Nick Gazin's Comic Book Love-In #104

VICE art editor Nick Gazin separates the comics wheat from the chaff, giving you real talk about the new Deadpool doll, He-Man book, 'Hamburger Eyes,' and more.

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Feb 12 2016, 7:57pm

All photos by the author

Well Hello There,

I'm Nicholas Gazin, VICE's art editor, and this is my weekly column in which I review and discuss books, comics, zines, toys, and anything that I think merits attention for being aesthetically great or awful.

There's a documentary called Queer Japan being made by the people who run Massive that needs your money. If you like gay Japanese art and culture, then give them your fucking money.

Here are reviews of ten things. I've provided buy links from their publishers or producers, but you should always go see if your local comic store has them first.

#1. Deadpool Sixth Scale Figure
By Sideshow Collectibles

I didn't know real beauty before Sideshow Collectibles' meticulously perfect dolls entered my life in 2007. Is it possible to love an object more than you love a living creature? Is it possible to love an object more than you love yourself? These questions were answered with a thundering "YES" when I acquired Sideshow's Han Solo (in Bespin attire) doll. Standing a mere 12 inches, he managed to dwarf all my other possessions in perfection. The likeness of the doll to Harrison Ford is exact, down to the chin mole and the scar under his bottom lip. My love of the dolls carried me through the end of a deflating relationship with a human woman.

Sideshow sent me a Deadpool doll to review, which seems too good to be true. Deadpool is the Marvel Comics character from the X-Men universe who cannot die, makes jokes, and breaks the fourth wall constantly. He's a chaotic hero/villain and is insanely popular. There's a movie coming out about him soon that has some commercials that are so annoying they're actually draining my enthusiasm.

The Deadpool doll interprets the character's red and black bodysuit into a padded, militaristic new style with quilted areas, gauntlets, and shinguards. There are teeny little straps and tiny little buckles connecting them. The doll comes with two pistols, a massive machine gun with a giant silencer and scope, two katanas, and a Rambo-style knife with actual metal blades. Of course he has many, many pouches because he is a Rob Liefeld creation. The doll also has two alternative heads and multiple interchangeable hands. Not only that, his stand comes with word balloons that you can affix dialogue stickers onto. It's so beautiful, I can't stand it.

I asked Kevin Ellis, the project manager on the Deadpool figure, a few questions and these are those.

VICE: Deadpool's costume looks different depending on the artist who is drawing him. How did you decide on the costume style you went with?
Kevin Ellis: Coming into our Marvel line, we knew we wanted to take an original spin on the costumes. Taking two-dimensional costumes and turning them into actual garments is one challenge, turning them into Sixth Scale garments is a completely different challenge altogether. The Sixth Scale format gave us the opportunity to take the typical spandex costume and really give it a gritty, real-world spin. Rather than gravitate toward the fitted armor and leather alternatives usually seen in realistic translations of superhero costumes, we opted for a design that was grounded in real-world garments with a bit of a twist. In the end, we feel that we came up with a design that pushes people's perceptions of the character, but still evokes the essence of Deadpool at first glance.

Was there discussion of including his time machine?
Several unique items were discussed when first developing the figure, but they eventually made their way to the chopping block as we dialed in our initial character lineup. If it is something that people are really asking for, there is always a chance we can consider it for a future offering.

Was there anything you wanted to put in that Marvel wasn't into?
Our initial design explorations are pretty broad. When we first look into developing a figure, we consider many more options than could ever make it into the actual end product (simply due to cost). Sometimes we reach way out into left field, so our first initial design concepts have us considering multiple head sculpts, gag accessories, base elements, etc. Through the process of development, we narrowed it down to what we think best tells the story we are trying to convey with the figure. Marvel has been great to work with on this line, and very open to the liberties we've taken.

This figure seems to focus on Deadpool as a serious character who has a lot of weapons. Was there ever a consideration given to including accessories that referenced the character's humorous nature?
We did definitely deck him out with some serious firepower, but we've also touched on his more humorous side with elements like the speech bubbles ("!?!CHIMICHANGAS!?!") and more quizzical expression on his alternate portrait. The Sideshow exclusive Version also comes with Headpool, and what could be funnier than a floating zombie head in a propellor beanie?

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Buy the Deadpool figure from Sideshow for a richer existence.

#2. The Art of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Deluxe Edition
By Tim and Steve Seeley (Dark Horse Comics)

I didn't think this book would be as good as it is.

