Monday, June 15, 2015

Invader Zim Returns and Reminds of the Bully from Middle School Who Died

The little Irken that could, or that tried and repeatedly failed, is coming back in the form of a new comic from Oni Press. The Portland based comic book publisher is teaming with Nickelodeon to create the first new Invader Zim stories since the cult-favorite cartoon was canceled in 2003. Fans may breathe a sigh of relief, as not only will they soon see the return of their favorite characters, but also the return of much of the original creative team. Series creator, Jhonen Vasquez, will illustrate and write stories for the new series, joined by Aaron Alexovich, Eric Trueheart, and Rikki Simons (who also provided the voice of Zim’s sporadically loyal robot/dog cosplayer, Gir).

I have fond memories of watching this show when I was in high school. As a fan of Vasquez’s Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Squee! comics, I was astounded that Nickelodeon let him create a show for their channel. His work was not what anyone would consider “General Audiences” fare. Not only was the show real, but it had only marginally toned down the violence and disdain for humanity that made Vasquez’s comic books so appealing to morose young people like me.

The news of Invader Zim’s return with Vasquez at the helm got me excited, but then I started to think about that time of my life and why I liked Vasquez’s work so much. Now I’m not so sure how I feel.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

All New, All Different Thought Balloons

It is time for a change. Truth be told, Thought Balloons was originally created to fill a course requirement. I needed to write one blog post a week, about anything that interested me. Comic books were the obvious go-to, since I’ve been reading them since before I even cared what the stories were about. The bright costumes and big action of nineties comics were what drew my eye, made me want to run around the front yard growling at my cousins and call people “bub”. Although I felt bad for Wolverine, because I knew even as a kid that Jean would never leave Cyclops for him, it wouldn’t be until much later that I understood the torment of being in love with someone who is attached to a colossal tool (more on this at a later date).

Throughout the semester, I updated the site pretty regularly, trying and failing to maintain two posts a week, a review on Wednesday and a feature/news article on Friday. I modeled the look and approach after the movie news blog, /Film – which I’m an avid fan of – and decided create the comic book version of that. What I have learned since I started this endeavor is that I don’t want to be a geek news blogger. It felt mostly like I was regurgitating other people’s content. When it was time to write a review, I only wrote positive reactions to the stuff I liked. Certainly, I’ve read some comics that really sucked since I started this blog, but my dream job is to write comics, and it just seemed in poor taste to use this platform to shit all over the people who are right now doing what I only hope to do. The process of updating this blog became very unsatisfying, and once the semester was over I stopped writing it.

There still exists this fine blog here, though. I put way more energy than I needed to in the design, spent hours learning basic Photoshop, HTML, and CSS, and I really dig how it turned out. I don’t want to let it go to waste. But what to do about content?

Here is the plan. I’m going to transform Thought Balloons from a comic book news and review blog to my own personal creative nonfiction (fight amongst yourselves about what that means) laboratory. The tagline for this blog is “Thinking About Comics”. It’s time to do more to live up to that, in deeper, more personal ways that aren’t strictly news reporting.

I hope you will join me.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

First official look at Jared Leto's Joker – grill, tattoos, and ready to bruise

After weeks of teases and speculation, David Ayer posted the first official image of Jared Leto as The Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. It's certainly a unique interpretation of the character.

Probably the biggest question on fans' minds when Leto's casting was announced was, "How is he going to set his take on the character apart from Heath Ledger's turn as The Joker in 'The Dark Knight'"? Ledger, whose own casting was controversial back in 2007, surprised audiences with an instantly classic performance as the Clown Prince of Crime. That, along with the actor's sudden death before the film's release, made the idea of another actor stepping into the role seem almost unthinkable.

Now, seven years after "The Dark Knight", we have our first glimpse at the new Joker. See the full image after the jump.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Review: Convergence #0 – It's Like Secret Wars But Different

I'm going to be upfront about this. Aside from Batman, I've read very little of the New 52. More than that, I've read significantly less DC than Marvel. Which is not to say I don't like DC. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been doing career-defining work on Batman. I've praised Jeff Lemire's excellent work on Green Arrow before. Geoff Johns'and Ethan Van Sciver's Green Lantern: Rebirth is the book I cite as the one that got me back into comics in high school. The biggest reason I'm relatively more up-to-date with Marvel is Marvel Unlimited. If DC had something like this, I'd be all over it (and I probably wouldn't get anything done for a month).

So, what did I think of the first part of DC's new multiversal epic, the culmination of years' worth of planning and at least two weekly series that I didn't read? Find out, with spoilers, after the jump.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Smart Comics: This Guy Presented His Dissertation in Comic Book Form

Harvard University Press is boldly going where it has never gone before, comic book publishing. They aren’t exactly getting into the superhero game, though. The press will soon be releasing the first dissertation ever presented in comics form. It was created by Nick Sousanis, and is titled Unflattening. I say “created”, because to write “written and illustrated” seems almost counter to its intended point – that words and pictures are inextricably linked in our minds when it comes to how we process and construct knowledge.

Read more about this unique academic work after the jump.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Reviews: Strong Second Issues from Princess Leia and Silk

A few weeks ago I reviewed the first issues of Darth Vader and Spider-Gwen. Both were really strong debuts, leaving me excited for what was to come, and both have since released second issues that were, well, not as good. That's not to say they were bad – certainly there were superb moments in both – but it felt like both series hit a lull in their second parts. Everything that was great about Darth Vader was present in issue two, but it felt like a detour rather than the continuation of the story set in motion in the first issue. The same can be said about Spider-Gwen. That book seems like its still trying to decide what it's about. It hasn't found a distinct trajectory to carry it forward, or, at least, it hasn't gotten to it yet.

Again, neither of these were bad books, and in the case of Spider-Gwen, Letour and company have a whole alternate universe to set up, so I can understand if it's taking their story a little longer to get moving. It was just interesting to see that two books whose intro issues I really enjoyed seemed to lag on their second outings.

This week sees two more second issues from titles I really enjoyed upon their respective releases, Princess Leia and Silk. Unlike the titles mentioned above, though, these books managed to avoid the second issue slump.

Read more after the jump.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review: Descender #1 – Blade Runner meets Battlestar Galactica in this Fantastic New Sci-Fi Series

Descender #1, the new sci-fi comic by Jeff Lemire (Trillium) and Dustin Nguyen (Batman Beyond 2.0), was released today. It’s set in the distant future and follows a young boy android named Tim-21, who has awakened after 10 years to discover some unsettling things about his kind, and a down-on-his-luck robotics expert (you know the type) who has been tasked with unraveling the mystery surrounding this newly reactivated robot.

So, how is it? Read more after the jump.