Review: The Strain Vol 1 by Ryan T. King

Horror comics are my bread and butter, my broccoli and cheese, my dead baby and Worcestershire sauce, and whenever a new horror comic comes out in stores I am eager for something insidious, something terrifying, but most importantly, something new. Coming out tomorrow (November 13th) is David Lapham and Mike Huddleston's collected adaptation of Guillermo Del Torro and Chuck Hogan's novel The Strain. Although this comic might not be classified as something "new" since the source material is a book of the same name, it is safe to say the contents inside are sure to please most fans of the macabre. 

Here's a blurb pulled straight from the Dark Horse's mouth:

"When a Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport and goes dark on the runway, the Centers for Disease Control, fearing a terrorist attack, calls in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders. Only an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem suspects a darker purpose behind the event--an ancient threat intent on covering mankind in darkness."

The "ancient threat" they talk about are vampires. Is that so shocking? No, I don't think so. 

But the point of this vampire tale has more to do with the biological or scientific happenings behind vampirism rather than the occult. The words "outbreak" and "epidemic" are used enough to suggest these first chapters are leading to something much more deadly and devastating to mankind and it's only a matter of time before the entire world sees symptoms. Surprisingly for six issues of comics this first volume hardly moves past the third day mark in regards to a timeline, allowing very little to actually happen. My personal favorite chapters happen to have nothing to do with the present day situation, but rather the history of an old Russian Jew and his previous history with the head vampire. I won't give any of it away, because it's quite entertaining.
The only problem I had with the comics was Mike Huddleston's art. That's not to say that his cover art isn't amazing--the detail, the gory, brilliant detail--but the inside pages look plain and simple, nothing to call your nearest mate about. It bothers me that Dark Horse assumes that most of their horror comics should look like Mike Mignola comics, mainly heavy attention to Chiaroscuro. The end product never looks distinct. I honestly believe Dark Horse could have slapped a BPRD sticker on the cover and half the readers wouldn't have known the difference.

Besides this little side note, the story of The Strain is quite effective and I'm sure David Lapham did the source material justice (although I haven't read Del Toro and Hogan's book to make comparisons). I am curious to know just what any differences might be. About the story itself, I am slightly disappointed with the vampires. They are kind of clownish in their attributions, pasty and white as the Pillsbury Doughboy, with long, bloated tongues that act like stingers. I think Del Toro should have stopped with Vampires with his amazing creations in Blade 2, but for some reason he felt these creatures needed their own story too. 
Overall, I'd say this comic is entertaining and very coherent in structure and plot, the art is a bit bland for my tastes but gets the job done from a-z. If you're looking for some light reading (certainly lighter than the novel) pick up the Strain for a fun romp in the bone yard.

Overall: 3.5/5

Horror comics are my bread and butter, my broccoli and cheese, my dead baby and Worcestershire sauce, and whenever a new horror comic comes out in stores I am eager for something insidious, something terrifying, but most importantly, something new. Coming out tomorrow (November 13th) is David Lapham and Mike Huddleston's collected adaptation of Guillermo Del Torro and Chuck Hogan's novel The Strain. Although this comic might not be classified as something "new" since the source material is a book of the same name, it is safe to say the contents inside are sure to please most fans of the macabre. 

Here's a blurb pulled straight from the Dark Horse's mouth:

"When a Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport and goes dark on the runway, the Centers for Disease Control, fearing a terrorist attack, calls in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders. Only an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem suspects a darker purpose behind the event--an ancient threat intent on covering mankind in darkness."

The "ancient threat" they talk about are vampires. Is that so shocking? No, I don't think so. 

But the point of this vampire tale has more to do with the biological or scientific happenings behind vampirism rather than the occult. The words "outbreak" and "epidemic" are used enough to suggest these first chapters are leading to something much more deadly and devastating to mankind and it's only a matter of time before the entire world sees symptoms. Surprisingly for six issues of comics this first volume hardly moves past the third day mark in regards to a timeline, allowing very little to actually happen. My personal favorite chapters happen to have nothing to do with the present day situation, but rather the history of an old Russian Jew and his previous history with the head vampire. I won't give any of it away, because it's quite entertaining.
The only problem I had with the comics was Mike Huddleston's art. That's not to say that his cover art isn't amazing--the detail, the gory, brilliant detail--but the inside pages look plain and simple, nothing to call your nearest mate about. It bothers me that Dark Horse assumes that most of their horror comics should look like Mike Mignola comics, mainly heavy attention to Chiaroscuro. The end product never looks distinct. I honestly believe Dark Horse could have slapped a BPRD sticker on the cover and half the readers wouldn't have known the difference.

Besides this little side note, the story of The Strain is quite effective and I'm sure David Lapham did the source material justice (although I haven't read Del Toro and Hogan's book to make comparisons). I am curious to know just what any differences might be. About the story itself, I am slightly disappointed with the vampires. They are kind of clownish in their attributions, pasty and white as the Pillsbury Doughboy, with long, bloated tongues that act like stingers. I think Del Toro should have stopped with Vampires with his amazing creations in Blade 2, but for some reason he felt these creatures needed their own story too. 
Overall, I'd say this comic is entertaining and very coherent in structure and plot, the art is a bit bland for my tastes but gets the job done from a-z. If you're looking for some light reading (certainly lighter than the novel) pick up the Strain for a fun romp in the bone yard.

Overall: 3.5/5

I'm looking forward to this: the hundreds of small press tables, the panels specifically focusing on creators outside of superhero comics, and the novice comic book creator's smell of desperation--I mean, I mean-- swell of discovery. Yeah, that sounds more reaffirming.

Yes, the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco, CA is a sight to behold. And this year is of particular interest because all three Hernandez brothers will be in attendance, as well as one of my favorite artists in the dealings of bizarre oddities and strange arrangements, Jim Woodring. Check out the official website here for more information and check back to Go Suck a Comic next week for more APE 2012 coverage.

If you have followed my site since it's earliest inception, you will notice the reoccurring topics of "horror" and "comics." These interests are my bread and butter in the entertainment industry. I am allured by sequential storytelling and if elements of the macabre are added to a story, I am nearly a fan for life. So when I heard that the Scottish Rite Center in Sacramento was hosting a two day horror convention called "Days of Terror" followed by a single day comic convention known as "Sac-Con," I did what any normal fanatic would do. I took the days off from work.

Here is an account of the two events, back to back: the guests, the artists, and the awesome finds.

Days of Terror

Miss Misery's Days of Terror to be specific. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from this show. In the past Sacramento has hosted the "Sac Sci-Fi Horror Show" and it appears Miss Misery's Days of Terror has taken it's place. Of course there is no problem with that as long as the show offers some amazing guests and key vendors. Certainly the website offered a great line-up of c-list celebrities, but unfortunately there was no big name guests to really draw in the crowds.

Upon entering the building and gazing at the convention floor, most guests could tell things were looking like a ghost town. And not in the way that would cater to most horror enthusiasts. There was simply no one there. The main showroom for vendors featured too many empty tables, many of which were pulled back from the main stage. If I wasn't granted a press pass (which I am very grateful for), I would have felt very cheated for the entrance fee of $20. The average attendee could see what Days of Terror had to offer within 30 minutes.

However Days of Terror offered it's own share of excitement and discoveries. While walking around the floor I came across some extraordinary comic talent and shared a good amount of face time with the lot: Tone Rodriguez, Paul Allen, Gary "Gaz" Gretsky, and Jason Dube. The ever vocal Mel Smith chatted with me about the latest on Dead Ahead 2, his new Creepy KOFY Movie Time comic, and asked me about my plans on a Big Trouble in Little China comic (all currently under wraps). I love Mel. He's one of the most down to earth guys in the comic industry and always speaks from the heart. If you ever get the chance to meet him, do yourself the favor and strike up a conversation.

While running around the vendor room, my cohort Justin Hopper and I found a vendor with an amazing selection of graphic novels for unbelievable prices. All of his paperbacks were $5 and his hardcovers were $10. I wish I brought more cash to throw down but luckily he was there the next day at Sac-Con (let's not get ahead of ourselves). Anyway, I walked away with four League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books, which completes my collection--now I can finally finish up the series before Alan Moore squirts out another. We also found some great graphic t-shirts from the guys over at (their selection is vast and the price is cheap--I implore you to check them out). I found the perfect Return of the Living Dead shirt to wear around this Halloween. I was also pleased to meet one of this year's Face Off contestants Nicole Chilleli who *SPOILER ALERT* recently returned after being eliminated earlier this season. She spoke of working at Safeway in the past but due to her success on Face Off she is currently working full-time in special makeup FX. Good for her!

The remainder of Days of Terror felt insignificant. I wish there was more that stood out, more of a wow factor--God, I sound like one of those crackhead judges on American Idol. But seriously, this Horror show had some good potential. I feel like the show is off to a good start if the show runners decide to return next year. I have three offerings for any future shows: 1.) Add at least two big name guests to the roster (why was Jeffrey Combs at Sac-Con but not Days of Terror?), 2.) Add some panels (were there any this year?), 3.) Get some vendors! If there's empty space, please offer it for a low dollar amount to any creative talent willing to sign aboard last minute (the amount of empty space in the vendor room was pathetic to say the least). Also, did Rebekah McKendry attend the event? I looked high and I looked low but Alas! no Miss McKendry was found.


As weird as Days of Terror turned out, Sac-Con turned out even weirder. But in the best possible way.

According to the Sac-Con home page there were over 1900 attendees at this September's event. And holy crap did it feel like it. I've never in my life walked into a Sac-Con feeling like I was transported to WonderCon. Man oh man, did it feel good! Energy was flowing from the guests, from the vendors, and especially from the attendees. People were not just there, people were happy to be there.

My first surprise of the day was to find the extremely talented independent artist Z. E Pangborn. While on the ride to Sac-Con, I related to my friend Thomas how gorgeous this artist's work was and how happy my girlfriend was with his creations. So happy that she desires to decorate an entire room with his art. How surprised I was to see his work once more at this year's Sac-Con. It turns out that Pangborn is a local to Northern California. If you take a look at how intricate his penciling is you'll immediately know how worthy he is of the comic book medium. If any editors of Heavy Metal are reading this, scout this man's talent now!


The vendor floor at this quarter's Sac-Con was filled with surprises. Comic books, video games, toys--pick your poison, because everything was there. It seriously felt like a mini-ComicCon. I staggered around through the crowds big-eyed wondering where to go first. As luck would have it, I found an amazing Creature from the Black Lagoon toy I had never imagined finding there and then. Maybe at Days of Terror, but not so much Sac-Con. This Creature toy stands more than 12" tall and is a perfect addition to my collection. The most special part about it is that I've seen it being auctioned on ebay before but never realized the superior, gargantuan size. The asking price for this beast was $25. My offer of $20 was gladly accepted.


One of the many talents featured at this Sac-Con was Mick Gray (inker on Promethea and the current Batman and Robin) whom I tend to find in attendance at most conventions in California. Slowly but surely Mick has been kind enough to sign most of my Promethea issues. I promised his wife I would help spread the word about their latest endeavor--to build an eco-friendly solar powered roof. Donations start at $5 and work their way up to $200. Of course there are some pretty sweet rewards if you choose to donate. Check it out here.


While walking around the convention floor I saw many cosplayers dressed as Adventure Time characters who were definitely excited to meet voice actress Hynden Walch (Princess Bubblegum in Adventuretime and Starfire in New Teen Titans). I also overheard one attendee just ecstatic to have met actor Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, Frighteners, Star Trek Enterprise). The attendee couldn't stop glowing over his signed Re-Animator poster. I went back into the depths of the vendor room and came out with two more affordable finds. I've longed to read The Upturned Stone by Scott Hampton and bargained the hardcover copy for $5. I also found a copy of Paul Chadwick's Concrete for $4 that I haven't read just yet. Both are well worth the price paid.

All in all, this has been the best Sac-Con I've ever attended. Although Days of Terror was a bit of a bust, the amount of face time with the guests and artists, was well worth making an appearance. To see Sac-Con grow in attendance like this only gives me hope that one day Days of Terror will be a thriving attraction for horror fans in the Northern California area. And hopefully by then, Sac-Con will have grown to a much more appropriate size. You never know. There's no word of WonderCon returning to San Francisco. Someone has to fill it's shoes. 

Considered a fan favorite of Carla Speed McNeil's Finder series, the extremely limited edition hardcover of Finder: Talisman is finally collected together in one volume. Set in a world much similar to our own, yet with many shades and hints of a not-too-distant future, Finder: Talisman tells the tale of a young girl Marcie and her search for magic within the pages of a long, lost book.
The most impressive facet of this story relies in the tale's innocent, believable tone. McNeil's account of Marcie's life is dreamlike and whimsical and all the while rooted in a developed and established world. This story is so strong that eventually you feel as if you are reading a journal entry, a past history filled with secrets and confidence meant solely for you. It contains a personal relationship with the reader that is lacking from many comics written today. I am curious to pieces how much of this book stems from McNeil's own life and how much from her imagination. Either way, I applaud her.

Concerning the artwork, McNeil's style is a bit plain for my tastes. The entire book is printed in black and white (which for an extremely limited edition, I would expect an updated color version), but of course some prefer the original untainted by the new. It wasn't that McNeil's art bothered me (it's actually quite nice and different), it just failed to thrill and pull me in deeper. But this is purely aesthetic tastes--look on to the provided samples. If you like what you see I implore you to read.
If you're wondering what the differences are between the Finder: Talisman hardcover book and the limited-edition hardcover book, from what I can tell, there are only a few minor differences. The first is obviously the cover. The limited edition hardcover sets to replicate the sought-after book that the character Marcie searches for, while the normal hardcover looks more modern in design. The limited edition is limited to a print run of 250 copies (which is stands true to the definition of "limited") and is signed and numbered by Carla Speed McNeil herself. Other than that...well, they're practically the exact same, just one is priced more affordable than the other. They're both the same size for Christ's sake! But then again, I'm sure you'll shell out the extra cash for this if it's you're favorite thing under the sun.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Eerie Archives Volume 11 continues Dark Horse's trend of collecting and printing Warren Publishing's horror anthology. Set in an impressive deluxe hard cover edition, this volume contains issues #52-55 of the original Eerie magazine. The book features 248 pages of black and white comics (besides two Will Eisner comics colored by the master Richard Corben), which is currently being sold for a little under $30 now at Amazon.

As far as artwork goes, this Eerie volume features roller coaster highs and lows of artistic talent: Neal Adams, Vicente Alcazar, Aldoma, Jaime Brocal, Rich Buckler, Richard Corben, Bill DuBay, Will Eisner, Ken Kelly, Esteban Maroto, Isidro Mones, Paul Neary, Martin Salvador, Sanjulian, and Tom Sutton. Although each artist is different in their own ways, they all demonstrate classic comic art that evokes the tone and atmosphere of Eerie comics. Gently haunting, unexpectedly gruesome, and creatively inspiring--always a pleasure to behold.  My personal favorite artist goes to Tom Sutton, whose short Fathom Haunt tale "Spawn of the Dead Thing" strangely reminds me of Rick Veitch and Steve Bisette's bizarre art and layouts in Saga of Swamp Thing. Also strange how Sutton's Fathom Haunt character is strangely reminiscent of John Contantine (I smell a conspiracy).

Story is where this book is mostly lacking. Many of the comics that appear in this volume are Warren's attempt to create on-going characters, like the Mummy, the Werewolf, and Dax the Warrior. Most of these characters are blatant ripoffs of classics and show Warren's attempt to cash-in on famous but unregistered Universal and Hammer monsters. Personally, I was afraid my generation leap from the original readers of Eerie magazine might have caused this objective attitude. But according to letters from readers that are reprinted in these volumes, I am not the only ones who was put off. One reader writes: "What the $#%(& do you think you're doing to EERIE? These series of yours are terrible...It's like having one long, boring story instead of ten short, good stories. Enough!" This letter made me laugh and nod in agreement. Strange how the years may pass but like minded individuals remain the same.

 One particular on-going story that stood out was written by Doug Moench and illustrated by Vincente Alcazar called "Schreck." Undeniably similar to Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, the first "Schreck" story is a brilliantly narrated account of a man struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world filled with "loonies"--an infected group of lunatic people caused by radioactive testing on the moon. The first Schreck story, "First Night of Terror" is a brilliantly narrated account that switches from past to present causing a perfect amount of tension for the series to take off. 
All together, this Eerie Archives Volume makes for some perfect lazy Sunday reading. Although some of the stories are not too original by today's standards, the art work is sure to please fans of horror and emits a desire to stroll through all of the Warren Publications yesteryear.

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Available tomorrow in all fine comic book shops is Steve Nile's continuation of his Cal MacDonald mysteries, titled Criminal Macabre: The Iron Spirit. Over the last few years Dark Horse Comics has featured stories of Cal MacDonald and obviously they believe this character is worthy of your time and money. This is best said about this new release; this hard cover edition is illustrated by comic book and animation artist Scott Morse and features only 32 pages (all of which are unpublished material) for the hair raising price of $19.99. That's right folks, your purchasing the equivalent of a $3 comic for six times the average price of most single issues. Given the fact that this is a hard cover and the size is larger than normal (9" x 12", to be exact), this comic should be worth the fifteen extra Washingtons, right?


Unfortunately Criminal Macabre: The Iron Spirit does not live up to the retail price. The story finds our main protagonist (or antagonist, for those postmodernists out there) Cal MacDonald once again on assignment, this time recruited by a World War II veteran with an eerie past. This Criminal Macabre episode features the same structure featured in most of Niles' MacDonald tales: customer in desperate need of help, explanation of situation, things go awry, and all ends with MacDonald to the rescue. That's my cookie cutter version. 

By the looks of Scott Morse's cover for this book, I was hoping the content inside would be just as glamorous and spectacular. But the tale is not told in normal comic book fashion with panels and word bubbles, but rather in typical story book fashion. This could be fresh and exciting if the illustrations liven up the narration. Instead Morse's artistic depictions are lackluster and come off boring, which is sad to say because the watercolors he uses set a wonderfully murky tone. 
If you are a Steve Niles, Criminal Macabre, or Scott Morse completest, chances are you will want this comic to add to your collection. However, I guarantee you after the first read you will regret the amount you spent on purchasing this. Buyers beware, you might wish to bargain shop this one.

Overall Rating: 2/5

If you find yourself bored with the Olympics and jonesing for some pop culture mayhem, make the trip to Stockton, CA tomorrow and check out the first ever Stockton-Con. Special guests include Morrie Turner, JD Arnold, Mark Dos Santos, Tony Fleecs, Kathy Garver, Timothy Green, Rich Koslowski, Tone Rodriguez, Mel Smith, Stan 152, Ken Thomas, Tim Vigil, Nathan Watson, and more! Doors open at 10am at the Alex G. Spanos Center at the College of the Arts. For more info, check the posters below or go to the official website here.

Ryan King: Let's talk about your current art project The Rabid. Written by J.D. Arnold (BB Wolf and the Three LPs) and published by Action Lab Comics (PrincelessDouble Jumpers), what more can you tell us about this comic series?

Tony Guaraldi-Brown: So though it looks like a zombie animal comic, it's not. The Rabid really is--the title I think basically explains the series in that. There is a virus that infects animals and while destroying their body stimulates everything else. It stimulates and destroys their body at the same time making them rabid and they like just go after anything they can get a hold of. For the first issue you come across the rats who will eat each other, eat people, eat animals, eat anything that's living. Everything becomes carnivorous after a couple days, at least for right now. They'll die out. And what it does is in the broad spectrum it destroys the ecosystem because rats bite other animals, other animals bite other animals, so on and so forth. And almost all the animals in the world will slowly die or become rabid. And it won't really effect the people as much as people will effect people when all their cattle die and all of a sudden they're like, "We don't have any more beef! AHHH." You know? [Laughter] And never mind that that cow is about to bite your face off it's, "What are we going to eat?"
          So that's one side of it. In the small scope of it you have this farm family called the Michaels who really get inundated with the first infestation of rats. In the beginning of the book we've got the mom, Helen, beating the rat with a shovel, you know? And wondering this rat is a little weird and it won't seem to die. And by the end of the first book you see a full blown invasion of rats just attacking people. In the second book it starts to break out into dogs, cats, rabbits. In the third book you've got stags, cattle, monkeys. I think by the fifth one they've got full on steer that they have to deal with. Because they live on a farm in Iowa they're surrounded by animals [laughter]. There's just animals everywhere. And they're also a little isolated, even though they have television and whatnot. And the cellphones are still hard to always get communication about what's happening. So yeah, that's kind of the gist of the story right there.

RK: So how did you come to work with Arnold and the team at Action Lab?

TGB: I've known Johnnie for...oh my goodness, almost ten years. And he and I have tried to get projects off the ground before and either while pitching them companies just haven't been interested or, you know, either he's too busy or I'm too busy. But we've been really good friends for a long time and he called me up one day and was telling me (we were just checking in) that Dave is working with this--Dave Dwonch who is the--what is his title there? Artistic Director? Creative Consultant? I don't know. He's one of those [laughter].

