Novelist, comic book writer, and also comic book reviewer for www.BrokenFrontier.com, also website marketing coach for the Online Marketing Solutions company Push Traffic dot com. Incidentally, I am also the worst writer in the world.
Auction to benefit Josh Medors' fight with cancer at this year's Emerald City Comic Con
23 April 2008 (Berkeley, CA) - Unknown to the general public, FRANK FRAZETTA'S SWAMP DEMON, RUNES OF RAGNAN, WILLOW CREEK, GI JOE and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT artist Josh Medors has been fighting cancer for the past several months. In his time of need, Image Comics and Frazetta Comics have stepped in organize an auction with all proceeds going straight to Josh.
"Josh is a good friend, father and artist.
With the support from the comic industry that he loves so dearly, we can all help with costly medical bills and ease his pain just a little would be most appreciated," said Frazetta Comics Editor/Artist Jay Fotos.
“We are under a crunch, for the show is just a few weeks away, so anyone that would like to donate please contact me as soon as you can so we can get your donations there for the auction in time, we are also taking PayPal donations as well that go directly to Josh.
Many of the industry's finest are donating items to auction, including Frank Frazetta himself. Any other creators interested in donating are encouraged to contact Jay Fotos at email@example.com.
The Josh Medors Benefit Auction will take place Saturday, May 10th at the Emerald City Comic Con. If you would like to make a PayPal donation, please do so to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributors thus far:
Frank Frazetta, Jerry Beck, Brian Haberlin, Tom Beland, Mark Kidwell, Todd McFarlane, Nat Jones, Tony Moore, Peter Bergting, Richard Starkings, Steve Niles, Kody Chamberlin, Jay Fotos, Rick Remender, Christian Beranek, Ahmet Zappa, Image Comics, IDW Publishing, Zenescope Entertainment
Awakening 1-4 Review by Dave Baxter, posted March 18, 2008
Words: Nick Tapalansky Pencils: Alex Eckman-Lawn Inks: Alex Eckman-Lawn Colors: Alex Eckman-Lawn
Story Title: N/A Publisher: Archaia Studio Press Price: $3.99 each Release Date: March 19, 2008
It’s easy to think we’ve seen it all when it comes to zombies, especially these days, the thus-far height of the sub-genre in all recorded history.
Movies, novels, webcomics, online animation, cartoons, manga, anime, television shows, magazines, even music albums that are entirely devoted to the subject, each piece and performance presenting its own take on this now grown-into-the-mainstream classic. Incredibly fast zombies, intensely slow zombies, science based and magic-based, religious overtones or sheer nihilism, true-blue horror or blended with superhero and/or pulp adventure elements— we’ve seen it all. We have. So what does Awakening, a new 10-issue maxi-series from Archaia Studios Press have to offer us that we haven’t slogged through before via every respective medium available?
In a word: composure. There’s plenty within Awakening to connect it to the classics, pieces such as evil corporations and possible experimentations gone wrong, detectives and shambling flesh-eating figures. Yet writer Nick Tapalansky uses these tropes to blindside readers with a story within the story; he offers comfortable clichés in order to lure the average zombie-horror fan into an epic that isn’t going to play by the rules. Not entirely.
Beginning with issue 1, right from the offset, the story suits itself to the stylings of artist Alex Eckman-Lawn, whose highly fine art strokes demand a certain slowness, sparsely dialogued pages and an execution that depends on moments that exist on their own four-framed merits, panel by panel, rather than a never-ending series of celluloid-like progressions. That might make you think of the Golden Age, every panel pronouncing an event before moving on to the next, and in a way, that is what Awakening tends to do, though not with the boisterousness of a Kirby or a Lee, but rather, with the atmospheric power of a Sienkiewicz or a Templesmith.
This isn’t a gore fest, or a schlock parade or action adventure. Awakening is the closest thing to a real-world zombie urban crime drama as anyone’s likely to see, and even better, it still retains a certain horror-epic slant, at least as revealed in the latest issue 4. Tapalansky writes an oddly-paced but very effective narrative, intertwining numerous protagonists as they confront the possibility of actual zombies and the many, many horrors such things entail. Tapalansky has a knack for knowing when to speed things up and when he’s allowed to slow back down, when to toss out an unforeseen element and when to play it closer to what’s expected. In the end, four issues out of ten come and gone, Awakening looks to be a very unpredictable but meticulously crafted new angle on the same-old everyday zombie.
