Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nick Dragotta: popular artist makes local appearance

East Of West

          Nick Dragotta, the artist behind the popular EAST OF WEST monthly series made a special appearance at Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, Delaware on Saturday (12/28/2013) and stayed busy for more than two hours sketching and chatting with fans and admirers.

          Dragotta, a former resident of Southern New Jersey now living with his family in the San Francisco Bay area, made a trip back East to visit his parents and stopped by Captain Blue Hen to renew acquaintances. He was a former customer when he lived in the area, often making the trip from New Jersey in order to obtain books not available through regular drugstore, mini-mart, and various spinner-rack sources.


Picture at right: Nick shows by example the intricacies of artwork to a young fan/aspiring artist. . . . . . . . .

          Nick’s fondness for comics goes back to his childhood days when he began collecting comic books as he puts it “beginning with simpler things” and then progressing to more adult themes and more complex art. He was attracted and influenced more by the work of artists like Sal Buscema as opposed to Barry Windsor Smith, who he considered too complex and detailed at the time. His fascination/admiration for comic art led to his enrolling in art school and pursuing a career. He worked hard at his craft before making an impression on Alex Alonso and getting his first sale with Marvel at the age of 28. Alonso then brought him onboard where he went on to illustrate various Marvel titles, culminating in his teamwork on FF with current EAST OF WEST scripter Jonathan Hickman.

          Nick jumped at the chance to work once again with Hickman, particularly with the freedom that Image grants to creator-owned titles.  He was influential in persuading Hickman to transform the concept of a noir western featuring the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse into a hybrid science-fiction/western set in a dystopian version of the United States.

          Dragotta loves working with Hickman, a skilled scripter and a former ad agency worker who has some art/design skills of his own as well.  However, Hickman did not provide design sketches for the characters of EAST OF WEST as some might assume, but wrote character outlines instead.  Nick was given freedom to develop the characters with the exception of Death and Crow, where Hickman had some more defined rules in place.


           Nick says those characters are still evolving and he’s made some subtle and not-so-subtle changes and modifications to them as the series has progressed.  For example, he mentioned that Death’s wife is introduced at the end of Issue #2 with big eyes and an Asian look.  By the time we see her in Issue #5, the look is more streamlined and simple.  Also, as the issues move forward the size of the horse’s head that Death rides gets bigger.


The typical process for producing EAST OF WEST is that Hickman provides an outline, from which Nick decides how many panels it requires and draws the pages. Hickman gets final review and edits the pages before turning them over to the letterer. The letterer inserts the actual word balloons and caption from the new outline provided by Hickman, who has scripted the rest to fit with the artwork. It’s a collaborative process that works well and is a great model for the differences in story-telling that comic books offer. Pictures and words combine to tell the tale. Nick is really enjoying that flexibility, and referred to a Hickman outline for the opening of the book that asked for 2 pages with people coming out of the ground. Dragotta fleshed it out further and expanded it to 5 pages bookended by tall imposing structures. “Image doesn’t care how many pages you use, where Marvel has tighter restrictions” and insists on getting the story completed within the 20-22 pages of their books. Nick prefers the Image method as it expands the scope of what you can do.

When I commented that it must take him less time with a creator-owned property versus working on licensed Marvel properties as he needs to spend extra research time to make sure he is consistent with the appearance of their characters - - Nick revealed that artists working for Marvel are provided with model sheets for each character to help maintain consistency.

          Dragotta has been producing most of his current work in digital form, including EAST OF WEST. It’s making him more productive and helping him to meet deadlines.  He typically pencils and inks on average one page a day, versus formerly taking one full day for pencils only.  He uses software from Wacom, using both Cintiq and Intous Manga to produce his work.  He has but one regret, and realizes that he still needs to do some work on paper. He’s losing art sale opportunities without any originals to sell at comics shows and conventions.


Pictured above:  Two artists sketch for each other. At right is Nick Dragotta, holding the Beetle Bailey sketch made for him.  At left is  Bill Janocha, cartoonist/illustrator from CT now working on the Beetle Bailey comics strip for creator Mort Walker.  He’s holding Nick’s sketch of Wolverine.  Sorry, the sketch details did not come out sharper in this photo. They are both great examples of comic art.

          The first volume of EAST OF WEST is currently available in trade paperback, at an attractive introductory price of $9.99 and is available at Captain Blue Hen and other fine comics shops.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Brilliance onscreen in AMERICAN HUSTLE


           I just saw AMERICAN HUSTLE and was blown away by the amazing performances.  I wasn't sure what to expect before I entered the movie theater, but I was impressed with all aspects of this great movie.

