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There has been a lot of hullabaloo on Marvel Studios not capitalizing on the ‘Grooting’ phenomena that has been sweeping the internet. This is in reference to the Guardians of the Galaxy character Groot dancing behind Drax the Destroyer a.k.a. actor Dave Batista’s back during the end credits of the film. In the meantime, the seedy underbelly of the arts & crafts internet websites, such as Etsy, have been taking advantage of the merchandising hole left by the lack of an official Marvel figure. Even internet videos containing cast members of the film like Michael Rooker (Yondu) and Dave Batista can be viewed reenacting the ‘Grooting’ moment. The figure was made by Marvel Entertainment and KIDdesigns, and the news broke via Mashable. Included with the figure, is a tiny speaker which allows fans listen to an alternate version of Jackson 5‘s I Want you Back, in order to get the full ‘Grooting’ experience. Each toy will set your wallet back by a light $14.99. Look for the figure on store shelves Christmas day, and be slightly angry that the toy’s arms don’t move! Also, make sure you keep this toy away from any talking Raccoons, in fear they might strike up an unlikely friendship!
IDW dropped a new title on X-Files fans today. Chris Carter’s other show Millennium will be coming to IDW in comics form. Written by Joe Harris, who also pens IDW’s X-Files: Season 10 and featuring interior art by Colin Lorimer, series creator Carter will reprise his “Season 10″ role as executive producer for this mini series. The show, which lasted three seasons, follows Seattle-based ex-FBI agent Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) as he tracked down serial killers using his paranormal ability to see through the eyes of murderers.
In an interview today Joe expressed his motivations on the new series, “Millennium” has a ton of great ideas that were never fully explored, along with shifting focuses of the show itself.”
The five-part mini series will spin out of the events of X-Files #17 and will have a lot of interaction between Mulder and Black, much like the TV show spun out of the X-Files show.
Millennium #1 will be available in early 2015 from IDW Publishing.
As revealed today at New York Comic Con 2014, Valiant announced QUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! #1 (of 4) – the FIRST ISSUE of a new limited series jumping-on point for the multiple Harvey Award nominated series. It’s also the first in a new series of limited series for the world’s worst superhero team. QUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! will feature award-winning writer James Asmus (Gambit, Thief of Thieves) and Eisner Award-winning artist Steve Lieber (Superior Foes of Spider-Man) bringing the most talked-about duo of semi-professional heroes in comics to a whole new high!
Valiant released this statement for the books solicitations:
Valiant’s a-number one team of super-hero misadventurers get it where it hurts – right in the cerebral cortex! – this January when James Asmus and Steve Lieber make their worst fears a reality inQUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! #1 (of 4)! Featuring covers by Mike Hawthorne (Deadpool),Johnnie Christmas (Sheltered), and Eisner Award winner Chip Zdarsky (Sex Criminals), make with the sales on this one and we promise not to hurt the goat…maybe…
QUANTUM AND WOODY MUST DIE! #1 (of 4) will be in stores January 2015
During Marvel’s exclusive retailer meeting at NYCC, the publisher made a few updates concerning recent announcements. One of which will make the Spidey fans ecstatic was word of a new Spider-Gwen series in February of 2015. No official title was given but will see writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez returning to the character. No artwork or further details were given during the presentation. The character first appeared in Edge of Spider-Verse #2 and with this new announcement looks like she’ll be surviving the upcoming Spider-Verse event in the Marvel 616.
From L to R: Dalton Ross, Robert Kirkman and Sean Mackiewicz at Skybound’s The Walking Dead panel at NYCC
“The Walking Dead is a very unreal way to explore some very real topics: there’s loss, triumph and accomplishment against all odds,” creator Robert Kirkman explained Thursday to a packed audience of fans at the 2014 NYCC panel for his Eisner award-winning comic series. “Also there’s the zombie killing, that part’s pretty cool,” he added. Kirkman was joined by Walking Dead Editorial Director Sean Mackiewicz, and the panel was moderated by Entertainment Weekly’s Dalton Ross. Ross had his hands full with quick-witted Kirkman who at one point jokingly informed Ross that he would be canceling his EW subscription based on Ross’ weak selection of twitter-submitted fan questions.
Kirkman proved an engaging and thoughtful speaker, and gave many hints to the future of The Walking Dead comic series as well as the hit AMC television show. Ross began his series of questions by asking about the recent time jump in issue #127 which both Kirkman and Mackiewicz affirmed is roughly two years after the events of the “All Out War” story arc. Kirkman confirmed he intentionally left the length of the time jump vague so he could craft the narrative without specific time restrictions. He cited that aging Carl helped move that character forward, and noted that Carl’s recent adoption of his one-sided sunglasses was an indicator of the character’s insecurity: “He wants to kinda hide that aspect of himself, and we’ll be exploring that a lot moving forward. You can expect Carl’s look to possibly evolve over time.” He also told the crowd to “be on the lookout for issue 134″ [due to be released November 12] to see big changes in Carl’s character. In terms of Carl’s eye loss eventually becoming a part of the AMC television series, Kirkman said: “I’m not saying it’s definitely happening-but it’s definitely an option. We don’t adapt the comic book directly, as everyone can see from watching the show, but we certainly wouldn’t shy away from a thing like that.” Kirkman then jokingly added: “so you know-season 7!”
Ross inquired when comic fans would finally get a good look at the ‘Kingdom’ and the ‘Sanctuary.’ “There’s a lot yet left to reveal,” Kirkman said, “there’s a lot of characters out there that haven’t been seen in a while.” This led Ross to reply: “Yes, Michonne!” Kirkman agreed, and said fans should anticipate the return of Michonne around issue #150.
When asked about the future of Rick’s character, Kirkman explained: “This current plan for Rick and the outcome of ‘All Out War’ is something that I’ve been working towards for a few years now…everything up to this point [in the comics series] was planned before the show existed-you know I never really go: ‘oh, I could make them go live on an island’ or ‘grow a vegetable garden.’ It always seems to just come to me and I go: ‘yeah, we’re doing that!'” Kirkman further explained that although he’d always had a road map for that particular story arc, he did adjust it along the way because he loves having the ability to “turn on a dime.” He went on to say that there were “certain deaths that I’ve just decided to do that issue because in life I feel like tragic events can happen without any kind of preparation, and I like to try and infuse that in the book.” He also said his decision to kill Shiva, Ezekiel’s pet tiger was one of these of-the-moment decisions. Kirkman then added: “Neegan was at no point going to die.”
In terms of character design, Kirkman indicated that artist Charlie Adlard often has the final say. He elaborated on how collaborative the process was between himself and Adlard in terms of creating Rick’s evolving appearance. Often, Kirkman said, Adlard will shoot down looks he imagines for the character. He also noted that he gave Adlard “no guidance” on how the Governor should look: the design was entirely Adlard’s creation.
Kirkman did not hesitate in his answer to the twitter-submitted question: “Will we ever see Lucielle again?” “Yeah, definitely,” Kirkman replied. After a few cheers went up from the audience he continued: “these are questions you should be asking: ‘Where’s that bat? Who has it?’ Everything will be revealed eventually. There’s a lot of stuff people may not be thinking about that has been pulled out of the book that will be put back in when the time is right.”
Another twitter question asked-regarding the television series’ recently released season 5 teaser trailer: “Is the cop from the trailer female-Negan?” Kirkman answered: “What? No, that is definitely not female-Negan in the trailer,” then teased the audience by adding: “Close, though!”
During the fan Q&A portion of the panel Kirkman and Mackiewicz didn’t shy away from hinting at spoilers. When Kirkman was asked “Will you ever bring the character of Morgan Jones back in the television series?” he replied: “It’s just a matter of when it’s right for the story and when Lennie James, the fantastic actor that plays Morgan, will be available.” He went on to confirm: “that’s something we’re working toward, he will appear in the Walking Dead show again.”
