Tuesday, May 28, 2013

DARK UNIVERSE: update on horror fiction adaptations

Since the last time that this horror comics anthology was mentioned here, two additional issues have been published.   Issue #5 will debut in late June.  Here’s an update on this fascinating series of horror/dark fantasy fiction adaptations to the comics medium . . . . . . .

TALES FROM THE DARK UNIVERSE is meant to showcase graphic adaptations of stories contained within the DARK UNIVERSE omnibus, a collection of short works by author William F. Nolan.  Nolan writes across various genres and is most noted for co-authoring science-fiction novel LOGAN’S RUN with George Clayton Johnson.  He shares scripting chores in Bluewater’s DARK UNIVERSE with Jason Brock, his editing partner on several dark fantasy anthologies.  (The Bleeding Edge, The Devil’s Coattails, etc.)  Plans are to adapt these stories into six individual issues and then later collect them all in a trade paperback or hardcover edition.  An interview with the authors was posted to this site on Sunday, May 26.

TALES FROM WILLIAM F. NOLANS DARK UNIVERSE #1 (Bluewater Productions, January 2013)  William F. Nolan & Jason Brock, writers.  Scott Boyce: Art, Halloween Man.  James Bolton: Art, Heart’s Blood.  Warren Montgomery, Letterer.  Mike Dorman, cover.

          That cover is so eye-catching!  It may just be the best “infinity” cover to drop in recent times, and is definitely award-worthy.  The only audience member (matinee, perhaps?) of a spacious old-time movie theatre turns his back and flees after seeing his image repeated on the screen, ad infinitum.  What makes this extra memorable is the fact that he appears to be hurtling over the seats with a look of absolute terror on his face.  Artist Mike Dorman ramps up the visual effects by placing this scene within a rotated, angular/diagonal view.  Magnificent!


          The overall feel after reading and viewing several pages of Issue #1 is that of entering the world of The Twilight Zone television series, which is a welcome feeling indeed.  The art in first story “The Halloween Man is colored in gray and sepia tones with subtle washes of color in select panels.  It gives the story an unnatural feel and brings up nostalgic memories of classic Twilight Zone episodes.  This story ends with a twist as many of those early black-and-white thrillers did as well.

          An adult neighbor scares inquisitive young little Katie with tales of The Halloween Man, who carries a big sack to collect children’s souls.  The image he creates in a young imagination is so frightening that Katie’s school grades begin to suffer and her parents seek psychiatric counseling.  But it doesn’t help, and things progress in a downward fashion culminating in events occurring the evening of October 31st - - which you may guess and wonder at.  I saw it coming but it still entertained me, especially as portrayed by artist Scott Boyce who knows when to exaggerate human features at the appropriate times.

          Second story Heart’s Blood centers on a Hollywood screenwriter and director who returns to his Missouri hometown to scout locations for a film depicting a high school shooting.  An eerie feeling develops early in this quirky little town, devoid of young people who have “gone to the big cities” as the mayor dismisses the details.  The art by James Bolton, with its distorted caricatures of individuals in brownish and muted tones also lends to the uneasy mood.  The director must resort to bussing in Los Angeles students to make up his cast, an addition that is much welcomed by the local townsfolk who are equally delighted to learn that the young director and his wife are expecting a newborn very shortly.  The suspense builds along with the suspicions and the tension builds quickly to an ending at a very unexpected point.  The story just stops, leaving it to the reader to resolve whether what just occurred was imaginary or real.  As debut issues go, this one doesn’t fully satisfy but leaves a craving for more.

TALES FROM WILLIAM F. NOLAN’S DARK UNIVERSE #2 (Bluewater Productions, February 2013)  William F. Nolan and Jason Brock, writers.  Steve Wands, art Boyfriend. Michael Dorman, art Him, Her, Them.  Steve Wands, cover.

           DARK UNIVERSE Issue #2 contains my favorite of all the stories so far.  “Boyfrienddetails how love finds an isolated and abandoned immature young girl and brings a new world to her doorstep. The main character relates past events as they occurred via a letter to her runaway father, which she is composing as the story moves forward.  The setting is an isolated cabin far back in the woods of what may be Appalachia, based on the lack of spelling skills and phrasing seen in her letter.  This is communicated most effectively in the captions, which are lettered as if they actually were being composed in primitive font on an ancient worn-out typewriter.  The art by Steve Wands beautifully conveys the backwoods feel, as every panel appears as if painted, reminiscent of the old Grumbacher tubes of oil color splashed across canvas.  The young 18-year old, now part of an unlikely couple, does her best to convey through words how different and quirky her boyfriend is, including his strange diet. There is no big twist to this ending, as the entire story is twisted and darkly delightful.


