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ACT-I-VATE goes to the movies

The ACT-I-VATE Experience

The ACT-I-VATE Experience

Seth Kushner and Carlos Molina have put together a documentary on the webcomics site ACT-I-VATE, which will debut at the Baltimore Comic-Con in October. According to Kushner’s blog, the film will include interviews with many of the site’s creators, making movie stars out of Thomas Baehr, Nick Bertozzi, Pedro Carmago, Mike Cavallaro, Kevin Colden, Nikki Cooke, Molly Crabapple, Mike Dawson, Jim Dougan, Ulises Farinas, Michel Fiffe, Simon Fraser, Maurice Fontenot, Dan Goldman, Tim Hamilton, Dean Haspiel, Jennifer Hayden, Joe Infurnari, Jason Little, Josh Neufeld, Leland Purvis, Kat Roberts, Ryan Roman, Nathan Schreiber & Jeff Newelt.

The film will also be shown at KingCon in Brooklyn this November.

Zudist Colony | Talking to September’s Zuda entrants



Every month since late 2007, Zuda Comics hosts a competition between webcomics, with the winner becoming a regular strip on the site. In Zudist Colony, I interview the contestants via email, asking each of them the same five questions, which hopefully gives you a little more insight into the strips and the creators themselves.

This time around I asked them to share their favorite of the eight pages they submitted to Zuda, which is the artwork you’ll see with their answers. Also, I only heard back from nine of the 10 contestants this time around.

So let’s get to it …

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Zudist Colony: Talking to the August Zuda contestants



Welcome to the second edition of Zudist Colony, which we kicked off last month.

Every month since late 2007, Zuda Comics hosts a competition between webcomics, with the winner becoming a regular strip on the site. In Zudist Colony, I interview the contestants via email, which hopefully gives you a little more insight into the strips and the creators themselves. For instance, this time around I asked them all to name their favorite strip besides their own, and the variety in their answers was pretty interesting.

So without further ado, let’s see what they said …

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IDW previews the ACT-I-VATE Primer

Loviathan by Mike Cavallaro

Loviathan by Mike Cavallaro

ACT-I-VATE and IDW have now officially announced the ACT-I-VATE Primer I mentioned back in May, and have even posted a 17-page preview that features a page from each of the stories.

The ACT-I-VATE Primer is an anthology of stories by creators from the webcomics site, including Joe Infurnari, Roger Langridge, Mike Dawson, Nick Bertozzi, Tim Hamilton, Dean Haspiel, Simon Fraser, Molly Crabapple and John Leavitt, Mike Cavallaro, Pedro Camargo, Jim Dougan and Hyeondo Park, Ulises Farinas, Michel Fiffe, Maurice Fontenot, Jennifer Hayden and Leland Purvis.. The collection is due in October and will include a foreword by Warren Ellis.

Jamie S. Rich | Comics, Prose and Crime: A chat with Chris A. Bolton

smash_cover_1Chris A. Bolton is relatively new on the comics scene, but the Portland-based writer is in the process of finishing the first run of his successful super-powered humor series, the online comic Smash (http://smashcomic.com/), drawn by his brother Kyle Bolton. Chris is also a filmmaker and a prose writer, and the fact that both he and I contributed a story to the pulpy literary anthology Portland Noir (Akashic Books, 2009) seemed like a good enough excuse for us to sit and chat. Especially since we’re two guys who cross back and forth between media–in fact, his story in Portland Noir, “The Red Room,” is prose, as is to be expected in the Akashic Noir series, while the story Joëlle Jones and I contributed, “Gone Doggy Gone,” is comics, a rarity for the venue. Of course, these are topics we cover in the conversation, so without further ado….

JAMIE S. RICH: So, Chris, I suppose the best way to start is how you and I met. We both have stories in Portland Noir, the Kevin Sampsell-edited anthology that features crime stories set in the town where we both live. You and I started talking at an event for the anthology that was at Powell’s Books, where you were reading and I was just hanging out. How did you end up in Portland Noir?

