TIME SHIFTERS: A Fantastic All-Ages Graphic Novel With Heart

I got an early look at Chris Grine‘s new graphic novel, Time Shifters. I have to say, this is one of the best young reader books I’ve seen in a while. Chris does an excellent job of creating original, sometimes bizarre, characters and then pairing them with exciting and inspirational stories. The book is well paced and the art is a perfect fit.

Mummys, dinosaurs, vampire Napoleons, oh my!

Parents ask your kids this:

Would you like to hear a story about a boy who tries to keep an amazing device away from dimension-hopping bad guys with the help of a crazy scientist, a ghost, a dinosaur, and robot Abraham Lincoln? Wait, who’s helping him!? You read that right.  Who’s chasing them, trying to get the device back? Glad you asked. How about vampire Napoleon, a mummy, and a skeleton in a space suit? Three bumbling henchmen working for a nefarious miscreant, who for a while seems to mostly berate his henchmen through a fantasy-Blackberry.  Things get interesting once the dimension hopping starts.

Normally I like to have the material I review in front of me. I skim through it as I write as it helps my accuracy. In doing that with this book, I just noticed something. The skeletons boots squish! Can you tell me why? Well, not right now of course, cause maybe you haven’t read the book yet.

For the parents, this book is REALLY FUN to read to your kids. We had a blast and I got to “do the voices”. There’s a bug-man with a sour wife who had me laughing too hard to read. The 7 year old was asking why I was laughing and I had to say, “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

There’s action, drama, character growth, and heart. Man, there’s heart. For the older readers, you’ll see themes that will probably get missed by kids.  I don’t want to get into spoilers, but hit me up when you’re done and we can peel it apart. Time Shifters has more than enough left for a second volume, which my kids immediately asked for. I can’t think of higher praise.

Pick up your copy today!


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.”

All you have to do is follow these simple steps :


  1. Go to www.Pulsar-Entertainment.com and create a user profile.

  2. Follow the directions on the landing page to begin the contest submission process.

  3. Submit an original 8 page (maximum) comic in JPG format by June 15, 2017.

  4. 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.

An honest cover if ever there was one.

Synopsis first?

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.

Final thoughts…

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)


Free Comic Book Day 2017 at Milwaukee’s Lost World of Wonders

[All photographs by Dave Margosian]


Free Comic Book Day started in 2002 and according to the owner of Lost World of Wonders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “every year it gets bigger.” Airi Williams noted that for LWoW, FCBD brings in “non-hardcore comics readers” to comic shops and as evidenced by the many children in the shop, exposes a new generation of readers to comics.

Williams estimated that Lost World hosted approximately 1,000 FCBD visitors in 2015 and around 1,200 in 2016. From the looks of the line stretching around the building this year, that number will most likely be higher for 2017.


Young Alessandria enjoys her first Free Comic Book Day.


Boo, the Comic Store Cat at Lost World of Wonders, maintains her cool.


Felicity enjoys FCBD decked out in her Superman sparkle t-shirt.


The helpful Staff at Lost World wrapping up each visitor’s free comics.


Lily and Callie wait in line to pick out their free comics (and pet Boo the Comic Store Cat).


Writer and Artist James Lynch displays some of his graphic novel titles.


Isaac dressed up with some Spider Man gear for FCBD.


Did we mention the line was long before the store opened?


Author James Lowder helps  Kayla and young Rain find some more comics. Kayla said comics helped her daughter become an avid reader.


Nick, Chris and Gabriel – first in line FCBD 2017!


Free Comic Book Day is here! (FCBD)


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


CHRONONAUTS To Hit the Big Screen for Universal

Deadline is reporting that playwright & screenwriter Philip Gawthorne will be writing Universal Pictures’ big screen adaptation of the Eisner-nominated graphic novel Chrononauts, created by Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy. Chris Morgan of the Fast & Furious franchise will produce under his Chris Morgan Productions banner.

RELATED ~ 2016 Eisner Winners Announced

Gawthorne comes to the project after writing an adapation for Kojak and the remake of Cube, and is currently co-writing Black Hole and World Breaker.

The story follows Corbin Quinn and Danny Reilly, two scientific geniuses who crack time travel and go on an adventure, televising the experiment along the way. They love to have fun, and now that they have time travel in their hands, will they work for the betterment of mankind? And what happens when things go horribly wrong… as they do.

Millar is also the writer of Marvel Comics’ original Civil War event, and he later formed the Millarverse with original creator-owned titles such as Wanted and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Murphy is an Eisner-winning artist who created Punk Rock Jesus and has worked on several DC Comics titles.