         Back-up story Him, Her, Them”  is depicted in very effective black and white by artist Michael Dorman.  The opening full page of the main character strolling down an unidentified town, surrounded by high building and highway overpasses helps to convey his solitary-by-choice nature.  He’s not a nice or likeable person who manipulates and abuses others especially women, who he fatally discards when finished with.  He appears to meet his soul mate and ends up in a different style of Mexican stand-off.  There is a twist ending here that is also unsatisfying, similar to the end story in Issue #1.

          However, this may just be a faithful adaptation of the source material. William F. Nolan is a master of the concise yet powerful short story.  Like many of his works, he hooks readers quickly through scene-setting, gets you interested as the action picks up, and then ends it abruptly.  That will leave most of us wishing for more.  Here’s hoping this anthology merits several encores, as there is plenty of Nolan material to adapt.

TALES FROM WILLIAM F. NOLAN’S DARK UNIVERSE #3 (Bluewater Productions, March 2013)  William F. Nolan and Jason Brock, writers.  Sergio Medina, art The Giant Man.  Mike Dorman, art Major Prevue.  Warren Montgomery & David Hopkins, letterers.  Mike Dorman, cover.

          In the opening story “The Giant Man” an attractive but neurotic young woman suspects she is being stalked by an enormous man.  However, she is the only person who detects his presence.  When she asks others (her landlord, the police, etc.) to intercede on her behalf there is no one there.  Artist Sergio Medina depicts the giant as a large but unimposing figure, comforting in an odd fashion.  He seems more like a lonely and shy but massive man.  Fear turns to first familiarity and then to fascination as she decides to confront her handsome “shadow” rather than avoid him, and things turn again quickly in an amusing and different way.


          “Major Prevue” relates the frustrations of a middle-aged unemployed  man who decides to seek the advice of a psychic. He was looking for some inspiration or a glimmer of hope in his future, but all the psychic sees is darkness and the end of life.  Finally, he takes a ride into the country just to get away from his badgering wife and stumbles into a seemingly ghost town.  He fails to pick up the hints when he stops at a gas station (“Life’s End Gas”) and gets invited by a shadowy attendant to a free movie premiere at the Styx Theatre.  It’s probably a good idea to vacate a movie theatre when you are the only patron among a sea of empty seats.  This is all depicted in black and white detailed illustrations by artist Michael Dorman.  Now I know where the inspiration for Dorman’s cover to Issue #1 came from.

TALES FROM WILLIAM F. NOLAN’S DARK UNIVERSE #4 (Bluewater Productions, April 2013)  William F. Nolan and Jason V. Brock, writers.  James Bolton art Pool.  Scott Boyce art Vympyr.  David Hopkins letterer.  Scott Boyce cover.

          This issue has the best combination of art so far in this series.  Poolrelates the story of a professional hit man and an unexpected overnight stop in a small Rhode Island town during his trip to Providence to fulfill his next contract.  The art reflects the creepy, withering nature of the queer town and its populace . It just makes sense since Providence, Rhode Island the hometown of horror legend H. P. Lovecraft that he must have gotten his inspiration from somewhere close by.  Bolton’s art evokes fond mDark_Universe_4_coveremories (and scares) of EC Comics’ classic TALES FROM THE CRYPT.  It’s done in a similar style.

          It’s been said that during the final moments between life and death, one’s past life flashes before the eyes just before the lights go out.  If we are witness to the death throes of a vampire who’s had the benefit of centuries of experience - - just how long might that flashback take? “Vympyr” gives us a front row seat.  The complimentary art by Boyce is art poster quality and deserves some dwell time as well.

          DARK UNIVERSE is not available through the conventional means of distribution, namely via Diamond Distribution.  It can be easily obtained in digital format via numerous sources including ITunes, Amazon and Comixology.   Print copies are available through EBay and www.comicfleamarket.com .

