Here we are again, another year of comics, movies, and music to inspire! As in Years Past, I like to compile a list of some of the art that I enjoyed throughout the year. It’s a good reminder for me to remember what inspires me, but also a chance to share great stuff with others. I found that this year’s list got pretty big, so I am dividing it up into 3 parts: Comics, Movies, & Music. Also note, I try not to recycle stuff from previous years, as those lists are still out there to see. Even though many of those things are still awesome (like Space-Mullet & Prophet). Now, of course, I’m going to start with Comics!
The Wrenchies, by Farel Dalrymple
This is a what comics are all about. Farel operates on a different plane with The Wrenchies. The dreamlike storytelling is punctuated by stand-out moments of sadness and introspection. The inked/watercolored art is absolutely gorgeous. I was lucky to catch an exhibition of original pages from the book and was dumb-founded by how good they looked in person. There is no digital trickery here, Farel’s just THAT GOOD. Shea Hennum over at This Is Infamous wrote a great article about Wrenchies that will do the book more justice than I can, so check that out. If Wrenchies doesn’t sweep the Ignatz and Eisner awards, I might lose all faith in comics. GET THE WRENCHIES
Death of a Crow, by Liam Cobb
Pay attention folks. Liam is one to watch. He posted Death of a Crow on His Tumblr and it spread across the net like wildfire. And it’s easy to see why. Wonderfully illustrated and full of symbolism and pathos, it’s a great example of the power of comics. The reader is drawn in and led to think and draw conclusions about the world presented. Liam has done quite a few striking short comics on his tumblr so go dig in.
Ritual #3: Vile Decay, by Malachi Ward
Malachi must be Rod Serling re-incarnated. His scifi/fantasy/speculative fiction has been an invigorating addition to the comics scene for a few years now. Vile Decay really hits on all cylinders. Malachi’s illustrations are detailed, while still maintaining a cartooned iconic feel. Vile Decay explores character relationships through surreal landscapes and violent riots. The limited color palette and spot-on paper decisions all add up to a book with a unique feeling that enhances the themes within. GET VILE DECAY
Half Asleep #2-3, by Beth Hetland & Kyle O’Connell
Beth & Kyle turned comics up to 11 a couple years ago with Cycles, which I loved. Initially, Half Asleep was a hard swallow for me. But as the series has progressed, they have really found their voice. O’Connell’s manic concepts spew forth while Hetland uses the tricks of the comics trade to deftly translate the unreal to real. Characters are expertly developed through their actions rather than drawn out dialogue. On top of that, each book sports artful screen-printed hand-cut covers. I’m really excited to see where these two go with Half Asleep next year. GET HALF ASLEEP
Pax Americana, by Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison
Frank Quitely is an illustration god. He pushes the limits of the medium with each new book, without alienating mainstream sensibilities. I barely have an understanding of what’s happening in this beautiful book, but I will enjoy digging into it and deciphering the puzzle for months to come.
