Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 22, 2012

CR Holiday Interview #5 -- J. Caleb Mozzocco



imageJ. Caleb Mozzocco is someone I know not at all, but I've been reading his work on comics for years and years. Mozzocco is one of those reviewers that offers up an extremely wide range of material for discussion. This includes mainstream comic books and graphic novel collections of same, the 2012 versions of which will be the primary subject of this interview.

I thought it was an odd year for what most people, myself included, call "mainstream comics." Then again, I think most of the years are odd anymore when it comes to genre comics work. As I'm writing this, we're about 15-16 issues into DC's relaunching of their line and right in the middle of Marvel's curated revamp and staggered roll-out of theirs. We also saw a resurgent Image Comics as people like the writer Robert Kirkman became career models of choice. Throw in a half-dozen factors up and down the charts, and 2012 felt like both the beginning and ending of something important. At least that's my view; let's ask Caleb for his. -- Tom Spurgeon


TOM SPURGEON: How did you end up carving out the writing-about-comics portion of what you do? I assume you were a comics fan growing up, but I honestly don't know.

J. CALEB MOZZOCCO: I actually didn't start reading comics until about the time I started high school, and I therefore quite vividly remember my gateway comics: The DC/TSR Advanced Dungeons & Dragons series -- I was really into role playing games in junior high; a rare trait among comics readers I'm sure -- the Eastman and Laird Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series that they were still publishing through Mirage at the time -- a combination of familiarity with the cartoon and a pretty weird role-playing game a friend had interested me in those -- and Neil Gaiman and company's Sandman Special #1, which had a neat glow-in-the dark cover. Mike Sangiacomo of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote about how that comic retold the Orpheus myth, and it sounded awesome to teenage-me.

At the time, there was still a comic book shop in my hometown of Ashtabula, Ohio, and before I ventured into it comics were just something I would see on creaky spinner racks in drugstores and sketchy magazine stores. Archie seemed to publish half of them. [Spurgeon laughs]

Then I entered the comic shop, and smelled all that fresh ink and paper, saw all those colors on the superhero costumes on shelves, saw my first graphic novels... it was like walking into Narnia.

By the time I graduated college and had a real job with a steady paycheck, I was bringing stacks of comics and a volume of manga or two home on a Wednes-daily basis.

I should probably also note that my hometown, which has a population of about 25,000 and is an hour east of Cleveland, has had four comic shops open and close between 1991 and 2000 or so, and I'm not sure how one gets really in to comics if they don't have that experience of going into a comic shop to see the place where all the comics live.

To answer your original question though, I've been writing as long as I've been reading comics -- actually, longer, but I started semi-professionally writing around the time I was 17, and much of that was reviews. Movie reviews and local theater reviews for my local newspapers, at first.

I spent about six-years of my grown-up life on staff at a pair of newspapers, and the latter one was a rather quickly-dying Columbus alt-weekly, where I could slip in coverage of local comics creators as features and graphic novels as book reviews.

As the paper got even closer to death, the editor-in-chief was pretty much encouraging all of us to write almost anything we wanted, to fill up space and save on the freelance budget, so I had a weekly comics review column there for awhile.

By the time Columbus' big, evil, daily newspaper finally bought us out and laid me off, I had already been doing some freelancing for Wizard -- I was young and needed the money! [Spurgeon laughs] -- and "interning" at Newsarama, that is, providing reviews in return for no money at all. At that point in my life, I suddenly found myself with something like 24 hours a day of free time and I was already in the habit of writing hundreds, occasionally thousands of words a day, so I started Every Day Is Like Wednesday.

I also briefly tried to put together a comics review column I could syndicate to the remaining alt-weeklies at the time -- this would have been around 2006 or so, I guess -- but the only one that actually bit was Las Vegas Weekly, so I had to find a day job, and ended up working in libraries rather than newspapers.

Since then I've written for Blog@Newsarama -- on a paid basis -- Robot 6 at Comic Book Resources, ComicsAlliance and I'm just starting to contribute to the Good Comics For Kids blog, as well. And I still contribute to Las Vegas Weekly, usually about once a month or so.

That's the too-long, too-detailed version. Short version? I liked comics and worked as a writer and editor in print in my early 20s, and when I lost that gig and print was seemingly evaporating, I decided to limit the writing I was doing to something I was really interested in and passionate about.

SPURGEON: One thing that interests me about your writing on your own platform is that there are recurring features. Is that kind of structure helpful to you in terms of continuing to produce work?

MOZZOCCO: I think so. I imagine I started doing that because it was what I was used to from the paper I worked at and the various papers and magazine I read at the time, and because a lot of the comics bloggers I was most interested when I first started blogging -- Kevin Church, Chris Sims, Mike Sterling, Bully -- all had recurring features of some kind or other on their blogs.

Some people I know in the real world are kind of shocked that I do a daily -- well, daily-ish -- blog simply because writing a lot every day seems pretty daunting to a lot of folks that don't write regularly themselves. And if I just sat down at the computer every night and told myself "Well, time to write 500-2,000 words about something having something to do with comic books!" it probably would be rather daunting to me too. But I know that on, say, Thursday, Las Vegas Weekly publishes and my contributions to Robot 6 go up, so I can just link to one or both of those, or that on Wednesday nights I can do "Comic Shop Comics," where I babble about whatever I bought at the shop that week, and once a month I can do posts on DC and Marvel's solicitations, and so on.

When I first started EDILW and wasn't quite sure what I was doing, I had a lot more regular features, many of which I've abandoned.


SPURGEON: Tell me about your consumption of comics: how much you read, where you get them, what's more important in terms of your overall relationship to comics? It seems to me that you must read a ton of books.

MOZZOCCO: This sounds like a question a therapist might ask me while trying to gauge the extent of my problem.

Well, when I was in Columbus, Ohio and working as an editor -- that is, when I had a lot of money -- I had access to a great comic shop called The Laughing Ogre, with really friendly, really nice people like Gib Bickel and Jeff Stang working there, and they seemed to stock everything you could possibly want to read. That store I mentioned going into as a youth a few questions ago? The Ogre was like ten of those in one. I used to budget $40 for new comics every Wednesday, and if the publishers didn't publish $40 of stuff I wanted read, I'd spend it on trades.

