There was apparently a football game in Pittsburgh last Sunday.
My lady and I arrived to the city on Saturday night and immediately began to wonder why our hotel and all the restaurants were packed full with people.
We were in town to tour the Warhol Museum on Sunday afternoon. That was the only item on our agenda for the weekend trip. With Halloween being my birthday, the wife surprised me with a road trip to view the museum's featured exhibit - "Heroes & Villains: The Comic Art Of Alex Ross."
Pictured above is the comic book superhero Green Lantern as drawn by Alex Ross, an artist whose work is on display now at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Ross is a fan and critic favorite, known for his photorealistic paintings of Marvel and DC superheroes.
Ask any comic fan about Alex Ross and chances are they can tell you about the artist. Or, if not by name, chances are they'll recognize his work on sight. Ross is a painter and all his pieces are so stylized and almost photorealistic that he's a favorite of writers, publishers, readers and most everyone else in the industry. Half the people I've told about the trip since returning to Chautauqua County have responded by saying: "He's my all-time favorite artist."
Ross' art isn't the pencil-and-inked drawings most people probably imagine when thinking about comic books. Take a look at today's "Nerding Out" page and you'll see examples of his work. In the course of his career so far, he's worked for Marvel Comics, DC Comics and independent publishers - an assortment of which is all on display at the Warhol Museum.
Though billed as "The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross," the exhibit on display now at the Warhol Museum is much, much more.
Sure, at first walk through, I was floored by the poster-size reproductions of Ross' most famous work. I quit looking after a while, but I think most of the title cards called them "prints" though others appeared to be Ross's actual gouache paintings.
All that aside, regardless of what they were, the shear number of them (and their size) in proximity to each other made the trip worth the admission.
In addition to Ross' work itself, there were other items on exhibit - actual comic books, episodes of superhero cartoons, early drawings from Ross' youth and an entire separate room on the artist's influences. Those pieces really served to enhance the experience of the exhibit, making it all that much more impressive. There were works by Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and others. What made the exhibit exponentially better was the fact that so many of those pieces by other artists had direct ties to the paintings by Ross.
For instance, Ross' "Tango With Evil" piece, which depicts the Joker and Harley Quinn, was paired with an old Leyendecker advertisement - as well as another photo Ross used as a source for the image.
The combination of all those factors was so good, I had to walk the exhibit twice - once right at the start and again after going through the rest of the building.
The exhibit will remain open through Jan. 8 and on Dec. 9 there's a lecture being held at the exhibit featuring Chip Kidd, a graphic designer who has worked with Ross. Whenever and however you might get there, I recommend making a trip to Pittsburgh for the exhibit (or even just swinging by for a quick look if you're in town to see the Steelers or something).
DC released a hardcover collection of Flashpoint late last month.
The graphic novel collects the five-issue series which led up to the company's recent reboot.
Flashpoint surprised me as a series. I wasn't going to read or collect it, having spent so much time and money on both Blackest Night and Brightest Day.
When Flashpoint was announced, it just seemed like the next big crossover series for DC. Which is fine. I understand that DC and Marvel like to keep these "event books" rolling along. But I found myself wanting a breather after the marathon of Final Crisis and Grant Morrison's Batman run and the aforementioned Blackest Night and Brightest Day.
I found respite in reading stand-alone series like The Walking Dead, all separate from the continuity baggage usually required to fully understand event books in the DC Universe.
Little did I know that Flashpoint actually does serve as a decent "breather" in-and-of-itself.
Flashpoint promised something different right off the bat, though I didn't realize that back when DC was starting its pre-press for the series.
Unlike Blackest Night and Brightest Day, this five-issue series is set in an entirely different DC Universe.
DC wasn't lying when they promised that: "This isn't a parallel Earth." When Barry Allen wakes up without his powers at the start of issue one - although it's hard for us to believe - the world he's in is actually supposed to be the real "reality" for all our favorite characters.
As a result, unlike books like Blackest Night and Brightest Day, with Flashpoint, all readers are coming in on a relatively level playing field, so to speak. We all know as little about the Flashpoint world as The Flash does. So, in that regard, whether you're a new or returning reader, or the stereotypical "Comic Book Guy" from ''The Simpsons,'' this is a decent book that can be appreciated on a number of different levels.
