Wednesday, March 21, 2018

KILL OR BE KILLED: New Issue Out Today, Final Issue Out in June.

Image Comics' June solicitations evidently came out over the weekend, and -- as Kevin Sels points out on Twitter -- Sean Phillips reposted the relevant info for Kill Or Be Killed, his latest collaboration with Ed Brubaker.

(I thought I had searched for the solicits earlier this week and came up empty-handed, but evidently not.)

The big news is that issue #20, due June 27, is described as the "grand finale" to the entire, ongoing series, and it promises to contain "all the answers" to the book's most pressing questions:
Will Dylan find a way to live his secret life as a vigilante, or will he throw away the mask? And was there ever really a demon, or is he just crazy? And will he (or any of us) get out alive?

On the official Twitter feed for The Undertow Podcast, Robert points out that the series' final cover is an TK impressive homage or allusion to John Romita Sr.'s famous cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #50, the fifty(-one)-year-old story, "Spider-Man No More!"

The series' impending end was recently announced in a January interview with Phillips and then confirmed by Brubaker in the back pages of February's issue #16, and this still seems sudden.   I was expecting a "final arc" leading up to this concluding issue, and it may be worthwhile to look back at how the end to other recent books were announced, specifically Fatale and The Fade Out.

We're curious how the story ends, and we may not be the only ones.  Despite joking, "They all live happily ever after!" Phillips consoles fan Fee McBee, whose Twitter feed is worth a follow.
"It’ll be fine. Probably. I’ve no idea how it ends."
Replying to one of many laments for the series' end, Phillips hints at the upcoming schedule, writing, "We’ll be back with something new in October."

In the meantime, we have a new issue of KOBK reaching stores today, following a the release of a three-page preview online.   It's available in a standard cover, shown above, AND in the striking virgin wraparound cover announced in February.

Oblivious to the trouble that's heading his way, seen in last month's cliffhanger ending(s), Dylan's getting ready to mete out justice to "Perry the orderly," this time trading his menacing ski mask for a warm cardigan.

Kill Or Be Killed #17 is out today, with the concluding issue #20 just three months out.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Undertow Podcast 21 on Kill Or Be Killed 16.

A new episode of The Undertow Podcast was released this weekend:  in episode 21, Robert and I focused on the latest issue of Kill Or Be Killed -- namely, issue 16, released this past Valentine's Day shortly after Undertow episode 20.

As always, Robert and I had a blast recording the episode, and listeners can find the podcast on TK iTunes and at Podbean.

At the end of the episode, we both had a few musical recommendations, with Robert recommending Bruce Springsteen's understated 1982 album Nebraska as I focused on The Breeder's hit album from 1993, Last Splash.

I loved the Last Splash singles when I first heard them in high school, but I didn't "get" the album when I got the CD from a used bookstore.  I finally connected with the deep cuts -- understanding the album as a whole, and falling head over heels -- last year, when my high-school reunion prompted a review of all my old music from the 90's.

I since found more obscure songs on YouTube and tracked down an import copy of the album's 20th anniversary 3-disc rerelease ("LSXX"), for which the Last Splash lineup reunited in 2013.  That lineup has released a new album this month -- their first since Last Splash, and the first for the Kim Deal-led band in ten years -- and All Nerve is really, really good.

(My favorite track is one I hope gets some play at baseball stadiums this year, ironically or otherwise:  SPACEWOMAN.)

I mention that, like another upcoming recommendation, The Breeders' Last Splash-era music rewards listening at multiple levels:  the singles are perfect gems of pop music, the album has a great groove blending punk and surf music, and the rare tracks include some great covers, including songs from The Who, Aerosmith, and (in a live version of a track from their debut Pod) The Beatles.

A few B-sides have their English bassist Josephine Wiggs singing lead vocals, and that's just about the only proper preparation one can have for the All Nerve track MetaGoth.

And any fan of Last Splash simply must check out All Nerve.

For our listeners who may not be all that familiar with The Breeders, here are the music videos from the Last Splash era, including songs (and versions) that can still ALL be found on LSXX.

  • "Cannonball," their first single from Last Splash and their biggest hit, reaching #2 on Billboard's Hot Modern Rock Tracks in the U.S.
  • "Divine Hammer," the single version
  • "Saints," another single version, released in the subsequent Head to Toe EP
  • "Safari," the title track from the Safari EP, released the year before Last Splash, with a guitar solo by Tanya Donelly, who would soon lead the band Belly
  • "Shocker in Gloomtown," also from 1994's Head To Toe, a cover of a short, fast song by the obscure but prolific band Guided by Voices, another band hailing from Dayton, Ohio.
I warn you, these songs have a way of getting stuck in one's head.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 03, 2018

May Solicitations, Other Phillips Projects, and a Behind-the-Scenes Video!