Another fan asked how Kirkman came up with the character of Rick. The series creator went into great detail, explaining:”really the reason that Rick is this small town police officer-I mean, he’s a crappy police officer-he never really fired his gun, he’s not super-cop-often times in apocalyptic stories or action stories like ‘The Walking Dead’ you kind of deal with the best of the best: this guy who is uniquely capable of dealing with the situation, he’s Bruce Willis and he’s bulletproof.” By contrast, Kirkman continued, “I wanted to do a story about the normal people, the people that aren’t necessarily capable of handling this or accomplishing anything or really surviving-and see how long they survive and how they rise to the challenge,” at which point he added, “though I guess he [Rick] is a little bulletproof if I’m honest.”
When a nervous, star-struck fan timidly asked: “Which character in the comic book so you think is most like how you think you’d react in the zombie apocalypse?” Kirkman’s reply of: “Eugene maybe? The guy who lies so people will protect him” drew a wave of laughter from the audience, prompting him to quip: “just being honest!” More brutal honesty was displayed when both Mackiewicz and Kirkman answered which of the many deaths in ‘The Walking Dead’ comic was their favorite. “Probably Glenn’s,” Mackiewicz began-and continued over the sounds of anguish from the crowd-“it just affects me-in that I wonder what a miserable human being Robert is sometimes-every beat is just that much worse and is’ twist the knife,’ he can’t even get [Maggie's] name out and his eyeball is just on his cheek: like he can see himself dying!”
At that moment an audience member shouted “Masochist!” at Kirkman who conceded, “a little bit.” Kirkman went on to say that while Glenn’s death was important, his favorite death scene was probably Abraham’s “because it was so sudden” and that he thought Abraham’s ability to finish talking to Eugene as he was dying was weird, but cool. Mackiewicz added that Abraham’s death was a “last minute decision” and Kirkman agreed, saying that he originally planned to have both Eugene and Abraham survive issue #98, but ultimately decided it would be unrealistic. He jokingly noted that Eugene must have survived “so he could build a windmill.”
When asked why his Atlanta didn’t have more black people, Kirkman answered: “I feel like our cast diversified a bit as we moved on, but there’s always more we can do towards that.” He then joked: “we try to keep the cast as not-white as possible because white people are terrible.” The same fan asked if we would get to see the response to the zombie threat from places other than the Atlanta/greater Washington D.C. area we’ve seen so far. Kirkman explained that the companion/spin-off series to AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ announced last fall would find it’s characters battling the zombie threat in new locations.
Further questioning led Kirkman to hint that Rick or Negan may not survive the coming events, and that if Rick did die Kirkman believed Andrea would be the most likely character to fill his shoes. But what if Kirkman was forced to choose a Walking Dead character to survive the zombie apocalypse with? Kirkman chose either Negan: “if I was on his good side” or “Carol-from the TV show-she’s pretty tough. She’d probably keep me safe the longest.” When asked: “Could there be a female villain and could she be a Latina?” Kirkman replied, “Absolutely-there’s a very good chance of that, so keep reading! It’s possible that character’s already been introduced. There’s a spoiler for you!” A few murmurs from the crowd indicated that Rosita was the character they believed Kirkman may have been referring to.
Towards the end of the Q&A a young girl approached the microphone and asked: “Is there ever going to be an end to the zombie apocalypse?” Kirkman replied: “You look about my daughter’s age so, not ’till you’re in college! I mean, logically… the zombies aren’t going to last forever, and it’s true that there’s new zombies being created all the time, when people die,” he paused, then mused: “I’m talking about this to a child, which is awkward,” before continuing: “but you know, logically as the population’s getting smaller fewer zombies are being made, so it really is just a game to outlast them. It could end at some point if all the human beings don’t die before that point-which is an upbeat thing to think about-sweet dreams, kiddo!”
Kirkman went on to affirm that he does know how he plans to end the comic series, but that it’s “a very long way away-you know, my daughter getting through college and all.” He added that telling the story over a number of years is what “excites him” the most, and that he wants to fulfill that dream-a dream he’s had since he began the series over ten years ago.
Today, Dark Horse sent out word that Peter Hogan (2000 AD, Tom Strong) and Steve Parkhouse (Milkman Murders, Doctor Who) will be returning to Resident Alien for a new stand alone science-fiction/murder-mystery series. Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery #0 is on sale April 29, 2015 and is just the first of a four part series from Dark Horse Comics.
Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle is actually a stranded alien explorer hiding out in a sleepy town in the Pacific Northwest. His short time as a doctor in Patience, Washington, has kept him busy solving mysteries, though! With a few successes under his belt, Harry tackles another one after the contents of an old briefcase hint that a murderer could be hiding in town in plain sight—using an alias. Sound familiar?
In an interview this week Hogan talked about coming back to the series saying, “We always have a lot of other material to cover with each series and we certainly don’t want to wrap this whole thing up anytime soon. We’re having too much fun.”
Expect to hear more about the book and other announcements from Dark Horse this week as New York Comic Con gets officially underway Thursday.
This summer saw the release of Hercules (Radical Studios, dir. Brett Ratner). Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took his place in the long line of strongmen to portray Greece’s most enduring icon. It was a lot of fun, and you should go see it. But, as one might expect from a Hollywood piece, the film takes a revisionist approach to the world of Greek myth, especially to its titular hero. A man of enormous sexual appetite, sacker of cities, and murderer of his own family, Hercules is glossed over here as a seeker of justice, characterized by his humanity and humility. And it is once again Hercules, not Heracles: the Romanized version loses the irony of the Greek, “Glory of Hera.”
This is neither the Hercules of ancient myth, nor is it the Hercules of Steve Moore’s graphic novel, Hercules: The Thracian Wars (Radical Comics, 2008), on which the film is loosely based. It is perhaps not surprising then that Moore fought to have his name removed from the project, at least according to long-time friend Alan Moore. Steve Moore died earlier this year and buried deep in the closing credits of the film is a dedication in his memory.
When he wrote his comic, Moore strove to fit his story into the world of Greek myth in a “realistic” way. Though the story (and that of its sequel, The Knives of Kush) is original, the characters and setting are consistent with the pseudo-historic Bronze Age of Greek legend. The film jettisons much of this careful integration for little narrative gain. I am never opposed to revisions to the myth (myth, after all, can be defined by its malleability), but why, for instance, set the opening of the film in Macedonia in 358 BCE instead of 1200? It adds nothing to the story, but confuses anyone with even a passing knowledge of Greek history — our heroes should be rubbing elbows with Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father. The answer to this question, I suspect, is a sort of Wikipedial historicity: Hercules and his companions are hired by a fictional King Cotys, a name chosen by Moore as suitably Thracian — and there was a historical Cotys in 358.
The Thracian Wars is set well after Hercules has completed his twelve labors: in the loose chronology of Greek myth, we are somewhere between the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the battle of the Seven Against Thebes. Hercules arrives in Thrace as a mercenary, along with his companions Iolaus, Tydeus, Autolycus, Amphiarus, Atalanta, Meleager, and Meneus, the only character made up by Moore. (The Hollywood film production jettisons those characters who might have LGBT overtones: Meneus is Hercules’s male lover, and Meleager is constantly frustrated by and therefore exposes Atalanta’s lesbianism.) Though no story of Greek myth involves all these characters, they all belong to roughly the same generation — the generation before the Trojan War. These characters could have interacted in untold stories.
But they don’t interact well. As Moore notes in the afterword to the trade paperback, “Hercules was a murderer, a rapist, a womanizer, subject to catastrophic rages and plainly bisexual…I wouldn’t have wanted to spend much time in his company.” The rest of the band is not much better. Where the film presents a band of brothers, faithful to each other to the death, in the comic these characters loathe each other and are clearly bound not by love of each other but the need to earn a living. They are mercenaries, with little interest in the morality of their actions.
Legendary Greece, then, is without a moral center. Violence and bloodshed are never far away. Sexual activity is fueled only by deceit or lust. The Greek characters speak of their Thracian surroundings as barbaric, but we are never shown any better. The art of the comic articulates this grim reality. Eyes are frequently lost in shadow, for instance, dehumanizing the characters further. Throughout, artist Admira Wijaya deploys a somber color palette of greys, browns, and muted reds to convey a bleak world.