In the Sounds & Seas: Volume 2, by Marnie Galloway
It was a long time coming, but SO worth the wait. Marnie’s work has progressed wonderfully since volume 1. Her illustration style lends itself to the story’s themes of interconnectedness and myth. She has also grown as a panel to panel storyteller, finding clarity in the small moments portrayed, while still including beautiful stylistic flourishes in each drawing. In the Sounds & Seas it not like anything else out right now and it showcases a unique voice in the medium. GET IN THE SOUNDS & SEAS
Gardens of Glass, by Lando
Lando is another example of a creator with a strong voice. Gardens of Glass is a collection of the stories Lando has published through the always trippy scifi collective anthology Decadence Comics. Seeing the stories side by side, you find that Lando has been building not only a style, but almost a complete world-view. Each piece compliments the next, re-inforcing ideas and visual queues. The drawings themselves are beautiful and delicate as well, with clear influences from manga and french comics . Gardens of Glass was published by Breakdown Press, who are also doing super cool stuff with comics. GET GARDENS OF GLASS
Time Capsule #2, Peow Studios
Much like Breakdown & Decadence Comics, Peow is working with immensely talented artists in creating beautiful book objects. Time Capsule is one of the best looking Risograph printed comics I’ve come across to date. The Riso has quickly become a mainstay in indy comics, but no one has quite harnessed the potential of the press like Peow. Featured in this issue are Stathis Tsemberlidis (of Decadence Comics), Wren Mcdonald, and Matt Sheean (regular collaborator with Malachi Ward & Prophet alumni). Stathis and Matt’s pieces stand out to me the most, as they both have less focus on traditional narrative. Stathis shows a figure as it accelerates through time and space, (literally) smashing through touchpoints of human existence. Matt gives us a strange story featuring children in the woods of a new planet. Matt has a way of presenting visual and text information that is almost rhythmic and inseparable from eachother. Love it. GET TIME CAPSULE
Prophet: Strikefile #1-2, Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, & The Prophet All Stars
Ok it should be obvious from all my other picks, as well as previous year’s picks, that I’m going to be ALL ABOUT Prophet Strikefile. As with the series itself, Brandon & friends have taken a concept (the sourcebook comic) and elevated it to something a little smarter, a little prettier, and a lot awesome-r.
Ghost Fleet, Don Cates & Daniel Warren Johnson
Don’t get me wrong, Ghost Fleet is amazing. I just have a feeling it’s really going to shine next year. Daniel is an artist on his way up I’m privy to what he’s cooking up in future issues of Ghost Fleet. And Donny’s story is pretty bananas. You need to jump on board now, because Ghost Fleet will blow your mind in 2015.
I’m positive I’ve missed some great books this year. Please let me know what you think I should check out from 2014! I’ll be back soon with Part 2, discussing my favorite movies of the year.
Woooo! Things have been busy. They still are, so I’ll just get right to it!
I was tagged in a blog tour recently by the amazing Beth Hetland and tasked with doing a post for the “My Writing Process blog tour”, answering 4 questions. Beth had been tagged by the talented Cara Bean before that. Here we go!
1) What am I working on?
Oh man… Ok…
– Victus # 3: This is the newest issue of my sci-fi, metaphysical, religious, relationship comic. It’s almost all pencilled!
– Speculative Relationships: The sci-fi romance comics anthology featuring some of my good pals that we are trying to get funded on Kickstarter (see more on this below). I am doing 2 stories for this, which I just finished yesterday! Oh and I’m co-editor with Scott Kroll.
– Upgrade Soul: I’m inking this amazing sci-fi iPad comic for Ezra Clayton Daniels. It’s a blast!
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’d like to think that my work is different in that it’s not tied to the conventions of any one genre. With Victus, I’m attempting to create my own genre, which takes influence from theology, psychology, and philosophy, but also reflects aspects of sci-fi, action, and romance. I also try to bring in experimental elements which will hopefully expand the restrictions of any genre I work within. I hope that makes sense?
3) Why do I write what I do?
When I start any new project, it is usually because I need a vehicle to explore thoughts, ideas, and feelings I’m having. I usually say that I make comics so that I can understand something better. With my comic Gary, I wanted to gain more insight into how and why a serial killer exists and how that relates to my own experience and place in society. With Victus, I want to explore communication and connections to a larger universal nature. I rarely start writing something with an answer in mind. I write because I have questions.
4) How does your writing process work?
I can’t write scripts. I just can’t do it. I feel that if you’re making comics, you really shouldn’t start with just words or just pictures. So I find the process of writing a script counter-intuitive and out of place when making comics. Generally, I start a comic with random notes and drawings. These will be in sketchbooks, on my phone, on meeting agendas at work, etc. After I have a pretty large log of these ideas, I try to organize them in a google spreadsheet (words/ideas) and folders (drawings). I also start a project specific sketchbook at this point, where I will put all future content related to said project. Then I start zero-ing in on key scenes/images/dialogue and organizing them into some kind of order.
