If you're in the area, check it out! If not... hey, free e-book! Grab your copy today if you're interested. Available October 14, 15, and 16.
Just a quick post today because I'm on the move, but I wanted to let everyone know--the solo Alley Hawk story, "The Monsters We Make," is free on Amazon Kindle all weekend. I'm giving it away in honor of Another Anime Convention in Manchester, NH, where I'll be presenting a few times on writing all weekend.
If you're in the area, check it out! If not... hey, free e-book! Grab your copy today if you're interested. Available October 14, 15, and 16.
This edition of 1panel1page focuses on a comic book series I consider one of the most culturally important runs in the modern sequential art: Planetary, by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.
As I said in the first edition of 1panel1page, the concept here is to take a look at a single, personally memorable page and panel that has stuck with me over the years. An unforgettable image or scene, something that never left my mind. Now, this could honestly apply to almost all of Planetary, a series I think delves so deep into comic books as an art form and story medium that it could be called essential reading. But while Planetary was smart, and nerdy, and layered in its analysis of the medium, it was the very human moments that rang most true, especially when they involved Elijah Snow the 100-year-old Century Baby, dragged unwillingly into this archeological dig of the strangest places in the world.
The book is loaded with analogs, from everything from the Fantastic Four to Godzilla. And along the way, a key figure Elijah Snow and his team meets is Axel Brass, a fellow Century Baby and blatant homage to Doc Savage. The Planetary team finds Brass in pretty rough shape, delving into a history that mirrors the pulp fiction stories of our reality.
But it's a conversation between Brass and Snow--two old men who have been heroes, who have seen the beautiful and terrible things the world can be. Sitting on a hill, in a scene beautifully rendered by Cassaday and the astoundingly talented colorist Laura Martin.
The thing that stuck with me all these years (Planetary #5 first printed in 1999) was the serenity of it. Comics tend to be bombastic, relentlessly energetic, full of motion. But here's an old man basking in the sun in a robe, happy to be alive, and another man, just beginning the last great adventure of his long life, looking out into the distance, knowing there's so much more to come.
And to this day I still quote Brass's line here: "You want to know the secret of the world? It's this: Save it, and it'll repay you, every second of every day."
Some of Warren Ellis's best characters are angry men of great ideals. It's something I related to as a younger reader, and it's something I relate to even more now: the world is wonderful and needs saving. It needs us to be good. It needs us to be better. I feel like Axel Brass's optimism here is something core to the entire Planetary series, and something that spills over into the best of superhero fiction, particularly superhero fiction with a deconstructionist angle. The secret of the world. For years I had this on a hand-written note hanging over my desk; in writing this article, it's returned there again. Save the world, and it'll repay you, every second of every day.
(This idea definitely weaved itself into some of the key concepts of the Indestructibles. They live in a world that can, like ours, be a terrible place; but it is full of wonder, and it is always, always, always worth saving. I stand by this even on the darkest of days.)
But if I'm telling you the complete truth, the reason this panel has stuck with me for so long is because I connected so much with Elijah Snow when I first read this book--still do, if I'm being honest--and it is, I believe, one of the first times we see Elijah smile in the series. It might be one of the few times we ever see Elijah Snow smile. And it is such a wonderful, human, heartbreaking and joyously crafted smile. It is my favorite panel in the storied career of John Cassaday. Just an old man, smiling to himself, eyes closed, sun splashing across his lined face.
I will always love this panel. It helps me make sense of the world, if that makes any sense at all.
So: were you a Planetary reader? Did it have an impact on you? Let's talk in the comments below.
And I'm always open to inviting guest writers to share their own #1panel1page stories. Let me know if you'd like to share your story as well.
I've been thinking of ways to make the Indestructibles blog more chatty lately, and while I was in Cleveland for conference last week I got an idea: what about writing a series about one single panel from a single comic book that I found really memorable? We all have those--the panel that sticks with you forever, whether because it's iconic, or because it's funny, or tragic, or does something we've never seen before... the reasons are endless.
I also then thought: well sometimes it's not just the panel. Sometimes you need the entire page to really explain why it's stuck with you, what made it so important to your brain that it never let go.
So: one panel, one page. Or, because the internet demands it, #1panel1page. And I know exactly where to start.
