Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It Came From HeroesCon - Action Age Double Feature

I'd imagine that it's almost impossible to visit every small press and independent table at a comic convention. I know that for every one that I stopped at, even just to look at the wares, there were at least two that I missed. But stopping at the Action Age table was something I had to do. One of the writer/editors, the nefarious Chris Sims, used to work at my local comic shop (before abandoning his glamorous career for the super-glamour of freelance writing). The other, 'radical' Chad Bowers, is my next-door neighbor. I can't make this up.

Along with their artist and partner-in-crime, Rusty Shackles, they had several books available for purchase. I was fortunate enough to leave with two of them.

Awesome Hospital is what the name implies. Forget House. Awesome Hospital beats it up, and takes it's lunch money. Featuring Dr. Dirtbike, Dr. Guitar Solo, and Dr. Space Baby, you won't find a medical institution with more insanity. (That includes mental institutions.) The genius is that it still plays out just like a straight medical drama with all the over-the-top craziness largely going unremarked. The art is cartoonish and fun, and peppered with Kirby-esque visuals that help push the sheer comic-bookness of the concept home. Diagnosis: Way Too Awesome. The only treatment is to watch for the second arc online.

When I first heard the concept for Monster Plus, I thought it sounded too goofy for me. (Sorry, Chad.) In the year 2666, a monster that's equal parts zombie, vampire, werewolf and Frankenstein's monster that was exiled to Mars is possessed by the spirit of Dr. Blake Hunter, and fights against President Mark Darke who's secretly selling out the population of Earth to a demonic entity that feeds on our fear. As crazy as it sounds, it works. When I accepted that the main character was a monster mash-up, nothing else was over the top. And to Chad's credit, everything else kept up with the level of insanity that Monster Plus establishes.

Both of these books are available online either as web-comics (in the case of Awesome Hospital) or as digital downloads. In fact, you can also find many of the pair's creations there - Sims' Solomon Stone and Bowers' Danger Ace are both at Action Age for the reading. There's great comics there, and not just because they're my pals. I recommend giving them a look!

Monday, June 7, 2010

It Came From HeroesCon - Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit

Over the past two years, I've begun to discover how good independent and small-press books can be. This year, having gotten home from HeroesCon, I find I'm most excited to read the independent and small-press books I picked up directly from their creators.

The first of these is Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit by Panda Dog Press. Writer and self-publisher Rob Anderson had a table at the show to promote a preview book for this title and his energy for the concept is contagious.

In Animal Control's near future, genetic advances have brought with them an onslaught of designer 'pets'. Where the officers of Animal Control used to deal with stray dogs, endangered cats or the occasional snake, the officers in this series have pocket dragons, panda dogs and gator-snakes. It's a concept that's exploding with potential while remaining easily accessible to just about anyone who knows what a dog-catcher does.

The preview book contains two stories, 'Feral' and 'Breeding Stock', the latter of which was a project from Andy Schmidt's Comics Experience Writing Class. Both stories give you an interesting look at what the series could contain. They're backed up by quality visuals provided by Leandro Panganiban. While I have to confess that I don't have the fine eye for art that many comics fans possess, Leandro's pencils help bring Anderson's imaginative creations to life in a way that never veers from plausibility.

The package is rounded out with a third short, 'Girl Trouble', written by Anderson and with art by Eve Yap. It's a tonal shift from the straight-up concept of Animal Control as we follow a wandering Panda Dog's encounter with a young girl. This simple, lighter tale cleanses the palette nicely after stories of animal welfare.

The Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit Preview book accomplished it's mission by leaving me eager to see what directions Rob wants to take it.

According to the Panda Dog Press website, Rob will be at Baltimore ComiCon in August. If you're attending, I highly recommend saying 'hello' to Rob, and picking up a copy of the Preview.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

HeroesCon 2010 - An Overview

I just got back in from HeroesCon and, boy, are my feet dead.

But I mean that in the best way possible.

In previous years, my faithful photographer (then girlfriend, and now wife) and I would adjourn to the hotel room frequently to res up and catalog my purchases during the day. I'd sit in on panels to rest my feet as much as to try to hear the news. But not this year.

This year I stood, sauntered, swaggered and walked as I spent more time with some of the nicest, and most enthusiastic comics fans and professionals a person could ask to meet. From Rob (over at Panda Dog Press) to Thom Zahler (writer-artist of Love & Capes) and the always-awesome Adam Withers and Comfort Love (the masterminds of The Uniques). You have all made this year's pilgrimage to Charlotte into a trip to remember.

I've got so much I want to share about the experience, but I wanted to get the thank you's out there first while I process both the experiences, and the last batch of books I purchased on the way out the door.

