Diggin’ Through the Crates: RZA “We Pop”

Song: “We Pop”

Artist: RZA Ft. Division & Ol’ Dirty Bastard

AlbumBirth of a Prince (2003)

Lyric: “I cock arm, pass the bomb, like Troy Aikman/Play the basement like Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.”

 

Character Reference/Meaning:

Welcome back DTCers! Hope you all had a fantastic 4th of July. Over at Hush headquarters, we celebrated the great Red, White, and Nerd! Let’s keep it going, shall we? This week’s DTC features a repeat rapper, the one, the only, the RZA. This track comes off of his 3rd solo studio album and brings with it not only a powerful message, but some supreme nerdiness as well. Like all rap artists, RZA strives for success (he already found it if y’all didn’t know), and in order to be successful you have to make it happen. If you are to become one of the greats and have little boys and girls listening to your hits when you are long past, you have to do one thing. Work. If you don’t put in the work, and have no dedication to your craft, then no one will respect it. That is exactly what RZA expressed in this so skillfully executed nerdy comic reference.

Since 1989, or even before, RZA has been dedicated to his craft. He has put in the work from day one and look at all it has gotten him: multiple albums, countless soundtrack features, tons of features on albums and has been named one of the top music producers according to Vibe, NME, and The Source. RZA has also showed us his acting and directing chops in various films. If you people out there don’t think RZA is neither a star nor a nerd, just Google “RZA” and “Afro Samurai” together, and let all your doubts fade way with your embarrassment for being so foolish. It’s easy to see that RZA is a nerd simply based on this lyric. He doesn’t say “Batman and Robin;” he uses their secret identities. If you know secret identities, then you may be a nerd – congratulations.

RZA understands the importance of having a solid work ethic. Regardless of what you do, if you don’t do it with conviction and dedication, someone who is putting in the work will pass you any day now. Regardless if you are writing the next big comic book, or starting to write your first rhyme, you should strive to be hall of fame quality. You need to be Troy Aikman in a sense, and put everything you have into that one pass. Give your heart and soul into your work, and the work will speak for itself. As you all know RZA goes hard in the paint and truly shows off his craft by using a skillful comic book reference. Most rappers starting out, or even today find their basement to be the base of operations. With eggshell cartons lining the wall, and pantyhose over the microphone, the basement becomes a true recording studio. For aspiring artists on the come up, that basement is the Batcave. In Gotham, if there was no Batcave, would there be a Batman and Robin? If the answer is yes, would they be as effective as they are? Every person, despite the craft, needs a place to make the greatness happen. Batman and Robin have the Batcave, Superman has the Fortress of Solitude, Iron Man has the Stark Tower, and RZA has the recording studio. Similar to the Batcave, the infamous basement recording studio is both out of sight, and underground… I see what you did there RZA, I see it. If you aren’t working hard when you are out of sight and out of mind, then dedication isn’t part of your skill set. Because if you do work hard, who knows, you could be the next RZA, you could be the next Bruce Wayne, you could be the next Dick Grayson. Work hard, do what you do, and make the basement proud!

Denver Comic Con 2014 – Kevin Conroy

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Panel Name: Batman 75th Anniversary: Kevin Conroy

Topic: Kevin Conroy spoke about his experiences being a voice actor on the highly acclaimed television series Batman: The Animated Series along with other Batman franchises since then.

Featured Guest: The one, the only, Kevin Conroy.

 

Going to the famed voice actor Kevin Conroy’s panel, I expected certain things.  Namely, that he would talk in his famous Batman voice for the entire hour, and while he didn’t do exactly that, he surely didn’t disappoint either.  He came out on stage and exclaimed in his gravelly voice, “I am vengeance!  I am the knight!  I AM BATMAN!”

Kevin Conroy is pumped
I don’t know who was more excited, Kevin Conroy, or all his adoring fans.

For about the first 20 minutes, Conroy spoke extensively about his how he got “the job” (it’s the voice of Batman if you haven’t caught on yet), his time on the show and other Batman franchises, and what he learned along the way.  Conroy had gone to Juilliard and done theater acting in New York.  He also had some experience in L.A. on TV.  With the combination of the two experiences, he had done some voice over work before.  His agent sent him to meet Bruce Timm and Paul Dini at Warner Brothers.  He initially told them the only thing he new about Batman was the campy 60’s TV show starring Adam West (let’s hope Adam West didn’t hear this panel).  Timm and Dini immediately let Conroy know that The Animated Series was very noir and had a much darker tone because it was about a man avenging the murder of his parents.  He said using his imagination and (in full Batman voice) “going into a deeper and darker place” both Timm and Dini stopped him to tell him he got the role.