This, then, is the great disconnect of Greek myth with the modern world. In our times, our heroes of popular culture must be morally pure; only black and white values can be understood. So-called “anti-heroes” are occasionally tolerated in marginal media, but even here their transgressions are typically mitigated somehow (think of the recent television series Dexter, in which the serial killer is validated by his targeting of other serial killers — the real bad guys). The heroes of Greek legend — the word “hero” itself only denoted those who performed memorable or noteworthy deeds, without a moral element — often existed solely because they were transgressors. Tantalus, Oedipus, Orestes: their stories are of broken taboos, stories of cannibalism, incest, kin-slaying. Later authors may have complicated their stories, but violation is at the core of their being.
Sure, the common people of ancient Greece benefited from Hercules’s actions as a slayer of monsters, but none of his actions were motivated by altruism. Rather, it was shame at best that moved him: in most tellings, his famous twelve labors were penance for the death of his family at his own hands. Many of his other deeds were motivated by hunger, lust, or just boredom. In the film, Johnson’s Hercules finds a sort of absolution for his past crimes. In the comic, redemption is not an objective; in fact, Hercules doesn’t even seem to recognize the concept.
Hercules is a figure of strength and power, a conqueror of the unknown, a slayer of dragons (and giant boars and lions). The Hercules of Hollywood shows us strength. The Hercules of myth — and of Moore’s comic — shows us the consequences of that strength when it’s not carefully contained. There is a primal energy there, a reflection of that part of our souls that is fascinated with, even desires, transgression. As healthy, moral humans, most of us conquer that fascination. But myth is our reminder that it always, always bears watching. Hollywood isn’t going to help you do that.
Featured image: An engraving from The Labours of Hercules by Hans Sebald Beham, c. 1545. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The Skeletons Outside The Closet Can Be The Most Dangerous
By David Nieves
Steve Niles has made a hell of a living in the horror genre. Having critical and commercial success can be a curse on any creator, but he’s constantly found new ways of invigorating humanizing takes on demons and monsters. His latest creation, IDW’s The October Faction, may be his weirdest story to date, and that’s far from a bad thing.
October Faction is the story of the Allan family. A faction falling apart at the seems from events in their past that are beginning to come full circle. Frederick (a retired monster hunter) has been more focused on teaching his lessons and lectures about things that go bump in the night rather than being a father. His wife Deloris is sneaking around doing something sketchy behind his back that could have serious consequences for all involved. His son and daughter; both of whom have interesting abilities when it comes to specters, are figuring out a way to get long overdue attention from their father. While there’s teases of witchcraft, demons, and everything black magic has to offer; the real story is the family itself. We see this nuclear family has nuclear sized issues. In a way it feels comparable to if the Adams family became a dysfunctional mess, it wouldn’t just be their problem it would be all of ours.
The majority of debut issues in the market limp on a similar crutch of over exposition. Writers try to convey an exorbitant amount of information that steals the mystery from the narrative and consequently from the enjoyment of the readers. Niles crafts this opening chapter in the polar opposite. We get these gripping teases of who the Allan family was without overburdening the audience. A good story knows the necessary moment to peel back the information and October Faction is shaping up to go in that direction. That’s not to say the book doesn’t suffer from some minor opening flaws. The issue could have focused on Fredrick and his wife without having to introduce the daughter until future chapters and it ends a bit abruptly. However, none of that drastically hindered the enjoyment found within these pages.
IDW’s non-licensed properties all have a somewhat uniform aesthetic feel. October Faction fits right in with co-creator Damien Worm on art duties. Each page is one impressionist gothic painting after another. It’s a risky style for general comics’ audiences, but one that’s right at home in this specific genre. With Worm’s art you either really love the Kelly Jones and Sam Keith influences or you really hate them, personally I found myself enjoying the art. Although one of the challenges of the series going forward will be balancing details of the action with heavy darkness the illustration needs in order to thrive. It seems as though the creators are up to the task.
The October Faction is not for everyone, but horror comic fans will find a new interesting world where monsters and legends will be presented in unique ways. Issue one had a few stumbles but its got enough hook for the audience to stick around see what the next few issues will bring. This is shaping up to be Steve Niles doing what he does best; figuring out his own demons and desires through storytelling which makes October Faction worthy of being on your radar.
IN REAL LIFE, a graphic novel collaboration between journalist/author Cory Doctorow and comics creator Jen Wang, centers on a young gamer named Anda who becomes enraptured by an massively multiplayer online game (MMO) called “Coarsegold Online”. While logged-in, she makes new friends, including a gregarious fellow gamer named “Sarge” and a “gold-farmer” from China named Raymond. It’s the latter whose activities, which center on illegally collecting valuable objects in the game and selling them to other players from developed countries, begin to open up Anda’s perspectives on the concepts of right and wrong, and the power of action towards civil rights.
The book was a true eye-opener for me, as I’m not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination beyond the occasional dalliance on my console system at home. I was delighted when I received an opportunity to chat with Jen Wang about the origins of this project, its underlying themes, and how much of her own gaming experience played into the development of the narrative.
How did IN REAL LIFE (IRL) find its genesis? Did you know Cory Doctorow prior to working on this project?
Prior to IN REAL LIFE I was familiar with Cory Doctorow as a blogger and activist but I hadn’t read his fiction. ANDA’s GAME, the short story IRL is based on was actually the first piece I read. My publisher First Second sent me a link to the short and asked if I’d be interested. After reading that, it was hard to say no!
What is it about the subject matter that drew you in initially?
I like that it takes gaming, which many people see as frivolous entertainment, and gives it a real life context. The internet is inherently a social platform and it makes sense that it reflects our darker tendencies, such as exploiting people. I also like that it touches on the tension between China and the West. There’s just so much interesting material to explore and at the end of the day it’s still a simple story about two teenage gamers from different countries who become friends.
Your previous work, KOKO BE GOOD, also published through First Second, was solely written and illustrated by yourself. Do you find that there are inherent advantages in the collaborative process, and is there a method you prefer over the other?
It’s definitely a lot easier to illustrate your own work, that’s for sure. The collaborative process is more challenging, but you also get a second point a view and a direction to work towards. Sometimes in your personal work it takes a lot of soul searching to figure out what you’re trying to say but a collaborate project allows you to bounce off other people’s ideas and that’s really refreshing.
On the day to day work on the graphic novel, what was the working relationship between Cory and yourself? Were you in constant contact?
During the scripting phase of the book we were sending a lot of emails. I would write a draft, send it to Cory, and he would send some notes and bounce some ideas back. We went through maybe 8 or so drafts so it took a little while to nail down the final. I was pretty much left alone at the drawing stage, however.
How much of a specific vision did Cory have in the initial “Anda’s Game” script, and how much input did you have on character design before the development of IRL? Do you feel like Anda specifically has your “stamp” on her?
I had pretty much free reign as far as design went, so that part was fairly easy. When First Second approached me to do the project they wanted me to feel comfortable writing my own take, so mostly it was me pitching ideas to Cory and him giving me notes. I do feel like I have my stamp on Anda but then again I don’t know how it wouldn’t have happened naturally. She’s a nerdy teenage shut in and having been one myself I can relate to that a lot.
The gaming details throughout are very specific, do you have a significant gaming/MMO background as a user? If not, is that an area where Cory contributed significantly?
I don’t really have a background in MMOs but I played World of Warcraft for a couple weeks prior to starting the project. That plus a combination of sandbox games I’ve played were the inspiration for Coarsegold online. I mostly tried to create a game that felt familiar and yet tailored it to things I like in games. I’m very much into customization and resource management so it was fun to add things like to the book.
How do you sense that communication has changed for Generation Y and The Millennials? Do you find that you side more with Anda or her mother in what technology brings to social interaction?
I’m definitely on the Millennials side. I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I didn’t have access to the internet as a teenager. I met so many other young artists online and they really motivated me to create and challenge myself. Without it, I would’ve had to seek these people out in college in person and I would’ve been a lot more lonely and isolated. There are risks to putting yourself online but there are risks to be alive in the real world as well. The best you can do is exercise caution and be smart about your privacy in the same way you would anywhere.