Sunday, May 26, 2013

INTERVIEW: Adapting horror fiction to a graphic format


William F. Nolan is perhaps best known for coauthoring the novel Logan’s Run with George Clayton Johnson, and has written hundreds of pieces, from poetry to nonfiction to prose.  He also had a long career in the movie industry, and co-wrote the screenplay for the 1976 horror film Burnt Offerings which starred Karen Black and Bette Davis.  Nolan has also been a prolific editor of collections (by others), and anthologies, frequently with Jason V. Brock.  He has received the Living Legend in Dark Fantasy award by the International Horror Guild in 2002.  In 2010, he received the Lifetime Achievement Stoker award from the Horror Writers Association (HWA).

Jason V Brock is an American author, artist, editor and director.  He is the CEO and co-founder (with his wife, Sunni) of JaSunni Productions, LLC, whose documentary films include the controversial Charles Beaumont: The Short Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man, and The AckerMonster Chronicles.  His novella, Milton’s Children, was published by Bad Moon Books in early 2013.  He has partnered with William F. Nolan as co-editor on several anthologies.  They most recently worked together on Tales from William F. Nolan’s Dark Universe comic book adaptation of Nolan short stories. (Available from Bluewater Productions).

DARK UNIVERSE is meant to showcase graphic adaptations of stories contained within the DARK UNIVERSE omnibus, a collection of short works by author Nolan.  Plans are to adapt these stories into six individual issues and then later collect them all in a trade paperback or hardcover edition.  (Note: A review of the first three issues was featured on this site in February 2013.  An updated review will appear on this site shortly. )

Further insights regarding the production of Tales from William F. Nolan’s Dark Universe were obtained during a recent conversation with the authors:


Why adapt Dark Universe for comics?  Why not an audio presentation, such as a CD?  Or a movie or TV series?  Even a stage play?

Jason V Brock: It's a natural, really. I mean, Bill's (Nolan) stories are visual and have a lot of visceral impact, so when we put the original deal together with Bluewater for Logan's Run: Last Day and the subsequent Logan comics, we asked for a mini-series of the horror titles. Plus, once they come out as comics, then the plan is to collect them together in a graphic novel format with an introduction from the two of us. Should be quite a package—

William F. Nolan: Exactly. Darren (Darren G. Davis, publisher)  at Bluewater was working on a Vincent Price series at one time as well, so it was a logical extension of that idea.  I've always liked adaptations of my work into comics, which has happened on other occasions, so when we got this going, I asked to adapt half, and wanted Jason to adapt the rest.  We did six stories apiece, so twelve total.  They turned out well, I think…  

Strangely enough, I did have an audio version of several of my stories done by an outfit in San Francisco. We recorded them with sound effects, actors, and full introductions read by me.  It never materialized, unfortunately. 

Brock: Yes, it's too bad. I was with you during the recording of the intros. They were to be streaming on the web, then CDs later.

Nolan: Right.  An anthology movie would never work, for the same reason an anthology TV show wouldn't – no one seems interested in that format these days.  Now a stage play is an interesting idea.  I wrote one about Dashiell Hammett called Dash that's been performed a few times.

Whose idea was it to do a comic book version of select stories?

Nolan: Mine, as I recall.

Brock: That's correct.

How hard is it to adapt?  Are certain stories selected because of ease of adaptation?  Or, other criteria?  Are there some stories that you would like to adapt to comics that aren't possible because of content or difficulty to translate to a visual medium? 

Brock:  Adapting stories is harder in some ways, and, like film or TV adaptations, sometimes one has to alter the original story to achieve what the visual medium of comics requires—


Nolan: That's right.  People never understand that about movies or television.  Sometimes you have to rewrite or rework things, combine elements, drop things, and so on.  Doing a straight "literal" adaptation almost never works.  The only exception I can think of is The Maltese Falcon.  It was a near verbatim copy of the book, but that's another story… 

  We each chose the stories we wanted to do; I adapted the stories of mine that I felt had the best characters (‘The Halloween Man’, ‘Major Prevue Here Tonite’, ‘Heart's Blood’, ‘Ceremony’, ‘Starblood’, and ‘The Partnership’).  They are some of my favorites in the collection (Nolan's Stealth Press horror omnibus Dark Universe).  Jason really did a great job, though!  The stories he picked were very hard to adapt, I think.  I know I couldn't have done them!  And he pulled it off beautifully, I might add.  

Brock: Much appreciated.  It was fun.  As you say, I had to change a few things to make them work, but they came together well… My main criteria were I wanted to do something memorable, something that doesn't normally get adapted.  Plus, we wanted to avoid things that others had adapted previously, too. 

(Brock adapted the following stories: ‘The Pool’, ‘Vympyre’, ‘Him, Her, Them’, ‘The Giant Man’, ‘Boyfren’, and ‘A Real Nice Guy’.)