His piece of advice about Hollywood and getting a job was more about luck.  He said that anybody can get a job who has talent, but it is about “the right person that day making the right choices who gets the job.”  Over 20 years later, Conroy is still here and he is still the voice of Batman.  He never planned on the path his career has taken him, but he is happy where is career has gone.  He also spoke on the difference between voice acting on the shows or movies vs. the video games.  On the show, he and the other actors were all together and were able to interact with one another, specifically Mark Hamill (The Joker), Richard Moll (Harvey Dent), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Alfred).  Ice-T was even a guest voice once.  When Conroy asked what he was doing there, Ice-T replied “Are you kidding?  My kids love Batman.”  The games are much different because the every line has to be perfectly clean.  There is no interaction with the other actors.  In addition, the different plays of the game lead to different outcomes, and therefore, different lines of dialogue.  Conroy said there are “zillions and zillions of lines.”  He does say that the result for the audience is well worth the tediousness of that kind of voice acting work.  And as a little teaser of excitement for the audience he said “The new Arkham Knight is…” then he just looked down and shook his head.

Kevin Conroy 1

Conroy talked about his belief about why Batman has lasted so long.  For one, he isn’t a superhero.  Everyone can relate to a guy, which Batman is.  He makes the choice to do the things he does because he makes all his weapons and goes out and fights crime.  He also has high morals.  Instead of killing the criminals, he puts them in Arkham Asylum… “which means you get a great game!”  But the psychology of Batman is interesting to Conroy and to the fans because of his baggage and childhood.  It is what Batman does with it, trying to help people, that people connect with because everyone has an inner hero.  “Batman is the personification of that.”  As far as difference in Conroy’s voice when playing Bruce Wayne rather than Batman is based on how everyone has a double life.  But for Batman, the costume is Bruce Wayne.  “Batman in the cave is his naked self.  That is where he being the most honest.”  Bruce Wayne though is the business man, the show.  Conroy says we all have a face that we put on.

He also talked a bit about how production on an animated series works.  The voice actors record months before anything is aired because the animators match the mouth movements to what is being said.  He had no idea what anything was going to look like.  He and Mark Hamill were together when the first animations came back and watched it on a huge screen.  He said he looked at Mark and said, “Did you have a CLUE that this is what we were doing?!”  It was then that they both realized what they had been working on was pretty special.

Conroy spoke on the anonymity of voice acting.  However, this has changed more recently.  Then he told this amazing story about getting recognized in Hollywood:

Conroy took many questions, where answers ranged from an embarrassing story about shaking a bosses hand after he had coughed a loogie into his own hand, and working with voice actors who weren’t cut out for the business.  The last request from a fan was to sing a verse of any song as Batman.  What happened after was totally unexpected, but absolutely made my weekend.  Here is Kevin Conroy singing, “Softly, As I Leave You.”

 

 

“Respect My Craft” – Peter Tomasi

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

 

Name: Peter Tomasi

Profession: Writer/Editor

Notable WorkBatman and Robin (2011-present), The Mighty (2009-2010), The Light Brigade (2006)

“It’s crazy to think that Damian first hit the books over 7 years ago when I was still an editor of the Bat-line. I can still remember that day when Grant [Morrison] said he wanted to bring this wacko kid into the picture and make him a real pain in the ass for Bruce.” – Peter Tomasi

 

Peter Tomasi is a name that should ring in a lot of fan-boys ears for being the writer to The New52 Batman and Robin, who along with penciller Patrick Gleason have created one of the few comic books out of the relaunch to keep the same creative team – which is amazing considering that Robin has been dead in the DCU for almost half of the series. The death of Damian would not have carried nearly as much weight if it weren’t for the development in Batman and Robin that both Damian and Bruce went through together. The murder of Damian was capped off with issue #18, called Requiem (a title Tomasi also gave to a tribute issue to a certain character after his death in Final Crisis), which was his first silent issue. The emotionally charged issue was a great send-off for the character that Tomasi had sort of adopted through his run as an editor, and then writer, of the Bat-books. There was a deeper connection than just the creative side; this had been the result of years of grooming.

