Pulsar Entertainment Kicks Off $5000 Comic Creator Competition
Pulsar Entertainment just opened their doors for business and they are looking to hit the ground running! One of the first things they are doing is offering up $5000 in a talent search contest that is open to ANY comic artist with an original creation. “It’s all about bringing together the comic book community in a way that hasn’t been done before, and giving talented creators the opportunity to showcase their work.” said Willow Polson, CoFounder at Pulsar. [full disclosure: Polson is a past contributor for SciFi4Me]
“Stories like The Walking Dead, Saga, or Outcast might have never been green-lit by traditional publishers,” said J Allen, GM Pulsar Entertainment.“We want to allow creators to be able to fully express themselves while lowering the barriers to entry in the comic industry.”
Follow the directions on the landing page to begin the contest submission process.
Submit an original 8 page (maximum) comic in JPG format by June 15, 2017.
If your comic reaches 200 supporter votes (from Pulsar Users) prior to June 30, 2017 you automatically qualify for the semifinals.
Pulsar Entertainment is a new web comic platform in the same vein as Image Comics. Everything they offer will be creator owned! Pulsar is a true startup working with seasoned veterans such as comics writers RD Hall (NBC’s Heroes web comic). The company was formed through the collaboration of former competitors in the Stan Lee Seekers contest.
If you are an independent web comic creator in search of a new platform, this could be it! Pulsar offers collaboration, monetization, and digital distribution tools. Distribution will be free on the Pulsar library and creators maintain 100% ownership of their intellectual property.
Pulsar’s goal is to launch a comic library fueled by an online community enabling joint development of new creator-owned comic book properties.
OFFICER DOWNE: Hyper-violent Vigilante with a Badge
I just finished Officer Downe, and I may need to go take a shower. It is nothing short of visceral, in-your-face, gonzo violence, and I loved every panel. It’s as if Robocop, Maniac Cop, Johnny Mnemonic, Riki-oh, and Judge Dredd were thrown into a blender and poured into a glass made out of regular old L.A., but there are hints of Mad Max and Blade Runner in there. The villains are crazy, over-the-top caricatures capable of cartoon “takes”. The hero is an indestructable juggernaut that dispenses street justice on a level that is not unlike putting out a match with a firehose. Like Blain wielding Ol’ Painless in Predator. It’s just ridiculous overkill, although some baddies demand it. Time to put on your plastic poncho like you’re sitting front row at a Gallagher special, we gotta get going here.
Officer Downe is the city’s top cop. He’s a fully organic Robocop/T-800. He can get shot, eviscerated, blown up and burned. But who cares? The precinct can rebuild him. The police department views every criminal as a nail and Officer Downe is their hammer. He scours the highways on his motorcycle (replete with sound system, which blasts Enter Sandman or Master of Puppets, I assume) seeking out criminals and using his “favorite piece of correctional equipment… NO SPOILERS!” I think that’s about it. Not much plot in the comic really. The new trade paperback I just read (2017) has some great excerpts from the writer, Joe Casey, in the back and he is quite up front about the fact that it has very little plot and that the whole thing is really just a fun grindhouse style goof. It’s a one-shot “indulging in a silly concept executed with over-the-top creative abandon.”
But what about the illustrations?!
The art by Chris Burnham is amazing here. I remember the first time I saw his style. It was his cover for Nameless #1. I just caught a glimpse of it in passing and thought, “Wait, is Frank Quietly doing a horror comic?”. I doubled back and picked it up and discovered it was Burnham. I opened Nameless up and was blown away Burnham’s ability to draw horrifying gore. I am a huge horror fan and grew up watching Hellraiser, Dead Alive, or just any horror/action movie I could get my teen hands on.
Anyways, I snagged Nameless and was immediately hooked by Chris’ style. His attention to detail is amazing and every panel feels gritty and imperfect, which is perfect. Things that are new are shiny and smooth, lab walls are flat except for shading. Things that are damaged or old have an excellent aged look, with little imperfections.
The same applies to people. From further away, people look like you would expect in a comic, a little flatter. But when the panel calls for a close-up, all the details are there. Craggy faces, crow’s feet, stray eyebrow hairs, freckles and pockmarks. The same applies to inanimate objects. Officer Downe is shown grabbing a car door handle and the car is immaculate and in amazing shape. The next panel shows the car door, torn off, flying through the air and the frame is all twisted metal, broken glass and bolts spraying everywhere. There are few other comic artists who can draw death and destruction as well as Burnham. I also really dig Chris’ anatomy and ability to draw perspective so well. Sure, he can draw a body being destroyed in amazing detail, but he can also draw hands, eyes, feet, and knees amazingly well. The way he can draw cloth bending around joints is phenomenal. It’s really a joy to drag your eyes over each page.
Words by Joe Casey are next up.
Aaaaand, not much going on here? I mean, the whole thing is really for fun, so it’s not necessary for a three act plot. If you go into this book expecting deep characters and exposition, you will be QUITE disappointed. But again, that’s not the point here. I personally like the book. It’s comfort food for the brain, like eating that carton of ice cream. Sure there is plenty of commentary and irony. It’s taking society and turning it up to 11 to make the worst things easy to see. Police brutality, society’s apathy, economic class disparity and more are all depicted, but in a very Tex Avery way. A SUPER violent, insane Tex Avery way. I feel that in terms of impact, it’s mission achieved.
The overall book is a great package too. There are LOADS of extras in the back! Everything from a couple essays from Casey to film production pics. They even threw in the original script for the movie, which was great. Casey explains it’s not the version they shot, cause it’s a script he wrote when he assumed the movie would never get made. That means he wrote it with a complete disregard to budget and time constraints. If you want to see what ludicrous movie ideas a guy can come up with when he has no concerns for actual production constraints, this may be your unicorn. I was actually quite saddened to see that Burnham was missing entirely from the extras. It would have been REALLY cool to read his commentary on drawing the comic.