Ainsley Davies will oversee the project for Chris Morgan Productions, with Universal’s Jay Polidoro supervising for the studio.


Legendary Artist Bernie Wrightson Passes Away

Bernie Wrightson’s wife, Liz, sadly announced the passing of the legendary comic artist on his official website, stating he had lost his battle with brain cancer on March 18, 2017. He was 69.

Wrightson, who announced his retirement this past January due to disease, was best known for his work on horror comics and being the co-creator of DC Comics iconic horror hero Swamp Thing with writer Len Wein. Throughout his career, he worked with both DC and Marvel, drawing characters such as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Doctor Strange.

Born in 1948, he was raised reading EC horror comics. At 18, Wrightson began working at The Baltimore Sun as an illustrator and after meeting artist Frank Frazetta at a comic-book convention in New York City, decided to create and illustrate his own stories. In 1968, he presented his work to DC Comics editor Dick Giordano and was given his first freelance assignment.

His first professional comic book story, The Man Who Murdered Himself, appeared in House of Mystery No 179. After that, he became the “go-to” illustrator for both horror and mystery anthology comics at DC.

In 1971, he and Wein co-created Swamp Thing for DC Comics, which also became the first DC film outside of Superman: The Movie. He continued to work with DC until 1974, when he left to work for Warren Publishing, creating black and white adaptations of tales by H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. He also formed The Studio, with fellow artists Jeff Jones, Michael Kaluta, and Barry Windsor-Smith, to pursue work outside of comic books.

Wrightson began his relationship with horror king Stephen King in 1983, when he collaborated on the comic book adaptation of the horror film Creepshow. Other adaptations include Cycle of the Werewolf, The Stand, and Wolves of the Calla, the fifth book of the Dark Tower series.

He also worked as a conceptual artist on another of film, which include the original Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, Serenity, and Land of the Dead.

Friends have taken to social media, remembering the legend.



He is survived by his wife, two sons, and a stepson.


Down Home Horror HARROW COUNTY Wins 2016 Ghastly Awards

[Banner image courtesy Ghastly Awards Facebook page]


Harrow County is a small patch of Americana overflowing with witches, haints, gods, and monsters, brought to life since 2015 by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Tyler Crook in the Dark Horse comic of the same name. Harrow County was nominated in 2016 for an Eisner Award in the Best New Series category (losing out to Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang).



On the eve of the 2016 Eisner Award nominees announcement, Harrow County just won several Ghastly Awards, including Best Ongoing Title, Best Writer (Cullen Bunn) and Best Artist (Tyler Crook). The Ghastly Awards began in 2011 to honor the best in horror comics and are named after famed horror comic artist Graham Ingles. If you’ve ever seen stories from The Vault of Fear, Tales from the Crypt, or The Vault of Horror, you’ve seen the signature Ingles style – full of “swampy surroundings, mutilated cadavers, and vengeance-seeking zombies.”


Blood, snakes, and broken glass on the cover of  Harrow County Issue 21 (Image courtesy DarkHorse.Com)

Until Syfy actually makes a series based on Harrow County, the comic (both single issues and four collected editions) are the best introduction to this rural, haunted world. Harrow is one of the comics I make a point of buying in single issues as soon as they hit our Local Comic Store. Bonus content, including extra “Tales of Harrow County” and stories of “true life” hauntings sent in by fellow readers, make this title feel like a group of friends relating tales around a campfire.

The Skinless Boy – Emmy’s loyal friend and protector (image courtesy Harrow County.com).

Emmy Crawford, a young woman protecting both the supernatural and human worlds that co-exist in Harrow County, lives with her Pa in a rural farmhouse. But like everything around her, Emmy is more than she appears. From The Skinless Boy to her beloved Pa, her home is full of terror and wonders. We’ve only begun to learn the mythology of Harrow County, and I can’t wait to see where Bunn and Crook’s Americana horror story goes next.

If you’re intrigued by Harrow County, here are a few resources (in addition to the newest issue at your LCS) –

Harrow County.com– not updated recently, but full of great art and links to the Harrow County soundtracks.

Dark Horse Comics – official site


MST3K to Partner with Dark Horse Comics

{Header image used courtesy MST3K’s Facebook page.}

As you are no doubt aware, cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K for short) is back. After an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, show creator Joel Hodgson has wrangled a new cast (including Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, among others) and secured the show to broadcast on Netflix starting April 14.

The cast of the rebooted ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’. Photo courtesy the MST3K website.