requiem

As a kid, Tomasi’s father introduced him to comic books. Growing up watching Adam West scaling walls on the Batman television show, and reading the exploits of Batman through the legendary comic book tag team of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams, Tomasi was a Batman lifer. It eventually led him to start his career at DC Comics as an Assistant Editor at DC Comics over 20 years ago, where he has since remained. Ten years later, he earned a promotion to become Senior Editor at DC Comics, while moonlighting as a writer for random books that likely needed help keeping deadlines. Along the way, he also created The Light Brigade –  which Tomasi described as one part Saving Private Ryan, one part Paradise Lost – in 2004. The series has quite the following, and was recently re-released in hardcover edition a few months ago. Wanting more writing responsibilities, Tomasi left his fifteen-year long position to take on Black Adam: The Dark Age in 2007.

black adam choc egg cream

Black Adam had been thrown into the DC spotlight after kicking everybody’s butt in 52, a weekly installment set in one year of DC without the Trinity (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman), so it seemed only natural that he should be given his own mini-series. Tomasi’s run was fascinating, blurring the lines of hero and villain, making me root for Adam throughout the story.  Being Egyptian, I was naturally drawn to identity with Black Adam – although I’d like to think I’m not nearly the evil bastard that this guy is. After receiving a lot of acclaim for The Dark Age, Vice President and current co-Publisher Dan DiDio asked Tomasi to jump on to his first full-time book, Nightwing. The train didn’t stop there, though. Tomasi wrote for The OutsidersGreen Lantern Corps, and even co-wrote Brightest Day with Geoff Johns. He also worked on side projects, like writing screenplay for the video-game, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, a game that I wore out to the point of breaking it in high school, and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, a compilation of stories about the Green Lanterns (Tomasi’s writing was for Kilowog’s short).

Writing books with an ensemble is something that naturally fits for Tomasi, whose experience as an editor has made him an Amazo of a writer, able to channel different personalities without sounding like a single writer’s voice. This was most impressively portrayed on the recent mini-series, Forever Evil: Arkham War. What I initially took for a cash grab, capitalizing off the Crime Syndicate story that Geoff Johns was writing, I ended up falling in love with. The story picks up with the Justice League absent in a world now controlled by the rime Syndicate, Gotham City left with nothing but Batman’s rogues gallery to fight over the empire of dirt left behind. The two front-runners in the battle are Scarecrow and Bane; Scarecrow thinks he can outsmart Bane, but Bane proves to be more cunning than Scarecrow thinks, and definitely the stronger-willed. Once again, I find myself cheering for the “bad guy” in one of Tomasi’s books.

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 6.53.40 AM

The complex relationships that Tomasi builds in his books are a cornerstone of his writing. When he came on to writing the Bat-books, it was right before The New52 relaunch, when things had gotten quite complicated in Gotham City. We had been introduced to Damian Wayne and Stephanie Brown, Batman had freaking died and now Dick Grayson had become the new Batman. It was a very confusing time for me, but the understanding that these were people underneath the masks helped me dissociate the standard roles each of them played. While Bruce had a sternly parent role with Damian and Tim, Dick was more of a big brother – which was evidenced by his difficulty in getting Robin to follow in suit.

Damian has earned his place in the Bat family legacy. From when he started out in Batman and Son to when he was killed in Batman Inc #8, the character had grown from intolerable shit to prodigal son. A lot of the interactions in Batman and Robin were influenced by Peter’s own son, and how he thinks a wily, spitfire of a boy would act. And while the other Bat-books featured Damian’s progression, it was really Tomasi that raised him. Tomasi has been the cool step-dad that never gets the credit for raising a child that was, in essence, left on his front porch. The first volume of the New52 Batman and RobinBorn to Kill, is a prime example of why Damian really belongs to Peter Tomasi. Through rage and instinct, Damian decides to defeat crime by taking it out permanently, crossing the line that Batman holds dear when a third-party, named Nobody, convinces him to take a life. The heart-wrenching arc is one of the best in the New52 and really showcases the internal struggle Damian goes through – things are really messed up when your mom is the son of the Demon’s Head and leader of the League of Assassins. With so many Batman-led titles, the interpersonal take on Bruce and Damian’s relationship with each other set Tomasi’s book apart from the others. This must have been especially hard when you realize that, as Senior Editor, Tomasi knew Damian’s fate from his very inception.

titus

Since Damian’s death over a year ago, the series has been following Batman’s quest for closure, culminating in a battle with Ra’s Al Ghul, who has defiled Damian’s grave and using him to create more super-soldiers – featured in a disturbing Batman and Aquaman #29. You can feel the feels slide off the page, as we’re not sure where Batman’s mental state is – that’s not only scary, but a testament to the earnestness of Tomasi’s writing. The news has broken that Batman will indeed be getting a new Robin when Robin Rises: Omega comes out on Batman Day (July 23rd). Speculation remains as to whether or not this is a new Robin, or the return of Damian, but one thing is sure: Batman needs a Robin just as much as he needs a writer like Peter Tomasi.