      The movie begins with a disclaimer - - - "some of these events actually happened" - - which is very appropriate since most of the script is the creation of the clever writers.  AMERICAN HUSTLE is loosely based on the late 1970's ABSCAM scandal where the FBI baited some corrupt members of Congress to accept bribes in exchange for favors, and then caught them in the act.   The script writers for AMERICAN HUSTLE then built an elaborate backstory and wove it into the actual events.  I'm sure some moviegoers are going to be confused and end up believing that this is the way it actually happened.  Anyone who does a little research into the actual events will realize that once they learn that all the characters in the movie have different names, including the FBI agents and Congressmen.

     The film is accurate in visualizing that period of time in every intricate detail and is a wonder to behold.  All the actors transform so well into their characters to make them very believable. Director/Writer David Russell gets the best performances from his cast.  Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper are top notch.  I've never seen Amy Adams play a role like this before, and play it so well. And since my only exposure to Jennifer Lawrence was THE HUNGER GAMES film I wasn't expecting much from here.  She is multi-dimensional and incredibly talented.  Her performance here is very note-worthy.  Jeremy Renner is also awesome as the mayor of Camden, New Jersey.  

   It's a great film and one of my favorites of 2013.  You can read more extensive reviews elsewhere, including a very good one from the Washington Post right here . . . . . .

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Artist makes local appearance this weekend . . . . . .

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy Holidays !!!


The BC office received this jovial greeting card from Valiant Entertainment.



Have a wonderful holiday!  Best wishes for happiness in 2014!  Please remain a visitor to our blog site.

Thanks for your support and interest in 2013.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Reason For Dragons = another reason for gifting

THE REASON FOR DRAGONS  (Archaia  Entertainment, May 2013 original graphic novel hardcover $19.95, 120 pages) Written by Chris Northrop.  Art by Jeff Stokely.  Color by Chris Northrop and Andrew Elder.  Lettering by Chris Northrop.  Based on concepts by Chris Northrup and Sean Murphy 2007.  Fantasy.  Publisher disclaimer: This book may contain mild violence or mild profanity.  This book is intended for teen readers, 12 and up. 

    I have a special Christmas wish for every young person out there who feels like a misfit, that they are incapable of making a significant contribution to their own lives or lives of others, and considers themselves outcast in a school of their peers.  May you find a creative work that inspires you, restores your self-confidence and helps you discover that inner spark that makes you special and worthwhile.

    There are tons of choices out there in graphic novels, fiction, audio books, movies and television shows waiting to be explored.  The young adult section in your local bookstore is a good starting point.  I could fill several columns compiling a list, but I won’t.  I’m just going to mention a current work that fits neatly into the category of “coming of age” novels.  That would be A REASON FOR DRAGONS. 


          My reason for aiming the spotlight on this work is not just because it’s a well-written and appealing illustrated “coming of age” tale, but because it’s rich in symbolism and straddles the borderline between fantasy and reality, leaving the details up to the individual reader to determine.  That vagueness makes it all the richer for more seasoned readers who have perhaps read plenty of these types of stories.

  The main character, 16-year old Wendell, is not interested in developing any mechanical skills or even getting some good advice from his stepfather on how to handle the bullies from school that taunt and assault him.  He’s lonely, and often isolates himself when others reach out to him.  He’s most content when he’s reading, escaping into fantasy worlds whether it’s the classic novel Moby Dick or “Wonders & Warriors” guidebooks (role-playing fantasy similar to Dungeons & Dragons).  Amidst the fantasy vehicles and posters that occupy all the open spaces in his bedroom is a lonely framed photograph of his deceased aviator father in a thumbs-up pose, perhaps meant to provide inspiration but too often causing him to feel sad and helpless.

     In many stories like this, the stepfather ends up playing the role of villain or at the least the problem/conflict that the main character has to overcome. They are resented (also by the readers)  because they’ve replaced a loving father, inherited a stepchild that they don’t care for, and often treat them with scorn and disrespect.  On the surface Ted, Wendell’s stepfather, would seem to fit the mold.  He’s big, muscular and macho, loves his beer and prefers to tinker in his garage with his prized motorcycle, affectionately dubbed “Lilly.”  However,  Ted is warm and compassionate, showing empathy for Wendell and a willingness to teach and guide him.  That sets him apart from his peers in many of these type of tales, and helps to endear him to the reader.  (He’s my second favorite character in A REASON FOR DRAGONS, right after Wendell).  It’s not the stepfather here who rejects the stepchild, but the reverse of that.

