi last summer. It's written by one of my favorite modern comics authors, Ed Brubaker, and drawn by one of the best artists, Steve Epting. Since those two were
Dec 132014
 
Written & Illustrated by Various
B&W, Comics Format

Eternity Comics, 1989


Beneath a nicely-designed cover, this comic reprints four adventures of Leslie Charteris' Simon Templar, a/k/a The Saint, originally published within the pages of the popular character's eponymous comic book series back in the late Forties.

The first story, "Suite Number 13," (The Saint #7, 1949) solely credited to Walter Johnson, finds the legendary gentleman adventurer and his muscular sidekick, Hoppy, at a French Riviera resort, where he tangles with a sultry baroness, duels with a snotty count, and recovers a stolen treasure – all in 8 pages. The story is typical pulp, and the artwork is rather pedestrian, with a constantly smiling, square-jawed Templar. In fact, he rather presciently resembles actor Roger Moore, who took on the Templar role some years later on British television.

The second story, "The Blackmail Beauty," (The Saint #7, 1949) appears to be the work of the same creators, and has Templar back in London, involved with sexy blackmailer. Story number three, "The Diamond of Death," (The Saint #5, 1949) is the work of a different, better artist, one who's clearly influenced by Milton Caniff. In fact, the Oriental femme fatale of the tale is a dead ringer for Terry And The Pirates' Dragon Lady.

The issue wraps up with "The Saint Breaks A Spell, "(The Saint #5, 1949), which features yet another artist and an energetic, two-fisted Templar with a perpetual toothy grin – even in the most inappropriate situations. The Saint is pitted against an evil cult out to scare an heiress to death.

The four stories in this comic are pretty standard, unremarkable Golden Age stuff, with decent art and serviceable writing. But they don't hold a candle to The Saint newspaper strip (which Eternity also reprinted some of in their Private Eyes title), which was witty as well as exciting.

I found this in a bargain bin for 50¢, and don't regret picking it up, but I wouldn't recommend making an effort to hunt down a copy, unless you're a die-hard Saint completist and can't afford the 40's originals.

There was at least one more issue of this title, but I don't have a copy.

Two Out of Six Bullets.
Nov 262014
 
Winterworld was a 3-issue miniseries by Chuck Dixon and artist Jorge Zaffino, originally published in 1987 by Eclipse Comics. A post-Apocalyptic tale of survival, set in an unspecified future where the world is covered in ice and snow, the series featured some pretty savage action and brutal storytelling by Dixon & Zaffino.

The original miniseries - along with a previously unpublished sequel, Wintersea, by the same creative team, was recently published in trade paperback form by IDW Publishing, and Dixon has followed  that collection with a new, ongoing Winterworld comic book series. I've only read the first issue, but it was terrific, and I wouldn't hesitate to highly recommend both the trade collection and the new series to fans of hard-hitting action and adventure tales.

Here are the original Eclipse miniseries covers by Zaffino.


Nov 192014
 
In 1993 DC Comics published a 4-issue revival of their 1950 spy comic, Danger Trail. The '93 miniseries was written by Len Wein, and illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Frank McLaughlin. The story was a fairly shameless rip-off of various James Bond movies, and featured DC superspy King Faraday in an adventure pitting him against the supervillain Kobra.

It was enjoyable stuff, but highly derivative. Fortunately, DC had the good sense to hire comicdom's premiere spy artist, Paul Gulacy, to draw the dynamic, eye-catching covers. Check them out:

Nov 142014
 
Written By Chuck Dixon
Illustrated By Victor Toppi
3-Issues, B&W Comics Format

Eclipse Comics, 1992


Chuck Dixon has written a lot of crime comics. Most of them, though, have headlined such spandex-clad characters as Batman, The Punisher and Catwoman.

Mad Dogs, however, is a straight-up, no bullshit crime story; dark, brutal, action-packed, and with nary a cape nor cowl in sight.

Guy Brennan, an ex-cop booted from the force for rule-breaking and excessive force, is charged by the Philadelphia D.A.'s office with forming a special, quasi-official anti-crime unit. He proceeds to recruit four more loose cannons like himself and one sexy "Dirty Harriet," before setting his sights on bringing down an Asian drug dealer named Billy Lin. Without badges or warrants, his team swings into action, and before long, bullets are flying, blood is spraying, and it looks like his new team's days are numbered.

This is some hardcore stuff. When we first meet Brennan, he's sucking on the barrel of a .45, about to eat a bullet. Pretty much every member of his team is responsible for at least one dead criminal before they even join his squad, and the depiction of gang violence in the series is disturbingly realistic. Dixon's dialogue is tough and convincing, and characters are skillfully and economically established in a minimum of pages, leaving plenty of space for the elaborate action sequences.

Toppi's art is the very definition of "gritty," with intricately detailed linework bringing considerable texture and atmosphere to the urban jungle setting of Dixon's tale. The crumbling slums and dilapidated crackhouses are so lovingly rendered that you can almost smell the rot and decay.

On the down side, Toppi's storytelling can get a little muddled at times, and in a few places, poor placement of word balloons by the letterer made following the dialogue a little confusing. Overall, though, the book is nearly as satisfying visually as it is narratively.

According to Dixon:  "The genesis of this series is interesting.

"I was creating new properties for a Swedish publisher and they specifically asked for a very violent police thriller. When I handed it in they were horrified. They paid me but never published it. I offered it to Eclipse and they picked it up."

Mad Dogs is a mean, violent crime story with interesting – if not necessarily likable – characters that deserved a sequel (or two). Too bad that never happened. But in many ways, this feels like a warm-up for the tales Dixon would go on to tell in mainstream books like The Punisher, and those are worth reading, too.

Four out of Six Bullets