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“An engrossing and viscerally powerful journey. . . . If you're not paying attention through all the fireworks, it's almost easy to forget you're reading a brilliant, meticulously constructed human drama." --IGN
Two men sit at a table. One is a WWII veteran, a highly placed secret agent known only by the code name Unknown Soldier. The other is a psychologically deconstructed ghost named Moses Lwanga. In UNKNOWN SOLDIER #24, one will tell the other his story – and the course of their lives will be changed forever.
Dash Bad Horse and his ex-girlfriend have both worked hard to get their lives in order, but now they may be torn apart again by the one thing that's a bane for them both: Family.
Read the series that LOST co-creator Damon Lindelof has called "Dark, beautiful and not for kids. Graphic storytelling at its best."
San Diego Comic Con is in full swing. Join us tonight as some the greatest writers and artists in the business talk about their work!
5:30-6:30 Vertigo: On the Edge
Find out what compelling tales comics’ edgiest imprint has in store for you in the months to come! Led by Senior VP—Executive Editor Karen Berger, with an all-star lineup of talent that includes Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire), Gabriel Bá (Daytripper), Cliff Chiang (Neil Young’s Greendale), Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition), Joshua Dysart (Neil Young’s Greendale, Unknown Soldier), Peter Gross (The Unwritten), Matt Kindt (Revolver), Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth), Fabio Moon (Daytripper), Chris Roberson (iZombie), Scott Snyder (American Vampire), Matthew Sturges (Jack of Fables), Jill Thompson (Little Endless), Bill Willingham (Fables) and others. Room 6DE
Josh's concept for UNKNOWN SOLDIER #21 is the kind of elegant story idea you don't see enough of these days. It immediately reminded me of how Will Eisner used to zero in on a single unexpected element, like an inanimate object, and turn a Spirit 8-pager into a masterpiece. Josh's "A Gun For Africa" follows a specific Kalashnikov AK-47 machine gun from it's manufacture in a 1970's Eastern bloc factory into Africa and through the many lives and deaths it comes to define. The story puts a forty year sweep of African conflict into historical context without being dry; humanizing its dreadful social impact without being preachy. I hope I did Josh's work here justice.
As many cartoonists will attest, war comics can be difficult to draw. They require lots of detailed reference and need to convey the gritty reality of human beings in wartime. This story was especially challenging, asking that the AK-47 itself not only look like the real thing but have a certain character all its own. Since the story spans three decades and many wars, It also needed to age visually.
When I was a kid, it was the DC war comics artists who set the gold standard for the genre. I like to think I've got a strand or two of their DNA in my veins, having taught myself how to draw by copying panels from Kubert, Heath and Drucker. Later on I studied with Joe himself at the Kubert School and did a number of short war stories under his editorship for SGT. ROCK. Then came ARMY@LOVE, so I haven't been shy about tackling war comics.
Besides being an extraordinary story, this particular job also allowed me to ink my own pencils for the first time in a while. Dave Gibbons famously once said that pencilling is like climbing a mountain and inking is like skiing back down. I think that explains the dynamic perfectly. I know a lot of comic book creation has moved onto the computer, and maybe rightly so since working digitally can save so much time. But for me nothing will ever replace the feel of a loaded brush gliding over a tightly pencilled line or a Hunt 512 laying in a texture. My experience on this issue of Unknown Soldier had me sensing interesting new avenues to be explored so I'm planning on focusing more on inking my own pencils in the future.
Back in the 1970’s, DC war comics like SGT ROCK started quietly featuring a slug at the end of the issue that read “MAKE WAR NO MORE.” It was a simple and honest appeal on the part of the creators and the company to a nation still trying to heal itself from the wounds of The Vietnam War.
DC has had a long tradition of publishing war comics right up to the present day as evidenced recently by Joe Kubert’s DONG XOAI - VIETNAM 1965, DMZ, UNKNOWN SOLDIER, recent issues of SCALPED and more. And while these comics are often action-packed, adventure stories, there’s always been a strong message that war has a horrible – and too high -- price. It takes a heart-breaking toll on all of us – the civilian and the soldier alike.
Memorial Day is a day to remember those men and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in battle. In that spirit, I’d ask you to take a moment away from your picnics and parties to reflect on what this day really means and work towards a day when war is just a distant memory of a more uncivilized time.
Until that day...MAKE WAR NO MORE.
-- will dennis
Now here's an excerpt from DONG XOAI, Vietnam 1965 by Joe Kubert (The Joe Kubert Library):
Over on THE SOURCE, The DCU is celebrating 75 years of DC Comics by revealing a bunch of amazing variant covers. But these aren’t just any variant covers, they are of some of the most classic and iconic images from DC’s illustrious history re-imagined by some of the biggest names in the industry.