Once I have a vague big-picture of the project, I’ll start the first issue/book. I put together 8.5×11 sheets of paper folded in half and staple them, making a little blank book. Then I start thumb-nailing. As I thumb-nail, I write any words that I have figured out and plug in images from the sketchbook. Once I have maybe… 80% of the book thumb-nailed/written, I’ll start in on the “big”/”final” drawings. I guess what I’m trying to point out here is that I’ll start drawing the final comic with pretty significant gaps in the ‘story’. Since I think of my process as a meditation on an idea, I like to leave room for certain questions to be answered as I work and bring about new content. So I may not have certain lines of dialogue written until I’ve already drawn most of the first issue. I think this helps in cutting down on unnecessary dialogue or images, and figuring out what’s actually important. My writing process really doesn’t stop until I’ve filled in that final word balloon or inked that last line.
SPECULATIVE RELATIONSHIPS KICKSTARTER UPDATE
We have about two weeks left in the Kickstarter campaign for Speculative Relationships! In promotion of the project, we’ve been doing artist interviews and podcast spots. Here’s some o’that:
Scott Kroll Interview
Isabella Rotman Interview
And we’ll have interviews with me, Daniel Warren Johnson, and Mike Manomivibul up next week!
Scott and I were both featured on a couple podcasts too:
We are a little over 60% now, so we still need your help to get this thing funded. Check it OUT!
THINGS FROM MY DRAWING TABLE:
– that’s all for now!
Been a while. Sorry about that, but I assure you I’ve been busy. So let’s get to it!
8 THINGS I’D LIKE TO SEE MORE OF IN COMICS
I became aware of this topic via a tweet by Brandon “I will use my comics powers for good” Graham, then followed up on a couple other bloggers thoughts on it…
And immediately I was thinking about how I always complain about comics, but rarely do I say what we really need more of to improve the medium as a whole. All of the above gents make great points, so I’ll try not to just list the exact same things as them (though some of mine are similar). In no particular order:
1. Stylistic Diversity in Artwork
I’d like to see more artists who don’t just ‘look like (name other artist)’. Mainstream comics are like that movie Wrong Turn. They have been inbreeding so long that you end up with deformed characters drawn by artists with no sense of real anatomy and proportion. It’s like an exaggeration of an exaggeration. I don’t want to see a comic and immediately think of another comic book artist. Artists should strive not only to stand out from each other, but to make each work feel unique from the previous one.
Positive Example: Katsuhiro Otomo. We all know him for Akira, but the dude’s short stories span all genre’s and styles.
2. Influences from mediums outside of comics
We need to reach outside of the medium for influence, reference, and inspiration. If you are working on a new project and the only thing you are looking at is other comics, you are failing. We have 100’s of years of art, music, and literature to look back on, so why is it that every sci-fi comic looks like Blade Runner and every Superhero comic looks like Superman? I want to see comics influenced by Davinci! By the Venus of Willendorf or the Lascaux cave paintings! By Brahm’s Requiem and Jackson Pollock!
Positive Example: Reid Psaltis takes a very direct influence like natural history illustration and runs with it!
3. Hand Lettering
The lettering of a comic is not something that should feel pre-packaged. It’s another aspect that gives a creator a chance to literally make their mark. Hand lettered speech, thoughts, and sound effects should feel unique to the story being told and unique to that specific artist. We use hand-writing to identify people in court cases, for crying out loud! What’s more YOU than your handwriting?
Positive Example: Sam Alden (see above) uses a variety of fonts, balloons and sound effects which are tailored to each story.