Right now, I spend somewhere between $3 and $15 a week on floppy, pamphlet, serially-published comic book-comics every Wednesday. I moved back to my hometown of Ashtabula for about a year in 2010, and was suddenly in a city with no comic shop, so I was forced to break the weekly habit. That was about the time $3.99 comics were becoming more ubiquitous, and I just refuse to read those things and it seemed like Big Two comics were getting much, much, much worse than at any time since I'd been reading them. Although maybe it's not them, maybe it's me; I suppose there comes a time in one's life where one has simply read all the Batman or Justice League comics anyone ever needs to read.

So I've transitioned to trades, and read only a handful of comics as they're serially published now, even though I live within a 15-minute drive of two different comics shops -- in Mentor, Ohio, if any of your readers are stalking me. And I've gotta say, some of the publishers make it really hard to read their comics at all -- I tried the "Marvel NOW!" relaunch of Fantastic Four, and between the house ads, the space-wasting splash pages and Marvel's weird new "Altered Reality" smart phone app prompt in certain panels, it was a real unpleasant slog, despite the fact that the creators did an okay job on it.

I get a ton of comics from the library. Since the layoff from the paper I mentioned above, I've been working in libraries, and if the library I work at doesn't own them, some library in Ohio almost invariably does, and I can get just about anything I want to read through inter-library loan... as long as I wait until they're available in trade.

For Marvel and DC comics, that mainly just means I'm one big crossover event comic/branding initiative behind whatever's in the stores at the time. Which is fine with me; a lot of that stuff I read as much to keep up with for writing-about-comics purposes as for pleasure; like, I want to know what Marvel's doing with Captain America now, rather than how Cap's going to get out of his latest scrape, you know?

Beyond the Big Two or Big Five direct market publishers, it seems a lot of comics publishers just go straight to trade now, so a library is a great place to get manga and the sorts of books Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly and the big, book publishers-dabbling-in-graphic novels put out -- pretty much anything published straight to trade you can find at your local library. Or your local library can find for you. And if they can't, maybe you should relocate to somewhere with a better library...?

I do get comp copies from some publishers and creators now and then too, for the purposes of reviewing them -- in fact, there's a stack of them looking accusingly at me from the corner of the room right now.

So I don't know. I'd say I get maybe 10% of my comics from a brick-and-mortar shop in the traditional, stapled format, 10% as trades I order online at a steep discount even though I know that is a terrible thing to do to the small business people who own brick-and-mortar shops and is slowly wounding the sorts of magical shops that introduced me to this wonderful medium in the first place and 80% from libraries? And also some from publishers, which is more than 100% if we add up all those numbers. I majored in English; math isn't my strong suit.

I do read a lot of comics. I try to read everything, which is a terrible, impossible goal to have. Well, everything of a high-enough quality that I can stand to read it. But even then, there are just so many comics, and I know there are huge swathes of comics I'm almost completely ignorant of, including webcomics and mini-comics.

SPURGEON: Do you read with writing in mind? Has writing about comics changed your relationship to the reading of them? How is your opinion of certain comics different than what it is before you started writing about them?

MOZZOCCO: I do read comics with writing about them in mind now, and I sometimes wish that wasn't so, because I feel like I'm missing the sort of pure, undiluted audience experience that many others might be having.

That said, I've always read comics -- and read books, and watched movies and television, and looked at art -- with writing in mind, so I'm not sure how much my relationship with them has really changed.

imageLike I've said, I've been writing, and writing about things, as long or longer than I've been reading comics, and even before I was reading, say, the latest issue of Geoff Johns' Green Lantern knowing I was going to write a few paragraphs about it on my blog that night, I used to read Robin or Hitman or JLA and then sit down at my word-processor and write a letter to the editor to see if I could make it into the letters pages or not. The old, pre-Internet comics letters pages were, I realize, essentially practice-blogging for some of us; my blog is basically like an endless comics letters page where I can write about whatever I want, and also post pictures.

It's not just comics though; I read books and watch movies that way after years of reviewing those, too. And even before I was reviewing or writing about anything at all, I had this weird habit of trying to deconstruct the media I was consuming while I was consuming it.

For about as far back as I remember, if I saw something, I would want to make it. So I used to want to be an animator, a novelist, an illustrator, a screenwriter, a poet, a film director, a comic book writer and so on.

As I get older, a lot of those ambitions have -- thankfully -- disappeared, but when I watch movies or read fiction, things I don't write about the way I write about comics, I still do so with part of my mind constantly evaluating or thinking how something might have been done differently, and sometimes half-day dreaming on tangents about the making of the things.

One thing that is always a good indicator of how good something really is, I've found, is that it makes me stop evaluating it while I'm reading it or watching it. That it is somehow able to turn off those parts of my mind without my even noticing it.

I should note that I only do this with writing and the visual-writing of comics art or film. There are certain media that I can enjoy purely as an audience member, without thinking about how it should be done, or how it could have been differently, or how I would have done it. Music, for example, is so strange and mysterious to me, so far removed from anything I know anything about that I feel I can experience in the pure way people are supposed to experience media.

The fight choreography in kung-fu movies, and the fine paintings of dinosaurs in "paleoart," ballroom dancing on Dancing With The Stars -- things I know I could never do, things I barely even understand how they're done at all, those sorts of things don't really mess with my head at all.

But I think and care about comics too much that it's only very rarely I completely give myself over to them as finished products, devoid of the people making them or the method they were made in. Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain is maybe the last thing I've read which really shut down my critic's brain for a majority of the time I spent with it. Kiyohiko Azuma's charming Yotsuba almost always does that.

SPURGEON: Do you have a sense of who reads you, and how that might differ where you work appears? How much writing do you do with the audience in mind?

MOZZOCCO: That's a really good question, and I wonder if it's one I think about as much as I should.

One of the nice things about writing online is the amount of reader response and feedback you get. A lot of it is negative, of course, but compared to print-writing, where the only feedback would come in the form of letters days after something appeared -- unless you really pissed someone off and they decided to call the office to yell at you -- I suppose it's helpful to have all that data there if you need it.

For example, Google tells me how many people "follow" EDILW, how many page-views each post gets, what countries those people live in, what search terms brought them there -- "Batman + Catwoman + Sex," mostly.

In general, my philosophy on writing has been to write the sort of writing I would like to read, about the sorts of things I would like to read, to the best of my ability to produce such writing. If talent and ability weren't a limitation, I'd just write exactly like Abhay Khosla or Joe McCulloch or Tucker Stone or Chris Sims and crack myself up, instead of waiting for them to do it for me.