CHRIS A. BOLTON: First off, Jamie, thanks for inviting me to chat. In my day job, I work for Powells.com, sometimes doing data entry for book pages. A few years back, in 2005 or so, I was beefing up the pages for Akashic’s Noir series when it occurred to me that there should be a Portland Noir. I emailed Akashic to inquire about it and they said they were planning to do one at some point in the future.

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Liveblogging the Eisners!

Eisner Awards

Eisner Awards

And we’re up! I had some technical difficulties with the wireless in the Eisners very lovely new venue at the new Hilton Bayfront Hotel, but it seems to be working for now.

In any event, here’s who has won so far … these first two were presented by comedian Patton Oswalt:

Best Publication for Kids: Tiny Titans, by Art Baltazar and Franco (DC)

Best Publication for Teens/Tweens: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell (HarperCollins Children’s Books)

While Eisner winner Neil Gaiman presented these three …

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Zudist Colony: Talking to this month’s Zuda competitors



Today we kick off a bit of an experiment that hopefully will end up becoming a regular monthly feature. It’s called Zudist Colony (thanks to Jeff Mccomsey for the name), and the idea is to interview all the contestants in Zuda’s monthly competition.

Zuda, of course, is DC’s webcomics site, where every month ten comic strips go head-to-head, and the one that gets the most votes goes on to be a regular strip on the site. The site started hosting these competitions in late 2007. Every so often we’ll receive a request from one of the competitors, asking us to interview them, run some artwork, etc. to help them promote their entry — which I certainly don’t begrudge anyone for doing, as getting the word out about your strip is a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to the competition. And it may sound cheesy, but I’ve always felt that it wasn’t fair to showcase one strip over another, that if I interviewed one of the competitors, I really needed to interview all of them. So I turned down the requests.

But I started thinking about it — why can’t I interview all of them? So I dropped a couple of emails, and soon had the email addresses for all the competitors. I should note that I sent the same five questions to all the contestants, and told them that their entire team — writer, artist, etc. — could answer them.

Anyway, that might be a little too “insider baseball” for everyone, so if you’d like to get on with reading their responses, just click on the “Continue Reading” link and have at it …

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(Literal) Road to San Diego: Johnny Zito and Tony Trov

comiccon_roadtrip-1Black Cherry Bombshells writers Johnny Zito and Tony Trov are taking the long way to San Diego this year — the pair is driving all the way from Pennsylvania to California for the con, stopping along the way to take in America.

Between making mix tapes and mapping out their route, the duo answered a few questions about their trip and what they have planned for the con. This is the second of hopefully four interviews I’m doing to see what folks have planned for the con; check out my interview with Neil Kleid from earlier this week.

JK: So, a cross-country road trip from Philadelphia to San Diego. How long is it going to take you to get there?

Johnny: We’re taking five days; a leisurely drive across this great nation to investigate the American Dream. We’ll video blog each day of the journey at BlackCherryBombshells.blogspot.com July 18-29. It’s going to be like Lewis and Clarke meets Fear and Loathing.

Tony: The video segments will feature giant balls of yarn, engine-grilled hot dogs and NSFW truck stop shenanigans. Everyone can follow our bold adventure via Twitter (Zito & Trov), MySpace and Facebook.

JK: Where do you plan to stop along the way? Do you have any roadside attractions mapped out, or will you be playing it by ear?

Tony: We have planned stops in Chicago, Vegas, L.A. and Graceland. This is Zito’s first trip across the lower 48, but I’ve done it a few times. There are a few blank spots in my state spoon collection that I aims to fill in along the way.

Johnny: If there’s time we’re talking about hitting the moon crater and the Creationist Museum.

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Six by 6 | Six questions with Sam Little on The Hammer

The Hammer

The Hammer

There’s nothing in the world that’s scarier than a pink bunny. Especially when he stands six feet tall, he’s from Detroit and he carries a hammer.

