What’s Wrong w/ This Picture? Thoughts on New York Comic Con

Posted By on October 21, 2013

What is Wrong With This Picture? Thoughts on the 2013 New York Comic Con

 NYCC13

 

 

 

 

This past weekend, I had the unique privilege to attend the 2013 New York Comic Con as a member of the press, and it was a fast-paced span of time that exceedingly surpassed my previous experiences in the premiere NY comic show. Due to family obligations, however, I was only able to attend Thursday and Friday, so I missed what I know to be the most hectic day of the entire four-day event. Still, those two days were busily spent covering the “Editors on Editing” panel, the “LGBT & Allies in Comics” panel, as well as interviewing Scott Snyder and Scott Allie – amazing experiences all around.

In addition to more formal journalistic duties, I had the pleasure of roaming Artists’ Alley and connecting with many of the brilliant creators whose work I am continually reviewing week to week. In many cases, I found I had to tear myself away from certain creators’ tables for fear of driving away other fans as we engaged in various topics all over the comics spectrum (apologies to Chandra Free, Bryan J.L. Glass, Jim Zub and Frank Barbiere to name only a few such victims). I would have to say that, in spite of my feverish enthusiasm for all things comics, the many creators who tolerated my presence really were the highlight of the convention for me. My legs might have grown tired from the constant movement, but I left my two days at the Javits Center with my passion for comics fully recharged.

Unfortunately, it seems my experience – though by far not unique – differed greatly from a number of other people sharing space at the convention.

Over the weekend and into the early part of this past week, reports of sexual harassment, bullying, and generally unacceptable behavior began filtering out of the crowded halls and onto the internet. One report came from a Facebook post with a female cosplayer reporting sexual harassment from a supposed television crew.  Yet another report of the same crew – from “Manbanter” on Sirius XM Radio – appeared here. Then I read additional reports not just from other fans – people who attended the show with many of the same intentions as I did (to have fun) – but from the very creators whom I have come to admire for their entertaining, incredibly smart, and often awe-inspiring work.

There are a handful of comic creators out there who, if you’ve read any of my reviews of their work, can apparently do no wrong. Becky Cloonan is one such person. While her work on Conan is what first caught my eye, it is her ability to craft some of the most haunting and yet beautifully crafted short stories out there that kickstarted my love affair with her work (documented for posterity here and here). On various social media outlets, Becky makes herself readily available to her readership and this is exactly the sort of creator fans are lucky to have behind the pen.

So to say I was disappointed in certain fellow male fans when I read this blog post is putting it mildly. When I hear a creator, let alone one who has regularly been recognized as one of the best in the business (multiple Harvey Award nominations and an Eisner Award winner), put down in words that “I feel alienated and uncomfortable at a convention like I did,” then there is something deeply and fundamentally wrong taking place. To think that anyone was made to feel this way is incredibly wrong. But let’s face certain facts: These conventions are events where comic book creators should have the opportunity to tear themselves away from the artist’s tables or the laptops from which they labor for hours every day to enjoy some recognition from the very people whom they work so hard to please. And so, I have a very difficult time believing Becky made the trek from Canada down to New York City to have “too many people up in my personal space, and far too many of them being guys tell me things like “Hey baby,” “What are you doing tonight?” and “Come on, be nice!” among other things.”  I have a world of respect for Ms. Cloonan as a professional, and I seriously doubt she needs me “coming to her defense.”  But in all honesty, no person should have anyone approaching them in that manner – whether she is a guest of the show or just another fan excited to be at one of the biggest comic conventions around.  It’s unacceptable behavior – no one way about it.

But here’s the rub: This is not just a case of fans behaving badly. It seems that some of the New York Comic Con sponsors were less-than-indirectly reinforcing negative stereotypes of both female behaviors and representations of male desire. While I was busy running around and covering panels or talking to some of the many talented writers and artists, there was apparently something else taking place before every panel in “The Empire Room” in the form of Arizona Iced Tea’s “I Heart Big Cans” advertising campaign. Now, I will readily admit that – in case my previous statement about being occupied elsewhere didn’t get the point across –I did not see any of this, and I was only initially made aware of Arizona Iced Tea’s “Big Cans Jenny” from this article from The Beat. But I’ve rarely heard Heidi MacDonald being called out for egregious errors in fact checking in the time I’ve been following her comics news site, so I’ll take her at her word in this instance.

It seems Leah Cornish also addresses this blatant appeal to heterosexual men’s baser urges in her appeal to convention organizers (and the world of comics as a whole) on Leaky News. And while I appreciate what seems as though a concession on her part to have a good sense of humor about things and not appear prudish when she says, “I would have appreciated the Big Cans joke on its own. I would have even been OK with Jenny the Booth Babe bouncing around on stage – it’s a Con and I’m used to it,” I have to respectfully disagree.

I am not okay with this constant barrage of women as sexual objects (and I do not mean to construe Ms. Cornish as being okay with this either – she is more than able and capable of expressing herself quite clearly as her article demonstrates). Looking past the obvious problems this type of image poses for women, it’s also quite condescending towards and damaging to men. When faced with years of being barraged with images of this sort and seeing women behave in this manner, is it unreasonable to assume it could somehow inform the way a man both views and behaves towards women? Maybe those who are unsure should take a tour through contemporary mainstream media followed by a close look at the too-numerous-to-name reports and statistics on male-on-female violence versus those of female on male. Maybe there’s a strange correlation between men being regularly portrayed as assertive and in control while women are often depicted in subordinate positions in media at the same time there is a real world concern over discrepancies in pay and promotion rates in the workplace in spite of the greater number of women with higher levels of education than men nationwide. There’s a clear problem with the way many men are operating in society as it relates to the way women are treated, and although promotional events like this one are not wholly responsible for these greater iniquities, they are certainly are reinforcing a certain wrong-mindedness.