And then there’s Eckman-Lawn, the artist, he of the exquisite composition and dense, multilayered technique. Imagine an entire art gallery, a nighttime nightmare show telling an epic tale of zombie apocalypse as you walk through its winding halls, and that, in a nutshell, is what you get reading Awakening under Eckman-Lawn’s direction. His style is lush, though appropriately eerie and somber, often simply plain ol’ vanilla mesmerizing when he whips out a splash page or moment of intensity, as his art always matches the intent of the story event at hand. Awakening becomes alive and unforgettable via his vision, and matched with Tapalansky’s matchless concept, this maxi-series in one for the books, a zombie story unlike any other.
Not everyone will gush after sampling this oddity of a horror comic, it’s true, though I suspect that most will. Some may find it too quiet, too tediously dramatic and mellow and trudging in its tempo, but for anyone who sincerely wants to find the next horror concept comic that should be mirrored by writers and artists everywhere for years after its done, aping such an original thing until it’s no longer anything of the sort, then Awakening will prove a unique experience, and an immensely satisfying one at that.
Story Title: Cemetery Things Publisher: Ape Entertainment Price: $19.95 Release Date: March 12, 2008
Sullengrey follows the exploits of Grey, a fair-skinned, dark-featured lad whose best friend is a Grim Reaper plush doll. He’s a boy that wears a substantially wide scarf to cover an odd skin condition about his mouth (amongst other places), and he lives within a cemetery, talks to the dead, and remains tortured by his past. The town that he and his cemetery are a part of—Autumn’s Grove—is a pleasant place, though its pleasantness was long-ago carved into being by the locale’s many buried sins. Now, both Grey and Autumn’s Grove are about to be discovered and uncovered by young photographer Salam, a girl that’ll stop at nothing to determine the horrors that lurk beneath the surface of Autumn’s Grove.
That sounds serious, and it is, but Sullengrey is not a straight-forward horror book. It’s flavored by the more glamorous elements of the genre, the gothic and the goth, the kitschy and the comedic. Creator Drew Rausch is best known for working on SLG’s The Haunted Mansion and Tokyopop’s The Dark Goodbye, and any who’ve seen his highly expressionistic Cabinet of Doctor Caligari style angular art will have a solid idea on what to expect. Think the metaphysical and urban-surreal qualities of Ted McKeever mixed with a hefty dose of irreverence and true-blue horror à la Little Scrowlie and Dogwitch.
Scripted by Jocelyn Gajeway, she pens this inaugural volume with a disconcerting (though arguably effective) blend of sincerity, dramatic credibility, and schlock-fest B-movie banter and bathos. The story is staunchly self-aware of its style and intent, its goals and its genre influence-provenance. In a way, this makes for a nearly deconstructionist goth horror epic, a story that is to the dark and weird sequential what Cemetery Man was to the giallo. Often, I wanted less whimsy than Gajeway and Rausch chose to pack into Cemetery Things, as I found the rhythm of serious to flippant to be executed in too haphazard a fashion, but then this flip-flop is a part of what Sullengrey owes its existence to: a genre that mashes cute and utterly moribund into one seamless whole. There are moments to chill the blood, to raise an eyebrow at the writers’ overly wry modernist flourishes, to gasp at for sheer cool and well-played shock factor.
Though chock full of excellent sequences, Sullengrey, at least in this first volume, does fail to establish a voice and stick to it. It a way, the creators seem to flounder now and again at trying to define what they’re ultimately going to be - what part horror and what part humor? Where to establish the expository backstory, in what form, with what sensibility? More than once Gajeway and Rausch poke at a story element a few times before simply spitting it out in exasperation, and in all such instances, the revelations fall flat, too sudden and offered in a method unbecoming to the rest of the saga’s nuance. But in both story and art, Cemetery Things does manage a steady growth and maturation from issue to issue (or in this collection’s case, chapter to chapter), both creators noticeably coming into their own by the fourth and final installment.
This transitions us nicely to a paragraph about Rausch’s artwork: it begins as eye-catching, though comparatively (comparative to where it arrives at the end) it’s an awkward thing. Rausch has since become a smooth, polished, and atmospheric illustrator, though three out of Cemetery Things’ four chapters are pre-Rausch-the-Amazing and lean more toward Rausch-the-Overly-Hyper. His early pages are kinetic and overworked to the point of appearing like Keith Giffen on something decidedly illicit, and his digital coloring, while nothing offensive, is simple and flat in the way most early digital coloring appeared, once upon a time (and still often does). However, Cemetery Things is Rausch’s caterpillar cocoon, and by the final episode he bursts forth from an artist’s chrysalis as a beautiful, beautiful butterfly, his colors and his linework some of the very best since Ben Templesmith first came onto the scene and showed horror fans how it could and should be done.
