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!