As I said, I’ll grant that that the Arizona Iced Tea issue is but one instance of many playing out in mainstream culture. How can we see it as contributing to the problem? Considering the prominent stage it acted out on this weekend and the ever-increasing numbers attending this show, it is at least worth considering. I mentioned it’s damaging to men because marketing efforts like this can contribute to a warping of men’s minds. But let’s be clear: It’s also incredibly condescending. These sort of messages communicate the notion that a man will really only respond to is something that involves some sort of pleasant experience for his penis. And while there are numerous Facebook memes that I see regularly that corroborate this notion and remind me that I am little better than the dog dry humping a telephone pole along the sidewalk, I beg to differ. I’m uncertain most women I saw at Comic Con want men viewing them in the way Jenny invited the viewing audience to see her, nor do I think every man is seeking such a two-dimensional representation of womanhood – assuming a woman is the object of a given man’s desires.

I recently had the immense pleasure to speak with one of my favorite writers (who arguably writes some of the best dialogue in comics today), Kelly Sue DeConnick. I’m going to paraphrase something she mentioned in our discussion from a few weeks back when she said that it’s not prudish to not want to objectify women. This sort of writing – this form of communicating ideas – is damaging to our daughters and our sons. And she ended the point by emphatically stating, “it’s lazy writing.” As a father of two little boys, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve learned rather quickly that those two little people look at me for an example to follow – to learn how they, too, should behave as “boys.” What I do, what I say, are all things they want to emulate. It’s no surprise, they’ve seen me reading comics, and now, they also want funny books of their own to read. So what I put into their hands – therefore, their minds – time and time again can very easily have an impact on their worldview years from now.  Maybe that sounds like an exaggeration, but here I am writing about comics decades after the first time my father put a comic in my hands.  I think of it less as being prudish as it is being a responsible caretaker and father. I want them to have a healthy and balanced view of the opposite sex – not this warped view that they will no doubt be assaulted by when I am not there to turn off the television, or explain away a certain billboard sign.

Again, I did not experience any sort of problems with juvenile cameramen or heavy-breathing fans who failed recognize a distinct lack of interest in them on my part. But as a guy who chose to attend in sneakers, jeans, and a boring blue polo, I guess I wouldn’t. It is an element to going out in public places that never factors into my thinking. I have that luxury, it seems, as a man. It is just a shame that every person who came to the show any of those four days – either creator or fan, plain Jane like me or as a cosplayer – couldn’t also enjoy. But as I tell my students: Even if you simply overhear some racist or sexist remarks and you quietly disagree with those sentiments, your silence still condones those words to the one who spoke them. As a comic fan, as a guy, and as a father of two comic-loving little boys – I do not accept this form of behavior, and it needs to stop now. If you are a fans of comics, love this medium, and want to see it be a similar source of refuge, joy, and excitement you’ve enjoyed for later generations, then we need to step back and make it a place where every person is free to celebrate it in his or her own way.

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Sequart’s Chris Claremont Documentary Premiere

Posted By on October 8, 2013

Sequart Logo

It’s Monday, October 14th, 2013–okay, not quite, but work with me here.  The four-colored insanity of New York Comic Con will be a fresh memory amongst those walking the streets of New York City as the remaining fanboys and geek girls slowly begin reintegrating themselves into the daily grind.  But for those few who wish to hold on to those magic moments for just a few hours more, there’s still one more “must see” screening available for fans in the Big Apple: Sequart’s premiere of the documentary on Chris Claremont.

This documentary will be shown free of charge at the Butler Library on the Columbia University campus sponsored by Respect! Films and Sequart Publishing.  But that’s not all:  This documentary will be immediately followed by a Q&A with one of the fathers of the modern-day X-Men (amongst many other accomplishments), Chris Claremont.  As stated on Sequart’s website: “If you’re a fan of Chris Claremont, the X-Men, or are just a comics history buff in general, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to see and ask about the definitive, behind-the-scenes account of one of the most beloved runs in all of comics history.”

If you’re interested in checking out yet another fine entry from the growing catalog of documentaries from Sequart, here’s what you need to know:

Location: Columbia University, Butler Library, Room 523. The address is 535 West 114th Street, New York, NY.

Time: Monday, Oct. 14, 7pm to 9pm

You can also find out more information on their Facebook Event Page.

 

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In the Dark w/ Rachel Deering

Posted By on October 1, 2013

…An Interview About a Horror Anthology

In the Dark cover

Billed as “A monstrous collection of all-new, original terror tales from the darkest and most brilliant minds in comics,” Rachel Deering’s Kickstarter In the Dark promises to deliver a hefty tome of over 250 pages of horrific, comic goodness.  Started on September 25th, this project is already over two-thirds funded in spite of what might initially appear as an ambitious funding goal of $30,000.  Yet, when readers take a look at the high level of talent involved with this project along with the promised coffee table presentation of the book itself, it does give fans some inkling as to the resources needed to publish a collection such as this. And given fan support, it looks like this collection will be resounding success.

I was fortunate to talk with editor and project organizer, Rachel Deering, about this project in terms of what brought this anthology about, those involved in its creation, and where she may go with In the Dark down the road.

Forrest Helvie (FH):  First off, how did this project for In the Dark come together? What made you think of producing a horror anthology?

Rachel Deering (RD):  I had been wanting to put together a really great horror anthology for a long time, and I often talked about it online. One day, some creators were joking around on twitter about wanting to do some horror shorts and told me to make something happen. I took it seriously and started putting together creative teams.

(FH):  In addition to your experience as a published writer and letterer, this will also be an opportunity to publish as an editor.  Is this your first time editing a comic?  What were some of the challenges you have faced and are now dealing with in this new(er) role?

(RD):  Actually, no. I edited several entire sections of the Womanthology book, a horror anthology called Monstrology, and lots of freelance indie and self-published stuff. The biggest challenge of being an editor is getting people to turn in work on time, haha. That’s a seriously huge part of the gig, and the most frustrating. The rest of it is a lot of fun for me. I love recruiting talent, I love reading scripts, I love providing feedback and talking through story with creators, I love seeing new art every day. I’m honestly not sure which I like more, writing or editing. It’s a close race.

(FH):  You have a lot of depth in terms of the quality of the writers and artists contributing to this horror anthology.  How did you get everyone involved?