4. Diversity of genres
Comics should not be a section of the book store next to Romance, History, Philosophy. Romance, History, Philosophy should be sections IN THE COMIC BOOK STORE! We all want to be taken seriously, but the extremely narrow amount of genres and topics covered in mainstream (and indie) comics is absurd. When’s the last time you read a comic about philosophy? Or religion? Or Australian Aborigine tribes? Or history that didn’t involve zombies? AND WHY ARE THERE NO ROMANCE COMICS ANYMORE?
Positive Examples: Rinko Endo makes comics about mental health issues (pictured above). They are absolutely stunning.
5. Odd shaped and non-traditional comics
Comics don’t have to be ‘standard’ sized. Especially independent comics! Why are most comics the same size as the latest issue of X-men? Why are most comics rectangles and squares? Why don’t comics fold out in multiple directions? Why are they all on paper? If a standard size comic can be read on an ipad, why should I buy the physical copy? Comics should be unique objects whenever possible, to give the potential reader a reason to buy a physical object that will take up space in their home.
Positive Examples: Beth Hetland’s ‘Hay!’ comics are unique objects AND choose your own adventure comics
6. Special Features
I love to see the process behind any piece of art. It’s interesting and gives insight into the artist’s thought process. Seeing how others make or struggle to make their work inspires me to continue on in my struggle as a creator. I’m not just talking about some sketches in the back of a trade paperback (though that’s a start). I’m talking blogs that explain how my favorite book of the year was lettered. I’m talking audio commentaries for the comic that can be downloaded and listened to while you read it. I’m talking video time-lapses of the pages being created. There are some folks that do give peeks into their process, but it’s rarely project specific and isn’t usually tied to the release or post-release of the work.
Positive Example: Kenan Rubenstein has a SLICK interface for his webcomic Last Train to Old Town, which shares insight into each pages creation and allows for readers to interact.
7. Digital Comics that take advantage of being digital
Most ‘motion comics’ are absolutely terrible. Just the worst thing that could possibly be done to a comic book. I want to see artists that choose to work in the digital medium take full advantage of it. The tablet devices are full of functionality and features. I want the digital comics to show me that they can ONLY exist digitally. Colors that change in panel. Word balloons that pop in or out depending on where you tap. Sound! And I don’t mean cheesy sound effects, I mean ambience and music.
Positive Example/s: Kenan (mentioned above) and the now-extinct Double Feature from Four Star Studios are both good examples. But my favorite digital comic is hands down Ezra Clayton Daniel’s Upgrade Soul (see above). It’s a tour-de-force in digital comics!
8. Cross-promotion between creators
Comics should feel like a community. Just like anything else we buy, you’re more likely to pick something up if it’s recommended to you by someone you trust or respect. All the advertising in the world won’t help niche weirdo comics (like everything I’m asking for above) get into a reader’s hands. But if they are at a convention, speaking with a creator, and that person is aware of the rest of the community, they can point the potential reader in the right direction. People buying ANY COMICS is good for everyone MAKING comics. So what if they don’t want to buy my book about a serial killer? They might be really interested in Gina Wynbrandt’s Tiger Beat Exclusive. So SEND EM OVER TO HER! We need to promote eachother, not just ourselves.
Positive Example: Brandon Graham is constantly pimping cool creators on his blog and in backup stories in Prophet. Can you imagine if all high-profile creators were taking time to show us the new people whose work they love?
That’s my thoughts on what we need more of. What do YOU think?
NEW BACK ISSUES PODCAST
Justin and I sat down to analyze Sam Keith’s The Maxx on the latest Back Issues. This dude was on the edge at Image, with a bizarre book that took on rape, dreams, and comics industry tropes. Oh… and there was the Crappon. We loved it. Please listen:
VICTUS #2 & SIMON: PUGILIST UPDATES
Still Plugging away at Victus #2, but getting closer every day. Here are some sneak peeks:
And Simon: Pugilist has made some great headway, with my bro really stepping it up on the writing. PEEKS:
Here are some random things I looked at lately:
Got some cool comics over the last couple weeks. Have had ZERO time to actually read them. Kirby’s 2001, Reid Psaltis Panic, Pope’s Battling Boy, Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warhedz, Darrow’s Shaolin Cowboy, Sam Bosman’s Fantasy Basketball, and some Grendels I got from DWJ.