Special thanks go out to the guys at Comic Geek Speak. If not for your passion for comics, and the community that's grown up around it, I wouldn't have made the connections to any of the fine folks I met this weekend. Thanks to Murd for remembering my name, and to Pants for the annual feasting at the Golden Corral. It's great to see you guys!

More to come, including pictures of sketches!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Titanium Rain

Over the past year or so, I've tried to expand my comic reading to include genres other than superheroes as well as publishers beyond Marvel and DC. My discovery of Comic Geek Speak over a year ago has certainly worked to influence my choices some. And it was on their forums and podcast that I first heard about Titanium Rain.

The creators of the book, Josh Finney and Kat Rocha, are mainstays on the CGS forums, who also put in occasional appearances on the podcast as guests, or through voice-mails aired on the show. It was these experiences that prompted me to look into Titanium Rain when the double-sized issues were solicited from Archaia.

And I'm very glad that I did.

Titanium Rain is a war comic, set in the not-terribly-distant future. This is a nice change, since contemporary war comics seem to be nearly nonexistent. (Wildstorm is publishing a book based on the hit video game series, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and that's the only other one I can think of.)

In Titanium Rain, the world's major geopolitical players are involved in a war in mainland China. In an effort to keep up with China's vastly superior population, other nations have begun working to enhance their soldiers. The story focuses on Phoenix Squadron, comprised of 'hacks' - so called because their genetics have been 'hacked' and enhanced. Nano-computers in their bodies help them process the vast amounts of information that a fighter pilot needs to - all in the blink of their cybernetic eyes.

The first issue, which comprises of half the book, works to give you the broad strokes of who's involved in the war while also giving you a taste of the characters in the squadron, and it does a perfectly serviceable job. But the second issue is where the book truly stands out. The second issue, in which two of the pilots from Phoenix Squadron see action, also delves into how these particular pilots came to be here. That was the point where I felt Titanium Rain solidly came into it's own with themes of evolution. This material, as well as the art, is what has me salivating over the next book.

And the art deserves special mention. As a rule, I'm more of a fan of story over art. I don't have the best eye, and others have a far better appreciation of the art of a comic than I do. But Josh and Kat have a style that feels bold and crisp to me. It certainly doesn't look like anything else I've ever read.

If you like 'near-future' science fiction stories, or war stories, you should run to your shop to pick a copy up. (Or at least see about ordering the forthcoming hardcover, which includes plenty of extra material.) Even if you don't love those genres, Titanium Rain is worth a look. It's one of the indie comics that has most strongly justified my exploration beyond Marvel and DC.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Proposed Comic Order for August

PREVIEWS #253 OCTOBER 2009 (Net) *Special Discount* Includes a FREE Marvel Previews * Limit 1 at 75% off.
AZRAEL #1 *Special Discount* Limit 2 at 75% off.
DETECTIVE COMICS #858 *Special Discount*
WORLDS FINEST #1 (OF 4) CVR A *Special Discount* Limit 2 at 75% off.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #38 *Special Discount*
REBELS #9 *Special Discount*
ASTRO CITY ASTRA SPECIAL #1 (OF 2) *Special Discount*
MIGHTY AVENGERS #30 *Special Discount*
NOVA #30
INCREDIBLES #3 (C: 1-0-1)
RASL #6 (MR)
STUMPTOWN #1 (MR) *Special Discount*

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

HeroesCon 2009 - Day The Third

The third day of the convention began late for us. Hil and I packed and checked out before heading over to the convention center, stashing most of our belongings in the car. We got to the convention center by noon, and faced a dilemma. There were four different panels starting, and I wanted to sit in on three of them. One panel boasted Brubaker and Epting. Another panel promised a panel-by-panel examination of Brave And The Bold #4 with Mark Waid and George Perez. The third panel was the premier of the Longbox Project, a digital comics initiative.

We opted for the Brave and the Bold panel. We settled into the room and waited for the discussion to begin. While the premise sounded very interesting, we were disappointed when the moderator dominated the discussion. In an hour, we scarcely covered four pages of the comic, with a total of four questions for two awesome creators that didn't come directly from the guy who was supposed to be moderating the panel.

On the show floor, I spent most of my remaining cash to get another sketch from Comfort Love and Adam Withers - this time for Hilary. We were both so impressed with my Hercules sketch, that I wanted to get one of Hilary. It came out beautifully, and I'll post it later - provided Hilary's okay with it.

We bounced around a bit, meeting Mark Waid and George Perez for signatures. Ironically, I got Perez to sign my copy of the Brave and the Bold #1 one year after Mark Waid signed it to the day. I finally managed to track down Zack Kruse, writer of The Contingent, and bought the third issue of his book from him. Returning to the PKD Media booth, I picked up a copy of PKD Media Presents, taking one last chance to meet Shawn Pryor.