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (DC Comics). Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con as we put on our spandex and onomatopoeic fighting words with the classic Batman, Adam West.

Shut Up and Take My Money: Greg Capullo Court of Owls Action Figures

The money in our bank account is limited, so how unfair is it that there are endless gadgets, collectibles and toys out there that demand to be purchased? Let us help you sift through the crap, so you don’t can save that hard-earned cash for the things that deserve it. In other words, we give you the power to go to the counter and say, “Shut Up and Take My Money!”

shut-up-and-take-my-money

Item:

DC Comic Designer Series: Greg Capullo Series 1 Figures

What it is:

Today, the first four figures from the new Designer Series are released. The first to get the treatment is Greg Capullo’s Batman (written by Scott Snyder, and really just the best DC Comics book out for the last three years. The first set of four to be released are: Batman, Nightwing, Talon and Nygma (Riddler), the latter of which appearing in the Zero Year storyline (happening right now!), while Nightwing and Talon are brought to life from earlier storylines (Death of the Family and the already legendary Court of Owls). Each figure comes with appropriate props: Batman with Batarangs, Nightwing with escrima sticks, Nygma with his staff and Talon with daggers and a Court of Owls mask. I know these are supposed to be collectibles, but there’s nothing that can convince me that I’m not supposed to take Talon and Batman out of the box to make them duel each other. The design is pays homage to Capullo’s craft just as much as it does to the progress DC Collectibles has made over the years.

How Much it Costs:

These figures are a little pricier than normal, netting about $25 per figure – give or take a few depending on where you get it. Right now, you can find the figures at most any outlet, but with this being the first edition of the new Designer Series, I expect that these will become highly coveted collectibles in no time.

Is It Worth It?:

Collectors will not hesitate to pick these beauties up and fans of the comic book will instantly have a unique souvenir to remind them of this superb book that inspired them. That being said, they are on the expensive side – it seems to be the way figures are getting now. It will be hard to justify buying the whole series, especially with a second series on the way in October. That being said, the Talon figure is just so detailed, it would be hard to pass up getting, as there are no other DC Collectibles for The Court of Owls. I expect these will sell out soon, and prying them form the fingers of greedy fanboys could be much costlier.

 

Bottom Line:

Buy these. Buy two. One to play with and one to keep in the box to brag about to your friends. The Nightwing and Nygma figures are dope, but let’s be real; Batman and Talon are the real show-stoppers here. How cool would it be to buy a bunch of Talons and descend upon Gotham with only one Batman to stop them? …This is bad news for my wallet, guys.

Graphic Novel Review – Batman: Hush

Graphic Novel Review: Batman: Hush

CollectingBatman #608-619

Original Release Date: 2002-2003

Publisher: DC Comics

Batman: Hush brings in the whole cavalry.
Batman: Hush brings in the whole cavalry.

Characters: Batman, Hush, Catwoman

Writer: Jeph Loeb (Batman: Dark VictorySuperman/Batman #1-26, Spiderman: BlueHulk: GrayDaredevil: Yellow)

Artist(s): Jim Lee (X-MenSuperman: UnchainedWildC.A.T.S.), Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair (inker and colorist, respectively, that work with Lee)

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 10
Art – 10
Captivity and Length – 10
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 9
Depth – 10
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 10
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 10

hush_rating_96

DISCLAIMER: I will start this by saying that Batman: Hush is hands-down my favorite graphic novel ever. It’s the second graphic novel I ever read and, ultimately, what inspired me to delve deeply into the world of comics. I have two tattoos dedicated to what this book means to me and it’s part of the inspiration behind our name, Hush Comics. That being said, I will try not to blow too much smoke up your butts, because if you haven’t read it for yourself, I don’t want to ruin the experience.

Batman: Hush uses the entire spectrum of the Batverse to tell a sophisticated story about the emergence of a new cerebral villain into the Rogues Gallery and explores the quasi-romantic relationship between Batman and Catwoman. Hush also marks the return of one of Bruce Wayne’s wards, whose previous death marked his greatest failure as the Batman. It spans the length of twelve issues to tell its story, twice as long as traditional six-issue story arcs; with a plot as involved as this one, this allows Loeb space to create a non-formulaic, dynamic graphic novel. This is also a book that both seasoned comic nerds and people new to comics can be receptive to. Hush does a great job of not making you feel like an idiot because every scene portrays the adequate background information to understand what is going on – something that is the exception more than the rule in comics nowadays.