Found this acorn nut thing on one of my walks.
Had some delicious Sukiyaki from one of my all-time favorite places, Sunshine Cafe.
That’s all for now folks!
Hello out there!
Well SPX 2013 has come and gone. I’m very glad to have finally participated in this show, after years of hearing about it.
A commission I did for a Hellboy sketchbook (I cheated and did Amazing Screw-On Head)
Original Pancake House w/Josh Shalek (nicest guy in comics)
Everyone was extremely kind in Bathesda, MD. Thanks to everyone who came by the table to say hi and bought some comics!
So… I had the chance to do a nice interview with the folks over at IndieReader.com. We talked a bit about my process, why I make comics, stuff I’m reading, etc. Take a gander:
Thanks to Steve Urena for the fantastic interview questions!
So hey. I finally broke down and did it. I got a Twitter. And a Tumblr. If you are someone who follows those things, please follow me. Be gentle though… I’m new at this.
And some links should be showing up at the bottom of this page now… I think?
MOMENT of ZEN
Thanks ya’ll for reading!
Quick post here to let everyone know I’ll be at Small Press eXpo this weekend in Bathseda, Maryland! I’m very excited, as I’ve heard great things about this show ever since I started exhibiting at cons. It also helps that it’ll be a room full of amazing artists whose work I love and respect. It’s especially good to see some of the Panel Savants there:
Along with my good pals:
Here is a map of where to find us this weekend:
Please come by and say hi! If you mention the blog, I’ll have some free swag for you!
New episode of Back Issues is up! Justin and I put a bullet in the head of Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt. Well worth a listen, as it’s the first book we didn’t gush over:
Yeah, still plugging away. Here is today’s snippet:
A new pal, Scott Kroll, posted a very cool short sci fi story. Please take a look:
I really like this:
Hope to see some of you this weekend! A full report will follow after the show!
Chicago Alternative Comics Expo!
Saturday & Sunday
June 15th – 16th
11am – 6pm
Center on Halsted
3656 N Halsted
It’s here! This weekend! Seriously folks, this is going to be an incredible show. I’ll be right here:
I’ll be sharing a table with the always spectacular Beth Hetland. Keep your eyes peeled for other amazing artists exhibiting at CAKE: Kenan Rubenstein, MK Czerwiec, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Sean Dove, Emi Gennis, Lyra Hill, Marnie Galloway, and tons more!!!
If you miss this show, you’re pretty much a loser.
If you come by, mention that you follow the blog and I’ll give you some goodies.
Friday, June 14th (the night before CAKE!) is the opening for Modern Storytellers at Ugly Step Sister Gallery. I’ll be there and hope you can make it too. The show is filled with some amazing artists!
750 S. Union St.
Opening: Friday, June 14th, 6pm – 11pm
Ok friends, You’re almost out of time to reap the benefits of pre-ordering Victus #1. If I get your order before Sunday, June 16th, you can still get a free print of Celeste:
Thank you to everyone who has already pre-ordered! I’m humbled by your support. It went miles to helping me get the book finished and pay for the printing. The first round of orders have been shipping out this week, and I’m hoping most of you get them by Monday, June 17th at the latest.
If you’re a local Chicago person, or flying in for the show, CAKE will be the first chance for anyone anywhere to get their hands on the books. I’m very pleased with how they turned out and I can’t wait to share them with you!
I’ll leave you with these gems:
Jack Kirby. Showing his power in the earthly realm yet again.
Darrow and Moebius lighting it up with City on Fire.
I am completely in love with this Barry Windsor-Smith cover for X-men #186
Until next time, keep your ducks in a row. Well… geese.