Final verdict: Sullengrey is going to be pretty goddamned cool from hereon out, and it is, in the final moments of Cemetery Things, but its beginning bits may be too raw for some. If you’re already a fan of gothic horror and especially the more fanciful small press and manga-derived "cute" goth horror, then even the early chapters will hardly have you batting an eye. Cemetery Things suffers from certain storytelling potholes, an uneven narrative that rattles as often as it offers a smooth silky ride, but by and large, the creators do seem to get it under control before the back cover is closed.
The story itself is engaging, and the sequel looks to surpass the beginning in every way. I’d recommend CT mostly for what’s to come, rather than on its own merits alone, but that’s still a mighty big merit, and depending on how much does come after this, perhaps a bigger and better merit than being the only good volume of a longer, poorer epic. I get the feeling this’ll be the reverse: a shaky beginning to an awesome ongoing.
Story Title: N/A Publisher: Ape Entertainment/ Spacedog Entertainment Price: $5.95 Release Date: May, 2008
Seriously: "Fiction Clemens"?!? What’s in a name? Instant intrigue and impossible to resist allure is what. Not only does the book sport an awesome title, but take a look at the premise: soft-spoken gunslinger Fiction Clemens, on the run from the son of a powerful tycoon, stumbles across a conspiracy to bring the Old West kicking and screaming into the Space Age! Bizarre? You bet. Enthralling? You better believe. Impeccable storytelling and eye-popping art? On every goddamn page.
Ape Entertainment has proven an up-and-coming powerhouse of a small press company, steadily improving and impressing over the years, but nothing has quite nailed their oddball flavor of classic genre fare re-spliced into something wholly else like Fiction Clemens.
The main character himself is unforgettable, a man of few words and always small font-ed ones at that. A dead shot and a quick draw but like the best of anime heroes he’s a lazy bastard until provoked. The villains are marvelously endearing and yet resolutely villainous, the vista of Fiction’s Old West populated by Tim Burton-esque grotesqueries. Michael Avon Oeming is quoted as claiming: "if Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton had a love child, it would be the world of Fiction Clemens", and he’s absolutely right. The humor is black and yet somehow light-hearted and impressively ever-present.
Writer Josh Wagner ("So This Robot Walks Into a Bar..." , from 24Seven Vol. 2) makes his full-length debut with Fiction Clemens 1, though he’s already got one novel (see below) under his belt, a wild book which in fact co-stars his toothpick-gnawing hero of FC. Even beyond the novel, Wagner additionally financed and created a Fiction Clemens movie trailer, a sincerely well-made piece of cinema that can be found at http://www.fictionclemens.org/, which was crafted during a period when FC was originally a screenplay, a thickset manuscript that awaited only a Hollywood-sized budget to topple serendipitously into its writer’s lap. Needless to say, the something-million dollar paycheck didn’t occur, but the concept of turning the film into a comparatively budget-less comic book did.
We get to reap the rewards of Wagner’s brainstorm: under his distinctive voice and unerring sense of pace and plot and personality, Fiction Clemens is hands down the best book Ape has yet released. The comedy is laugh out loud and the characters fascinating. The story itself kicks off with a bang and hardly ever relents. Interestingly, the story isn’t fast-paced, but the sheer wealth of elements introduced and explored keeps the narrative from feeling as though a dawdling or ever stalling thing. The dialogue is natural and rhythmic and dense, every character wielding a unique voice. When the more fantastical moments arise the story takes on a weightier quality, a mystique that should impel readers to return for the following issues two and three.
But Wagner’s inimitable script, being so inimitable, is one hard pressed to partner up with an artist who’s got the chops to showcase all essential elements, without losing the book’s as-a-whole, fine-tuned effectiveness. Yet the one-named "Joiton" is indeed such an artist. To try and compare his style to others would demand a list longer than this entire review and more, so many styles seem to be rolled up and on display within his pages. Surreal, impressionistic, cartoony, animation-like, all are words that work, though even all-together they fail in offering a solid definition that suits.