Well, into every new show, a little transmedia must fall. In February, Dark Horse Comics announced that they would be partnering with the rebooted show for a new comic series, and various related products. “I first encountered the show in 1992,” says Dark Horse’s vice president of publishing Randy Stradley in the announcement, “and immediately fell in love with both the concept and the characters. I began inquiring about the license in 1993, and now — a mere 24 years later — we have Comics Sign!”

Stay tuned to Dark Horse Comics for more information about that partnership, and check out MST3K’s official site for more information about the show.


You can see more of Angie’s work (and her social media connections) over at her website.

The Longbox Hunter: STAR TREK: UNTOLD VOYAGES #2


In the back of my house, I keep my most prized possessions. My long boxes.  Filled with issue after issue after issue (Guess you could say I have issues) of comic books dating back thirty years or longer.

This is just one of them.

Star Trek: Untold Voyages #2

This issue was published in February of 1999 by Marvel Comics under the “Marvel Presents Paramount Comics” imprint with a cover date of April 1998 and a cover price of $2.50. It was written by Glen Greenberg, and the art was done by Michael Collins and Keith Williams. The issue is titled, “Worlds Collide”.  Star Trek: Untold Voyages was a mini-series of 5 issues that takes place after the events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture but before Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

Let’s talk about the big character highlight in this issue, Saavik. Saavik was a character first seen in Star Trek II as Spock’s protégé. She was played in Star Trek II by Kirstie Alley. In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, she’s played by Robin Curtis. I know there are people who prefer Kirstie’s performance over Robin’s, but personally, I’ve always like Robin’s better.

Something that was left out of the movies, (and therefore out of canon) was that Saavik was half-Romulan. It was revealed in the novelizations, but only the most die-hard fans read those.

Now, let’s discuss this issue. It opens with the Enterprise exploring a world that’s about to be hit by a planet-killing asteroid. Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, Chekov and Ensign Omal (who is taking Spock’s place while he’s taking care of other matters) beam down to observe the local creatures. Large four-legged beasts. The landing party can’t determine too much about them so they take their readings and leave…or they would if Bones wasn’t arguing with Kirk about leaving these creatures to their fate.

Will Kirk decide to intervene?

Meanwhile, Spock arrives at the Vulcan embassy on Earth. He has been summoned to deal with Saavik, a young Vulcan-Romulan hybrid child that he rescued from an abandoned Romulan Colony. It seems the Romulans were trying to do some selective breeding, crossing Romulans with Vulcans. The Romulans eventually deemed their efforts a failure and left the offspring behind to die. Spock and a Vulcan expedition found the youths and rescued them.

Now all the other children have accepted the Vulcan way and left with new families…except Saavik. She doesn’t want to control her emotions and she’s acting out. So Spock was summoned to assist her.

What will Spock do with young Saavik?

Now, let’s see if this issue stands the test of time.

Artwork: Michael Collins pencils are pretty darn good. He gives plenty of detail in the close-up shots that you don’t have to guess what you’re looking at and the characters LOOK like the original actors. The Enterprise is drawn well and there are no real problems with perspective.

The only real problem I have with the artwork is some of the color work. Matt Webb, the colorist, does great when it comes to the planet, ship, regular people and uniforms. But for some reason, the Vulcans have a coppery orange skin tone. I know that Vulcans live on a hot desert planet. But the skin tone is supposed to be slightly green, not orange.

Story: I really liked this story. The Kirk/McCoy story is a classic Star Trek style story. They come to a planet and have to make a decision about what action to take, the moral one or the logical one. The one thing this story lacks is Spock to back up the logical side of things. You have McCoy being McCoy and Kirk having to argue what Spock would argue. In the end, compassion wins out…but is not necessary since the inhabitants solve the dilemma anyway.

The Spock/Saavik story is pretty good. Spock tries to deal with Saavik logically, but that won’t work. She may be half-Vulcan, but she’s still a child. She wants to be like Spock — able to control her emotions — but she just can’t find that hold. Spock senses Saavik has a kindred spirit. Someone who is the product of two worlds, neither of which he would entirely fit into, not without practice. He even tells her about his experiences as a child and tells her that she can learn from his experiences. In the end, he finds her a home that will accept her. It’s not a fantastic story that the cover promised,but it’s a good one.

This is a lost era of Star Trek, one that is found only in books and comic books. It’s refreshing to read these stories. It’s a shame the “Marvel Presents Paramount Comics” imprint has never been collected in a trade paperback or digital format, but I’m sure it’s a rights issue.

So if you want to read a copy, start hunting!



The Image Comics You Should Be Reading in 2017

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.