(RD):  I asked them. I am personal friends with most of the people on the book, so when I approached them with the idea, they were all into it. A few of the contributors came by way of recommendations from the creators I had brought on myself. It was honestly very easy to put together. Thankfully.

(FH):  Where can I go to meet these friends of yours?!

(RD):  Conventions! Or Portland, OR, as that’s where 95% of them seem to live, haha.

Mike Oliveri and Mike Henderson's story, All Things Through Me

Mike Oliveri and Mike Henderson’s story, All Things Through Me

 

Caption:  Mike Oliveri and Mike Henderson’s story, All Things Through Me

(FH):  In all seriousness though, what you have to say really seems to point to the significance of networking when it comes to making comics.  Or am I reading too deeply here?

(RD):  Networking is definitely a big part of breaking in. It’s not everything, of course. I didn’t know anybody when I made Anathema, and it was only by going out to cons and promoting that book and getting the word out about my passion as a creator that I started to form friendships with these other writers, artists, and editors. So yeah, networking is a good idea, but only after you have something to back up the claim that you are a passionate creator.

(FH):  So what can readers expect from this collection?  Is there a unifying theme bringing all of these short stories together or were creators given free rein to try and scare their readers?

(RD):  You can expect some of the most amazing horror stories you’ve ever read. Seriously. There is no theme to the book. Each story is simply the creative team’s personal expression of what horror is to them. I brought on a wide range of writers so that I could hopefully cover a wide range of horror and provide at least one story to scare everyone.

(FH):  I saw your collection also caught the interest of horror writer, Scott Snyder, who’s wildly popular and critically acclaimed series American Vampire and The Wake have helped generate a lot of interest in horror-themed comics.  How did he become involved?

(RD):  I was looking for an influential person to write the intro to the book. I knew they had to be well versed in horror, I knew they had to be on the same wavelength as me, and I knew they had to be someone the horror hounds would respect. I asked James Tynion IV (a close friend of Scott’s) if he would approach Scott about it. He did, and Scott agreed, so that was that!

(FH):  Are there any previews you can share with us at this time, or will backers get “sneak peeks” into the anthology as each team submits their completed stories?

(RD):  For sure! If you check out the updates tab on the Kickstarter, you will see samples of the black and white inked art, as well as some colored panels. I’ll be adding tons more samples as the campaign progresses, so just keep an eye on those updates and you’ll find plenty of eye candy!

Why Do You Look So Sad

(FH):  Now, I noticed you have IDW listed as the publisher for this project.  For people who are less familiar with how comics are published, why do books sometimes need support from crowdsourcing if a publisher is attached to it?

(RD):  Yeah, IDW has been great in helping me plan the production end of the book. I still need to raise money on Kickstarter for production costs, but IDW will be handling the logistics of interfacing with printers and housing the books and distribution and things like that. All the stuff I couldn’t do from my little suburban home in Ohio.

(FH):  Out of curiosity, why did you select IDW as the publisher for this collection? Apart from the logistical support you mentioned, what else do you think they bring to the table for In the Dark?

(RD):  A lot of the creators on the book have worked, or are currently working with the team at IDW, so I was getting a lot of suggestions from them to approach the editorial staff with our book. I sent off an email to one of the editors there, he got back to me quickly and said he wanted to present the book at an upcoming editorial meeting, and a few weeks later, it was accepted. The folks at IDW are just an amazing bunch of people to work with. I know that they will help me bring my vision for the book to life and create the most amazing package you could possibly want. They are going to market the book beyond the Kickstarter campaign and make sure that comic shops and bookstores stay stocked. This is great, because people who were not able to snag a copy during the campaign will have a chance to add it to their collections after the fact.

(FH):  You still have a few weeks left to fund this project and it’s already looking like you’ll reach your first goal rather quickly.  Any surprises for supporters should you reach even greater levels of support? 

(RD):  Well, I’ve already made sure that the book would be of the highest quality possible. That’s all built in to the initial goal amount. This thing will be something you’re proud to display in your home. That said, there aren’t any stretch goals to make the book better. What I will do with extra funds is actually pay my contributors (no-brainer), and if I raise well over my goal amount, I will start planning a second volume with an even bigger cast of well-known and indie creators. 

(FH):  Speaking of second volumes…I couldn’t help but notice on Twitter that you might have already been inviting other creators to get involved down the road in some capacity or another. Let’s play hypothetical: Volume 2–who are some of the creators you’d want to either bring on board or return for another round of scary stories?

(RD):  I asked the TOTALLY hypothetical question: If I get a chance to do a second volume of IN THE DARK, who would you like to see involved? And I got a lot of people going “ME!”, haha. As for my personal choices, I would love to work with Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Matt Fraction, Rick Remender, Joshua Fialkov, Josh Dysart,  Joe Hill, Joshua Williamson, Joe Lansdale, Kim Newman, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Christopher Golden, Kelly Sue, Brian Azzarello, Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, Neil Gaiman, Brian Wood, and Brandon Seifert. On the art side of things, I would kill to have Francesco Francavilla, Bernie Wrightson, Fiona Staples, Becky Cloonan, James Harren, Gabriel Rodriguez, Matteo Scalera, Jock, Sean Gordon Murphy, Rafael Albuquerque, Guy Davis, Mike Mignola, Vanesa R. Del Rey, Joe Querio, Jason Latour, Dan Duncan, Paul Harmon, Brent McKee, Eric Powell, and Mike Norton. Yikes, sorry about that…

(FH):  [Laughs] Only a little ambitious!  And yet, I wouldn’t be surprised at all how many jump on board given what looks to be a resounding success with the support for this first volume.  Last question:  What would you say to sway comic fans who are on the fence about whether or not to support this project?

(RD):  This book will instantly make you more attractive to your preferred sex. You will become more popular in social circles. Your job performance will increase by a minimum of 57% without any extra effort on your part. You will never lose your keys again. You will gain a +10 bonus to all charisma based skill checks. And you will own one of the most comprehensive horror anthologies ever created.