Is there a new revised print edition of Dark Universe the anthology coming to market?

Brock: Actually, yes, that's in the works.  I am the editor on Bill's upcoming new collection, which was originally to be published by Arkham House, but which fell through with their apparent dissolution.  Too bad, as it would have been an interesting fit for them, and is pretty much completed.  I was able to garner interest for it from the fantastic Centipede Press, however, and I believe it should be out in time for the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England later this year, which we will all be attending.  It's called Like a Dead Man Walking and Other Shadow Tales, and will feature about 90% new, unpublished material, with a few classic reprints to round it out.  Later, Jerad (the publisher) is planning on a huge, current Best Of William F. Nolan that I convinced him was a good follow-up to this, and that will be, I believe, a part of his Masters of the Weird Tale series.  It will have science fiction and horror, as well as some literary works and poetry.

How are the artists selected for the stories?

Brock: Darren G. Davis (the president of Bluewater) handles all of that—

Nolan: We do get some say over the type of art, but he does the artist selection, as Jason pointed out.  I love the art in the Tales from William F. Nolan's Dark Universe series, and really liked the art in most of the Logan series, especially the first four issues.

How much of the comic layout and panel art is determined before assigning to the artist?

Nolan: Well I write the scripts for the comics as a sort of screenplay format, with basic scene setting, character description and so on, but I use all the dialogue from the stories, and the plots.  Jason works a little differently, I know… 

Brock: True—I prefer to write very detailed scripts, and break down each scene into panels with a lot of specifics for the artist.  I had to do that, as a few of the ones I adapted were quite short, and these had to carry over half of a twenty-two page comic.  Of course, I use the setting, plot, and dialogue (mostly) from the stories…

How much does the artist contribute?

Brock: For me, not a tremendous amount in terms of characterization and paneling; in terms of artwork and the "look," a great deal…

How easy or hard is it to translate these stories to an illustrated medium?

Nolan: I grew up on comics, and I used to write comics with my departed pal Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone), but they weren't horror titles.  I like adapting works into other mediums, so it's fairly simple for me— 

Brock: Well, it depends a great deal on the tale that you're adapting, I think.  Some are easy and others are more difficult.

Are there any benefits to a comics version of these stories? More impact? Able to tell a story in less pages because of the visual/text capabilities?

Brock: I think it's a great way to introduce younger readers to new stories.  The challenge was to expand rather than condense, as Bill has a spare writing style, so I really had to wring more from the story without resorting to a padded feel. 

Nolan: I agree with Jason.  Young people love the visual impact, so it gets them to read more, and if they like these, then maybe they'll check out the books we do.

Compare this work to your work on the Logan's Run comic.  Was it easier or more difficult to adapt, Dark Universe or Logan’s Run?

Nolan: We didn't actually adapt any of the Logan series—


Brock: That's true, though I have done a one-shot based in that world called Logan's Run: Solo. It's an original piece, however, and not an adaptation.  The story is about a very far-future Logan and what happens to him as an aged Runner.  On Logan’s Run: Last Day we were consultants, and did the costume designs and plotting of the story over the first six issue arc, then Paul J. Salamoff wrote it. 

Nolan: I have to say that I've read Logan's Run: Solo and thought it was just fantastic.  Ingenious what Jason did with the character and the scenario.  It's going to be an aspect of the upcoming book we're planning to co-write in the Logan universe called Logan Falls, which will turn the franchise upside down— 

Brock:  Well, I hope it does… It will also incorporate, like Logan's Run: Solo, the pieces from the Bluewater Logan's Run: Last Day series called ‘Future History’, which I created but was not credited with.  I'm reclaiming all of that back-story, as it was mine anyway, and both of us felt was one of the more interesting aspects of the series.  It was a way of modernizing the older elements of the Logan saga; I want to deconstruct the "Logan mythos" and do more with the characters. 

Would you like to work in comics again?  On what sort of project?  Do you have any plans to do so?

NolanOf course.   I love comics!

Brock:  Yes.  I enjoy the medium a lot.  We are doing a couple of things currently, but can't discuss them yet.

What else are you presently working on?

Nolan:  I'm always working on about eight or ten books at any one time… Jason mentioned a few of them.  Hippocampus Press is doing a collection of my writings about Ray Bradbury which is due out very soon called Nolan on Bradbury; it's edited by S. T. Joshi, and has pieces from Ray, Jason, S. T., and Greg Bear as well…  And of course waiting on the Logan's Run re-make! 

