Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lost FYC: 24Seven

This would have been the final installment of my spotlight on indy anthologies over at the Pulse. Ivan Brandon was gracious enough to answer my questions regarding his robot anthology, 24Seven, while he was traveling South America, and I really appreciated it. So, here, finally, is the spotlight on 24Seven with a little Q&A with Ivan Brandon. Enjoy.

For Your Consideration: 24seven an NYC Mech anthology By Chris Beckett

FRONT PAGE: Robots living in New York City. Ivan Brandon’s concept for his Image series NYC Mech was so full of possibility he invited a wide array of writers and artists to create their own tales of the city that never sleeps. Click on in and discover two of the best science fiction anthologies available today in volumes 1 and 2 of 24seven.
The 411:
Edited by Ivan Brandon
Full color, 200 pp.
Volume 1: $24.99
Volume 2: $19.99
Image comics

What It Is (with apologies to Dave the Thune):

In the city that never sleeps, what if the inhabitants had no need of sleep as well? This is the premise behind Ivan Brandon’s creation for Image comics, NYC Mech. Set in a future where robots inhabit the “world’s greatest city,” it’s a concept rife with possibilities. This being the case, Ivan Brandon decided to invite other creators to play in his sandbox with the two volumes of 24seven now available from Image comics. Revolving around the concept initially put forth in his NYC Mech series, readers have been able to enjoy stories from heavyweights of the medium like Eduardo Risso, Matt Fraction, and Gene Ha, while also experiencing the works of up-and-coming talents such as Paul Maybury, Chris Arrant, and Tom Williams. It’s a good mix of stories and styles, providing something for everyone and giving readers an opportunity to try something new.

Although a staple of the comics medium, science fiction is a genre often given short shrift by many readers. Felt by many to be little more than transplanted westerns with lasers and aliens inserted for six-guns and Indians, science fiction at its best is a lens through which an audience can become enlightened about the present with tales from the future. By distancing the story from our own personal experiences, an author can tackle such subjects as prejudice, hate, and corruption without setting off a powder keg of controversy. Lessons can be learned, societal wrongs brought to light, and in the process readers can also discover what it means to be human.

Like great writers of science fiction prose, the writers and artists in these two volumes of 24seven use the milieu of a New York City populated by robots to create stories of great tragedy and great triumph – stories of great humanity. With these mechanical men and women as ciphers, artists Gabriel Bá, Carla Speed McNeil, Dave Johnson, Jason Aaron, Phil Hester, Michael Avon Oeming, and a host of other talented people provide stories that not only entertain, pulling readers in with wonderful combinations of words and pictures, but also make the audience think. From the paranoia of believing one’s work computer is bugged to the dreams of a lonely robot wishing to be a dancer to a working man’s tale set five miles below sea level in the Marianas Trench, 24seven is a tour-de-force of very human stories veiled in the trappings of a robotic future society.

This very human drama is represented well by the first story of the second volume from creators Ray Fawkes, Fiona Staples, and Frazer Irving. Setting the stage for the rest of the book, a young robot enters an abandoned building looking for an old robot rumored on the street to be giving away all his money. But there’s a twist to the generosity of this old man, one not revealed in the story on the street. The money is hidden beneath the old robot’s skin. Anyone wanting his money needs to pry off his outer shell and take it. The older robot’s dying wish is to share himself – his experiences – with others. But the young robot is taken aback and wants nothing to do with the mutilation of this desperate old robot. Running off, he leaves the elderly robot calling after him as the boy takes his humanity with him.

The two volumes of 24seven contain entertaining comic stories from many of today’s critically-acclaimed artists. The ability to tell a complete and compelling story in the space of a few pages is incredibly challenging, and the creators involved with these books like Antony Johnston, Phil Hester, Paul Azaceta, Kelly Sue Deconnick as well as all the others make it look easy. For anyone who enjoys comics and is searching for a wealth of great stories, these two volumes are for you. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

An Interview with Ivan Brandon:

Chris Beckett: Why comics? What was it that attracted you to this storytelling medium?

Brandon: Well, it's not the only medium that's attracted me, but it's a unique way to relay information. It allows you certain advantages over monetary and spatial constraints in telling stories elsewhere... it allows you to build a world from scratch, however you like, and bring a reader to that world near instantaneously, relative to the process in
other media. It's a collaborative medium in a much truer sense than others... but outside of the parameters of collaboration, there's no one to hold your hand. And without sound, it's a medium where you collaborate very specifically with the reader to make their experience match the one you have in your head.
Beckett: With such a diverse variety in style and story for this second volume of _24/7_, I am curious if you had any editorial guidelines for the creators to follow, or did you just let them loose within your sandbox?

Brandon: I had my own guidelines before I got to them, basically. I did my nitpicking when I was choosing the team, so that I could leave them be when they got there. The one thing I tried to impart was that they had that freedom and should use it, that they were able to do things that they're not necessarily allowed to do in their comics day jobs.

Beckett: The market is changing with not only more books vying for rack space in the comic shops, but also with more venues through which one can sell larger books such as _24/7_. I’m curious what your marketing strategy has been in order to capitalize on this new reality and how have you tried to reach those readers outside the typical comic readership?

Brandon: I don't have a real set philosophy on that, I think you can give yourself an ulcer trying to worry about what people like. As a reader/viewer/whatever, I never know what I'm looking for until I see it, you know? So I just try to make something that doesn't look like other comics, so that maybe it'll attract people that don't just look like other comic readers. I end up getting attention in the weirdest places, occasionally from people who don't consider themselves comic readers at all outside of my books.

Beckett: Following up on bookstore distribution, most fans would see the opening of new venues for graphic novels as only a good thing, but, as a creator, have you witnessed any negative consequences of bookstore distribution for comics?

Brandon: I'm not really in a position to be affected by that beyond more potential eyes on my books... I've definitely met a lot of people who'd bought my work while shopping for something else... going back 6-7 years when I was writing for a film franchise, people'd get those books at Blockbuster and I'd let them know where a comic shop was to get more.

Beckett: Any plans for a third volume of 24/7 and what other projects are you working on that you would like to tell readers about?

Brandon: Right now there's no plan for a 3rd volume. It's a tremendous amount of work and I've got a pretty full plate this year, but it's obviously close to my heart so never say never. I can't really talk about much of what I'm working on, but starting in April I have a 5-part run in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS writing MACHINE MAN, which is being drawn by the amazing NIKO HENRICHON.

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