*****

Rachel Deering

If you’re looking to raise your job performance, pass those charisma tests, or just get more information about In the Dark, you can go to the Kickstarter page (HERE) and see samples of the stories, view the remaining rewards for supporters, and see all of the talented artists and writers involved with this exciting new project.  If you’d like to know more about Rachel Deering and the work she’s previously been involved in, you can reach her on Twitter (@racheldeering) or her website.

 

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Going Indie: The Reason for Dragons

Posted By on September 3, 2013

Written by Chris Northrop

Art by Jeff Stokely, Chris Northrop, & Andrew Elder

The Reason for Dragons

The Reason for Dragons is an original graphic novel from Boom!-Archaia that further reinforces this company’s position as one of the strongest independent publishers when it comes to delivering the type of stories that resonate with its readers long after the cover is closed.

Chris Northrop’s coming of age story is not what you’d expect from a title like The Reason for Dragons.  Going into this graphic novel, I expected to encounter a sort fantasy adventure, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that and something more. Northrop tells the story of Wendell – an awkward teen struggling with day-to-day life – and James – an actor playing a knight at the local Renaissance Fair who believes himself to be a real knight in shining armor.  Taking Stokely’s cover art as an opening salvo of sorts, Northrop is clearly setting a contemporary take on Cervantes’ classic Don Quixote de la Mancha while adding some of his own concerns into the well-worn story of the struggles to regain a more romantic, happier time.  This graphic novel tells a memorable tale of trauma and how all of us come to terms with the struggles within our own lives.

The main story focuses on Wendell, a young boy who falls short of his gruff, biker stepfather’s expectations and is bullied by his peers. In the attempt to appear brave to a pair of bullies, he wanders out to the local Renaissance Fairgrounds, now closed after events that are discovered later on in the story.  It is here Wendell meets James – who enlists the young boy as his squire – and the pair seeks to defeat the dragon that attacked the kingdom.  The real conflict in this story comes not from a real dragon, per se, but instead each person has to face his own personal dragon and emerge a whole from the encounter.

Jeff Stokely covers the pencils and ink in this story, and it shows in the level of consistency from the first page until the story’s conclusion.  He varies his line quality to suit each character, such as the hard and sharp lines with Ted the stepfather while Wendell is depicted more curves and softer lines – all of which provide subtle indicators as to each character’s temperament.  And considering this story centers on Wendell’s growth into (young) adulthood, Stokley’s choice in drawing the teen with longer hair creates a sort of androgynous appearance, which the more masculine characters might find problematic given their inability to interact with him in a more natural and considerate manner. Northrup and Andrew Elder provide colors for this issue, which also helps bring this tale to life through a combination of bright, vibrant colors to help the action in certain sequences “pop,” to using a more subtle palette during the more somber moments of the narrative.

As James tells Wendell – and reminds each of us, we all have battles to face.  Sometimes they are real, physical challenges staring us down.  At other times, those battles take place in our very minds, which others cannot immediately perceive.  The Reason for Dragons may suggest we need these battles then to help each of become the type of people we are meant to be.  It’s a great book and one not to be missed.

The Reason for Dragons

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Going Indie: Twisted Dark vol. 1

Posted By on September 3, 2013

Written by Neil Gibson

Art by Atula Siriwardane, Caspar Wijngaard, Heru Prasetyo Djalal, Jan Wijngaard, Ant Mercer, Heru Prasetyo Djalal, Olga-Mila Gots, and Dan West

Twisted Dark vol. 1

Twisted Dark collects eleven comic short stories from independent comics publisher, T Publications out of the U.K.  It provides readers with a variety of tales set throughout the world as it explores the dark and twisted underbelly of the human condition.  Readers who enjoy narratives that bounce between the tragic and perverse will find themselves right at home in each of Gibson’s stories.

Like any comic anthology, the aesthetic does shift from story to story as Gibson brings in a number of different artists to help.  That said, I found the quality of the work was generally quite strong and consistent.  Caspar Wijngaard’s line work and inks stood out for the roughly hewn look he applies in “Routine” that played well to the rugged environment depicted therein.  In “Cocaína,” however, he uses softer lines, which belie the brutal world of the drug trade in which his protagonist operates.  Of the whole collection, these two were the ones I found to be the strongest in terms of the character development, panel composition, use of light and overall ability to deliver the unsuspected twist that characterizes each story in this collection.  Heru Prasetyo Djalal’s work on “On a Lighter Note…” also offers one of a number of examples in Twisted Dark where, in spite of being a black and white collection, the shading used creates a sense of depth and shape in the stories.  These comics might be in black and white, but they do deliver a dynamic reading experience.

Although the eleven stories differ in terms of their scope—some grand while others are more personal—Gibson and his co-collaborators are telling some really good stories in Twisted Dark. And at nearly two hundred pages in length for only $0.99 on Comixology, this horror-suspense anthology is a great deal well worth downloading.

"Routine"

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Cursed Pirate Girl: A Review & Interview with Jeremy Bastian

Posted By on June 18, 2013

Art and Story by Jeremy Bastian

Published by Archaia

By Jeremy Bastian

It’s a rare thing when a comic comes along that catches readers off-guard with a unique blend of exquisite aesthetic elements with carefully crafted characters rolled up into over 150 pages of high adventure.  Readers lucky enough to get their hands on the original issues are in for a real treat with the “handcrafted” feel Bastian put into the publication of his old-world comic with its textured, embossed cover; rough cut pages, which lend the impression of its creator diligently wiling the night away cutting each page by candlelight and hand-stamping each cover in preparation for you, the reader, to enjoy; and the combination of spider-thin line work and unobtrusive inks recalling a 19th Century newspaper cartoonist.  But this is exactly what artist and writer, Jeremy Bastian, delivers to his readers with his collected edition of Cursed Pirate Girl from Archaia.