Is there anything from your own experience pulled into Anda’s story, at least from a characterization standpoint? Do you see Anda as a role model? Was that the intention all along?
I was a lot like Anda in high school. I was a teenage hermit who spent a lot of time connecting to peers online within my community of choice. Like Anda, I found my identity online because I was able to meet other people like myself. I see Anda less as a traditional role model and more as someone readers could relate to. Like Anda, most young people now are discovering the world through the internet and it can be a difficult place to navigate.
What drove the design of the world of Coarsegold? Any specific influences?
World of Warcraft is the main one, but I also looked at the Final Fantasy games, Skyrim, and more open world games like Animal Crossing, The Sims and Second Life.
What was the thought process on the color-design that differentiates Coarsegold from “the real world”?
I definitely wanted Coarsegold to be more bright and colorful by contrast as a reflection of Anda’s feelings toward both realities. I used different filters and colored textures so that real life was a little more tan and monochromatic while Coarsegold looked lively and exciting.
When Anda somewhat bridges the gap between the two by changing her hair color to match her avatar, what kind of sea-change does that indicate for her personally?
At that point in the story Anda has finally found purpose and confidence in her role as a Fahrenheit. Not only has she befriended Raymond and discovered this world of goldfarming, but she’s taken on the task of helping him. It’s a decision she’s been able to make for herself separate from what her peers have led her to believe, and changing her hair color is a symbol of this newfound confidence.
IN REAL LIFE defies expectations a bit in that it shifts a bit touching briefly on females in gaming (with the very succinct hand-raising scene in the classroom and some of the concerns of “Sarge”) and then moves into an area centering on economics and specifically civil rights. Do you sense a strong correlation between the two themes?
Oh, for sure. As in real life, the conflict within Coarsegold comes from who is considered an “other.” As a young girl in gaming, Anda is a minority, yet she’s in a position of power compared to Raymond who is not only a foreigner who doesn’t speak English, but also a goldfarmer. They’re able to connect as outsiders of this gaming establishment and both are fighting for the right to be themselves and be seen as equals.
I have to admit that the term “gold farming” is fairly new to me (as a non-gamer), and IRL paints a very morally grey picture around that activity, what do you feel as though readers should take from the book’s portrayal of that subject?
Gold farming was new to me too until I started researching for this book. There is a lot of grey area and it’s still evolving. What I do hope the readers takes away from IRL is the ability to keep an open mind about the people on the other side of the tracks and be empathetic to their struggles. On the surface the gold farming community appears to be taking advantage of game-makers and the “purity” of the game. On the other hand the gold farmers themselves are actually big fans who can only participate by being taken advantage of.
What inspired the creation of Raymond? Both in the look of his avatar and the character’s plight in China?
I wanted the goldfarmers to look small and vulnerable compared to everyone else. They haven’t been able to level up their characters and they’re not customized so Raymond doesn’t look any different from his peers. I also wanted them to not look human so as to “otherize” the goldfarmers in the eyes of Anda and Lucy at the beginning of the story. For Raymond’s human backstory I took a lot of inspiration from a book I read called FACTORY GIRLS: FROM VILLAGE TO CITY IN A CHANGING CHINA by Leslie T. Chang. It paints these very compassionate portraits of young female migrant workers and the everyday victories and struggles they face. Raymond comes from a very disadvantaged background but he’s also clever and ambitious enough to get what he wants (to play Coarsegold) with the means that he has.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate as a creator publishing a book within the Young Adult literary genre? Does that affect the kinds of stories you hope to tell?
I don’t make it a point to be an educator, but I hope my stories reflect the world I’d like to see and the problems I’d like us to overcome.
If there was one-key take away or message from IN REAL LIFE that should highlighted, what would that be?
Be compassionate to others and be aware of how your role in the community may be inadvertently hurting others less privileged than you.
What’s next on the horizon for you post the release of IRL next month? Any new projects that you can share?
I have a couple new projects I can’t really talk about yet, but I’m excited to share I’m co-organizing a new comics festival in Los Angeles called Comics Arts LA. It’s a one day event that will take place on December 6th. We’ve got really great exhibitors lined up so it’s going to be fun. If any readers out there are in Southern California that weekend, I encourage you to come check it out! http://comicartsla.com
IN REAL LIFE will be available in a bookstore near you on October 14th through First Second
The Death of Wolverine has gone over exceedingly well – or at least it has in my shop. Putting aside sales numbers (which were apparently great), the event has garnered quite a bit of attention in the medium and the shop in general. After putting a few copies in the window, we get a steady flow of people who either haven’t read comics or haven’t read comics in years walking into the store, wondering what’s going on – and as any retailer will tell you, getting people through the door is often half the battle. Local news affiliates stopped by the store to interview me about the Wolverine statue that folks are pushing to erect in the city in the wake of the runt’s impending death, which has garnered a few more drop ins. And a bonus? The story has been pretty great and has featured quite a bit of reader retention. I mean, the first three issues could have been terrible, and a certain amount of people would have stuck out to the bitter end, but quality books are far easier to sell, and ease is always appreciated. In the end, I should have no problem burning through the hefty order I placed, which is a calming notion. Unfortunately, the whole thing seems to have awakened more speculators, which is really sticking in my craw.
First things first: I would never begrudge a person who wants to make money off of their comic purchases. Doing so would be blindingly hypocritical coming from a man who puts food in his mouth by doing the same thing on a bulk-purchase scale. If you want to buy several copies of Harley Quinn a month and sell a few of them on the internet for a few extra scheckles, go right ahead! Go forth and reap those rewards. My problem comes up when the speculative market starts to overwhelm the reading market, creating shuddering blips in supply and demand that end up distorting the value of comics, perceived or otherwise. That’s when things get dangerous, and we’re getting closer and closer to the tipping point with each and every event these days.
When most people think of speculation, they think of the decadent excess of the 90s, when retailers were purchasing comics by the pallet and customers were buying them buy the case. Despite the fact that the industry was drowning in product, there was the idea that certain comics were going to be worth money, based off of past performance. Pouncing on this, comic companies did everything and anything they could do to get some quick, easy money. Multiple covers were produced, holograms and foil and glow-in-the-dark inks were introduced into the printing process, and everyone generally went crazy manufacturing inflated demand for a large supply, never stopping to scale back and look at the quality and contents of what was being sold. In the end, the basic retail forces of proper supply and demand reasserted themselves. Things crashed, and crashed hard.
You can find these everywhere. One is watching you right now. Another phones you weekly, but never speaks.
Our current market is a reflection of what happened in the nineties, both in terms of its’ current shape, and the effect that speculation is having on it today. While I feel as though the quality of the product has never been higher in terms of storytelling and paper stock, quantities are nowhere near what the industry was shifting even just a decades ago. Some of that is due to the general attrition that has come to once strong mediums like radio, television, music and movies, but a good deal of it emerged from the sense of worth that comics have been stuck with since the speculative bubble popped. Not only were people purchasing comics by the handful expecting to make a mint, people were buying $2 comics for wildly inflated prices. Both parties have been unhappy to learn that their investments have largely not paid off. Every single day, I get at least one call from someone hoping to unload a collection of “really old comics” on me for stacks of cash, and almost every single day, I have to inform said parties that their piles of comics are worth next to nothing. Whether I’m telling them that they won’t see a large return on their bulk purchase, or that they spent $20 on a book that is only worth cover price, the fact remains: I am telling them that their comics are worthless. Most eventually take that bit of information and simplify it to “comics are worthless”. A person with that idea floating around in their head certainly isn’t predisposed to discovering or rediscovering the medium – and that’s a huge problem that the boom left the current industry with.