I always feel that writers of Batman books have an automatic leg up because the Batman of the last twenty years always has the answers, always knows what to do, and the writer usually coasts on it. Jeph Loeb takes the task one step further and helps you identify with the man behind the mask. You realize that Batman has been through a lot of trauma and stress, and although he’s the most badass superhero on the planet on the outside, he still struggles with the same things we do: who to love, who to trust, etc. This vulnerability is accomplished by a steady flow of personal monologue that narrates each panel with Bruce’s (sorry, spoiler?) inner thoughts. Each character, and there are a lot of them, has a distinct voice and personality. Long-time fans will also take note that the cast is scripted quite well. Nothing seems out of place or character in the writing and there is enough suspense to keep the reader from knowing what will happen next. The new villain is cunning and knows just where to hit Batman to make it hurt. This type of strategical villain with a large cast hasn’t been portrayed this well since Bane in Batman: Knightfall.

absolute-batman-hush

The artwork from the legendary Jim Lee is what really won me over here. Jim Lee, now co-publisher of DC Comics, constructs vividly detailed panels that range from small transitional fight scenes to full-page beauties like the one below (Kissing the Knight). Lee’s team, Alex Sinclair, color, and Scott Williams, ink, add to the already beautiful pencilwork. The team switches up colors and even mediums throughout the book when it suits the mood, helping the reader transition between scenes. All of Lee’s drawings are crisp and have an edgy yet realistic appearance. With so much detail spent on each panel, Jim Lee and his team guide the reader through a completely immersive environment.

DC Comics Batman Hush Kissing the Knight B&W

Batman: Hush can be viewed as a stand-alone story, but fits in the old Batman continuity pretty nicely. Since launching The New 52 in 2011, DC has pretty much abandoned any continuation of the Batman-Catwoman romance (except for two awful smut-filled issues of The New 52 Catwoman) and there hasn’t been an appearance of Hush in any titles yet. Don’t let this discourage you from reading though, as there is tons of dialogue and events that coincide with other milestones in past Batman publications. There are a few different books written with Hush as the main villain, most notably Hush Returns and Heart of Hush, but these do not boast the big time writers or artists that this book does, and the story feels a little forced in the romance department, but it’s still a decent read. Overall I’d say that while it reads best as a stand-alone story, there are enough bat-nuances to make you want to get deeper into the Batman lore.

General Reception: You will find Batman: Hush on DC Entertainment’s Essential Graphic Novels list and it’s for good reason. An all-encompassing story that spans all of your favorite Batman villains, sidekicks and introduces enough new elements to tell a tale that both seasoned veterans and comic book rookies can all the same. The characters’ dialogue and actions seem familiar without giving away any of the plot twists throughout the book. There are a ton of different transitions in Hush, giving each scene a distinct ambiance by Jim Lee and his brilliant art team.

Related Books: Hush ReturnsHeart of HushFaces of Evil/Hush Money and Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond (kinda). Hush also makes appearances in videogames LEGO Batman 2 and Arkham CityBatman: Hush has recently been repackaged in Batman: Hush Unwrapped, featuring the sketch-work of Jim Lee. I wouldn’t recommend buying this version first, but if you read Hush the first time through and fall in love with Jim Lee’s art like I did, it’s a sensible purchase. Published in 2011, Absolute Batman: Hush is a completely over-sized version of the original with all its glory. It’s loaded with extras but it’s pretty pricey, so I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are a big-time collector or really love the story.

More by the writer: In terms of Batman books, Loeb has written acclaimed mystery crime graphic novels Batman: The Long Halloween and its sequel, Batman: Dark Victory. Loeb has also written Marvel books in the color-themed Daredevil: YellowSpiderman: BlueHulk: Grey and Captain America: White. He’s also worked on Superman/BatmanHulk and Cable series.

More by the artist: If you’re looking for more recent Jim Lee work, look to the first two New 52 Justice League story arc and the ongoing Superman: Unchained. His most distinguished works are X-Men: Mutant GenesisAlpha Flight and WildC.A.T.S., the latter being a series that he created when he left Marvel to help create Image Comics with the likes of Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, and others.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib