Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Last month Head Lopper Andrew MacLean shared with me that he was working on a webcomics project written by Dark Horse editor Jim Gibbons and colored by Ryan Hill. The good news is that their comic, Mars: Space Barbarian, is up now, featuring a spear-wielding barbarian fighting monster birds in the “jungle of the space slug’s belly.”
The bad news? It’s only five short pages. Five fun sword-and-sorcery by way of crazy space opera pages, but still, just five pages nonetheless, with the promise of more at some point in the future.
“Amidst the kind words, many people also asked us when there’d be more Mars,” Gibbons wrote. “The short answer: We’re working on more now. The longer answer: This is a passion project and doesn’t pay the bills (Though, one day, maybe…). We all have to do other work for that, so we’ll be working on Mars as fast as the rest of all our other work allows. But, in our randomly updating format, we’ll aim to keep a steady flow of content here in the form of sketches and process posts when we don’t have new pages to post. Thanks for your patience on this front, folks. We’ll pay you back for it in awesome comic pages currency just as soon as we can!”
Check out “Only the strong” from the beginning by going here.
Task Force Rad Squad is a comic about friendship. And alien monsters. And friends coming together to fight alien monsters inside a giant robot.
If you grew up watching Power Rangers, or are at least familiar with them, you’ll probably dig this comic. Creators Caleb Goellner, Buster Moody and Ryan Hill have taken the concept and spun it on its head, creating something that shows their love for the Power Rangers while also being unique unto itself. The trio is selling it online, both digitally and in print, and took the time to answer my questions about the series, its inspiration and their approach to selling it.
As a prime mover in U.K. comics since the 1970s, Pat Mills has been directly or indirectly responsible for promoting entire generations of artistic talent. He was IPC’s go-to guy for launching comics in the mid-’70s, and even after his stint editing 2000AD; many great artists there tended to get their first breaks working on his strips, which surely can’t be coincidental. Similarly, although he didn’t edit Crisis, he was arguably the driving force behind the comic, where again an entire generation of new comickers earned its stripes 00 and then yet again at Toxic!, where several noticeable new artistic talents worked on strips written or co-written by him.
Mills is at it again, bringing on Fay Dalton as co-artist with Clint Langley on American Reaper in the Judge Dredd Megazine. Mills was on the panel of judges when Dalton won a competition ran by the illustration agency Pickled Ink in 2010 to find an artist to draw the graphic novel Party Girls by Jenny McDade, some sample pages from that project can be seen at her website, her work then revealing the possible influences of James Jean and Frazer Irving. A further look around her website now reveals an artist influenced by the golden age of commercial illustration, such as the work of Robert McGinnis, and her comic pages (as previewed at Mills’ blog) show some influence from Look In-era John M Burns. She’s came a helluva long way in the three years between the two projects. Here’s hoping she stays in comics for the long run: her work is like nothing else being produced in the form right now.
Conventional wisdom has it that free webcomics are supposed to be leading us to print versions that we’re willing to pay for. In the case of K. Lynn Smith and Plume, it’s worked the other way around for me. I was unaware of Smith’s webcomic until it was announced as a series for the reinvigorated Devil’s Due, but the concept – and the samples I saw of Smith’s art – grabbed me. After reading the two issues out so far, however, I got impatient for more and headed to the web version.
The title of the comic comes from something the main character’s father once told her: “Revenge is like a plume of black smoke. It seems tangible, but when you reach for it, you’re grasping nothing but air.” That – and the story’s opening on the main character’s holding a gun and surrounded by dead bodies – is a huge clue about where the story is headed, but it doesn’t reveal the most interesting part of this supernatural Western. Vesper Grey is the daughter of a treasure-hunting archeologist who’s given her a magic amulet he found. The amulet is attached to the soul of a young man name Corrick, who’s received supernatural powers along with the obligation to protect whomever wears the talisman. No spoilers, but it’s not hard to predict where the revenge element will come in, even though that hasn’t explicitly been revealed by the second issue.
Except for Corrick and some magical artifacts, the world of Plume appears to be the Wild West that readers are familiar with. Smith gives it a touch of magic to help it stand out from other Westerns, but the comic’s real draw is Smith’s skill at creating memorable characters and making readers care about them. She hooked me with humor, often just by way of expressions and body language, and that’s what kept me going through the two, printed issues. There was so much foreshadowing around the revenge plot though that I got anxious waiting to see it start and hit the Internet.
After working for years at WETA Digital on movies like Avatar, District 9 and Tintin, artist Tim Gibson had a story of his own he wanted to tell — and he chose comics to do it.