Compounding this is the fact that bulk speculation still occurs today. There are still people out there buying piles of The Walking Dead and Harley Quinn in hopes that they will be turning a profit on said books in the near or far future. Hell, there are retailers who purchase copies of books and deliberately short stack the shelves and keep stacks of books in their back room, all in the hopes of getting more cash at a later date. While I can’t really blame anyone for doing this, or making money off of a book when demand is tight and supply is high, it always puts a deep dark pit in my stomach. Playing with or deliberately creating blips in supply or manufacturing and manipulating demand never ends well. It’s dynamite in the short term, but it can not be relied upon in the long term, and it is often irreparably damaging. You can take a look at any economy that has toyed with building and manipulating supply and demand for profit and see the effects. The short term is always wonderful, but the long term? The long term is often nightmarish. And sure, everyone and everything can and often will recover, but not without incurring loss. The comic industry has been through such a period once. It’s threatening to do it again, as multiple covers and gimmicks sweep through the culture again, everyone searching for the quick dollar and the easy sell.
I’m not going to pretend like I’m not a part of this: I ordered far more Death of Wolverine than I could sell to readers. I did this, because I knew that speculators would want to get their hands on some copies, and that some would want multiples. I knew that these same speculators would look at the variants offered, and place down extra money to procure them. I increased my orders because I knew that ordering less would leave my readers high and dry. They’d be waiting for second printings while other people slid their copies in bags, never intending to read them or return to the store. I would damage my relationship with my regular customers for those with temporary deep pockets. In such a situation, I am damned if I do place a big order, because I’m enabling something that will clearly not end well, or I am damned if I don’t, because my regular customers will suffer. In the end, I try to do my best to make sure that my regulars are served, and leave the rest to be what it will be. That’s all I really can do.
Now, to really illustrate my outlook on this, I want to share with you a recent encounter I had at the store. A man walked in, looking to purchase any and all of the Death of Wolverine #1 variants that we had. One of everything. I gladly did this, and offered him a discount, because he was dropping a sizeable wad of cash on what was essentially the same book reprinted however-many-times-over. Four weeks later, the man returns to buy all of the Death of Wolverine #3 variants. A note: he did not come to the store to grab our #2s. He was just hitting the store as it was the most convenient place for him at the moment. After purchasing the books, he asked if there was a way we could offer him a discount of some kind for whenever he came through the door. I asked if he would be interested in grabbing issue four and it’s various covers from us. He said he didn’t know, because he wasn’t sure where he’d be. I let him know that we give discounts to people who subscribe to or pre-order certain series, because it helps us know what to order. He then said, (and this is word for word), “So even though I’ve spent more in your store in one month than some of these guys spend all year, you won’t give me a discount?”
More like “rad-mantium”, amirate?
Now, I never said I wouldn’t give him a discount, but at that point, his voice was getting sharp and irritated, and I was in no mood. He was essentially asking me what I valued more: his admittedly arbitrary patronage (a further note: I had never seen this man before in my eight years of working at the store) or someone who came in week after week, month after month, and kept us in business. I kindly informed him that discounts were reserved for regular customers, at which point, he stormed out of the establishment. I doubt I will see him again. That said, I really doubt I was going to see him before or after October 15th when the final issue hit, and he purchased that last of the run. At the end of the day, I’m not losing sleep over that one – and I have the added bonus that the copies he was going to procure will probably end up in the hands of someone who will come back.
In the end, that’s all a store can do. People will always come in and do as they will – the only thing you can control is the way you act and react to them. As a retailer, you will never be able to stop speculation – but you can do everything in your power to temper the effects. Make sure that above all else, you are serving your regulars, and that you have the product and mindfulness to keep pushing to make more people come into and return to your store. The easiest way to do this? Don’t speculate yourself. Purchase to match demand as well as you can, and when you don’t, resist the urge to mark up your final copies. There’s a reason why the comic companies priced the comic the way they did: that’s what they believe the contents within are worth. $3, $3.50, $4… that’s the real monetary worth of a comic, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Be good in your ordering, be great to your customers, and reward those who are good to you in return. If enough retailers do this, the industry shouldn’t have trouble moving forward.
[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]
Welcome to Go FOC Yourself, a weekly column at The Beat about comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of the retail process that don’t merit a full column. This week, I’ve been diving through the back issues in our overstock and I have caught a little space madness. This will turn out quite well.
SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #9
For the course of this book’s entire run, I’ve been typing “Superman Unchined”, which is a thing that I want to seen drawn for reasons. You definitely needed to know that, especially given my propensity for grammatical errors.
This week’s final order cut off has the last issue of Superman Unchained, and now I can set fire my feelings of disappointment and send the whole thing off to sea. While Scott Snyder and Jim Lee put together a phenomenal book, DC could have done so much more with this series. So, so much more.
The series launched in June last year with an eye to become the flagship Superman title as the Man of Steel movie hit the theatres. A new ongoing featuring white hot creator Scott Snyder and artist powerhouse Jim Lee? There was almost no way DC could screw up this marketing opportunity. And yet.
Starting with the baffling Unchained moniker, the entire run of this series runs like “how to not sell a series” seminar. Launching a new Superman book along with the movie? Smart. Doing so without the easy cash in of the unused Man of Steel series title? A little foolish. Then there was the decision to attach a creative team whose time was heavily taxed, resulting in heavy delays. While seeing the names Scott Snyder and Jim Lee on a Superman book definitely moved a few copies, the shipping schedule did more harm than good. Add to that the fact that this was nothing more than a mini-series disguised as an ongoing, and things get a bit dicier.
There are two things a series needs to have going for it in order to sell: it has to be regular, and it has to be ongoing. The characters and creative team involved certainly matter to a great extent, but all is for naught if a series doesn’t ship on time, or if it has a pre-announced end point. Retailers and fans alike will react negatively to books with pre-set end dates and late shipping books.. If a series manages to combine both qualifiers, it’s doubly bad. Do you know where a series by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee should be on the sales charts? Name power alone says it should be destroying Batman, let alone a launch tied in with a movie watched by millions of people. In practice, it moves a little over half the copies that Batman does. Is that where Jim Lee should be on the stands? Most certainly not – but you can’t shrug off the effects of a late shipping book. Late shipping books tell the reader that they are going to have to wait for content – and if the word “wait” is floating around in their heads, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump over to “I might as well wait until this comes out in collection”. Why tease yourself with content once every… three months? Why not wait to get the whole story?
This reaction is always compounded when a series is only set to run a certain amount of issues. DC curtailed a lot of this by leaving the status of this series deliberately vague. History stated that if Jim Lee was attached as an artist, the consecutive run wouldn’t be a long one, owing to his general production pace, and the demands placed on him as one of the higher ups in DC – but the question remained: would the series continue with different creative components? Would Unchained become a strange boutique book for big creators, or would it go the Astonishing X-Men route, tossing on creative team after creative team until the whole thing lost steam and came to a halt? The answer turned out to be “retroactive mini-series” which is the worst of all possible outcomes. While a different creative team is never ideal, it does elongate the span of time a retailer can sell a book – because make no mistake: a book might be popular when it is coming out, but sales (especially back issue sales) take a steep nosedive the moment that a final issue hits the shelves. Why? Well, if the series has ended, and the momentum has stopped, why not wait for a collection? There’s no impetis to go forward, no reason to collect. And so, a book like this bleeds away 75% of its sales over the course of it’s 9 issue run, both a success (because it always sold enough) and a failure (because it could have been so much more). And in the course of it’s run, it also damaged the idea of a Superman series selling in the current market. Have you seen the numbers for the Geoff Johns/John Romita Jr. run? Pitiful, considering the players involved, and I suspect it has a direct correlation to the fact that DC couldn’t properly execute a big launch tied to a movie, with two of the company’s biggest creators and a new number one. Seriously, how do you mess that up?
Speaking of the whole “finite series” stigma, have you ever noticed how Marvel generally doesn’t tell people when something has reached the end of it’s run? For the most part, they wait to let people know about the last issue in a series until after a retailer places their final orders for the final issue. In this way, they bypass a bit of the “finite series” stigma, and can squeeze a few extra sales out of a dead series. It’s short term thinking at it’s worst, and probably effects titles like Loki and Hulk when they disappear for a few months without much in the way of explanation. (Yes, I know both series were put on hold while the Original Sin series ran, but you had to be the type who pays attention to the actual comics and the Comics Internet, and a good chunk of reatilers do not do that. So.)