    The story begins during another moment of rejection by Wendell after Ted attempts to educate him on a simple oil change.  Wendell turns down the offer, retreats to his bedroom but returns later after having second thoughts (perhaps inspired by that photo of his father). When he messes up the job and upsets his stepfather. Wendell flees to a neighborhood park where he can hide beneath a tree and bury his feelings in a book.  His reading is interrupted by some school bullies.  When Wendell actually tries to stand up for his rights, he allows himself to be baited into a challenge:  sneak into the long abandoned (fire damaged) Renaissance fairgrounds and return with a pamphlet/map to demonstrate his bravery.

       Wendell meets a former worker at King Henry’s Olde Faire, still dressed as a Medieval knight (or is this how Wendell sees him?) and working hard to protect the land from a troublesome dragon (again, a real creature or a creature of Wendell’s imagination?) .  Yes, just in case you aren’t reminded a bit of  the classic Don Quixote this knight (later identified as James McGee, missing since the fire) has a suitable handlebar moustache to go along with his outfit and a large lance as well. Of course, there is a large windmill as centerpiece of the old fairgrounds.   Wendell bonds with the knight and joins him in an adventure to uncover, combat and defeat the dragon/troubles. 

  I won’t spoilt the story by revealing anymore details.  It’s worth following because the ending is very satisfying.  This is a tale that could easily be picked up by a middle-school teacher and used in an English class.  Ironically,  the final pages show Wendell back in school two months later where a teacher begins to recite a poem that “tells the tale of a mysterious red-cloaked knight, who appeared out of nowhere in a 14th century town in England.  The knight told tales of his horse, Lilly, who was made of metal, and lost in an epic battle with a fire-breathing dragon.”  Wonderful. 


   Needless to say, several life lessons are learned and applied by Wendell, who seems to have a richer, more fulfilling life as a result.  He’s followed his heart, made some decisions, learned to accept who he is, now willing to accept the wisdom of others, and found the riches to be found in helping others to overcome their conflicts and discover their worth.  You will be touched by this story.

    Along with Northup’s marvelous story,the art of Stokely is simple yet rich, and perfect for this tale. Both story and art will remind readers of the works of Jeff Lemire, who is also extremely adept at depicting and reflecting country life and values.

      A REASON FOR DRAGONS is rounded out by the inclusion of five short stories by various creators featuring the characters from the main story, concept and design sketches, and an equally warm and inspiring preface by co-creator Sean Murphy and afterword by Northrup and Stokely.

The presentation is bookshelf worthy as well.  Archaia always does a fine job with their hardcover books that are among some of the most beautiful you can find at a local comics store.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Bottle

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Clayton Henry
Valiant | graphic novel | $9.99

Archer and Armstrong are an unlikely duo. Archer was raised for the first eighteen years of his life on a defunct Creationist theme park along with his 22 brothers and sisters by their adoptive father who was also a fundamentalist preacher.  Armstrong is an ancient Egyptian named Aram Anni-Padda who stumbled onto immortality and now spends his time drinking around the world and wasting the years away in frivolity. When Archer is ordered to kill Armstrong, they are both captured by a sect called the 1% and as negotiations start for his safe return, Archer realizes his adoptive parents have been lying to and using him his whole life.
Fred Van Lente is best known for his work on The Incredible Hercules with Greg Pak. You can hear my interview with Van Lente in the NYCC interview bonus cast located here.  Clayton Henry has done interior work mostly for the X-family books.
After Armstrong convinces Archer that he is not the devil, the two go off to stop Archer’s adoptive parents from collecting The Boon which activates the Ultimate Machine, a mystical artifact hidden away in Tibet. Along the way, their antics play off the fact that they are so very different in outlook and demeanor. While this sounds like it may quickly fall into familiar tropes, Van Lente actually keeps every interaction fresh and funny.
In the tradition of Valiant moving the story along, by the end of the first trade they find all six parts of the Boon and activate the Machine leading to more problems and further adventures for our mismatched duo. The next couple of trades introduce new characters, new sects and new allies to help them along the way.
The art is clean and detailed with credit to Matt Milla whose use of colors shine here.
Anyone who’s ever read (or written, apparently) a Deadpool comic knows how difficult it is to balance humor with story and action. Van Lente pulls this off with grace, having interwoven each facet into an engaging story.
Final rating (out of 5): 5_Star

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Free Comic Book Day offerings announced . . . . .

          It certainly seems awful early to be writing about Free Comic Book Day, which doesn’t occur until May 3rd, the first Saturday of May 2014.   However,  as this event gets bigger and bigger every year, the planning starts almost as soon as the prior year event ends. 

          There will be 60 FCBD titles offered in 2014.  As these are not free to the comic book stores that distribute them (they pay a small price to help offset printing and shipping costs) you should not expect to find all 60 available at your favorite local comics retailer. 

