So you’re in a low-budget play and the script requires a treasure map. If you’re like me, your best bet is to hit Long John Silvers and pray that they have a placemat or something that you can make do with. If you’re Mattias Adolfsson‘s daughter, on the other hand … oh, wow, are you in luck.
I’m trying not to post about Ben Caldwell every single day, but he’s making it difficult. Look, I resisted when he posted this picture of George Washington and a cave-girl fighting Zombie Blackbeard, but then he had to go and make an actual comic out of it. I’m not made of cave-stone here. Click the link to see the whole, one-page comic, then join me in begging for more.
The mythic world of Steve Horton and Michael Dialynas’s Amala’s Blade is divided into two warring groups: Modifiers, who use technology to improve their bodies and eliminate defects, and Purifiers, who eschew such modification. Amala, a young girl, is chosen to become the new leader of their country and to bring the two tribes together, but when strangers arrive at her house to bring the news, she flees into the night and joins a band of assassins instead.
Amala’s Blade will run as a three-part series in Dark Horse Presents, starting with issue #9 (on sale in February). The series kicks off with a battle of wits and weapons between Amala and a pirate captain. I was intrigued by the premise, so I asked Horton and Dialynas to explain where they got the idea for Amala and where they are hoping to take it; Dialynas also shared some of the concept art.
Robot 6: Let’s start with the elevator pitch: What is Amala’s Blade about, and how is it different from all other adventure/steampunk comics?
Steve: Amala’s Blade is about a girl picked at age 8 as a spiritual leader, raised by the state to stop civil war between two halves of the same country. She runs away instead, is kidnapped, and ignites 20 years of war. Recruited into a sword orphan cult instead, she’s trained as an assassin, and now she’s the sole surviving member. Making her way as a killer for the unscrupulous Vizier, her past is catching up with her in a hurry. To be honest, there aren’t a whole lot of adventure/steampunk books out there, and there’s certainly nothing at all like Amala. I wanted to do it because it was different, fun, and had exactly the right artist in Michael Dialynas.
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Welcome to the turkey hangover edition of What Are You Reading?, your weekly look into the reading lists of the Robot 6 crew. Our special guest today is Andy Hirsch, creator of Varmints and artist of The Royal Historian of Oz.
To see what Andy and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
Walter Simonson has been posting lots of pirate art lately on the Official Walter Simonson Page at Facebook. In one post, he describes the project as “one story in a set of stories I’m working on for a single project. So, basically, it’s a one-off of a character I drew in another one-off 30 years ago.” One reader guesses that’s a reference to Captain Fear, an early-’70s DC character from Adventure Comics whom Simonson drew some back-up stories about for Unknown Soldier in 1981.
Rich Johnston concurs and offers an old quote from Simonson referring to the Golden Age stories as “beautifully drawn,” but “an historical rat’s nest” with ships, uniforms, and weapons from many different time-periods (or no recognizable time-period at all) appearing in the 1850s.
Captain Fear later appeared in John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s Spectre series in the ’90s as well as Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Doctor 13 story in Tales of the Unexpected. Most recently he’s shown up in last year’s The Outsiders #26 and Peter Tomasi and Gene Ha’s story from Superman/Batman #75. There’s no telling exactly what Simonson’s working on, but I’d love to hear guesses in the comments.
Writer Greg Rucka and artist Rick Burchett launched their swashbuckling steampunk webcomic today, Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether. As announced back in April, Rucka said the comic is “steampunk, pirates, western thing,” noting it would feature airships, floating islands, gunslingers and sword fights.
“Swords are cool. People fighting with swords are cool. Airships are cool. Cowboys are cool. Pirates are cool. Clockwork men are cool. Smart, savvy, witty women are very cool. Laconic gunslingers? Totally cool. Steampunk? Frosty,” the strip’s “About” page reads. “That’s what Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether is, that’s what it’s about. The adventures of the Lady Seneca Sabre and those she meets along the way as she travels the Sphere. Who she fights, who she foils, who she befriends. It’s about adventure and romance and excitement and, to paraphrase the great Zaphod Beeblebrox, ‘really wild things.’”
They plan to update the comic every Monday and Thursday, and they’re also selling a limited edition print (above) featuring the title character. Go check it out, or at least add it to your RSS feed for updates.
The Unsinkable Walker Bean
Written and Illustrated by Aaron Renier
First Second; $13.99
As popular as pirates are, you’d think there’d be more comics featuring them. Certainly there’ve been some good ones over the years. Isaac the Pirate and Polly and the Pirates immediately come to mind, but the most recent of those is more than two years old. And even then, that’s not a lot of pirate comics for a time when Jack Sparrow was the hottest thing going at the box office. Since then, there’s been what? Boom! did a nice one-shot called Pirate Tales about four years ago and there was also Galveston, a pirate-Western mash-up by the same publisher, in 2008. That’s not a lot, but maybe I’m missing some. Let me know in the comments. It’s hard to believe that we haven’t even had a licensed Pirates of the Caribbean comic yet (outside of some short stories in the old Disney Adventures Magazine). That sounds like a no-brainer.
One reason for the shortage of pirate comics may be that it’s damn hard, apparently, to write an original pirate story. I interviewed Chuck Dixon about it back when he was promoting CrossGen’s El Cazador. When I asked him how we end up with so many bad pirate stories, he said that the problem is not having a story in the first place, but relying on a string of clichés and hoping that’ll suffice. As anyone who’s seen Cutthroat Island or that Walter Matthau movie will tell you, that’s true. You need a lot more than just peg legs, buried treasure, and a character who talks like Robert Newton.