It was 1988.
Okay, maybe it wasn't exactly 1988. I might've read the comic a little later. I'm not sure. But it was one of the first trade paperbacks I ever owned, picked up at a little Waldenbooks in Medford, Massachusetts. The comic? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Book IV by First Publishing.
Yeah, I bought Book IV first. Apparently I wasn't as big a stickler for continuity back then as I am now.
But it was amazing. Not because it was the first time I encountered Eastman and Laird's ninja turtles in print, but because I was young enough that I only knew Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and (my future spirit animal) Raphael through the bright, cheery, pizza-loving cartoon. I had no idea how dark their original format was, how violent. I didn't know how closely the comics hewed to the classic, quietly menacing style of storytelling that it had originally been more of a parody of.
Really, I could pull any page and panel from this TPB and write about it, but here's the page that leapt instantly to mind when I was brainstorming where to start with #1panel1page:
This requires a little context: while his brothers playfully prepare for Christmas with April and Splinter, Leonardo is silently patrolling the city alone. He's set upon by the Foot Clan, which plays out as a silent, terrifying endurance test as the lone turtle is outmatched and outnumbered. His part of the story is wordless--his brothers and their banter more than making up for his lack of dialogue--with page after page of gorgeously rendered ninja fighting in a grimy, gritty portrayal of Manhattan covered in dirty gray snow.
And just when you think Leo is going to make it home in one piece... Shredder (whom the turtles had defeated in an earlier book and believed dead) appears.
Let's zoom in on the panel that makes this page unforgettable in my mind:
It's really more of a composite panel, the white sky over a gray Manhattan, Leonardo smiling both defiantly and almost sheepishly as he faces his mortal enemy. There's real brilliance in the expression portrayed on the page--Leo's inhuman face shows layers of fear and anger and even sarcasm in that last moment. And then, the panel he exists in is literally shredded, torn apart on the page, Leonardo's face becoming blurred and incomplete. The melting snow on the left of the panel is reminiscent of blood, A trick that loses a bit of its impact in the color version of the comic, but still builds a powerful, impactful, and memorable panel.
This kicks off a relentless battle sequence between the Foot and the turtles and leads to one of the more memorable smaller arcs in the early series--but all that's a post for another day.
Were you a fan of the early TMNT books? What do you think of their more current stories? Writers, do you have a #1panel1page article to suggest (or would you even want to guest-blog)? Comment below, or use the Contact button at the top of this page.
Do you dig the #1panel1page concept? Share the hashtag and the link on social media!
Very important notice for anyone who bought BOOK 3, the Entropy of Everything, at either Boston Comic Con or Terrificon this month. A sharp-eyed reader just alerted me to a printing issue in this book, making it difficult to read along one of the inside margins. IF YOU HAVE A DAMAGED COPY, please email me at email@example.com or through Facebook at facebook.com/whoisindestructible and I will HAPPILY send you out an autographed replacement copy as soon as I receive new, fixed copies from the printer.
I apologize for any frustration this might have caused. Please reach out to me and I'm happy to replace your copies ASAP. If you know of anyone who bought their copy of BOOK 3 at either convention this month, please pass the word along. Thanks!
Just wanted to say thanks to all the people who came by to visit the table this past weekend at Boston Comic Con--it's my hometown show and so it's always amazing to meet up with familiar faces and meet new folks as well. Special thanks go to these two gentlemen:
For the first-ever Doc Silence cosplays I've seen! Both had their own takes, but both nailed the character, I think (the dyed hair really won the day, I think).
There's so many people I want to thank for helping make it a great weekend that I won't name names for fear of forgetting anyone, but suffice it to say, if you visited the table: THANK YOU. It was so great visiting with so many people.
Meanswhile, I'll be at booth 509 at Terrificon in Uncasville CT (Mohegan Sun) this coming weekend. To celebrate the latest con, we're giving away "Gifted" on Amazon all weekend (Friday to Sunday). If you know of anyone who might want to download a copy for their Kindle or iPad, let them know it's available!
I'll be social-media-ing like crazy all weekend again, so follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see the sights. Are you going to be at Terrificon? Let me know here or on any of the social media pages and I'll keep an eye out for you!