RK: Creative Director.

TGB: That's right. He's Dave [laughter]. [Johnnie] said he just pitched his story to Dave and they're going to probably going to pick up this one and they also want to pick up The Rabid. And I said, 'Which one's The Rabid?' He's like, 'Remember that one about the animals? And they attack people? And they're kind of like zombies?' I was like, 'I want to draw zombie animals...' [laughter]. And so he's like, 'Yeah, I wanted you on the story but I know you're on The Showdown, which is the hot rod story I've been slowly working on. And he said, 'Call Dave. Here's his number. See what he can do.' I called Dave and he's like, 'Oh my god, I totally wanted you for this story but I thought you were busy.' And I was like, 'No, I'll stop that one man. If you guys are actually publishing this, I will do this.' And just knowing Dave for a long time because Dave and I used to work together at another vanity press a long time ago. He was a writer and I was an artist. That never worked out. So Johnnie and I, it all just--just right place, right time. Now I just have to get the book done [laughter].

RK: Judging from your flip-book preview and the teaser pics you post on your Facebook, The Rabid is shaping up to be an extremely gruesome tale. Do you have any problem creating the disturbing artwork for this project?

TGB: No. I don't. Because myself in my real life, I am a pacifist. I do everything I can to avoid aggravated confrontation. I don't like fighting. I don't like arguing with people. I'll say what I need to say but when it comes to artwork I think because I have that other side to me that--everybody gets angry and everybody gets mad--this is one way for me to express myself. At the same time, I'm good at it for some reason. I am good at drawing dead things and dead things coming back to life. And I don't know why. I think it's because I'm fascinated with the texture of skin and rotting skin. And in the way artistically I'm fascinated with what that looks like and trying my best to make it look like something you can feel. So at the same time if the story calls for me to do that I will try to find every way that I can to artistically represent the image. There's some things that I don't want to straight up like deal with. Like I don't want to show people getting raped, I'd rather keep that--

RK: Yeah, that goes into my next question that as an independent artist is there any subject matter you would refuse to touch?

TGB: You know, I probably wouldn't do pornography. I don't mind drawing something that arouses people but I don't want to do, for lack of a better term, like jerk-off material. But for this, I know Johnnie and I know what he writes and how he writes. And I know what kind of a person he is. He's a good guy, you know? He's a very kind person, a very nice person. He's a loving father just like I am. And I think that also brings a sensibility about how I can say, you know, if I'm going to have these rats eating this man' face off, I better do the best job I possible can to show them absolutely horrified. And I don't mean like typical, 'Oh my gosh...' but like genuinely like 'Oh-my-god-my-friend-is-being-eaten-alive.' And in the second issue there is this futile attempt where the father, Robert, tries to--his friend is being eaten--and he tries to get these rats off of him. They've got a fire extinguisher so he grabs the fire extinguisher and the rats are pretty much just like, 'Yeah, whatever. I'm going to keep eating.' And you can see him and he's just like, 'I don't know what to do here.' You know? And I think showing the futility of that situation combined with the gruesomeness of what's happening I think kind of heightens the idea of the artwork just better than blood, guts, and gore. I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in the emotional impact of it.

RK: Another project you've had on the back burner for quite some time is the graphic novel called The Showdown, written by Russ Lippitt (Lion's Share). What can you tell us about this project?

TGB: It's awesome! No! [Laughter] No, it is awesome. Russ wrote a really good story about these--every creature feature monster has ultimately been killed and banished to Hell and they're all car clubs now in Hell. So you've got the vampires who are "The Night Shifters." The Frankenstein guys who are "The 500's"--and I asked Russ, I'm like, 'What's up with 'The 500's'?' And he's like, 'Because they're made up of 500 different pieces.' And it's like, 'Oh, rad!' [Laughter] You've got 'The Deadutaunts' who are like the zombie girls. 'The Hell-Howlers' who are your werewolves. We have clowns. What else do we have? We have The Misfits which we can't have The Misfits [laughter] but they're called 'The Crimson Ghosts' which is the movie that they're from, which the Misfit fiend is from. And basically it's simple. Satan says every millennium, I'm going to have this car race--this showdown--and whoever wins the car race gets to go back to earth and raise a little hell. The tagline is 'They race to raise Hell on earth' or something like that. It's a lot of fun and it's just your traditional Robert Mitchum story/movie of just racing and bare knuckle punching, car crashes and whatnot. And if you like cars and you like creature feature monsters this is definitely the story for you.

RK: So how did you and Lippitt decide to work together?

TGB: Russ found me on the internet. He said he saw some of the stuff I was doing and would I want to do this story. And I had never done cars before, but I'd always been fascinated by them. It took me a long time to understand why I'm attracted to old cars and hot rods and custom cars. It's because I draw and I paint and I like lines. I like what lines can do and cars are all lines. That's what they are. They're just different lines configured in different ways to create '32 Coupe, '57 Chevy, '65 Continentals. You know? Whatever they are, the more I drew them, the more I was just totally enamored by drawing cars and whatnot. And the creatures are really fun to do and it's not serious at all so I don't really have to worry about the pathos of the story. There is a love story in there between the main character Stitch and one of 'The Deadutaunts', her name is Betty--she's based off of Betty Page. I try to keep that in there so it's not just, you know, people being punched in the face. Like some Extreme Studios comic. [Laughter] It's just all people being punched or shot. But you do need some sort of sensitivity so that people can attach themselves to the characters and root for one person.

RK: I know people have been waiting for probably more than a year but could you give us a rough estimate on when The Showdown might be finished?

TGB: I have to finish The Rabid first. And I should probably have The Rabid done by November or December. And then I'll probably have to juggle both. You know? I'll be doing the first five issues of The Rabid and then Larry Luna is going to be doing the next five. After that, just because of my full-time job it takes me awhile to do these, and in the meantime juggling getting The Showdown pages in and out... So probably--I hate giving estimates... I'd just say look for it in 2013. Probably the latter half of 2013.

RK: Tell us about your work on Silver Gryphon Games. When did you start doing commission work for them?

TGB: I did commission work for them in--2008? 2009? I worked on the 'Zombacalypse', Zombie-apocalypse role-playing game. I basically created all the artwork for that and that was a lot of fun because it was easy for me because it was just, once again, drawing dead people. It's like, 'Oh, that's easy.' But it was fun because instead of just drawing the sloooooww, sluggish zombies there were like twenty-four different types. Like I drew a picture of my infant son as a zombie because there was a zombie baby, there was a zombie kids, and there were like fast moving zombies from like 28 Days Later but then there were like thinker zombies who would like hunt you down. And there's like one person like driving a car. There's like a skater zombie, types of zombies that don't know that they're dead yet so they keep doing the regular things that they do in life, you know? So it's like he's skating a swimming pool, you know, and things like that because he gets up every morning and goes and skates even though he doesn't have any fingers anymore. There was a queen zombie who looked like a Gil Elvgren painting, she was all dolled up, except that you could see some rotting flesh like around her ankles. And there were all these zombies behind her. And then I got to create the hero and looking through what Kevin Rowhan, the one who created it, had written up this zombie infection was spores from outer space. And I was like, 'Okay, how do you survive this one?' You need a respiratory system, you need an oxygen mask. Who would have an oxygen mask in their everyday life? Firefighters. So I created this firefighter with an oxygen tank and chain-mail and a machete and a sawed off shot gun, and grenades, you know? And it was like, 'Yeah, that's exactly what you need.' [Laughter] You need a blade and a gun and some concussion to knock people out and you need an oxygen tank so you don't get infected. But it was a lot of fun to do. I actually got to wait for Kevin to get back to me and see if he wants me to do another cover for his 'Camp Wicakini' which is their summer camp. You know, kind of like Jason from Friday the 13th except now it's just zombies and people will be chased and eaten alive. Yay!

RK: Besides working on comics you're also employed as a high school teacher. In your position as an independent artist do you find it necessary to work on the side?

TGB: Yeah, oh yeah. I mean, I don't have choice. I have a mortgage and I have kids and we have bills and I have to work. And I made that choice in my life to have a family first before my career just because of who I am and what I need in my life. And actually having kids has motivated me more and given me more confidence than I had when I was just out of school. I'm really, really hard on myself about my work and have a hard time being happy with work that I finish. Which I think sometimes slows me down but it also it took me a long time to show people my work and say, 'No, you're good enough.'
          So with that said, I know I totally digressed, I have to work until I get enough money doing fine art stuff or illustration work. It's a slow building process. It usually takes five years to actually have a full on career. And that's okay. I'm patient, I'm good enough that that time will actually happen. In the meantime, teaching people is a wonderful way to beef up your skills because all the stuff that you're teachers teach you in school or that you pick up. You never have to really explain to anybody and then you understand why the color wheel is setup the way that it is, why these two colors work together, why this type of composition works this way but not that way. You know, the feelings that you get from this versus that and you learn technically how to speak about things which I think not a lot of people do, especially what I see at conventions. They'll come up and they'll look at art work and they can only talk about it in regards to the artists that they know from the comic books that they look at. I can go on about that, but I won't.
          Well, here's my issue. As an artist, as a teacher, it's my job to teach people how to think critically. Not only about art but about the world so that they can better access how things are right or wrong and how to fix them. But also to be able to speak about it means you have to open your span of knowledge. So I have this friend Jason. He just finished up the Batman Endgame series for DC.

RK: This is?

TGBJason Shawn Alexander. I love his work and I think his work is absolutely amazing. He's a good friend  and he's also a good person to look at artistically. He has the same sensibilities as Kent Williams but their work doesn't look--Jason is not ripping off Kent at all, they just have similar sensibilities in line and they way that they use composition. But because people's view points in comic books are so limited, Jason's work either looks like Kent Williams or it looks like Dave McKean or somebody else. There's only four people that they can really go back to and say it either looks like Kent Williams or it looks like Dave McKean, George Pratt, or Phil Hale. And it's like while Jason has looked at their work and studied them and is actually friends with several of them, his work is his own work. And I realized that this time at the San Diego convention where people have a very limited vocabulary. So what it does is pigeonholes artists so that--Joao Ruas got picked up on the Fables covers because his work was similar to James Jean. When you put the two together they look nothing alike. They're not the same at all. But of course immediately people look at the covers and go, 'Oh, that looks like James Jean.' It's like, well it looks like James Jean only because you know James Jean not because you don't understand that both of them come from Arthur Rackham, his illustration sensibilities or all the illustrators from the turn of the century--last century. Okay. [Laughter] Beef up your vocabulary people.

RK: Do any of your students know about your career outside of teaching?

TGB: Yeah, they always give me a hard time for teaching. They're like, 'What's wrong with you Mr. Brown? Why are you here? Why are you here? You should be doing this for a living, not teaching us.' And I was like, 'Got to pay the bills man. Till this pays the bills, I'll keep teaching you guys.'

RK: Have any of them stumbled over the art piece you did for the band NOFX?

TGB: No, but I've told them about it usually when we start talking about punk music and I'll actually say, 'Yeah, I did a piece for NOFX.' And they'll be like, 'What?' And then look it up online and be like, 'Oh, my God!' [Laughter] Yeah, my friend Elaine used to work for them, that's how I got that gig. That was fun. Once again it was drawing Fat Mike and the other guys as The Misfits and as zombies. So it was like perfect for me.

RK: Punk rock, horror, chicano culture, specifically Dia de los Muertos, are themes that appear throughout your work. Are these all subjects that interest you?

TGB: Oh, yeah. Yeah yeah yeah. I grew up as a metal head next to the border of Mexico in Brawley, which is South east of San Diego, about thirty minutes from the border. And about an hour from the border of Arizona. So yeah, it's all chicano and mexican culture down there. And I didn't realize it. I was just a white kid growing up in a Mexican culture. Even though all the political aspects of that like all the white people own land, you know? And a large majority of the latinos work for those people. But when I came up here and started doing my own work, later on those things kept popping up in my head. I was very attracted to the Day of the Dead ideas as well as--well, the idea of death itself which I think the puritanical idea that you need to fear death and hold on to life as much as possible no matter what the cost I think is ridiculous. We're all going to die. But I think in the Mexican culture that death is just another--you know, where's Captain Hook--it's just another adventure! [Laughter] Death is the only real adventure. But the wisdom that's passed on from generation to generation that's what stays. That I felt is something I can speak about in my art work. Where in some ways as a teacher I have to be a total--I have to be a clown because I have to keep my students entertained. Which the painted faces, that's what we have in our culture. But then the wisdom of having to make these stupid jokes I'm parting nuggets of wisdom to them as well they'll get some aha moments. Those things heavily influenced me. Just growing up around a bunch of chollos and gang bangers and stuff like that. Yeah, that definitely influenced me.

RK: What about other artists and comic book creators. Does anyone else really inspire your work?

TGB: Yeah, definitely. So I just picked up the giant IDW Dave Mazzuchelli Daredevil and I'd say that run of Frank Miller, the 'Born Again' series of Daredevil, that run for me is probably the best comic book series I've ever read. Those six issues. Storytelling and art. Pacing, everything for me is like that's what I want my comics to be like. David Mazzuchelli's work is totally awesome. So him, Alex Toth--those two guys are like the master of simplicity and giving you as much information without giving you a bunch of crap. I look at Takehiko Inoue who does Vagabond. He does a bunch of other stuff, but Vagabond is about Musashi the swordsman and his work is just--his storytelling is absolutely amazing. I think he really understands martial arts and budo and the way of the sword. He really represents that probably the best that I've ever seen that in comics. It's not outlandish. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's tragic. But really it's a definite homage to the actual swordsman Musashi. Otomo for Akira--storytelling will influence me and technique will influence me. I look at a lot of Hall Foster if I'm doing pen and ink. How does he lay down simple lines or where does he add detail, where does he not add detail? And then Mike Mignola, that guy. Enough said about that dude. But then also, my friends. Like Jason influences me. I look at his work and he's someone I can learn from. He's further along the path of being an artist than I am and it's good to see what he does and he gives me tips and pointers every once in awhile. That is nice. Kent Williams is another person that I look at. And mostly like the Allen Spiegel fine arts guys. Allen is the rep for Kent, Dave, John J Muth, and Greg Ruth who is a good friend that I look at. I was actually looking at Greg's Freaks of the Heartland for this cover [motions to The Rabid #1] going like, 'How does Greg do a sunset? Shit.' You know? 'Alright. What am I going to do with this and not rip Greg off but get the same sensibility.' I ultimately like more realistic representational artists than--I've just become dissatisfied with a lot of comic book artwork. I think, if we want this medium to do better--sales wise and creatively--we have to stop being okay with mediocre art work and mediocre storytelling.

RK: If you don't mind me asking, what is your definition of 'mediocre' storytelling?

TGB: It's hard because I usually don't pick up those books. I don't pay attention to them. I'll flip through them and go, 'God! How did this guy get published?' Which of course if you flip through my book your going to see some of that too. Where you're going to be like, 'Jesus, he just phoned this one in.' I understand you're fighting a deadline which is indicative of a larger problem where editors and publishers don't care about quality as much as meeting their deadline, and making sure that they don't get their books returned from Diamond [Comic Distributors, Inc.]. It's like Diamond is the monopoly that in someways tightens the wrench on creativity. It's like, you have to be fast, you have to be speedy. I think if people would just slow down a bit and let artists actually do their work a little bit better. Which the Action Lab guys have been awesome about. Then all the artists or writers could produce a better quality which I think in the public view would make comic books even more valued than just super heroes.
          But I got to say some of the '52' stuff that I saw online, I was incredibly disappointed with the misogyny of Starfire. Like okay, you took her from what is essentially a hippie type person who understands about peace and love and there aren't those weird psychosomatic boundaries that we set over sexuality and now you turned her into a total whore. It's just like, 'What did you do that for? So you could sell some more books? Good job.' You now just made another book that my daughter won't read.

RK: Or like the latest cover for Catwoman.

TGB: Well, the first issue of Catwoman is like, 'Come on, dude!' You don't see her face and all you see is her boobs and her butt. And it's like you totally just objectified, like she's not even a person anymore. She's just tits and ass. Until she jumps out the window. And I don't understand why the editor was okay with that and I don't understand why the artist was okay with doing that. I don't know if the writer wrote it that way but somebody should have said, 'Dude, Catwoman is a badass. She can go toe-to-toe with Batman for the most part.' Why are we doing this to that character? Why does Supergirl have a half-shirt? Like, do I need to see her midriff?

RK: Or how Powergirl's symbol is her boobs.

TGB: Yeah, totally! And it's not like, 'Well, I wanted to put the Superman emblem on there but I decided not to draw it.' It's like, really dude? You just wanted open cleavage. Let's be honest. Like I said, I don't pay attention to the books that I don't like. I pay attention to the books that I do like. And so the artists that I mentioned before, good storytellers. Good art. And they care about what they're doing.

RK: Do you have a method to creating your artwork? A schedule or a preference to what time of the day to work?

TGB: Yeah, I have to work at night. I like working during the day because I'm not as tiered, you know? But during the year when I'm teaching, it's like I teach, I come home. I help the wife and the kids with whatever and then put them to bed and then I come out here [to the studio] and draw for as long as I can until I'm tiered and I'm going to be a total asshole tomorrow at the classroom so I better go to bed. Art wise, I will sketch something out in my sketchbook sometimes. Sometimes I just sketch it out on some scrap paper until I get the idea generally down. I'll do a larger mock up because my pages are so big. I draw my pages at 13'' by 20.5''. Normal conventional size I think 10'' by 15''. I just cannot draw that small so it has to be bigger. I will do a larger mock up. If it's in color, I'll get some color ideas down. Then I'll shoot my reference and do the reference photos so I get hands in correctly, posteur, whatnot. And I'm still trying to figure some things out too. I still have learning that have to do. I can just draw using the ink and I'm okay with it and other times it's like, 'No, you need to go back and really draw this tightly. When dealing with color it's like well maybe I should lay down the color first and then the black on top of that. I like inking more than I like painting. Those are usually the stages. But normally I need to have reference to pull from or else it just looks like mashed potatoes. It's like, 'That's not a hand holding a gun. That's a clump of mud! What the hell?' [Laughter].

RK: Do you have any words of advice for independent artists beginning the comic medium?

TGB: You mean me? [Laughter] Even though I haven't been published, I've been around for awhile. I've done this for a long time just waiting for the right project. Don't be afraid to show people your work and when you show them your work do not put yourself down immediately. I see a lot of people hand me a portfolio--even my students will do this. I'll go to critique their work and immediately they will start saying things that they think are bad because they want to deflect that personal injury of somebody critiquing them. If you can find somebody who gives you good criticism than you will understand that they're not critiquing you as a person but the way you apply your technique and skills onto the page and the canvas. Don't put yourself down because then they'll start looking for those things. Just go in and say, 'This is my portfolio. Could you give me some advice about it.' And then just keep your mouth shut unless they ask you about it. Listen to what they have to say. Show your portfolio to as many people as you can. Don't do those god damn portfolio reviews at the cons. Go and hunt down the editors. Because those reviews, one percent out of the people get a job at one of those. And really those guys just go in with a pad answer of, 'You need to work on your anatomy. You need to work on your storytelling. You need to work on blah, blah, blah. Work on your hands. Well, you just need to stick out a little bit more.' What they're really saying is, 'Dude, I got one more hour of this shit, then I'm going back to the Hyatt and I'm going to drink. This is my job.' Every once in awhile they'll find somebody and go, 'Hey, you got potential.' But the portfolio reviews, I would say probably thirty percent of the time. Really, you go to the other booths. You should look at other artists, you should hunt down other artists, talk to other artists. Ask who their editors are, go talk to their editors. Mail stuff out. Just don't be afraid to talk to people. Nobody is going to notice your work. No one is going to come to you. You have to go to it. Which took me a long time to understand. I thought, 'Well, my work is good enough. People will see it and I will get jobs.' No, it really is about who you know. Really, yeah.

RK: What about any final comments? Are there any other projects in the works after The Rabid or The Showdown are completed?

TGB: Sweet Jesus, no! I got to finish that stuff, man! I got like years of work lined up! No, right now those are what I'm working on. Russ is working on trying to get The Showdown made into a movie. He's actually out in Chicago and then New York pitching it. He's going to do like a little animated trailer with the artwork that I've done. Johnnie and I are going to finish this book up--this arc right now--in December, and then Larry Luna will take over for that. I'm excited for that. Larry's an awesome inker and a good artist and I'm excited to see what he'll bring to the table. And, hey thanks for hunting me down and doing this interview.

RK: No problem. I appreciate you letting me do this.

TGB: Oh, I forgot to say when you mentioned artists that I look at--Eliza Frye. I don't know if you know her but she's just an indie artist. She was nominated for an Eisner a couple years ago and she has a really, really good storytelling sensibility and I just picked up her book at cons last year and just thought I'd give a shout out about that. But beyond that, no man, thank you.

RK: No problem. Thanks for doing this again.

