Category Archives: Independent Comics

Top Cow Talent Hunt

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Top Cow finally announced the winners of the Top Cow Talent Hunt and… I came close.

My script  won a “runner up” position in the competition, so I will be paid to write a 6-8 page story for Top Cow, which they will include in an upcoming anthology book.  I’m thankful that a company like Top Cow gives people the opportunity to do this and I’m excited to write a really great 6-8 pages that will hopefully blow some goddamn minds.

That all being said, I’d like to offer up my experience writing, and entering this contest while also allowing you to read the script that I submitted, and the current, final draft which exists  after I took a five month break not looking at or thinking about it, and then found a lot of things I felt could be sharpened up.

Full disclosure: I had never read a Top Cow comic before deciding to enter this contest, so I went and found the first five issues of The Darkness (the only Top Cow property I’m somewhat familiar with – I did read comics in the 90’s after all…)

So, I read the first five issues of The Darkness and… I still didn’t understand anything about the world, mythology or characters. I couldn’t even tell if the main character, Jackie Estacado, was a hero or a villain. I decided to simply  look up the Wikipedia page for The Darkness instead and to write a script based off of the basics that I could glean from these limited sources.

The rules of the Talent Hunt stated that you had to frame the story as a flash-back, one which was narrated by a current character, but one who was not featured in the main story. That made it easier for me, because I could create a character that didn’t have to be a slave to a continuity I was unfamiliar with. It freed me up to only have to know the basics, just enough to couch my story within, so in the end, my unfamiliarity with The Darkness world didn’t matter much.

I have always wanted to write a story which takes place during the great fire of London in 1666, originally I had envisioned it as a separate story involving murder and witchcraft, but I thought that context might fit well for The Darkness too. So I took that germ of an idea, inserted a few real people and locations which were intrinsically linked to said fire, and created a revisionist history that incorporated The Darkness.

After coming up with the initial idea I wrote the script in two days, then I ignored it for a week, went back through doing a quick edit and decided I was done. I’m pretty sure this was a mistake… I didn’t devote any real time to it (I was crazy busy during all of this time, so it was a low-priority for me) and I only did one edit on it before submitting it.

If I could go back I’d make sure to edit, edit, edit edit and tighten that thing up like crazy before I sent it. Perhaps that would have pushed me above “runner up” – perhaps not. All I know is, it was great fun and even though I certainly have some regrets about how seriously I took it, I still think I wrote an interesting little slice of comic fiction.

Without any further adieu here they are for you to read, dissect and shit all over if you so desire: “Baptism by Fire”

Enjoy?

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CA Reviews: Nova Phase

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Nova Phase would have instantly reminded me of an 8-bit homage to Cowboy Bebop even if it hadn’t listed Bebop in the acknowledgement section which opens the book.

That’s a compliment. Do I have any more compliments in me for this book? Let’s find out – jump in with me, will you?

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Top Ten Grant Morrison Works which don’t involve mainstream superheroes

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With Grant Morrison’s mind-blowingly epic seven year run on Batman recently coming to a close, I thought now may be a good time to talk about a few of his… other works – those that are even freakier, more surrealistic and more fetishistic than his regular mainstream superhero output.

Everyone is familiar with his run on JLA, or All-Star Superman, sure… but let’s focus on the Grant Morrison who is unfettered from the chains of rigorous continuity and pre-established, corporate-owned characters with very particular parameters that you have to stay within, one way or another, while writing them.

Let’s go all out and take a trip into Morrison’s dark and fantastic mind as we look at the top ten Grant Morrison works which don’t involve mainstream superheroes:

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Polaris

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It is always a pleasure when unique indie projects like Polaris end up gracing my inbox. Being one of the unwashed masses (a film student/filmmaker) it goes without saying that I am a bit of a film nerd – so, when I receive a comic that lovingly mocks Tarkovsky’s Solaris (which is a film I love, btw)  in the spirited, jocular voice of Woody Allen (who is a genius man-child which I love, btw) then it’s pretty much my sacred duty to help bring attention to the project.

Click through to read my thoughts on this unique creator-owned work!

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Planet Gigantic #0

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David Halvorson, the one-man-band behind the inspiring symphony that is Armstrong, alerted me to a new project he is working on, this time collaborating with a writer; one Eric Grissom.

Said collaboration has yielded Planet Gigantic. Planet Gigantic is the story of two test tube superheroes, created to be the most powerful… sample collectors in the universe.