This was exactly what I expected and the overall execution was cool. It is NOT for everyone.
For people who like: Robocop, Terminator, those old violent Looney Toons, Bobby & Billy skits from Liquid Television(!!!), Happy Tree Friends, Evil Dead (for those one-liners)
I know I shouldn’t scream into your eyes like that, but I’m excited. FCBD is a little Christmas event at your local comic shop, and I know you’re going. Now, when you get there you may see a pile of comics labeled “free”. But which to get?! Well, this is the time to experiment! Snag a couple with cool covers if you want, but you SHOULD ask the clerk what they are about. I mean, they work in comic shop, and any employee worth their salt should know at least a couple! Here in this article I shall provide a couple of my recommendations for the kids as well as some new Mature titles that have kicked off recently you can easily jump on.
Time Shifters – A new original graphic novel by Chris Grine about a boy who stumbles across a time traveling device and is pursued by a group of bizarre, interdimensional henchmen (like a meek Vampire Napoleon) who want the device for their master. He is helped out by an equally weird group of characters (like Robot Lincoln) who appear to be trying to keep the device out of the wrong hands. It’s excellent for kids and adults. I would recommend reading it to your kids, cause then you can “do the voices”. There are even a couple great gags in there that the grown-ups can laugh at, like a Bug-man and his sour wife bickering. I would compare it to Time-Bandits and Back to the Future, but all-ages. This one really has heart and could be a timeless tale.
Colorful Monsters – Drawn & Quarterly’s book has 4 longer tales from different titles. Everything is kid safe and these are quality stories that are well worth free-dollars.
Spongebob Freestyle Funnies – Nickelodeon’s crass tie-in makes a good segue into comics if your child is learning to read and knows the characters.
Alright, time to put the kids to bed and head into Mature territory.
While the kiddos are digging through the free comics, you can head over to the shelves and check out these newer titles:
Plastic – Edwyn, a government spook has his violent and vile urges kept in check by Virginia, a girl he “met online”, as they tour the back roads of America. Things go to hell when a billionaire kidnaps Virginia and forces Edwyn to use his “skills” to ensure Virginia’s freedom. A bizarre, twisted, intense horror comic. Imagine Norman Bates from Psycho crossed with Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson’s character) from Taken.
Seven to Eternity – It’s only on issue #5 so you can pick up Vol 1 and the current issue for less than $15. The whole thing is high fantasy with a Western feel. Adam Osidis is a dying knight from a disgraced family who is one of the last few openly opposing the God of Whispers. The God of Whispers (a.k.a The Mud King) is an omnipresent being who has the ability to see and hear ANYTHING through ANYONE’s eyes and ears, so long as they allow it by accepting a deal with him. The Mud King can be quite persuasive, so he controls most of the world. Adam must decide between saving his life and the lives of his family and compromising everything his family has stood for. Will the bamboo bend, or will it break? I can’t really describe the comic in a general sense. It’s PHENOMENAL art, excellent writing, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Extremity – Another title that is only a couple issues in. This one takes place in a fantasy/dieselpunk/Mad Max world and is about a girl named Thea whose family is destroyed by a rival clan. They come and attack her family and cut off her right hand. You see, Thea is renowned for her art and the invading clan knows this so they cut it off and threaten her father with losing more if they do no submit to being ruled. Thea and her remaining clan embark on a quest for vengeance that will pit them against man, machine, and monster. Imagine something like Howl’s Moving Castle or Princess Mononoke meets Mad Max.
Well, that’s enough to get you rolling. Keep looking the shelves over folks, it gives the kids more time to check out the free stuff. Plus your purchases help offset the cost of all those free comics for the kids! Support your local comic shop! #LCS
So it appears a pilot has been ordered for the phenomenal comic, Locke & Keycreated byJoe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. I for one am excited to hear the news, as this series could turn into an amazing show that could live for quite a few seasons and even turn into historical period pieces. I wanted to take a minute, break it down a bit, offer ideas for where the show can go and what people can expect. I’m trying to give ya’ll a better idea of what’s in store beyond the typical “(printed media name) gets pilot treatment” blast.
The main story arc revolves around the Locke family and how they function as caretakers for Keyhouse manor. For plot details you should REALLY go read the comics, but I can attempt a quick synopsis. You see, the Locke family has looked after Keyhouse for generations. There are mystical, magical, and even inter-dimensional things going on. The house has keys hidden throughout it which the Lockes can use in varying ways. Some open doors to death, some allow you to go anywhere you wish, others allow people to change form, and some can even open your mind.
The family is beset by terrors and troubles from all sides and taking all forms. Alcoholism, family deaths, ghosts, music boxes that can command you to do ANYTHING, and living shadows to name a few. The show could be a VERY emotional drama that is sprinkled with the supernatural, and I can see it being compared to the first season of American Horror Story, but with some Penny Dreadful and Supernatural thrown in. Where the supernatural and fantastic is concerned, the sky’s the limit.
The other great thing is the potential. If the show is given the proper budget, the things that can be brought to life on the screen would be wholly original and refreshing on the thriller/horror front. At one point, there is the physical manifestation of emotions being kept in a glass jar. There is also the fact that the Locke family has been here for generations. That opens up the possibility for entire seasons set from the Civil War era all the way through modern times. Entire seasons could be dedicated to one generation! The show could aesthetically reinvent itself after a story arc is told, essentially becoming an anthology series. Imagine Civil War horror, Victorian horror, modern horror, and more all from a single show!
Then to top it all off, Joe Hill wrote the script and Scott Derrickson is supposed to be directing it (at this time anyways)! Derrickson recently helmed the new Doctor Strange movie, which was the best visually charged movie I’ve seen in a long time. I really can’t think of a better crew to have behind the production on this pilot. I truly hope this series sees the light of day.
