Tumor

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov

Illustrated by Noel Tuazon

(disclaimer: I wrote a mini review of this book in my last post about WonderCon.  However, at the time I hadn’t finished reading the book and this review will be much more complete.)

Way back before comics were influencing movies and television, before there were comic shops and most comics were inserts in local newspapers, before the medium of sequential art had ever proven its worth and was mostly thought of as kids stuff, Will Eisner believed they were special.  If you don’t know who Eisner is you should do a little homework on and read some of his stuff, but for now you’d mostly know him as the creator of The Spirit.  A little known fact about Will Eisner is that he was essentially the creator of what has been deemed the Graphic Novel.  At the time comics were only coming out in magazine format but Eisner started writing them as if they were literature and putting them out as hardcover books.  Eisner was often known to speak up about the value of comic art, claiming the medium was just as important as any novel, painting or movie.  He approached the subject as literature and believed that one day we’d see copies of A Contract With God on the shelf next to Tom Sawyer and Fagin the Jew next to Oliver Twist.

You should know that Eisner has nothing to do with Tumor.  I bring him up to point out that while a few creators over the years have picked up the banner Eisner left when he passed away for the most part the comic industry just hasn’t taken itself seriously.  Every year Marvel comics sells 70% of all comics sold in the US.  DC comics comes in second and you have to look pretty far down the list before you find anything that holds up to Eisner’s expectations of the medium.  For the most part the medium of comic books is treated similarly to the medium of television.  The majority of books out there aim no higher than to simply entertain.  Now don’t get me wrong.  If you head over to my local shop, Iguana Comics, and look in my box you’ll see plenty of books aimed primarily at entertainment (I’m really enjoying the current Hulk run at the moment with Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman).  I understand that there are guys out there who love superhero books and I respect this appreciation for the genre that got me hooked on comics.  Yet, like Eisner I want to believe comics can be more.

It’s my desire to see the medium of comics transcend itself that makes Tumor so special.   I honestly think Tumor is the kind of book Eisner would like.  It’s obvious upon reading it that Fialkov and Tuazon were aiming much higher than the realm of entertainment for their second graphic novel and I can firmly say they hit the mark.

Tumor is the story of an aged out, down on his luck private dick and follows the events of Frank’s last case.  Even if this were a straight forward private eye book it would be worth reading but there’s more to it than that.  Frank is dyeing from a tumor in his brain.  The tumor affects frank in many ways which prove to be a detriment to his case like dizziness, disorientation, and blackouts.  Yet the symptom which causes him the most trouble is that his grasp on time is slipping.  The tumor causes him to slip between timelines so one minute he’s in the present and the next he’s in a diner twenty years ago.  This would be frustrating enough on it’s own but the case he’s working on, looking for the missing daughter of a local mob boss, has surprising parallels with the death of his wife years ago.  As Frank slips back and forth between the case he’s working on and the greatest tragedy of his life he has a harder and harder time telling the difference between the two events.

The time shift angle seems like it would be confusing as a reader, but Fialcov is a master story teller.  At no point in the book does the reader ever feel confused about what’s going on.  If expert writing weren’t enough Tuazon marks each time shift with a change in visual style, giving the reader further que that something is off.

Tumor is an emotional book.  There are points which made me cringe at the guilt and shame Frank has been carrying around.  While the action of the story was entertaining the creators never settled for that being enough.  Each scene feels like a pivotal piece of emotional content and like any good piece of literature each scene feels important to the content of the story and to the makeup of Frank himself.  Rarely has a book affected me like this one.  When I finished it I couldn’t just go on to the next thing, I had to sit and think about it.

This is not an edge of your seat thriller.  You won’t find a twist heavy plot with big reveals and a surprise ending.  But while reading the story you may realize that other writers, especially in this crime genre, rely on these devices because they don’t have the skill to portray a moving and powerful story like this one.