For more information about Tony, check out his website here***Artist Spotlight is a monthly column featured on Go Suck a Comic that focuses on the promotion of talented and promising independent artists. For more information on how to schedule an interview, please send an email to***

Coming this Saturday August 4th from 12pm-3pm at Heroes and Villains Comics in Pleasanton, CA, late night TV personalities Balrok del Cavo and No Name will attend a premier release of the first ever Creepy KOFY Movie Time comic book. Beloved by many Bay Area horror buffs, the duo screens horror films on Saturday nights on KOFY (TV 20, Cable 13) and provides hilarious, insightful, and some times asinine commentary, much in the vein of Elvira's Movie Macabre and Mystery Science Theater 3000. What's the difference? CKMT features plenty of fresh talent from the bay: comedians, artists, strippers, musicians, scientists, you name it. This makes CKMT one of the most culturally significant variety shows in the area. Suck on that, America's Got Talent.

Appearing alongside the celebrated hosts will be the comic creators Manuel MartinezJohn HagemanLazy BonesSLOBStephon TaylorMel Smith and more show personalities like Webberly Rattenfink. Don't miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to meet this bunch of creative creatures. And with a cover illustration by The Boys' artist Darick Robertson, the comic appears to be an impressive creation all on it's own. For more information on the signing, look down below! For more info on CKMTclick here!

My Friend Went to Comic-Con and All I Got Was... by Ryan King


I want to take this moment to thank my good friend Jarrett for taking the time out of his first Comic-Con to pick me up this stunning treasure. Gee, what a pal! Any other SDCC absentees have an extraordinary friend bring home a gift or two? Do share.

As I write this, the festivities of Comic-Con 2012 are coming to a close. I'm sure there are many unfortunate souls who could not attend this comic book/entertainment mecca in San Diego (count me in the majority) and most have looked forward to every minutia of news coverage--I would love to see the last five day site-traffic record for Bleeding Cool, Comic Book Resources, IGN, Comics Alliance, and Coming Soon right about now ( I bet I visited each more than 50 times a day).  Now that the road of reportage seems to have come to a close, I would like to recap some of the most significant news I've read in the last several days and give my thoughts on the matter. (*SPOILERS* Some spoilers from the film Prometheus will be found below. This is your first warning. *NOTE* This is a list based on MY interests and opinions. If you saw something at SDCC that made your eyeballs melt out of their sockets, please comment down below.)

1.) Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III Bring New Sandman

What do you get when you mix two of comics most genius and inventive creators to ever touch the medium? Hopefully the answer is this next installment (or possible prequel) to the DC Sandman comics. In my opinion, anything JH Williams III touches is beautifully stylized. I would personally like to challenge the man to draw a crappy picture of something. Maybe an onion...or a dead seagull...or how about George W. Bush taking a shit in a port-a-potty... Anyway, my point is he can't do a bad job and I suspect this new project will be a masterpiece. 
2.) Creepy Movie Announced, Christopher Columbus Directs

Horror anthology films have a manner of failing miserably at the box-office: CreepshowTales from the DarksideTrick R' Treat, and Grind House. Although each one holds a special place in my heart, for some stupid reason many people refuse to see them. Good thing director Christopher Columbus doesn't give a crap about the statistics and has decided to move ahead with turning the classic horror comics into a 4-part anthology film. Now, the question we must all ask, which stories should they adapt for the screen?

3.) Trailer for Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful

It's been three years since Raimi's 2009 film Drag Me to Hell and that's too damn long a absence. Thankfully we have this magnificent little trailer for Oz the Great and Powerful to fill the void Raimi's set upon us. My current fear for Oz is how much influence Disney has on the production of the film. I can already tell from the trailer alone that they're catering to a 3D (yaaaaaaaawwwwnn) audience and are making the film similar to Tim Burton's love-it-or-hate-it version of Alice in Wonderland. Only time will tell.

4.) Quentin Tarantino Makes Django Unchained Comic Mini-Series

Tarantino announced that a 5-issue comic book mini-series of Django Unchained would premiere in time for his movie, set to release on Christmas Day. On one part, I'm completely ecstatic to see one of Tarantino's creations put in the comic medium. My only disappointment comes from the decision for DC Comics to publish the mini-series. Which only means you can bet your sweet, little ass this comic will be loaded with more advertisements than you could possibly imagine.


One of the biggest Comic-Con mysteries to date is finally answered. The rumor of a new American Godzilla movie has finally been confirmed and after years of waiting for some news we can definitely confirm Monsters director Gareth Edwards is leading this production with Legendary Pictures. My only wish is for the trailer to go public and appear sometime this week, or preferably alongside this week's The Dark Knight Rises premier.

6.) Prometheus Toys ***SPOILERS***

NECA toys unveiled a second wave of Prometheus toys to be released some time within the year. I personally LoVeD the film and would be more than happier to own one of the pre-xenomorphs shown down below. The first series is slated for a September release, with the second to follow in December.


7.) Comic Book Men Season 2

Maybe this wasn't announced at this year's Comic-Con but it was certainly confirmed; a second season of AMC's Comic Book Men will appear in October alongside The Walking Dead. And thank goodness! For all the bad publicity this show got thanks to Comics Alliance, I believe this show continues to spark interest in the comic and collector culture. This is just the kind of crazy antic show that comics need to survive in this unemployed-eat-unemployed world. For all the naysayers who believe the show paints a bad picture of comic book shops, how about redirecting some of that rage on the 20 plus seasons of Simpsons who features one of the most damning stereotypes--the Comic Book Guy.

8.) Eric Powell Kickstarts The Goon Film

After finally succumbing to the demand of his fans, The Goon creator Eric Powell announced he will create a Kickstarter page to help finance The Goon film. What sounds like a dubious battle could certainly be the ultimate way to finalize the film. Email to receive a notification when The Goon kickstarter goes live.

9.) Hellboy 3 on the way?

From what I understand, Ron Perlman wants to do it and Guillermo Del Toro wants to do it. But considering Guillermo Del Toro has umpteen projects in the works, the chances of seeing Hellboy 3 a reality sometime soon is too far away. From the way Perlman talks about the story for the third movie it will definitely be worth the wait.

10.) Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

In all honesty, I'm never balls-to-the-wall crazy for superhero movies. Captain America--good movie. Thor--too slow for my liking. The Avengers--fun to watch but could use some editing. The Amazing Spiderman--didn't I see this movie already? One of the recent movie announcements Marvel added to their roster is Guardians of the Galaxy. What exactly do I know about the film? Well, there's Rocket Raccoon and Groot, and some characters you see below. Yup, that's all I really know. From the looks of the concept art alone, this film could mark a resurgence in sci-fi adventure films, which is just what I'm hoping for. Maybe, just maybe, Marvel will trim down on the expected quota of superhero tropes but hopefully this film dives into the territory John Carter and Prometheus began to explore.

Hellboy Returns! by Ryan King

Among a cavalcade of comic book announcements this week (thank you San Diego ComicCon), Dark Horse Comics sent out this small promotional gem. Originally planned for an October release date, creator Mike Mignola pushed back Hellboy's five issue story arc return, Hellboy in Hell, for a December 5th release. According to Mignola, the change was made to ease pressure on his drawing capabilities. I can only imagine what other goodies will be sent our way from SDCC.

Hellboy Fulfills a Wish by Ryan King

This picture of Ron Perlman dressed as the big red guy and Zachary, a Make-A-Wish child, is floating all over the internet by now. Who cares if you've seen it on other sites and it's not that news worthy at the moment--I have to give compliments to Perlman for making this child's wish come true. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

After a successful Kickstarter campain, an entire year's worth of comic book art and short stories created by independent artist Skuds McKinley is now available in paperback format to purchase and own. Almost a year ago one of my dear friends sent me a link to McKinley's website Batshit Art and ever since I've checked up on the Pennsylvania based artist, watching his progress in the comic medium grow, his storytelling strengthen--post by post, panel by panel. And as a comic gossip junky, there is nothing I enjoy more than watching the beginning of a young, up and coming artist's journey. With the launch of McKinley's new book, just where does he wish to take us? To the moon of course.

I'll Take You to the Moon & Leave You There Vol 1 encompasses a medley of artistic styles and story genres. Within the 54 pages of black and white comics, readers will find high-fantasy adventure, requiems for young love, personal, mental anguish, and Bill fucking Murray. All these placed between two lovely colored portraits. If independent comics and anthologies the likes of Dark Horse Presents gets you hard in the morning, consider this your new pulp fleshlight.

After reading I'll Take You to the Moon the most important aspect I noticed about McKinley's work is the broad spectrum he draws from other artists. His work evokes the pulp art from comic legends Daniel ClowesCharles Burns, and Paul Pope. If you can imagine a blend between all three of those artists, you have the evolving work of McKinley. His art is both unashamedly bold and experimentally daring. And it is my conclusion his work will only continue to mature for the better.

One of my favorite stories from the bunch is "Egg Hunt," a silent tale about a nomadic adventurer's journey to steal eggs from a gigantic larval beast. Not only is the adventurer's garb and character design intriguing but the monster in the tale does not disappoint. This is one of the stories that features McKinley's masterful skills with inking and refuses to be read in anything other than black and white. Another worthy short is the poetic "No Pill Today." Only three pages long, this snippet explores the shadows of pharmaceutical drugs and user's dependency. The inks on the panels of this short will leave you wondering how McKinley creates such amazing detail. And if anything speaks for his unique tongue at storytelling, this is the story to read.

Luckily for all you fine folks out there discovering Monsieur McKinley's art today, Skuds intends to release a new package deal on his personal website that includes "the comic book a dope ass shirt, and two art prints. all limited edition as fuck." Head on over there to check out the latest comics, art, news , and to pick up a sweet copy of I'll Take You to the Moon. Until next time, I'll see you on the moon!

That's right folks. This beauty of a poster says it all (and there's a second poster down below). If you're looking for more specifics, you can find the official website here which includes the entire guest list and schedule of events. Check it out now!

First Saturday in May is Free Comic Book Day! by Ryan King

Which happens to be only a day away! Free Comic Book Day is a wonderful free family event that happens at all fine comic book retailers. Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the event with a large crop of comics to choose from--over 40 total. What titles are you looking toward? Here are several comic titles I definitely cannot wait to read:

Mouse Guard, Labyrinth, Cursed Pirate Girl, etc., 
published by Archaia Entertainment

Mega Man
published by Archie Comics

Drawn & Quarterly

published by Rebellion

published by Valiant Entertainment

Resident Alien #0 - Review by Chandler Levine

Of all the avenues to be explored with the tale of aliens amongst us, Resident Alien takes a rather surprising spin. With its introductory issue, there is no large conspiracy hinted at, nor a fight for survival between human and alien. This series avoids the pitfalls of the sci-fi genre and instead takes a turn for the Average Joe, paring down the cliches until you have just the man, or alien. You will not see a spaceship in a single frame of the first issue, except for the smoke billowing from the one our protagonist, the so-called Dr. Vanderspeigle, presumably crashed.

We find ourselves at a remote cabin where the doctor is called upon by the police to lend his skills as a completely normal human physician or so he is able to make them think with his extraterrestrial powers (presumably some sort of telepathy). We the viewers are blessed to see him in his natural form, sporting purple skin, typically large black eyes, and pointed ears. Frankly, I'm surprised our doctor needs powers to cover up his looks in the first place, being that he's so humanoid in appearance. Though he's been attempting to be as incognito as possible, Vanderspeigle is easily persuaded to take on a role which puts him in direct interaction with the locals.

What Peter Hogan has done with Resident Alien is beautifully craft potential. Part sci-fi adventure, part murder mystery, this story is bursting at the seams with all kinds of exciting possibilities and has you rooting for our other-worldly doctor to fit in despite the perils of doing so. Paired with the beautifully concise artwork of Steve Parkhouse, this series is off to a great start and will leave you itching to find out how it all unfolds. 

Ragemoor #2 - Review by Ryan T. King

Welcome back to Castle Ragemoor! On April 18th, Dark Horse Comics releases the second installment of this four-part mini-series about a living castle, the cursed owners, and the bevy of beasts harbored inside. Like all great Gothic horror, Ragemoor #2 begins with poetry; Herbert Ragemoor (the "Master" of Ragemoor) longs for his heart's desire: the newest castle guest, the lovely Anoria. In effort to win her affection, Herbert sets forth on a heroic hunt to eliminate the plague of baboons which infests the castle grounds. Little does he know, in the deep, dark recesses of Castle Ragemoor, far worse creatures are certain to appear.

To be honest, the sole reason I've purchased Ragemoor revolved around my fancy for Richard Corben's artwork. But with each issue, I'm beginning to admire and take notice of Jan Strnad's delightfully poetic prose. The beginning of this issue is the best example of Strnad's writing I can recommend. His choice of using a poem as a means to transition the first issue to the second works flawlessly. Throughout the issue, Strnad's writing remains passionate and deceptively dark ultimately equating a wonderful Gothic tale.

As always, Corben's artwork bends the gap between illustration and reality. A couple weeks ago I read an article on Corben's method of creating the characters and environments for Ragemoor, specifically with the help of clay and CGI 3D models. I honestly wish Corben included some special feature in the back of each issue just how he created each page--one can only hope it appears in the trade. With this second issue Corben continues depicting wonderful characters and fantastical creatures. I only have one complaint for the mini-series so far; please make this ongoing!

Rating: 4.5/5

The latest adventures of B.P.R.D. agent Abe Sapien are pooled together in the trade paper back edition of Abe Sapien Volume 2: The Devil Does Not Jest And Other Stories (available in stores April 18th, 2012). This volume collects the Abe Sapien one-shot Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy and two other separate two-issue mini-series, Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain and Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest. Each of the three various stories are written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi. So if you're anything of  Hellboy or B.P.R.D. fan, you'll know what kind of story and tone to expect. Never read a copy either of these titles? Not to worry, Abe Sapien Volume 2 is the perfect diving point for new readers.

To begin, The Haunted Boy sends Abe on a seemingly simple excursion to investigate a recent haunting after a young boy drowned. As simple as the assignment first appears, it quickly escalates with an explosive resolution. Artist Patrick Reynolds provided the art for this issue. His character depictions are finely detailed and contain an eerie realistic quality found in most Creepy or Eerie collections. Once the monster steps out from the shadows (and yes, there are monsters in all of these stories), Reynolds constructs a mesmerizing horrific creature certainly worth praising. Although Mignola and Arcudi's story struggles for originality, Reynolds serpentine-like art will coil around you until the point of paralysis. 

Back in the water (didn't expect the wet, blue stuff to appear as an overarching theme here, did you?) Abe leads a naval crew to a sunken Soviet U-boat to recover a magical relic. Over the course of two issues, The Abyssal Plain treats readers to this sea-farthing tale and shows how Abe implements his "research" skills as a member of B.P.R.D.. Peter Snejbjerg illustrates this one. His work is slightly cartoonish for my tastes, mainly in regards to the character's facial expressions. One moment in the story the captain of the boat makes an offhand remark about how the dead will rise from the sea and kill every man aboard the boat. As he makes this false prediction, Snejbjerg takes the reigns to draw a what-if scenario which is anything but scary. The scene created is more silly and humorous than anything. With the art aside, the story is semi-interesting. It manages to build and build in momentum until finally the expected tidal wave of excitement and adventure becomes a sparse, single drop. Extremely disappointing.

The final story appearing in this volume is the two-issue The Devil Does Not Jest. After the grandson of a famous demonologist pays Abe a visit, the two set forth to uncover his mysterious murder fifty years ago. As with most of the stories in the collection, Devil offers the same trite workings. Fans of the horror genre will appreciate artist James Harren's monstrous depictions, but fans of an original story will wish they invested money elsewhere. Although certain moments of this short makes for fun, leisurely reading, the story remains easily unremarkable.

In summation, the stories featured inside Abe Sapien Volume 2 are worth reading and enjoying as brain candy but otherwise easily forgettable. As with most Mignola creations, the back of the trade features wonderful character sketches and designs. Without these intricate and lovely additions I would easily give this title a lesser rating. Even with Dave Stewart's wonderful coloring talents, the aforementioned stories lack originality. I highly recommend flipping through a copy and reading a portion at your book store before making the purchase.  

Rating: 3/5

Craig Pressgang (otherwise known as “3 Story”) could only be a character in a Dark Horse Comic. Anybody who has read the previous graphic novel of “3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man,” is familiar with the life of Pressgang--a man who grows to be over twenty feet tall and who is employed by the CIA during the Cold War. Matt Kindt has done an excellent job continuing the story of Pressgang, bringing to light more stories of individuals whose lives were impacted by the life of the Giant Man. 

In this issue, the reader will see adventures of the ill-fated Giant Man as he travels to Paris, Egypt, the Philippines and Vietnam on “good-will” missions on behalf of the United States. The stories are slightly relaxed, but are not dull, though if action is what you want, you won't find it in this issue. Through the narrator’s observations, we discover the loneliness faced by Pressgang, a man of such celebrity across the globe, whose body continues to grow and suffers from ill-health. 

As shown through many of his previous works including “3 Story: Secret History of the Giant Man” and “Super Spy,” Kindt has found his medium. His artwork is simple, yet it isn't bare; the flows of water-colors invoke an art-school feel. His skills are mature and the art lends itself to set the tone for the melancholy and reflections of the characters involved. Simply put, “3 Story” couldn't be illustrated or told in any other way.

Any fan of Kindt's and his “3 Story” tales or any of his other works will surely enjoy this comic and hopefully there will be more to follow.  Look for “3 Story: Secret Files of the Giant Man,” on the shelves at your local comic book shop, on April 18.

Fans of the The Walking Dead comic and television series know nothing about horror and depravity the way Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows do. As creators of the original Crossed comic series published by Avatar Press, Ennis and Burrows gave a devastating glimpse of a world run amok by a plague much worse than slow, undead flesh-eating zombies. Just how much worse? Well, lets just say The Walking Dead has yet featured zombies shooting at our batch of survivors with semen-covered bullets. Wait, did he just say "semen-covered bullets"? Yes, and there are far worse things awaiting your discovery between the pages of Crossed.

Enter the world of Crossed, a series like many others to feature a small band of displaced survivors pulling together to out thwart a maleficent force in an apocalyptic setting. Neither living nor dead, the Crossed appear as a ruined form of normal human beings but with the iconic trademark of a bloody cross branded upon their face. Crossed behavioral characteristics incorporate the worst of any human actions cranked up to level 11: rape, murder, bestiality, pedophilia, torture, incest, cannibalism, get the picture. But behind the horrendous threat which this series is named after, my main attraction has been and will forever remain (take this as a demand Avatar) Ennis' writing talents.

With this week's release of Crossed: Badlands #3 readers have the chance of enjoying Ennis' beautifully crafted prose as this short three-issue arc comes to a close. Like the two previous issues published before, Ennis' manages to engage readers with his clever and careful way of building favorite characters and then pushing them into moments of peril. Since this is the last issue of his arc, expect the worst. From the very first page my jaw dropped from surprise and as I continued reading my heart quickened in beats up until the final nerve wracking ending. As usual, the Ennis/Burrows team complete a masterpiece short in this dark, dark world known as Crossed. For any new readers out there, I highly recommend picking up the first two issues before diving head first in this one (ask your retailer to order them from Diamond or buy directly from Avatar Press). The gradual build is absolutely worth the payoff in this final issue.

To date Avatar Press continues publishing on-going Crossed series featuring various writers (David LaphamSimon Spurrier, and Jamie Delano) and artists (Javier BarrenoRaulo Caceres, and Leandro Rizzo). I've given a couple of these series a chance but the real cream and butter goes to Ennis and Burrows. Unlike other teams, their stories remain subtle until an unexpected moment skull fucks your brains out. Other writers like Lapham go for the gruesomely bizarre and focus less on characters/storyline and more on violence/shock-factor. Of course, this is only one man's opinion.

Rating: 5/5

Alabaster: Wolves #1 - Review by Ryan T. King

Alabaster: Wolves #1, written by Caitlin R. Kiernan,
art by Steve Lieber, with cover-art by Greg Ruth

Several weeks ago, I posted an interview with one of my all-time favorite artists Mike Mignola on Bleeding Cool. Somewhere on the comment board a Bleeding Cool reader voiced his/her distaste for Mignola's work, saying "[he] couldn't write a good story to save his life. He uses the same damn formula over and over again." The reader continues by saying Mignola's characters are "big dumb heroes with boilerplate 'personalities.' They hit supernatural foes with their fists in order to defeat them." Was I surprised by this comment? No, absolutely not. Nor did I feel an angry, vengeful spirit-like need to reply to the reader. But his/her words did make me think and reconsider the heroes we appreciate the most in comics. How many of our classic heroes use their brawn instead of their brains to defeat their vindictive foes? Should we encourage one method over the other, especially if both actions equate worthy results? I don't have an answer for this, but instead I have a suggestion or recommendation to that Bleeding Cool reader or any other reader curious to examine how a game of wits pans out in a comic. Take for example this weeks Dark Horse release Alabaster: Wolves #1.