Brock:  Well, we just dropped our documentary on Forrest J Ackerman (The AckerMonster Chronicles!) to rave reviews, so Sunni (my wife and film editor) and I are promoting that.   As I said, Bill, Sunni, and I will be at several cons throughout 2013, from World Fantasy to World Horror, to Norwescon, and OryCon…  Then I just had my standalone novella, Milton's Children, come out from Bad Moon Books. Hippocampus Press is also releasing my first short story collection, Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities soon, and I'm still working on NAMELESS which is a biannual digest… You can grab that in PDF and print format.  The work doesn't end!


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WHAT'S NEW? May 20, 2013

MAJOR SPOILERS PODCAST: Check out www.majorspoilers.com for a variety of podcasts on subjects near and dear to our pop culture cravings. It’s the new home of WAYNE’S COMICS, a podcast that I try to follow. WAYNE’S COMICS PODCAST #90 features a great interview with writer John Layman, who discusses his work on CHEW, DETECTIVE COMICS and many others.

TOP SELLER FOR APRIL: It’s great to see a book that’s not a Marvel or DC title break into the top sellers list. JUPITER’S LEGACY reached #3 in April 2013 based on pre-orders through Diamond Distribution.

BRANDON PETERSON IN MARYLAND: Artist Brandon Peterson (Age Of Ultron) will visit Comics, Cards & Collectibles (100A Chartley Drive, Reistertown, Maryland) on Saturday, June 1 from 1 to 5 p.m.

DC HUNGER FUND-RAISER: DC Comics fans really supported their We Can Be Heroes crowd-funding campaign in a big way. The original goal was to raise $50,000 for non-profit agencies to provide hunger relief in Africa. By the end of the campaign that amount had tripled to a total of $152, 941. The upside is that comics fans have heart and will turn up for a worthy cause.

VALIANT INTRODUCES H.A.R.D. CORPS.: The newest revival of original Valiant characters will be the H.A.R.D. Corps, set to debut this June in HARBINGER WARS #3 and #4. This promises to be a different spin on the group, and if it follows the trend of successful re-imaginings of Valiant characters it will be a welcome one. Supposedly summoned by Project Rising Spirit to control the conflict between Harbinger Foundation, Bloodshot and Peter Stanchek’s Renegades the H.A.R.D. (Harbinger Active Resistance Division) Corps jumps into the fire. In July, writer Jim Zub and artist Edwin Huang (both of Skullkickers fame) debut with a one-shot short story about H.A.R.D. Corps recruitment efforts. Episodes of the story will appear in every Valiant title that month. (Spoiler alert!) All that’s known for sure is that Bloodshot will join the team, as his title becomes BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS with issue #14 in September. I’m a bit apprehensive about that latest announcement. I recall RAI, a great title from the original company, that morphed into RAI AND THE FUTURE FORCE in a directional change that was not for the better. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one.

MORE CROWD-SOURCED AND FUNDED SERIES NEWS: What began as an ambitious four-issue miniseries funded through Kickstarter became an Indiegogo campaign to fund productions costs for the first issue only. The new horror comics series EVIL JESTER PRESENTS has completed funding after raising $5,645 in contributions. We are looking forward to seeing this in print. The original line-up of artists and writers was premium quality all the way.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Comics Are For Everybody . . . . . . . . . . .

From the official press release . . . . .


History remembers the sacrifices of icons like Rosa Parks and the efforts of Dennis Banks, Cesar Chavez, and other great defenders of American civil rights. However, less is known about the rise of the gay rights movement, which many say started as a result of the Stonewall Riots. Bluewater Productions looks to commemorate the event and examine its legacy in an upcoming comic book.

The Stonewall Riots, scheduled for release on the 44th anniversary of the infamous New York City riots this June, centers around the events and culture leading up to the riots, the incident itself and its historical significance as the genesis of the Gay Pride Movement.

“Civil rights are not just an American tradition; it’s a birthright,” said Bluewater president Darren G. Davis. “When I recognized that Stonewall was quickly fading into an obscure footnote, I had a obligation to remind people that civil rights comes in all colors, shapes, genders, political views and social choices.”

In June of 1969, a Greenwich Village, New York bar frequented by the then underground gay community called The Stonewall was raided by police. This sparked a violent incident, which quickly escalated into a fully-fledged riot and six-day siege.