Kill Or Be Killed #16 came out two weeks ago, and in the back pages Ed Brubaker confirmed what Sean Phillips had previously mentioned in a video interview, describing the team's upcoming schedule in very broad strokes.

Mentioning that the team starts a new project every year or two, Brubaker confirmed that KOBK "does have an ending coming up," and he wrote that -- "right now" -- the team is working on an even shorter project, a "novella OGN" (original graphic novel) to be released later this year.

We were wondering if this year's Image Expo might shed some more light on at least one of the upcoming projects from Brubaker & Phillips, but evidently not.  Instead, all of last week's news was to be found in the TK May solicitations.

First up is Kill Or Be Killed #19, described as the fourth arc's finale and featuring rather psychedelic colors in Sean Phillips' cover portraying Dylan, still institutionalized but wielding deadly force.

We're also surprised to see Sean Phillips' name in the list of credits for Where We Live, a 256-page anthology about last year's mass shooting in Las Vegas.  All the creators donated their time and effort to the book, and all proceeds are going to a fundraising campaign for survivors.

Both books are scheduled for a May 30th release.

We have some details on a few other projects for Phillips.  A few weeks back, we highlighted an interview where the artist mentioned research on World War I, and we guessed (wrongly) that it related to the upcoming graphic novella that Ed Brubaker is writing.  On Twitter, the great Kevin Sels filled us in on what the work is for, a collaboration with crime writer Ian Rankin for an anthology commemorating the centenary of the armistice that ended WWI.

(Thanks, Kevin!)

Here's how the official press release describes the book.
Traces of the Great War is an ambitious anthology of new illustrated short stories by internationally acclaimed comic book artists, graphic novelists and writers, all of which explore the continued relevance and resonance of the First World War and its aftermath in our lives today.
The book will debut in October, in England and in France -- in the former, at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival -- to be followed by touring exhibitions.

As this project was being discussed on social media, Sean Phillips elaborated that his contribution will be illustrating an eight-page story written by Rankin.

There's one more project we noticed over the last month, and we would be remiss not to mention Sean Phillips' latest contribution to film, creating the cover art for Arrow Academy's Blu-ray release of TK Smash Palace, a 1981 drama from New Zealand filmmaker Roger Donaldson.

Phillips posted some work-in-progress details online -- here, here, and here -- and Arrow Films has the completed cover, shown below.

We love seeing these pieces of work in-progress, but there's an even closer glimpse behind the scenes, in a rare video interview with Sean Phillips, at his home studio.

Just last week, the Japanese tech company Wacom posted this "artist profile," in part to highlight some of the tools he uses in his work.  The company specializes in graphics tablets, pens, and styluses, and -- quite justifiably -- they take great pride in the professionals who use their tools; the week prior, they posted a similar interview with Charlie Adlard.

Online, Phillips writes that the producers condensed "four hours of waffling" to produce this seven-minute video.  We see the artist work on the roommates' fight toward the end of KOBK #15 -- which probably places the interview around New Year's -- and walk through various files for another cover for Arrow Academy, The Hired Hand, a 1971 Western and directorial debut by Peter Fonda.

We see just how much Sean Phillips still uses a traditional approach even with the latest tools -- starting with a physical sketchbook and even using blue coloring for the page's initial sketches and reference images -- and Phillips showcases his favorite part of the job, the inexhaustible work of drawing people.  We see the emphasis not just on drawing, but on storytelling, as Phillips walks us through the books in his library and a few of the artists he loves.

It's great stuff and a must-watch for fans.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

KILL OR BE KILLED: New Undertow Podcast on #15 -- and #16 In Stores Now!

It's Valentine's Day, and comic fans can celebrate the holiday -- or ignore it entirely -- with a new Undertow Podcast and a new Kill Or Be Killed.

On Monday, episode 20 of The Undertow Podcast was released, with a focus on Kill Or Be Killed #15.  Robert and I also discuss the latest news about the future releases of Brubaker and Phillips -- the end of KOBK will evidently come later this year, preceding the follow-up to The Fade Out with a "romance comic" novella in between, which likely began its life as a Criminal story.