Sample Collectors? Yes, it seems the mundane day to day of scientific research is where our heroes have grown up and learned to hone their powers. The mundane is of course, never truly mundane when you have a good writer relaying it to you, and to that end I can say that Grissom seems to be a damn good writer. The dialog in this issue is natural and pertinent – often times writers pile a lot of superfluous dialog into their books because they think it equates to character/story development, when really all it does is come off as a time-suck and, more often than not, does a disservice to the story by derailing the pacing and obscuring the plotting. Grissom though, seems adept at this writing thing, as there are no throwaways here; everything seems germane and advances character and/or plot. We seem to be in good hands.

In this inaugural #0 sneak peek issue we’re thrown right into the fray as our young heroes are introduced to us and quickly set against some insidious odds. It’s clear, concise and paced well. For instance, we’re treated to a very snappy set piece involving giant space-spiders and it all works very well, ramping up the world building, conveying character and advancing the plot all at once – it’s fun, it’s engrossing and it’s all done in a few simple, clean pages. Again, most independent writers I read would have buried the delivery of this moment in tedious exposition to legitimize why these kids are in space, why there are giants spiders and why they’re being attacked… however, Grissom smartly eschews all of that nonsense and places faith in the sophistication of the readers to orient themselves in the fiction. Thank fuck too – I really wish more writers out there held similar standards.

As on Armstrong, Halvorson’s art is just immensely enjoyable to look at – it’s a bit Darwyn Cooke, a bit Bill Watterson, but still wholly his own; Halvorson’s art is crisp, colorful, full of verve and motion is conveyed quite well. There is weight and dimension and everything just rings true. The spell is in firmly place and you’re never once brought out of the world because of some skewed look to something or someone. It’s all very cohesive and enjoyable. Halvorson’s work is already incredibly inventive and retains an inherently effortless charisma to it, so the idea of having those traits let loose and writ large across the expansive backdrop of a sci-fi space opera is quite exciting.

Overall, this is a great preview – it reveals just enough of all the ingredients a good book contains, so that you come away certain that there is a solid series waiting to be unleashed on the world here.

I can’t wait and I’ll definitely follow these guys into issue #1 and beyond. Immensely enjoyable, lighthearted, yet mature and intelligence – the world needs more creator-owned comics like this. Bravo, gentlemen – now give us the series!

Download Issue #0 FOR FREE

CA Reviews: Ugli Studios Presents #1

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Ugli Studios Presents is creator-owned fantasy/horror/sci-fi anthology book. Its inaugural issue contains two different shorts, each co-written by Jason Lenox and David Paul and drawn by Mr. Lenox. For a point of reference think; The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, etc. – these are short, succinct stories that present a self-contained tale with some sort of unexpected plot twist or surprise ending. I must confess; I’ve seen every single episode of the original Twilight Zone series and I’ve even read a lot of the original scripts – so to say I enjoy this mode of storytelling would be a bit of an understatement. Unfortunately, as a reviewer this also means I have a high bar set for people to be able to compete with the likes of Rod Serling, Ray Bradbury, etc. That all being the case – I’m here to support and drum up interest for independent comic creators – so I’ll be tempering my sky-high expectations as much as possible while still being a discerning commentator ;)

Onward to the meat:

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CA Reviews: Johnny Space Commander

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What do we have here? Well, we have an independently released creator-owned comic series: Johnny Space Commander, by Sean Parnell.

Mr. Parnell was kind enough to send me issues #1-4 for review purposes, so being the stand-up guy I am, I decided to do just that; read Mr. Parnell’s work and then give you delicate readers of discerning taste, my opinions on said books.

Continue on, you brave explorers of uncharted independent comic lands

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CA Reviews: Secret – One: Teeth With Which To Eat

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Secret was just what I needed.

I’ve grown oh-so-tired during these past few months with cape books and I’ve been desperately trying to expand my comic genre horizons. As a life-long DC fan the majority of the New 52 leaves me bored, dismayed and actually, more than a bit annoyed. I left Marvel in the 90’s and I’ve never really gone back (Waid’s current Daredevil is fucking great though!) it seems things have become very complicated in the interim; there are a ridiculous amount of Marvel titles out every month and it discombobulates me completely while standing in my LCS, so I’ve never been presented with a good segue back into the universe. However, Image has been my saving grace as of late. They’ve been consistent in putting out unique and well crafted books that have short and snappy runs or are limited series in one way or another.