Bastian originally published Cursed Pirate Girl in serial form through Olympian Press and was first collected into trade through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign in 2010.  In 2012, Archaia—known for publishing original graphic novels with a voice that’s distinct from mainstream comics—published the collection bringing this tactile work of art into the hands of an even wider reading audience.  I say tactile because, while available digitally, it’s really a book that needs to be physically experienced.     There’s no mistaking the fact this book is a beauty to behold, and upon looking at the work Bastian put into each panel of every page, it is a wonder this comic this work saw completion with the sheer amount of detail rendered for readers to linger over.  In many regards, the art and design recall early renderings of Alice in Wonderland and other cartoonists from a bygone era.  It is too easy to go back and find new things embedded in each picture that was previously overlooked.  Bastian adds to this nostalgic tone through generally eschewing more traditional text boxes and speech bubbles, which typically are added after the; instead, he incorporates these comic elements directly into the art giving a more organic feel to the entire page.  Moreover, hand lettering the entire story lends to an even more intimate feeling as opposed to the more contemporary approach to use computer-generated text to help tell the story and give voice to the characters in a comic.  So with all of these wonderful aesthetics proving so visually pleasing, how does Bastian’s storytelling hold up?

If you’re looking for a complete reading experience during your morning or afternoon commute, or perhaps a story you can consume quickly while waiting in the doctor’s office, Cursed Pirate Girl will no doubt prove frustratingly slow.  Some may take this as a criticism, but there is a reason this book simply cannot be taken in so quickly.  This book is best experienced when taken in slowly.  Because Bastian fills the panels with such intricate details, the pacing of the story is notably slowed down.  For my part, I enjoyed being made to slow down.  Too many superhero books ‘ cues readers to consume the narrative more quickly, and this sort of reading can dull one’s critical eye when compared to taking in a story in a more deliberate and unhurried approach.

The story itself adopts the typical “coming of age” / “fair unknown” trope, but then delivers it in a rather unique approach.  Readers familiar with the commercial world of Disney are familiar with the way in which the House of Mouse reinforces standard gender stereotypes with its “Pirates” and “Princesses” line for boys and girls respectively.  Bastian, however, turns this mass-media norm on its head through using a pirate girl as his protagonist—and the story makes her gender-bending behaviors and influence on others one of the focal catalysts for her troubles.  Had she only been a well-behaved young girl, it is likely she would have remained safe, unharmed, and quite unworthy of having a book written about her!  As it is, this young girl comes to know that she is the daughter of one of the five pirate captains, and it is her destiny to discover his identity and assume her likely role as his heir apparent all the while facing troubles from both the local governor and the inhabitants of the high seas.

Interior Page from CPG

By Jeremy Bastian

I had the good fortunate to chat with Jeremy Bastian in between his various convention appearances.

 

Forrest Helvie (FH):  I know that this book was originally supposed to be published through Archaia, but it took something of a “scenic route” to get to this point.  Can you describe your experience in bringing your story to comic readers?

Jeremy Bastian (JB):  When I first started work on Cursed Pirate Girl (CPG), I did not want a colored book.  I was inspired by the works of Durer and Dore and wanted that old world etched illustration style but in a comic book format.  Archaia wanted the book in color.  I did go and color the first two issues but that’s as far as I got before I met Tom over at Olympian Publishing.  Tom knew where I was coming from and knew what I was doing with the book and basically made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  It allowed me to quit my part-time job and just work solely on the book.  I had a hard time calling up Archaia and saying I found someone else to publish with, but they were really understanding and let me go.  And so Olympian published the three individual issues and then put the soft cover trade up on Kickstarter to raise money for.  The Kickstarter for the soft cover trade went beyond our expectations and we were able to print the trade and make a plushy Pook the Tarantula through a local (to Chicago, where Olympian Publishing was based in) costume maker.  Then in talking with Olympian, I believe it was an overall consensus that they’ve taken the book as far as they could and that we should look into a bigger publisher to take it to the next level.  I still had friends at Archaia who loved the book and believed in it so I decided to ask them again to publish it, just as long as it could stay a black and white book.  They said no problem, and were quite excited by the prospect.  And I can say they really did a fantastic job with it. 

 Jeremy Bastian and a Cosplayer

FH:  What can you share about how this story came about?  Specifically, what influenced your telling of this story?

JB:  It started with an idea that was based on a drawing I did.  The drawing was a pirate woman, very tattoo flash inspired, complete with treasure chest and shark.  The idea that it spawned was “what if I made her a child?”, and this brought images of all the children storybook characters I liked as a kid.  I wanted to write a story that was fun and adventurous but a little dark and creepy as well.  As far as the story goes it’s definitely Alice in Wonderland like- a girl in a whimsical world trying to navigate its perilous characters and landscapes.  It’s also heavily influenced by Little Nemo in Slumberland- a child thrown into an ever-evolving land of the impossible and fantastic.  But I also really enjoyed the world of Grimm’s fairy tales.  I liked how dark they were, just the right amount of scary and heroic. And also unlike Alice or Dorothy, CPG is a little fiercer, she’s not afraid of anything.  In those other stories the characters are thrown into a situation they don’t belong in and are trying to make their way out.  CPG belongs to the world she is thrown into so it’s more about finding her rightful place there.  

FH:  I know many reviewers and fans have compared this work to a contemporary “Alice in Wonderland,” and I couldn’t help but feel the influence of 19th Century editorial cartoonists in the art.  Along these lines, were there any literary (comics or conventional works) that informed your creation of Cursed Pirate Girl—whether the story or the art?

JB:  I might’ve already said too much in regards to this one in the previous answer but as far as the art is concerned, I have many influences.  From Albrecht Durer, William Hogarth and Gustave Dore to Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane and Kay Nielsen to Andrej Dugin and Olga Dugina, Gennady Spirin, K.Y. Craft, Alan Aldridge and Tony DiTerlizzi to Amano Yoshitaka, Mike Mignola, Guy Davis, Gary Gianni, Geof Darrow and Arthur Adams.  

FH:  Without spoiling the story for new and future readers, the first volume ends on a somewhat ominous note:  What do you have in store for volume 2?