Snikt: Enter LEVEL ELEVENTY-SEVEN #110 As We Discuss LOGAN
Logan Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Story by James Mangold Directed by James Mangold Produced by 20th Century Fox Copyright 2017
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is out until April, which times out perfectly for us to gather ’round the table and discuss the latest entry in the Marvel movies — except it’s not a Marvel Studios production (that’s later this year), but the Fox production of the final Wolverine story, Logan.
Starring Hugh Jackman in what’s very likely his last performance as the Wolverine, this film packs in a lot of emotion along with a lot of action, and is already being hailed as a “not typical” superhero popcorn flick. Here, we regale you with our thoughts and reactions, plus a look at some of our favorite moments.
WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS
The panel: Sam Sentman, Chris Jensen, David Baker, Jared Hawkins, Jeff Hackworth
This month, the Gang of Meddling Kids gathers ’round the table to discuss the Resident Evil franchise. From its first days as an early Playstation game to its current status as the top-grossing horror film franchise of all time, Resident Evil has delivered several iterations. Some good, some not. And with the movie franchise winding down (maybe), is it time for the video game series to do the same? Or is there still room for more games pitting Alice against the Umbrella Corporation?
The panel: Ann Laabs, Thomas Townley, Jared Hawkins, David Baker, Sam Sentman
I know, you’re super busy. You also like comic books. What’s a super-busy comic book aficionado like yourself to do when it comes to wading through the sea of independent comic titles? Well, take my hand and let me lead you, my friend. Today we shall wander through the dense, dark forest that is Image Comics.
What it is – Post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi/Theology western.
Synopsis – The things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us. Set in a dystopian America where all hope for the future rests in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse…Death could be our savior. This is an epic Sci-fi/Eschaton tale of revenge that if filmed, would require Cinerama. There is an issue with a map in it and info that isn’t in the main series so it’s a MUST HAVE. The characters are all unique and the art is simply AMAZING. Every issue has these little quotes on blank white pages that give you goosebumps. There is NO other comic I am happier to see in my pull box. Just pick it up already.
For fans of – Spaghetti westerns, the Apocalypse, The Dark Tower, Westworld, anything good (guh, pretentious)
Synopsis – When an astronaut on HADRIAN’S WALL is murdered, pill-popping detective Simon Moore is dispatched to investigate the ship’s crew… including his own ex-wife. But if Simon’s not careful, what he finds could make the interstellar Cold War go red hot. From the creative team behind the critically-acclaimed series C.O.W.L. comes a gripping, locked room murder mystery where the secrets of everyone involved are as dark as the space that surrounds them. This one has a real crime thriller feel to it, with an emphasis on the detective and his emotional problems/self destructive tendencies. Think L.A. Confidential in space.
For fans of – L.A. Confidential, The Maltese Falcon, Vertigo, “Murder Mysteries” by Neil Gaiman
What it is: Deep Space journey of discovery and what it means to be human.
Synopsis – One young robot’s struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. A rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey that pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling space opera from the creators of Trillium, Sweet Tooth, and Little Gotham. I’ve always been a fan of Jeff Lemire’s writing, he has a way of making things feel really heartbreaking and then bringing you back up. He can do the emotional highs and lows well. I could never get into his art style, but Dustin Nguyen just demolishes on this series. (The greatest cover ever is his Tokyo Ghost #10)This title has characters that are easy to empathize with, a robot dog, and a REALLY cool watercolor art style. Bonus points for watercolor.
For fans of – Philip K. Dick, Ender’s Game, Dune, A.I.
Synopsis – It’s 1971, and two young Soviet operatives are sent to California to kill a defector and recover top-secret information. As the mission falls apart into a mess of good sex, bad drugs, and ugly violence, the young Russians are faced with a dilemma: they need to rely on each other to escape America, but they must betray each other to survive Russia. By critically-acclaimed thriller writer ALEX DE CAMPI (No Mercy) with art by TONY PARKER and BLOND. I enjoyed the action scenes in this series quite a bit. They have a Reservoir Dogs Mexican standoff feel, like nobody is really going to win. Mayday has a dark cloud hanging over it, The Cold War. All the characters seem to feel the tension and the whole thing feels very taut. I don’t normally go for espionage stories but this one is the best I’ve read in quite a while.
For fans of – 007, Borne series, Tom Clancy, Munich, Ronin
What it is – Insane fantasy with wizards set in NYC.
Synopsis – A wizard has appeared in New York City, and he’s casting wonderful spells, getting famous, getting rich—it’s great! But it’s not. This wizard has everyone fooled. He is actually an EVIL WIZARD, and EVIL THINGS are on the way. CURSE WORDS is a gonzo modern fantasy, full of darkness, light…and MAGIC. It’s probably the funniest comic I am reading right now! Here’s an incomplete list of things you can expect: Wizards (?!), rats, a koala, references to a ceremonial county in England, cauldrons, platinum men, and MUCH MORE! Heck, I already wrote a seriously long review on it.
For fans of – Guy Ritchie (pre-2010), God Hates Astronauts, people who think From Dusk Til Dawn could be improved by the addition of wizards, Birthright, Reborn.
What it is – Supernatural crime thriller/deconstruction of vigilantism.
Synopsis – From the bestselling team of ED BRUBAKER and SEAN PHILLIPS (The Fade Out, Criminal, Fatale): KILL OR BE KILLED, the twisted story of a young man who is forced to kill bad people, and how he struggles to keep his secret as it slowly ruins his life and the lives of his friends and loved ones. The protagonist is as weak and frail as the rest of us, but he slowly begins to embrace his dark side. There may or may not be demons. It’s my favorite comic that gave me a new light in which to see Batman. A really lame, financially broke, insecure Batman who murders people in cold blood in order to keep on living.