Joiton’s layouts are superb, his sequential storytelling skills better than most mainstream comic artists, yet his forms and figures are disproportionate and wild, wielding a sensibility on par with popular avant-garde comic artists such as Drew Rausch and Doug TenNapel. Further prettified by Alejandro Marmontel’s colors, Fiction Clemens is a book that—panel for panel—begs to be studied and explored, though Joiton’s dynamic eye for action and expression allows Fiction to be a breezy read besides.
Fiction Clemens is slated to run for three issues, each 52 pages in length, full-color, and sets to tell the entire "origin" of the title character and his partner/sidekick Dune Trixie. Technically, Wagner’s prose novel (again, see below) which boasts Fic’s first appearance is actually, chronologically speaking, an adventure that takes place after the comic series, after Fic and Dune’s pulp adventure status quo is set and they’re blasting across time and space like the best of Burroughs and Moorcock, only in decidedly more whimsical a fashion. Fiction 1 is an exceedingly enjoyable reading experience, one that prompted me to devour the "sequel" novel in two days flat. Look below for links to everything, the comic, the movie trailer, the novel, and then treat yourself to one of the best new concepts to hit comic stands in years.
Fiction Clemens 1 is on page 211 of the March issue of PREVIEWS for national release in May, ORDER CODE "Mar083428"
Words: Becca Smith and Carrie Smith Pencils: Elena Casagrande Inks: Elena Casagrande Colors: Matteo Gherardi
Story Title: N/A Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: March 12, 2008
Thanks to a darker edge having emerged within the television show, IDW tackles the Jennifer Love Hewitt hit series armed with regular show-scripter Becca Smith.
Much like the recent IDW Doctor Who series, penned by longtime Who producer/editor/writer Gary Russell, IDW’s The Ghost Whisperer is scripted by show regular Becca Smith, alongside her writing partner Carrie Smith. What they produce then is a comic that’s likely in line with the current trends of the show’s most recent season, a book about a girl who can see and talk to ghosts, now tinted with a slightly occult and horror-laced edge. Melinda Gordon encounters the ghost of a vengeful high school girl while inside a local café, a spirit with an unhealthy fixation on three still-living girls. Melinda soon discovers that the ghost believes itself to be empowered by the Egyptian god Osiris, and therefore unstoppable. And she plans a murderous revenge. But Melinda knows such pantheistic gods don’t actually exist…do they?
Being a comic, The Ghost Whisperer 1 gets to kick-start some things the TV show wouldn’t have the budget to manage, like towering dark gods and the special effects they accrue. The story still sticks to the show’s guns, nothing too overt or horrific, nothing action-oriented. The story is largely a parable, about
kindness to others, the unforeseen consequences of actions, and the value of revenge, though while the supernatural elements are heavy, they never really move the story into high-thrills territory. Becca and Carrie Smith have chosen a clever ongoing thread for the comic—that of a possible dark god having descended and taken note of Melinda—but this is no Supernatural. Don’t expect demons and monstrosities and the undead to be unleashed.
Ghost Whisperer keeps things light, in tone if not in theme, and should prove a marvelous all-ages read, but for the more hardcore amongst us it may be a bit of a let down, at least in the frills department. The characters are generally flat, though purposefully so, more cliché than complete personalities. Again, this tends to fit the show’s flavor, having adults that banter like teenagers and ghost-story adventures that are confronted like everyday teen melodrama. The dialogue is well handled and the pacing keeps things chugging alone, if occasionally awkward and too sudden in its transitions.
Hot off her one-shot solo debut in Star Trek Alien Spotlight: Orions, Elena Casagrande handles the art with colorist Matteo Gherardi. In compliment to the story, Casagrande’s art is dynamic, and leans toward the hyper-realized, a providential pairing with the Smiths’ low-key script. It doesn’t help breathe any kind of reality into the characters, but Casagrande’s work does give it a sense of much-needed urgency. Her layouts are intuitive, her figures expressive: all around a very good choice, a strong book visually.
The Ghost Whisperer, the television show, is not my cup o’ joe, and neither ultimately is the comic, but the comic does remain faithful to the intent of the show, and the one ongoing element I did very much dig (Osiris! Is he real?) is a damn good one. The Smiths will hopefully offer up a bit more character to the main character in future issues, and not assume everyone reading the comic will require or even desire nothing from them in that corner, but outside of this, there’s little to dislike. A quality comic, but so far only for the fans.
