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Invincible: A Hard Impression pt. 2

Posted On Monday, January 30, 2017

Inspiration can be a tricky thing.  The kick-start of all creativity, it's almost impossible to predict how inspiration will actually play out.  Maybe you have an inkling...considering what you're pulling from, how much of it you've absorbed and reinterpreted, what you're bringing of your own and ultimately, what you're trying to do.  Still, it's the combination of so many variables and factors, whims and circumstances that truly leave their impressions on the page (if that's your medium of choice).

There can be a fine line between inspiration and theft.  Okay -- maybe not a fine one.  It can be pretty thick, actually -- but we'll say it can be adjusted based on the clout and execution of it's practitioner.  It's been my opinion that through Invincible, Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley became masters of this.  From the word go, you can rack up a number of comparatives, and by the time we got to that pivotal twelfth issue (where the entire story dynamic got a kick in the pants), the list of homages and lifts ran a gamut of comic icons:

Invincible = Superboy
Omni-Man = Superman
Teen Team = Teen Titans
Guardians of the Globe = Justice League of America (Complete with analogues!)
Darkwing = Batman
Red Rush = Flash
War Woman = Wonder Woman
Aquarus = Aqua Man
Green Ghost = Green Lantern
Martian Man = Martian Manhunter

The character list goes on and on, and even the names of the story-arcs are references to classic and current television sitcoms (Family Matters, Eight is Enough, Friends, & Modern Family...just to name a few).

So, it should be no question that Kirkman & Co inspired some...(ahem) repetition of their own.  When Invincible first graced the newsstand, I was just getting it into my heart and mind that my lifelong pursuit of being a comic book artist was OVER.  Instead, I wanted to be a writer, turning my vocabulary of "if-then" equations and scaled conflicts into stories that anyone else might like to read.  Finding Invincible, when I did, may have been vital to me writing, not only today -- but at all!  It's kind of humbling to look at it that way, and still quite inspiring all the same.

Entering the HOTSHOT Era:

As it was, the opportunity to put my words to the test came that summer, when I arrogantly decided I should rewrite the script for Hotshot #1!  Hotshot was the precious, brainchild of my (then) somewhat rival and newfound friend (that's a LOOOOOONG story of its own), Michael Watson -- a remarkably talented creator who hailed from Cleveland, OH.  Now, when I say Hotshot was Mike's baby, I'm not just picking at him -- he literally kept this character a secret for nearly two to three years while he built up the story he wanted to tell.  Quite frankly, the way he kept it under wraps, it was nothing short of an act of God that I got ahold of it AND with permission to write it.

At any rate, after MONTHS of toiling on it, quitting at least once when it felt like there were too many OTHER cooks in the kitchen, I handed in a treatment for the first five issues of an arc called Hero's Welcome (now available for purchase in tpb!).  I can honestly say that at the time, I don't THINK I specifically used Invincible as the basis (in fact, the character comparison I wrote put him up against Spider-man...who Invincible teamed up with in 2006), but looking back all these years later (and doing some side by sides...), Kirkman's hand was all up the skirt of my writing ideas...wait, that sounded crude.  My bad.

But it's there!

For the sake of not belittling my own career, I'll call it a creative simpatico!  But from how we told stories (both series start in the midst of an action sequence, then flashback, taking literal issues to build to that initial moment), to our character portrayals and storylines (critical event caused the death/disappearance of the major hero group) -- there we were following in the footsteps of who we considered (and to a big degree, still do), the BEST superhero comic makers in the game.

We fantasized that we were on their radar.  When Invincible made his costume change to the black and blue suit (Invincible #51, July 2008) or giving the mantle to Zandale Randolph, we MAY have played that it was a wink and nod towards us.  Okay...we did, but really only in closed circles and NEVER in a malicious or accusatory way!

 We wanted to earn their level so badly...that we incurred the wrath of Savage Dragon creator (and then Image Publisher), Erik Larsen, with our Dare To Compare Challenge*!  The whole experience was as uplifting, as it was humbling.  And while Robert, nor Ryan never made any mention of it, Cory Walker had kind things to say about our effort and drive.