International-Horror Guild writer Caitlin R. Kiernan, artist Steve Lieber, and colorist Rachel Rosenberg finally bring one of Kiernan's well known heroes Dancy Flammarion (a name worthy of a second glance) to the four-color world. As a teenage, albino vagabond, Dancy travels with the guidance of an angel through a post-apocalyptic world filled with monsters and other evil foes. In Alabaster: Wolves #1, we find seventeen year old Darcy traveling through a desolate town in South Carolina and waiting for a bus to arrive. Unbeknownst to her, something a bit more sinister than public transit waits to pick young Darcy up--for dinner! But before the evil creature pounces on Darcy, a challenge is made. A challenge of riddles. Like Bilbo Baggins and Gollum's classic game of riddles in Tolkien's The Hobbit, this clever contest exhibits exactly the kind of demonstration of wits opposite of most superhero comics. Which makes me sad to declare this comic is only mediocre in aspects otherwise.

I have never heard or read any of Kiernan's written works before Dark Horse decided to publish this comic. After reading this first issue, I don't expect I'll read more of her work or create the fan-base Dark Horse hopes to expect. For a first issue of a brand-new, potentially ongoing series, this beginning plagues the reader with questions: who is Darcy Flammarion? Where does she come from? How did she survive an apocalypse? Is this set in the future? In the past? Why does an angel with four-heads follow her around? Why is Darcy compelled to fight monsters? Question after question after question. Some dialogue and narration reveals answers but nothing stays concrete for a reader to understand just why they should care about this Darcy and her ongoing/past adventures. Whoever decided to begin this story in media res cast a poor judgment call. Along with general writing aspects, I became overly irritated with Darcy's simpleton demeanor and lazily, stupid narration. If the word "ain't" never bothered you before, expect it to by the end of the issue--even one of the characters in the story mentions it! By no mean am I saying slang or hickish words should not consist within character dialogue, but there is such a thing as hammering a nail too deep.

Praise for this comic goes to Lieber's artistic skills, Rosenberg's colors, and Greg Ruth's gorgeous cover art. Anyone who is reading and enjoying Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona StaplesSaga will enjoy the similar approach of sequential art. I suggest flipping through the pages and enjoying the artwork, but this comic is still not worth buying only for the art alone. As much as I want to praise this comic for incorporating a battle of the minds scenario, the story races at a snails pacing to finish. Which makes me wonder, what other comic books incorporate methodical strategies to defeat villains rather than relying on fisticuffs? And how does the story pacing feel with those comics? Anyone have any suggestions?

Overall, I say place this comic as far away from your buy pile as you can. If for some compelling reason you feel you MUST have it, I recommend reading it in stores first and seeing whether or not the narration and dialogue bothers you as much as it bothered me. Since this is a first issue, I'm hoping the story picks up in future issues. But for $3.50, I would save the money and buy something you really want.

Rating: 2.5/5

Creepy #8 - Review by Ryan T. King

Horror comic fans rejoice! Dark Horse Comic unearths another spine-chilling horror anthology with the quarterly release of Creepy #8 (available in stores tomorrow). Lurking the black and white pages of this new horror collective appears brand-new stories from the likes of Jeff Parker (Thunderbolts, Hulk), Colleen Coover (X-Men: First Class), Rick Geary (A Treasury of Victorian Murder), Doug Moench (Batman), and Kelly Jones (Criminal Macabre), with a classic reprint of Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson's "Jenifer", all wrapped in a glorious cover by Richard Corben.

Every issue of Creepy is a Pandora's box of chocolates. Whimsically unrelenting, brutally honest, and frightfully electric, you really never know what you're going to get. And dammit if it isn't nice to open and find out! This holds true for this quarter's issue. Five shorts float above a seemingly calm surface, where far below in the murky uninhabitable depths many surprises hungrily await. 

The strongest of this new batch of tales is definitely "The Lurking Fate that Came to Lovecraft Part 1" written by Moench with art provided by Jones). Set in the manner of many Cthulu mythos, Moench and Jones will captivate any fans of H.P. Lovecraft with this twist filled tale. Jones grisly and gruesome portrayal of Lovecraft beasties sent my toes curling from fear. Like Alan Moore's Neonomicon and Neil Gaiman's Only the End of the World Again, Lovecraft connoisseurs will appreciate the amount of detail put forth here. But the best has yet to be mentioned; there is promise of a part two in next quarter's Creepy!

The weakest and more lackluster of the bunch is "Loathsome Lore" (written by Dan Braun, art by Kyle Baker). This two page "story" is less of a weird-tale and more of a historical ramble that revolves around the theme of horror in rock n' roll. As both a fan of horror and music, I must express my distaste with the two featured among other worthy tales. Perhaps if this two-pager were tagged on at the end with a historical note, "Loathsome Lore" would feel more fitting. Otherwise it stands out equally unimpressive as it is unfitting. Despite the content, Baker's artwork does exhibit the gritty edge I look for in an issue of Creepy. A consolation prize, I suppose.

The three remaining stories "Nineteen" (written by Parker, art by Coover), "The Mausoleum" (Geary), and Jones and Wrightson's classic "Jenifer" are each splendidly different in artistry and narration; a batch certainly worth reading with the lights on. And for the price of $4.99 this 48-page black and white comic is worth the penny for Richard Corben's cover art alone.

Rating: 4/5

Double Jumpers #1 Advance Review by Ryan T. King

Double Jumpers issue #1,
on sale May 30th 2012

Almost two weeks ago I attended WonderCon in Anaheim, CA as a correspondent for the overly heckled yet popular comic rumor site Bleeding Cool. On a Saturday night (while most WonderCon geeks convened at the Masquerade with high hopes of wardrobe malfunctions), my entourage and I met together over drinks and good laughs at the bar within the Hilton Hotel. Seated next to us was another amusing group of WonderCon attendees, among them was one Dave Dwonch, the Creative Director of Action Lab Comics. Dave and I hit it off instantly, discussing old '80's flicks, comparing the works of Alan Moore to his real life persona, and most importantly, drinking cold beer. Somewhere in midst of the night life, Dave informed me he is the author of several comic titles and his latest one Double Jumpers (with art by Bill Blankenship) will appear in comic stores in two months time. We made sure to exchange cards before the night was through and I promised I would swing by his booth the next day and obtain an advance copy.

Now let me admit something here and now before I conduct this review of Double Jumpers. When I promise to review a comic for a friend, acquaintance, or random internet avatar, there are several grieving questions that plague my conscience: what if this comic book sucks? What if this comic book really sucks? And, what if this comic book really, really fucking absolutely sucks? Okay, so maybe the question is merely  rephrased to the point of exaggeration, but realistically I dread telling someone that the amount of time and money they pour into their creative endeavors is an absolute waste. Thankfully, Double Jumpers does NOT fall in this category. It's an absolute blast!

Double Jumpers tells the story of Jason Mulliet and his team of video game programmers on the brink of releasing the hottest new virtual reality game The Dungeon Lords 2: The Darkheart Chronicles. While attending an E3 event in Las Vegas the team is criticized for being over budget and unable to meet their set release date. After this embarrassing public display, Jason and his team are put under pressure by their boss Danielle Miyamoto (who happens to be Jason's lover) and scramble together in an all night gaming session in effort to discover and rid all the gremlins plaguing their new game. Unfortunately, midway through their gaming experience an innocent hotel maid spills an energy drink over their gaming console which somehow traps the game programmers inside The Dungeon Lords 2. But the fun does not end there; the video game character's personas are now trapped within the bodies of the game programmers who are now free to run amok in Las Vegas. This is where issue one ends.

The first aspect about Double Jumpers that surprised me was Dwonch's remarkable talent at plotting. Most independent comics tend to be scatterbrain and move slowly while leaving loose ends. If anything Double Jumpers uses each and every page to benefit the storytelling and keeps the pacing constant, there is not a moment where the read slows down and breaks away on a random and unnecessary tangent. Dwonch holds a steady control of each and every page and the same can be said about his dialogue. Read the very first page and you will see just how it conveys mystery, intrigue, and humor. All of which Dwonch excels at.

If Double Jumpers needs a defining genre, I would categorize it as a comedy-fantasy. Dwonch certainly brings his A-game with the comedic writing, but more importantly artist Blankenship truly shines with his comic character portrayals. Blankenship knows how to really work a character's expression for comedic effect (once again, I will refer you to the first page) but he also has the ability to depict wonderfully attractive and exotic settings like when he illustrates the preview for The Dungeon Lords 2. As a reader, you would swear you flipped the page to a different story. As the comic progresses and more attention is given to Blankenship's art you will spot fun little details in the background, like cosplayers dressed like Link and Megaman in the background of the E3 event. These quirky tidbits keep the comic lighthearted and are particularly enjoyable once discovered.

Overall, with Dwonch's entertaining storytelling and Blankenship's phenomenal artwork, this new series is guaranteed to garner many laughs and many fans. Someone needs to call Hollywood, because this comic is comedic gold and deserves a film adaptation immediately. But even more so (and it makes me incredibly happy to say this), this comic book rocks! This comic book really rocks. This comic book really, really fucking absolutely rocks!

Rating: 9/10

JH Williams and W. Haden Blackman Talk 'Batwoman' at Blue Moon Comics by Ryan T. King

W. Haden Blackman (left) and J.H. Williams III (right)
hold a signed copy of Batwoman #1

Last Saturday marked a signing event at Blue Moon Comics in the bay side city of San Rafael, CA, where the writers of the current Batwoman series signed fans beloved comics. Although the dreary rain may have turned some fans away from getting artist/writer JH William III and writer W. Haden Blackman's autograph, nothing could stop me from making an hour's drive to meet this talented duo. After getting a number of my comics signed and viewing JH's phenomenal artistry (plus sneak peeks at issue twelve's artwork--fans will flip when they find out which DCU star Batwoman is teaming up with), I sat down with these award winning creators to discuss their current and forthcoming work on Batwoman. Find out more about J.H. William III's career jump to writing, the use of supernatural urban legends in BatwomanAmy Reeder's recent exit from the project, and reactions to newly appointed Batwoman artist Trevor McCarthy in the interview below: 

Ryan King: I’m here with JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, the creative writers behind DC’s Batwoman series. To begin, I would like to thank the both of you for taking the irreplaceable time out of your day to speak with the readers at Go Suck A Comic. Thank you!

JH Williams III: Sure, you bet.

RK: Many fans of the new Batwoman series were introduced to Kate Kane and her alter ego through the Batwoman: Elegy story arc written by Greg Rucca. JH, you provided the pencils for Rucca’s run on Batwoman, but now you are back with the title of artist and co-writer. How do you feel breaking the reigns as an artist and co-scripting the series with Haden?

J3: Oh, it’s fantastic. I mean, you know, writing is something I’ve always wanted to explore and I did a little bit of it earlier in my career but this is really, I feel like, my full real opportunity to have a real say about how a series moves and stuff. And being able to work with Haden as a partner I’m learning a lot too. Something I was talking about earlier with somebody else is that as an artist it takes longer to produce a piece of art so I kind of get to sit with an idea longer so my thought process works a little differently that way. But with writing, I am having to learn a lot about being able to think of more ideas more rapidly. So yeah, it’s been fantastic. 

RK: Haden, you’re certainly not an amateur in this industry. Your career has spanned 13 years working for Lucas Arts on many Star Wars comic titles and now you write for DC Comics. Did you have any hesitations prior to making the jump to DC and following in Rucca’s footsteps?

W. Haden Blackman: No, I mean…well, there are kind of two separate things in terms of  moving over to DC. All along I wanted to always do superhero comics (for lack of a better term), so for me it was just really exciting to get that opportunity. More importantly I always wanted to work with Jim. We’ve known each other for well over a decade now and have always wanted to do something together and when this opportunity came together it was kind of a perfect fit. In terms of following after Rucca, honestly had I thought about it more and had we had more time, it was kind of a whirlwind thing when they asked us to take over the series when it got announced—

J3: We had to decide within 24 hours.

HB: Yeah, so the issues we had done, we had pitched them a limited series with Batwoman as one of the characters and they green lit that and we were moving ahead with that because no one knew exactly what was going to happen with the ongoing yet. And then it became clear that Greg wasn’t going to sign on to do the ongoing so they came in and asked us to do the ongoing and then take our limited series and fold it into the ongoing which will actually be arc three. Which as Jim said, I believe we only had 24 hours to make that decision, so had I any more time to think about it, I would have gotten more nervous. But really we’re just trying to do our own thing and respect what came before and not compete with it.

RK: So you mentioned previously that you guys new each other for about what, ten years before this?

HB: Yeah.

RK: My next question is how did the two of you come together to write Batwoman? Were you both friends before the experience and did DC simply pair you together or did you come together to pitch this idea?

J3: No, we’ve known each other for a long time and we came at them with it. Basically Haden and I, the first thing we did together was shortly after this time where we met in San Diego—a bunch of Star Wars guys got together with a bunch of comics guys and had dinner and stuff and geeked out on each other and it was fun and cool, you know—and I hit it off and exchanged phone numbers and stuff, and I somehow—I don’t remember how it came up—but this Hellboy: Weird Tales thing was happening, like mini-series stuff, and they asked Haden and I if we wanted to do anything.

HB: I was doing a lot of work for Dark Horse at the time on Star Wars so Scott Allie, who is the editor of the Hellboy stuff asked me if I wanted to write a Hellboy story and he knew that I knew Jim, so I think it was really kind of a ploy to try and get Jim to do a Hellboy story. So he said, ‘Hey, would you like to do a Hellboy story with Jim doing the art.’ And I was like, ‘Sure!’ So then we got on the phone and talked a little—

J3: Yeah, we kind of worked on the story together on that a little bit so it was kind of like we seemed like we seemed like we had this cool easy report of each other and after that was done—this short, little 8 page, 10 page tale or whatever— and surely after that I called him up and said, ‘You know, I really had a great time of doing that. Let’s do some more stuff.’ I said, ‘I have ideas for creator owned stuff if you have ideas for creator owned stuff. Let’s kind of marry some things together.’ And so ever since then we’ve actually been developing our own stuff in the backgrounds. We have numerous different concepts that hopefully will see the light of day someday. We were always kind of working on those ideas when Greg decided to leave Batwoman and DC said, ‘Hey.’ At the time I was telling DC I wanted to do more writing, get back into that, and they were like, ‘Well, how about this? Greg is leaving, you want to take over? Let’s bring Haden along.’ I literally like called him up and was like, ‘You want to do this or what?’ And he was like, ‘What we have to decide right now?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah!’

HB: And the next day we were doing the press release, right? It was crazy. It was good though.

J3: Actually, it was kind of nightmarish because DC wanted the jump on the press release and I’m like, ‘What!? Hold up! I mean, we don’t even have a story yet!’

HB: Well the good news though is that we did have that limited series which I think—you know, it’s so much annoying the way the industry works. We pitched this twelve issue limited series that was set in the DCU but with a lot of new characters that got a lot of attraction at DC. And then meanwhile we started working on this 5 issue series of Batwoman just because Jim in particular really wanted to make sure Batwoman was kept in the public consciousness and was kept alive and people were going to do stuff with it. So that got green lit and we were working on that. But the fact that we were kind of already working on Batwoman in a way made it easier but no one’s going to see that story until arc 3 and we actually changed it quite a bit because it’s no longer an isolated little thing.

RK: So arc 3 will actually be the original?

HB: It will be based on that original series, yeah.

J3: The core elements of it are based on the original but we kind of picked at its bones as the genesis for everything that we set up and do at the beginning so we can feed into this bigger picture and that will turn over into arc 4 and 5 and so forth.

RK: JH, you certainly have one of the strongest visual prowesses in the comic book industry when it comes to panel design and page layout. Your work with Alan Moore on Promethea showcased the bulk (but certainly not all) of your artistic abilities. What is it like to step back in the creative role as a writer?

J3: It’s very daunting in a lot of ways. As he knows I fret a lot [laughs]. It’s kind of a tricky balance for me because I know I have a lot to learn and at the same time I have something to say. It’s one of those things I kind of want to stay at, now that I’ve gotten a big taste of it, I don’t ever want to let that go. I’m sure there will be projects in the future where I’m just going to be stepping back and being just the artist on. But hopefully I’ll be writing something else that I am not the artist on while that’s taking place or whatever. Just the whole thing is pretty cool. It will be interesting to see what people think of the writing over time as all the pieces come start to come out.

RK: Would you say that working on those 32 issues of Promethea and seeing Alan Moore’s scripts has helped you at all?

J3: Yes and no [laughs].

HB: [Sarcastically] Have you ever seen one of Alan Moore’s scripts?

J3: It’s a double-edged sword question. It certainly has taught me what a professional script should be like. But at the same time, we’re already getting the reputation of having really dense scripts like Alan is known for. But we are nowhere near Alan’s density. The scripts for Promethea were like reading novellas every month. I feel like our scripts, what they developed into over the course of working with Batwoman is we’re somewhere more dense than Rucca, but not as dense as Alan. And what’s interesting to me is people, just more than us have seen these scripts, higher ups at DC have seen these scripts and other professionals have seen these scripts and stuff and they’re actually quite surprised how dense they are and how thought out they are. What fascinates me about that is that I don’t think people have seen scripts quite like this in quite a while.

HB: Well I think some of too might come from the fact that Jim does the art for arc 1 and arc 3 right? So I think that maybe there was an expectation that we would be really light on the panel description because Jim already has it in his head or something like that but it was actually kind of the opposite where—and Jim really drove this—we wanted to make the panel descriptions be 1.) something that would be kind of fun to read, in case these ever show up in print but 2.) start practicing for when there was an artist other than Jim and we were communicating clearly. And I think the thing we probably wrestle with the most is that there is that fine line communicating clearly and over communicating and stuff so I think that’s where we try not to be too dense but—

J3: It still happens.

HB: It still happens, yeah.

J3: Particularly whenever we change a scene or are out for something very particular, we’re going to have something to say about it. I guess that’s where working with Alan for six plus years kind of spoiled me on what I think comic strips should have. But in a good way. I look at [the Batwoman scripts] and I’m proud of what they look like as actual entities unto themselves and I also think for us we wanted to set up that we needed to know all this works on paper because we have so many different pieces and layers of Batwoman stuff that doesn’t see fruition up until through the 3rd arc or beyond, some things. We needed to know all those pieces fit properly and so that probably had a lot to do with it.

HB: So at that point the script is only one component of the writing process, right? We do a lot of brain storming and then we write up a kind of story synopsis that DC has to approve for an arc and then I actually take that an put that into an Excel spreadsheet [laughs] and kind of break it down scene by scene to make sure we’re hitting all the big beats of the story and that no scene is wasted and that—we’re absolutely paranoid about page count—we want to make sure we have enough room to tell the story and enough room to let the scenes breath. Sometimes we’re more successful with that than at other times so for me I get really, you know, ‘I want to make sure this fits in [20 pages].’ That was a big change for us actually. When we first began working on the series, we had outlines done for all three arcs and we had page breakdowns done for at least the first four or five issues of the first arc and the first couple issues of the second arc. And then the page counts went from 22 to 20 pages, and it doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal but it’s like losing two pages—

J3: Over time.

HB: So actually, I’m almost embarrassed to tell the story that I put these things in the Excel spreadsheet but I’m really glad I did do that because then we could go back and it becomes like this puzzle how you move stuff around and rather than it being buried in all these documents it’s all right there in one column. And I can say, ‘Well if we take a page from this scene, we get an extra page back from another scene.’

J3: Yeah and a lot of that process, the decision process on like, how many pages we think we might need for such and such scene is kind of decided over the phone. We have phone conversations about that part. When we actually get to the actual script writing either of us will take different scenes and do a first draft of and then we swap.

HB: Then we go back and forth.

J3: And usually it’s we’ve got it down to maybe three and four drafts now before we finalize which is pretty good. Finalization is usually over the phone where we kind of like either have certain points that we are disgruntled about or we need to solve questions or certain dialogue needs tweaking. We’ll be able to solve those issues over the phone.

HB: And normally what happens is that it will be like—what I find really nice—is that there will be something that bothers both of us in some way and maybe we can’t figure out why or whatever. So rather than roll over and live with whatever is there we just brain storm on how to make it better. And for me that’s the best part about the collaboration. We’ve gotten to the point where I feel eighty percent of the script regardless of who has written the first pass of the scene is pretty solid and then there’s that twenty percent that we’re kind of uncomfortable with but that’s where we focus all our energy. I went back and I looked, I think we wrote ten drafts of issue one?

J3: Right.

HB: And now we’re down to three or four drafts. And it’s just because we’re getting more comfortable working together and we’re figuring it out. There will be times where I just leave something misplaced only because I know Jim is going to come up with something better than whatever. Or vice versa. Whereas a lot of times Jim will put in stub dialogue and I go through and write a passive dialogue that is more real and we do another turn on it. We do a lot of dialogue work over the phone.