          A good plan would be to identify those issues you are most interested in, ask your comic store if they are planning to bring those titles in, and ask “would they please save a copy” for you.   There are also online outlets that will sell you these titles  (average price 25-30 cents plus shipping) but I strongly urge you to support your local comics store first and foremost.  After all, the annual Free Comic Book Day event is meant for you and them.  You can view the list of titles at the FCBD website here. . . . .

DC New 52 Futures End                   G of G


          What looks to be the most popular Gold Books come from the big two publishers.  DC offers THE NEW 52 FUTURES END to jump start a new weekly series featuring Batman Beyond hoping to prevent an Apocalypse which would destroy the current DC Universe.  Marvel counters with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY just in time for the movie release and featuring Venom and Captain Marvel as new members.  This is a flip book with an additional tale of Spider-Man by Dan Slott.

          Moving onto the FCBD Silver Books, there are many more riches to be discovered.  These are my personal picks and the books I’ll be asking my favorite comics shop about. 


          Valiant Entertainment previews their next big event with “Armor Hunters” by writer Robert Venditti and artist Doug Braithwaite and others.  The story is a teaser for the main event, featuring character designs and interviews as well as a tight story.

fcbd rED gIANT

  Red Giant Entertainment  is a publisher to watch for 2014; and their double-sized FCBD offering is a nice introduction to several of their titles, with “giant-sized” previews of action, fantasy, adventure, and thrills. 

          One of the better independent series last year was SCAM from Comixtribe.  Their FCBD offering is a one-shot featuring Crosswords, a major villain from that title by writer Jason Ciaramella and artist Joe Mulvey.

        The impressive 2,000 page history of modern Japan by Shigeru Mizuki to be published by Drawn & Quarterly in four separate volumes is previewed in a special FCBD edition offering an excerpt from the World War II period.

          2000 A.D. offers a galaxy of greats with a FCBD anthology featuring Judge Dredd, Slaine, Rogue Trooper, PSI-Judge Anderson, Durham Red and more.

FCBD scam          FCBD Japan          FCBD 2000AD

          Acclaimed writer Kieron Gillen has done some impressive work for Avatar Press with UBER, the story of super-human German soldiers during World War II.  The FCBD offering sums up the series so far, and teases the next dramatic arc.


      I may pass on the following books, but I recommend them as essential reading to anyone familiar with their contents: 

          THE VALIANT UNIVERSE from A to Z is everything first time readers will need to know, offering a great introduction to the origins and secrets of Valiant’s heroes and villains.

      Avatar Press features a special FCBD edition of their BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE with a preview of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie and an issue dedicated to introducing fans to comics books.  There are features on collecting,  preserving and developing comics collections and includes top graphic novel lists and a guide to neighborhood comic shops.

        FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2014 looks to have something for everyone. Mark your calendar now and start thinking about your book choices!


FCBD Valuant                 fcbd bLEEDING coOOL

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Getting ready for the holidays with appropriate music


  One of the few heavy metal bands I have an appreciation for gets me in the holiday mood.  Please give a listen here . . . . . . . . . . . .

Happy Holidays from BC Refugees Blog !!!

“The New Face of Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy”

EVIL JESTER PRESENTS #1  (Evil Jester Press, December 2013)  Anthology of short horror stories. Various authors and artists. 32 pages.  Full color.  $3.99 digital copy.  $3.99 plus shipping and handling for print copies.        

That headline above  is the slogan that greets visitors to the website for EVIL JESTER PRESENTS  #1, which debuted on December 12, 2013.  The good news is that Issue #1 delivers on the promise and deserves the attention.    When you click on the link for press releases, a giant comic page greets (and threatens) you and gives a good indication of what the contents of Issue #1 will contain . . . . . . .

EJP comic press release

         "I’m a hopeless geek with nearly 60,000 comics in my collection—much of it horror—so this is truly a dream project for me," said Taylor Grant, Evil Jester Comics co-founder and editor-in-chief.   "For years I've wanted to bring back the types of horror comics I read as a kid and infuse them with the modern sophistication of today’s best horror writers. We have done just that.”    As for whether or not EVIL JESTER #1 can achieve those ambitions  - - - Grant is dead-on !

          Author Jonathan Maberry begins the introduction to Issue #1 and refers to a developing writer’s imagination and style influenced in the formative years by a steady diet of EC Comics, CREEPY, EERIE and VAMPIRELLA magazines.  He adds:  “That’s probably where I learned how to tell a good horror tale.  They didn’t waste time.  They were mostly six, eight and ten page complete stories that jumped right into the plot and didn’t slow down until the last shocking panel.” 