For fans of – Batman, Criminal, The Departed, Death Wish, The Punisher (amateur edition)
What it is – Epic space fantasy about life, love, fear, loss, family, laughing, hoping, growth, moving on, etc, blah blah blah…
Synopsis – From New York Times bestselling writer BRIAN K.VAUGHAN (Y: THE LAST MAN, EX MACHINA) and critically acclaimed artist FIONA STAPLES (MYSTERY SOCIETY, NORTH 40), SAGA is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in a sexy, subversive drama for adults. (Space Romeo & Juliet except they don’t just die at the end, and, ummmm…probably better)
For fans of – Space operas, Stand By Me, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Solaris
Synopsis – ALL HAIL GOD MONEY! From JONATHAN HICKMAN (East of West, Secret Wars, Avengers) and TOMM COKER (Undying Love) comes a new crypto-noir series about the power of dirty, filthy money… and exactly what kind of people you can buy with it. THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS is classic occultism where the various schools of magic are actually clandestine banking cartels who control all of society: a secret world where vampire Russian oligarchs, Black popes, enchanted American aristocrats, and hitmen from the International Monetary Fund work together to keep ALL OF US in our proper place. This book is quite deep and has cryptic symbols EVERYWHERE.
For fans of: Witchcraft, spells, demons, the Illuminati, conspiracies
From the creators of The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, comes a story of the crooked cops, scheming mobsters, and corrupt politicians that run things—and the sex toy that can bring them all down. Oh, and the hero is a drug-sniffing beagle named Pretzels. Bad people do bad things to each other in this frenetic, outrageous, sometimes off-putting new caper! If you liked classic crime comics like CRIMINAL and 100 Bullets we apologize in advance for letting you down! It’s crazy-fun, over the top, and hella crude.
For fans of – The Departed, The Hangover, oh oh imagine the BOONDOCK SAINTS as corrupt cops!!!
Alrighty, that wraps up this edition of “Image comics you should be reading in 2017”. I will get back with you all to expand and add to this list in the coming weeks!
Give CURSE WORDS Your Heart…Seriously, It’s Low On Spell Components
I just finished reading Curse Words #1 and had to dash down into my alchemical dungeon and conjure a spirit whom can do my bidding, at a blistering 60 wpm mind you, so as to get this all down for you scrape your eyes over. Prithee, “scroll” further down this electronic devil paper!
I have long been a fanatic for Charles Soule’s writing and a zealot for Ryan Browne’s art. You may know Soule from Daredevil, Uncanny Inhumans, Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin, All-New Inhumans and his creator-owned series Letter 44. Browne is a self-described 40,000 pound endangered silver-back gorilla who created God Hates Astronauts and Blast Furnace and also worked on The Manhattan Projects and Bedlam. With their powers combined, a new comic was forged. A magical comic with nigh endless possibilities. A comic for the ages (but not All Ages)!
Curse Words tells the tale of Wizord and Margaret. Wizord is an extremely powerful magician from another dimension, or plane, or planet or somewhere not here. We don’t know where just yet, except that we are shown glimpses of slaves and evil looking baddies. Margaret is his familiar who functions as a right-hand man (koala), helping Wizord in his daily life. The setting is modern-day New York City, where people casually dismiss Wizord’s eccentricities…at first. This first issue is high octane, extremely kinetic action laid over big character hints and a dash of plot. They also explain the horse in the office in the first issue! When was the last time you read a comic that introduced AND closed a plot thread in ISSUE ONE?!
Soule’s writing on this series is clearly geared towards fun. The characters are fairly well defined and the pace can be described as “magically delirious”. The universe created here is not like Dr. Strange or Lord of the Rings; no one is concerned with hand gestures or long incantations for spells, but potions?! Potions are serious work. Magicians shoot from the hip, fast and loose. For characters, Wizord is the main focus (so far) and he seems to careen recklessly through life, flinging spells left and right first. I don’t know why, but I imagine Wizord as equal parts Dumbledore, Darth Vader, and Jack Burton. Margaret, while initially a helper, could also fill the role of Wizord’s conscience, helping him control his impulses. Cornwall, another wizard, shows up to spoil the fun dressed in Shakespearean garb and wielding an interesting…scepter. In my mind-theater Cornwall sounds like Toyman from Super Friends, maybe it’s his “He he ha ha ha’s”. The doors truly feel wide open for imagination in terms of plot. While some of the characters feel a little stereotypical out of the gate, the on-going nature and complete lack of logic buffers means anything goes. We have NO idea where this could lead.
Browne’s art is visually electrifying. Literally, there is magical lightning EVERYWHERE. If Browne were a chef, magical lightning would be his salt & pepper. The visual style is much the same as in God Hates Astronauts with lines that are sharp and heavy. Browne has always had a knack for action sequences and in Curse Words the creators sprung the extra $2 to get the footlong knuckle sandwiches with double knuckles. I have always been a fan of Browne’s use of visual onomatopoeias as well.
I met him at a comicon in Columbus Ohio and asked him to please, NEVER stop using them. He has obliged so far, and I really appreciate it. His use in God Hates Astronauts is the funniest use of them I have ever seen, but it’s a bit explicit. See if you can find the tiny “WIGGLE” in Curse Words #1. He also includes little nods throughout the issue for long-time fans. I saw a couple of Easter eggs, which I will leave for you to find.
Jordan Boyd is on colors for the series and is God Hates Astronauts alumni. He handles the palette perfectly and NYC has never looked so vivid! The blending and shading choices just smack of 80’s nostalgia (Day-Glo!). For fans of God Hates Astronauts coloring, Curse Words is your eye-torso’s favorite sweater.