JB:  Well, in book one of volume 2 you’ll find out a whole lot more of CPG’s father and his enemies, and it marks the beginning of a treasure hunt that will lead her directly to the reunion she has wished for.  There will be singing crabs, a sunken city, a new pet, a bad guy or two, ghosts, more skeleton pirates, sword fights and a frog named Turnip.  And no, not all of that is in the first issue, but some of it will be.

FH:  I noticed as I looked through volume 1, which was originally published in serial format, the art actually appears to grow progressively more and more detailed.  Was this something you were aware of while creating each issue?  Are you finding this happening during the production of volume two?

JB:  Well, in book one of volume 2 you’ll find out a whole lot more of CPG’s father and his enemies, and it marks the beginning of a treasure hunt that will lead her directly to the reunion she has wished for.  There will be singing crabs, a sunken city, a new pet, a bad guy or two, ghosts, more skeleton pirates, sword fights and a frog named Turnip.  And no, not all of that is in the first issue, but some of it will be.

 Interior Splash from CPG

FH:  I’ve heard there’s actually an audio play based upon this series that’s currently in production, which includes an eclectic array of talents such as comic greats Grant Morrison and Dave McKean; acclaimed actor, John C. Reilly; and MMA fighter-turned-action movie star, Randy Couture.  What can you tell us about this venture?

JB:  I can’t say much, other than it sounds really cool!  I’ve heard different clips from the different actors involved and I’m really happy with it.  This is a Century Guild/Olympian Publishing project; we were brainstorming up ideas for the book and marketing.  It’s a different kind of book than most of the books out there and we wanted to do something equally different to gain attention.  An audio version of a comic book- which is so much more a visual medium- is certainly different.  There are still many parts to be cast and I believe there will be a symphonic score to go with it.  So far that’s all I know.  

FH:  On a slightly more random note, what has your attention right now in comics?  Any books or creators who have really caught your interest?

JB:  I don’t purchase too much, as I cannot afford too many books.  But, I do pick up Hellboy, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, pretty much anything Richard Corben puts out, I’m obsessed with the self-published books of Andy Belanger and Becky Cloonan, Locke and Key, Mouse Guard and a book called Bodie Troll.

FH:  In addition to Cursed Pirate Girl, what other projects are you working on presently or would you like to work on given the time?

JB:  I am working on a contribution to a Little Nemo in Slumberland anthology, but besides that, I cannot afford to spend any time on anything other than CPG.  I’ve a long way to go, and I’m very slow at what I do.

FH:  As of late, there has been a lot of… tension between the world of creator-owned comics versus publishing licensed comics, i.e. the “Big Two.”  What would you say are some the benefits you’ve experienced as an independent creator?  Drawbacks?  Are you primarily looking to stay indie or would you look at more mainstream comics as well?

JB:  I grew up wanting to draw X-Men and Swamp Thing; I don’t think that’s going to happen.  One- I don’t think my style lends itself well to them (well… maybe Swamp Thing) and Two- there isn’t an editor at Marvel or DC that would put up with my work schedule.  A week a page is not your industry standard.  That is the one thing that stands out most; I get to craft a story without cutting any corners.  CPG is an intense labor of love and patience.

FH:  The last word’s yours, Jeremy.  Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

JB:  I’d just like to thank my fans for being so very kind and patient. I started working on this book a long time ago and I’m just glad there are so many people out there who really get it.  It’s not your typical book and it’s so reassuring that there is so much love out there for it and from such a diverse audience.  I grew up wanting to be an artist in this industry and have been pretty focused all my life on achieving that.  I’m glad that it has paid off, that there are so many people who really appreciate what I can offer.  So thanks again!  Being creative is so very hard to make into a career and impossible if you don’t have people who like what you do.

 

You can find Cursed Pirate Girl vol. 1 on Comixology, through your local comic shops, or Amazon.

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Free Comic Book Day May 4th: Archaia Comics

Posted By on May 4, 2013

Free Comic Book Day is a single day – the first Saturday in May each year – when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE* to anyone who comes into their stores.  In preparation for this national event, Archaia Comics is offering a flip book aimed for an All Ages audience–a demographic whom comics were originally created for but are now often overlooked in mainstream comics publishing.  As the father of a 3.5 year old little guy who loves his funny books, this comic will not disappoint.  And yet, in spite of the appeal to an All Ages audience, this book will still be one adult readers will likely enjoy as well.

Two stories that are particularly well-suited to this one-shot format are “Bolivar,” by Sean Rubin, and David Petersen’s “The Tale of Thane and Isla,” which is set in his Mouse Guard world.  ”Bolivar” tells the story of a boy’s question to find out about a particular dinosaur that is near to his heart, and it manages to capture some of the same innocent whimsy fans of Calvin and Hobbes,  albeit a far less-devious Calvin.  Petersen once again puts his skills on display in the intricacies of his art as he crafts another instant classic, where readers will somehow feel as if they’ve heard the story many, many years ago; yet, the retelling is completely fresh and new.  These two stories alone will leave fans feeling as though they’ve certainly received something special tomorrow from their local comic stores; the additional three stories simply make the experience all the more sweet.

If your LCS has a copy of this book, I highly recommend you get a copy for yourself, and more importantly, a child who loves a good story.  And don’t forget to thank you store owner by buying one or two other books as well.  This is a day to celebrate both our hobby and the stores who makes these books available for us to enjoy.

 

Free Comic Book Day: Archaia

Mouse Guard: “The Tale of Thane and Isla.”

Story and Art by David Petersen

FCBD 2013-Mouse Guard Preview

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: “Sir Didymus’ Grand Day”

Story and Art by Cory Godbey

FCBD 2013-Labyrinth Preview

“Flip the Cowby”

By Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos

FCBD 2013-Cow Boy Preview

“Boliver”

Story and Art by Sean Rubin

FCBD 2013-Bolivar Preview

An Excerpt from Rust

Royden Leppp

FCBD 2013-Rust Preview

*Check with your local comic book shop for their participation and rules.

Need a local comic shop to visit on May 4th? Use the FCBD “shop locator.”
http://www.freecomicbookday.com/StoreLocator

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Hawken: Genesis Digital 1st is Available NOW on Comixology!