EJP cover                                                                                                                                                                                                        

         Issue #1 debuts with stories from noted writers Jack Ketchum, the same Jonathan Maberry, William F. Nolan, and Joe McKinney.   Ketchum’s story  The Box’ , adapted by editor Taylor Grant with art by Beni Lobel is the opening offering, and a great choice as the text version was the winner of  a Bram Stoker Award for horror writing.   While all the stories in EVIL JESTER PRESENTS #1 are capable of inducing shudders that originate in the spine, nothing creates a full-body feeling of dread like  ‘The Box’, which may continue to haunt long after the last page is finished.  The tale is narrated by a father, who begins as a happy family member taking his wife, son, and two daughters on a Christmas shopping trip by train when an seemingly innocent moment of curiosity  triggers a dramatic change in the family dynamic.  This goes well beyond the tropes of dysfunctional families -  -  more like disintegrating families.  Even in the most visibly adjusted families, we’ve all heard parents wonder if deep down they truly know and understand their children. ‘The Box’ takes that parental dread and projects it into a worst case scenario.  As the distance between the father and his family members grows further and further apart the sense of isolation and loneliness is overwhelming.  You’ll be making room for ‘The Box’ in your storeroom of memories, as this is a story that may linger on.   Artist Lobel is very adept at portraying facial expressions and conveying the emotions that affect the characters in the story.  Once bright and beaming faces turn pale and indifferent as the story progresses.  Lobel also colored the story, and uses both warm and cold colors in the appropriate panels and scenes.  Chilling, indeed.

          The second story ‘Swallowed’ is also an adaptation of a Joe McKinney tale, done by writer Aric Sundquist with art by Esteve Polls.  It’s a luridly illustrated story of a swampy residential area that creates extra-large events.  When a formerly pet snake, now enlarged beyond python size, returns to its former homestead in search of nourishment there are surprises in store.  This shorter story left me feeling clammy but I squirmed out of that because there were more stories to experience.

EJP Small World

    The next tale, from noted author William F. Nolan, brought back the feeling of dread with its speculative projections of  a long-term alien invasion of Earth.  If you were the invader and wanted to conquer a planet for the long haul, you might want to win over a major contingent of the population to your cause.  Wouldn’t it be much easier to influence and then train younger, impressionable minds rather than focus on the adult population?  That might mean needing to eliminate anyone over a certain age, oh, say six years old.  As adapted by editor Taylor Grant with art from Salva Navarro (that brought back memories of Wally Wood and Jack Kirby) ‘Small World’  is not to be over-looked. The poor adult narrator of the story spends the entire time in flight from pursuit by the younger generation of  . . . aliens?  Guess again.  This is the second favorite story of the issue.

          Issue #1 concludes with  ‘Like Part Of The Family’  adapted from Jonathan Maberry’s story by Aric Sundquist and Taylor Grant, with art by Nacho Arranz.  What starts out as more of a crime/detective tale takes a dramatic turn and morphs into a completely different kind of story.  An attractive woman hires a friendly detective to help enforce a restraining order filed against her abusive husband.  Nothing and no one is exactly who they seem to be. 

EJ logo



EVIL JESTER PRESENTS offers a nice blend of horror and speculative fantasy, and even manages to include some familiar monsters (with subtle changes).  Twist endings.  A general feeling of dread. Stories that get their point across in a minimum of pages and pack a punch.  Congrats to editor Taylor Grant and publisher Charles Day!  I believe you have pulled it off. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Original graphic novels make great Christmas gifts !

WARS IN TOYLAND  (ONI Press hardcover 106 pages, $19.99)  Created by Joe Harris and Adam Pollina.  Finishes by Brent McCarthy.  Colored by Nolan Woodard.  Lettered by Jared M. Jones.

Wars In Toyland cover

          There is a double page single panel of art in this deluxe graphic novel that says it all:  elementary school level Matthew,  still clad in superhero pajamas and sprawled across the bedroom floor, with a giant wood toy box wide open . All his toys surround him, dominated by those familiar green army men and organized into battle groups with various vehicles and stuffed animals joining in.  The look of excited contentment on Matthew’s face is priceless. 

        Admittedly inspired by the classic BABES IN TOYLAND, the original graphic novel WARS IN TOYLAND is a darker look at the realm of Toyland under the rule of a large stitched-up and mean-spirited teddy bear named Roxbury.

      This is my first exposure to a hardcover offering from ONI PRESS, and the results are very impressive.  This is a solid presentation under sturdy binding and covers with gorgeous art, inks and colors.  It’s a beautiful work of art and would make a fine gift for all ages, from those young enough to be read to through middle school and even older, especially for anyone who yearns for those early days of childhood innocence when playtime was king. 


