Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sacramento Sci-Fi/Horror Show and Sac-Con

Finally, something Cool is coming to Sacramento, CA. Yeah, that's right. Cool with a capital "C." Because where else in Northern California can you find a Sci-fi/Horror convention and a Comic/Toy/Anime show lumped into one amazing weekend? That's right, bitches. The answer is right here.

This September 24th and 25th at the Scottish Rite Center will offer plenty of entertainment, amazing guests, and a glorious safe haven for all Northern Californian nerds for the low admission cost of $6 (children ages 6 and younger are free).

Guests include: 

Mike Mignola---creator/writer/artist of Hellboy, Abe Sapien, B.P.R.D, Baltimore, etc.

Marina Sirtis---actress from Star Trek: The Next Generation and voice of Desmona from Gargoyles

Sean Schemell---voice actor of Goku from Dragonball Z

Timothy Green II---artist of Annihilators, Skarr: Son of Hulk, Swamp Thing, etc.

Tad Williams---New York Times and London Sunday Times bestselling author

Mick Gray---Comic inker on Batman, Superman, Brightest Day, Promethea, The Flash, Green Lantern

Jim Sinclair---inker/illustrator for The Maxx

and one of my personal favorites

Richard Moore---creator/writer/artist of Boneyard, Chip, Gobs, Fire and Brimstone, etc.

If you're still uninterested then I'm afraid nothing will persuade your neanderthal-like mind. For more information on the events, directions, costs, hours, and all that technical mumbo jumbo, head over to and See you there!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The High Stakes and Mistakes of 'Stake Land'

Every once and awhile a vampire movie comes along and dashes our seemingly tired expectations of the blood-sucker genre. In the past several years, with all the glittery, sparkly, vegetarian vampire crap conected to the Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, little to no hope prevails for true blood-letting vampire aficionados. A friend of mine recently asked on Facebook, "Anyone else sick to death of vampire movies?" Hell, with Twilight's introduction in our culture we now suffer from other teen vampire dramas, like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood (not to mention MTV's spin on werewolves in Teenwolf--but that's another story), how can anyone not be tired of the undead? However, like the vampire's curse, our hope remains eternal for a truly frightening and provocative new twist for our fanged fiends. This was exactly what I expected with Nick Damici and Jim Mickle's recent vampire film Stake Land.

Released in 2010, Stake Land is the tale of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by "vamps" (as they are generally referred to in the film). A vampire hunter known as Mister (Nick Damici) and his young apprentice/semi-adopted son, Martin (Connor Paolo), travel rough, desolate terrain in search of vampires and relief shelters, avoiding deadly religious fanatics, to ultimately find a safe zone called New Eden. If you think the plot of this film sounds a little true to that of Zombieland well... you are abso-freaking-lutely right. Which brings me to my first problem. 

I hoped to find something new in Stake Land. That's all. Quite simple, really. But the film was hardly anything new. With a wee tad bit of inspection, the film is really a cross genre of two separate titles. For starters we have Zombieland, where two stranded souls (Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg) launch cross country to anywhere and everywhere safe from zombies. Hmm. Kind of sounds like Stake Land. Then there is Cormac McCarthy's The Road, where a father and son stranded in a nuclear winter travel cross country to find food and supplies. Although there are no zombies, vampires, or religious fanatics in The Road, there are certainly cannibal rapists worthy of a couple scares. My point mentioning these two titles, although definitely different in their own ways, is to understand why the makers of Stake Land decided now was the best time to create the film. It's like in 1975 when Spielberg's Jaws hit theaters. Copycat after copycat decided to take on a film about a watery beast (if you don't believe me just check out this website called The Jaws Rip-Off Library). My point being that Stake Land is following a cliche line-up of films which does not allow it to make headway into new territory. Only something new and alluring like decent characters or monster design could lift this film up. Which brings us to problem two.

I was honestly surprised by the lack of creativity in Stake Land's vampire department. I mean, for Christs sake! Give us, the viewer, the paying audience, something new. These vampires are hardly anything cutting-edge. If anything they look like your average zombie with blood like black ichor frothing from their lips and a couple protruding fangs. The whole concept baffled me. Why not strive for something different and create a new creature design?  And then about half way through the film it dawns upon you how much this film is not about vampires--which is very strange for a vampire movie (the same way Monsters was not about monsters). Instead Stake Land manages to create a new villain--the eerie Klu-Klux-Klan-like religious fanatics as seen behind Mister (Damici) here.