Usually, books marketed to the nostalgic adults demographic will condescend to the reader. You know that a book about children's culture thinks you're a fool when the writer overuses the word "magic." Magic is a term people use when they're trying to con you, sell you something, or avoid telling you the truth. Great creative works aren't made by "magic," they're made by hardworking, serious, and often charmless people who are able to understand and answer society's desires with art. This book is great largely because it doesn't bullshit or pretend about what He-Man is. It talks about the creation and development that went into He-Man in a surprisingly blunt and hilarious way.

This book is a great collection of some of the concept art, comics, animation cels, packaging, posters, and other drawings and paintings that relate to the making of He-Man and the associated products. The images are big and colorful, the paintings are beautiful to me, and it would be good as merely a collection of He-Man art. But it's more than that. The book shows the development of He-Man and the cynical notes and memos used in the process of developing the property. At the beginning of the book, there are letters in which He-Man is referred to as a "generic Licensed Male Action Figure." There are psychological profiles of what boys want and what their mothers will accept.

Seeing a book like this, that respects the reader enough to be honest, is a rare thing. The He-Man toys were created primarily as a blending of Star Wars and Frazetta art, and the animated TV show was made to advertise these toys. Having been born in 1983, I was hit hard by the He-Man bug, and it was the center of my imagination from ages three to four.

I got the deluxe edition that comes boxed inside a textured box of Castle Grayskull, which I still find beautiful. A limestone green castle with a giant skull works for me. You pull down the magnetized drawbridge, and behind it is an image of He-Man holding his power sword. When you separate the contents from the two boxes, there's the book and then there's a print that portrays the MOTU characters with so much gravitas and seriousness that Thomas Morton laughed when I showed the book to him.

The Dark Horse PR guy mentioned one thing that surprised him was how much the gay press has reached out to Dark Horse about this book. Did you know that He-Man was a gay icon? It makes sense since he looks like a Tom of Finland drawing in bondage wear. Whether you're gay, bi, bicurious, or still think that you're straight, this book is incredible. If you remember loving He-Man as a child, this book will remind you instantly why you loved it and reveal how crassly you were manipulated.

Buy The Art of He-Man from Dark Horse.

#3. Uncle Scrooge: The Seven Cities of Gold
By Carl Barks (Fantagraphics)

It's hard to find a better, more perfect comic than one that Carl Barks made. Carl Barks was the once-anonymous cartoonist of Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics. Until his identity was made public, he was just referred to as "the good duck artist." He had, by many accounts, a miserable life, but he was a fantastic genius who was one of the great auteurs of the medium.

This book is notable because it includes the comic that Indiana Jones ripped off the boulder scene from. Indiana Jones was heavily influenced by these comics. Every man, woman, and child owes it to their home to have a complete set of Carl Barks comics in their den or study.

#4. Lapsos
By Inés Estrada (C'est Bon Kultur)

Inés has been published on VICE for, like, six years now. She makes stickers and little stuffed animals and comics. This is her first graphic novel, and it's very impressive. It's a hardcover with partial color. It's about a couple and their interactions with magical, interdimensional beings after one of them drives over a two-headed Siamese cat. It's kinda like Jesse Moynihan's Forming. This comic is full of cute moments despite all the confusing new-age mumbo jumbo.

I like it a lot. I vouch for Inés Estrada and her work.

#5. Not Sure if Angry, Hungry or Sad
By NeverBrushMyTeeth (Tiny Splendor Press)

This is a beautiful drawing zine I got at Secret Headquarters, full of some really confident drawings of all sorts of stuff. It's printed on a risograph onto thick paper. Words aren't necessary. Just look.

Get it from Tiny Splendor, if possible.

#6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
By Matt Zoller Seitz (Abrams)

I think the Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson's best movie. This book is the best book about the movie that could exist. Do you want a series of Wes Anderson discussing the movie? Do you want photos of all the sets and miniatures? Do you want to have great screenshots of scenes so you can stare at them for minutes at a time instead of the seconds you got in the movie? They're all present in this book.

Buy it from Abrams Books.

#7. Hamburger Eyes No. 16
By various photographers (Hamburger Eyes)

Oh boy, new Hamburger Eyes! I love you, Hamburger Eyes! Hamburger Eyes is the only good photo zine. Every other photo zine is just the same old shit you saw before. I often look at my own photos and think, Could I ever be in Hamburger Eyes? My photos whisper back at me, "No, you are too old and you were never as cool as these people are." Oh, well.