      On the surface level, WARS IN TOYLAND details what happens to young Matthew after he is carried into Toyland by his own toy soldiers via the transportation device of his own wooden toy box.  He learns that his older brother and constant playtime companion Alex disappeared the same way and is now a prisoner of teddy Roxbury.  Matthew’s toy soldiers instantly recognize his leadership and decision-making abilities (“my Captain”) and join him in attempts to rescue his brother and return to warmer confines at home.

         Divided into three chapters that offer conflict/problem, action/consequences, and finally resolution the story moves forward quickly in a very engaging and entertaining fashion.  It’s worth proceeding slowly in order to fully appreciate the fine images in the panels.  The underlying themes deal with the wonders of playful innocence, loyalty, courage, the loss of innocence, the transition to more adult responsibilities, and the acceptance of same.  


         “Ever since I was a kid watching LAUREL & HARDY on Thanksgiving Day, my demented thoughts have turned to wooden soldiers making war on one another,” commented author Harris on the Oni Press website.  (Editor’s note: Harris is referring to the  classic black & white 1934 musical film “Laurel & Hardy in Toyland” a.k.a. “March Of  The Wooden Soldiers.”  I was suitably impressed and touched by the later “Babes In Toyland” from Walt Disney studios in 1961.)  “WARS IN TOYLAND is a story we’ve been looking to tell for a long, long time.  It’s a dark fantasy about the things we throw away, the things we can’t let go of and growing up, in a broad sense, even though it really sucks sometimes.”  (Editor’s Note:  I agree. Sometimes it really sucks to grow up. But, on the other hand . . . . .) 

          “WARS IN TOYLAND is as close to my heart as any story I have ever drawn,” added Pollina.  “As a young child I would spend hours dividing my toys into armies and leading them in some glorious battle.  This graphic novel is heavily inspired by those childhood memories.  I know I feel I’m still finding the courage to face the challenges in my life and win the battles ahead of me.  And this book is an expression of that struggle.”




Thursday, December 19, 2013

Teaser details revealed: ARMOR HUNTERS #1 – X-O MANOWAR and UNITY Spearhead the Valiant Event of 2014

from the official press release . . . . . . .  .


Next summer…Earth will be the greatest hunt of all.

The most ambitious crossover event of 2014 begins in ARMOR HUNTERS #1 (of 4) – the first issue of an all-new, four-issue mini-series by New York Times best-selling writer Robert Venditti (X-O Manowar, Green Lantern) and superstar artist Doug Braithwaite (Unity, Justice).
When Aric of Dacia returned to Earth with the stolen X-O Manowar armor of an alien race, he thought he finally found a weapon to guard the peace and kingdom he’d struggled so long to secure.   But now, a relentless and surgical strike team from the farthest reaches of space – sworn to exterminate the armor and all like it – have found their final target.  The ARMOR HUNTERS are coming. They will hunt.  They will trap.  They will kill.  And they will rid the universe of the X-O Manowar’s incalculable destructive power…even if it means taking the Earth with it.
“2014 will be a year of all-new jumping-on points for Valiant, and ARMOR HUNTERS #1 is the perfect place to start.  (Editor’s Note: I wouldn’t wait this long to jump in if you haven’t already. The current UNITY crossover is fantastic and the place to start exploring the Valiant universe. I was somewhat concerned when  Valiant started to announce all these events and crossovers wondering if they were going to copy the Marvel template. However, they’ve done a very good job on these. )    Robert Venditti and Doug Braithwaite are two of the finest storytellers in the medium. They’ve shaped the Valiant Universe, and we couldn’t be happier to have them architecting ARMOR HUNTERS,” said Valiant Executive Editor Warren Simons.
"X-O Manowar is about to find himself at the center of a firestorm embroiling all of Valiant's most powerful heroes.  Believe us when we say that, in an era of events, the scale, scope and intensity of ARMOR HUNTERS will be the biggest and most daring undertaking we’ve ever attempted,”
said Valiant CEO & Chief Creative OffFCBD_ARMOR_HUNTERS_cov_72icer Dinesh Shamdasani.
ARMOR HUNTERS #1 (of 4) kicks off Valiant’s landmark 2014 crossover event in June.  Then, ARMOR HUNTERS continues with two brand new story arcs beginning in UNITY #8 by New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT, Justice League of America) and rising star Diego Bernard (Eternal Warrior); and X-O MANOWAR #26 by Venditti and Eisner Award-winning artist Cary Nord (Conan).  And look for even more Valiant heroes to join the fight against Valiant’s first full-scale alien incursion as the summer continues.  Further details will follow in 2014.
Next summer, bend the knee…or take the head when Valiant unleashes an all-new starting point for the year's most acclaimed comic book universe, beginning in ARMOR HUNTERS #1 (of 4) by superstar creators Robert Venditti and Doug Braithwaite.