An interesting fact is that Tumor was the first comic sold on the Amazon Kindle.  On the website you can even download a digital preview to check out before you buy it.  However, even for Kindle users I recommend buying the hardcover.   The book has one of the most original covers I’ve seen in a while, the paper has a great texture and the pages have that cool uneven cut which makes books look antique and expensive.  It’s even a nice size, not oversized like most trades, and looks great on a bookshelf.  But the reasons for buying the hardcover have little to do with the aesthetics.  The book is packed with special features.  In the comic an event from Frank’s past is mentioned but not fully explained, in the back of the book is a short story fully laying out this event.  There are a character sketches, an interview from Aint it Cool News, an interesting article talking about the ways Los Angelas has changed over the years, and an afterword by the author that is informative and entertaining.   The book contains a special gem for comic creators… the original pitch which got the comic published.  In short, it’s obvious that the creative team really cared about this project from start to finish, and like a DVD with tons of extras it feels like you’re getting your monies worth.  The final reason I’ll recommend you buy the hardcover is the price: 225 pages and amazing special features in a visually pleasing hardcover for only $14.95!

And now the bad news.  The only shortcoming I found with this book is the art.  Tuazon is a talented artist who uses a black and white pen and ink style and alternates in a bit of ink wash for the time flashbacks.  I’m a fan of this style in general but this book left me wanting a little more.  Tuazon gets a little messy in parts and spare in others.  As an artist I can say I’m not crazy about all the choices Tuazon made while illustrating this book.  But I got over it.  The art isn’t amazing but it’s still good and by the end of the book I fully understood why Tuazon was picked as the artist for this book.  For everything I didn’t like there were a ton of other things I did like so it evened out.

You should be reading Tumor.  It’s emotional poignant, well paced and beautifully packaged.  It’s a book that raises the bar on what comic books can be.  So head to your local comic and order your copy today, you won’t be disappointed.


Home From WonderCon

Being my first blog post for my new, Comic directed blog I thought I’d take the time to share about my experience at WonderCon.

My wife and I left for WonderCon last Thursday (the 31st of March).  We drove down to Sacramento and spent the night with family and then got up early on Friday morning and drove down to Sacramento for WonderCon.  I won’t bore you with details about the problems we had with our hotel and parking, I’ll just say we got to the Con later than we wanted.  The doors opened at 12pm but we didn’t get there till around 1pm.

Let me preface the rest of this blog by telling you why we went down there, besides for the sake of sheer fandom.  For the past year I’ve been working in the comic industry.  Nothing I’ve worked on has gone to print yet (I’ll keep you posted) but I have been making steady income making comics.  At this point in our lives we wanted to take things to the next level.  I heard from a number of people that the best way to get work in the comic book industry is to go to a comic con and do portfolio reviews.

My portfolio in all its glory.

A portfolio review is where an editor from a comic book company like Marvel or IDW sits down with you and looks at your portfolio to decide if you have what it takes to work for them.  I’ve been doing a lot of work so I put together my portfolio and headed south to find some work.

Marvel was offering a panel called, “Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way”.  This panel was at 1:30 on Friday which meant we only had a half an hour to find our way there.

We aren’t used to crowds and this was the biggest WonderCon yet.  The place was packed with people and we were a little stressed out trying to find out where the Marvel panel was.  Eventually we ended up at the huge Marvel booth at the front of the event center.  Without realizing who he was I asked C.B. Cebulski (Marvel’s talent scout) where the panel was and he pointed us in the right direction.

 

Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way

The panel was informative and enjoyable.  The most famous people at Marvel were there, Joe Quesada, Jeph Loeb, Jason Aaron and Axel Alonzo.  They each told the story of how they broke into the comic industry.  Non of them had a conventional story and what we basically took away fromt this panel was that there is no clear path to finding work in the industry, you have to make your own.

Here I am meeting Joe Quesada.

After the panel we rushed off to our first portfolio review.  We waited in line for over an hour but they cut the review off and I didn’t get in.  Bummer.

We weren’t really there just for work, after all, we’re fans so my wife and I made sure we checked out the rest of the con and enjoyed the rest of our Friday afternoon.  I was shocked by how many of my favorite creators were there.  I had checked the schedule online but they didn’t really tell you who was going to be there.