Get it from Hamburger Eyes.

#8. See You Next Tuesday
By Jane Mai (Koyama Press)

Some people think that feminism is when women get roles in stupid action movies and then talk about how they wanted to show the world that "women could kick butt, too." This always reads as pandering and phony to me. I hate almost every superhero movie, and it bums me out when adults try to intellectualize them and talk about them like they're not big video-game commercials. If you like these movies, go fuck yourself and stop reading this column.

The real forefront of feminism in art and comics is ladies doing comics about how gross and beautiful it is to be a lady. Aline Kominsky-Crumb was an early forerunner of this. Dori Seda did it really well and deserves wider recognition. More recently Lizz Hickey, Heather Benjamin, Lisa Hanawalt, and Jane Mai have also been really great at embracing the gross beauty of lady-ness. As a sidebar I would like to mention my sister Penelope Gazin, Molly Soda, and all the current hairy ladies who embrace makeup and their body hair.

This book collects Jane Mai's loose and sketchy diary comics in which she is constantly shitting, pissing, vomiting, sneezing, and having anxiety or joy related to these body functions. It also includes her dog, Stinky, who goes under her desk to fart. Jane and her friends are all drawn adorably. We also see Jane have public conflicts with strangers, like dudes who are spreading their legs too wide on the subway and strangers who start accusing her of being the kind of person who has a Tumblr.

It's a good comic if you love shit and piss and can't handle your feelings. So that should be everyone who reads this website.

Buy it from Koyama.

#9. Yokai Watch Vol. 1 and 2
By Noriyuki Konishi (Viz Media)

Yokai Watch is a comic about a videogame/TV show/action-figure line about a boy who finds a magic ghost butler in the woods who gives him a magic watch. The watch allows Nate to see otherwise invisible yo-kai, which are forest ghosts of Japanese mythology. In Yokai Watch, Nate sees people beleaguered by problems, which are always caused by these ghosts, whom Nate battles and then befriends. It's a lot like Pokemon, except that the main kid isn't trying to capture and imprison the magical creatures.

The concept is fun and will definitely appeal to all the hardcore weeaboos and children. It's not striking a strong chord with me, but I'm about 25 years older than the target demographic. Kids are going to dig this, though.

Buy it from somewhere.

#10. Fight Club 2 #1–5
By Chuck Palahniuk and Cameron Stewart (Dark Horse Comics)

I'd heard that Dark Horse was publishing a Fight Club comic. Dark Horse is a publisher known for getting a lot of movie licenses. They've published comics based on Star Wars, Alien, Predator, Terminator, and a lot of other sci-fi stuff. It wasn't until the press gave me copies that I found out Chuck Palahniuk was actually scripting them. I'm not totally convinced he's really writing them entirely himself, though. Writing a comic script involves some different muscles than just writing prose or even a movie script. The inside covers of each issue have little airplane-safety pictograms that mention famed comics author Matt Fraction and Chelsea Cain as "your in-flight cabin crew," which makes me suspect that it's possibly more of a collaboration, with Matt and Chelsea writing the final scripts.

Anyway, the plot of the comics is that it's ten years since the events of Fight Club took place and the main character is now calling himself Sebastian and married to Helena Bonham Carter's character and together they have a child. Sebastian is taking some sort of medication that suppresses his Tyler Durden side, but he eventually starts slipping back between his two personalities. A lot of the story is confusing, and trompe l'oeil drawings of pills and flower petals will appear over parts of the comic panels obscuring information. Chuck Palahniuk and his writing group also appear in the comic. At the end of the fifth issue, the members of Tyler Durden's army are all about to slit their veins open and spray blood on famous paintings for some reason.

I'm not sure if I like this comic series—at least not yet. I read all the Palahniuk books that were out when I was in high school, but by the fifth one the unreliable narrator and random-pieces-of-information writing style had become repetitive and shtick-y.

The drawings in the comic are competent, but seeing the story drawn instead of imagining them or seeing actual humans moving around doesn't feel quite right to me for Fight Club.

Buy Fight Club 2 from Dark Horse.

And that's it for this week. Check in next week for more reviews and things.

Send things you want reviewed to: Nick Gazin c/o VICE Media Inc., 49 South 2nd St, Brooklyn, NY 11249

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Love,
Nick Gazin