*The Dare to Compare Challenge was a marketing campaign we ran in the summer of 2009.  We had begun making slight headway getting our work seen through our convention appearances, but we wanted a spot on the shelves of every comic shop we knew.  Our plan was simple: if you had Invincible on your pull list on May 20th, you were going to get a print copy of Hotshot #1 FOR FREE, included with it.  As expensive as this gesture could've been, we were excited to share the word and posted about it on the Image Comics Forums (remember those?!), where it quickly got attention from people who couldn't take part because they didn't live in Columbus.  At their request, we put up a .pdf copy of the book and that's when Larsen went OFF -- saying that we didn't have the right (or the skill) to challenge a book like Invincible.  That we weren't even in the same league.

As harsh as that may sound, he was 100% correct.  We weren't.  Not even close.  We were neophytes at best, throwing stones at a giant. don't get better by playing against people at or below your own level.  We wanted to rise, so we challenged who we thought was THE BEST, hoping that our follow up (Dare to Share), would provide us with some clues, insights, if not mentors, for how to make our work eventually get there.

Together, Mike and I did some great work.  And while our partnership didn't last, our friendship and brotherhood has.  Definitely check out Hotshot and the rest of the Hotshot Universe titles, now published through Legacy 

READ Pt. 1: Here
READ Pt. 3: Here

Invincible: A Hard Impression pt. 1

Posted On Sunday, January 29, 2017

Inarguably, the Death of Superman has been the greatest comic event to impact my life.  It brought me in, introduced me and made me fall in love with the form of comics.  And while that's a hallmark that may never be surmounted...that doesn't mean it hasn't been challenged.  Invincible (Skybound/Image Comics), the superhero drama series created by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker (later joined by Ryan Ottley who's penciled a VAST majority of the series), has earned a significant space in my heart and my bookshelves.  And with the imminent beginnings of its last story arc (Kirkman announced the series would be ending last summer) hitting comic shops this week, I wanted to take a nostalgic look back through the series, which has quietly (and at many times NOT SO quietly) mentored my comic book reading and writing.

Despite touting the slogan "The Best Superhero Comic in the Universe!", Invincible is the oft unsung big brother to Kirkman's commercially applauded, zombie franchise, The Walking Dead.  Premiering in 2003 (Invincible #1 hit stores in Jan., while TWD didn't launch until Oct.), I am sorru to say that I missed the train on both of these titles.  But while The Walking Dead, really wasn't my cup of tea at the time (hell...back then, I didn't even drink tea, let alone have a brand...), I AM still kicking myself for not snatching up that first print run of Invincible.

But to be fair, the cover WAS a little boring!  LOL.

In actuality, I was becoming a more discerning consumer of my comics, waiting for a bit more word-of-mouth vetting, before I plopped down my few extra dollars to add anything to my reading list.  And that glowing review came in the pages of Wizard Magazine!  In an article, placed right before the price guides, they blasted Invincible as a great series that we ALL were sleeping on, highlighting it's great art (at the hands of Walker) as well as the characters and story that Kirkman had tucked into every page.  It was all the push I needed and I with a deft purchase of issue #4 -- I was hooked.

One part parody, one part homage, all parts super -- Invincible was my beacon.  At a time when taking superheroes seriously meant high concept deconstructionist writings, with attitudinal renditions of iconic archetypes, Invincible was a hold out; acknowledging all of the Silver Age-y tropes worth teasing about, while simultaneously pushing things forward in a way that was accessible and most importantly -- FUN!  Filled with characters that were cooly unique, while obviously familiar, the series read like a quippy, modern take on classic collections.

Okay...I admit it.  By the introduction of the Guardians of the Globe (the Justice League hat-tip that premiered in issue #7), I thought the series was going to be JUST that -- a few alterations to fun ideas that's all.  And for a few months, I stopped reading.  (I know, I know...)

And then, IT happened...Invincible #12.

The spotlight was recast in a real, BIG way, when the series took a detour from it's safe haven path, revealing that series regular, Omni-Man (Superman archetype and the titular lead, Invincible's father), was SECRETLY an alien scout, intent to take over the Earth -- murdering his Guardians of the Globe teammates and BEATING his son to near death in an existential display of the frailty of human existence!!  (Oh...spoiler alert, btw)

The entire scope of where the series could go was turned on it's head -- a trait that Kirkman has since cultivated into his particular brand of storytelling.  And while in retrospect, I thought the series jumped the shark with that move (I'll get to that in the next piece), it brought me back to the fold, stalking release dates for the next installment.  This on-again-off-again style of our relationship would remain throughout the duration of the title, but I promise, it was never in malice.  Just as Invincible affected my tastes and attention as a reader, its impressions on me as a writer ran wide and deep.  But I'll save that story for next time, too!