The book's a "whodunit" of sorts, with The Flash trying to figure out what exactly happened to the world he knew.
Adding to the urgency of The Flash's desire to correct things is the fact that all his memories of the former DC Universe are starting to be replaced by the new Flashpoint reality. I liked that aspect of the book. The Flash is the fastest man alive, but here he's not looking to traverse any physical distance. The impetus in solving the Flashpoint mystery as fast as he can is because he's losing his knowledge of how his world used to be.
True, there is some meandering toward the middle of the book. While still feeling like they have a forward momentum for the five-part series, issues #2, #3 and #4 really just serve to set up all the many other tie-in books that DC published as part of Flashpoint. However, even for all the small parts they play, their addition here in the main title is welcome. They give a flavor of the larger Flashpoint world, even if some of the appearances are just short little cameos. The release of (and subsequent abandonment by) Superman, for instance, initially feels like a major plot point and then just fizzles out. It was enough to have me contemplating picking up the three-part Superman series. Still, for those of us not picking up all the many tie-in books (as I ended up avoiding), it does add to understanding just how different the Flashpoint world is from the DC Universe we know so well.
All in all though, this collection's gorgeous. Especially the art underneath the slipcover, on the actual book cover itself. Additionally, added to the back of the book are pages of the series's variant covers by Andy Kubert. I'm not one to buy the same series twice in different formats, but I can't lie, having this in hardcover's a nice addition to owning the five single-issue comic books.
Didn't think I'd let a month go by without talking about DC's new 52, did you?
Well, this past Wednesday marked the start of the company's third month since launching the reboot in September.
I read all 52 of the first issues (except Green Lantern Corps, I think. So I guess that's just 51 of the first 52). But regardless, continuing to read/purchase that many comics each month is a bit beyond what I can afford to invest - in either time or money.
I will however, obviously, continue to buy a select few titles (and read whatever else makes its way into my hands).
This past Wednesday though, as the ninth week of the reboot started, I figured it'd be interesting (at least to me) to track the releases that have so far held my interest.
More than anything, I've been surprised by how many of the new Edge/Horror titles got their hooks into me. Back when DC began unveiling all its new titles so many months ago, I figured I'd just be buying all the Bat-related books. Over the course of the last few months though, I've found myself enjoying titles like Animal Man and Justice League Dark a whole lot more than all the requisite Batman books.
Week 1 of the reboot saw the release of 13 titles: Action Comics, Animal Man, Batgirl, Batwing, Detective Comics, Green Arrow, Hawk And Dove, Justice League International, Men Of War, O.M.A.C., Static Shock, Stormwatch and Swamp Thing.
In terms of those first-of-the-month titles, when Week 5 rolled around, my reading list dropped off drastically. I only picked up Action Comics, Animal Man and Detective Comics.
I also bought Batgirl No. 2, but that came in Week Six for some reason (and looks to now be a second-week-of-the-month title permanently).
Most recently, with the start of month three last week, I dropped Action Comics from my pull list - only picking up Animal Man and Detective Comics.
I did thumb through Action Comics at the store though, and I contemplated buying it for more than a few minutes.
From the looks of it (and from the end of issue No. 2), it looks as though writer Grant Morrison is about to bring in a lot more of the Krypton/outer space elements of Superman's world. I liked issue #1 for its focus on both Superman and Clark Kent as Earth-bound individuals.
I've always had a fondness for Clark Kent and Lois Lane and The Daily Planet, but a lot of what I like about Superman ends there. The second issue didn't disappoint for action either, and it, again, was a largely down-to-Earth type of Superman story - with him escaping from a military complex. However, I think I'm going to be done with this comic as a monthly title for now. However, as it's written by Grant Morrison, I'll be likely be tempted to give the series a read when its collected in trade paperback or hardcover.
More from me in a month's time.
Nerding Out With Nick Dean is a monthly column about comic books, movies and more. It runs the first Sunday of each month. Comments, criticisms and/or items for submission can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the newsroom at 487-1111, ext. 251.