For EDILW, I basically just write like I talk, which I think means that writing tends to have the most personality to it, but usually isn't my best writing. I don't concern myself with introductions, conclusions or transitions there as much as I should, and, without a word-count limit, I have a tendency to babble at excruciating length, which you are probably becoming quite aware of during the course of this interview -- for which I would like to extend an sincere apology to all of Comics Reporter's readers.

For Robot 6 and, before that, Blog@, the audience was very superhero minutiae-focused, and I was always quite aware that I was talking about super-comics to people who knew at least as much about them as me, and, in many cases, knew a lot more about continuity and history and so forth than I did.

For those venues especially, I've read enough comment threads and seen enough stats on page-views to know exactly what the readers care most about and most want to read -- for some weird reason, everyone loves commenting about anything having to do with Wonder Woman, but no one actually reads her comics -- but I don't really try to assign myself stories to meet that demand.

There are weeks where I'll be writing a piece for Robot 6 about, like, The Carter Family, and I'll be wondering if I'll get zero comments or two comments. I ended up with two.

I've had a slightly harder time getting to know the ComicsAlliance audience, because it is a lot more diverse in terms of where the commenters/readers come from, and a lot of the stories bring fresh eyes from different parts of the Internet, people who might have come to the site specifically to read a particular movie review or something about ponies or Power Rangers or Legos, because they saw a link at or something, but they don't all necessarily read every post every day.

Las Vegas Weekly is a mainstream outlet in that they cover everything, not just comics and comics-related or geek culture stuff, so it's an audience I don't assume knows every thing there is to know about comics. Also, those pieces are very short -- about 150 words -- and the end result of such a strict word limit is I have to concentrate the hardest on those, and make sure every word is the right word in a way the limitless space of online writing doesn't force one to do. I'm not always ecstatic about the results, but that's the sort of venue that I think is probably most conducive to producing better writing.

So basically I try to write for an audience of imaginary Calebs out there first and foremost, and I try not to get too hung up on who exactly is reading and what they will think of a particular piece, or what comments they will leave.

The main calibration I do from venue to venue is in terms of how hardcore versus how casual the audience is on certain aspects of comics, and I try to write less poorly if it's for a venue that's paying me, whereas on my blog there is no joke too dumb for me to attempt, and if I want to write 4,000 words about Infinite Crisis or spend a week talking about how terrible Ultimates 3 is, well no one's going to stop me -- not even that little voice in the back of my head asking me if that is really how I want to spend a Sunday afternoon.

SPURGEON: I have you here to talk about mainstream comics, mostly from a critical point of view, mostly about what you read in 2012.

imageWe're pretty far along into DC's New 52 effort now. I want to ask you about a specific title or two -- which will be easy, as I've only read 15 issues of two series -- but first I thought I'd get your thoughts on the whole bunch of them. Is there anything significant going in those titles, anything that works maybe in terms of an editorial directive or how those works are hitting with readers?

MOZZOCCO: Yes, we're about 14 months into "The New 52" now and DC has canceled about a dozen of them and launched three new "waves" of books to replace those they've canceled. In fact, some of the new wave books that were launched to fill a space created by a canceled title have also been canceled. Even saying "New 52" is starting to feel a little weird, isn't it?

What's strange about DC Comics to me right now is that I'm not enjoying reading their actual comics all that much -- there's only two "New 52" titles I'm still subscribed to at my local comic shop -- but good God is it fun watching DC Comics itself these days.

This is how I've come to think of the publisher. Imagine standing across the street from moderately sized office building. You can't see what exactly is going on in there, and you can't really hear what's going on in any great detail, but there are all these signs that something really dramatic and probably terribly wrong is happening in the building. Flashes of light, strange noises, screaming, smoke, vibrations -- whatever.

Every once in a while, someone will jump out a window or get thrown through a window. Or come running screaming out of the door. They will have horror stories on their lips, and as they're relating them, someone still in the building will open up a second story window and shout, "Don't worry, everything's fine. Don't listen to them. They're crazy!"

Gail Simone has been the latest person to leave the building; "dumped" via email from her gig on Batgirl. This past year, we've seen John Rozum leave the since-canceled Static Shock, and got conflicting accounts from both he and collaborator Scott McDaniel on how broken their process was. We've seen George Perez complain about his difficulty on Superman. [We've seen] Grant Morrison sort of laughing about how he got the job to reinvent Action Comics and the Superman character and mythos a few months before his first issue shipped. There was Rob Liefeld's spectacular Twitter meltdown. Chris Roberson leaving the company and "Big Two" freelancing altogether in protest of their treatment of creators.

I don't know what's going on with DC Comics, but there's something going on, right?

SPURGEON: [laughs] Right.

MOZZOCCO: As for the books themselves, I think at this point it's clear what they were trying to accomplish with the new costumes, new #1s, new creative teams and new attitude.

I know I was initially extremely perplexed by the entire endeavor, and then pretty quickly disappointed to see that they were doing this dramatic once-in-a-lifetime move, this unique opportunity to refurbish their whole line and orient it towards appealing to new readers and, rather than seeking out kids, or female readers, or casual readers, or the manga or YA audiences or even just people who grew out of the sorts of '90s-era Marvel/Image comics DC ended up publishing, they had instead set their sites on people who played the Batman: Arkham Ayslum videogames.

And that's a big, lucrative market; maybe big enough to make the pursuit of it ultimately worthwhile. But it still perplexes me that rather than trying for a transmedia approach, trying to align their comics line with the many successful cartoons they've had on Cartoon Network and, before that, Fox in the last, God, 20 years or so now, from Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League and Teen Titans to Young Justice and The Brave and The Bold and those cute little shorts they're doing now, they instead leaned hard towards the sort of aesthetic and storytelling of those Arkham videogames, the upcoming Justice League-by-way-of Mortal Kombat game Injustice, and, to a certain, lesser, extent, Smallville.

The "New 52" basically just makes me sad and exhausted at this point. I just don't see the wisdom in trying to make these fantastic characters seem easier to adapt into movies by making their costumes look more like something from a Hollywood costuming department or by trying to infuse them with gritty realism or telling stories that read like adapted spec scripts.

Comics writers and artists and editors only have so much control over what's going to get made into a movie anyway; ultimately, someone higher up is going to make whatever decision they want, and whether Wonder Woman is wearing pants or shorts, or whether Action Comics is on issue #19 or #901 isn't going to matter terribly much.

