-J. Michael Bestul is a writer for the Addison Recorder. Stephanie Ruehl is an artist who works in a comic book shop. They’re married and have a lot of discussions about comic books and graphic novels. Combine all that into a biweekly feature and you get “J. & Steph Talk About Comics.”
What impossible combination would you like to see on your favorite series?
There were two events that inspired us to daydream and discuss this. The first was the latest One Shot podcast episode, wherein Rat Queens author Kurtis J. Wiebe played a session of 13th Age. As J&STAC readers know, Rat Queens is probably our favorite ongoing title, and they may have guessed that 13th Age is one of -J.’s favorite RPG systems. Hearing the two combined on a Chicago-based podcast of unrivaled quality only made it sweeter.
But wait — Tuesday would not be outdone by its predecessor in the week. That’s because Marvel announced yesterday that Ta-Nehisi Coates would be writing a new Black Panter series.
We repeat: TA-NEHISI COATES WILL BE WRITING A BLACK PANTHER SERIES. That’s one of those perfect mash-ups that you dream up excitedly after a few drinks, but figure it’s too awesome an idea to actually happen.
In that vein, we’ve each come up with a “too-crazy-to-actually-happen” list of writers and artists we’d love to see on some of our favorite titles. Please note: in no way are we saying we’d want to replace the talent currently on a title; many of our favorite writers and artists already work on these titles. Take this as more of, “wouldn’t it be cool if so-and-so did a guest run on such-and-such title?” Take, for example, this one:
Jamie McKelvie + Rat Queens.
Steph: As we all know (since it was stated in the intro), Rat Queens is a favorite around here.
Steph: The art in Rat Queens has been a looser, more flowing kind of style, giving the action a figurative punch to the reader, and there is quite a bit of action in Rat Queens.
But Jamie McKelvie, current artist of Phonogram, and the Wicked and the Divine, has a very controlled, within-the-lines, as close to perfect as a style can get. His panels are very structured, and he draws action very well. His characters have a great sense of movement and personality, he is a master of facial expression and body language. I think he could do wondrous work on Rat Queens.
Kenneth Hite + Hellboy / B.P.R.D.
-J.: What once started as a single title about a supernatural investigator who himself was a demon, the “Mignola-verse” has spread beyond Hellboy into a spectrum of riveting stories and titles from multiple artists and writers. Hallmarks of this ‘verse include the machinations of occult scientists with Nazi connections, demons and mythological monsters wreaking havoc in remote locations, gods and Lovecraftian beings trying to gain a foothold in our world, and the prophecies of apocalypse that both come true but fall short of fully destroying the world. Amidst this backdrop, Mignola and others have crafted tales about the human and inhuman characters who try to prevent, hasten, or survive the darkness from beyond — and the roles governments and corporations have played in shaping the landscape.
If you’re familiar with Kenneth Hite’s bibliography, the overlap is easily apparent. But it’s not just the similarity in subject matter that would make Hite an intriguing contributor to the Mignola-verse. One of the hallmarks of Hite’s writing is his ability to take fictional elements and connect them to real-world facts and history, and polishing that connection to the point that you’re not quite sure where the seam is. After Hite’s recent epic Dracula Dossier project, I’d love to see what he would come up with a B.P.R.D. story.
Loish + Saga
Steph: Saga, another favorite around here, has always been drawn by Fiona Staples, whom I adore. Her style is almost sketch-like. She creates these lovely sweeping landscapes, and spacescapes, which gives the fantastic story of Saga a depth I don’t think would be there if it were just the words alone. Her use of color is subtly muted, until she adds a pop of bold color to create a certain mood or feeling, making the readers emotions dance about. She is the heart of Saga, I can’t imagine it being done by anyone else. Although…
Loish, a digital artist and animator, could be an excellent addition to the story. Loish has a very painterly style, using color more often than lines to create very dream like pieces. Her colors are bold and heavy, but not bulky or blocky. I think she could paint the unique worlds of Saga to a whole new level.
Chandra Free + Phonogram
-J.: Little do you know, we are contractually obligated to spend half of our pieces talking about Kieron Gillen or Jamie McKelvie. It’s true.
Steph: It’s not true.
-J.: Okay, it’s not true. We just happen to like a lot of the stuff that Gillen and McKelvie work on or create, like Phonogram. I’m a sucker for this title: the supernatural isn’t just infused with popular culture, the mystical elements of the narrative draw power from it — especially music. The work of Chandra Free taps into a similar-yet-different vein, her art in The God Machine feels barely restrained by the page and her words more playful. Yet with her blending of pop culture and the supernatural, I would love to see how her style would play as a back-up feature/short story in Phonogram. (I should probably mention that I am a patreon supporter for The God Machine — the videos for which are what got me thinking about this particular “what if” combination.)
Jim Butcher + the Wicked and the Divine
Steph: I currently have a love/hate relationship with the writing of Kieron Gillen on the Wicked and the Divine. I love the story, I loved mostly everything in the first volume, I loved mostly everything in the second volume. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone, almost without hesitation. The story revolves around a pantheon of reincarnated gods in the modern day. It’s a bit of mystery, definitely sci-fi/fantasy, drama, comedy, some sexy bits, but its oddly enough, mostly about being human.
Jim Butcher, author of the Dresden Files, has a similar flavor. His work involves magic and gods in the modern day, told through a wizard private eye, Harry Dresden. I also have a current love/hate (mostly hate) relationship ship with Butcher’s writing. I adore the characters he creates and the world building he has taken a long time crafting. The Dresden Files is mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, drama, comedy, some sexy bits, and it is most definitely about being human. But Butcher has honed his craft to the point where he turns all of that up to eleven. Both Gillen and Butcher understand the idea of loss in good story telling, but I think Butcher could be absolutely devastating given the chance to write for the Wicked and the Divine.
Suzan-Lori Parks + JSA
-J.: This one’s a bit odd, but go with me. I actually started this one as combining Suzan-Lori Parks with Bitch Planet, but I went a different direction upon further thought. Honestly, I’d still like the idea of Parks writing for Bitch Planet, whether in script or essay form, but the comic from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro hasn’t even finished its first trade yet. Perhaps I should let them get a few more issues in before I start mashing up the title with a “what-if” writer.
Thing is, I’m curious what kind of comic Parks would write in general. Her stage plays that influenced me have alternate takes on well known fictional archetypes (In the Blood and Fucking A, for example), or deconstruct and reassemble history in ways that make us look again at the familiar (The America Play, Topdog/Underdog). With that in mind, I would be most curious how she would write a JSA series, as it’s the oldest superhero team in comics. Geoff Johns, David Goyer, and James Robinson already took the series down the path of legacy characters and re-imagining historical/fictional archetypes in modern stories. That’s something Parks excels at, and it would be fascinating to read her take.