We walked the con floor a last bit, collecting a few more signatures. Creators were already leaving, and I found I'd missed Ethan Van Sciver. I did wait in line, though, for Bill Sienkiewicz and got him to sign my copies of the issues for the Demon Bear saga. He seemed particularly happy that my issues were pretty clearly read. I did make a point, though, of stopping by Chris Giarusso's booth. He was giving away free head-sketches, so he drew me as a mini-Marvel Captain America.

But by about 4pm, it was time to leave. I'd made a donation to the HERO Initiative while George Perez was signing, and was down to my last dollar. Rather than try to dive into the markdowns to pick up a few last issues, I gave my last dollar to the CBLDF.

Returning to the car, we began the short trip back to Columbai. This was easily the best weekend I've spent at HeroesCon yet. I was thrilled to meet some folks from the forums, and to get to meet Bryan Deemer, Pants and Murd from CGS, and to get some sketches that were a little more personal. We kept in-budget, and I was within $10 on my rough estimation of the hotel bill.

We're planning to save money again for the show next year. Ideally, we'll be able to save up enough to make a trip North to SuperShow. My one regret is that I turned into a pumpkin after-hours. The shifts in my sleeping habits had a stronger effect on my than I thought. But I want to give thanks to everybody I did meet! I had an excellent time.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

HeroesCon 2009 - Day The Second

The first thing I did upon entering the convention hall today, was to go see Adam and Comfort about my sketch. I have to confess, I was particularly excited about leaving the book in their hands for it's inaugural sketch, and I'm thrilled with the result. I give you, thanks to Adam Withers and Comfort Love, Jason-as-Hercules! I'm completely in love with this sketch.

After meeting with them, My friend Phillip, who occasionally comments on my blog as 'p' and I decided to try Claremont's line. The line itself presented no difficulty, but the lack of Claremont made things a little trickier. We waited here for about forty minutes before giving up. It was disheartening, but Phillip had a limited amount of time. And I wasted a good bit of it, trying to navigate the convention. Booths I thought I new how to find eluded me. After a small amount of shopping, we retired for an early lunch, which allowed Hilary to rejoin us.

Returning to the convention, we first stopped in to see Matt Fraction. Matt's probably one of the nicest and wittiest folks you'll meet at a convention. And while HeroesCon recognized that, providing him a queue similar to those given to Brubaker, Epting and Bendis, he didn't have much of a line. He chatted with us as he signed our books, but we didn't want to monopolize his attention.

We made another attempt to get Chris Claremont's signature on some of our books. Once again we were stymied. While Claremont was there at this point, we were forced to learn something very important about signing lines at comic book conventions. The length of these lines is not determined by the number of people in the line... it's determined by the number of books they're carrying. Another twenty minutes with no movement prompted us to abandon our place once again.

We'd separated from Hilary, so we largely bounced around. We found our way to PKD Media, where Phillip got his copy of Mercury And The Murd signed. We also made some more purchases from twenty-five and fifty cent bins, until Hilary finally caught up with us. I was growing a bit tired, so Hilary and I bid Phillip adieu and returned to our room for awhile to soak up some air conditioning and some water. Hilary had gone through her own odyssey after our separation, catching pictures of storm-troopers, super-heroes and ghostbusters.

After resting in our room, we decided to make one more pass at the convention floor to try and get a few more signatures. And we struck gold. We were in and out of Bendis' line in ten minutes... if that long. In relatively short order, we also hit Claremont's table, got my copies of Pax Romana signed by Jonathan Hickman, picked up my sketch book (where Thom Zahler of Love and Capes drew me as a Green Lantern) and returned to Jonathan Hickman's booth, where he sketched me as Nick Fury. For free. Have I mentioned that Jonathan Hickman is awesome? Next year I'll have to remember that the last hour of the con can be truly magical.

Unfortunately, that was about the point where I ran completely out of gas. Due to my vampire lifestyle, I had trouble getting to, and back to, sleep Saturday morning. Despite my wishes, I completely turned into a pumpkin Saturday night.

Now it's Sunday morning. Our hotel bill arrived in the wee hours of the morning, signalling the beginning of the end of our stay. We're not sure what our departure plans are, but I want to make at least one more run at the show. I've still got a few books I'd like to get signed, and I think I've got cash for one last sketch for the year.

It's 8:21 AM local time, and Hilary's still sleeping. When the alarm goes off, we'll start packing up and finalizing our plans. But for now, it's been my best HeroesCon yet. I've met a few of the CGS guys, I got to chat with most of my favorite creators. I've spent a fair bit of my con budget in support of independent creators , and these sketches are the best memento I could ask for.