J3: The other cool thing, and very interesting from a creative point of view, is a lot of times most comics are written by one writer so that person has to make all of the decisions and live with those decisions. Where with us, one of us will have an annoyance but the other person might have a counter perspective that the other one wasn’t thinking about and what’s always fascinating to me about that is that we’ll have disagreements in a way about certain scenes and what’s fascinating is how we talk them out or talk them through we end up with something stronger than either individual points cause you’ll end up with it’s sort of marriage of the two things. It’s really cool.

RK: Within the first seven issues of Batwoman, the series offers an eclectic rogues gallery that includes the likes of La Llarona, Bloody Mary, and Killer Croc. These are horrifying villains, built from fear and nightmares found in urban legends. Whose idea was it to incorporate these modern myths into the series?

J3: Oh, I don’t know.

HB: Yeah, I can’t remember.

J3: It came from both of us in a way.

HB: Yeah, I’m a huge horror buff. I mean I worked on Star Wars for a really long time but my first love has always been horror, ever since I was a kid the movies I gravitated forward and the books I read. I wrote a book on monsters fresh out of college and they focus a lot on urban legends. Weeping Woman for me was always a very powerful figure. There was this whole chapter in [The Field Guide to North American Monsters]. So I always knew I wanted to bring that into some comic book work somewhere. I’m not sure where we came up with the idea that Gotham would be a really great boiling pot for all this stuff. But the idea basically was that there’s all these urban legends that we all know and they would run rampant in Gotham and Gotham is a place where these things seem to come alive. And then once we had the idea of the Weeping Woman then it became a natural. We’re like, ‘Let’s build  a whole rogue’s gallery around the other urban legends. Like the Hook and Bloody Mary, and Killer Croc is really—

RK: The giant alligators in the sewer.

HB: Yeah.

J3: Yeah, and the fun part is you have the basics of the urban legends or folklore myth or whatever, and find new ways to say, ‘Okay, that’s the basis of the myth.’ What do we add to it that wasn’t there?

HB: Yeah, to make it cool.

J3: Yeah, so like with the Hook, as the story develops some of the things you find out about the Hook and learn what the Hook actually is, you’re like, ‘That has nothing to do with the original urban legend.’ But it gives it a little bit more meat in subtext so it can have longevity beyond the superficial urban legend, you know what I mean? But I think a lot of that stuff we both have this real interest in stuff that spooks you. Cause particularly superhero comics you don’t see a lot of that in superhero comics.

HB: There were a couple things when we first started working on Batwoman where we said we wanted it to feel different from Batman and all the other Batman books, right? So one of the hallmarks was we wanted her to deal with more of the supernatural side of Gotham than Batman does and so that became a natural fit to get on the urban legend up.

J3: And on a metaphorical level when you think about that Batwoman’s villains are myth, we’re building all this stuff around the idea of mythology. What is mythology? And what I like about that metaphorically in terms of who Batwoman is we’re wanting Batwoman to be this legacy character, to have this mythology of herself. So the fact that—I don’t think there is any coincidence that we came upon the idea of pitting her up against mythical beings. So it’s like you know how Batman, over twenty years, forty years, has become this very mythical, iconic character culturally? And so in some ways Batwoman needs to have that too but through a different perspective.

RK: Issue six marked the beginning to a new story arc titled “To Drown the World.” One of the most distinct differences between this story arc and the former “Hydrology” relies in its storytelling technique. Whose decision was it to deviate from a linear progression and attempt this Tarantino-esque narrative?

J3: I don’t know.

HB: This is my recollection of it: when we mapped it out it was linear, like all of our synopsis and I think Jim first raised the issue that it might, because some of the stories first start off a little slow, that it might not grab readers the way we want it to. So at first we talked about let’s just “bookend” it; so the beginning and end of each issue will just be the last sequence of Batwoman fighting Falcione and his forces. And then we started talking about that we want to experiment with this book every turn and always be challenging ourselves. So rather than just have bookends let’s have all the stories take place in kind of different points in time. The key though, and the reason why I think that it will work, and we’ll be completely honest with you, we’ve got mixed feedback on it—some people really love it and some people don’t love it so much—but I think that the reason why it ultimately will work when people read all of the issues together is that we made the conscience decision that no matter where each of the stories take place in time, they all move forward linearly. So it’s not like Jacob’s story in the first issue of the arc takes place here and then on a Wednesday and then the next part of the story takes place the previous Tuesday. It’s like everything moves forward in a linear way. So you can ignore even the jumping around in time and still get the story.

J3: The only thing that’s out of time sequence honestly is the end caps. That’s the only thing when you really break it down. The other thing I find interesting is the format is it allows different reveals to happen in a different sort of way. If it had been told in a more traditional manner it would be kind of dry. And honestly a lot of it has to do with because we are dealing with a James Bondian type of plot in the context of a superhero comic and I’ve read plenty of those kind of stories in comics and a lot of times what happens when you’re reading that type of story that’s broken up into months rather than broken up into a graphic novel, let’s say, they read very dryly because all the juiciest bits, all the big bang stuff doesn’t happen till like the second to last chapter. So we were like, ‘Well, how do we get each to see this bang to kind of spice it up?’ One of the things I’ve always been intrigued by is—I’m a huge Tarantino fan, I love the way he’s able to take a story a part and reconfigure it and then in turn what happens is that story becomes much more compelling because of its organization. And we knew it was going to be challenging. We were super nervous all the way to writing the last script, we were like so nervous to people’s reactions to it. So the mix feelings that we’re getting from it isn’t surprising to me at all but that’s like in my blog stuff I’ve been trying to tell people to just be patient. Ultimately besides the end caps it is in linear fashion where it’s like little mini-sodes of each character and it will build into a whole piece.

HB: And I think what it allows—there’s kind of two things I like about it—1.) that it allows us to really focus on these kind of shorter scenes, quieter moments, like the Jacobs scenes for example. For me the reasons those work is because there are these little bite size interstitials that go on throughout the rest of the story but you almost kind of let go at trying to figure out how everything pieces together and you just enjoy each scene for what it is. Each scene, almost every scene, has some kind of dramatic little arc, some little bit of growth for the characters, or little bit of change for the characters once you pack them all together will show a more dramatic character arc. So there’s that and then there’s just those nice moments which Jim kind of touched upon where something might get referenced and then you’re seeing these kind of puzzle pieces coming together. My favorite is Killer Croc in issue 7 he’s with Marrow and he’s talking, ‘Hey, you promised you’re going to make me big time.’ And we don’t really know what that means and then later in that issue we see Killer Croc again but he’s like—it’s clearly later in time—and he’s like this crazy mutant monster and you’re like how’d he get that way? Well, [readers] don’t know yet because we haven’t revealed yet and maybe we will as this arc goes on. But you get to see those moments in the first one when Kate gets gutted by the Hook from the very beginning of the issue and you’re like, what’s going to happen to her, then you see she gets this suit that is kind of bullet proof from the D.E.O. and then you come back to her and you’re like she’s clearly not going to be gutted because she has the suit. So being able to do that stuff feels very Tarantino in a way.

J3: The other fun part for me is its allowed us to do something that you don’t normally get to see. The first arc introduced the Weeping Woman. First you think it’s just a basic ghost story intermixed with all this other personal life stuff and Batwoman’s life stuff spliced in. But then at the end of that story you find out, ‘No, wait there’s something bigger happening here.’ So issue six we have that first scene in the barrios where we introduce him and the fact that that scene takes place before the events of issue one is very fascinating. You don’t normally get to see that sort of thing but what that does when people take the time and think about it that shows that this thing is far reaching.

WB: There is another scene coming up in one of the issue that basically—there is a scene in one of the first arc—it is the aftermath of an event that we’re actually going to show in this arc. So it’s stuff like that that’s really fun to get to do.

J3: Yeah, yeah. And I like the idea of—not only is it challenging for us to see if we can make it all work. When all six chapters are done, does it actually all work? It’s challenging for us and also challenging for the reader too and I’m not interested in comics or doing any comics that don’t try to push something. If it doesn’t work, it didn’t work. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth trying.

RK: A couple months ago, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) nominated Batwoman for a GLAAD Award in the category of Outstanding Comic Book. Batwoman previously won two years ago in the 21st annual GLAAD awards. How does it feel to receive a second nomination from the gay and lesbian community?

J3: I think it’s just tremendous. It really shows that people see we’re very seriously committed to trying to show this character in a very positive light. Not just as a superhero role model but as a human role model. I think that’s really what it says to me.

HB: For me it’s gratifying because I came out approaching it saying I don’t want her to become an icon in the sense that she becomes untouchable. In some ways you have these characters that are iconic like Superman and Wonder Woman and I think that writers have a hard time with them sometimes because they are so iconic it’s hard to show them change or evolve or make mistakes. The best way to learn is by making mistakes. We all make that decision. When I came at it and we started working on this I really kind of made a commitment to myself that I didn’t want to be afraid to show her making mistakes and being a real person just because she has become this icon. And I think that that has allowed her to feel more human as a result of all the positive response we’ve got or awards like this. And it’s not going to change. She makes bad decisions just like the rest of us do and hopefully she learns from them and that’s pretty much the key. She’s not going to be perfect and we’re not going to put her on a pedestal ever.

J3: She’s multifaceted, you know? Just the fact that [GLAAD] recognized what Haden and I are trying to show this strong, positive relationship between her and Maggie Sawyer is so, so key. I mean, we have long term plans for this and it’s something I honestly think is missing out of a lot of other comics, whether they’re gay or straight comics characters or not.

HB: It’s so easy to fall into that trap of how it’s so difficult to balance the life of a superhero and a romantic.

J3: That’s why you should explore it.

HB: Exactly. We didn’t want to fall into that trap at all. We said, ‘Kate’s got a chaotic like. Maggie’s got a chaotic life. There are people in this world that are like that that have managed to forge strong lasting, honest relationships and so that for us was the biggest thing. I don’t want it to be like them breaking up every other issue or, ‘Oh, god! You never have any time for me.’ Or whatever. It’s like they’re both busy professionals involved in really crazy stuff but yet they can still find a way to have an honest relationship. And that to me is super critical. And it’s not that they won’t have their challenges, you know? That’s a part of it too.

J3: I’m hoping that the people who are responsible for the GLAAD awards can see that as the stage progresses we’re definitely not after trying to show this lesbian couple in a superficial way. The idea of a gay character in a superficial way not at all. We wanted people to see this as any other character you’re trying to write dramatic stories about. I think it is so important instead of just over sex it up or anything along that line—

HB: Or again, make them too perfect.

J3: They need to be three dimensional beings, multifaceted beings.

RK:  Currently one of the most desirable details Batwoman fans wish to understand is the specifics regarding artist Amy Reeder’s sudden exit from the series. As most fans understand from the explicit details regarding John Rozum’s resignation from Static Shock, chances of hearing the reasons behind Reeder’s leave are slim to none and will remain vaguely abstract. Do you believe the public will ever learn the nature behind Reeder’s creative differences with the Batwoman team?

J3: Well there’s nothing I really want to say about it that should be said to the public. I mean, I know some parts of the public think they deserve to know because they spend their dollars on this stuff or whatever but ultimately, you know—

HB: Ultimately for me it’s a distraction from the work and Amy did some incredible work on the book and I don’t want anything to distract again from the work that she’s done. And I don’t want anything to distract from the work that Jim and I have done. And more importantly to distract from the character in the story we’re trying to tell. At the end of the day I don’t care if people remember the names of the folks that worked on the book. I care that they remember what Batwoman went through and that she was a compelling character that touched them in some way or was meaningful to them in some way. And all this other stuff is just distraction.

RK: Along with Reeder’s announcement of a detachment from Batwoman, DC announced artist Trevor McCarthy will replace her on the project. How do you expect readers will react to McCarthy’s artwork on Batwoman?

J3: I hope they love it! I mean, I’ve seen the first few pages and they’re pretty phenomenal. Granted he’s a lot different than Amy but he’s a lot different from me too, and Amy is different than me. I just hope people see quality work when they see it and they can recognize it. Hopefully they will like it, I don’t really know what else to say about it [laughs].

HB: For me, just as a comic books fan, I’ve seen the first couple pages come through and I’m just floored and I think its fantastic stuff. And I think that as Jim said it’s different than either of Amy or Jim’s work but it compliments it well so I don’t think that there’s going to be—when we see these things collected in trade paperback—a huge jarring like, ‘Oh, my God! We’ve gone from Amy to some—

J3: From Amy to some low grade—

HB: Yeah, right. That’s definitely what we don’t have, like the quality part. The quality is really high. It still feels within the Batwoman family.

RK: Speaking of the future issues of Batwoman, the series to date has included previous DC characters like Chase, Mr. Bones, Batman, Flamebird, and Col. Jacob Kane. What other entities from the DC Universe can fans expect to appear in the arcs to come?

J3: Well, we got Killer Croc that’s happening right now.

HB: It’s actually interesting, and I don’t think we actually consciously did this but the way you look at how the three arc unfold it’s really interesting. The first arc is really about reestablishing Batwoman and it’s about her very personal relationship and it’s about her and one villain and that kind of one on one dynamic and her relationship with her father. But it’s a very personal thing. And then with two, we kind of start to expand her role within Gotham. So we don’t see a ton of Gotham in the first one and really the only areas we reference are the barrios and that’s where a lot of action takes place. So with two we start to open up her role in Gotham, we start to introduce more villains and more characters within Gotham and show how she is impacted by Gotham and it fits into that kind of larger context by bringing in Killer Croc. And then in three, well she is a part of the greater DCU, right? So, [Jim is] going to kick me for using this term, but she’s teaming up with somebody in the 3rd arc. There’s another character, a big DC character, that’s involved in the storyline of the 3rd arc. It’s still very by determination [Batwoman’s] story and it’s something we’ve been planning from arc one and two, continuing over to arc three but now it’s more about how does she fit in the greater DCU.

J3: We didn’t do that intentionally. It just naturally evolved. The cool thing about the third arc, without saying who she’s going to be teamed up with—it’ll come out soon enough—that her story, Batwoman’s story, people will say, ‘Oh, things that Batwoman can do can impact things outside of Gotham.’ And the events that take place in this story, when you think about what’s happening, are world reaching and we’re making her a world character. And I think that’s going to be pretty darn cool.

HB: And the DEO is kind of the first step in that too.

J3: Yeah, and what I love so much about that is it’s a character like Batman himself who has become this world character has no superpowers. Yet the things that she does, the decisions that she can make can save nations.

RK: Do you guys expect any crossovers with Batwoman?

J3: No, there’s none planned.

HB: No. Again, in arc three there is a major DC figure in the comic with her but it’s not a direct crossover.

RK: Batwoman won’t appear in any other DC series at the moment?

J3: Not that I know of. Bones is appearing in an issue of Blue Beetle for an issue. And who knows, it’s very possible you might see Batwoman pop up as a guest star in other issues, who knows. But as far as any major event crossovers there are certainly nothing planned. But a part of that might be because we have to work on these stories so far in advance, it’s kind of hard to shoe in a crossover issue in the middle of a six issue story arc or whatever.

HB: I think we’re pretty protective of the character. I won’t say overprotective but I think we feel a lot of—ownership is too strong of a word because obviously it’s DC’s character—but we have a lot of pride in the work that we’ve done and I feel like we know her voice and understand who she is and we know what she would do, so we are very protective. I don’t know, maybe some people sense that [laughs].

RK: All right, gentlemen. Thank you so much!

J3: Sure thing.

HB: No problem.

Stitch 'em Up - Stitched #3 Review  by Ryan T. King

Stitched #3 (wraparound cover).
Allow me to first express how my stomach churns to write this. It churns because I am reminded of all the gruesomely horrific series Avatar Press has produced in the horror genre. I've seen families brutally massacred and raped by a disease infested swarm of cross-faced maniacs in Garth Ennis' Crossed. I've read an entire comic where an undercover female FBI agent is forced to give oral sex while being sodomized by a sex cult (all before being raped by an amphibious Lovecraftian creature) in Alan Moore's Neonomicon. And now... now in issue three of Ennis' latest horror tale Stitched, readers find out the origins behind the titular monstrosities known as the Stitched. And believe me when I say this is not a comic for a weak stomach.

 Beyond the rivers of carnage and bloodshed that Avatar Press is so well known for, I am always invested in their titles solely for the purpose of enjoying a good story. Without a doubt, this is my main reason for sticking with any series; whether it appears in television, book, or comic form, a strong story must exist to pull my strings and get me to lay down some hard cash. As luck would have it, Avatar Press is not merely a publishing group known for disturbing content but rather disturbing content built around a solid, conceptually interesting story-line. Stitched is no exception.

Stitched Short-Film Poster

Before the comic, Stitched started as a short-film written and directed by Ennis in 2011. Tank JonesLauren Alonzo, and Kate Kugler starred in the short as a group of American soldiers lost in the hostile mountains of Afghanistan after their Black Hawk crashes. With one of the team wounded, the three soldiers must make their way across the desert terrain without gaining any attention of the locals. Little do they know they face a much bigger threat than Al Queda soldiers. They face a dark force known as the Stitched. This premise is not exactly original. In fact, it is slowly becoming it's own horror subgenre, something I call "warror," a blend of "war" and "horror" films. Jason Hignite over at HorrorHound shares my feelings, labeling movies like Resident EvilPredatorand Dog Soldiers as "paramilitary." No matter your choice of misnomers, I would like to assure you, Stitched holds up as a strong comic using these two genre blends.

Part of the reason the comic is good is due to Ennis' ever entertaining dialogue. Ennis' history in the comic industry includes the popular Vertigo series PreacherDynamite's The Boys, and his run of Marvel's Punisher. I easily consider him one of my favorite comic book writers, right beside Alan Moore. My only problem so far with Stitched is the fact that it is a series. In my opinion, the only way to truly enjoy Ennis' work is if it's collected in one volume for one big, luxurious read. This makes rating a single issue extremely difficult.

Stitched #3 (regular cover)
Mike Wolfer's artwork is similar to most art featured in Avatar Press comics. The depictions of humans are recognizable but not perfect (especially in the facial features). But once the bump-in-the-night spookies come out to play, readers truly see the merit behind the art. Take for instance any of the covers for the Stitched series and you will see just what kind of horrific goodness you have in store as a reader. The Stitched creatures are a clever concoction of the classic Universal Mummy blended with the KKK. However, revelations in this months issue will tell just how these ghastly things came to be. Wolfer also adds a convincing hand when depicting the Afghanistan environment. Of course, it all appears to be rocks and sand but not once have I thought, "Damn, that looks out of place."

All in all, issue three of Stitched is worth reading. However, I strongly feel readers will find a collected volume more satisfying than picking up the single issues. I will admit that if you are looking for the next line of horror like that of CrossedStitched is not it. The story and art are strong but not as epic and gripping as the original Crossed serious was. Without the comparison, Stitched remains a gruesome book for any starved horror fan.

Stitched #3 (gore cover)

Terrible news folks. The visual artist Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, aka Gir, passed away today. Honestly, I was unfamiliar with Moebius until a year and a half ago because I couldn't readily find anything he created to read. As luck would have it, my friend Larry let me borrow a copy of The Airtight Garage and as they say, the rest is history. Sadly, with Moebius' passing, it can officially be referred to as a history. 

For those unfamiliar with Moebius, he was a French comic book artist most well known for his detailed illustrations of exotic and fantastic landscapes. His most well known graphic works were Blueberry, Arzach, The Airtight Garage, The Incal, among many, many others. He also worked as a concept artist for Hollywood cinema for such popular films such as Alien, Tron, The Fifth Element, Willowand The Abyss.

Many current comic book artists recognize Moebius as inspiration for their sense of style and design. These artists include Geoff Darrow, Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, Nate Simpson, and even the legendary film maker Hayao Miyazaki admits his admiration. The fond relationship between Miyazaki and Moebius actually led to a wonderful museum collaboration between the two greats in France titled the Miyazaki-Moebius Exhibition. You can hear Miyazaki discuss Moebius in this video: 

Here is a collected assortment of some, and definitely not all, of Moebius' work:

RIP Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, aka Gir
May 8th 1938 - March 10th 2012

Top 10 Penguin Classics Cover Art  by Ryan T. King

The expression "never judge a book by it's cover" is often right, except in the case when professional artists are hired to create illustrations for some of English literature's most famous titles. Over the past several years, Penguin Classics has published a bucket full of novels with exceptional cover art by some of today's most cherished contemporary artists. Today I give you a top ten list (in no particular order) of the best Penguin Classic covers created to date.

1. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl,
cover art by Jordan Crane

2. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac,
cover art by Jason

3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley,
cover art by Daniel Clowes

4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain,
cover art by Lillie Carre

5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville,
cover art by Tony Millionaire

6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey,
cover art by Joe Sacco

7. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair,
cover art by Charles Burns

8. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster,
cover art by Art Spiegelman

9. Heart of Darknesswritten by Joseph Conrad,
cover art by Mike Mignola

10. White Noise by Don DeLillo,
cover art by Michael Cho

Click here to view more contemporary Penguin Classics cover art.