As many will note, it's been a while, but I'm back and ready to tackle this blog again. I've actually been a busy bee and been posting regularly over at my Myspace Blog, and now I'll be posting everything I've been putting over there, over here. In about a week we should be caught up and moving on to more original things.
Now on with the show!
Pogrom 1 Review by Dave Baxter, posted March 12, 2008
Words: Matthew Tomao
Pencils: Josh Medors
Colors: Robbie Ruffolo
Story Title: Visions of Vice
Publisher: Devil's Due Publishing/Hypergraphia
Release Date: March 12, 2008
One of the trickiest reviews I've had to write in quite a while, Pogrom is a difficult book to define. It's daringly different, but does it succeed?
In writer Matthew Tomao's own words, Pogrom is his response to the hypocrisy of organized religion (note: organized religion, not spirituality in general). Pogrom is a story set inside a dystopian future, one ruled by "The Watican" and its figurehead, the Presipope. The series follows the resurrection of Grand Inquisitor Sabbath, a violent military figure who dies shortly after the Watican begins a year-long siege on Pax Africana. But the Seven Sins—seven demonic figures that embody their own personal weakness— plot to resurrect the Inquisitor, thinking to use his state of in-between being as a gateway to Earth from its toxic mirror-counterpart, that lies on the other dimensional side of things. But Sabbath proves more powerful than the Sins presupposed, and so instead of being a pawn he begins a slow rise back to power, hunting down those who gave him life, and reconstituting himself into a being far greater than he ever was before.
Now, here's the thing: that above summation…was extremely difficult to write. I'm not even certain I didn't lie, somewhere, up there, as I'm not at all convinced I followed the issue's happenings. Tomao unwraps an alien world without, sadly, much detail. A few nations are referenced, and the primary religious nation of the Watican is unveiled, but beyond that, this first issue, even at a whopping 48 pages, sticks to only a few central characters, locations, and events, and even those seem difficult to assimilate.
Let me mention the good things (there are quite a few): no one who's seen the website or viewed the preview or peeked in on the advance press for this book is going to be able to resist. The cover by Ben Templesmith is extraordinary, and the interior art by Josh Medors is utterly appealing as a horror comic aesthetic. The story is undeniably stacked with exotic and heavily mythological ideas, characters and sequences that can't help but enthrall with their majesty and eerie grandeur. Pogrom delivers on its promised elements and thematic impact. At least in general.
But (and this is a big but) the story, as a story, is off to a shaky start. The dialogue is purposefully obtuse. The demon or "Sin" named Gluttony acts as narrator for the better part of the issue and his wordplay is nearly as indecipherable as Beat poetry. Military figures come and go from the scene, the resurrection of Sabbath occurs in multiple stages, and the Sins, coming and going without rhyme or reason, come and go without rhyme or reason (that sounds redundant, but it's not, it's the actual reading experience, a kind of two-fold confusion at all times, at least where the Sins are concerned).
There's definitely the sense that a good chunk of all this will be revealed over time, but it's no less confusing as to why Tomao chooses to approach an introduction to such complicated material in so head-scratching a way. I'm all for fiction that engages a reader and makes him work, but Tomao seems a too inside his own head, which understands the significance of every line and drawn thing, and not enough in ours, which understands none of the above.
Medors' wonderfully Kevin O'Neil style hyper-dynamic scrawl keeps the eyes moving and glued, wondering what the next page will bring, though his art does nothing to illuminate the overly-challenging script. Often Tomao's dialogue attempts to offer details that seem oddly removed from the art, and especially since (as I mentioned above) Tomao's chosen narrator Gluttony speaks in a rhythm and syntax demanding to grasp, when the art additionally keeps things murky, the story suffers to a greater degree than it should.
That said, Pogrom is a comic everyone should experience, if only to say "what the *&^ was that!??" out loud, in high shrill tones while loitering at the racks of their local comic shop. It's unforgettable, and leaves a mark, two things that I absolutely must give as merits. I applaud Devil's Due and Tomao for pursuing so unique a thing as Pogrom, but for a book that holds a message, and a book that's multifaceted by default, without the creators having to even try, I hope the story and the backdrop both come clearer, and soon. Innovation is praiseworthy, but innovation for innovation's sake without a solid grip on originality's natural unwieldiness is simply a failed experiment. If Pogrom pays off, it'll do so in a big way, and make one killer graphic novel. I'm hoping it falls into that category—there're still six issues to go plus a sequel already in the works, so plenty of time.