ON ITS AXIS
art by Jim Cheung
This has already passed the point of being on the final order cut-off, but the heft of the event demands a little bit of comment: I breezed through the copy of AXIS #1 that Marvel provided about a week back, and noticed a few interesting things. One: the file was called Days of Future Now, which I would guess was the working title for the storyline. Two: the story does rely heavily on the events that have taken place in Uncanny Avengers, so much so that it could almost function as a continuation of that series. The recap page does take care of the bigger plot points that need to be addressed, but if you’re the type to require more of a complete experience, I would definitely hazard on the side of grabbing the Road to AXIS issues of Uncanny Avengers – and if you’re the really plot sensitive type, I’d get the whole damn series. A note: with the right attitude, you can read AXIS just fine without complication – in fact, the majority of folks predisposed to this kind of story will and love it. That said, there are more than a few delicate flowers out there who will need to start grabbing copies now. If you’re a retailer and know the type, make sure you have back issues at the ready. If you’re a customer, and feel the itch, start looking now before someone else does.
FOC PICK OF THE WEEK // RASPUTIN #1
Russia’s famous love machine.
So many reasons to pick up this series. I started following Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo when they started Proof together, and both have grown considerably in that time. Alex is now a New York Times best selling author, and Riley has gone on to produce some stunning works, from creator owned book like Green Wake, all the way to the trippy drug sequences in the later issues of Daken: Dark Wolverine.
This series digs right into the heart of all the weird Russian history stuff that I loved as a kid – only this is comics, so things get strange pretty fast. Rasputin by way of dark magic and occasional bears. This is something you need.
TO BE CONTINUED…
And that’s where things end for this week. Next time, the first batch of November releases will hit the sheets, and we’ll go through all of that then. And hey, maybe I’ll get around to changing the title of this series. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’m taking suggestions, BTW.
Stay tuned for Monday when my Retailer’s View series resumes with an update on how The Death of Wolverine is selling and the preliminary results of speculators flocking to the series. Until then, you can check out my column on events in general, and stress the hell out.
We are excited to announce that the all-ages adventure book, The Tall Tales of Talbot Toluca – Quest For The Ore Crystals, is the recipient of a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Award. The kickstarter funded project combines the fun visual style of comics with interactive puzzles and games, resulting in an all out adventure for all ages. Now available for purchase via our online shop and also on Amazon.com
Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Results
“Celebrating Youthful Curiosity, Discovery and Learning through Books and Learning”
Jenkins Group is proud to announce the winners of the 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. Launched in 2007, the awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators, and to celebrate children’s books and life-long reading. Congratulations to all the winners!
Listed below are the Moonbeam Spirit Award winners, followed by the seventh annual 2014 Moonbeam Awards results, listed by category, and Ebook category winners.
Creating books that inspire our children to read, to learn, and to dream is an extremely important task, and these awards were conceived to reward those efforts. Each year’s entries are judged by expert panels of youth educators, librarians, booksellers, and book reviewers of all ages. Award recipients receive gold, silver and bronze medals and stickers depicting a mother and child reading and silhouetted by a full moon.
If Men of Wrath‘s ‘Mail of Wrath’ letters column is true, author Jason Aaron has one bleak family tree. His latest creator-owned title comes from the same deep, dark pit that birthed his previous collaboration in the space, Southern Bastards; and even if he is bringing in a different team for this title, it has that same tone of the other series. Protagonist Ira Rath is one seriously messed up guy, and this issue goes out of its way to paint the shades of an anti-hero who still somehow manages to be interesting enough to follow. Tales with lead characters that are this deadly can sometimes be difficult to relate to in the necessary manner, but Aaron crafts point-of-view narration towards the beginning of the book that immediately dispels all other reservations that fans may possibly have regarding the way that the audience reacts to these characters.
There are so many things that could have gone completely wrong with this story that Aaron seemingly avoids. The author could have softened up Ira too much, and he could have reversed one of the terrible scenes that happen towards the middle of the book. He could have put too much explanation as to why Ira is the way that he is, but there is one simple scene and narrative hook that ties this entire issue together with ease. There are many positive aspects about Men of Wrath #1 worth writing home about, but there is one that is especially genius which actually came as a surprise to me–the pencils of Ron Garney.
Garney isn’t someone who has created comics in the independent space before. Here, the artist reigns in his craft and tells a story that is much more focused and down to earth. For someone who drew Thor recently, this is quite impressive. The pencils in the tale are not incredibly detailed here, as they only show the necessary additions to the story, but everything presented is solid here. Matt Milla assists the art greatly with his bold color choices. The sections toward each half of the comic are very clearly defined from each other. Flashbacks have a different tone that is easy to differentiate from the main comic. It also helps that Garney approaches the flashbacks differently in how he draws the stories. The attention to detail on clothing choices and other flourishes are subtle additions that serve to enhance the story.
Possibly the best part about this comic is the note at the end written by Aaron. The author paints a vivid picture through words about how everything in the story meshes into his own personal life. It’s something that is hopefully included in the trade, because it does help put the very heavy story into the appropriate context and celebrate the fact that the audience is reading a story about someone who is truly horrible. The text is unconventional, and something that needs to be included if there is ever a trade of the series. It also may be slightly disheartening that this does exist in the midst of something like Southern Bastards. This story is missing some of the scenery and the personality of that titles’ more deep-fried sensibilities. Also, at a certain point, it is almost like Aaron is competing with himself in the amount of books he is writing.
Even in the context of Southern Bastards, Men of Wrath is something that will churn your stomach in the best way. Aaron is almost doing his equivalent of Garth Ennis in this story. Either way, this is one messed up comic book that I took sheer delight in reading. If you give Men of Wrath your time this week, it will allow suck readers to stare into the bleak pit of aforementioned despair. This comic is really messed up, but in the most painfully, delightful manner.
I’m looking forward to reading this series. It’s the perfect time of year for to start a new supernatural romance!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VIZ MEDIA MIXES SWEET PASSION AND DARK INTRIGUE IN THE NEW MANGA SERIES
A Beautiful Girl Falls For The Old-World Charm Of A Mysterious Vampire Romance Writer—With His Own Taste For Blood!
New Shojo Series Launches In Print And Digitally!
San Francisco, CA, September 25, 2014 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, opens Fall with a fiery mixture of bloodthirsty romance and supernatural intrigue in Miko Mitsuki’s shojo manga series – HONEY BLOOD. Set for release under the Shojo Beat imprint, Volume 1 of the 3-part series launches on October 7th and is rated ‘T’ for Teens. Print volumes each carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.
In the opening volume, everyone is on edge when a girl at Hinata Sorazono’s school is attacked by what seems to be a bloodsucking vampire. Hinata refuses to believe that vampires even exist, but then she meets her new neighbor, Junya Tokinaga, the author of an incredibly popular vampire romance novel. Dressed in a kimono with an old-world air about him, Junya has a taste of Hinata’s blood and tells her it’s sweet… Hinata can’t help but be drawn to Junya, but could it be that he’s actually a vampire—and worse yet, the culprit behind the attacks?!
“Junya Tokinaga is a mysterious and handsome man, so readers will swoon along with Hinata and become captivated by his complicated past and the bloodthirsty secret he hides,” says Amy Yu, Editor. “The stage is set for charged passion and love in this sultry series from Miko Mitsuki.”
HONEY BLOOD creator Miko Mitsuki hails from Kagoshima Prefecture in southernmost Japan and debuted with the manga title, Utakata, in 2003. She is currently working on projects for Sho-Comi magazine.
For more information on HONEY BLOOD, or other shojo manga titles from VIZ Media, please visit www.VIZ.com.
About VIZ Media, LLC
Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan. Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular digital manga anthology WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages. VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products. Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at www.VIZ.com.
Michael Del Mundo is an artist who’s responsible for so many great comic book covers of late, but I didn’t realize, until recently, who he was. The new Marvel Now Elektra series features both cover art, and interiors by Del Mundo, and it’s received a ton of well deserved critical acclaim. In fact, he, and writer William H. Blackman have impressed Marvel so much with their work that they’ve been promised another project once Elektra ends.
Del Mundo has brought the same unconventional, and dynamic style to his interior artwork, that has made his covers so memorable. I’m looking forward to see what comes next for this exciting, young artist!