A few years ago, Warner Brothers was considering having Joss Whedon make a Wonder Woman movie set in World War II, but the studio ultimately decided to green light Green Lantern instead. Meanwhile, Marvel makes a Captain America movie set in World War II that does pretty well -- much better than Green Lantern did, anyway -- and they hire Joss Whedon to make The Avengers. The billions are lost and/or made by the folks at that level, so micromanaging the source material in hopes of predicting or influencing the whims of a studio executive doesn't make any sense at all to me.

Among specific changes brought about by the New 52, I think it's clear that Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire have emerged as the MVPs. Before the launch, they were writing Vertigo books and dabbling in the DCU, and now they're at the level that Wizard magazine would be writing fawningly about them each month, if there was still a Wizard magazine.

Is there still a Wizard magazine...? I thought it was supposed to come back at some point.

We've seen an increase in artist/writers at DC during that time, something I've found extremely interesting: Tony Daniel, George Perez, Keith Giffen, David Finch, Rob Liefeld, J.H. Williams III, Francis Manapul...

Although now that I say all those names, I realize some of them are no longer making comics at DC at all, or have surrendered one of their hats, so perhaps that was a brief, passing trend.

It brings us to another thing we've seen, though, and that is the devaluing of creators. There are a lot of books -- Superman, Green Arrow, Firestorm come to mind most immediately -- where the interchangeability of creators is most thoroughly demonstrated, and the publisher seems far more interested in, say, having an issue of Green Arrow on the stands than worrying that they have an issue of Green Arrow by a particular writer or artist.

The publisher also seems a little bit more mercenary when it comes to cutting certain books and launching new books, having apparently decided not to tolerate low sales for as long as they did pre-New 52, and while they seem more interested in different genres like war and Westerns and horror, it's all essentially superheroes, just hybrid superheroes. Superhero/war books, superhero/Westerns, superhero/horror and so on.

But despite the huge sales and all the attention DC got at the launch of the New 52, it's rather remarkable how little their line has changed, isn't it? Batman is still the most popular franchise in the number of books and the place on the charts, with Green Lantern right behind him -- a historical anomaly, sure, but thanks to Geoff Johns' years on Green Lantern, not that unusual in this century. No one wants to read anthologies, books that stray too far from straight superheroics pay for it in sales, books with heroes of color don't sell as the books with white heroes, et cetera.

The fact that the Justice League franchise is extremely popular again is different, but I imagine that has as much to do with putting super-comics' most popular artist and one of the genre's most popular writers on the main book than it had anything to do with marketing or rebooting. Similarly, Aquaman is selling really well now, but I imagine that has more to do with Johns' presence than whether he's wearing a turtleneck collar on his orange shirt or if he's supposed to be a 25-year-old man instead of a 35-year-old man or whatever.


SPURGEON: The two titles from DC I have read are the Scott Snyder-written Swamp Thing and Batman. The Batman comics were interesting to me because it seems -- and disagree away -- that Snyder's strengths are a talent for off-key psychological profiling and placing importance on hitting measured beats in his narratives. Going with "Batman's comfortable relationship to Gotham City" strikes me as an odd and funny hook for an initial run of books, and the way that those issues read it seems like there is always at least one major story point per issue, which to me reads differently than the kind of simmering multi-threads that we've had since, I don't know, Claremont. How do you look at Snyder's work, and why do you think he's hitting with that audience?

MOZZOCCO: I don't really have an answer as to why Snyder's been so successful beyond some sort of glib observation along the lines of "He's really good at writing comics people want to read." [Spurgeon laughs]

His American Vampire was, along with Mike Carey's The Unwritten, one of Vertigo's only post-Fables hits and, even before The New 52 relaunch he was writing a popular Batman comic in Detective Comics, which, at that point, still featured Dick Grayson as Batman. I recall The Beat's Marc-Oliver Frisch noting with some astonishment that sales on TEC were going up month by month during Snyder's run, which is something that pretty much never happens without an easily discernible, gimmick-y reason -- that is, it's not like Batman met President Obama in one issue, married North Star in the next issue and killed Superman in the issue after that.

imageI think Snyder did benefit a bit from "The New 52" in that he was coming on as the main Batman writer after Grant Morrison had occupied that role for the previous few years. And while Morrison's run -- which is still petering out as we speak -- was tremendously ambitious and exciting and full of radical changes, it was different enough that there was probably a steadily growing hunger for the "real" Batman to come back. It probably didn't hurt that the Batman franchise was somewhat exempt from rebooted continuity, provided you not think too closely about how old all the Robins are supposed to be or how long Batman's been Batmanning and also if you ignore Batgirl completely; compared to Superman or the Justice League franchises, Batman was basically untouched by the reboot.

And there was probably an element of right place and right time to it as well; here was a popular, talented writer taking over the publisher's most popular character just as DC was launching this incredible sustained marketing effort.

Man, it probably sounds like I'm dismissing Snyder's responsibility for his own popularity here, doesn't it? I'm not, I swear; I'm just trying to account for all the factors.

I think you're right in saying part of it comes down to pacing as well. Snyder is good at writing serial comics as serials, rather than as graphic novels chopped up into chapters. I certainly felt that reading the early issues of American Vampire, and feeling propelled through the trades.

That would be my guess, anyway. I'm definitely interested in where Snyder goes from here. He's apparently leaving Swamp Thing, having written one really, really long arc that redefined the often-redefined character in certain ways, and I believe he's off to do Superman on a yet-to-be-named book pretty soon. And once Morrison concludes his run on Batman Inc, I think Snyder's vision of Batman is going to become the unrivaled, definitive one for a while, as Snyder will officially be the king of Batman mountain then.

If other super-comics writers are sitting around scratching their heads trying to figure out why Snyder has connected with the audience the way he has, I do hope they decide it has something to do with the way he approaches each issue, and giving it a significant story beat of its own, and that they decide to implement that approach in their own writing. Super-comics could use some de-decompression.

SPURGEON: Have you followed the Before Watchmen books at all? Do you have an opinion to share on them as comics? The few I've read it seems like Amanda Conner and Jae Lee have done really nice work, Darwyn Cooke is at his usual level, and the rest is... I don't know how to put it, pretty standard comics-making. That's a terrible snap judgment given how little of this stuff I've read, so I'm interested if you have a broader opinion.