Once again the quarterly San Jose Super Toy, Comic, & Collectible Show is happening for California bay area residents this Saturday. This smorgasbord of a collectible show is likely to fill the needs of anyone suffering from WonderCon deprivation. Special guests include Billy Dee Williams (Empire Strikes Back, Undercover Brother, Batman) ad Yvonne Craig (Batman; the TV series, Mars Needs Women). Tune in to Time Tunnel Toys website for more information.

The Best New Comic You've Never Read - Orc Stain #7 - Review by Ryan T. King

Take it in! Take all of it in!

Like a dog humping your leg, James Stokoe's Orc Stain is hard to ignore. After a whirlwind of a delay since last year's single issue release, Stokoe and Image Comics finally get it right by rubbing out this masterpiece of visual insanity and barbaric extremities. To say this comic is anything but good is to spit in the almighty face of the comic gods. Orc Stain demands a ritual slaughter! Orc Stain demands flesh and bone sacrifice! Orc Stain demands the blood of your virgin daughter!

Well, what the fuck are you waiting for? Get on with it! Don't worry. No one will miss her whining ass.

Okay, good. Now let's talk shop.

What, might you ask, is so appealing about Orc Stain as a comic series? Well, my friend, before I take my copy and shove it down your blasphemous mouth, let me tell you a little about Orc Stain's story. Orc Stain is the story of a civilization of ruthless orcs under the first major rule of an orc chieftain, the Orctzar. Foretold by a soothsayer, the Orctzar must enlist upon the help of a one-eyed orc to obtain the worldly possession of the supreme Gangagronch (in orc tongue, gronch means penis--yup). Rogue orc One-Eye is our main protagonist and is unwillingly pursued by the Orctzar and his mob. One-Eye's special ability is the power to see significant weak points, allowing him to easily destroy or evade his enemies. These cat and mouse games, along with a treasure of other side characters (like the swamp witch Bowie and her sentient hood Zazu), makes Orc Stain one of the most entertaining and alluring comics to date.

Of course, no story in comics is complete without compelling and original art. The interesting thing about Orc Stain is that the entire comic is created by James Stokoe; story, pencils, inks, lettering, and coloring, the guy does it all. Anyone will notice after flipping through a couple pages of Orc Stain the intense color pallet Stokoe uses. Reds, purples, greens, and blues are the most common colors seen throughout the book and when put together they give a bruise-like quality to the art, extremely visceral and gut wrenching. Fans of Geoff DarrowMoebius, and Hayao Miyazaki will be rewarded with Stokoe's amazing clarity and attention to detail. Even in extreme moments of action, the world's fastest comic reader will want to slow down and look at the immense detail. Character design is another plus in Stokoe's department of artistic world building. Each issue he manages to create new characters and creatures unlike anything we've yet to see in Orc Stain's previous pages.

Orc Stain #7 is no exception to any of the above mentioned delights. The long and often hopeless wait for a new issue in the series was well awarded for those who were patient. We pick up where our last issue left off, in a moment of One-Eye's history in a somewhat Orc Stain version of Vietnam. After this memory, we catch up with One-Eye and his Proxa Gronka (vow to kill) against Beard. After seeing the destruction One-Eye creates, Bowie enlists her partner Zazu to retrieve One-Eye and leave the city to experiment and understand his powerful abilities. With an extremely reluctant One-Eye (never get between an Orc and his Proxa Gronka), the three leave the catastrophic remains of the city. Once far enough to shake the horde of the Orctzar's orcs, Bowie and One-Eye strike an agreement to partner up and gain distance as far away from the Orctzar's minions as possible, leading them to the only "safe" way through the mountains--a skull ridden deathbed known as Mondo Pass. Quickly following their trail is a band of River Orcs sent to retrieve them, riding on noisy Zors (a cross between a motorcycle and an octopus). Just when One-Eye and Bowie learn about the dangers a sudden noise can make through Mondo Pass, the band of cacophonous River Orcs arrive but not before issue 7 comes to a close.

I strongly urge any comic junkie to pick up Stokoe's latest Orc Stain comic and give it a read. The issue provides enough supplemental material for any lost soul to find their way into the story and even if that doesn't sound titillating, pick it up for the sheer pleasure of seeing more action than the last Transformers movie. Yes, there is a lot of action.

One last thing I want to address is the quality of this issue. As previously mentioned Image Comics prints Orc Stain and besides all my strong points on story and art in the comic, I also recommend you flip through this comic and see the difference between most hifalutin Marvel and DC titles and a true indie gem. One of the best rewards of this comic is there is not one--and I will repeat this for the daft of reading--there is not one page of advertising in Orc Stain! That's 32 color pages for $2.99 without a single page of advertising. Even the Dark Horse comics lover that I am has to admit I don't regularly see that pass under Mike Richardson's supervision. Just goes to show what a wonderful job Image Comics is doing.
So, if this little review/soap box rant hasn't convinced you to skip out on that crummy Justice League #8, then fuck you you filthy wanker. PROXA GRONKA!

What happens when you put eight of Image Comics' top writers in one room? Well, let's just say hilarity ensues. Watch in this Image Expo clip snatched in media res from this Saturday's panel, "Stories and Scripts: Writing Comics."

From left to right: Richard Starkings (Elephantmen), Nick Spencer (Morning Glories), Jonathan Hickman (The Manhattan Project), John Layman (Chew), Joe Casey (Butcher Baker), Steven T. Seagle (The Re[a]d Diary), Ed Brubaker (Fatale), and Brian K. Vaughan (Saga).

If you inspect closely, you might just spot Vaughan sporting a gruesome looking black eye. Not to worry fans; the Oakland Occupy protesters had nothing to do with this abrasion. Vaughan claims a coughing fit last night caused a burst blood vessel. But that's not stopping him from spreading the rumor that Kirkman decked him a good one!

POXA GRONKA! - The Long Anticipated Return of Orc Stain by Ryan T. King

The Near Future Release of
Orc Stain #7

Orc Stain... oh, lovely gem of a comic, how dare thou tease us? How dare thou play with my feeble mind and entrance us with thou's otherworldly imaginings, only to dash back into the shadows from whence thou came? Oh, Orc Stain... Oh, Orc Stain... Please return back to me!

Kind of strange how I get all poetic and moody over a comic filled with orcs, dicks, and drugs. But HAVE YOU READ THIS SHIT YET?!?!?!? If you have, then you, like me, are eagerly awaiting your next Orc Stain fix and, with a big thank you to sweet lil' baby Jesus, that wait is nearly over.

Recently announced by Orc Stain creator James Stokoe, "Orc Stain #7 is off at the printers and should be out in the coming weeks." Chances are Orc Stain fans can cast their sex-juice covered fingers over this new comic possibly next week or the beginning of March. A good thing too, considering the last issue of Orc Stain (issue 6) appeared on store shelves way back in June of last year and the issue before that (issue 5) was released October of 2010.

Hopefully with such a long gap between release dates, Stokoe intends to get this little indie comic back on schedule with successive issue releases. As for now, one can only hope Orc Stain issue 7 actually arrives in the weeks to come. Until then, I suppose I'll have to settle with the amazing new art posted on Stokoe's blog.

POXA GRONKA!--Issue 6 left off with this cliffhanger-scene of an image.
What happens next?

'Pete and Pete' Musician Collaborates With Cartoonist for a Multimedia Pop Opera, 'Up From the Stacks' by Ryan T. King

Premiers Thursday February 23rd in San Francisco, CA

For those of you unfamiliar with the name Mark Mulcahy, I am about to do you a big favor. Most fans instantly recognize him as singer/musician from the band Polaris--a small lived group that created musical tracks for the Nickelodeon cult classic, "The Adventures of Pete and Pete" (anyone who remembers the theme song, "Hey Sandy," will remember Mulcahy's iconic vocals). As former lead singer of the eighties band Miracle Legion, Mulcahy and his group were often compared and criticized as a copy of R.E.M. and were sadly ignored for any chance of real success. Now, over thirty years in the musical industry, more music lovers are rediscovering Miracle Legion, Polaris, and Mulcahy's solo albums and recognizing his lyrical creativity and innovation in the musical arts. But his art does not stop there.

Premiering February 23rd on the West Coast bay area, Mark Mulcahy and cartoonist Ben Katchor premier their multimedia pop opera Up From the Stacks at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Set in the 1970's Up From the Stacks is described as a story of "Lincoln Cabinee, a part-time page who retrieves books from the New York Public Library's vast collection. This mundane job unwittingly embroils him in the treacherous business of amusement and vice flourishing in Times Square." As a current employee of a public library, the description had me at "part-time page."

Mark Maculhy (left), Ben Katchor (right)

This is not Katchor's first time collaborating with Mulcahy. The two have worked together on past performances: A Checkroom RomanceNature's WeaknessThe Rosenbach CompanyThe Slugbearers of Kayrol Island, or, The Friends of Dr. Rushower, and Memorial City. Katchor is most known for his comic strips, which have appeared in The New YorkerMetropolis Magazine, and McSweeny's. Word on the street is the performance will consist of Mulcahy, accompanied by Ken MaiuriDavid Trenholm, and JJ O'Connell will sing in front of projected cartoons. Since Mulcahy rarely plays concerts now days, I highly recommend anyone fond of his music make sure to check this out. Tickets are still available and may be purchased here.

P.S. I've also heard a rumor there will be some kind of signing after the show. But you didn't hear that from me...

Review: 'Glory' #23 - Image Revisits Glory Days by Ryan T. King
Glory #23, script by Joe Keatinge and
art by Ross Campbell.

After last month's surprise success of Prophet #21, this month Image Comics continues their relaunch of Extreme Studios characters with the platinum-haired, uber-heroine Gloriana in Glory #23 (script by Joe Keatinge and art by Ross Campbell). My only familiarity of the character Glory is from Alan Moore's run of Supreme, where Glory played a small side-note as a Wonder Woman ripoff. One quick glance at the cover of Glory #23 and any Wonder Woman fanboy will notice a major distinction between the two Amazons; thanks to Campbell's art, Glory's new physique is certainly gaining a lot of buzz from the comic industry. An industry well known for alienating and aggravating many female readers with poor physical and mental depictions of the female gender (think of descriptors like "ditzy" and "busty" and you can sum up the past fifity-plus years of female comic characters). With Glory #23 on store shelves today, the beginning of a new era in comic books begins now--or so I hope. 

Compare the detail from this page to the next;
the art is either striking or bland.
My largest concern with this comic is the emphasis readers will make on Glory based on her physical appeal rather than the elements of storytelling. Sadly I am to say, only the very beginning of this comic managed to impress me with it's storytelling device.  In the spans of three pages, we understand Glory's origins. A difficult task to accomplish yet incredibly effective and economic for a first issue. However, immediately following Glory's introduction, I feel the story lost its strength.At the beginning we are introduced immediately into Glory's world of violence, war, and dispute yet jerked suddenly without warning into vague happenings. The story moves too quickly at times before the reader understands just what, when, and where we're looking at precisely. Yes, I understand this is a first issue to a new arc, but considering this is a first issue, certain factors should be instated, such as creating well rounded characters to help readers determine if this comic is right for them. At this point, being the first issue it is too early to tell. It is certainly a worthy read, but it might feel better appreciated when read in a collected form.

With all said about the story being slightly weak, Ross Campbell's new character style and art is certainly a treat and worthy enough of picking up a copy and rifling through to see just what the man can do. There are only two points I want to address on Campbell's art. One- Campbell is damn fine at drawing fascinating and detail intricate story scenes. Two- although Campbell's work is great, he does not put enough detail into the entirety of the comic as a whole. What I mean here is that some pages of this comic will astound you and make you ponder just how such creativity exists, yet other pages appear half-assed, overly simple, and make you question the quality of the art. As a reader, you can tell which pages and panels were rushed and which pages were hurriedly slapped together without a consideration of making the visuals appear better. My hope (or excuse) is much like the problems pertaining to the story; this is only a first issue. The writer and artist have plenty of time to settle in a well balanced routine before becoming overly critical of their work. However, this is only optimism speaking. 

The way I see it right now, the new Glory will be a good comic as soon as they fix these minor problems on both sides of the creative team. As a suggestion for prospective readers, I recommend reading the first issue in a comic store before committing to the purchase. With my first taste of Glory I am perfectly okay not continuing the story in single issue. I might wait around for the trade just to see if the story and art becomes more solid and refined. Until then, at least the Glory #23 paves way for a new breed of female heroines.

Graham, Stokoe, and Niles Help Friedrich's $17,000 Marvel Court Payment by Ryan T. King

Brandon Graham's Ghost Rider says "fuck Marvel."

In the past few days, many comic blogs have been abuzz with Marvel's screw-happy, counterclaim lawsuit filed against former Ghost Rider artist Gary Friedrich. The court ordered payment of $17,000 filed against Friedrich has left the artist in a world of financial pain. Gary Friedrich wrote on FaceBook:

"Since the various news agencies and websites have reported the ruling against me on my claims against Marvel in the Ghost Rider lawsuit, and the assesment of a $17,000 judgement against me and my company instead, I have read an amazing amount of comments in my support on the internet, and have received many messages of support directly. Although the reports of my employment situation and financial difficulties as well as problems with my health are unfortunately true, I want to let everyone in the comic book world, especially my supporters and fans of the Ghost Rider character whcih I invented, created, and wrote, that I am going to appeal the Court's ruling and continue to fight this as long as I am able and that your support of me means more than you will ever know. I have heard your voices. I thank you with all my heart, and I appreciate your thoughts and best wishes as I soldier on.
Feel free to keep in touch with me via e-mail:
Thanks again and God bless you."

James Stokoe "esq." Ghost Rider
Now, comic book writers and creators are taking a stand against Marvel comics (owned by the corporate giant Disney) and are offering help in unique and inspiring ways. Two of my personal favorites, Brandon Graham (creator of King CityMultiple Warheads, and writer of Image's Prophet relaunch) and James Stokoe (creaor of Orc StainWanton Soup, and Sullivan's Sluggers) have offered to donate 100% sales from the next 10 pages of King City sold and the next 10 pages of Orc Stain sold. Graham wrote on his blog Royal Boiler: "Marvel and DC seem to be having some bizarre contest on who can be shittier to the people who've done the best work for them." A wide selection of pages may be purchased now at McConnell Art.

Fellow comic book writer, Steve Niles (creator of 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre) is spearheading a relief fund for Friedrich. "As you can see in Gary's last update," Niles wrote on his website, "[Friedrich] is going to appeal but in the meantime, he and his lovely wife are broke and in need of our help. I've seen the comics community come together and it's a beautiful thing when it happens." Donations are encouraged and accepted now at Steve Niles website here.

Review: 'Batwoman' #6--Reeder Takes the Reigns by Ryan T. King

Amy Reeder boards the Batwoman franchise
in issue #6, out today.

I knew this day would come and now it's finally here. Almost a year ago, Batwoman issue zero appeared on comic store shelves teasing artist J.H. Williams III's return to the openly gay heroine, Kate Kane, as well as her alter-ego, Batwoman. That said return happened nearly five months ago with the highly-acclaimed DC-relaunch of Batwoman #1. Now, five issues later, another return is taking place. Artist Amy Reeder (who co-penciled the art work on issue zero) returns as lead penciler for issues #6-10. Boy, does she have some big shoes to fill.

A splash page for Batwoman #6, pencils by Amy Reeder,
inks by Rob Hunter &Richard Friend, colors by Guy Major
In all honesty, there is no replacing the talent of J. H. Williams III. We, as an audience, must first and foremost understand and accept this fact. Could anyone replace him and match his talents? Maybe. But do we really want someone to crawl out from the DC laboratory as a super-engineered art clone? No, probably not. With Amy Reader working as the lead artist for Batwoman we should not judge her in comparison to J. H. Willi--awwwww, fuck it! Who am I kidding? I want Williams back and I want him back now. Don't wait for issue #11, he needs to return and redo issue #6 because this issue is garbage.

I honestly wish I had better things to say about this issue and Amy Reeder's art but it's very difficult to love a Batwoman comic when it is not drawn by Williams. I don't blame Reeder for my response to this comic, in all honesty I don't, But the main reason I purchased and invested in the Batwoman arc was to enjoy the mind-blowing artwork and details that Williams has to offer. It was bad enough before when Greg Rucka (an amazingly talented writer) opted out of the new series and now all the original creators have left the stage. Yeah, yeah, I can see eyes out there rolling because Williams is still writing the series but the story in issue #6 is just as dull as the artwork.

After we wrapped up a series of conflicts in Batwoman #1-5, our main protagonist Kate Kane/Batwoman encounters a new world of problems having refused Batman's offer of assistance because of blackmail and must now deal with Flamebird's (Kate's cousin Bette) near-death. This is a great premise for a new arc and a spring board for the talents of a seasoned artist like Amy Reeder. But the story isn't quite there in the issue. Funny too, because issue #6 contains not one but six---yes SIX--storylines. If you thought the first act in Pulp fiction was confusing just wait for this one.
Oh, lord... is 3D making it's way back into comics now too?

This comic does not deserve the title of issue #6. The comic acts as a bridge between the events from the first arc and the second arc, something which could have neatly been worked in via prose or an official prologue to this arc. Something along the lines of an issue #5.5 or a freebie to hand out at the comic shops to engage new readers. The fact of the matter is this; I paid $3+ for this comic and am left completely unsatisfied. Yes, I will return next month for issue #7 with high hopes but much lower expectations and that is a very sad statement to make about one of my favorite comic book series. If the new arc doesn't pick up in the next three issues you can guarantee I'll be checking out of the Gotham hotel until Williams return.

Review: 'Murky World'--Old School Corben Keeping it New by Ryan T. King

Originally published in Dark Horse Presents (#1-3),
Murky World is now collected in a one-shot and available today.

The first time I encountered Richard Corben's artwork was while marathon reading Mike Mignola's Hellboy series. The issue in particular was Hellboy: Makoma--one of the most overlooked Hellboy comic's featuring the big-red guy and his adventures in Africa. I am a Mignola fan through and through--one of the reasons I love Hellboy so much--however, as soon as my eyes poured over the pages of Hellboy: Makoma, I knew this artist, this Richard Corben, could drawn anything and I would be compelled by his artistic talents. I'm sure if he drew a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker I would like it. And that's saying a lot.

Page 2 of Corben's Murky World
Last year Dark Horse Comics serialized a new short by Corben, titled Murky World in their monthly anthology Dark Horse Presents (issues 1-3). Unsatisfied by the hit-and-miss quality in the genre of collection comics (and the steep cover-price)I decided to pass on the first three issues of DHP. Good reason I did too, because out today is a collected one shot of Corben's Murky World with all the original content, a low-low price (beats paying for three copies of DHP--$24+, are you freaking kidding me?), and includes the beautifully illustrated and colored cover featured above. 

Speaking of the cover artwork, this is one of the pride and joys of owning the Murky World one-shot. Corben's use of warm colors is particularly delightful and the detail on Tugat's cloak creates a wonderful illusion, as if readers could grab the cloak from the page and feel it's worn, rugged texture. The comic's title is also worthy of noting. This is the kind of comic title that pops out at readers and distinguishes itself from all the other comic books in the room. The mirror image of the letter "M" and the letter "W" is an extremely clever graphic design. I have seen cover art by Corben created in the late '70's at comic conventions and this  is the kind of title design I am reminded of. Fat, bloated lettering with eye-catching colors. It truly is a treat owning something so aesthetically pleasing.

Richard Corben's legendary talent of title design
on such works as Mutant World and Den

However, we all know the cliche "never judge a book by it's penis." Or was it "never judge a man by his book?" I'm sure you understand my meaning... 

The story in Murky World is extremely simplistic. We begin by following a snarky nomad named Tugat through the desolate and remote lands of Naughton. Our protagonist holds qualities the likes of brave Conan the Barbarian and the arrogant Ulysees. Upon Tugat's travels we encounter female-warrior twins, Sorgof the necromancer, a female cyclops named Butterfly, and deadlings (cursed human slaves--similar to zombies). The story is a neat blend of action-adventure and situation comedy. This being a one-shot, any room for an expansion story is possible but at his point appears null. For comic readers expecting a great story, don't look for Alan Moore or Warren Ellis style prose within these pages. This comic is pure-pulp entertainment and should be treated as such.

My only disappointment with the comic is Corben's decision to keep his work black and white. As much as I love his comics, I feel like they are more pleasing when done in color. Once again, I refer you to look at the cover and see the potential there. Other than this small complaint, Murky World is filled with artwork that shows Corben's skilled talent at character depiction. Each character has wonderfully detailed facial expressions (see Sorgof the necromancer as an example), the women are robust and built, very similar to Corben's other work (large, overly-ripened breasts), and the deadlings show the amount of horror he can achieve through pencil and ink.

Page 3 of Corben's Murky World
By the end of this one-shot, fans of Richard Corben will not be let down. If you are unfamiliar with his talent I would advise starting else where--any of his work on Hellboy is a good start. This story might not hold the attention span of new readers and for 26 pages for the price of $3.50 some comic readers might feel a bit gypped. But for Corben fans the world around, I say pick this copy up before your retailer sells out. As an owner, I'm certainly feeling proud having an original Richard Corben comic.