The 32-page comic book is written by Michael Troy and illustrated by David T. Cabrera.

Troy (“A Minute with Margot” and “The Gays on Film”) added, “As time goes on, we’re in danger of losing this important touchstone of our cultural history. In an age where gay rights and marriage equality are still such hot buttons, it's more important now more than ever, to remember the efforts of those who fought for gay rights.

The special edition comic book, which is being funded through a crowd sourcing campaign through indiegogo (like Kickstarter), is not the first book Bluewater has published that centers on gay issues. Several of the company’s popular biography comic books feature openly gay subjects such as RuPaul, Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O'Donnell or cover alternative views on gay rights such as those covered in the Rush Limbaugh biography.

But more importantly, Bluewater was one of the first comic book publishing companies to breach the subject of HIV with their action-adventure fiction title Lost Raven. The main character learns he has been infected with the HIV virus and embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery. Lost Raven was awarded The Independent Book Publishers”, graphic novel of the year in 2009.

“Facing persecution, prosecution and a violation of civil rights, the homosexual community simply wouldn’t tolerate marginalization anymore,” Troy added. “But the aftermath of Stonewall lead to more demonstrations and eventually open dialogue and the establishment of some basic human rights. And that is what we are celebrating while we are flying those rainbow flags during the parades.”

According to Davis, interested patron can make financial pledges to the crowd sourcing campaign at the Indiegogo website: http://bit.ly/15NQqGg

Backers are entitled to various rewards based on their level of participation including being drawn into the comic, dedicating an issue and even having the books donated in their name to various national gay youth organizations. All of the money raised is being invested in the production, distribution and backer rewards of the book.

Bluewater’s biography comic book series has been embraced by the media and featured on television news outlets including The Today Show, The View, MTV, LOGO and on CNN. The series has also been featured in many publications such as The Los Angeles Times, The Advocate, Time Magazine, and People Magazine.

About Bluewater Productions
Bluewater Productions Inc. is one of the top independent production studios of comic books, young adult books and graphic novels. Its extensive catalog of titles includes the bestsellers “10th Muse” and “The Legend of Isis” ”Bluewater publishes comic books in partnership with entertainment icon William Shatner (“TekWar Chronicles”), legendary filmmaker Ray Harryhausen (“Wrath of the Titans,” “Sinbad: Rogue of Mars,” “Jason and the Argonauts,” et al) and celebrated actor Vincent Price (“Vincent Price Presents”), Additionally, Bluewater publishes a highly successful line of biographical comics under the titles “Female Force” and “Political Power.”

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

What's New? May 12, 2013

INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN UPDATES: The IRON KING fundraiser previously mentioned has completed funding. They raised $12,313. The new horror comics series EVIL JESTER PRESENTS has also reached their goal of $5,000 and will be able to produce the first issue (of a planned four issues). You can pre-order a copy of Issue #1 at www.eviljestercomics.com. Lastly, the DC Entertainment "We Can Be Heroes" campaign to supply food to Africa raised a whopping $152,941! All hail the power of crowdfunding.

PLANET DEATH CONTINUES: The epic story continues this Wednesday 5/15 with X-O MANOWAR #13 with more incredible art from Cary Nord.
Here's a one panel preview courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Variety is the spice: zombies, crime, outer space, horror

THE COLONIZED  #1 (IDW, APRIL 2013) Written by Chris Ryall. Art by Drew Moss.

               It’s Zombies versus Aliens!  What more could you ask for?  There is actually more, such as a militant faction going head to head with an environmentally-conscious group.  Both reside in a small-town Montana cColonized01_cvrAollective community and the recent death of their leader sparks the power struggle. 

There’s a vibe to this book that resonates like the more likeable parts of the MARS ATTACKS movie, comics, and original trading cards.

An alien exploratory craft enters the atmosphere and transports a human from ground level to their ship to make introductions.  Turns out they hovered over a cemetery and tractor-beamed a zombie aboard their ship. Mayhem ensues and their ship crashes, with the community coming out to investigate.  You might be surprised by what occurs next, and that’s why the description ends here.  THE COLONIZED  #1 is a promising beginning, with clever art that keeps a light-hearted touch on the more grisly scenes.  This is worth checking out.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #2 (Marvel, June 2013) Brian Michael Bendis, writer. Steve McNiven & Sara Pichelli, pencils.