An international team of comics creators came together to create The Hammer, which won Zuda’s February competition. As their reward, Sam Little, Gabe Ostley, Rob Berry and Steve Steiner have launched the ongoing comic at the site this month. I caught up with Sam about the comic, which is being updated daily right now on Zuda.

JK Parkin: You guys won the February 2009 contest. So what happened between then and now, in between winning the Zuda contest and getting the strip up on the site as a regular feature?

Sam Little: Well, we’ve been steadily working on grinding out Hammer pages since before the contest even started. We decided when we first got together to do this thing that we would make a commitment to each other and complete the story regardless of whether or not we actually won the contest. It would’ve driven me crazy to just do eight pages and then let the rest of the story remain untold. Since we won, we’ve just kept at it, chipping away steadily and laying plans for the future. Besides that, all four of us have got our own solo projects and collaborations (not to mention day jobs) that have kept us mightily busy.

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SDCC ’09 | Exclusives, Green Lantern, Farscape and more

The 2009 San Diego Comic-Con is less than a month away, with preview night kicking things off on Wednesday, July 22. If you are a publisher, creator, retailer or any other kind of exhibitor who would like to let folks know about any special plans you have for the show (panels, signing schedules, exclusives, debuts, etc.) drop me an email and I’ll run it here.


Exclusives | Artist Daniel m. Davis, who does a webcomic called Monster Commute, will have an exclusive print at the show.

“Limited to an edition of 150 pieces, this print depicts the heroes and villains of this steampunk comic,” Davis said over email. “Available only at the Steam Crow booth #4207, it measures 12 x 18 inches, and is printed on satin matte paper. A similar exclusive print sold out in about an hour at the 2009 Emerald City Comicon.”

Signed and numbered by the artist, the print will sell for $20.

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Unbound: Hey, kids’ comics!

zipandbit2My father loved Archie comics and Mad Magazine. He read them unashamedly in public and made frequent references to them in conversation—references that often only his kids understood.

Dad could pull that off. For one thing, he was a theoretical physicist, so it’s not like he came off as dumb—just eclectic. And he was well known for his goofy sense of humor anyway. (Even when he had advanced Alzheimer’s, he still would come out with the odd bit of Three Stooges schtick.)

For most of us, it’s not so easy. My teenage daughters react with shock and embarrassment if I bring a comic along to read while running errands. Of course, everything I do evokes shock and embarrassment from them, so I ignore that, but a lot of adults do feel self-conscious about reading comics, particularly kids’ comics, in public.

On the internet, however, no one knows you’re a grownup. Which is just as well. Some of the best comics on the web are aimed at kids, but many of them, like Pixar movies, operate on two levels, speaking to both kids and adults.

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Six by 6 | Only the end of the world again

Uncanny X-Men #141

Uncanny X-Men #141

Earlier this month ABC News ran a special report called Earth 2100, which imagined a possible “worst case scenario” if the “perfect storm” of population growth, resource depletion and climate change converge, causing catastrophic effects to the planet. The report featured graphic novel-style sequences by Josh Neufeld, Sari Wilson, Joe Infurnari, George O’Connor, Tim Hamilton and Leland Purvis.

It wasn’t the first time that comic book creators have taken a look at a possible future where everything has gone to hell, both scaring and depressing you with its bleak look at what might be in store for us. So in honor of the show, here are six of my favorite apocalyptic doomsday scenarios, as presented by comics past and present …

1. Death by robotsGeekanerd recently did a post on possible robot apocalypse scenarios and how to avoid them, using Battlestar Galactica, Terminator and The Matrix as examples. Another story that falls into that category is the classic Uncanny X-Men story “Days of Future Past.” First introduced in issues #141 and 142, the storyline focused on a possible future where mutants have been hunted almost to extinction by the Sentinels, with the survivors being kept in internment camps. Giant robots = bad, bad things.

I remember reading these issues as a kid and being genuinely freaked out about the fate of the X-Men. It was bad enough finding out that Cyclops, Nightcrawler and many of the others were already dead, but to see Storm, Colossus and Wolverine meet their fates … I took it as canon, actually, that one day the X-Men comic would end with a similar scene, once it caught up to the future those issues portrayed. Of course, I thought Jean Grey was really dead, too, so …

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Talking with Ryan Dunlavey about M.O.D.O.K.