Well, GRAPHIC CONTENT couldn’t just sit back, so, along with THE SOURCE and THE BLEED, we’re all taking a look back today. We’ve asked some of our current writers and artists to pick their favorite DC COMICS cover, be it from the DCU, Vertigo or Wildstorm and tell us what it means to them.
So, without further ado, let’s read what they have to say!
My favorite cover would be ANIMAL MAN #5. Grant Morrison's early Vertigo work blew my mind in a way no comic ever had. And this issue of ANIMAL MAN, and this cover in particular, are perfect examples of the craziness and irreverence that inspired me to wanna write comics of my own. –Jason Aaron, writer SCALPED
Ronin Book One - Frank Miller. The comic shop was small and dark, located in the mall's basement, and this book, high up on the wall in the back, kept calling out to my 10-year-old brain. The color and design promised something strange and new, and when my older brother finally bought it, it didn't disappoint. For me, comics couldn't just be about superheroes any more. --Cliff Chiang, artist NEIL YOUNG’S GREENDALE
My fave is this or any other Basil Wolverton cover for PLOP Magazine from the 1970s (though Sergio Aragones designed the boarder images). I bought every issue of this title JUST for the cover, with no regard to what was inside -- the ONLY time I bought something regularly for the cover alone! --Peter Bagge, OTHER LIVES
I'm going to go for GREEN LANTERN #70, which I think dates from 1968. The cover, which was by Gil Kane, showed a tall, slender, subtly inhuman alien standing over the body of Green Lantern, and lamenting "But I only wanted to make him laugh... not die!!" The cover itself, which I saw long before I ever got to read the story, suggested in itself some terrible cosmic irony, and it preyed on my mind to the point where I must have gone through a couple of dozen scenarios in my head before I got to read the actual issue. That was what reading comics was like for me as a kid: an explosion of ideas vivid enough to derail reality. My mind was psychotically focused to the point where the actual story was sometimes frustrating because it killed a million possible alternatives. And cover artists played shamelessly to my demographic by producing images which were sometimes only tangentially relevant to content... --Mike Carey, co-creator and writer, THE UNWRITTEN
So many covers to choose from. Really impossible to choose a definitive favorite. There are so many contemporaries who light me up today, and so as not to alienate any of them I'll dig into the farthest deepest corners of my little kid memories to the Rose Elementary School carnival where I threw a fishing line over a wall and pulled back a rolled up copy of TEEN TITANS no.17 with a very psychedelic trippy character called the Mad Mod. Like a british and ghostly King Kong he loomed over London with Wonder Girl, Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad in his gigantic grip. It blew my mind Daddy-O! And continues to resonate in my fevered brain today. --Mike Allred, co-creator and artist I,ZOMBIE
KAMANDI #28 APRIL 1975 Art by JACK KIRBY
I missed all Jack’s DC comics in the 70's. DC imports were hard to find in the UK and I was only 8 when this came out. However in the late eighties, whilst I was at college and working on small press strips in my spare time, my friend/collaborator Chris Ski gave me a bunch of Kirby's DC comics. KAMANDI #28 was one of them. I fell in love immediately with it's style, dynamics and the vast cast of animal characters. This comic has been a treasured possession ever since. It frequently influences my work, most obviously in FABLES : THE GOOD PRINCE. As I write this it is still sat atop a pile of comics next to my desk. –Mark Buckingham, artist FABLES
SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #1 drawn by Brendan McCarthy. I know it’s terribly self-indulgent, but I’m going to choose a cover of one of my own books, by the inimitable Brendan McCarthy. It’s number one of Shade The Changing man and it brings back so many memories, not least of travelling across America looking for the “madness” of the country. I remember Brendan telling me he was putting in some Twin Peaks style picket-fences, representing the surface normality that the book so feverishly ripped apart. I don’t think he’d even seen the show at the time… --Peter Milligan, writer HELLBLAZER and THE BRONX KILL
ANIMAL MAN #5: The Coyote Gospel
Not just because of the amazing Bolland imagery that launched the most well-known meta-story arc in comics, but also because The Coyote Gospel is one of the most important single issues in my development as a creative person. This comic book still speaks truth directly to my soul. –Josh Dysart, writer UNKNOWN SOLDIER and NEIL YOUNG’S GREENDALE
SUPERMAN RED SON 3. I can’t tell if it’s my favorite DC cover ever, cause, well... I haven’t seen them all, but I saw this one a long long time ago, and it’s still fresh in my mind, even after all those years. Dave Johnson is a complete master on the cover art craft, and the way he uses design, colors, and comic language here, is just too phenomenal. –Rafael Albuquerque, artist AMERICAN VAMPIRE
Favorite cover? It's a tie- Dave Johnson's 100 BULLETS cover for the Once Upon a Crime trade paperback and issue #98 of 100 Bullets! Graphic, incredible and iconic! Dave Johnson is the best cover artist out in comicsland!” –Jill Thompson, DELIRIUM’S PARTY: A Little Endless Storybook
This one--not because it showed the "shocking truth about drugs!" but because when I was a young kid reading comics, Neal Adams was the first artist that really blew me away and made me realize there were actually real artists with names who drew these books. I devoured everything I could find by Adams and my goal of being a comic artist was set! –Peter Gross, co-creator and artist THE UNWRITTEN
My favorite is BATMAN #205. This included everything essential on the cover but completely broke the mold of the covers that came before and after. Totally stands out, even today. –Matt Kindt, REVOLVER
My favorite DC Comics cover was Joe Kubert's first DC Tarzan cover. I'd always been an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan and to see his greatest character realized so wonderfully in the comics format was just a special moment for me. And this issue was contemporary with a terrific DC Renaissance. Neal Adams and Denny O'Neal were doing their run on Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Jack Kirby had just come over to DC to do his Fourth World. It was a magic moment for DC in particular and comics in general. --Bill Willingham, writer FABLES
Moses has a list. Throughout his murder investigation of the IDP camp's doctor, he's been deciding just who will live and who will die. Now, caught in an arms deal near the Sudan border, it's time to start checking names. But this is one battle that's not as simple as it seems.