Aaron Renier’s doing his part though. The Unsinkable Walker Bean is as original as it is swashbuckling and adventurous. It’s the story of a young boy named Walker Bean who’s never been to sea, but comes from an ocean-faring family. In fact, his father and grandfather both serve in the navy of the fictional country they belong to.
Wowio has a nice little promotion going on: Once a month, they offer a free graphic novel e-book. This month’s choice is Gary the Pirate, by Scott Christian Sava, and to get it, you just have to go to Wowio’s Facebook page and “like” them—you can download the PDF straight from the page with no muss, no fuss, no DRM.
Gary the Pirate is a cute story about a klutzy pirate (he knocks over a whole row of pirate ships early in the book) and a girl who isn’t quite ready to grow up yet. There are some tender moments and a battle between pirate ships in the sky. The art has a Disneyesque feel to it, and it’s definitely a kid comic—there are no sophisticated asides for the grownups. But it’s great to have on your computer or iThing if there are going to be young folks in danger of getting bored over the holiday season.
Something spooky this way comes: Over on the Fantagraphics website, you can find previews and pre-order info for a pair of creepy kids comics from European comics superstars. First up is Toys in the Basement from Blab! mainstay Stéphane Blanquet, about a kid who shows up for a friend’s Halloween party in an embarrassing bunny costume, only to get stranded in the basement with a secret society of very pissed-off toys. Fanta puts it this way: “Imagine Toy Story as reimagined by David Lynch and Charles Burns and you’ll have a good idea of what this story is like. And yes, it is for kids!” Sold!
Next up is The Littlest Pirate King by Epileptic genius David B., adapted from a story by Pierre Mac Orlan. In this tale, a baby is adopted as the mascot for a crew of undead pirates, but things change as he grows up. Fanta notes that this will be David B.’s first full-color graphic novel to be released in English, and that alone makes it worth the price of admission even if you don’t enjoy pirate skeletons, in which case I don’t wanna know you anyway. All-ages meets All Hallow’s Eve!
One of the books I read over my summer vacation was The Unsinkable Walker Bean (my review is here), and it’s perfect summer reading, a smart, witty adventure tale with pirates, mer-witches, a cursed skull, and even a little magical steampunk. Now it’s more than just a book, it’s a window display: Creator Aaron Renier has set up a pirate ship, mer-witch (complete with glowing eyes) and general undersea weirdness in the window of Quimby’s, a Chicago comics store. Check out the pix at the First Second blog, or the full set on Flickr. And if you happen to be in Chicago (I just left, more’s the pity), Aaron will be at Quimby’s for a book signing tonight at 7 p.m.
Every day people post comics on the Internet. Here are some of the ones that caught our eyes.
“Death Tales” by Jaime Hernandez
Back at the D23 event in September, Disney announced they were doing a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, subtitled “On Stranger Tides.” This caused several people to wonder aloud, “Hey, does this have anything to do with the 1988 Tim Powers book of the same name?”
Yes, it does. Geoff Boucher with the L.A. Times catches up with Powers, who says Disney optioned the book almost three years ago. His book is about a group of pirates, including Blackbeard, searching for the Fountain of Youth … which viewers of the third Pirates movie may remember being mentioned at the end of that movie:
“I’ve watched all the movies several times, of course, and I think the clear thing they would use is the trip to the Fountain of Youth,” Powers said. “My main character doesn’t overlap with Jack Sparrow at all [in personality or circumstance]; they’re totally different characters. I suppose they might overlap the Geoffrey Rush character Barbossa and Blackbeard. The only thing I feel certain they will hold on to is the Fountain of Youth since they telegraphed that at the end of the last movie.”
The movie is scheduled to come out in the summer of 2011.
Welcome once again to What are you reading?, the weekly column where the Robot 6 team runs through what comics and other stuff they’ve been checking out lately. As Chris is in Bethesda this weekend, I’m filling in for him as your host.
Our special guests this time are Philip Gelatt and Rick Lacy, creators of the Labor Days graphic novels published by Oni Press. Volume two, Just Another Damn Day, is now available in finer retail establishments everywhere. (You can check out a preview here).
See what they’ve been reading, as well as the rest of the Robot 6 crew, after the jump …
Cursed Pirate Girl #1-2
Written and Illustrated by Jeremy Bastian
Olympian Publishing; $4.95 each
On the back cover of Cursed Pirate Girl #1, Mike Mignola calls Jeremy Bastian a genius and declares, “I almost never see work this original.” If pirates and Bastian’s whimsical and detailed style aren’t enough to make you curious, praise from Mike Mignola – who knows a thing or two about originality – concerning the book’s uniqueness ought to. I mean, that’s like hearing David Petersen call it “stuff that makes other artists jealous and comic readers drool.” Oh, wait. That’s on the back cover too.
I promise I’ll get to the book itself in a second, but there’s another remarkable quote on the back of the second issue. Painter Gail Potocki calls the series, “our generation’s Alice in Wonderland.” Which is interesting because one of the first things you notice when you open it is the influence of classic Alice illustrator John Tenniel with his opulent linework and exaggerated body types. Another way of describing Bastian’s style might be, “Jeff Smith as inked by Gary Gianni.”
But there’s much more to Potocki’s Alice comparison than just the art. Lewis Carroll’s stories were joyous celebrations of childhood and imagination. And while Bastian’s book isn’t as nonsensical as Carroll’s, there’s certainly that sense that anything can happen. And often will.
My wife and I flew down to Anaheim, Calif. last night to attend Disney’s first-ever D23 Expo, a fan convention focused on anything related to the House of Mouse. The event kicked off on Thursday with a presentation by Bob Iger, Disney CEO, which we unfortunately missed, but you can read about what he said about the Marvel deal over on CBR.
We picked up our badges — or, actually, wristbands — last night, and headed over to the Anaheim Convention Center this morning for our first full day.