Curse Words is a mystical, magical tour de force for anyone who like their Fun fermented in a wizard’s chaotic cauldron. It’s also bursitis-aware.
For fans of: Birthright, God Hates Astronauts, Big Trouble in Little China, Dr. Strange, and The Tudor Ruff
A feeling in mine bones thinks ye may enjoy this! Curse Words makes excellent braintinder,get issue #1 today.
I was fortunate enough to get to talk a bit with Steven Sanders not long ago. Steven is a local Kansas City artist who has been working in the comics industry for quite a while and has produced a lot of original comics such as Five Fists of Science with Matt Fraction, Throwaways with Caitlin Kittredge, and his independent work on Symbiosis. Steven was great to talk with and shared a great deal out his processes. In this production I’ll play the role of DB: and Steven plays an uncanny SS. I sprinkled some of Steven’s original art throughout the interview. Let’s get to it.
DB: Getting these things rolling can be tricky (I heard it through the grapevine), so let’s kick this off with an easy one. If you could be any well-known scientist from history, who would it be and why? (Is it leading the witness if I say Tesla was my favorite?)
SS: Ha! I definitely understand the Tesla angle, and if it were 6 or so years ago I’d be tempted to go with him, as I had been the worlds biggest Tesla fanboy since high school. But I ran across a site that made a compelling argument that his work was not unique, and had been based on prior art or at the very least others came up with the same ideas before or around the same time he did. That he was basically an excellent engineer with some quirks (or mental disorders or whatever one would care to call them). The popular image of Tesla is quite compelling, though, and he was a fascinating person in general, even if he likely wasn’t as great of an inventor as people like to say he was.
But, Tesla aside, hm. If I could somehow be him without suffering from a racist culture, I’d pick George Washington Carver. I’ve always been amazed and inspired by people who can take very limited materials and turn it into a cornucopia of new things. Or James Lovelock because I’m a big fan of the Gaia Hypothesis, or … well, you only asked for one, I should stop at two and/or before I say Hedy Lamarr. Haha.
DB: Seriously though, what got you into drawing? Was it something you started as a kid on your own?
SS: Yeah, I just always drew as far back as I could remember, and it was something that I would easily get praise for as a kid, so that definitely spurred doing more and more of it. But I also liked it because I could use the paper to make little words to escape into/visit. A friend of mine and I in grade school used to use graph paper to make these “dungeons” with various traps, treasures, etc. etc., and then we’d each go through the other’s dungeon. I think we always died due to some filled in square that was actually an acid pit or something like that. A lot of my conceptual work like the Symbiosis Kickstarter is fueled by that same desire to make and visit unexplored places using pencil and paper.
DB: Oh man, I used to make graph paper mazes in my chemistry class! Totally forgot about that, thanks for excavating that, Steven the Memory Archaeologist. In Throwaways #2 you had a map in the background of a flashback. What inspired you to use that?
SS: That double-page splash scene was pretty much all Caitlin. I just did my best to do it justice.
DB: What sort of things do you enjoy drawing the most? If you were to become independently wealthy tonight, what would you draw tomorrow, Science Fiction, Fantasy, or something you pluck from the spider web of your own mind?
SS: I’d definitely finish and continue on with my Symbiosis project. There’s enough there to keep me occupied for quite a long time, quite likely, however long I have left on this planet. Ah, barring that, I’d be doing more world building, and maybe see about some sci-fi projects with some writers that had been talked about but never got off the ground.
Now that I think about it, if I had the money, getting a studio together to help make all the comics I’ve wanted to draw for people but couldn’t due to time and/or money would be pretty great.
DB: I was looking back through Throwaways and was pouring over the art. The book has a VERY hand-crafted feel to it visually. Was it a look that was inspired by the story or did you have some techniques you wanted to try and felt this was a good fit?
SS: It was mostly me just trying to do “gritty realism” for the first time to any significant degree. As far as I know, drawing technique didn’t change that much, it was adapted to use of more photo reference… It might have to do with the conscious decision to not use any rulers except in the layouts, so all lines are hand drawn without guides.
DB: Can you break down the creation of a page from say, sketching to making the final coloring choices?
SS: Sure! I do everything in Manga Studio, and my “template page” has a number of layers already set up for blue-line, pencils, inks, colors, etc. I’ll read the page of that script, check it against the prior page and what is going on there, and figure out what panels seem to be the most important. Generally, I tend to be pretty plain with my use of grids, versus fancy angled panels and whatnot, and most layouts will fit in some way into a 3×3 grid, where each “beat” gets clustered onto a one of the 3 horizontal areas. From there it’s deciding how each panel feels in term of emotion, and determining camera angle from that, then roughing the backgrounds in, and then the figures.
From there, depending on a number of things, I’ll find or shoot photo reference or find 3D models for places, persons and things. Even if I think I have a good mental image of something real, looking at the actual object gives you all kinds of little visual landmarks one is likely to miss unless they are just super familiar with what’s being drawn.
I’ll do pencils and inks from there. Due to a combination of not wanting to take the time to master traditional inking, and the love of how pencil looks, I’ve ended up with a hybrid pencil/ink style that lets me get the softness of pencil and the graphic weight of ink when I want it.
Coloring is basically me painting with a digital oil brush underneath the linework. I like it, but it’s also very time intensive if I give it the attention I want to. So I’m trying to find ways to speed up that process, like using flats to easily select/mask off each area. I’ll often try and give each “scene” its own unifying color, and use the “Photo Filter” process in Photoshop for that. It works out a lot like the natural media painting method of working some of a chosen color into every mixed color you use in a painting.
DB: Do you like having more than one project going, so you have things to bounce between when you hit a sticking point on one?