MOZZOCCO: Oh I've got lots of opinions to share on Before Watchmen -- on their very existence, on the folks who are making them and publishing them -- but not as comics, no. [Spurgeon laughs]

To answer your first question first, I haven't been following them at all. I haven't read a single one of them and, much to my own surprise, I haven't even picked a single one of them to flip-through in my local comic shop.

Early on I assumed that, at the very least, I'd want to see what a Darwyn Cooke drawing of Moth Man or Dollar Bill or whoever might look like, or to see Joe Kubert's inks on one of his sons' pencils -- Cooke drawings and Kubert linework are things I'm pretty much always interested in looking at.

But the first time I saw those books on the rack at my shop, I just felt sort of sad and disgusted and didn't even want to look at them there on the shelf, let alone touch one.

Aside from ranting for a few thousand words in a few blog posts around the time of the initial announcement -- and any time I read something in the comics press in which J. Michael Straczynski or Darwyn Cooke said something particularly ignorant or offensive about Alan Moore, Watchmen or how being screwed over by comics publishers is a natural part of working in the industry -- I haven't thought too terribly much about Before Watchmen this year.

I have been somewhat upset about the way the World Of Comics has -- well, I don't want to say "embraced," because that's not quite the right word, but neither, I suppose, is "tolerated" -- engaged, I guess. I've been deeply disappointed in the way Comics-with-a-capital-C has engaged DC and JMS and Cooke and company's work on these things.

The sites that cover comics have been extremely generous in their coverage, running previews and creator interviews and reviews in a way that seems particularly unsavory, the comic shop I patronized devoted a whole special rack to them, I've read far too many people defending the creators of the books, saying they shouldn't be blamed or called sell-outs for working them and so on.

Before Watchmen isn't just another baffling business decision by DC Comics, it's not just another batch of comics, and to see so many people in so many different parts of Comics treat it as such just... I don't know, defeats me...?

I was particularly bummed out when I saw the numbers for the sales estimates of the first issues, as it seemed like a lot of people were buying them -- or, at least, a lot of shops were ordering them in order to hopefully sell them to people who might buy them -- but those same sales estimates seem to have dropped quite quickly.

At this point -- what are they, halfway through publishing the 30-odd books they were planning? -- it's pretty weird how little we hear about it at all. The few reviews I've read early on were basically "These are fine comics, but nowhere near as good as the original, and kind of bland given how dramatic the decision to make them at all was."

So I think your snap judgment based on those you've sampled falls fairly well within the range of conventional wisdom on those books. That is: They're okay, probably better comics than DC is used to publishing these days, but nothing special. I think there were probably ways to make these comics that could have capitalized creatively on the controversy of making more Watchmen comics -- Kia Asamiya's Watchmen, Rob Liefeld's Watchmen Reborn, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Watchmen Vs. Justice League, "Hey Johnny Ryan, can we pay you a bunch of money to make fun of Watchmen for 100 pages?" et cetera.

DC seems to have gone the route of polite, half-embarrassed fan-fiction style comics-making, which is another disappointment to pile on top of the cairn of disappointments that is More Watchmen.

And, um, I guess that was me going on for about 20 minutes or so instead of just saying "No, not really, I haven't read them." Can you tell I'm not used to being interviewed...?

SPURGEON: [laughs] Does the Marvel NOW! strategy, with Ed Brubaker leaving and with a new bunch of writers coming to the forefront, does that strike you as an end in a way of that initial Brian Bendis-driven era at Marvel? What books have you thought distinguished themselves over the last several years?

MOZZOCCO: You know, a few months ago, maybe right before they announced all the "NOW!" titles, I probably would have said yes, as it seemed for a moment that Bendis Age of Marvel was maybe coming to a close.

imageThey had Matt Fracton write their big crossover event Fear Itself instead of Bendis, then for their next one, Avengers Vs. X-Men, they gave Bendis a bunch of co-writers, with their "Architects" divvying up issues like a television writing staff. His Avengers comics all seemed to be wrapping up, and had gone through this period of not selling as well or being as talked-about anymore. That Avengers Assemble book, which featured the Marvel Universe version of the movie team line-up, and was, I think, Bendis' third ongoing, simultaneously published Avengers book, started strong and then just nose-dived on the sales charts.

Marvel published some big, expensive omnibus with a title like "Ten Years of Brian Michael Bendis Writing All Our Comics" or something to celebrate his mutually beneficial relationship with the company, we had some news stories about his teaching a college class on comics writing, and the guy who hired him, Joe Quesada, was leaving the editor-in-chief's chair for a different role at the company.

So yeah, it seemed there was something in the air, and that maybe Bendis would be dialing-back his Marvel work.

But now he's writing the two main X-Men titles, and he's writing a new Guardians of the Galaxy book, to sort of pre-capitalize on the upcoming movie. I guess he is just totally and completely burnt out on writing the Avengers characters, which is understandable, given the fact that he's written the franchise for eight years now. And since most months of most of those years he was writing multiple Avengers titles and Avengers-centric crossover stories, he's probably produced somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 years worth of Avengers comics. He's probably lucky he's not in a sanitarium.

imageRegarding Ed Brubaker leaving Marvel, I think what's most significant about that particular move is what it might say about how his stature has grown during that time and what the opportunity environment is at Marvel and DC vs. other comics publishers and, in Brubaker's case, other media. It doesn't seem like Brubaker needs Marvel right now, and, after 38 years of writing Captain America -- or something in the neighborhood -- I'm sure he feels he said what he wanted to say and got to do everything he wanted to do with the character.

I don't think his departure is going to mean all that much to the publisher or their comics line, at least, not in the way that Bendis leaving, or even Bendis just moving laterally to the next franchise over, would have, or does.

Brubaker had an official Marvel Architect security badge I'm sure, but he's mainly been their Captain America guy, and while he was incredibly successful as such, both creatively and financially, it's still just one character, one corner of the Marvel Universe.

I do think the "NOW!" thing is a potentially exciting thing at Marvel, much more so than DC's "New 52," which it seems to be a response to, precisely because you have so many up-and-coming writers arriving. Like DC's "New 52," "Marvel NOW!" involves essentially the same pool of creators as the pre-initiative line, but Marvel's got a much deeper pool of talent, and the editors at Marvel seem to have really tried to mix it up a lot more than those at DC did. At DC they moved Scott Snyder from Detective Comics to Batman, and Tony Daniel from Batman to Detective Comics; at Marvel, they moved Matt Fraction from Iron Man to two Fantastic Four titles, and Jonathan Hickman from the FF titles to The Avengers).