Posted By on March 21, 2013

‘HAWKEN: GENESIS’ DIGITAL FIRST IS AVAILABLE NOW ON COMIXOLOGY!

Hawken Genesis available on Comixology

Hawken Genesis available on Comixology

Los Angeles, CA (March 20, 2013) – A week before the print edition is scheduled to hit, award-winning graphic novel publisher Archaia Entertainment and free-to-play video game publisher Meteor Entertainment have teamed up with comiXology to debut the Digital First version of HAWKEN: GENESIS, the hotly anticipated anthology graphic novel based on the online, free-to-play (F2P), first-person shooter (FPS) video game, HAWKEN™. It can be accessed at this link for $9.99: http://cmxl.gy/11jsjg6.

This hard-hitting OGN establishes and explores the exciting world of Illal, the backdrop for the HAWKEN™ video game universe. Developed alongside Khang Le (Project Offset, Flight), the game’s Creative Director and lead conceptual designer at developer Adhesive Games, and featuring the talent of some of the industry’s top conceptual artists, comic illustrators, and painters, HAWKENGENESIS is both a prequel and sourcebook to the epic warfare that players will experience firsthand in the HAWKEN™ video game. Readers will get an amazing look at the vast post-apocalyptic mythology behind HAWKEN™ and follow the stories of the pivotal individuals that determine Illal’s fate!

HAWKEN: GENESIS is written by Jeremy Barlow based on the original concept by Khang Le, with original story by Dan Jevons, and illustration by Kody Chamberlain, Federico Dallocchio, Nathan Fox, Michael Gaydos, Bagus Hutomo, Sid Kotian, Khang Le, Christopher Moeller, Alex Sanchez, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Francisco Ruiz Velasco. The print version ($19.95, hardcover, 136 pages, full color, Diamond Order Code: JAN130839, ISBN: 978-1-936393-92-3) will reach store shelves on March 27th.

Archaia and Meteor have previously released four, free, individual preview issues on comiXology to get fans excited for the complete graphic novel being released today.

HAWKEN™ is a F2P, multiplayer, mech, FPS video game developed by Adhesive Games and published by Meteor Entertainment. HAWKEN™ entered Open Beta on December 12, 2012 (12.12.12). It creates an intense and enjoyable battle experience that captures the feeling of piloting a heavy war machine while keeping the action fast-paced and strategic. HAWKEN™ brings the quality of a AAA title to the free-to-play sector. HAWKEN™ has been called one of the most anticipated games of 2012, winning more than 22 press awards at industry events. For more information, visit www.playhawken.com.

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Going Indie: A Triple Threat from Challenger Comics–Part 3

Posted By on February 28, 2013

Part 3: Ryan Ferrier’s Brothers James #s 1 & 2

In Part 2 of “Going Indie: A Triple Threat from Challenger Comics,” we looked at two of the short stories in Paul Allor’s Orc Girl.  For our final installation of this month’s spotlight on Challenger Comics, Ryan Ferrier and Michael Walsh’s first two issues of the Brother James take front and center.

Challenger ComicsBrother James (an on-going series)

Story by Ryan Ferrier

Art by Michael Walsh

Published by Challenger Comics

Fans of vigilante films such as Dirty Hairy, Death Wish and Boondock Saints will find the Brother James to be a comic book series well worth checking out.  Like Boondock Saints, the protagonists are two young men who decide to take justice in their own hands.  These two brothers, however, found themselves faced with the brutal murder of their parents by a biker gang, and it becomes their life mission to claim an eye for an eye.  Unlike many Hollywood vigilantes, however, these two brothers are less successful in carrying out their vengeance as seen in the second issue.  Not only does it become clear their plans aren’t as well thought out and rehearsed as one might expect, issues of doubt over this particular course of action begin to arise as the bullets fly.

Brothers James-Panel

One element from the story that almost came across as somewhat comical (not accidentally) is the unnamed narrator.  For readers familiar with evenings spent watching The Dukes of Hazzard, there are a number of elements from this comic that surface: two brothers at odds with both the officers of the law and the bad guys who travel around in a “named” muscle car.

Even the narrator takes an informal tone with the reader as though s/he were relating a story of someone whom we might know, and it comes across as a sort of two-way conversation as s/he seems to respond to questions the reader might think.  It takes a little
Where Ferrier’s story has strong influences from the aforementioned films and television shows, Michael Walsh’s art has a very similar look and feel to The Walking Dead artist, Charlie Adlard.  The fact is that neither Ferrier nor Walsh is out to tell a particularly happy tale, and clean, smooth lines with bright colors would hardly suit this sort of story.  This is a world devoid of color and it is somewhat bleak and harsh, and so, Walsh’s colors and line work accurately reflect this in their form. getting used to at first, but soon after, it feels less like a device and more a part of the tenor of this Rated “R” Hazzard County tale.

It will be interesting to see where the James brothers go following Issue #2 as their plans take an unexpected turn.  Ferrier plants seeds of doubt in the brothers about what they’ve set out to do, and this internal conflict makes these characters worth keeping tabs on instead of writing them off as just another pair of entries into the stereotypically cold and detached vigilantes that plague this genre.

Brothers James-Cover

If you are interested in checking out the indie offerings from Challenger Comics, you can visit them this weekend at Emerald City Comic Con or on their website at http://readchallenger.com/ .

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Going Indie: A Triple Threat from Challenger Comics-PART TWO

Posted By on February 27, 2013

Part 2: Paul Allor’s Orc Girl (a one-shot)

Challenger Comics

In Part 1 of “Going Indie: A Triple Threat from Challenger Comics,” I provided a brief review of Ryan K. Lindsay’s Fatherhood #1.  Today, we turn our attention to a second comic from Challenger Comics: the critically acclaimed Orc Girl by Paul Allor.  Although Orc Girl contains five individual stories, this review will focus primarily on providing just two brief stories from the mini collection—both written by Allor with art by Thomas Boatwright.