Check out the preview of this new storyline and pick up a copy on Wednesday!
Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to fiction, I’m kind of a technique freak. I love learning how it’s all put together. And for a guy interested in that, editing is a great seat to have. For example, I edit two completely different books, THE UNWRITTEN and UNKNOWN SOLDIER. THE UNWRITTEN is a fantasy book written by Mike Carey that involves a conspiracy so big it encompasses the entirety of world literature; on the other end of the room is UNKNOWN SOLDIER -- an action book written by Joshua Dysart that’s very much about revealing the conditions in war-town Uganda to a new audience. And one of the things I find so interesting is not only are Mike and Josh fans of each other’s work, but both have admitted to me that they’re kind of in awe at the amount of research the other one must do for their books.
So I thought I’d do a short group interview. Get the two of them together to talk craft and how they use research. Is it similar? Is it different? Some of their answers honestly surprised me…
MC: I guess one of the main differences between THE UNWRITTEN and UNKNOWN SOLDIER is that almost all my research is secondary - it's reading books and articles. I can do first-hand research on locations, but that's about it.
For an arc like “Jud Suss,” where the precise reference both to the text and its place in history is really central to what we're doing, I'll take the research very seriously and go out and read all the relevant texts I can find. In other cases, though, I'll sometimes just make a glancing reference to something I know very little about, and use the internet to shore up the reference. So I'm not consistent about research. Sometimes I'm meticulous, other times I bluff. I like to think I make the effort where it matters.
JD: How strong is your compulsion to get it all "right"?
In UNKNOWN SOLDIER, I couldn't justify hammering the worst aspects of these people's lives into a pulp action book unless I'd gotten as close to the real experience, and to them, as possible. There's a new kind of colonialism in the air these days. A well-meaning appropriation of the cultural landscape of the "developing world" by the "developed.”
The only failure, to my mind, this book ever faced was in becoming that very thing (I like to think the “Easy Kill” arc was about the complicated landscape of post-colonial good intentions to some degree).
But it's one thing to go on a vacation to an interesting place. It's another thing entirely to sit alone and pour over book after book. Do you feel that same way about the works of fiction you are invading and plundering?
MC: Well, I continue to be schizophrenic in my relationship with all our source texts. Where something is really germane then we let it emerge explicitly in our story: the rest of the time, we take the view that people will recognize the ribs of a story sticking through our structure. And while on the one hand, I'd really hate to have people who know and love the books have an "oh but that's not..." reaction. On the other, I firmly believe that these books are beyond our power to hurt or blemish. You know, they're mostly books that have stood the test of time and turmoil and cultural change. If we get it wrong, we don't hurt the great originals, but we do cheapen ourselves, sell ourselves short: and that’s the reason why research matters to us.
I think - I'm sure - that the moral imperative, and the sense of responsibility, is very different in your case.
JD: Yeah, but the danger of lecturing the audience is huge in UNKNOWN SOLDIER. A big part of our process is weeding through the massive amount of information attached to what I want to say about something and then trying to eliminate whatever isn't absolutely necessary to the understanding of the story.
The only thing I really refused to compromise on at the beginning was the complexity of the conflict and the fact that real human beings were involved on all sides. Once we established that I felt comfortable couching information in visuals, plot points, text pieces in the back and whatever other way I could get it to the reader.
MC: One of the things I really respect and admire about the book is that you’re never sermonising. Everything comes naturally out of story and character, and goes back there. That’s a tough trick to pull off with material this powerful and disturbing. The end of “Easy Kill”, in particular, was amazing.
JD: Mike, I think you're one of the smartest writers in comics, and THE UNWRITTEN, as I've said to you in private, is a masterstroke. You're one of the few people in comics that I try to learn from whenever I sit down to read your work.