There also seems to be an aspect of promotions for many of the creators at Marvel, too. Hickman moving up to the publisher's number one franchise, Kelly Sue DeConnick getting an Avengers book of her own, Rick Remender moving from an X-Men B-title to Uncanny Avengers and Captain America, and so on.

The only thing really raining on Marvel's "Marvel NOW!" parade, at least from where I sit, is the fact that their crazy-ass pricing discourages title sampling and impulse buying -- like, I like the $3 Mark Waid-written Daredevil and might try a $3 Mark Waid-written Hulk, but they're charging an extra buck for that one -- and their crazy-ass scheduling virtually guarantees erratic and inconsistent art.

The Bendis era you referred to has been one of primacy among writers at Marvel, which, I think, is fairly unusual in the company's history, as it has generally been the artists who were the rock stars and book-sellers at Marvel in decades past, and Marvel's accelerated publishing schedule, with two to three issues of popular books shipping every month, is only going to cement that. If you're publishing something like 15-24 issues of a monthly a year, there's no artist alive who is going to be able to own a book visually the way its writer can own it verbally.


SPURGEON: Can you share your highly amusing take on AvX again?

MOZZOCCO: Did I have a highly amusing take on AvX? I don't remember having a highly, or even mildly, amusing take on AvX.

SPURGEON: [laughs] I thought you did.

MOZZOCCO: Are you sure you aren't thinking of Tim O'Neil? He had a highly amusing take on Avengers Vs. X-Men, which I know I linked to on my blog at some point.

He tried to make sense of the plot by looking at the X-Men through the prism of an analogy for various historically oppressed minority groups in America, as they have so often been portrayed in the comics, and ended up with an analogy of The Phoenix Force being the equivalent of the alien planet-destroying ghost of Martin Luther King.

Or are you maybe thinking of Andrew Wheeler? He wrote that highly amusing series ComicsAlliance Vs. AvX.

imageOr are you thinking of a take that had anything to do with the fact that Marvel has already published comics about The Avengers fighting the X-Men, or the shrieking insanity of publishing a companion title called Avengers Vs. X-Men: Versus, or the fact that Marvel event comics are so boring now that they had to publish a sister title to put all the fights in order to make room for all the talking in the main series, or the fact that in one issue Wolverine killed and skinned a polar bear in Antarctica, despite the fact that there are no polar bears in Antarctica, not even the Savage Land?

Because none of that was me. That was, let's see, every single person who read any of those comics.

Seriously though, I don't know. I haven't sat down and read it in a serious fashion yet. I was so badly burned by Secret Invasion that I now only read Marvel's big crossover events in trade collections I get from the library, so I'm usually about a crossover and a half behind all the rich people who can afford $4 comic books.

imageSPURGEON: Marvel's Hawkeye seems like an entertaining comic, mostly for the reason that many superhero comics end up being fun: they take place far enough out of the spotlight that some creator or creators is/are left alone and allowed to stretch their legs a bit. What do you think of that comic? What about the recent run of Daredevil books? That was the last book to receive similar buzz.

MOZZOCCO: Oh I love Hawkeye. I'd say it's probably the best superhero comic either of the Big Two are publishing right now -- as in late December, 2012 -- it's only real competition being Daredevil. A few months back, I would have considered Wonder Woman too, but it's not as wildly inventive as either of those Marvel books, and, while good, just repeats the same good things over and over rather than discovering new good things.

I think you're right about why Hawkeye's good, too -- it is far enough away from the "important" stuff that writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja -- and all the fill-in artists they will have to hire if they insist on publishing it bi-weekly -- can put as much as themselves and their own talents and personalities into the book to make it their own thing, rather than conforming to some idea of what a successful Marvel comics in 2012 should be.

I think it's particularly clever that Fraction seemed to build-in distance from the center of the Marvel Universe right into the book. Each issue includes some line about how this is a book about what Hawkeye does when he's not being an Avenger.

It stresses me out a little, because I worry about Marvel's ability to not mess with the book at all, the way Daredevil has been messed with pretty extensively: too many guest artists of too many different styles, crossovers, accelerated schedules, et cetera.

I tried to express that feeling in a column for Robot 6 a few weeks ago, and, based on the comments, I wasn't the least bit successful in expressing it. I went with the hothouse flower metaphor. Let's try another one here: I feel like Hawkeye is this rare, dazzlingly beautiful butterfly that's just alighted on a nearby flower, and I'm afraid that someone's going to make a sudden move and it's going to fly away forever.

Mark Waid and company's Daredevil comics have been phenomenal. There was a rough patch, as I alluded to before, but now that Waid's working with Chris Samnee, I think the book's recovered nicely, and is just as good as it was in those early issues, where Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera were taking turns drawing it.


SPURGEON: Walking Dead #100 may be bleakest piece of art in any medium to ever hit #1 in its market. How do you think that Image has done in terms of re-establishing themselves as a place for potent genre comics? It feels to me like their core line-up, their top five or six, are solidly appealing on a lot of levels.

MOZZOCCO: I sort of wish I was paying a little closer attention, because it really seems like all of a sudden that Image Comics became this place for genre comics that aren't just really popular, but also really good as well.

And they've managed to make a lot of comics that aren't really superhero comics like Marvel and DC makes, or good licensed comics like IDW specializes in, or the precise sort of horror hybrid that Dark Horse's Mignolaverse books do.

I get a sense that there's an emerging flavor of Image Comics, or, at least, the more Image Comics-iest of the Image Comics.

I know it wasn't actually all that sudden -- Walking Dead, as you've mentioned, has been publishing there for over 100 months now -- but between that, Robert Kirkman's less-successful efforts, those Liefeld-inspired sci-fi books like Prophet and Glory and Saga, Image Comics has a lot of tremendously exciting comics from a lot of extremely talented writers, artists and cartoonists, and they seem to be able to make them without screwing people over constantly or making me feel like an asshole for buying them, so hats off to them.

imageI think this year has been a really important one for Image, as they've managed to introduce talents like Brandon Graham and Ross Campbell to new audiences. They've successfully managed to translate the television popularity of Walking Dead to sales of trades and comics -- something The Big Two never seem to be able to do with their blockbuster movie-inspiring comic.

And given how horrible DC and Marvel have looked at various points throughout 2012 in terms of the way they treat their creators -- Before Watchmen, Jack Kirby's non-existent Avengers movie credit, Chris Roberson and Roger Langridge making principled stands, the apparent behind-the-scenes chaos at DC, Greg Rucka's loudly expressed dissatisfaction with both companies -- I imagine they seem very welcoming to creators right now.