Michael Del Mundo is from the Philippines, and currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can follow his blog here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my websitecomicstavern.com- Andy Yates
Last week may have been New York Fashion Week, but the 2014 track season was Maggie Vessey’s Fashion statement.
No need to say more.
Vessey took the opportunity of being a ‘free agent’ to prove she’s got the creative talents to match her performance prowess on the track.
“I do want to draw attention to the sport and maybe give people who aren’t necessarily interested in track and field a reason to be interested,” Vessey told Runner’s World. “But it is a very authentic expression of who I am, and I now have this opportunity to be able to put that out there, be bold, and take a risk.”
To all those eating her fashionably savvy dust, heed the words: look good, feel good.
With the fabric of the universe torn, all that stands between us and invading horrors is a team of cosmic misfits. Led by Star-Lord, the newly-minted Guardians of the Galaxy include a who’s who of the mightiest -and most bizarre – protectors the stars have ever seen! Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Gamora, Adam Warlock, Mantis, the all-new Quasar, Cosmo the telepathic space dog and more take on the universe’s most dangerous menaces…and have fun while doing it!
COLLECTING: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2008) 1-12
Series: Guardians of the Galaxy
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Marvel (August 12, 2014)
Weave Magazine is now open for submissions through May 31, 2015. We are a print publication dedicated to promoting cultural diversity, accepting the best works of literary fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, drama, and visual art that transfix, transport, and inspire. Currently, we are seeking more submissions for the genres listed below. More information about how to submit can be found on our submissions page.
Deadline: May 31, 2015
Poetry: 3-5 poems Flash Fiction: 1-3 stories, each 1000 words or less Fiction: 3,000 words or less Nonfiction: 3,000 words or less Drama: less than 4,000 words Reviews: 500-800 words Comics/Illustrations/Visual Essays/Stories/Poems: Black and white only
Hey there! It seems like time to give you an update on this comic about Anxiety I am doing. In short: it's still going on, tehre weren't many updates because I am working on a picture book, but I have planned and written and collated and thought. There will be more soon, and there will be a book eventually.
Life is good, I have a great studio now, and I'm really enjoying my projects. Inbetween drawings and writings I am building kites.
It was great news when it was announced that Stray Bullets would be returning to comic stands again, with the new series Stray Bullets: Killers. I’ve been a fan of David Lapham’s work since 1995, when a local comics shop owner handed me a copy of Stray Bullets #1, and said, “I know you like different stuff. You should try this.” Well, Stray Bullets was different than your average super-hero/cartoon comic book, that’s for sure. It read like a mixture of Pulp Fiction, and Mean Streets. The series was self-published, and self-marketed for 10 years, with 40 issues produced, which is quite an impressive feat in the volatile comics market. Lapham took a break from Stray Bullets in 2005, and did writing/drawing work for many of the major publishers, including Young Liars for DC/Vertigo, Daredevil vs. Punisher for Marvel, and Crossed for Avatar Press.
It makes perfect sense that he would take the long awaited final issue of Stray Bullets, #41, and the spin off series Killers to Image Comics, since the publisher has now become a safe haven for the type of original, creator owned comics that David Lapham was an early pioneer of.
In addition to Stray Bullets: Killers, Lapham recently completed his first all-ages series, Juice Squeezers, and he’s currently writing the comics adaptation of the hit FX TV series(and series of books) The Strain, both published by Dark Horse Comics.
Written by Karla Oceanak Illustrated by Kendra Spanjer Bailiwick Press 6/10/2014 978-1-934649-49-7 Age 7+ 160 pages x x “Finding a dinosaur bone is like hitting the jackpot, right? Dino fossils are worth millions! Plus you get to b famous! You’re minding your own kid business when bam!—out of the mud pop fortune and glory. Ka-ching! That’s how I thought it would go, anyway, after my best friend, Jack, and I found a fossil in our neighborhood ditch. But as usual, grown-up rules made things way too complicated.”
“I wish we could play outside. This morning, I said that. I mean, I actually heard my own voice speak those exact words. Me. Aldo Zelnick.”
Aldo and his best friend, Jack, actually did go outside to play. It was cold and muddy causing the boys to slip and slid right into a neighborhood ditch. This is when Jack finds a big rock that, when cleaned, is much better than a rock. It is a fossil—a dinosaur fossil, right from their own backyard.
Aldo believes the fossil is worth millions of dollars and holds this hope out to the very end. Jack is thinking only of fame. A famous paleontologist, a famous middle grade paleontologist, would be cool, he thought. Jack holds out this hope to the very end. This is the only contention between Aldo and Jack: fame or fortune, but why not both!
The boys head to the natural history museum to find out what kind of fossil they found and, for Aldo, how much it is worth. Aldo thinks the museum will pay him on the spot—they do not. But, it is a dinosaur bone and the ditch might just have more bones. Now the boys must get the neighborhood to consent to digging up the ditch, and then find the rest of the dinosaur. Once done, Aldo and Jack will go on tour with their fame and fortunes. If only they can keep everyone out of the ditch until excavation day.
When we last read about Aldo he was skiing in Ignoramus. Since then, Aldo and Jack have changed only incrementally, as they normally would. I like that the authors are not maturing the characters quickly. Of course, with twenty-six books, they have lots of room to let the characters blossom slowly. Still, Aldo may be in college by the time “Z” hits the shelves. Aldo is still using his diary to write about his life and then—oh, I meant his journal, so sorry. Sometimes a good character just sticks with you and Aldo is one of those characters. He also wants you to know he is an artist and draws some terrific scenes that help readers visualize his stories.
In “J,” for Jackpot, Aldo and his best friend Jack finally go outside to play. They do not pick the best day, as it is cold and the ground is muddy and slippery. Aldo and Jack slip and slide into a neighborhood ditch. In the ditch Jack loosens a great looking rock. The rock turns out to be a dinosaur bone and more could be in that ditch. Aldo thinks this is great fortune, as in money. Jack thinks this is fortunate, as in fame. He would love a dinosaur named after him. Aldo would probably like a bank, or at least the largest vault, named after him. They have hit the JACKPOT!
As in books A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I, J (for Jackpot) is crazy and funny with loads of mishaps, misunderstandings, and a girl interfering—or trying to—with Aldo and his journals. Jackpot is not a graphic novel. It contains enough text to keep the story on track and moving, but not so much as to crowd out the wonderful illustrations meant to be from Aldo. I love the detailed illustrations that greatly enhance the story. Aldo and Jack both sport Indiana Jones hats (fedoras). Kids will love the black and white “doodles” Aldo draws on nearly every page.
I enjoyed Jackpot, reading it in one sitting. Middle grade kids—especially reluctant readers—will love this series. The characters are believable, multi-dimensional, likable and in many ways familiar to everyday life. Reluctant readers will appreciate the story staying on track and the short chapters. Kids can stop reading at any point, and when ready, easily reemerge back into the story. This is most terrific for reluctant readers who are at a distinct disadvantage with continuing a book midway through.
As far as the actual writing is concerned, the story stays on point even when Aldo goes off on a tangent. Aldo’s tangential thoughts are about money. In several illustrations, Aldo has made long lists of numbers needing added to project his coming wealth. The characters, especially Aldo and Jack, are easy to care about as the story progresses. If you have been reading the alphabet series known as Aldo Zelnick, you already care about Aldo and Jack, but the author makes no assumptions and brings new readers into the fan club.
Jackpot is the tenth book in Aldo’s series. I like that each of these books introduces new words that begin with that book’s letter. Jackpot, then, has words beginning with the letter “J.” Examples include jabbering, jack squat, jicama, and several French words like Joie de vivre and jugo de naranja. There is a glossary in the back, which defines each “J” word. In the text, the highlighted words are marked with an asterisk (*).
The Aldo Zelnick series is similar to The Wimpy Kid except that Jackpot, and every book thus far, have better defined illustrations. I like the “J” words in Jackpot. The glossary defines each of these words. I also like reading the comic Bacon Boy by Aldo Zelnick. How often do you get two books in one and both books are terrific? Aldo and Bacon Boy have a lot in common. I think Bacon Boy is Aldo and a safe, funny way for Aldo to document his childhood. Kids will laugh their hinnies off, no external exercise needed.