SS: Yeah, Symbiosis has been my main side project for a while, but before (and after) that I’d either have other jobs, or I’d take breaks to do non-2D arts and crafts. Like homebrewing, carving/turning stones like alabaster/soapstone, making electronics projects, building computers (when I had more money than sense I was working on making a hackintosh inside of an old NeXT cube as a super nerdy in-joke. OSX is kind of OpenSTEP… 5? 6? I forget at the moment.), wildcrafting herbs and fruits/nuts (yay acorn cake!), and just trying to learn as much about everything as I could.
DB: Are there any tips/tricks/advice you would like give aspiring illustrators?
SS: There’s no substitute for practice, don’t be precious with/attach your ego to your work, and learn how to market yourself online and make friends in the industry you want to get into.
Don’t “network,” it turns people away. Just make friends. It’s win/win that way.
Don’t skimp on the business end of things. Or at least find someone to delegate it to. (I learned that one the hard way.)
Be like a dog with a bone. If you think you have the ability to be a pro, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it.
Be a good, kind person; help out your peers and others looking to work as illustrators. What goes around comes around.
And if you have social anxiety like I do, nobody ever died from it, so get out there and be social anyway. Meditation can help. I like the Headspace app/website, but that’s just me.
DB: And finally, what can we possibly see from you in the future? Are you planning to continue in comics? Do you have stuff in the works that needs a Level 10 clearance to discuss or any teasers you could share?
SS: Yeah, I plan on continuing in comics, I have another creator owned book in the works, but can’t talk about it, unfortunately. It’s pretty fun, though. Alt-history sci-fi stuff. I’m going to be putting out a PDF/CBZ Symbiosis Chapbook as a way to get Symbiosis backers something while waiting for me to finish getting the time and money to finish and print the book.
That wraps it up for this session people. Steven was a blast to talk to, was quite accommodating, and would make a formidable pugilist. LITERALLY everyone in KC who goes to Planet Comicon should find his booth and stop by, chat him up, pick up a print, or…I dunno maybe just loiter about it for hours? Make everyone else at The Con wonder just what is going on over THERE?! A mass of people gathered about his table fueled by CONSTRUCTIVE INTERFERENCE!
LOCKE & KEY: SMALL WORLD – You’ll Want to Step Into This Parlor…
I am a long-time fan of Locke & Key. I came into this world a little late, so I only have a few milestone issues but I have the whole run in trades. I even went to SDCC back in 2014 and made a point to stop by the IDW booth for Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s signing (they were a joy to chat with). I would highly recommend the series to ANYONE, especially fans of spooky fantasy. I don’t know that I would label the series as horror, because the primary themes are not terrifying. There ARE terrifying things that happen, but they are more hurdles and occurrences than focal points. Fans of the title would know the story is more about love, family, perseverance, and loyalty.
This new issue is part of The Golden Age, which is a series of six one-shots. The previous entries are Open the Moon and Grindhouse. With the 3 year gap, I was quite excited for another dose and let me just say, it was a real treat to creep back into this amazing world. If I had to list off pros…it would be: the characters and their consistent behavior, the pacing isn’t rushed, the plot is framed well (it’s a one shot and knows it), and of course Rodriguez’s fabulous art (the man can draw vintage architecture!). If you are a long time fan, there are plenty of nods and easter eggs.
If I had to list cons…eh, it’s not something I like to do with art (cop out!) but I will say this; there is a long break between issues here. A LONG break. The creators know this, so the issue has a feel to it that is sorta hey-check-this-out-new-reader but also wants to give old fans something as well. There was a dinner scene where all the characters are labeled, which is clearly for the neophyte. As an old fan, I would have liked 2 more pages of story. But I get it. I really do. No hard feelings, and I hope Locke & Key gets more than a dirigible sized load of new fans. They deserve it.
In Small World, Keyhouse is here in full force, but the occupants have changed. If you were expecting Kinsey, Tyler, or Bode, you will be saddened to hear they are not here, but it is not surprising as The Golden Age series is more about expanding the history of Keyhouse and the overall world Hill and Rodriguez are building. This chapter in the history of Keyhouse belongs to some Locke ancestors: Harland, Chamberlin, Fiona, and the four children, Ian, John, Jean, and Mary.
Since this series is basically like an old favorite pair of jeans for me, I’m going to write my impressions and summary as I flip through the book on a second read.
The first panel is like using the Timeshift Key to step back to 2010 when I first encountered the series and Gabriel Rodriguez’s art. Nothing has changed style-wise, which is great because Rodriguez’s art is phenomenal and you can fall right back into the world of Keyhouse like the last 3 years didn’t happen. The faces are all familiar and Keyhouse has the right texture to it. To me it feels like Rodriguez uses more of a woodcut style for Locke & Key. It’s a tweak to his style that you don’t see on other titles like Little Nemo (which is great to read to your kids!). It’s cool to see artists give each title they work on its own “feel”. The woodcut tweak is something that subtly and unconsciously takes the reader back in time without slapping a box on the first page reading “April 1855”. Practically everything has a texture to it and little is left flat, meaning you can spend a while just looking at the wallpaper. Leave it to Rodriguez to make wallpaper interesting. The Crown of Shadows is around as well, and I thought one of the Shadows looked like a lunar Dr. Strange!
Hill writes Small World in the same manner as before, and the old Locke family is immediately endearing and funny. The children bicker about typical things (Mary chased me with a pencil!) which are decidedly NOT typical. This IS Keyhouse after all, so it’s not your typical pencil-chase scene. The Lockes are a family that look out for each other and make light of events that would shatter the minds of the Brady Bunch. The pace is great and nothing feels too rushed. Hill knows this family well and it shows in their interactions.
My only question/concern with the issue is that Harland feels less like an uncle and more like a butler/nanny. In terms of chronology? If memory serves, I THINK this must take place before Open the Moon, since Ian is still in the house.