More information on Richard Corben can be found at his personal website here.

Check back to Go Suck a Comic next month for a review of Richard Corben and Jan Strand's new Dark Horse Comic series Ragemoor #1!

Screenwriter Tony Puryear Creates "Concrete Park" Graphic Novel for Dark Horse Comics Press Release

New sci-fi epic, Concrete Park, written and drawn by Hollywood's Tony Puryear,
appears in legendary anthology magazine Dark Horse Presents February 1, 2012

Lost Angeles, CA - Feb. 1, 2012 - Tony Puryear wrote the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger smash Eraser, becoming the first African American screenwriter to pen a $100 million+ summer blockbuster. He has written action and sci-fi scripts for a who's who of Hollywood's A-Listers, from Will Smith to Mel Gibson to Jerry Bruckheimer and adapted storied sci-fi properties like Fahrenheit 451 and Buck Rogers for the big screen. Now he brings that Hollywood horsepower to the world of graphic novels.

Today Concrete Park, Tony Puryear's first comics project, appears in Dark Horse Presents #8 from Dark Horse Comics, the premier independent comics publisher. "Concrete Park is a sprawling epic," Puryear says. "It's a perfect fit with Dark Horse Presents, the legendary anthology comic that served as a launch-pad for innovative work by the biggest names in comics, including Frank Miller (Sin City, 300) and Mike Mignola (Hellboy)."

"I'm honored to be in the company of these amazing world-builders, and happy Mike Richardson of Dark Horse believes Concrete Park belongs with them," Puryear says. Richardson says, simply, "I love this strip."

Concrete Park is a dark and provocative near-future story. It takes place in a turbulent mega-city on a distant desert planet (think Cairo or Rio in space). Young human exiles from Earth must fight to make a new world there. They are "young, violent and ten billion miles from home." In it's ambitious scope, it resembles nothing so much as George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series, but with favelas and aliens, cops and cyborgs, ghettos and gangs instead of castles and armies.

Concrete Park was co-created by Puryear and his wife, the actress Erika Alexander (Living Single, Deja Vu) and her brother, writer Robert Alexander. Puryear handles the writing and art chores on the book, and in a refreshin twist for someone known as a writer, it's his art that has drawn the most initial acclaim:

Read About Comics said: "(Puryear's) art...instantly grabbed my attention. His thick, heavy               inks are striking, forming his characters with a great deal of confidence and force. Through his art, you instantly get a feel for this nea-future (city); the swagger of his characters and their surroundings just bursts off of the page."

About Tony Puryear:
Tony Puryear is the first African American screenwriter to write a $100 million+ summer movie blockbuster. His 1996 hit Eraser catapulted him into a career writing pictures for A-Listers Jerry Bruckheimer (Buck Rogers), Will Smith and Oliver Stone. Puryear's adaptation of the Ray Bradbury classic Fahrenheit 451 for Oscar-winning director Mel Gibson has circulated in Hollywood for years as a legendary unproduced script. His latest script is Lady Scarface for the new RKO Pictures.

A talented artist and designer, Puryear was recently honored when his official campaign poster for Hillary Clinton's historic 2008 presidential run was added to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the actress and Concrete Park co-creator Erika Alexander.

To learn more about Puryear's Concrete Park check out his blog now!

To read Go Suck a Comic's review of Dark Horse Presents #8 click here.

Loki--"I have an army."
Tony Stark--"We have a Hulk."
The Avengers, coming to theaters May 4th, 2012

News arrived today that the official program for Image Expo is available for fans and lucky attendees' perusal. By the look of things, this will be one of the west coast comic conventions you won't want to miss. Hear that, WonderCon and ComicCon? Looks like you have some competition headed your way.

Occurring at the end of this month on February 24-26, Image Expo is Image Comic's official celebration of twenty years in the comic industry. The weekend event is sure to gain news coverage in the comic world with such heavy-hitter creators attending, such as Robert Kirkman, Brian K. Vaughan, Todd McFarlane, Eric Larsen, Jonathan Hickman, Ed Brubaker, Rob Liefeld, John Layman, Mel Smith, and a plethora of other talented names in the industry.

I personally plan on attending this special weekend on behalf of Go Suck a Comic and Bleeding Cool. My coverage will vary depending on what panels and creators I find most interesting. However, I am not opposed to any suggestions or fan requests. I plan on taking many pictures, recording videos, and digesting as much comic-script writing advice I can take. Shoot me an e-mail ( or comment if you have anything you would like to ask the creators and publishers attending Image Expo. The official program is available for viewing here.

Screenwriter Goldman Announces Adaptation of Simpson's "Nonplayer" by Ryan T. King

By far my favorite comic book of last year is Nate Simpson's phenomenal creation Nonplayer. Sadly, when I use the phrase "my favorite comic book," I mean it in the singular sense. As of this day there is only one issue of the Nonplayer series in print. But that doesn't curve my love for the series, nor does it diminish Warner Bros. Studios from beginning work on an a big screen adaptation.

Finely detailed. A stunning splash page from Image Comics'
Nonplayer, issue 1, created by Nate Simpson.

Although first word of Nonplayer's big screen treatment surfaced in August of last year, news came forth today that The Woman in Black screenwriter Jane Goldman (the pen behind many other fan favorite comic book adaptations: X-Men: First ClassKick-Ass, and Stardust), would lend her talents to Simpson's creation. As of yet, very little is mentioned about the development but The Playlist snagged this quote from Goldman: "I'm working on a sci-fi project for Warners. It's called Nonplayer, an adaptation of a really wonderful comic that just won an Eisner for Newcomer. It's futuristic, it's incredible. Science-fiction is not a genre I'm used to, but it's my favorite." 

"It's futuristic, it's incredible," says Jane Goldman,
screenwriter for the Nonplayer adaptation.
As excited as I am to have Goldman on the front-lines of this ambitious project, my nerdy-sense is tingling. Just what does this mean for the remaining five unpublished comic issues? Will we see them before we see the movie? How long is Warner Bros. willing to wait around for Simpson to finish the project? Obviously the studio and Simpson came upon an agreement for the film treatment since the rights were purchased, but to what extent? I only hope that in the days to come Simpson acknowledges this latest news nugget and gives us insight in the unforeseeable future.

For fans of the comic, the future of Nonplayer looks almost nonexistent in the comic medium. Back in late September of last year, Simpson shared he was involved in a serious bicycle accident leaving him with a broken collarbone and an almost cracked skull. You can read more about it here. Luckily the guy is okay he states at his blog Project Waldo that the work he conducted on the second issue is not worthy of the second issue. So not only was he involved in a serious accident and his arm placed in a cast, but he decided to start from scratch on the issue 2's artwork. The worst possible moment to decide, if you ask me.

Last month, just when you think it's safe for Simpson to go back into the inky-water that is creating comics, he announces "hat in hand" that he's looking for a job to pay some bills as well as cover medical insurance for his wife and him. Nate Simpson goes on to say, "Does anyone work at, or know someone who works at... Because I know a guy... oh, who am I fooling? I need a job." As much as this quote seems to spoil the future comings of any Nonplayer comic book, Simpson quickly dispels the urgency to hyperventilate: "This does not spell the end of Nonplayer -- in fact, this is just about the only way that Nonplayer has any chance of getting finished." Whether or not this is true in fact leaves fans of the single-issue hit with raised eye-brows.

Nate Simpson, creator of Nonplayer,
broke his collar bone last September.
As much of a blessing it is to see Goldman's name associated with the script, I'm sad to say my little heart breaks seeing Warner Bros. push development further in comparison to the original creator's work. All we can hope for is that the executives at Warner Bros. and Goldman are early at work and eager to wait for a finished product before bringing viewing audiences the next epic masterpiece and box-office hit. Wait a minute! Since when has Hollywood ever cared about quality--oh, fudge.  

Review: "Dark Horse Presents" #8--B.P.R.D., Beasts of Burden, Concrete Park, and MORE! by Ryan T. King

Fresh this week is a brand new collection of comic shorts titled Dark Horse Presents, issue 8. From famed comic publisher Dark Horse Comics, this first collection in the new year gives readers a wide sampling of what Dark Horse comics is all about. Writers include Mike MignolaJohn ArcudiEvan DorkinTony PuryearNeal AdamsHoward ChaykinAlan GordonBrian WoodMartin ConaghanRich Johnston, and M.J. Butler. Art is provided by Duncan FegredoJill ThompsonTony PuryearHoward ChaykinThomas YeatsKristian DonaldsonJimmy BroxtonSimon Rohrmuller, and Mark Wheatley.

 DHP, #8 Duncan Fegredo (left), DHP, #8 Kristian Donaldson (right)

Considering this 80 page comic contains ten stories by different writers and artists, making the content extremely diverse, allow me to begin my assessment by offering my favorite portions. The first three comics were my absolute favorite of the group. The first is the B.P.R.D. epilogue of Hellboy's death, titled "An Unmarked Grave." This story gives audiences their first glimpse on the aftermath of the apocalypse and B.P.R.D. characters reconciling and coming to terms with the loss of the big red guy. Although not much action takes place in this 8-page-er, fans of the series will appreciate the respectful service of a beloved character. Unlike most creators, the team working on Hellboy and company give a delicate and respectful adieu and send off Hellboy in a gracious style which will be most cherished by the series fans. 

Dark Horse Presents, issue 8 "B.P.R.D.: An Unmarked Grave"

"The View from the Hill"--one heck of a read!
My next favorite was Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's newest tale in their Beasts of Burden series, titled "The View from the Hill." Honestly, the only reason I jumped aboard these DHP collections was for this series, and other than the first story back in issue 4, I was a bit unimpressed with Dorkin and Thompson's return to Burden Hill. Fortunately issue 8 of DHP offers a great new story for our four footed friend and the best about it is it's self-contained. I won't spoil your appetite with this sugary treat but I highly recommend reading this one, even if you don't want to shell out the cash for the issue, thumb through it at your shop and READ this little 8-page-er. I tell all my friends how dear and sweet Beasts of Burden is yet how awfully disturbing and dreadful it is too. If ever there were a better example of showing that odd yet perfect ballance "The View from the Hill" is it. 

The next surprise favorite is the continuation of Tony Puryear's Concrete Park, titled "Chapter 2." In the last issue of DHP we were given the first chapter to this new series. My expectations were not dramatically high but as I read onward my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted more and more. The story so far is awfully hard to describe, yet from what I can uncover we are in a future, dystopian world set in the urban decay of a gangland LA (or someplace very much like it). Surprisingly, most of the characters are American racial-minorities which creators rarely use in the comic medium. But this Tony Puryear is a clever one. Concrete Park could easily be mistaken for a generic Spike Lee urban tale. However, Puryear goes the route of literary master Octavia E. Butler and transcends that urban struggle with the captivating blend of a dystopian struggle. I believe most readers will grasp onto the science-fiction aspects of this new series more so then they would notice the race-class-urban challenges. This is a series to keep your eye out for. 

Dude, Tarzan, seriously? A gun?
The next selection of comics are the ones I deem passable. 

Al Gordon and Thomas Yeates' The Once and Future Tarzan is stunning and baffling all in one sitting. Yeates' art is to the eyes what a rose is to the nose. Gorgeous. Classic. Talented. Many more words come to mind in this ageless style of art. My only problem with the story is just that--the story. It's only 8 pages and I'm already confused. Supposedly Tarzan is kind of immortal and lives in our world, yet it's not our world. It's a world filled with normal people and also mutants. He lives not only in a secret underground safe-house in the middle of the jungle, but in a secret underground safe-house beneath the first underground safe-house. Yeah, it's that confusing. There are also beautiful and ugly primitive women attacking him for questionable reasons (why are some of them attractive and others hideous? I have no clue). And also (as pictured to the left in next month's issue), since when does Tarzan carry a freaking gun? As beautifully rendered this comic is, questions abound by the page. Hopefully the second installment offers some answers.

Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson's first part in their new comic The Massive is interesting. Within the 8 pages not many details are told except that rogue waves are extremely gigantic waves. Ask me just what this comic is about and I can't tell you more than guys with guns in a chopper fly out to a huge compound in the middle of the ocean and then one of the guys goes outside to find a wall of water headed for them while the other men take people hostage. Yup, that's about it. Donaldson's art is neatly done. A wee bit realistic for me, slightly unflavored. A big thanks goes to Dave Stewart for working on the colors. Beautiful as always.
Not that massive compared to a rogue wave...

Another interesting read is the first chapter of The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne, by Rich Johnston (founder and editor-in-chief at Bleeding Cool) and Simon Rohrmuller. Meet Miss Cranbourne, comics very own Dexter rip-off. With a twist! She's pushing 80 years and kills people she deems worthy of killing. Is she psychotic or is she doing the world a favor? The comic is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I'm still not sure how I like it. It seems too much like a stolen idea. However, the art has an incredibly indie feel to it that may appeal to some readers. It's a little too early in the game to say whether it's good or not. Until next issue.

Other stories in this collection of Dark Horse Presents include the continuations of Neal Adam's Blood and Howard Chaykins Marked Man, (not quite worth reading since they're in their 7th and 8th chapters) the boring and dismissive Skultar, chapter 2, by M.J. Butler and Mark Wheatley and the limp-dick, waste of 8-pages, Time To Live by Martin Conaghan and Jimmy Broxton. It's okay Jimmy, I don't blame you for the crappy ending to that horrible story. But I will blame you on agreeing to illustrate it.

Review: "Prophet" Issue 21-- Image-ining Prophet for a New Generation by Ryan T. King

Announced late last year, Image Comics decided to revive their Extreme line of titles and characters. This month marked the eagerly awaited return of Image's first returning character, John Prophet in Prophet, issue 21. The first Extreme line was an early '90's character roundup of muscle men and scantly clad lady warriors initially brought into being by the loathed-or-loved comic personality Rob Liefeld (type his name into Google's search bar you get: rob liefeld, rob liefeld worst, rob liefeld twitter, rob liefeld can't draw). Although this year's Prophet bares the same title and is listed as a continuation of Liefeld's run, the similarities are few and far between.

Prophet #1, Rob Liefeld 1993 (left), Prophet #21, Rob Liefeld 2011 (right)

Fan favorite creator Brandon Graham (creator/artist/writer of Multiple Warheads, Escalator, King City and blogger behind Royal Boiler) is the overseer and writer of this new Prophet project. The artistry talents include a bevy of indie-newcomers, such as Simon RoyMarian ChurchlandFarel DalrympleGiannis Milonogiannis, and Richard Ballerman on colors, with the occasional talents of Liefeld and Graham thrown into the mix--phew, what a list!

The first issue (issue 21) was released a couple weeks ago with Graham listed as writer, Roy as artist, and Ballerman on colors. Before the comic was released in comic retailer shops nationwide, Image announced the comic was sold out on the distribution level and a 2nd printing would be on it's way the first week of February. First issues (once again, meaning issue 21) on the day of release were sold at auction on EBay for $15 and up. With all the commotion and buzz I heard I went down to my comic ship to pick up an issue and find out if this comic is worth those thirty dimes in my pocket (make that 32--can't forget Uncle Sam).

The first thing I noticed about this comic is the cover art. In an industry run by DC and Marvel, certain expectations are demanded by comic covers: action packed scenes, brightly colored costumes, and pencil work that makes most art school students weep. Gladly I am the kind of customer that cherishes the bold and diverse comic market that looks to edge away from the overdone tripe DC and Marvel call cover art. Marian Churchland (wife of Brandon Graham) created a raw yet gorgeous cover for this new series. Her rugged art and use of bland yet natural colors is exactly the kind of stylistic makings this new series needs to stand above the rest.

Upon further inspection, the rest of the comic is subtly beautiful as well. Simon Roy's art is difficult to describe. Think as simple as your generic teen's manga with a splash of visceral detail like Guy Davis' work in BPRD. It is so youthful and childish yet filled with age, detail, and rich in history. The best part of the comic is surely Roy's depictions of alien life forms. Already the first issue and we are given a strong arsenal of alien life. Remember the first time you watched the original Star Wars and you entered into the musty dark of the Mos Eisley Cantina? The camera gives not one, not two, but several different shots of extra terrestrials before returning to our young hero Luke Skywalker. Roy uses this first return to Prophet as a jumping off point to unleash some of the coolest and fantastical looking science-fiction creatures your virgin-trekkie eyes have ever seen. Rest assured this is only the tip of the stripper's ta'tas and writer Graham has many more punches to pull, knifes to stick, and guns to fire before this series comes to an end.

Speaking of writing, Brandon Graham is certainly at the top of his game in this first issue. I've read a few of his comics previously before the introduction of Prophet, like King City and his short "Voice" in DHP #7 (another tremendous MUST read) but my favorite to date is this issue, rest assured. The comic is pure science-fiction gold for fans of comic books. One read is all it takes to know just how much Graham's creative juices are flowing. The story starts out in a familiar earth-like terrain. As a resident Northern Californian, I'm reminded instantly of the wild nature of my golden state with depictions of rocky clay terrain and pine tree barrens. Yet directly from the beginning we're shown creatures hidden back in the recesses of our imagination. Creatures that look similar to sheep, wolves, squirrels, fish, and ants but are nothing alike. Graham tells the story of John Prophet in an extremely bleak and survivalist 3rd person tone, almost like Marv in Frank Miller's "The Hard Goodbye."

Very rarely do I come across a comic book that uses 3rd person in writing and chooses instead to let the artwork tell the story. I am a huge fan of writers (one reason I love Alan Moore) that choose not to rely on their artist counter parts on all the work in story-telling.  This is a great example to show young comic book writers that not every comic needs to be written in the same style or tone.

I can praise this comic over and over again, (I'm certain I will in the upcoming months) but the only readers of this review who truly know the value and appeal to this comic are the ones who lucked out and snagged a copy at their local shop. Image Comics says the second printing of this issue will be out February 8th. One week before the second issue launches. Now raise your glass as I toast the new year to the beginning of a wonderful "new" comic series. Cheers!

Review: "Dark Horse Presents" #4-- Beasts of Burden, Criminal Macabre, Age of Reptiles, and MORE! by Ryan T. King 

When it comes to comics, anthologies are the best place for beginning readers. Take for instance the most popular comic anthology in our nation: the comics in the Sunday newspaper. Not all readers dive into the comics section of their paper knowing they like Zits over Blondie, or Peanuts over Garfield. Not all readers understand the office jokes in Dilbert and the political laughs in Doonesbury (I sure know I didn't as a kid). And most indefinitely, not all readers are lucky enough to pick up their favorite comic-strip from it's first printing through it's entirety. But as devoted anthology readers we understand our tastes tend to vary in the comic medium, and without the pairing of the good, the bad, and the ugly, we could never understand just what we like. Continuing this ritual, Dark Horse Comics released their 4th issue of an on-going monthly anthology called Dark Horse Presents.

This 80 page full color comic features a number of different artists and writers with the added bonus of NO adds (eat that, you DC $#*t-heads). The first reason I picked up this copy was for the all new eight page Beasts of Burden story, written by Evan Dorkin and illustrated by Jill Thompson--I just can't get enough of those cute critters fighting paranormal oddities (click here for more Beasts of Burden). My second reason for the pick is Geoff Darrow's gorgeous cover illustration (just look at the cover pictured above, from his "Shaolin Cowboy" series, and the immense detail put into his work). Everything else in the comic was a complete mystery. New works by new artists and new writers. Just what any comic fanboy or fangirl needs.

Of course, with the obvious difference of opinion in anthologies, how does one go about critiquing it? Well, how about the orderly fashion of story by story "+" meaning good, "-" meaning bad.

"Beasts of Burden: Food Run,"
story by Evan Dorkin, art by Jill Thompson (+)

"Rotten Apple" Chapter 3,
story by Chuck Brown, art by Sanford Greene (-)

"The Adventures of Dog Mendoca and Pizzaboy" Chapter 1,
story by Felipe Melo, art by Juan Cavia (+)

"Number 13" Chaper 3,
story by Robert Love and Dave Walker, art by Robert Love (+)

"Resident Alien" Chapter 1,
story by Peter Hogan, art by Steve Parkhouse (+)

"Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling!" Chapter 1,
story by Steve Niles, art by Christopher Mitten (+)

"Marked Man" Chapter 4,
story and art by Howard Chaykin (+)

"Age of Reptiles: The Body,"
story an art by Ricardo Delgado (+)

"Finder: Third World" Chapter 4,
story and art by Carla Speed McNeil (-)

"The Protest,"
story by Dara Naragi and art by Victor Santos (+)

All in all, that's eight +'s and two -'s, giving this comic anthology an 80 percent. My only complaint is the price of this comic which happens to be $8, but if you look at it this way, you're actually getting your dollars worth and then some. Not convinced yet? Check out the following preview of five of the featured comics as well as two other variant covers by Fiona Staples and Michael Kaluta (all images courtesy of Dark Horse Comics).

For more information on Dark Horse Presents check out Dark Horse Comics website here.

