Headlines   2003 Review Index   August 13, 2003
Suspended Animation &

Michael Vance

Mark Allen

Michael Vance Books

The most-circulated and longest-running comics review column in America
perhaps the World!
Review Index 2003 - 2002 - 2001 - 2000 - 1999 - 1998

      Opinions are a dime a dozen. Here are two of them:

      The Speed Abater is the best graphic novel of 2002 according to the attendees of the world's largest comics convention in France.

      The Speed Abater is not the best graphic novel of 2002 according to this reviewer.

      The back cover 'blurb' says that The Speed Abater is about a huge, ancient and obsolete boat, a destroyer. It is war, and the ship is dispatched to find an enemy submarine. Three novice sailors descend into the lowest reaches of the tub and discover its gigantic reduction gears.

      That summary is true.

      That same blurb claims that this is "a deeply human and highly unusual suspenseful tale by an exciting new talent". Uh-huh.

      It is human, it is unusual, but it is not suspenseful, and this reviewer is not excited by this new talent.

      This graphic novel is interesting but flawed. It is ponderous, not suspenseful, and a touch boring.

      In addition, its art looks like a doodle on a canvas that is greatly enhanced by color. Intentionally or unintentionally, the art looks Impressionistic in style.

      If, as suspected by this reviewer, this story is allegorical and one layer concerns Deism (the idea that God wound-up the world like a clock and then left it to run by itself), then Speed Abater is also a flawed allegory about a flawed theory. The flaw is that the allegory is boring.

      Boring is never good in literature.

      To his credit, however, the author seems to debunk Deism.

      If this review seems harsh, real potential deserves real guidance, and Speed Abater, even with flaws, is more than worth a read.

      The Speed Abater/78 pgs & $13.95 from NBM Publishing/by Christophe Blain/sold in comics/book stores and at 222.nbmpublishing.com.

      Review by Michael Vance

MINIVIEW: Stormfield
       Written by Wes Alexander. Entrenched in the traditional approach to 'kid' comic strips, Stormfield's thick linework and gentle, gag-a-day humor deserves a visit to www.dbrmedia.com.

      Review by Michael Vance

Suspended Interview: Bob McLeod

      Bob McLeod is probably one of the nicest guys in comics. He's also one who's work, unfortunately, is that visible in American comics today. He hasn't left comics, but has been busy plying his trade in other venues the last few years.

      Read on, to find out what he's been up to.

      For those who haven't kept up, why don't you tell us what you're working at, these days?

      I'm currently pencilling an inking a 31 page Phantom comic book for the Swedish publisher Egmont. I don't think it will be distributed in the United States, unfortunately. I hope to be doing a couple issues a year for them. I also just finished about 40 black and white drawings of cartoon animals in business suits for a business psychology booklet. I'm also working on a proposal for a new series I hope to sell to an American publisher. I'm working with a new writer, and all I can say at this time is that it's about a group of superheroes.

      Are there any great differences in working for foreign comic publishing companies, and working for those in the U.S.?

      This is my first job for a foreign publisher, and they're probably as diverse as American publishers, but so far my experience has been very pleasant, which is far from how I would describe working for American publishers. The Editor is intelligent and polite and helpful and extremely competent. The script is fun and readable by a wide age range, and I've been given plenty of time to do pencils and inks myself instead of splitting up the art. The pay is a little less than my Marvel rate, but well worth the effort and overall Im really enjoying the experience. I'm emailing the pages to Sweden, so I'm keeping the original art here.

      What other art-related experience have you had, besides comics?

      Well, I did some storyboards years ago, and some cartoon spiders for a traveling exhibit for the Smithsonian, as well as various other cartoon illustration jobs. You can see examples of practically everything I've done on my web site, www.bobmcleod.com . I've also done cartooning seminars at several schools, and taught some drawing and cartooning classes locally. I also worked freelance for a couple ad agencies in the 70's doing "comp" illustrations. Last year, I briefly had a full-time office job drawing designs and illustrations for t-shirts.

      Give us your 'origin story;' how did you break in to comics?

      For the full story, go to this link: www.bobmcleod.com/start.html . To make a long story short, I went to NYC in 1973 and met Pat Broderick at a comics convention. He was actually in my high school art class in Tampa, Florida, but we never met in class! I recognized him, tho, and introduced myself. We became roommates and he introduced me to Neal Adams, whom he met by getting into the DC apprenticeship program. With a phone call, Neal got me a job at Marvel in the production dept., doing lettering corrections and art corrections, and about a year later (after studying the original art in production and drawing several practice sample pages) I finally started getting some freelance work pencilling and inking.

      Do you have a particular favorite work from your comic career?

      I really enjoyed drawing Superman, and Star Wars, but my favorite comics work was drawing and inking Teen Hulk and other jobs for Marvel's Crazy Magazine. I did several movie satires and some other stuff. My original goal when I moved to NYC was to work for Mad magazine. Everyone would probably expect me to say the New Mutants was a highlight, but that was really a very frustrating experience, because we started off behind schedule and I could never really catch up. I also wasn't in sync with Chris Claremont, and didn't like the inking I got on the book. Ink-wise, I enjoyed doing Conan over John Buscema and Dracula over Gene Colan.

      What positive and/or negative changes have you seen in comics in the last generation?

      I haven't kept up with comics too much in the last five-seven years, but on the positive side, the coloring is so much better than I used to get. I wish all my old jobs could be reprinted with good coloring. On the negative side, comic book prices are too high, too many comics are aimed at adults, and comics aren't as much fun to read or work on because they're taken way too seriously. The possibility of huge profits from movies and television, along with the low sales on most titles, have made the publishers afraid to take risks. They just keep redoing the same things and catering to an ever shrinking fan base.

      What, if anything, are you reading, today? If nothing new, do you seek out the work of any particular creators?

      I don't read comics, because my reading time is so limited I'd rather devote it to reading books and magazines. I like many of the current artists, but don't have the time or money to seek out their work.

      What would it take to get you back into comics on a full-time basis?

      I'm basically in comics full-time now, I just don't have a regular book and often have to go outside comics to pay the bills. I'm ready and willing if anyone would like to work with me.

      Is there a "dream project" in comics you would like to do, or maybe something you have yet to accomplish?

      My idea of a dream project now is very different from what it might've been a few years ago. I would really like to do some more humor comics, like the work I did for Crazy. I suppose I should finally approach Mad magazine. And I'd love to do some full color dramatic comics where I could do all the art myself; pencilling, lettering, inking and color. I'm hoping to do some book illustration next year. I 'd like to do black & white interior art and painted covers for young readers, and some painted paperback covers.

      Thanks for taking the time to do this.

      Thank you for asking.

      Interview by Mark Allen


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