Regardless, I now feel a strong desire to start back with issue #1 and re-read the entire series. I know you are looking for a comic series to kick off that New Year’s resolution “Gotta-binge-read-more-comics”, then Locke & Key has all the amazing art and story you crave with, like, ZERO trans fats.
MECHANISM: Wherein a Super A.I. Mulls Over Saving Humanity.
When I first saw Mechanism, I had almost no idea who Raffaele Ienco was. I recognized his art from Symmetryand that was it. Turns out the guy has been in comics for over 20 years and has quite a few creators owned projects! I love finding established creators I had somehow missed. It’s like finding a gem mine that someone worked over for years, but just tossed all the precious stones on the ground. I get to run around and pick up these amazing things and binge! But I am here to discuss one thing in particular: Mechanism.
When you crack open the cover to Mechanism #1 you are greeted by a context free panel from somewhere down the line. A panel displaced in time. The first one is what appears to be an A.I. entity whose “body” looks to be a large atomic soccer ball. It greets someone named Tom who we do not see. Now, I have a great brain-theater. It has THE biggest budget. A cast of thousand I tell you! Set pieces that amaze! This A.I. of course sounds just like Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Monotone in a way that says “I am super non-threatening, devoid of emotion, utterly logical, and as a result, a complete sociopath”. As a launching point, it’s perfect.
As the story progresses, we are shown a world that is threatened by “Geckos”, weirdly violent semi-aquatic creatures who attack humanity. The Geckos themselves are oddly green, faceless bi-pedal humanoids. Civilization is driven back behind giant walls by the Geckos’ onslaught and the planet reverts a bit to it’s greener days. One of the aspects of the story is clearly an examination of humanity’s effect on the planet as characters point out that while humanity is suffering because of the Geckos’ sudden attack, Earth is actually recovering. It can start to feel a little heavy-handed, but then the story will switch focus to the A.I.
Now, the A.I is the character I am most interested in. It is a tool created by a man to help humanity fight off the Geckos, but it is embodied by a silent sentinel that is sent out with local police to learn what it is to be “human” and what it is fighting for before it can be linked back to the central A.I. I will just say that it does EXACTLY what I hoped it would, and precisely what the characters hope it wouldn’t. The way humanity is portrayed, I wonder that even if the A.I. helps humanity, it will be to what end? Will humans learn to live on the Earth, or simply use it up again? Will humans even really learn anything at all if the A.I. just fixes their problems? It’s tough to tell which way Ienco will take us.
The art is a style I would describe as “digital pastels”. It has a soft feel… The crumbling world is drawn quite well and the atmosphere is dark, dank, dilapidated and drawn almost perfectly (the three D’s!). The settings are excellent and make me think of a world that’s equal parts I am Legend and Blade Runner. Ienco is clearly comfortable drawing technology as the broken down world is littered with cool looking tech and awesome mech’s. Oh yeah, there are MECH’s!
I wonder if that’s the MECH in Mechanism? Nah…maybe? Nah… I don’t know that the style is something I could get into, but there’s no denying it’s good. Maybe the people are just a tad too cartoon-y for me? Ienco is clearly trying to set the art apart from Symmetry. I personally like the art in Symmetry a bit more, but that’s simply my taste and you should take a look for yourself and see what you like.
What it boils down to though, is that if you like Blade Runner, I am Legend, 2001: A Space Odyssey or are a fan of dystopia stories, general sci-fi and questioning humanity’s worthiness to save, Mechanism is a decent read. It’s good enough I would say check it out, and look at that, the first trade is available!. It may be right up your alley!
Let me begin by saying that the comic book Happy is quite bloody, very gritty, and very… VERY dark. This is a grim tale about Nick Sax, who is a disgraced detective; a good man who is beaten down and broken by the world he tried to save.
Nick used to be happily married with a good job on the force. Then he had to start working crime scenes and the worst of humanity began chipping away at him. Unfortunately, Sax is just human. No super powers or resolve-of-steel here, folks. His only salvation may lie in an imaginary tiny blue flying unicorn named Happy that sees the best in humanity and is willing to drag Sax kicking and screaming into the light to save a missing girl. Can this cop-turned-hitman find enough hope and Christmas cheer to stop a kidnapper in a Santa suit who has taken Happy’s friend?
What can we expect from this show?
The pilot is being co-written by Grant Morrison and Brian Taylor. Comic book fans may know Morrison who is the author of the comic miniseries Happy, The Invisibles, Animal Man, and my two favorites, All-Star Superman and WE3, among countless other series.
Brian Taylor is known for directing Crank and its sequel. If you haven’t seen Crank, you should check that out because it is JUST INSANE. Make sure the kids are out of the house first though. Crank is an action movie that can only be described as a cross between Looney Tunes and the Grand Theft Auto video games.
So, after hearing who is directing it and the writing team behind it, I would say viewers could be in for one seriously wild ride. No lie, this has become my most anticipated show for Syfy. I expect that the show will be tamed down from the source material at least a little, as keeping true to the comic would require airing it on HBO. Again, the comic is VERY graphic. The potential is here though, for a long hard look at society, our disconnection from each other, and every-man values. Having Morrison writing the pilot ensures that at least the launch will receive the treatment it deserves.
I only wonder how much Syfy will shackle Morrison. If left to his own devices, Morrison can get very dark, VERY abstract and quite esoteric, requiring multiple viewings/readings. I for one am quite excited, as having Morrison on board means Happy could turn into the worlds largest onion-of-a-tv-show. Sooooo many layers (and probably tears).
The main star will be Chris Meloni. I think Chris is a great pick as his prior work on CSI means Sax’s history as a detective should come easy, as well as being exposed to the dark underbelly of humanity. Throw in some of those fairly gross clothes he wears on Underground and you have a ready-made Sax. I mean, just look at Meloni in Underground!