San Francisco's APE (Alternative Press Expo) Returns this October 1st and 2nd by Ryan T. King 

With all my heart-pulsing eagerness and excitement for Sac-Con and the 47th Annual Big Book Sale happening this week, I nearly forgot to announce another indie/ convention. Good thing I remembered because this event is coming up fast and you don't want to miss it! On October 1st and 2nd, APE (Alternative Press Expo--a treasure trove of unique wonders and hom-made gewgaws made for all fans of indie comics and art) returns to the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco, CA.

Special guests include: 

Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant!)
Daniel Clowes (Ghost WorldDavid Boring, Art Schol Confidential)

Craig Thompson (BlanketsGood-bye Chunky RiceHabibi)

Matthew Thurber (1-800 Mice)
Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve, Scenes from an Impending Marriage)
Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee ManThe New Yorker)

If you claim to be a fan of independent comic book writers/artists/publishers and have NEVER attended APE, I strongly urge you to check it out. You will not leave the show unhappy. If anything you will gain humility for giving these starving artists the desired attention they need. For more information on programming and how to order tickets check out APE's official website here.

Review: 'Batwoman' #1--Kiss Me, Kate Kane by Ryan T. King

Here we are. The third week in September and DC's new 52's continue to take the comic world by storm. Whether that's good or evil, I'll let you level headed readers decide for yourself or take it to the many discussion-boards devoted to such. Along with this week's batch of revamps comes one of the most long awaited series in the DC Universe, mainly because this character has yet to receive her own official run in a comic book. And yes, that character is a she. And that "she" happens to be non-other than Kate Kane, otherwise known as Batwoman. And (thank the almighty Cthulu!) she's back and ready for "action" in an all new five-issue starting series called "Hydrology."

After picking up a copy of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III's initial run with Batwoman in Detective Comics #854-863, I knew I was in love with this character. No, not in some freakishly put-a-crimson-red-wig-on-my-girl-friend-in-the-middle-of-the-night kind of way (eww... what's wrong with you for thinking that?). But rather for DC's willingness to take a leap and spearhead the lacking attitude of homosexuals in mainstream comics. Of course this cultural issue is merely a small engraving in a greater landmark achievement and was helped drastically by Rucka's talented hand and the ever-alluring illustrations and mesmerizing layouts from Williams mind. However, when I first heard Rucka decided to work on more creator owned titles and left the helm of Batwoman, my heart plunged into an oxygen-deprived abyss to worry about the new series' rhythm and continuity. It helped to see Williams listed as a co-writer, but what about this W. Haden Blackman guy? In the world of comics, writers and artists come and go. Time to buckle up and take a ride with a new creative team.

Worry not. Batwoman issue 1 delivers.

Fans of the Detective Comics arc will be happy to know that this "first" issue is actually a continuation of Rucka's story. And what a story it is! Williams and Blackman continue to dabble in the paranormal/occult with the incorporation of Mexican folklore; the story of The Weeping Woman (aka La Llorona) as introduced to be a new Gotham villain. So far this villain is making quite the name for herself by kidnapping and drowning children by the masses. If this isn't haunting enough, then check out William's phenomenal artwork which is just pitch perfect for the eerie tone:

Of course anyone whose read Alan Moore's Promethea understands what to expect of Williams. But man-o-man is it great to see him work on a brand new monthly series! The seemingly simple story doesn't stop there. Other than the vile, ghostly woman, we are stolen for two pages to the Department of Extranormal Operations where Director Bones, a talking skeleton who smokes a cigar, gives Agent Chase orders to capture and unhood Batwoman. If there is anyone meant to depict Director Bones it has to be Williams--the plumes of smoke drifting from his eye-sockets is wonderfully executed. We are also given a glimpse at Kate's new role as mentor and trainer to Teen Titan's former member Flamebird, aka Bette Kane, who also happens to lose her costume in an "accidental" fire. Can this mean a new costume in the works? And to seal this comic with a kiss, we are left with a long overdue and most expected meeting between Batwoman and the Dark Knight himself. Bravo DC, bravo.

Don't worry, new readers. If you're afraid to submerge in an ongoing story, the creators of this issue give a very brief summation of the Detective Comics arc in this issue. As for everything else in the comic, it's all new  and meant as a new starting point. I strongly encourage all comic readers to pick this issue up. The art alone is worth the three dollars. Don't believe me? Take a glimpse at this:

Review: Swamp Thing #1--The DC Reboot Begins with its Roots by Ryan T. King

"It's raining in Washington tonight. Plump, warm summer rain that covers the sidewalks with leopard spots. Downtown, elderly ladies carry houseplants to set them on the fire-escapes, as if they were infirm relatives or boy kings. I like that."--Alan MooreThe Saga of Swamp Thing issue #21.

I like that too.

Before reading DC's reboot of Swamp Thing issue 1, I went back to good ol' Saga of Swamp Thing issue #21, Alan Moore's masterpiece origin story, to remind me why old Swampy remains a classic DC character. I can ramble on about the artwork... the writing... the presentation... but in all due respect, we only live once, and that issue is better experienced than discussed. So on to newer and hopefully better things.

Scott Snyder managed to make quite the name of himself recently; in the past few years he’s penned Detective Comics, co-authored American Vampire with Stephen King, currently writes Swamp Thing AND Batman, and introduced another creator owned titled from Image, called Severed. It’s probably safe to presume Snyder’s name will remain ever-present in comics for the years to come. Obviously someone in the industry is happy with his work. But I’m not.

There’s nothing redeeming about Snyder’s writing. There. I said it.

The writing is not touching, moving, or gripping. It does not attribute voice to the characters, but painfully leaves them hollow like the stale, abandoned husk of an insect or like a ventriloquist carrying dead air through a dummy’s head. Snyder lacks poetics. He lacks life. He lacks the many talents of melodrama.

Of course I am biased by the works of Alan Moore and realize no one can fight the great contender. Yet I still await the day someone dares enter the ring and give him a good fight or at least dances around a bit. But even the most technical writing or the most juvenile can make-up in ease or difficulty with a good story. And unfortunately issue 1 offers a humming-bird’s egg of story—little and delicate, just enough to say it’s there but not enough to feed a grown man.

For most of Swamp Thing issue 1, I hoped to see the most pivotal character in the series—The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Okay, that wasn’t a very funny joke. But neither was seeing the Swamp Thing on only TWO pages (including the cover) of this 32-page comic (filled with 8-pages of ads). Of course, we have to keep in mind this is a reboot issue which hopes to offer a starting point for new readers. But still, I guarantee fans of the Dark Knight would crap their pants to find out Batman only shows his hood on two pages of Batman issue 1. New reader or not, give us the goods. goddamnit.

The only redeeming factor about this comic is Yanick Paquette’s artwork. His cover is quite astounding and remarkably beautiful. His choice of combing Art Nouveau with the abysmal and overdone style of superhero pop-art is refreshingly unique. However, it is not done enough. Only a few pages are well stylized to report on but even those are nothing as gorgeous as the cover. I was half expecting Paquette to go the path of J.H. Williams III and abandon conventional panels all together but sadly this did not happen.

I think this will remain my final run with Swamp Thing for a while. I am curious where Snyder decides to take the green “machine” for a ride, but not for Snyder’s sake but for ol’ Swampy. Perhaps we’ll meet again one day in the Green. Until then, farewell friend.

Review: The Goon #35 by Ryan T. King

When I first heard Evan Dorkin was writing a new issue of The Goon I scratched my head in confusion. "Oh, crap," I thought. "Eric Powell just returned to work on The Goon and he's already too lazy to write his own material." Keep in mind this was before I read anything written by Dorkin--yes, before I read my beloved Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites. So after reading that collection and becoming a bit more familiar with his twisted little words I had nothing more than high hopes for The Goon #35. Why, you ask? Because Evan Dorkin has plotted some of the most entertainingly creepy tales I've read in the past year. Tales that could frighten the whiskers off a witches' chin. Tales that could revive Ronald Reagan from cryogenics. Tales that make you want to eat Arby's. And that's frightening.

But this issue of The Goon never reached that ark-of-the-covenant-melting-point that his other works had. The issue begins with the beloved duo Franky and the Goon driving in the midst of a "job" when all of a sudden a stumpy no-legged man rushes across the road. Much to their misfortune, the two discover their car wrecked and seek vengeance against the little freak. From here on I expected the story-line to pick up into something a little stronger. Unfortunately things turned out a little predictable. Not to ruin the entire story for you, I'll stop with the plot there.

In my opinion the most distracting feature in this issue was the expectation of Powell's story-telling. I waited for one of his enormous and insurmountable splash pages to come along but unfortunately Dorkin/Powell never delivered. Even the comedy felt slightly hindered, like this tag-team duo rushed the script without properly planning the comedic timing. When I read a Goon comic I expect to laugh out loud. This time I did not. I wanted to but the comedy is hardly worth sharing to friends. Who knows whose fault it is--but sadly, unless you are Goon-head that can't miss a single issue (like me), this is one Goon comic you can pass on.

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 (childre 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 Maxxx

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 persude your neanderthal-like mind. For more information on the events, directions, cost, hours, and all that technical mumbo jumbo, head over to and See you there!

2011 Harvey Award Winners by Ryan T. King

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.

San Jose Toy and Comic Book Show Tomorrow by Ryan T. King

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 tomoorw--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.

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.

Jim Woodring Toys by Ryan T. King

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 like 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 come 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)

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 achievementsAmong 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

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.

Whether you agree with the following results or not, the Eisner Award winners of 2011 have been announced. Some of the winning results are obvious no-brainers, like the brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba's award for Best Limited Series Daytripper--a tear jerking comic with the best look on death/life you may ever find. Some winners are more questionable, like Scott Snyder, Stephen king, and Rafael Albuquerque's award for Best New Series American Vampire--a mediocre, fast-paced vampire story which races through the life and times of America. Other awards are rather shocking and well deserved, like Nate Simpson. recipient of the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award, for his debut work on his creator owned title Nonplayer published by Image. Did I mention Simpson released only one issue so far? Without further delay, here are the 2011 Eisner Award Winners:

2011 Eisner Award Winner List

Best Short Story
"Post Mortem," by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, in I Am an Avenger #2 (Marvel)

Best Single Issue (or One-Shot)
Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil, by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben (Dark Horse)

Best Continuing Series
Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image)

Best Limited Series
Daytripper, by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba (Vertigo/DC)

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

Best Publication for Kids
Tiny Titans, by Art Baltzar and Franco (DC)

Best Publication for Teens
Smile, by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic Graphix) 

Best Humor Publication
I Thought You Would Be Funnier, by Shannon Wheeler (BOOM!)

Best Anthology
Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, edited by Paul Morrissey and David Petersen (Archaia)

Best Digital Comic
Abominable Charles Christopher, by Karl Kerschl,

Best Reality-Based Work
It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics)

Best Graphic Album--New 
Return of the Dapper Men, by Jim McCann and Janet Lee (Archaia)
Wilson, by Daniel Clowes (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Graphic Album--Reprint
Wednesday Comics, edited by Mark Chiarello (DC)

Best Adaptation from Another Work
The Marvelous Land of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young (Marvel)

Best Archival Collection/Project--Strips
Archie: The Complete Daily Newspaper Strips, 1946-1948, by Bob Montana, edited by Greg Goldstein (IDW)

Best Archival Collection/Project--Comic Books
Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer Artist's Edition, edited by Scott Dunbier (IDW)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material
It Was the War of the Trenches, by Jacques Tardi (Fantagraphics)

Best U.S. Edition of International Material--Asia
Naoki Urasaw's 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)

Best Writer
Joe Hill, Locke and Key (IDW)

Best Writer/Artist
Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark's Parker: The Outfit (IDW)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
Skottie Young, The Marvelous Land of Oz (Marvel)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)
Juanjo Guarnido, Blacksad (Dark Horse)

Best Cover Artist
Mike Mignola, Hellboy, Balitmore: The Plague Ships (Dark Horse)

Best Coloring
Dave Stewart, Hellboy, BPRD, Baltimore, Let Me In (Dark Horse); Detective Comics (DC); Heil Young's Greendale, Daytripper, Joe the Barbarian (Veritgo/DC)

Best Lettering
Todd Klein, Fables, The Unwritten, Joe the Barbarian, iZombie (Vertigo/DC); Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom (Wildstorm/DC); SHIELD (Marvel); Driver for the Dead (Radical)

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism
ComicBookResources, produced by Jonah Weiland

Best Comics-Related Book
75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, by Paul Levitz (TASCHEN)

Best Publication Design
Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer Artist's Edition, designed by Randall Dahlk (IDW)


Judges' Choices: Ernie Bushmiller, Jack Jackson, Martin Nodell, Lynd Ward

Elected: Mort Drucker, Harvey Pekar, Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman

Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award:
Nate Simpson

Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award:
Patrick McDonnell

Bill Finger Excellence in Comic Book Writing Award:
Del Connell, Bob Haney

Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award:
Comics & Vegetables, Tel Aviv, Israel - Yuval Sharon, Danny Amitai Strange Adventures of Halifax, Nova Scotia; Warp 1 of Edmonton, Alberta; and Mel Thompson and Associates.

More information on the Eisner Awards may be found here.

Recent nation-wide Borders store liquidations brought a certain ounce of glee to me this week. No, not because a chain of bookstores are going out of business, but rather the great deals they have on newly published magazines. All of the periodicals in my local Borders (and possibly yours) are now 40% off! What was once considered over-priced magazines have turned into reasonably-priced magazines. This includes the gem of my purchases and my recommendation to all fans of horror and horror comics: HorrorHound Magazine, issue #30, July/August.

As any avid fan of the horror genre knows, there is never enough horror to go around. Hence the creation of many popular magazines that chronicle the past, present, and future attributes in all things Horror. Such magazines include FangoriaFamous Monsters of FilmlandRue MorgueFilmfax, and Scary Monsters Magazine. Unlike the other fright rags, HorrorHound outperforms their competition in a number of ways. I suggest to examine the following 7 categories in a horror magazine: film coverage, interviews, articles, layout, theme, collectibles coverage, and Easter eggs.

It's hard to imagine a magazine such as HorrorHound worrying about something as excessive as a theme, especially when their particular specialization in a certain film genre already screams thematic continuity. However, if there's one thing I've learned about HorrorHound, its that the creators of this magazine are a very dedicated crew that bring forth a unique vision to their consumers. The latest issue is dubbed a "SPECIAL COMIC BOOK ISSUE" which includes recent and past dealings in the phenomena of the horror comic. Article topics include CreepshowThe Walking DeadFright Night (the remake and original--did you know about the comic series?), I...Vampire, and Men's Pulp Magazines among many others. Included, down on the bottom of almost every page, is a small Easter egg, or featurette, that happens to detail a horror comic book. 

The amount of horror coverage does not end with comic books. The easy to follow layout makes HorrorHound one of the easiest to read and eye appealing magazines dedicated to the horror industry. Inside coverage includes detailed photographs of new films, toys, and DVD releases, as well as memorable collages of old VHS-tapes and special collector pieces, such as Fright Night writer/director Tom Holland's personal collection of Fright Night movie props. New fright flicks are welcomed with cast interviews and director reportage, while classic oldies are graced with lovely feature pages called "HorrorHound retrospectives" that include every and any possible collector memorabilia. Best yet, the magazine contains very little promotional adds that don't deter too much from original content. 

Honestly, I've always had two dilemmas with HorrorHound, and as I write this blog with my copy in-hand, I revoke both problems. My first complaint was in regards to the publication being bi-monthly. Just call me a two-year-old spoiled brat who wants it now, now, Now, NOW, NOW, NOW! Yeah, that's me. But after really getting the chance to look it over, read, and re-read the articles, I can say how much I appreciate every amount of space utilized in the efforts of creating this issue. Not a scrap is wasted. Even the font size changes for certain accommodations. My second pet peeve was and still is a bit personal. $7 bucks for a magazine! Holy crap, dude! Do you think I'm rich or something? Do you think the word "loaded" is tattooed to my forehead? I hope not. Once again, this is a personal issue and most of the time relates not only to this magazine but all magazines. HorrorHound however is the only exception in mind. Every penny I spent on this magazine, even at liquidation prices, was worth the purchase. Enough so that I've decided to succumb to my long time urge of subscribing to HorrorHound. If you're any kind of horror fiend like me, I recommend you do so as well.

As for the next issue of HorrorHound, look forward to an all encompassing issue dedicated to the intergalactic space beings! Special features and topics will surround the following movies: The ThingInvasion of the Body SnatchersWar of the Worldsetc.

More information and subscription orders may be found at HorrorHound's official website here.

My condolences go out to any gaming nerds happening upon this page with the expectations of finding a new installment in the Warcraft and Starcraft online games. However, my congratulations go out to everyone who has not yet heard of Jim Woodring's "Frank" comics and his first complete graphic novel, Weathercraft.

Published a little over a year ago by Fantagraphic BooksWeathercraft is the tale of a vile, illtempered creature known as Manhog and his overly torturous journey of spiritual transcendence. Woodring tells, or rather shows (the comic includes absolutely NO written dialogue), a beautifully rendered deployment into a fantastical land bathed in rich detail (absolutely no colors) and wonderful curiosities.

The story is short and sweet, delightfully funny one moment and morbidly grotesque the next. If I were still a child I'd imagine lounging aimlessly for hours on end with this book in hand. It's completely and utterly strange and twisted but nothing someone wouldn't find reasonably fitting in the madcap Wonderland or Oz adventure books. If only Jim Henson were still alive to oversee a project as gloriously entertaining as this. Hopefully someone worth their merit will tempt to bring this beauty to the big screen. Maybe after it gathers a strong cult-fan following.

Woodring proposes the book is pregnant with metaphors and symbolism. There is no doubt his storyboards are clever and meaningful, yet it may take audiences awhile to understand his intentions. Hopefully a future edition will come completely annotated in hope of ratifying this problem. Otherwise, if you have never been on acid before and wish to imagine what the world may look like, give Weathercraft a looksie and explore the innards and outwards of Woodring's imagination. I guarantee you'll feel completely spellbound.

More facts and information on the works of Jim Woodring may be found at his personal website, here.

Comic Review: Criminal Macabre/The Goon: When Freaks Collide by Ryan T. King

Hellboy? Dethklok? And now Criminal Macabre?

That's right. Dark Horse Comics treads familiar territory as Eric Powell's big, lovable brute the Goon and his world of weirdo, orgy monstrosity heads for another crossover. This time in Steve Niles' LA darkened rumpus, Criminal Macabre.

Is it a marketing attempt to urge more readers to different titles (the way the Hellboy/Goon one-shot slugged me a shiny and turned me a Goon fan for life)? Or is it two creator's attempt to, uh... umm... how to put this? squeeze our pockets for a little more child--*ahem*--excuse me, chicken feed? 

The answer: Neither.

The outcome of this one-shot is hard to describe. Imagine the cartoon Garfield and Friends paired with Thundercats because they both involve felines. Now imagine the film Rush Hour shaken and stirred with Enter the Dragon because of mixed-racial casting. Well, in this one-shot the common denominator happens to be monsters. In Powell's world, the Goon fights slack-jaws and an undead priest. In Niles', Cal McDonald fights off werewolves and vampires. Mix the two together and we should get a big bag of dead monsters and awesome camaraderie between our favorite monster slayers. Sounds good, right? But considering the two completely different tones of storytelling featured in Criminal Macabre and The Goon, it's tough to call this a good choice.

Fans of The Goon will instantly notice a change in direction from their comically morbid world into a serious comic entity. This is sad to say too, since it is Eric Powell listed in the front cover as the one providing the "Farts and Negativity." Sadly, no farts were made during the reading of this comic (unless they were made by yours truly) and little to any comedy panned out in the story (I blame Niles for this one. After all, he is credited the storyteller).

But the truly remarkable feature in this comic is Christopher Mitten's artwork, most particularly when it comes to action sequences. Mitten hones in on the epicenter of each delivered movement with a strong fluidity. The amount of awesome rock'em, sock'em action in this comic is a big plus. One minute the Goon and McDonald rebel rouse one another in stunning clarity, while in the next they fight along side an ominous horde of Lovecraftian ghoulies. Good times, ahoy!

By the time I finished this comic, I was truly happy I made the purchase. The story bounced around a bit before delivering the goods and ultimately paid off with decent artwork. I'm afraid new-readers will lose out on The Goon's full effect here around. This comic is certainly nothing like The Goon/Hellboy one-shot where the creator's offered even tastes to both characters. In adjustment to this one-shot, I'd recommend Powell's most recent publication The Goon #34, which delivers a very different story but far more original than this mash-up.

Truthfully, this story doesn't matter much in either of the two series and only introduces Criminal Macabre's plot with the hopes of luring new readers in Nile's direction. There are plenty of incentives to this comic that are well worth the four bucks (like extra artwork by Ben Templesmith and Christopher Mitten, and *gasp* a brief Hellboy cameo!). But sadly, Nile's story is too uninteresting, I think I'll sit on the golden egg dubbed The Goon for the time being and try to ignore further Dark Horse mix-tapes. Nice try Niles.

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