While the storylines of this new series look to be epic and cosmic in scope, there is still a light-hearted side to the problem-of-the-moment rather than a doom-and-gloom serious or dark side.   That’s abetted in part by the light humor and banter between the team members.  Rocket Raccoon's role seems to be to provide the jokes and wisecracks, although he also displays a streak of deviltry when it comes to dispatching the enemy.  He is still hard to accept as a likeable character, which is not helped by his cartoonish name.  Does he even have a proper name? Is it just . . . . Rocket?

guardians 2

Bendis is a master of dialogue and interplay between characters, always entertaining and injecting a dash of realism whenever possible.  In effect, these fantastic events and situations become coated with a thin sense of plausibility that makes it easier for the reader to swallow. McNiven and Pichelli do a masterful job on the art and continue to employ widescreen panels that sometimes spread across two pages, making everything seem more epic and cinematic.  The colors and shading are very dynamic in this book.

Issue #2 shows the team in action, with the proper amount of spotlight on each character.  The Guardians put down the Badoon space fleet that has invaded London airspace but don’t entirely resolve all the problems put before them.  The sidelight this issue is some back-story detailing how the Council of Galactic Empires came to make the decision to place Earth on “hands-off” status.  It’s not exactly the same as it was related to Peter Quill/Starlord last issue.  His father, King J-Son of Spartax, leads the discussion of the council and we quickly learn that he is a classic manipulator, able to put various spins on the same scenario as suits his purposes.  This has been a fun book so far that deserves to attract some attention from readers.

HOUSE OF GOLD & BONES #1 of 4 (Dark Horse, April 2013) Corey Taylor, script. Richard Clark, art. Dan Jackson, colors.

A man in a charcoal gray jumpsuit (prison uniform, or janitorial/service gear? The nametag says “Zero”) wakes up in a strange meadow, finds his way to a stone building, meets a weird wraithlike presence that refers to him as “Human”, and learns this is “Allen”, his twin.  Human needs to find the House of Gold & Bones in order to get back home.  This is the introduction to a seemingly allegorical tale of a quest.

House of GB

Inspired by the Stone Sour album House of Gold & Bones, this is yet another in a series of comics written by musicians.  This time it’s by Corey Taylor, of both Stone Sour and Slipknot fame.  This introductory issue (titled “The Overture”) seems just a little too slow and plodding in its tale of discovery, and also fails to build enough interest in what may come later.  The art is interesting but not engaging.  The colors and inks are the best things on display here.

Taylor has been in a writing mood.  He’s also finished his semi-autobiography A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Heaven (Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process) to be released this July in hardcover and e-book editions.



JIRNI #1 (Aspen, April 2013) J. T. Krul, writer. Paolo Pantalena, pencils.

               JIRNI is part of Aspen’s 10 FOR 10 project, 10 new titles with $1 first issues celebrating the first decade of Aspen Comics.  It’s a deft blend of Arabian Nights lore with fantasy elements in a new world of sword and sorcery.  Main character Ara is a displaced princess searching the world for her mother, kidnapped by a sorcerer.  However, this is no pampered princess, as Ara displays her fighting skills in bloody fashion a la Red Sonja.  Regular readers of fantasy and barbarian epics will be on familiar ground here.  The introductory story is well-written, but breaks no new ground and seems interchangeable with several other series of similar settings.  The women as depicted are all scantily-clad and well-endowed as per the Zenoscope house style, which it should remind readers of.   Series artist Pantalena was heavily involved in character design for the book, and his art is very striking.  The colors and inks in this series seem to pop off the page.  It’s a delight to look at.  Hopefully, the story will become just as engaging in future issues.

JUPITER’S LEGACY #1 (Image, April 2013) Mark Millar & Frank Quitely, co-creators. Mark Millar, writer. Frank Quitely, artist. Peter Doherty, colors, letters, design.

There is more dialogue bejupetertween characters in this debut issue than you can find after reading five or six issues of KICK-ASS (also by Millar).  After completing the first issue, it’s very hard to determine exactly where the storyline is headed or even who will be the major players.  It’s a large cast and they have not all been introduced yet.  If you are a fan of Frank Quitely, then it’s worth sticking around for several more issues just to admire more of his unique art style.  Influences from Barry Windsor Smith to Moebius and John Cassady are put to great effect in his work.  Quitely stands apart from other illustrators, and his artwork is very distinctive.  In JUPITER’S LEGACY, he opts for a compressed style featuring smaller but widescreen panels as well as more panels per page than usual for him.  Most likely this is a solution to keeping each issue at a reasonable page count considering the amount of exposition the story entails.