I walked up to the Oni Press table, one of our favorite publishers, and saw a guy sitting at the table with a pad and some pencils in front of him.  I walked up to him and said, “well, you must be somebody, who are you?”  He answered, “I’m Greg Rucka”.  To which I replied, “Holy shit you’re Greg Rucka!”  He was a great guy and a lot of fun to talk to.

Me and Greg Rucka, fighting crime.

While at the booth we ran into Brian Hurtt.  Brian is the artist for the Sixth Gun.  The Sixth Gun is not only my favorite comic but also my wife’s.  We geeked out on him hardcore.  I think my wife and I were competing to see who could give the most compliments.

Me and Brian Hurtt

Meeting Brian was the highlight of my trip.  On the second day I had a couple very disappointing portfolio reviews.  It became clear to me once I did these reviews that not many people get hired this way.  Besides not getting any work, the reviewers weren’t really giving me much advice that would make me a better artist.  I was feeling very disappointed.  To shake it off my wife and I walked back to the Oni Booth and talked to Brian Hurt again.  We have all the Sixth Gun comics at home but didn’t bring them with us, so we bought a copy of number 1 and had Brian sign it.

After signing my comic I asked Brian to look at my portfolio.  He spent like an hour looking at my work and gave me great advice which is helping me already.  He really made my day.  I already loved his work but now he’s got a fan for life.

Nate Simpson at the Image Booth

Another creator we met who really impressed us was Nate Simpson.  He’s the writer and artist on a new series called Non-Player.  The art on this book is some of the best I’ve ever seen.  He’s really more of a digital painter than just a comic artist.

Nathan is a great guy and he also took a look at my portfolio.  He helped me with some photoshop issues I was having and gave me some great ideas about how to be better.

On a side note: Non-Player came out today (April 6th) and it’s a great comic for non-comic readers.  The art is amazing and the story is really good.  I highly recommend that if you can get a copy everyone should check it out.

Ryan Ottley

We met a ton of comic creators including, J. Scott Campbell, Ryan Ottely, Eric Larson, Robert Kirkman and a bunch of people I had never heard of before.

J.D. Arnold and Richard Koslowski

Among creators we’d never heard of before was the creative team of J.D. Arnold and Richard Koslowski.  They were working the Top Shelf booth and signing copies of their graphic novel B.B. Wolf and the Three LPs.  When I asked what the book was about J.D. Arnold told me, “I used the story of the three little pigs to explore racism in the south.”  I love comics.

Once we had gone through the portfolio reviews and talked to just about everyone in the industry my wife and I made some realizations.  Basically, the work for hire game is not for me.  There are too many artists out there who are better, faster and cheaper than I am who aren’t getting work.  However, I’ve always been more interested in the creative arena of the Creator Owned market.  I like the idea of working on my own ideas and collaborating with people on new comic ideas.  I made some great connections and pitched an idea for a comic I’ve been working on to a few publishers and got some great responses.  Nothing to report yet but I’ll keep you posted.

Being a blog dedicated to recommending comics I’ll tell you about a graphic novel I picked up from Archaia called tumor.  It’s by the creative team of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon.  Tumor is the story of a past his prime private detective dying from a brain tumor.  People suffering from this kind of tumor have a hard time keeping track of time.  Basically time starts to feel fluid and they can’t tell whether they’re walking around today or twenty years ago.  Tumor is told from the protagonist Frank’s perspective and shifts time along with him.  Even though time is shifting the story is easy to follow and never feels slowed down.  As Frank looks for a missing girl, the daughter of a local mobster, his memory of how he lost his wife keeps getting interposed through the parallels in the story.  Tumor is a great crime comic with a main character who is likable in spite of himself.  The book finishes out with 200 pages of comic and another 40 pages of extra content including a short story by Joshua Hale Fialkov who is an acclaimed crime novelist.  The hardback costs $14.95 which is a steal for such a great book with so much love poured into every page.  You can order it at your local comic shop and if you order it from Iguana Comics, make sure you tell Jeff I’m the one who recommended it to you.

Keep checking back here for good comic recommendations and news from the comic industry.


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