These guys are the real reason to watch the film and they honestly stand out a helluva lot more than the vampires do. The acts of violence committed by these guys are just insane, completely horrifying and believable. Judging by the amount of detail that went into the insignia and wardrobe of these characters, I'm sure the director felt these were the true children of the night. I've got to give credit where credit is due and say these guys did a job well done on this small aspect of the film. However, the characters we are introduced to in the rest of the film have little to no back story. In my opinion this hinders the film completely. It is in characters that horror films strive the most. Without definitive and flushed out characters audiences sadly look upon a world without any dimension. It's a shame that's what these fictional apocalyptic worlds turn out to be and it's a shame that Stake Land is one of them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2011 Harvey Award Winners

On the heels of SDCC's Eisner Awards comes another comic book award ceremony, the Harvey Awards. My hat goes off to Jill Thompson and Evan Dorkin, the creators of Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, for getting the recognition they truly deserve. Mike Mignola is also well awarded Best Cover Artist--I mean, just look at his work! It causes my peepers to eye-jaculate. I'm still wavering on the importance of Vertigo's American Vampire series. Does anyone out there think some garlic-deterred, blood-suckers will stake a claim in our comic cannon the years to come? Well, at least the Harveys got Best Single Issue or Story right for the Ba brother's Daytripper. For those curious enough, here is the complete listing of winners.

2011 Harvey Award Winner List

Best Letterer
John Workman, Thor (Marvel)

Best Colorist
Jose Villarrubia, Cuba: My Revolution (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Best Syndicated Strip or Panel
Doonesbury, Gary Trudeau (Universal Press Syndicate)

Best Online Comics Work
Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton

Best American Edition of Foreign Material
Blacksad, Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse)

Best Inker
Mark Morales, Thor (Marvel)

Best New Series
American Vampire, Scott Snyder, Stephen King and Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Most Promising New Talent
Chris Samnee, Thor: The Mighty Avenger(Marvel)

Special Award for Humor in Comics
Roger Langridge, The Muppet Show (BOOM! Studios)

Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers
Tiny Titans, Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani (DC Comics)

Best Graphic Album — Previously Published
Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson (Dark Horse)

Best Anthology
Popgun #4, edited by D.J. Kirkbride, Anthony Wu and Adam P. Knave (Image Comics)

Best Domestic Reprint Project
Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: Artist’s Edition, designed by Randall Dahlk and edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW Publishing)

Best Cover Artist
Mike Mignola, Hellboy (Dark Horse)

Best Biographical, Historical or Journalistic Presentation
The Art Of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets Of Life And Death, Todd Hignite (Abrams ComicArts)

Special Award for Excellence in Presentation
Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: Artist’s Edition, designed by Randall Dahlk and edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW Publishing)

Best Graphic Album — Original
 Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, Bryan Lee O’Malley (Oni Press)

Best Continuing or Limited Series
Love And Rockets, Vol. 3, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

Best Writer
Roger Langridge, Thor: The Mighty Avenger (Marvel)

Best Artists
Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit (IDW Publishing)

Best Cartoonist
Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit (IDW Publishing)

Best Single Issue or Story
Daytripper, Fabio Moon and Gabiel Ba (Vertigo/DC Comics)

For more information on the Harvey Awards click here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Acoustic Night at the Cabin in Vacaville, CA

Normally my Thursday nights involve lazily watching the NBC comedy lineup (The Office, Community, Parks and Rec) but if you haven't been on this planet in awhile, it's still summer, and that means crappy repeats or boring reality television. So if you live in the Sacramento area of California, do yourself a favor this Thursday night and drive down to the Cabin in Elmira. Why? Because Jamie Havok presents Acoustic Night, where a grand concert of hollow stringed instruments shall be held for the lowly cost of $5. The line-up includes Zombie Gaucho, Sean Ryan, Jamie Havok, and Lauren Lavine. BEWARE these artists know how to kill! They also know how to play acoustic guitar. Which one will be featured at the show, you ask? Well, you'll just have to go and find out for yourself. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

San Jose Super Toy and Comic Book Show Tomorrow

Just thought I'd share a fun outing experience for anyone piss-stinking-bored this weekend. Time Tunnel Toys in San Jose, CA puts on a great toy and comic book show and it happens to be tomorrow--August 13th, 2011. The cost is cheap-- *only $5 bucks*-- and gives complete access to the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds where vendor upon vendor will sell you old and new oddities, because we all need more crap, right? Plus cool artists like Emonic are in attendance.

