DCC Showcase ’17: David Mack, Delilah Dawson and Chrissie Zullo
As part of the interminable waiting for Denver Comic Con this year, this week I will be talking about a few more of the creators who will be making an appearance at the con this year. Today, I’ll be talking about two creators of whom I’ve been a fan of for awhile (Chrissie Zullo and David Mack) and one whom I had never known until this week (Delilah Dawson). While all three of these wonderful people have plenty of work to look at, I’ve picked one particularly good example of their skill for each one. Without further ado, may I present Week 2 of the DCC Showcase!
David Mack – Daredevil: End of Days
Daredevil: End of Days is a story that places the hero of Hell’s Kitchen in the most dire of circumstances. After having disappeared for years after murdering the Kingpin in the streets of the city, Daredevil reappears for an epic battle with one of his oldest enemies in one of the most watched moments in the history of superheroes. Unfortunately for any fans of DD, it doesn’t go well. Daredevil is brutally slain, with many watching not only in person but in the millions of videos that are taken of the moment. And that’s where the story begins! Ben Urich, everyone’s favorite Daily Bugle reporter, finds out that Daredevil spoke just one word before dying and sets off on an investigative hunt to discover the truth behind what happened to someone who had once been one of his best friends. Will Ben be able to get to the bottom of the mystery? And who is the mysterious stranger watching his every move?
Daredevil: End of Days is a collaboration between David Mack and Brian Michael Bendis as writers, with David Mack contributing a few pages of artwork, along with Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Alex Maleev. The writing for End of Days, with the final story of Daredevil being told via the eyes of a reporter who has followed and been friends with him since the beginning of his career, is spectacularly done. The story is almost more about how Daredevil has affected those around him than it is about the red devil himself. In an effort to get to the truth about Matt’s final mysterious word, Ben Urich struggles with his own feelings about the hero and friend who had cut him out of his life as Daredevil’s choices became darker and darker in an effort to save Hell’s Kitchen from itself. The interactions that Urich has not only with Daredevil’s rogues gallery but also with his love interests and friends show different sides of someone who was at times both hero and villain and whose legacy was tainted by violent choices made near the end. It’s a daring but ultimately incredibly compelling look at Daredevil and a fresh take on the character after both Bendis’ and Ed Brubaker’s incredible Daredevil stories.
While Mack’s contribution to the artwork is largely in the variant covers and a few pages in issues 6 and 8, they’re damned good ones. Mack has a talent for art that feels less like comic book panels and more like artwork you’d want to hang on the wall. He uses shadows brilliantly and has an almost impressionistic style that relies heavily on painting, both watercolors and what looks like oils for an intense, almost emotional effect. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Mack’s artwork because it impressed the hell out of me.
Along with Daredevil: End of Days, David Mack also has his own series, Kabuki, which I highly recommend checking out if you get a chance. If you’re a fan of Daredevil or superheroes in general and especially if you’re familiar with the paths that Daredevil walked during Bendis’ and Brubaker’s runs, End of Days is a can’t miss story to tie all of the loose ends together in a spectacular fashion. Highly recommend it and don’t forget to check out any panels that Mack participates in at DCC!
Ladycastle – Delilah Dawson
Delilah Dawson is a relative newcomer to the world of graphic novels, having previously made her name as a steampunk and dark fantasy author for teens and adults. In Ladycastle, she collaborates with Ashley Woods for a new take on the standard medieval cursed castle fairytale. When King Mancastle and the rest of his men ride off on crusade, they leave the women in charge of the castle. When the men meet with an unfortunate end via a wizard’s curse (it does not pay to cheat people with magic), it’s up to the women to take charge. Mancastle and the men not only managed to get themselves killed but caused the castle itself to be cursed. When the Lady of the Lake presents a sword to determine the new king, it is none other than Merinor, the blacksmith’s wife, who finds herself as king. The two daughters of Mancastle, Princesses Aeve and Gwyneffar, become her knight and squire respectively and the rest of the women at the castle pitch in to not only make life at the castle sustainable but to defend themselves from the threats drawn by the curse. It’s a fresh take on the cursed castle theme with women at the center of the action as they try to make their own way in a world which has historically done its best to exclude them.
When you have a series that’s setting stereotypes on its head, the danger is always in becoming too gimmicky. I will admit that I had some frustration in reading Ladycastle in this regard. While the story is entertaining and filled with all sorts of allusion to standard fairytales and fantasy (randomly breaking out into song, the lady of the lake, etc, etc), it tends to feel like it’s checking boxes rather than organically having characters or themes. Towards the end of the series, Merinor becomes a very interesting, fully fledged character but at the beginning, she feels like the token sassy black lady. The same can be said for several other characters. Ladycastle has a lot of heart but it’s plagued with the kind of heavy message that overwhelms an otherwise interesting story and take on the old standard. The artwork by Woods is a perfect match for the writing though, with a comedic but pretty style (overlooking silly armor choices) that fits Dawson’s writing.
If you’re a fan of fantasy and want something with a different take and plenty of strong female characters and girl power, Ladycastle is well worth checking out. It isn’t perfect and may annoy others in the same spots that it did me but I’m still glad to see a fantasy story try to upend the stereotypes and gender roles that have been so prevalent in the genre until recently. And definitely check out Dawson’s writing in the other formats, she has a Star Wars story about Captain Phasma coming out this fall!
Fables and Fairest – Chrissie Zullo
If you caught my DCC Showcase last year, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Chrissie Zullo and that certainly hasn’t changed. She contributed largely to the cover art for the fantasy series Fables and its spinoff, Cinderella. Fables is another fresh take on standard fairytales as it transports them from a fantasy world to present day New York City. When an evil entity threatens to destroy all of the fabled characters from the Big Bad Wolf to Cinderella to Snow White to Jack the Giantkiller, they make a desperate attempt to survive and open a gateway to historical New York City. As the city grows (and the fables remain immortal), they create their own enclave in the city, Fabletown, even as some of them try to get the resources to take the Homeland back. In Cinderella, the former princess becomes a spy for Fabletown to protect their interests and ensure their survival. In both series, there is a delightful upsetting of stereotypes and standards that anyone familiar with fairytales will appreciate.
Zullo’s artwork in both series is nothing short of gorgeous. She uses pencils and traditional art that she then colors via Photoshop and has a very distinctive, dreamy style that fits perfectly with series like Fables and Cinderella. The style of her characters tends toward kind of the cute, manga-esque with gorgeous coloring and fun poses that make me want to just cover my walls with her art.
Last year, Zullo joined a few of the panels and though kind of a quiet presence, was very interesting to hear from as an artist and was one of the friendliest faces on Artists Alley. If you get a chance, definitely check her out at Artists Alley and any panels she appears on this year! Can’t wait to see what she brings with her to DCC!
Hope you enjoyed getting a look at some of the talent displayed by David Mack, Delilah Dawson and Chrissie Zullo and that you’ll check them out while you’re at Denver Comic Con at the end of the month! Join Graphic Reviews next week for another showcase! And if you have comments or questions about this week’s creators, leave them in the comments!