I know when I was a teenager, I wanted to write for DC Comics when I grew up. Now that sounds about as appealing as working on the kill floor of a slaughterhouse -- Ha ha just kidding, DC Comics! I've got writing samples ready and waiting whenever you are! Call me, maybe! I imagine there are a lot of teenagers and twenty-somethings who want to work at Image Comics now, and I think these next few years should be very interesting, in terms of what Image publishes from new creators, and which established, perhaps former Big Two creators start debuting new work at Image Comics.

The fact that Image published Grant Morrison's Happy rather than DC's Vertigo imprint is kind of a big deal, isn't it? It seemed like a big deal to me.

SPURGEON: How healthy do you think the culture that supports those kinds of comics is right now? It seems like you have an affection for comic-book comics, but you mentioned an aversion to their higher costs these days. I wonder sometimes if the need for certain price points, and re-launches, and the shorter page rate, if all of these things aren't the real driving creative force behind that whole world of comics?

MOZZOCCO: Yes I really love the whole ritual aspects of comics -- the importance of a special day of the week devoted to new comic books coming out, the trip to the shop, sitting in my comics-reading chair, all of that stuff. Those pleasures wax and wane, but I really like reading comic books as comics -- I like cliffhangers and letters pages and organizing them and all the slightly OCD things one can do with comic books that are harder to do with graphic novels or electronic downloads of scans or whatever "digital" refers to.

And yes, I do have an aversion to $3.99/22-page comics, although "aversion" is probably putting it lightly. I flat out won't buy a $4, 22-page comic, and rarely ever cave. I bought a Ross Campbell Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, because Ross Campbell is my favorite, and there was a point where Ninja Turtles were, too.

I can understand IDW or Boom publishing $4/22-page comics, as they're smaller companies in the Direct Market, and little of what they publish is stuff I really feel strongly that I need to read serially, but I still have a hard time accepting the audacity of Marvel charging $4 a pop for a 20 or 22-page comic book.

For one thing, it was an overnight 33% increase over their old price; if we got to $4 comics after first stopping at $3.25, $3.50 and $3.75, it would probably be another matter entirely. For another thing, DC seems to be able to publish $3 comics still, and so does Marvel -- it's only they're really popular books they charge that extra buck for, which makes it very obvious that they don't have to sell them at that price, they just know they can sell them at that price, and f their audience is willing to pay them more, they'll take that extra money.

It would probably be a lot less galling if it felt like we were getting something for that extra $1, but Marvel Comics are still full of house ads clumsily interspersed throughout the story. It's extra mind-boggling if you read a $3 Marvel comic the same week you read a $3 Image comic. Saga and Mutliple Warheads are cover-to-cover, ad-free comics -- the former has a multi-page letter column, and that's the only not-comics in the comics. I read a few issues of Image's It Girl and The Atomics, and the only ads it had were for works by the same creators, and they were in the back of the book.

I don't know, it just seems insane to me that Marvel will ask me for $4 for 20-22 pages of a superhero comic that may or may not be any good and force me to wade through ads for Spider-Man fishing poles and bedding, whereas for the price of, say, two and half issues of Avengers I can get 200-pages of ad-free manga, with a spine and everything.

God, I hope that Marvel and DC's ability to keep their weird game of periodically goosing declining sales and profits up on the same 30 intellectual properties by rebooting them, renumbering them, raising prices, lowering page counts and fooling around with variant schemes isn't the real creative force driving comics.

But I wonder what DC and Marvel comics might be like if they spent all the time, energy and company resources they spend on, say, convincing a reader who likes Scott Snyder's Batman comics to make sure they buy 30-odd Batman books over the course of three months in order to get the whole story of a bunch of people dressed like bats fighting a bunch of people dressed like owls, spent instead on making better comics instead.

But then, I'm a reader, and my investment in these things is that they entertain me, so I suppose I have a very different perspective than, say, a Disney or Warner Brothers executive. I understand that from a certain perspective, the Big Two need to make as much money as possible by spending as little money as possible, and maybe the best way to do that is to squeeze the shrinking audience harder and more often than trying to expand the audience.

SPURGEON: Frank Santoro mentioned to me the last time I saw him that he felt a sea change in terms of what younger comics-makers are interested in when it comes to the mainstream comics they're reading, that a lot of what I value, for instance, these comics of the 1960s and 1970s, are going to diminish in influence in a significant way. The Sean Howe book about Marvel strikes me as something that could only have been written by someone with a deeper connection to Marvel in the '80s and '90s than I'm able to have. Do you feel that comics are less tethered from their roots than before?

MOZZOCCO: Yes, I think it's fair to say that comics are less tethered to their roots than they were a generation ago, or a decade ago.

I think the rise of global culture and the way the Internet fractures everything -- that is, all of comics history and all comics from all over the world is happening right now, on your computer, and you can access any point of it whenever and however you want -- inevitably scrambles the linear nature of comics history and the influence that one generation of creators, works or publishers will or can have on the next.

I imagine it's the same for all media, not just comics.

In certain ways, I think it's a good thing.

It allows the art form to evolve faster and in different ways and in different directions. I think comics readers and comics makers, and future comics makers are coming into the medium from manga and webcomics, from blogging and cosplaying, from videogames and design and animation and toys. I think for a lot of the younger generation of comics-makers, and the next generation, the 1960s and 1970s might as well have never happened. I don't even know how significant the 1980s and '90s are anymore, given how fast media and pop culture moves.

In other ways, I think that tether-severing is a terrible thing, as certain lessons of previous generations don't seem to get processed the way they should be -- or perhaps the way I would like them to be.

imageLike, I don't think it's at all a bad thing that Marvel Comics aren't produced using "The Marvel Method" any more, that everyone isn't trying to draw like Jack Kirby or John Romita or whoever their equivalent might have last been. But I wish everyone making comics, working in comics, covering comics, writing about comics, even just mouthing off about comics in the comment threads at the comics news sites and blogs, I wish everyone knew everything Jack Kirby went through in his dealings with Marvel Comics.

There's been a lot to be depressed about in comics this year, particularly when you're focusing on the direct market version of the mainstream, and of superheroes. The thing that depresses, disgusts and infuriates me more than anything else, though? Probably Grant Morrison's cavalier attitude about Siegel, Shuster and National/DC, as expressed in his Supergods book and all the interviews he's given regarding it.