More info can be found at Time Tunnel Toy's website or their blog. And don't forget to check out Emonic's blog.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: 'Hellboy: The Fury' #3

OMG OMG OMG!!! Okay, now that I have that out of my system and maybe if I try really hard, I can stop hyperventilating and write this review. Why the sudden panic attack of euphoria, you may wonder? Well, for the fans of Hellboy who've read the most recent issue published by Dark Horse Comics today, Hellboy: The Fury #3, creator Mike Mignola and artist Duncan Fegredo just raised the bar on this lil' humdinger of a series. And if you thought that bar was high before, then you haven't read the latest issue, have you? Smart ass.

The long and mildly torturous wait for fans of Hellboy ends today. What started as a strange sea farthing in 2005's Hellboy: The Third Wish and an adventurous walkabout in Africa in 2006's Hellboy: Makoma, the Big Red Guy has finally made his way to homeland in what is probably his biggest and longest running story-arc to date. Mainly because readers realize this Hellboy collective truly begins with the first Hellboy story way back in Seed of Destruction. Everything Mignola has introduced into his universe is fair game in these most recent issues. Since Hellboy's arrival on our earth, one heeding question has festered in the mind of Hellboy fans. Will we ever see the end? Will Hellboy be our destroyer? The answer is a yes and Hellboy: The Fury #3 is it. Finally, all of our questions are answered, our curiosities fulfilled.

As in any Hellboy comic, the artwork, story, colors, and layouts are absolutely wonderful. But Hellboy: The Fury is by far the best to date. The haunting quality in this small, three issue arc never lacks constant resonance for readers new or old. Nothing, absolutely nothing, amounts to what the readers of Hellboy face in The Fury #3 face, which is the series' inevitable apocalypse. And at the very forefront of this doomsday event is our anti-hero Hellboy. Is he a savior? Or is he a death-bringer? I'll leave that question up to you. But one thing is certain by the very end of this issue. Hellboy is dead.

Which brings us back to my moment of hyperventilation... OMG OMG OMG!!! How can Mignola do this to his most fan-loved creation? What will the Hellboy series become without the Hellboy? Where in all of Hell can Mignola be taking us with this? And as all of these questions are running through the heads of fans and readers while they flip through the last pages of Hellboy: The Fury #3, they see exactly where Mignola plans to take us. Alright, prepare to hyperventilate... In Hell.

For more information on Hellboy look to Mike Mignola's personal website or Dark Horse Comics' website.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Season One of 'Falling Skies' Ends

TNT's sci-fi/drama Falling Skies aired its two-hour season one finale yesterday. With an onslaught of Hollywood blockbusters in theaters this summer, like Captain America, Green Lantern, Thor, Cowboys and Aliens, Hangover 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2, and X-Men: First Class, was anyone actually paying attention to their weekly television schedule to catch on to this series? Well, it's okay if you didn't. This post is not much of a love letter to the series, but I'd like to discuss what really thrilled me with this series--the special FX and makeup.

The Falling Skies story is typical. Set in New England, it begins in the aftermath of an alien invasion in a post-apocalyptic world without running electricity. A band of survivors in a military outfit, known as 2nd Mass, search through desolated homeland for rations, artillery, and stolen children. A simple story we've seen one too many times in countless films and television. The series' characters are bland and two-dimensional at best. The main character and widower Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) searches for a stolen son while protecting two others, as well as plays the part of second in command. I can go on and tell you about the doctor, the 1st in command, the three sons, a drone/boy, and the overly religious girl, but out of all honesty, these characters are so flat their titles give away their description in the series. For instance, I can hardly tolerate Lourdes' (Seychelle Gabriele, The Last Airbender) character, the overtly religious girl whose sole purpose is to recite the Bible, sing religious songs, or scowl after girls that are flirtatious. But despite my pithy complaints for Falling Skies, the single reason I watched the series from episode one to episode eight was for the special effect work done on the aliens, or skitters, as seen below.