East of West:

Source: 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)


Hadrian’s Wall:

Source: Image Comics

What it is – Outer space who-done-it

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



Source: Image Comics

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.



Source: Image Comics

What it is – Cold War action-thriller.

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


Curse Words:

Source: Image Comics

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.


Kill or Be Killed:

Source: Image Comics

What it is – Supernatural crime thriller/deconstruction of vigilantism.

Synopsis – From the bestselling team of ED BRUBAKER and SEAN PHILLIPS (The Fade OutCriminalFatale): 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)



Source: Image Comics

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


The Black Monday Murders:

Source: Image Comics

What it is – Occult horror.

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


The Fix:

Source: Image Comics

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.

Excellent GHA onomatopoeia.

 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.


Artist Profile: Steven Sanders

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.

Symbiosis concept art


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.

Symbiosis concept art

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?

Symbiosis concept art

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!


The Longbox Hunter: MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1


In the back of my house, I keep my most prized possessions. My long boxes.  Filled with issue after issue after issue (Guess you could say I have issues) of comic books dating back thirty years or longer.

This is just one of them.

Martian Manhunter #1 (2nd Series)


This issue was published in October of 1998 by DC Comics with a cover date of December 1998 and a cover price of $1.99 (Oh, how I wish they still cost that much.) It was written by John Ostrander and the art was done by Tom Mandrake. The issue is titled, “Duty”. It is available digitally at ComiXology.

Let’s talk about the Martian Manhunter. His real name is J’onn J’onzz (pronounced John Jones, I kid you not.) He’s a real Martian and he originally believed himself to be THE last Martian (although, he later found that not to be entirely true). He debuted in Detective Comics #225 in November of 1955 in a story entitled,“The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel”. In that story, he accidentally gets brought to Earth by Dr. Erdel, who dies of a heart attack before he can send him back to Mars. So he stays on Earth, shape shifting into a human named John Jones. He becomes a police detective and solves crimes. (Making him a “Manhunter”)

That’s one way to get…a head.

Well, he is right. They DID try.

J’onn later would go on to help found the Justice League of America as well as the Justice League International. His powers are numerous but include: flight, shape shifting, invisibility, intangibility, super breath, super speed, martian vision, mind control and he is one of the top telepaths on Earth. He has a weakness to fire and Chocos (Oreos in our universe).

OK, not an actual weakness to Oreos, but he does love them.

Now about our issue, Martian Manhunter #1. (I’d put SPOILERS here, but it’s an old comic, if you don’t want to be spoiled, put this review aside and read the issue, then come back. Ready?)

The story starts in Denver with a bum getting decapitated by a robotic spider bot. Enter John Jones (Martian Manhunter in disguise, remember) looking in on the case. He decides to lure the culprit out by shape-shifting to look like a bum. He’s attacked, they fight and Manhunter wins.  After getting his injuries checked out at the JLA Watchtower, he researches and finds the M.O. of the bots follows the research of one Thaddeus Romero Hoskins. Oracle chimes in and tells him that Hoskins is certifiably dead.

They discover a possible location and Manhunter checks it out, finds the bad guy who now goes by the name The Headmaster and a battle ensues.

Now let’s see if this issue holds up.

Kyle Rayner has never been this lantern jawed before.

Artwork: Tom Mandrake’s art is pretty good. You can tell what everything is supposed to be, who everyone is supposed to be. He does a good job displaying J’onn’s powers. My only real complaint with his art style are how he draws faces. They come off very square with poor expressions. And everyone has big full lips on their mouths.

Story: John Ostrander’s story is pretty solid, if a bit brief. There’s nothing to be learned. It is just a simple introduction to Martian Manhunter. You get a brief backstory, you get some quick introductions to the powers he has, the resources he has in the JLA. Just a nice setup to the series and a character that, despite his power and importance in the DC Universe, is always thought of as a third tier character.

Does it hold up today? Yes. It’s a solid introduction, light on actual story.


I would love to see Martian Manhunter get his own TV series. True, he is a part of Supergirl on the CW. But he’s a supporting character. I would love to see him on his own, shifting into a new persona in every episode. Kind of like Quantum Leap or The Incredible Hulk, drifting from town to town putting right what once went wrong, looking for a way back home while looking for who he is. I would watch the hell out of that.

This series of Martian Manhunter lasted for a decent 38 issues, wrapping up in November 2001. Plenty of stories to enjoy.

So download or pick up a copy and get reading!




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.

smallworld1This 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.

Check it all out, starting with Welcome to Lovecraft.