Valiant will offer a free preview of the event as part of Free Comic Book Day in May, 2014.

Ant-Man film for 2015 makes casting choices . . . . . .


from the report at . . . . . . . . .



According to multiple sources, Paul Rudd is nearly confirmed as a lead in Marvel’s Ant-Man movie. Both Variety and The Wrap (via A.V. Club) are reporting that Rudd is close to closing a deal to become the newest Marvel hero.

Both outlets claim sources close to the project have confirmed that Rudd is currently in early negotiations to play the role. Which Ant-Man Rudd will play is still up to speculation. Throughout Marvel’s history, the character/title of Ant-Man has served several owners. The Wrap has Rudd listed to play Henry “Hank” Pym, the original Ant-Man. Variety hints that director Edgar Wright may chose to focus on Scott Lang, a character who steals Pym’s shape-shifting technology to become Ant-Man 2.0.

Variety also points out that the film may contain both characters, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt rumored to play Lang. Fans should have their answer in the near future. Shooting for the film is set to begin in 2014, with a tentative release date of July 31, 2015.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Early Early Preview Images


I’m being teased.  How about you?


Book Review: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter recalls t.v. series

DESTINATION TRUTH: MEMOIRS OF A MONSTER HUNTER by Josh Gates.  Publisher: Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster, Inc.  Trade Paperback (258 pages)

          Entertaining and engaging on multiple levels, Destination Truth: Memoirs Of A Monster Hunter is a fast-paced global journey through four years of exploration and investigation of creature sightings.  It stands as a companion piece to the popular SyFy Channel series of the same name, and provides insight into the character of narrator and leader Josh Gates.  It's a little bit Lewis and Clark, Stanley and Livingstone, and Indiana Jones.

          Gates describes himself as "a professional vagabond, international monster hunter, and paranormal Hardy Boy."  He recounts his first four years of research for the television show in a casual style, as if the reader were hearing it tableside while sharing a drink with the author.  Gates intersperses his commentary with amusing asides and observations that should win over most readers.

          The book opens with a harrowing account of a dangerous flight aboard a rental biplane whose cockpit roof suddenly tears off, forcing a plummeting landing indicative of the hazards, risks and dangers faced by the show's cast and crew on a regular basis.

      In addition to learning of the difficulties and uncertainties that surround a reality show of this nature, the book also serves as a min-manual on how to pitch a series idea to a television network.  Destination Truth: Memoirs Of A Monster Hunter will also delight those with an interest in cryptozoology and animal folklore from remote areas of the planet.

          A natural born traveler, Gates is a member of the Explorers Club and holds degrees in archaeology and drama.  He was recruited by a Hollywood producer (and good friend) who was searching for the right host and was aware of Gates' penchant for travel.

          After a very entertaining and lengthy introduction, Gates gets down to the business of retelling the first four years of research for the Destination Truth show.  Each of the following chapters is categorized into eight case files.  It's ironic that almost every episode of the show fails to turn up any demonstrative evidence of a monstrous creature find or supernatural sighting.  Yet, it remains one of the most popular shows on the channel, primarily because the story of the journey is so captivating regardless of the mission results. 

           As the search team explores the globe in order to validate reported sightings of Bigfoot, living dinosaurs, phantom felines, flying fiends, mini-monsters and jungle demons, super serpents and marine monsters (actual case files) the evidence is never conclusive. The closest the team has come to a real find is a footprint in the Himalayas that may belong to the Abominable Snowman.  (They took a casting, which was later donated to the Disneyworld museum).  A very frightening exploration of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster produces disturbing peripheral ghostly images seen by many team members, but none are captured on film.

          The book also has a stylish presentation that makes it stand out on a bookshelf.  The cover looks like a tattered road journal with bent back edges and the bottom part made to look as if it was torn off.  The interior pages also exhibit a faux look as if they have been worn down from repeated readings, water and other damage.