Meloni IS NICK SAX!
I will end with a quote from one of Grant’s most well known comics to give you a modicum of what you can expect in terms of breadth:
Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there! But what do we choose to keep in this miraculous cabinet? Little broken things, sad trinkets that we play with over and over. The world turns our key and we play the same little tune again and again and we think that tune’s all we are. ~ Grant Morrison, The Invisibles
Check out the graphic novel here. Mature audiences only!
I first found Throwaways in the Image website under the “Upcoming Releases” (which can be found here). It is a story that is equal parts action, mystery, subterfuge, and conspiracy, all with a splash of psychic powers.
The story focuses on Abby Palmer and Dean Logan, two broken people who have trouble functioning in society but are thrown together under mysterious circumstances when CIA strike teams begin hunting them. It’s through these extraordinary situations we begin to see their unique abilities and watch their history unfold.
The art done by Steven Sanders has an interesting look that seems to be created digitally but with brushes that appear to be marker-like. The lines have a solid appearance but show the tiniest bit of feather/bleed on the edges upon closer inspection. You can see where multiple passes darken the shading which gives the book a VERY hand-crafted feel. The overall look is great and the action scenes carry a LOT of weight. You can really feel the impacts. The style makes it a more intimate experience for me as it doesn’t feel like the book passed through 15 sets of hands before reaching the stands. It’s just you and Steven here.
Kittredge’s plot is fast paced but it doesn’t lose the details. We get introduced to the main characters through what is basically a cold opening like many classic Bond films (Thunderball? “Madame, I have come to offer my sincere condolences.” BIFF!), but at the pace of Lethal Weapon 2’s opening.
There are hints at things to come and of the past behind. Maps in the backgrounds, exposition done interestingly through chat windows and more. It’s there if you are looking. I felt Abby is the most fleshed out in backstory as we get a decent look at where she comes from. However, we know the most about Logan’s personality. A lot of that can be attributed to Kimiko, Logan’s complicated girlfriend who refuses to be left behind. You can see where Abby and Logan are two halves and balance each other out. Abby is very in-your-face while Logan just wants to be left alone.
The story definitely leans towards a good spy-thriller but certainly ticks the science fiction box as well with Logan being the unknown. He definitely has some…abilities, but we don’t know the full extent just yet. Overall the cast is still small which allows more focus so the book doesn’t feel far-flung. Think 75% Bond and 25% Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
If you are looking for a book with all the government cover-ups, black-ops, fisticuffs, car chases, PTSD, heartbreak, hope, and complexity your inner sci-fi spy can handle, Throwaways delivers.
I personally will be picking up issue #4.
Steven Sanders prior work includes Five Fists of Science, Kraken Armada, S.W.O.R.D., Symbiosis and more.
Caitlin Kittredge is well known for the Nocturne City and Iron Codex series of books.
In the opening pages of Surgeon X we are introduced to a world littered with ads from a government that is apparently not ashamed to let its citizens die. This is a world filled with scare propaganda similar to the 1940’s “Loose lips sink ships” WWII posters, which can be both cautionary yet fear mongering. Surveillance drones are everywhere, autonomous taxis that talk too much fill the streets and technology seems to inflict itself almost forcefully, as though the programmer or engineer was a sadist.
One of the main political parties we are introduced to in a crumbling Britain is the Lionheart party, whose main platform is “for the greater good”. The people committing open rebellion in the streets don lamb masks. It’s Lion vs Lamb. There is a third party, the New Conservative Party, but we only get a glimpse of it in this issue.
The main protagonist is Rosa, a surgeon who is fed up with the ever encroaching government. You can see the ethical and moral dilemmas pile up and begin to mirror in Rosa and her growing resentment with the near-totalitarian government. The government begins to ration out antibiotics leading to a general discontent and belief that “the government is beginning to decide who lives and dies”. Rosa’s first big step down the road to conflict with the government is in a moment where she has to, you guessed it, decide whether someone lives or dies. It’s probably my only real “hurm” moment with the issue. The book is like a roller coaster where you get ratcheted up, there is a good drop, it has a twisty, curvy middle with JUST enough to keep you going and then ends with a good loop or two. A solid first issue.
The cast introduced is manageable with just enough shadowy figures and interesting characters popping in and out to make you wonder and want more. Rosa and her immediate family, a few friends, a few opposing forces, and some looming conglomerates to discover in the art.
The overall feel of the book was fascinating. As a fan of watercolors, I loved that the art is slightly watercolor looking, which adds texture and gives the book a more primal visual appeal. The lines and inking feel like they were pulled from the 70’s at times, which, combined with the watercolor texture, creates an interesting and unique look. It’s a book that looks forward 20-30 years in plot and ideas, yet looks backwards 20-30 years in visuals. If you insist on a comparison, get Frank Miller to push Sean Murphy’s hand around for line art, anyone who inked an 80’s X-Men comic can ink it, have David Mack watercolor it, then have Matt Hollingsworth lay some flats over THAT. I like it.
Clearly the creators went to great lengths to be well informed before launching this title, speaking with physicians, economists, historians and more, and it paid off in spades. Surgeon X has it all. Murder mystery, government conspiracies, nefarious uses for technology, global pharmacological companies, rebellions, basement ER’s, real life Surgeon Simulator in a moving van, and a detective with the itchiest looking coat ever. Seriously, who WAS that guy?!
The sheer number of plot threads cast out here feels like the creators are in this for the long haul and it is quite intriguing.
This is Science Fiction at it’s best. As Clarke said, “…science fiction is something that could happen – but usually you wouldn’t want it to.” The setting of Surgeon X is quite plausible and entirely undesirable.
In this world where Resistance has multiple meanings, the Hippocratic oath seems well and truly gone.