 

Orc Girl” (a one-shot)

Story and Lettering by Paul Allor

Art by Thomas Boatwright

Edited by Rob Anderson

Published by Challenger Comics

Orc Girl is a one-shot comic that include a number of short stories from a somewhat grounded fantasy story featuring the comics’ namesake to a handful of science fiction stories to a World War I supernatural drama.  It is the bittersweet lead story about the orc girl, Fern, and her brother, Bogar, alone that makes this comic a “must read.”

Orc Girl

Although most stories involving orcs tend to find themselves solidly lodged in the high fantasy genre, Allor makes the interesting choice to place the setting of this story in a sort of late 19th to early-20th Century period.  Orcs are presented as working class beings content with living what appear to be simple, rural lives apart from the rest of the world.  Humans, as we later find out, are the social opposites: they generally appear more finely dressed and reside in city landscapes.  There is a tension between these two worlds, and yet, I’m not entirely sure Allor pushes the reader to draw a specific conclusion about one being somehow “better” than the other is.  In some regards, the reader finds its protagonist to be a sweet and likeable character, and yet, there is a certain aspect of who she is that allows readers to empathize with her brother and the choices he makes as well.  Even Fern is unsure of what to make of her story at the end.

Boatwright’s artwork takes a roughly hewn approach to the story, and considering this is the life of an orc—creatures often associated with roughness—it’s a fairly appropriate choice even if we are given a much softer perspective on these orcish people.  And yet, Boatwright is able to skillfully convey a great deal of emotion through subtle shifts in lighting and  the facial expressions of his characters alleviating Allor from having to tell readers how Fern and the other characters are feeling—hallmarks of smart graphic storytelling.

The science fiction stories are enjoyable and the art shifts as Allor brings new creators in to help tell these tales; however, the final story, “Dead Man,” centered on a boy who loses his father in World War I is perhaps the next most compelling story—not surprisingly, drawn and inked by Thomas Boatwright.  The dead begin returning from the war, and it begins to cause a stir amongst the townsfolk.  Yet, Allor is clearly not interested in providing a typical ghost story where the focus is on the supernatural elements.  Instead, the focus is on the human aspect of loss and the desire for the dead.  The story closes with the young narrator saying, “In school, the stories they teach us always have a point.  A lesson at the end.  But I guess this one doesn’t.”  Perhaps there isn’t an explicit theme or lesson readers should walk away from this story with per se… and yet, it seems this short story does provide readers with a keen insight into the feelings of loss.  Once again, Boatwright’s ability to capture and convey emotion and set the mood with his art pairs well with Allor’s evocative story.

Dead Man

Check back in tomorrow for the FINAL Part of “Going Indie: A Triple Threat from Challenger Comics” featuring a review of Ryan Ferrier’s Brother James!

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Going Indie: A Triple Threat from Challenger Comics

Posted By on February 26, 2013

Part 1: Ryan Lindsay’s Fatherhood #1 (a one-shot)

Last month, NerdSpan featured an interview with indie creator, Jeremy Holt and a review of his creator-owned comics, Cobble Hill.  This month features a triple threat of three mini-reviews of comics from Challenger Comics—another independent comics imprint headed by Ryan Ferrier.  As stated on their website, Challenger is not just another independent publisher: “Challenger Comics is not a publisher. The creator is the publisher. Challenger is merely an imprint, much like a brother/sisterhood that’s always there to toot your horn.”  Ferrier also points out that  “I want to make comics on my own and put them online for people to read and (hopefully) buy, and I want a good-looking, easy way other than tumblr, etc. to host them. So I made Challenger. And I’ve invited some friends and creators to join the party too.”

Challenger Comics

A quick look at their catalog of comic provides readers with a bevy of heavy-hitting, polished comics.  This month’s “Going Indie” is going to focus on sampling some of these titles with a new review being published every day until Emerald City Comic Con—where all three of these titles can be found at the Challenger Comics booth along with the creators for each comic.

Now, onto the reviews!

Fatherhood #1 (a one-shot)

Written by Ryan K. Lindsay

fatherhood cover

Art by Daniel Schneider

Colors by Paulina Ganucheau

Letters by Brandon DeStafano

Designs by Christopher Kosek

Published by Challenger Comics

It’s a common story: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, and boy and girl get married and start a family.  Sadly, it is also a common story for boy and girl to go their separate ways leaving families broken.  It is not so common to see this family drama take a Noir-esque turn; yet, that is exactly what happens in Ryan K. Lindsay’s Fatherhood—a one shot issue from Challenger Comics.  Make no mistake: This book is not aiming to tell an uplifting tale of being a parent; instead, it takes aim at daring readers to question how far they would go to be with their child.

The story starts as the male protagonist and his wife separate, and it is clear the divorce leaves him destitute—unemployed, unfulfilled, and alone.  The one opportunity he finds to reconnect to his old life is through acquiring a doll that his daughter wants; unfortunately, it’s the same doll that every other girl wants and whose parents are desperately fighting to bring home.  It is at this point in the story that the curtain comes down and the mood and tone take a decidedly downward shift.  The inks and coloring become darker and heavier as the emotions of sadness and loneliness give way to a sort of stoic abandonment and resignation.  Even the voice and narration change as the reader descends from the omniscient view into the mind of the narrator.

I won’t spoil the story, but I will say this: After reading Fatherhood, set it down and come back to it a day later for a second reading.  I don’t think Lindsay is looking for readers to fully identify with and necessarily “like” his protagonist; however, I do believe he invites readers to stare down the rabbit hole and ask themselves: “How far would you go?”  For many of us, it would not be that far, but for others… it’s clearly a long way down to rock bottom.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Going Indie: A Triple Threat from Challenger Comics” featuring a review of Paul Allor’s Orc Girl tomorrow!

 

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My Not-So-Secret Interview with Will Brooker–Part TWO

Posted By on February 19, 2013

In PART ONE of my interview with Will Brooker, creator of the buzz-worthy My So-Called Secret Identity, he discussed his experiences leading up to beginning his own comic endeavor and began introducing us to Cat Adams, its remarkable superheroine-to-be.  Since that interview appeared over the weekend, the first issue was published online (you can find it HERE).

Now, back to the interview…

(more…)

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