Dark Reign: M.O.D.O.K.

Dark Reign: M.O.D.O.K.

Earlier this week Marvel released a Dark Reign tie-in on their Digital Comics Unlimited service that features the comedic adventures of M.O.D.O.K. The four-part online series will be collected into a one-shot in September.

To chronicle the triumphant return of everybody’s favorite big-headed super villain to his brand new hometown (wha?), Marvel enlisted creator Ryan Dunlavey, co-creator of the Action Philosophers and Comic Book Comics series.

My thanks to Ryan for agreeing to this interview on all things M.O.D.O.K.

JK: How did you get the gig at Marvel?

Ryan: Ask any publisher who their dream creators are and the answer is always the same handful: Moore, Ditko, Steranko… and DUNLAVEY. It’s been well documented that Marvel has been after me for years — everyone knows that Bendis chump was Marvel’s second choice for Ultimate Spider-Man after I turned them down. I finally got annoyed with them constantly pestering me so I took some time out of my busy schedule drawing low-selling non-fiction humor comics and restocking cans of beans at the local bodega to write and draw M.O.D.O.K. for them.

But really, I just begged Fred Van Lente to get me a job there. Every day. FOR YEARS. He was originally going to script the M.O.D.O.K. story, but when it got green-lit he got too busy writing Spider-Man and Halo and all that, so I made the leap from mere co-plotter to full-on writer, in addition to being the penciller, inker, colorist and letterer because I’m greedy. And poor.

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Who better to imagine the global apocalypse than comic artists?

Earth 2100

Earth 2100

As Kevin mentioned yesterday, ABC News will present an environmental special called Earth 2100, which is hosted by Bob Woodruff and will feature a graphic novel-style sequences by Josh Neufeld, Sari Wilson, Joe Infurnari, George O’Connor, Tim Hamilton and Leland Purvis. The special runs tonight on ABC at 9 p.m. Eastern.

From Kamandi and Scout to “Old Man Logan,” comics have had a long history of detailing life after everything falls apart, and it’s pretty cool to see that ABC noticed.

“When ABC News’s Documentary Group approached me last fall to collaborate on a motion comic for an upcoming primetime show about climate change called Earth 2100, I was excited,” said Neufeld on his LiveJournal. “Through an imagined future scenario — intermixed with interviews with scientists, a global summit simulation, and user-generated videos — the two-hour special explores the effects of catastrophic climate change, and educates viewers on possible solutions.”

Neufeld and his wife, Sari Wilson, did the work under the banner of their writing and art studio, Dojo Graphics, where you can find additional artwork.

“For fledgling Dojo Graphics, Earth 2100 has been a dream project: creating an original science fiction script, connecting with a prime-time TV audience, the chance to explore new storytelling techniques and to weigh in on one of our era’s most critical issues,” said Wilson. “The show that will air to ABC’s millions of viewers next Tuesday night is the first (that we know of) integration of motion comics, traditional documentary, and user-generated content. We’re thrilled to have been part of this experiment, and, like you, are eagerly awaiting Tuesday night to see the final result.”

Unbound: Why is this dog exploding?

from Gulch

from Gulch

For four years, before I started writing about comics, I was a reporter for a local newspaper.

I didn’t have much journalistic training, and at first, every time I filed a story, I would get an exasperated call from my editor demanding, “What is this story supposed to be about?

After a few months, I learned a simple lesson: Orient your readers to the story right away. It’s a lesson that webcomics creators should take to heart as well.

I call this the Zuda Test, because I formulated it while reviewing the comics at Zuda.com, DC’s webcomics competition site. Each month, I and my Digital Strips colleagues Steve Shinney and Jason Sigler read all ten of the comics at Zuda and discuss the pros and cons of each one.

Month after month, I found myself making the same complaint: After eight pages, I had no idea what was going on.

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