My brain can't even process a guy that has made so much money off of Superman and Batman, a guy who claims Superman is the single greatest cultural achievement of humankind so completely devaluing the actual human who actually created Superman, that achieved that achievement.

Those are the roots I wish comics as a community could remain tethered to: Shared experiences, the suffering of others, the pioneers of various types of suffering who sort of scouted ahead, endured all the different kinds of hardship a writer or artist toiling in comics can endure, so the next 100 guys need not have the same bad experiences.

It would be nice if we could all come to agreement on things like the way Siegel and Shuster were treated by National Comics, the way Kirby was treated by Marvel, the way Alan Moore is being treated by his peers, those things are wrong, and we should probably not do those sorts of things anymore.

SPURGEON: Is there a point at which digital starts shaping content in terms of what the bigger companies do, do you think?

MOZZOCCO: I…don't know anything about digital. Sorry. It frightens and confuses me. I suppose there will come a day when I'll be forced to read comics on a device of some sort, either because my house will collapse from all of the paper comics I have in it, or because we will run out of trees to make paper to publish comics on in my lifetime, but, for now, I try to stay as blissfully ignorant of all aspects of digital comics as I can.

Now that I've established that I have no idea what I'm talking about, allow me to talk about it.

imageOne thing that I find interesting is that DC has been publishing a suite of comics as digital-first comics -- Ame-Comi Girls, Legends of The Dark Knight, Smallville Season 11, Arkham Unhinged -- and then re-publishing them as old-fashioned paper comics a few months down the road. And they show up on those sales estimate charts that the guys at The Beat parse, they still seem to be doing okay.

Like the Batman and Superman ones don't do as well as the "New 52" Batman and Superman comics, but they sell just about as well as, say, the pre-New 52 Robin or Nightwing or Superboy comics.

I don't know that DC or Marvel will move to that model for their whole lines, but, at DC at least, I wouldn't be surprised to see them expanding such offerings.

I can imagine a point where maybe all Big Two super-comics are published digitally serially -- like, hardcore fans would download and read their regular 20 or 22 page installment of Justice League or Avengers on your iPad or Mother Box or whatever on a monthly basis, and be able to blog about it and argue about it in message boards and then two or three times a year they would buy a trade paperback version.

That is, I can see digital replacing serially published comic book-comics at some point, and the basic publishing strategy becoming digital comics and trade collections, rather than serially-published comic books, digital comics and trade collections.

But I honestly don't have any idea what I'm talking about.

SPURGEON: [laughs] How healthy do you think genre comics are as a creative endeavor? Is it something you and I will be able to read in this form five, ten, 15 years from now? Will you miss it if it goes away? Will you turn out the lights before they do?

MOZZOCCO: I think genre comics are, creatively, extremely healthy.

I think the superhero genre part is looking a bit more sickly than other genres like horror or science fiction or whatnot due to overproduction and the fact that comics are no longer the only place you get superheroes, even the most obscure superheroes. Did you know B'wana Beast was a fairly major character in the Batman: The Brave and The Bold cartoon? Or that Beta Ray Bill was on that Superhero Squad cartoon? But I think that's a perception thing. If Marvel's going to publish 20 X-Men titles and DC 15 Batman-related titles on a monthly basis, and you try to read them all, they're going to seem derivative and creatively bankrupt.

imageBut if you check in with Mike Mignola every couple of months, or see what Brandon Graham or James Stokoe or Ross Campbell or Richard Sala or Corey S. Lewis are up to, or look at the remarkably high quality of what should be phoned-in cartoon adaptations like SpongeBob Comics or Adventure Time or My Little Pony or Fraggle Rock or Langridge's Muppets or whatever. When I was growing up, licensed comics based on cartoons were the worst, now most of those comics are just incredible. There are a lot of really great, really inspirationally great comics out there -- comics that you read that make you want to read more comics like them, that make you want to make comics.

It's sometimes hard to remember just how creatively healthy comics, even genre comics, even superhero comics are, because of how warped perception of the that part of the industry is by the industry actors, and by those of us who cover that part of the industry -- well, not you and I, of course, I'm talking about everyone else.

The big players in the direct market seem to focus their energies on promoting what is already popular, rather than whatever is good, and industry media tends to focus their energies on covering either whatever the big players tell them to, or whatever seems like the most interesting story, which is generally a negative story. Same as in any other kind of news, really; bad news is of interest, good news not so much.

I think the industry in its current form will be around for quite a while yet, and we'll still be able to buy serially-published paper comic books from comic book shops for another decade at least. The way I see it, the superhero and the comic book/graphic novel will have to lose its appeal in Hollywood first, in a sustained way. Like, we'll have to go years with nothing but Batman and Robins and Green Lanterns, without a single Avengers or even Iron Man; TV will have to be all The Cape, all the time.

And when the Hollywood comic book IP gold rush is over, when all those movie and TV show pitches disguised as comic books go away, when those publishers who specialize in that kind of comic fade away, then we'll probably still have another decade or so of the folks who were already here making, buying and selling genre comics to keep it going for a while longer.

But sure, I'll turn off the light if I'm the last one here. Lights attract moths. And I wouldn't want moths to get into my comics collection and chew the corners off that issue where Superman died. It might be worth money some day.


* J. Caleb Mozzocco
* J. Caleb Mozzocco at ComicsAlliance
* J. Caleb Mozzocco at Robot 6
* J. Caleb Mozzocco on Twitter


* from Hawkeye, a mainstream superhero comic enjoyed by Mr. Mozzocco
* self-portrait from one of his occasional cartoons
* the Laughing Ogre logo
* DC's Hitman character
* from the New 52 version of the Justice League Of America
* from Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing revamp
* from Scott Snyder's recent run of Batman comics
* Amanda Conner art on one of the Before Watchmen books
* one of the later-period Brian Bendis-written Avengers titles
* art from Ed Brubaker's writing run on Captain America
* it was the Avengers Vs. the X-Men in 2012
* it was the Avengers Vs. the X-Men in 2012 in a way that led to a separate comic focusing on fight scenes
* from Hawkeye
* a couple of panels from Walking Dead
* Ross Campbell at Image
* we should all know about Jack Kirby
* from one of DC's digital-first efforts
* an Adventure Time comic book
* from Daredevil, a mainstream superhero comic enjoyed by Mr. Mozzocco



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