As of now, there are two types of aliens in Falling Skies. One is a tall, silver alien that resembles a generic grayman design hardly worth mentioning. The second is a fleshy colored, sextopedal (six-legged) alien known as a Skitter. Quite often the skitters appear in a lesser quality form thanks to computer graphics, but some episodes give fans of tangible effects a nicely detailed Skitter puppet/suit. Just look at the amount of detail that went into the Skitter costume! It's special make-up effects like this that put a shame to more Hollywood financed productions, like JJ Abram's monster in Super 8. If it wasn't for this amount of detail put forth in Falling Skies I would have stopped watching somewhere around episode four--yeah, it's that bland and unimportant of a series. Which makes me wonder, why are audiences grifted so often in genres of horror, sci-fi, or fantasy when it comes to special effects? Obviously, the easy answer is CGI is cheap and affordable entertainment, in comparison to long man-hours spent sculpting and casting problematic masks and prosthetics. But doesn't the work speak for itself? Won't audiences ten or twenty years from now catch on and recognize quality when they see it? I can only hope so. Thanks to producer/director Greg Beeman'blog, fans of the skitter costume can see original concept art and sculpting designs featured below.

For more information on TNT's Falling Skies, go to the series' homepage here.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jim Woodring Toys

About a week ago I wrote a small bit about Jim Woodring's fantastical graphic novel Weathercraft. Since then I've become a little obsessed with the man's art and wish to share one of his other intoxicating creations with loyal readers, the Jim Woodring line of toys! A small limited-run series of toys based off of Woodring's "Frank Comics" go for sale on his website store. Fans of Japanese kaiju toys, like Ultraman, Godzilla, and Kamen Rider, will appreciate Woodring's "kaijin" character Lorbo (green and orange colors available). The toys comes with special packaging, like a silkscreened polybag and an illustrated header card. Unfortunately many of these toys are currently sold out, but boy, oh boy, are they fun to look at! For more information on Jim Woodring click here.

LORBO! Green! (Jim Woodring)

LORBO! Orange! (Jim Woodring)

Black and White Frank Toy (Jim Woodring)

Black and White Pupshaw and Pushpaw Toy (Jim Woodring)

Mr. Bumper (Jim Woodring)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nate Simpson--2011 Rookie of the Year in Comics

When I think of Nate Simpson, I think of a snowball. No, not because of his pale, white skin or any other icy features, but rather the "snowball effect" he has had this year in comic books. With his single issue release of his six-part series Nonplayer (a modern fantasy/sci-fi series released by Image Comics), Simpson has garnered fans from all over the world with his incredible milestone achievements. Among those achievements is today's official announcement that Warner Bros. Studios purchased the rights for Simpson's Nonplayer to turn into a major motion picture. With that said, I think I can officially list Nate Simpson as my 2011 Rookie of the Year in Comics.

For those unfamiliar with the "snowball effect," imagine a small, ball of snow (hence the name 'snowball') rolling down a mountain in the midst of winter. Gradually, the snowball gains momentum and, as it makes its way down the high slope, it collects any settled snow that lays underneath it, until finally there is no longer a mere snowball but rather a GINORMOUS snowball heading for New York City with only the likes of Godzilla to defeat it! Yeah, that's about Nate Simpson right now with Nonplayer. The story is mysterious and alluring, the artwork is simple and clean, the layout is confident and stylish; in a nutshell, it's perfectly executed all around.

A synopsis taken from Simpson's Nonplayer website goes something like this: 

"Mid-21st century America doesn't have much to offer Dana Stevens, but there's plenty for her to live for inside Warriors of Jarvath, the world's most popular full-immersion online game. In the real world, she's a tamale delivery girl who still lives with her mom, but inside the game she's an elite assassin. When she gets the drop on King Heremoth, a celebrity non-player character, she thinks she's finally got a shot at fame. But when she slays Queen Fendra, the King's reaction is disconcertingly realistic. Something's amiss in Jarvath, and the effects may reverberate well beyond the boundaries of the game."