Read: A Hard Impression Part 2

BWARAO TURNS 150...(episodes)!!

Posted On Friday, January 27, 2017

Wow...One-Hundred Fifty Episodes!!!  Such a tremendous amount of geekdom and fun is at the core of why we do Black White & Read that it feels like this isn't work at all -- but to have amassed this many individual episodes isn't something I can brush under the table.  I work with some truly incredible guys, Ryan -- my super amazing co-host and Shelby, our incredibly talented producer -- and it's an absolute pleasure to bring you our spoiler free reviews every week!

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who's been on this journey with us, whether you're brand new or from day one!  And I invite you all to continue along for another 150 episodes MORE!!!  I'm gonna get back to celebrating, but I'll see you again next week!

THE READ PILE: 1/25/17
Daredevil #16 (Marvel) - C. Soule (w) G. Sudzuka (a)

Star Wars #27 (Marvel) - J. Aaron (w) S. Larroca (a)

Reborn #4 (Image) - M. Millar (w) G. Capullo (a)

Honorable Mentions:
Kamandi Challenge #1 (DC) - D. Didio/D. Abnet (w) S. Koblish/ K. Giffen/ D. Eaglesham (a)

Action Comics #972 (DC) - D. Jurgens (w) A. Thibert/ S. Segovia (a)

Hall Of Justice is Starting 2017 STRONG...!

Posted On Thursday, January 19, 2017

Last year, I was brought on to the Hall of Justice podcast as co-host, adding my particular wit and geekish charm to the show.  Or as host, Seth Everett puts it -- I am the Marc Bernardin to his Kevin Smith (Shoutout to Fatman on Batman  Lol.)  At any rate, we've had some pretty amazing episodes (ranging from spoiler-filled convos to celeb interviews) and have started off the year with TWO big ones, both with me in the lead chair!  So, take a second to listen (and subscribe) as we start off 2017 with some remarkable guests and incredible news!!!

Episode #55 - Arrow stars Stephen Amell & David Ramsey @#WizardWorldNOLA
First episode of 2017!!!  Victor Dandridge attended Wizard World New Orleans in January.  He moderated a panel with the stars of Arrow, Stephen Amell & David Ramsey (Oliver Queen & John Diggle).  The panel is wide-ranging, but features the 1st BIG comic book headline of the year -- that Arrow and 3 other DC Comic's CW shows were renewed for 2017-18!  Thanks to Wizard World for the use of the audio!  #WizardWorldNola

Listen Now via iTunes!

Episode #56 - Theo Rossi, "Shades" on Netflix's Luke Cage
Victor caught up with Theo Rossi, who recently starred in Sons of Anarchy and Marvel's Luke Cage.  He moderated a panel with Rossi at Wizard World New Orleans.  Topics include both shows and the ongoing Marvel/Netflix universe.  Thanks to Wizard World for the use of the audio.  #WizardWorldNola

Listen Now via iTunes!

Black White & Read All Over - Bustin' Out Hot Stuff S4 Ep149

Posted On Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My apologies for not putting up LAST WEEK'S episode, as busy as 2017 has already been, I should definitely be making sure you all know about it!  I promise to do better with that!!!

This week's #TheReadPile was glorious mix of super-heroics and storytelling.  Diving into Marvel titles, post Civil War II paid off FAR better than I was expecting.  And the scope of story from DC has me itching to go back and bone up on some titles I've skipped in the past.

"Bustin' Out Hot Stuff"
S4 Ep. 149

Vic's Picks:
Monsters Unleashed #1 (Marvel) - C. Bunn (w) S. McNiven (a)
Superman #15 (DC) - P. Tomasi/ P. Gleason (w) J. Jimenez/ D. Mahnke (a)
The Few #1 (Image) - S. Lewis (w) H. Sherman (a)

Honorable Mentions:
The Mighty Captain Marvel #1 (Marvel) - M. Stohl (w) R. Rosanas (a)
Trinity #5 (DC) - F. Manapal (w/a)

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