          Gates aptly sums up his experience in the closing chapter, touching on how he's learned to become a better traveler, learned how to react quickly while looking danger in the eye, and shares his theory on how folklore develops and becomes a reality to so many people.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A World without Superman

JLA: The Nail
Writer: Alan Davis
Artists: Alan Davis, Mark Farmer
DC Comics | Graphic Novel | $14.95
As the Justice League movie approaches, the same question seems to get asked over and over again. How do you make the League seem relevant compared to Superman?  It’s a valid point. What can Green Arrow and Black Canary do that Superman can’t, other than play catch with a ball of Kryptonite? If you were in trouble would you rather call on Hawkman or The Big Blue Boy Scout? Let’s face it; even if you were underwater, you’d be infinitely happier with Superman than Aquaman.
So what would happen if the League existed but Superman wasn’t in it or even active in that universe? A three issue mini written by Alan Davis (best known for his work on Batman, X-Men and various UK comics) and illustrated by Davis and Mark Farmer (also best known for UK comics), JLA: The Nail seeks to answer this question.
Getting ready to head out into town one day, Martha and Jonathan Kent pick up a nail in their tire and decide to just stay home instead as a flaming meteor falls to Earth behind them. Fast forward several years and Lex Luthor is the mayor of Metropolis and there is rampant xenophobia of metahumans. Meanwhile, the League is dealing with the fallout of a recent battle with Amazo in which Hawkman is killed and Green Arrow becomes a paraplegic. Extremely bitter with his former teammates, Oliver tells anyone who will listen that metahumans are actually advance scouts for an impending alien invasion.
On top of all this, superhumans are disappearing all over the world and human villains such as the Joker are being given alien technology to further challenge the League.  The metahumans that do survive appear brainwashed and act out, further exacerbating public fears. Interstellar heroes like Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern can’t even leave the planet because of an impenetrable force field around the entire globe.
The story here is fantastically enacted, showing the dark consequences of a world without a Superman but still managing to have an optimistic ending. Each character of the League is fleshed out far more than you would think possible in a three issue mini. The art is crisp and clear and each major character has his or her own splash page at some point in the mini.  It’s too bad that Davis and Farmer have few US comic credits to their name. Based on this, I would definitely read another title by the two. Though, an important one to mention would be this book’s sequel, JLA: Another Nail.
Final rating (out of 5): 

Early Early Preview !!

Short and to the point.
Summer 2014?
Rather cruel to tease it now.
But I'm ok with being teased like this.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, December 14, 2013

PULP FICTION TODAY: The transition from formerly dime novels to 99 cent short stories

       Compiled from press releases . . . . .
          Lovers of genre fiction and new pulp can now sample short versions of potential purchases via a new digital line being introduced via Pro Se Productions.  The cutting edge independent publisher has introduced the PRO SE SINGLE SHOT digital imprint available now.

         To kick off the line, Pro Se Productions has taken four of the best stories from its existing catalog and made them into PRO SE SINGLE SHOTS. These are available for 99 cents via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  Although word count will vary, the featured stories will generally be 15,000 words or less.  Covers for the Ebooks will either be redesigned covers of the full length collections the stories appear in or, for the tales exclusive to the line, newly commissioned works of art. 
          "There's nothing like a really good short story to an avid reader," says Tommy Hancock, Pro Se's Editor In Chief.  "And now, thanks to the wonders of Ebooks, the ability to pick up one story instead of an entire collection is literally at a fan's fingertips.  Whether it's a story from an existing collection, like the first four in the debut of our PRO SE SINGLE SHOT line, or tales to tease an upcoming work, or even short stories exclusive to the imprint, PRO SE SINGLE SHOT lets readers get a taste of New Pulp in easy to read and easy to get bites."
         "PRO SE SINGLE SHOT is a great way to get acquainted with what Pro Se is all about without breaking open the piggy bank", comments Derrick Ferguson, whose story "Dillon And The Alchemist's Morning Coffee" is one of the four debut singles.  "Just as the name implies, it's a straight shot of pure pulp adventure that's guaranteed to get your heart pumping and your blood racing." 
          Ferguson's story, as featured in BLACK PULP, joins Andrea Judy's 'The Bone Queen' - - the original short story introducing her stunning Pulp villainess in THE PULPTRESS collection.  There are also two tales from Barry Reese's RESSE UNLIMITED imprint - - "Kaslov's Fire" from THE ROOK VOLUME 2 SPECIAL EDITION and "The Girl With The Phantom Eyes' from THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY VOLUME ONE.
         "I'm excited about this new and affordable way for readers to discover my pulp heroes!" says Reese.  "Pro Se has done a great job selecting stories that are exciting gateways into these series."

 The first four singles - - THE BONE QUEEN; THE GIRL WITH THE PHANTOM EYES; DILLON AND THE ALCHEMIST'S MORING COFFEE, and KASLOV'S FIRE are now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  Four additional singles will be released the week of Christmas as a second wave in the line's premiere.  After that, at least two new singles will be released every two weeks.
 Andrea Judy, author of THE BONE QUEEN adds: "I'm very excited to be included, and happy that Pro Se is expanding into this line of Ebook.  I think it's amazing!"  To learn more about Pro Se Productions, go to and