If that isn't enough to pique your interest, then fans of Moebius, Geof Darrow, and Hayao Miyazaki will appreciate Nonplayer's lovely art and delicate color pallet. Speaking of Moebius, check this out:

Yeah...believe it or not. That is the Moebius with a copy of Nonplayer in hand. Apparently one of Simpson's friends (Joe Keatinge, featured in the picture) attended this year's International Comic's Festival in Angouleme, France and presented Moebius with an early copy of Simpson's series. Needless to say, not only did Moebius approve the work, but apparently thought highly enough of it to say, "Very cool. Beautiful. May I have it?" If that doesn't vouch for Simpson's awesomeness, then how about his recent win at the Eisner Awards for taking home the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award? Yeah, the guys already taking home friggin' Eisners.

So real quick, before we forget, let's break it all down. Nate Simpson + One Issue of Nonplayer = Moebius' Approval + Manning Award + Warner Bros. Movie Rights = My choice for 2011 Rookie of the Year in Comics. You got to admit that is pretty, damn impressive for a guy who has never made comics before. Congratulations Nate Simpson. You deserve all the attention headed your way. Speaking for all of your highly eager fans awaiting the second issue's release--take your time, we trust you. We know we're in good hands.

For more information and news on Nate Simpson and Nonplayer check out the Nonplayer Website, Simpson's blog Project Waldo, or his Facebook page

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Have You Seen These Pets?-- Dorkin/Thompson's 'Beasts of Burden'

The thought of following a group of domesticated animals around all day seems like a real bore. There, I said it. Let the hate mail roll in. But first, take for instance my two cats, Aussie and Valley. They eat, they sleep, they shit. They want outside, they want back inside. Repeat in no specific order (add random vomiting of partially digested grass) and you have the day to day lowdown on my two orange felines. Why can't my lame eating-sleeping-pooping pets be as cool as the ones living in Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's Burden Hill? Well, for one, my cats cannot talk to each other in a sassy, snarky humor. And secondly, my cats don't encounter and fight zombie pets, giant frogs, and armies of rats, with an occasional infiltration of witches' covens and golem seances, like the pets in Beasts of Burden do.

If you can't tell, I have a small shred of skepticism about comics or movies starring domesticated animals. Don't worry, don't worry. That skepticism has been washed away thanks to last year's graphic novel collection Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, written by Evan Dorkin (Milk and Cheese, Space Ghost Coast to Coast) with art by Jill Thompson (Sandman, Scary Godmother). Dark Horse Comics recently announced that Beasts will be turned into a CGI-major motion picture produced by Andrew Adamson (Shrek, Shrek 2, Chronicles of Narnia) and like a cat, my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to read what all the hubbub was about. Good thing I did, too. Otherwise I may not have found a brand-new series I can gloat over in my Wednesday pile.

The story so far is amazingly small. With Beasts public debut in 2003, a grand total of nine stories have been told to date (including four complete issues, as well as a Beasts of Burden/Hellboy one-shot). These numbers compared to The Goon's movie announcement after a successive thirty-three complete issues (not including separate one-shots) is quite the shocker. Albeit the date-to-print numbers of Beasts is rather low, Dorkin's story-telling and Thompson's art skills make this title a fierce contender for anyone challenging its importance in the paneled world.

Beasts is a beautifully rendered project that uses every ounce of talent Dorkin and Thompson can give. Dorkin invites readers into the small rural town through the eyes of man's best friends and ventures into their world with a paranormal twist. The beasts of Burden Hill slowly recognize and confront strange apparitions in their neck of the woods with an ever-growing suspicion this is only the beginning to something much, much larger at hand. The Animal Rites collection compiles eight of the nine published stories, each a stand-alone story, gradually revealing character aspects and introduces new questions and new characters.

Don't be fooled by the cute puppies and kittens that appear in the featured pictures, it's difficult to list Beasts as an all age title. Some of the stories are down right horrifying and morbid beyond belief. Thompson's monsters are vividly executed and in all due respect, gut-cringingly dark. Rarely do horror comics get to me, and in this collection, all but a few stories had me wide-eyed in terror. Thompson is a complete master with her artwork and her steady use of watercolor adds a haunting dimension to the series that would be complete ruination if conducted by anyone other than she.

If these pictures look as corny to you as they first did to me, I urge you to pick up a copy of Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites and be surprised by its content today. You will awe. You will laugh. You will wonder and rejoice. But most of all, you will wish your little whiskered friends at home were as cool as the paranormal investigators of Burden Hill. For more information and previews of Beasts of Burden  click here.