Wild Age Press is starting a new daily e-zine, but Restless isn’t going to be just any lit mag. We’re going to focus on the edgiest work being written today, the things more conservative journals are too scared to touch. We want your best, scariest (but not in a Stephen King kind of way), most experimental work. We want work that’s going to keep us up at night.
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It's September and the kiddies are back at school, getting reacquainted with math, trading lunches, and praying for recess. Recess! That hallowed period carved out of the school day when no one is telling you what to do--or not much. In celebration of this cherished intermission, the brother-and-sister team of Jennifer L. Holm and Mathhew Holm (creators of Babymouse and Squish) and Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Lunchlady) have put together a collection of graphic shorts that feature every student's favorite subject.
The eight comic selections veer from the silly to the sillier. The anthology starts with the brilliant Gene Luen Yang's "The Super-Secret Ninja Club," a savvy story about a dweeby kid who aspires to be a member of said club. Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame signs in with a subversive homework assignment from our friends George B. and Harold H. Their assignment is prefaced with a note home from their teacher, who informs the parents: "I have told both boys on numerous occasions that the classroom is no place for creativity." Other contributors include Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, Dan Santat, Raina Telgemeier, and Dave Roman. All supply hilarious riffs on the ups and downs of recess.
Comics Squad: Recess! Edited by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm, Jarrett J. Krosoczka Random House, 144 pages Published: July 2014
Author D.J. Kirkbride has been an important force in the comics’ industry for years now spearheading projects like Amelia Cole for Monkey Brain Comics with Co-Author Adam Knave and artist Nick Brokenshire. As Amelia Cole continued to grow larger, the author then shifted gears along with Adam Knave to work on Never Ending, a book about an immortal superhero. Now the author is going solo, and launching a new title from IDW Comics entitled The Bigger Bang, a story about a second of the fabled Big Bang events spawning a Superhuman golden age type hero. Through the unique vision of artist Vassilis Gogtzilas, the two are likely going to craft a superhero tale unlike any other with The Bigger Bang. Author Kirkbride shared some further insight into the project:
Where did your interest in Superheroes stem from, and what do they mean to you?
There is nary a memory from a time in my life where, if I were being honest, I didn’t wish I was wearing a cape. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE came out when I was still very new to the world (yeah, I’m old), and it is the basis of my entire outlook on everything somehow. I love heroes, and super ones are, you know, even better. The idea of bigger than life characters helping the regular folk, having epic struggles and battles… what’s not to love?
After NEVER ENDING, why continue to deconstruct the modern Superhero? Is this going to be a better deconstruction of the superhero than WATCHMEN (no pressure or anything)?
THE BIGGER BANG has nothing to do with WATCHMEN. It is as far from “what if superheroes were real?” as a comic could get. In my notebook, I one time wrote “THE BIGGER BANG: A Cosmic Fairy Tale”. That’s what it really is. It is not a deconstruction of anything. I don’t really like taking things I love apart, to be honest. Superheroes are great. I don’t want to pick at them. People much smarter than me already have.
How did the creative team come together?
Vassilis and I met on some anthologies I was editing. We worked together on a short story for an anthology called TITMOUSE MOOK Vol. 2, along with my co-writer pal Adam P. Knave. It was a lot of fun, and we tried to get some other things going that never worked out for whatever reason. After a while of doing our own things, Vass sent us a picture of a big, amazingly over muscled superhero guy floating in space and asked if we wanted to do a cosmic superhero book with him. Adam and I were (and still are) writing AMELIA COLE together, but he was (and still is) also co-writing a series called ARTFUL DAGGERS, plus who knows how many novels and stories and… the guy’s way more prolific than me. So, he didn’t feel he had time. I had plenty and was hungry to try something new, without the crutch of writing with someone way smarter than me, so I went for it. Vass is obviously very involved in the story piecing and development, visually and thematically, plus our IDW editor Justin Eisinger has helped me a great deal, being a sounding board and a source of ideas. And mainly saying, “LESS WORDS, MAN!” which has worked out well, I think.
Is the group worried about the series possibly touching on religious implications, or is the team instead looking at the incident from an alternate history touchstone?
We do go along with the Big Bang origin of life, but I’d be surprised if there was any controversy or anything. This is a crazy science fantasy adventure with far out ideas and drama so I personally find it pretty funny, but we don’t talk about religion at all, actually.
This is D.J. Kirkbride’s first solo writing effort for a while isn’t it? What was it like to tackle a project with fewer collaborators?
Vass and Justin have really helped guide the story with me, and our letterer, Frank Cvetkovic, has helped keep the words and the art together, the glue, honestly. But, to be perfectly frank, it’s been scary. Aside from a few anthology shorts, I’ve co-written all of my comics’ work with Adam. Doing this without him was a challenge I really felt I needed though. He has read different edits of the first issue, because his feedback means a lot to me, but, yeah, I wrote the words without him. It freaked me out and is still freaking me out. The wacky part is that Adam is far better versed in big cosmic comics than I am, and this kind of huge space opera madness is right up his alley, whereas I tend to lean toward smaller, more personal and dialog-heavy writing. How did the team decide that IDW was the right home for the project?
Vass has worked with IDW on a great mini-series called THE ADVENTURES OF AUGUSTA WIND, written by none other than J.M. DeMatteis, one of the best comic writers of all time — no pressure to be his next writer, right? I also work with them on the AMELIA COLE print collections, so it seemed like a good fit. They put out good books, but it wouldn’t have happened without Justin Eisinger. Something about the core of our pitch, the basic idea of this character’s birth causing so much destruction with pseudo-science and fantasy spoke to him, I guess. He championed us, and this book wouldn’t be happening with out that fella.
What does the supporting cast for the book look like?
It’s a diverse group. The lead character, Cosmos, is the only one that looks traditionally human — at least an amazingly muscular human. There’s a kinda heavy, tentacled, green monster in a crown called King Thulu who kind of runs this sector of the multi-verse. His best warrior pilot is a three-eyed darker green lady named Wyan. She’s the character that has maybe the most interesting arc to me, and it grew very organically. There are many other aliens of various shapes and sizes, some of which started with brief descriptions from me, many just visualized from Vass’s amazing mind.
Is it difficult to compress a story into a limited space of pages in four issues after working on the AMELIA COLE series from Monkey Brain?
Actually, AMELIA COLE is the first ongoing series I’ve ever worked on, so that was the challenge at first. Before that, I’d gotten very used to writing really short stories for anthologies. I like stories with endings, even AMELIA COLE will have one someday (hopefully far, FAAAAAAR off into the future), so that’s how we designed and pitched THE BIGGER BANG. We had a story with a beginning, middle, and end. If possible, I’d love to do more one day, but if not, these four issues compose a complete story that I think folks will enjoy. Is Vassilis Gogtzilas’ work completely painted in the title?
No, he is doing pencils, inks, and digital colors for the interiors. The painted covers were his idea, and I love them. It’ll be great seeing it in print and looking at it up close, because he is not a careful, timid painter. You can see the chunks and textures of the paint. It’s really cool. I love all the covers and can’t wait to be able to share them. I think they get better with each issue.
Does his work and style alter from the different projects he draws?
Oh yeah, Vass is eclectic. His style can vary within a project–from page to page. It’s not random. He’s a very emotional artist, and he’s more concerned with how the art FEELS than realism. It’s been an interesting challenge writing for him sometimes because his mind moves so differently than mine. It’s amazing, and I would have never come up with something like this on my own. It is a true collaboration.
When can fans dash out to their local comic book shops to pick up THE BIGGER BANG #1?
Issue 1 is out November 19, 2014. If anyone out there is interested, please pre-order it with item code SEP140487. Pre-orders are way too important, but that’s the way it is. There is a lot of competition for comic shop shelf space, so an indie book like this can use all the pre-help it can get. I’m really excited to see what the reaction will be. We’ve put together something really interesting and fun. I’m happy to get to be a part of it.