We both happened to recommend works from five years back.  Robert recommended a futuristic noir comic originally released online, The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin.  I recommended Locke, a film written and directed by Steven Knight and starring Tom Hardy -- almost entirely by himself, driving down an English highway as his life comes unglued.

I do think viewers should discover for themselves what's going on, with the central dilemma revealed very early on in the movie:  the trailer was more than enough to catch my attention.

On Tuesday, Image Comics released a three-page preview of Kill Or Be Killed #16.  The issue apparently begins with a true full-page splash page -- perhaps the first one of the series, without any white column of narration, with the iconic costume of the series' vigilante but without its being worn by our "hero" Dylan.

KOBK #16 is in stores today!

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Upcoming Work: Second Printings, Solicitations, Variant Covers, and Very Revealing Interviews.

We missed this in our last post, but on January 25th, Image Comics announced a second printing for the most recent issue from Brubaker and Phillips, Kill Or Be Killed #15.  The issue features a new cover, shown below, a black-and-white rendition of the first printing's artwork with the series' familiar blood-red title.

Image frequently produces multiple printings for the first few issues in a new series, as retailers try to gauge what could be growing interest in an unexpected hit.  Far less common is an additional printing more than a year into a series' run:  this second printing indicates a growing readership for KOBK's monthly releases in analog, and we wonder what's driving that growth. 

Perhaps people have been making the leap from digital comics back to hardcopies or from trade-waiting to monthly reading.  The news of a possible film adaptation from the John Wick crew certainly couldn't have hurt, and perhaps it raised the comic's profile.

This second printing of issue #15 is scheduled to reach stores on February 21st, just a week after the first printing of issue #16, for which we expect an online preview very soon.


Readers looking to catch up with that second printing will need to put issue #16 on hold, but they should also be careful looking at the solicitations for later issues.

I'm a technical writer in real life, and I do not envy the task of writing good comic solicitations, undertaken by marketing staff, editors, and -- as I believe to be the case for most creator-owned comics, including those by Brubaker and Phillips -- the writers themselves.

Each solicitation must briefly describe the book's contents, enticing prospective buyers without spoiling the story.  For a continuing series, the goal is even more daunting due to the delay between a single issue's solicitation and its subsequent arrival:  ideally, no future issue solicitation should spoil the contents of a previous issue, at least not before that early chapter's release.

The debut of Kill Or Be Killed presents us with a striking example:

• May 18, 2016, Image releases its August solicitations, including Kill Or Be Killed #1, with a scheduled release date of Aug 3rd.
"The bestselling team of ED BRUBAKER and SEAN PHILLIPS (THE FADE OUT, CRIMINAL, FATALE) launch their new monthly series: KILL OR BE KILLED, the twisted story of a young man who is forced to kill bad people, and how he struggles to keep his secret as it slowly ruins his life and the lives of his friends and loved ones. Both a thriller and a deconstruction of vigilantism, KILL OR BE KILLED is unlike anything BRUBAKER & PHILLIPS have ever done."
• June 23rd, the September solicitations include issue #2: "Every killer has to have his first kill, and they're never easy."

• July 18th, the October solicitations include issue #3: "As our hero is drawn deeper into the shadows, his secret vigilante life begins to put everything he cares about in danger."

• Aug 3: KOBK #1 is released to local retailers.

Prior to the debut issue's release, every description of upcoming chapters avoided that issue's big reveal, that the protagonist is "forced to kill bad people" by a demon, real or imagined.  In fact, I don't believe that the "curse" is mentioned until February, 2017, with the May solicitation for issue #9, and the demon isn't explicitly named until the June solicitation for issue #10, featuring the antagonist on the cover.

We see a similar dynamic with recent solicitations hiding the big reveal for issue #15.  The new arc found Dylan institutionalized, and the cliffhanger revelation was that (SPOILERS) vigilante killings were still taking place in the outside world.

We believe this reveal was entirely held back from the solicits until after the issue's release on January 17th; the April solicitations came out on January 23rd, and here the surprise makes it to the description for issue #18, due April 18th.

"While Dylan's been locked away inside, the vigilante has been running wild on the streets—but how is this possible? Featuring the return of Detective Lily Sharpe, who is hot on the trail of the masked man!"
It's an intriguing development.  We wonder if this second killer has anything to do with the demon, is merely a deranged copycat, or is something else entirely -- and we wonder how this will affect the NYPD's search for the vigilante, since Dylan now (presumably) has an airtight alibi for at least one killing.