I'll be at Table D813 at Boston Comic Con all weekend, August 12-14 at the Seaport. If you're planning to attend, stop by and say hello! I'll also have copies of all four books available on site.
My publisher has also decided to make the short Dancer story, the Soloist, free on Amazon Kindle all weekend to celebrate the convention. If you haven't had a chance to pick up this dark prequel story about Kate's early days as a vigilante, grab your copy for free this weekend!
Hey, are you an Alley Hawk fan? I've got some fun news for you.
We've just released an Alley Hawk "One-Shot" story (like the Dancer-centric "Soloist" or the holiday "Gifted" story) on Kindle! It takes place between Books 3 and 4, but also acts as a standalone story, exploring his history with the Vermin King, his lifelong nemesis. It clocks in at 25 pages, features an awesome cover by Sterling Arts & Design, and on top of that, as a thank you to the readers for supporting the series, it'll be free to download this weekend (Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7). Normal price is just $.99 on Amazon.
If this works out, I'd like to do a running series of solo stories set in the Indestructibles universe, so I'd love to hear your feedback on the format!
Meanwhile, "the Soloist" (a Dancer one-shot) and "Gifted" (a holiday story) are both available for $.99 any time.
Just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be at Boston Comic Con August 12-14 (just a week away!) and then at Terrificon at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut the weekend after, August 19-21. I'll have copies of all the books, including "Like a Comet" hot off the presses and "Entropy of Everything" which wasn't available last year for these conventions.
Planning on attending either show? Let me know on the Facebook page or on Twitter (or here via the contact page at the top). Hope to see some of you at the upcoming shows!
Also, wanted to let you know I'll be releasing a special mini-project any day now. It's something I've wanted to make available to readers for a long time, so I'm pretty psyched about it. Here's a hint what it is:
When you write sci-fi (when you write in general, really) you never know when your brain is going to demand that you parse out some little sliver of information it's been holding onto forever. Like tonight. For some reason I've got the Alien franchise on the brain, and that throwaway line about a "bughunt" came to mind, and I wanted to know what it meant. Of course, the internet always has an answer.
This then, of course, led me on a hunt for a couple of old Alien trade paperbacks published by Dark Horse Comics, some of the first comics I ever owned: the grim and moody Book 1, told in eerie black and white, about whatever happened to Hicks and Newt if they ever got home to Earth; Book 2, a luxurious airbrushed marvel, like a film come to life on the page; and Earth War, shredded with Sam Keith's signature artwork, a post-apocalyptic end to a series that took a very different turn on the screen. I lost all three in a fire over twenty years ago. I remember trying to salvage them, sooty and moldering.
I mention this because I can easily and immediately recall entire panels and pages from these books. Iconic imagery, each volume distinct but burned into my mind forever. The storytelling left a lasting mark on me as a writer. I've joked about how the only way I knew how to communicate what I needed when I've directed films in the past was due to what I learned reading comics, but picture books can turn you into a writer eventually. They leave cave paintings on your brain, waiting to be unearthed.
A great suggestion was just made to me about the August comic cons I'll be tabling at. Are you planning on attending Boston Comic Con or TerrifiCon™ - Connecticut's Terrific Comic Con at Mohegan Sun next month? Are you waiting for one of the shows to get your copy of one or more of the books? We don't have the setup to do official "pre-orders" online, but if you contact me about which books and in what numbers you need before the stock is ordered this week (and which of the two shows you'll be attending) I will set aside those copies specifically for you. You can direct message me through this site here, or feel free to ping me on the Facebook or Twitter accounts instead.
In terms of timing, the orders will need to be in for the shows by the 6th or 7th of July, so if you know you were planning on picking up your copies at Boston or Terrificon, don't wait--just shoot me a quick message in the next few days. I'm not accepting pre-payments... this is totally on the honor system for existing readers (I'll hold copies for purchase at the con rates for you).
I know some folks weren't able to get their Book 3's last year because we sold out fast, so this is just a way for me to try to make sure nobody goes home unhappy.
Also, as always, if you've already got your copy and want it signed, just bring it to the table--I'll always personalize a copy at a convention, any time.
Matthew Phillion is the writer of "The Indestructibles," part-time actor, occasional filmmaker. Currently on the lam in Salem with his trusty dog, Watson.