Following the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression, a group of formerly privileged and educated business executives seek a way to restore greatness to their beloved country. They find their way to an uncharted island and whatever they discovered there transformed them into costumed superheroes, returning hope to a desperate country.  Flash forward to the present day and the expectations that their equally-endowed offspring will carry on their legacy.  But this new group is not so sure of themselves.  Some of them do not share the vision of their parents, or their morals and values.  Some want no part of the family business.  Some feel they should use their powers in other ways, such as helping to correct a poor economy, poverty, and corruption in government.  A super-villain gets defeated in very unconventional fashion, a method that some would find both questionable and wrong.  Many of the young superheroes have a lot of idle time on their hands and indulge in drugs and other vices, as can be frequently witnessed in this debut issue.

X #0 (DARK HORSE, April 2013) Duane Swierczynski, story. Eric Nguyen, art.


If you crave some violent crime stories and are yearning for new works similar to the run of Garth Ennis on PUNISHER MAX, then this is a book you’ll want to give a look.  X #0 strips the story down to all-out violence and brutality, with a main character with apparent Punisher-like motivations (which are yet to be explained).  Kill shots, car bombs and nail bombs, severed limbs, and blood, blood, blood are featured prominently.  Nguyen knows how to depict events for maximum effect. Warning: This book will disturb many readers.

X #0 reprints the story from the three-issue run of X in DARK HORSE PRESENTS #19-21 and serves as a prelude to the four-issue mini-series that will debut on May 8.  It’s an ultra-intense re-boot of a character from Dark Horse’s previous 1990’s venture into super-hero titles (Comics’ Greatest World).  The setting is Arcadia, a town in decline and over-run by criminals and corrupt politicians.  X’s modus operandi is to mark an X over photo head-shots and mail them to his intended victims in advance of his coming.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Moody, atmospheric horror: The team that can’t miss

B.P.R.D.: VAMPIRE #1 of 5 (Dark Horse, March 2013) and B.P.R.D.: VAMPIRE #2 of 5 (April 2013) Story by Mike Mignola, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon. Art by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. Colors by Dave Stewart. Letters by Clem Robins.

If there are any “can’t miss” scripters in horror comics today, then Mike Mignola would be at or near the top of the list. If you are not picking up any of the various mini-series he’s been involved with the last few years (HELLBOY, B.R.P.D., BALTIMORE, etc) then you are depriving yourself of some ultra-premium quality work.


The imagery by Ba and Moon in the opening five pages is mesmerizing. Without dialogue or captions, the art reveals the details of a grim event while the coloring by Dave Stewart embellishes it further with dark tones and shades of red in stark contrast to the white, wintry woodlands. A dark river stained red by the floating corpses of various ladies in gowns creates enough dread in the reader to carry forward until the end of the issue.

These images also dominate the dreams as well as the waking moments of B.P.R.D. agent Simon Anders in Fairfield, Connecticut 1948. They are having a profound effect on his personality and demeanor, changing him into an angry, driven man. There is a connection between the images and a past event, involving twin aristocratic vampire ladies and their dominant escort. It revolves around a remote wooded shrine where vampires worship the goddess Hecate. Anders is determined to find the source and kill the vampires. It is hinted that there is a link between these events and Anders’ past.

The script, art, and exceptional coloring/shading by Dave Stewart work together in compelling fashion to portray the moody, atmospheric setting for the tale of Anders’ quest. It’s just another fine example of the talents of this incredible team.


Issue #2 gives a fine example of the art style that helps to immerse us into this strange setting. The cover depicts a moment of discovery in shades of gray and black, indigo and smoky blue, with just a splash of red dripping off a knife and leaving a vivid trail in the water. Throughout the book, the subtle and sometimes obvious little details move the story along and allow readers to walk the cobblestoned streets and alleys of a Czechoslovakian village with Anders and the comely local research assistant assigned to help him. Witch maps in the archives of B.P.R.D. headquarters have led him here, and the memories return as he finds the woods of his dreams.

This story is taking its time to play out, and is all the better for it. More details are layered on as the investigation continues through a village without men, some prophesizing crones, and the disturbing history of Wilhelm Von Rosenberg and descendants. The nose of the aristocratic ruler in an old portrait is remarkably similar to the profile of Anders’ nose. Pick up this series now and become enchanted. Kudos to Mignola and company.