In the meantime, we have two more issues on their way, and -- alongside the second-printing variant for issue #15 -- we'll see an extra special variant cover for issue #17, with both versions due on March 21st.

Posted just this Thursday in a second round of announcements, Sean Phillips joins four other artists in creating virgin wraparound covers as part of Image's #WeBelieve campaign, bringing the total to 14 such covers on sale in March, "in celebration of artists and the importance and impact they have in defining the comics medium."

(We would express some skepticism about how artists' work is among "the important, lately overlooked contributions to the comics industry," but then again, most of the news coverage about the KOBK film adaptation focused on writer Ed Brubaker and barely mentioned -- or entirely ignored -- co-creator Sean Phillips.)

At his blog, Phillips includes a quote from Image publisher Eric Stephenson, from an apparent press release that -- alongside the Image news release -- details exactly what each cover will include and omit:  "Without titles, endorsement quotes, names, logos, or jacket copy, these wraparound covers feature solely the jaw-dropping artwork that fans won’t want to miss."

Shown below, the virgin cover features entirely new artwork from Sean Phillips, quite different from the standard cover's scene of Dylan unmasking in the padded room:  walking out from the mental hospital, with the straitjacket unbound but still on, our hero looks truly mental.


These virgin variants will highlight the work of the artist, and in a recent interview Sean Phillips points to a few important books by other, influential artists.

In an interview by The Reading Lists, devoted to "publishing the #readinglists of amazing people," Phillips reveals a few recommended titles and authors in his favorite genre -- crime fiction, no surprise -- and for those interested in working in comics, he recommends Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.  We thoroughly recommend the book as well, a comic book on the principles of comic books, but Sean adds, "there’s no substitute for making your own comics. You learn best by doing!"

Asked what book humanity needs right now, Phillips gives a great answer:  "A new Calvin and Hobbes collection."  Indeed -- and either that or a new daily calendar of The Far Side would make me a very happy man.

Most interestingly, Phillips was asked, "What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?"  His answer points to the follow-up to The Fade Out, as well as other work:
"For two different work projects, research on World War One and television in the late 1950s. And lots of comics!"
And the question leads naturally enough to another item from January 25th, from the French site  On Twitter, the great Kevin Sels pointed us to the story and offered a brief summary:  at the Angloueme festival, Phillips announced that he and Brubaker are planning two stories following The Fade Out -- each a six-issue mini-series -- and a "romance" series for sometime in the fall.

(Thanks for the heads-up, Kevin!)

What does this mean for the long-term plans for Kill Or Be Killed and the upcoming Criminal novella?  Is it possible that, between Phillips' answers, the French-language news item, and Kevin's overview, something was lost in translation?

We would almost say that we'll have to wait and see, but just yesterday the same site posted a 21-minute video of the interview, with Phillips' answers in English, with optional French subtitles.

In the wide-ranging interview, the artist discusses whether he misses licensed work for the bigger publishers and why there's a long-term economic appeal in creator-owned work.  Phillips mentions how Ed Brubaker's wife pushed him to do creator-owned work, how the success of Marvel Zombies allowed Phillips to take a chance on such a project, and how the pair communicate while they work.

The artist says he assumes that Image's exclusive five-year deal will be extended, but he also mentioned what would be the team's dream project, where he and Brubaker spend a year on... [EDIT:] well, people should watch the video and find out for themselves.

Phillips discusses the violent but sympathetic protagonists in Kill Or Be Killed and their other titles, and he mentions the beauty of the comic-book medium, where the text and the picture need not always correspond.

He mentions that it might not be important whether the story's demon is real, but he admits not knowing in advance where these stories are going:  Brubaker told him what the ending would be, but he has since changed his mind, and even the script for an individual issue is almost always sent piecemeal.

He has no info on the KOBK adaptation beyond what's already been announced online, and he mentions how other projects have fallen through, including the Criminal adaptation.  Brubaker takes the lead on working with Hollywood, with Phillips always to be listed as an executive producer with no real need for control over this sort of project:  the real aim is -- and has always been -- to make great comic books, and the greater purpose of an adaptation would be in its enabling the team to make new books with an even higher profile.

And Sean Phillips did reveal quite a bit about the team's upcoming schedule, including their current project.