So, about Secret? Riiiight, well…

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The Reddit Collaborative Comic Book Project

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About a month ago I started a Reddit group called Comic Book Collaborations – in hopes of creating, what basically amounts to, an online classified’s section which is specifically geared towards helping amateur comic book creators find collaborators, in order to get their independent comic book projects off the ground more easily. I thought having one place online to go would be easier than scouring through thousands of Deviantart accounts or personal blogs. Good ideas often blossom even better ideas and soon I found myself thinking it would be great to simply create a comic through this venue.

 

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CA Interviews Comic Writer Kevin Mellon

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We sat down with comic book artist Kevin Mellon recently, and you know what?

Besides near constant Skype connection issues from our end and a hoarse, sick and extremely medicated interviewer… it all went pretty damn good.

Kevin speaks about current and past projects, working in the industry, inspiration and what it takes to “break in” to the comics game.

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CA Reviews: “Our Love Is Real”

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(again, ignore my crap iPhone photography – a signed copy!)

Our Love is Real (One Shot) –

Writer: Sam Humphries

Artist: Steven Sanders

What.

The.

Fuck.

Did I just read?

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CA Reviews: “Heart” #1

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(please excuse my bad iPhone photography, I was just stoked to score a signed copy)

Heart #1 –

Writer: Blair Butler

Artist: Kevin Mellon

This book has a few things going for it that you may think would guarantee it a good review from me: it takes place in Kansas City (my home town, born and raised) and it is written and drawn by two KC natives…

However, this book also has a rather large hurdle to overcome with me as well: my almost negative interest in MMA fighting (that’s a whole other story). As you can see, the scales begin to balance out.

This is all a game though, semantic, mental masturbation – because once I read the book I realized that none of the above  criteria mattered in the slightest, because thankfully, I possess enough integrity (read, I’m an great guy/asshole) to either praise or rip it apart based on its own merits as a piece of work created within the context of the comics medium.

To wit:

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Died Again (The smart AND pretty girl you should be talking to at this lame internet party)

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Died Again” was just brought to my attention earlier today and I’ve already read the first twenty comics and decided to write up a quick recommendation… this means I’m pretty damned impressed.

Died Again is lovingly made by the creative duo of artist Chris Bourassa, and writer Matt Newman. Keep in mind, this is definitely a narrative webcomic, so please, do not repeat my mistake of reading comic #20 first and wondering what the hell just happened. You have to start from the beginning to get up to speed with the story so that by the time you naturally make it back to #20 you get the joke(s).

The set-up is simple yet pretty damned brilliant- the characters and story exist inside of an online RPG, self-aware and meta-contextualizing their game world and the outside player’s roles. We follow a self-proclaimed “Death Knight” on his personal journey through what amounts to his own Inferno, suffering through what is a seemingly endless string of humiliations and beatings while being degraded by rules, players, level bosses and other ‘virtual’ characters (not to mention all the bird shit that seems to land on him “accidentally”).

We’re treated to some really great writing through all of this which manages to come off as sophisticated even through its’ juvenile toilet humor. Seriously; this is a world where you may very well get squidlubed for the tentamolester to, well… you get the idea. However, don’t think that is some sort of critique, because believe me, the real trick to all of this is the surprisingly wry tongue-in-cheek gravitas that the dialog is imbued with. I’m actually convinced the writing is even more clever than I’m giving it credit for; being an MMO novice I’m sure I’m probably missing plenty of subtle (and not-so-subtle) jokes, suffice it to say there are certainly layers I’m blind to. In any event, for a simple web comic, the writing is much more intelligent than it deserves to be.

The art tying this all together is fantastic as well, Bourassa’s inks are succinct and gorgeous: sharply kinetic and stylized in an utterly unique way. Characters are oddly proportioned and designed, and the aesthetic works very well in the skewed world we find ourselves in. The story is affording Mr. Bourassa plenty of opportunities to stretch out and add in a lot of surreal, Lovecraftian flourishes (MOAR Tentamolester!).

All in all I can’t recommend this comic enough; smart, funny, subversive and beautiful to look at.

GO READ THIS SHIT NOW!

Before I go, allow me to posit the one lingering question I have: When is the world going to grow too big to be contained to a webcomic alone? How long until we see a full, Died Again mini or one shot graphic novel? Plush toys?