Working on the project in his spare time (with a little funding assistance from the New Zealand government), last year Gibson debuted the innovative online comic series Moth City. Set in a fictional island off the coast of China that’s reminiscent of a 1950s-era Cuba, Moth City is a murder mystery wrapped in noir by way of South Asian comic stylings. It’s packed with shrewd tycoons, communists and a love story, laid beneath a veneer of soot.
The ugly truth is that I can’t afford Dark Horse Presents. Not without making cuts to my pull list that I just don’t want to make. Fortunately, publisher seems to understand this, and is making it easy for me with its zero-issue program, collecting stories from DHP into one-shots that may or may not lead into ongoing series. I’m able to keep up with some of my favorite creators and characters this way in a format I enjoy, while also discovering some new stuff like Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas’ steampunk/fantasy comic Amala’s Blade.
A couple of things attracted me to the one-shot right away: its sword-wielding heroine, and Dialynas’ art. The look of the comic combines the expressive designs of someone like Faith Erin Hicks with the European-influenced grittiness of maybe Simon Roy. There are also cyborg pirates and a monkey in a derby, but I never know how much I can trust those things. Besides the derby-wearing primate that ripped me off in St. Augustine that one time, it’s easy for writers to throw gimmicky concepts into a story just to elevate the Awesomeness Quotient. It’s a whole other thing to be able to integrate those concepts into the world in a believable way and make them work for the story. Horton’s script does that not just with the crazier story elements, but with the genre itself.
More often than not, steampunk is a setting, not a genre. Most “steampunk” stories I read are that way only because someone decided to throw in some goggles, gears and maybe an airship or two. In Amala’s Blade, Horton and Dialynas explore the very idea of steampunk, and in the process call into question its relevance. It’s tough to tell after one issue, but I think this doubting is intentional.
At some point I heard Joe Grahn and Carl Yonder’s Pirate Eye described as “pirate noir,” and for me, the words suggested a mash-up of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Maltese Falcon. I figured it must take place in a fantasy world where fedoras and jazz lived side by side with cutlasses and lace. That would be fun concept, appropriate to the silly title, but I’m grateful to have been wrong about it.
Despite the pun, Pirate Eye is a comic that deserves to be taken seriously. It’s set in the real world during the historical age of piracy, and there’s nothing goofy about it. The main character Smitty is a former buccaneer who now uses his talents for good – or at least, legal – purposes. As he explains it, there’s not a lot of difference between seeking out treasure to take it from someone, and finding it on that person’s behalf. The big distinction is that Smitty gets paid for the latter instead of risking the gallows. Using that premise, Grahn and Yonder will be able to tell all sorts of noir-ish detective stories in the seedy streets of a Caribbean town.
“Radar” is an occasional spotlight on interesting and entertaining comics and creators that are fairly new to the business or may have escaped your notice.
Today brings the release of Dracula World Order, the self-published comic by Ian Brill, Tonci Zonjic, Rahsan Ekedal, Declan Shalvey and Gabriel Hardman. It’s broken into four chapters, each drawn by a different artist, with a cover by Shalvey and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The story revolves around Dracula’s son Alexandru leading a rebellion against his father and the one-percent “vampire elite.”
It’s available on a limited basis from a handful of retailers, as well as online from Things From Another World if you want a physical copy, and comiXology if you want a digital one. I caught up with Brill to talk about the comic, his publishing plan and more.
“… we could use more books with talking tigers, am I right?”
– Joe Keatinge
If, like Joe, you think comics could use more talking tigers, then Ryan Ferrier has the comic for you. Tiger Lawyer, his self-published comic, is now available through his Big Cartel site as either a print or digital comic, and very soon, it’ll start appearing in Keatinge’s Hell Yeah comic.
Ferrier was kind enough to answer a few questions about Tiger Lawyer and his subpoena into the pages of Hell Yeah.
JK Parkin: I’m sure you’ve been asked about this a million times already, but the title, Tiger Lawyer, is the kind that elicits a chuckle and makes you wonder where the idea came from. So, where did the initial idea come from?
Ryan Ferrier: I really wish I had a cool story for this question, but alas it was one of those things that I’ve completely forgotten, though I’m fairly certain it stemmed from something I posted on Twitter last December, something silly. It was a tweet along the lines of Tiger Lawyer being my next comic, made entirely with sarcasm. I do remember gearing up to tackle a different script, and decided to actually write Tiger Lawyer–the script that would become the first short–one afternoon. I immediately posted the script online, and surprisingly, people dug it enough for me to actually make it.