  • For KOBK, "the end is in sight," with the book to conclude sometime this year.
  • The next project is a "romance comic" out by year's end: October was explicitly mentioned as a release date.  Work on this book will take place between his drawing issues of KOBK, and the result -- title to be announced -- will be a "one-off" 60-page hardcover, to see if the format sells in the U.S.
  • After that will come the first of two sequels to The Fade Out, with a few carry-over characters, a setting of television production in the 1950's, and a story that probably involves murder:  two sequels are currently planned, the length of this first sequel might only be six issues, but the team generally doesn't determine a book's length in advance.

Phillips praises the breadth and quality of the French comics scene and its industry's preference for well-made graphic novels, when trade paperbacks in the U.S. are frequently printed as cheaply as possible.  He says that he would prefer producing one or two hardcovers every year -- one with Ed Brubaker and one with Delcourt or another French publisher -- but he doesn't think the American readership is ready to change their buying and reading habits.

And, looking even further ahead, Phillips mentions that there are two sequels planned for The Fade Out and "more ideas" for Criminal, but we note that, in both its production schedule and its format, that "romance comic" sounds exactly like the Criminal novella that was mentioned last summer.

We wonder if the Criminal novella is a "romance" story of sorts, or if that story has supplanted the earlier plans for the next chapter in their longest-running series.

And we suspect that, either way, that novella revolves around World War I.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, January 26, 2018

Saturday: Sean Phillips' Birthday Sales, at Big Cartel and Splash Page Comic Art.

Sean Phillips' birthday is Saturday, and, at the two online shops where one can find the rarest of items related to the artist, there are big sales to mark the occasion.

On Twitter, Phillips just announced a one-day sale at his Big Cartel store, on his birthday:  20% off everything when using the promo code B2018.

Similarly, in a recent news item and through their mailing list, Splash Page Comic Art has announced its own one-day sale for the birthday:  buy one piece of Phillips' original artwork, get a second piece of equal or lesser value at 50% off.

The Splash Page sale is for Saturday, January 27th, and the actual 24-hour span is for Sean Phillips' time zone:  since Sean resides in the United Kingdom, that means Greenwich Mean Time. 

So, that sale runs from 12:01 AM GMT, Saturday, to 12:00 AM GMT, Sunday -- or, from 7:01 PM EST Friday (today, here on the East Coast) to 7:00 PM EST Saturday.

It sounds like the Big Cartel sale runs for similar hours.

At Big Cartel, one can buy books, prints, and even the occasional single issue, such as the "Savage Sword" and "Deadly Hands" Criminal one-shots.  It's worth noting that Phillips often includes a hand-drawn sketch on a cover page inside books ordered directly from his store.

At Splash Page, the sale includes the original artwork for covers, double-page spreads, and interiors.  While Phillips has now made the transition to digital artwork for most interiors, he still creates physical artwork for his covers, including the painting in acrylics shown above, for the cover to Kill Or Be Killed #5.

We might just take advantage of the sale ourselves, and we wish Sean the happiest of birthdays.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sean Phillips variant covers for The Hellblazer.

In stores this week is DC's The Hellblazer #18, with the conclusion to Richard Kadrey's three-part story, "The Bardo Score."  Readers of this blog will be more interested to know that the issue ships with two covers:  the variant cover is by Sean Phillips, who twetted a photo of his comp copies, shown below.

This particular series is part of DC's 2016 Rebirth relaunch, but Sean Phillips has quite a history with the title character, John Constantine.  I believe Phillips' first work for one of the "Big Two" publishers was in 1990, providing the artwork for issue #31 of the original Hellblazer series, with writing by Jamie Delano.

It appears the solicitations have not included images of the variant covers, but Phillips has been treating readers with in-progress work and other previews on his Twitter feed and Instagram feed.

The original painted artwork for this cover is what Sean Phillips has recently put up for sale at Spash Page Comic Art, 'painted in acrylics and colored pencils on 11" 3/4 X16" 1/2 comic art board.'

Phillips' earlier tweet revealed the completed artwork for issue #19, a variant cover with an ominous view of blood-red London.

Solicitations and the subsequent listings on DC's website mention Sean Phillips variants at least through issue #21, covering an arc by the series' new writer Tim Seeley.

Each month, Phillips dedicates the bulk of his working hours to his monthly comic books with Ed Brubaker and the remainder to special projects, such as the artwork accompanying the DVD and Blu-ray releases for the Criterion Collection and Arrow Films. 

(We wonder if he's planning to pivot from these variant covers to that Criminal novella...)

We reached out to the artist himself, and Sean Phillips relays that he's working on a total of six variant covers for the series.

Labels: , ,

Older Posts