Mission Arizona, the graphic novel from indie publisher Mirror Comics, recently came out on ComiXology. I already had a paper copy and loved this take on the weird western (like the dark weird westerns Buried Eyes by Lavie Tidhar or A Feast for Dust by Gemma Files), but I knew less about making comics or the changes in the comic book industry with e-comics sites like ComiXology, so I decided to chat with Mirror. Dominic Bercier is the president and publisher (and artist of Mission Arizona), while Kristopher Waddell is the editor-in-chief and co-publisher (and the writer of Mission Arizona). Both live in Ottawa, Canada.
Mission Arizona is a dark weird western about an old west town that has an unpleasant crossing with the supernatural world. Its outlaw hero is destined, by fate and birth, to face this supernatural evil.
Derek: Where does Mission Arizona come from? It’s got a bit of a spaghetti western feel, overlaid with the destiny of facing off against a terrible evil, but begins with a travelling showman sequence. How did these different flavors make it into the mix?
Kris: My interest in writing in this genre came from my childhood experiences watching old Roy Rogers and Gene Autry westerns with my Dad. Horror has always interested me because I’m fascinated by the abject, and our culture’s obsession with fearing the other. It probably doesn’t help that I watched Nightmare on Elm Street, Jaws and Alien at a very young age.
In Mission, I really wanted to explore loss and redemption. Padre Martin Risk loses his wife and child, Samuel Risk loses his home and his family, while the town of Mission loses its soul. I wanted to write about the struggle and the consequences of dealing with loss, and the protagonist’s fight for redemption.
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We’ve reported here on a handful of Kickstarter failures, including Erik Chevalier, whose Doom That Came To Atlantic City campaign raised an astounding $122,874 on a $35,000 goal, and who managed to spend virtually all the money without producing a single copy of the game. But I don’t think I’ve ever read an example as egregious as John Campbell’s Sad Pictures for Children.
Campbell is the author of the web comic Pictures for Sad Children. He self-published his first book, collecting the first 200 comics, in 2011 and launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012 to fund a second volume. He set a goal of $8,000 and raised over $51,000.
Unlike Chevalier, Campbell managed to print the books and began distributing them to backers, but he quickly became disillusioned with the level of effort and cost involved. As complaints from his backers mounted, an apparently furious Campbell posted a video showing him burning 127 copies of the book, one for every e-mail he received requesting an update.
In a rambling and nonsensical Update 32, Campbell vents his wrath at his backers, saying no more books will be mailed, that he’ll burn one copy of the book for every attempt to contact him, and asking for more money — this time with no promises attached.
I shipped about 75% of kickstarter rewards to backers. I will not be shipping any more. I will not be issuing any refunds. For every message I receive about this book through e-mail, social media or any other means, I will burn another book… If you would like a refund, please contact a fan of my work directly for your money. This is where the money would come from anyway. I am cutting out the middle man…
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It seems like one of those creative pairings that could only happen in comics. Odd, then, that it was originally planned to be a film.
In the mid-1980s, fashion and music impresario Malcolm McLaren called acclaimed comics writer Alan Moore. It seemed McLaren had some ideas for a film he wanted to make. The two men met and Moore was fascinated by one of McLaren’s notions: a movie that would be a modern retelling of the fairy-tale of “Beauty and the Beast,” to be set in the fashion industry — or a strange fantastical version thereof. You can see the connection: a fable about the conflict between exterior appearances and internal natures, set in a milieu that was all about appearances. Moore wrote a script titled Fashion Beast, apparently as heavily detailed as any of his comics work; in an interview with The Comics Journal a few years later, he mentioned that McLaren had observed that he’d left very little for a director to do with the film. In any event, the production never happened and the project was abandoned.
Until 2012, when Avatar press resurrected the script. With Moore’s blessing, Antony Johnston signed on to adapt the film script to comics. With art by Facundo Percio (and colours by Hernan Cabrera and lettering by Jaymes Reed), the movie script became a ten-issue limited series, now collected in a trade paperback. It’s an odd project, but the final result’s quite strong. It may not be of the same calibre as Watchmen, but it’s a very good story that seems to me to compare well with much of Moore’s other work of the period — in the range of his Swamp Thing run, say, perhaps even of V For Vendetta.
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Floating down from the sky, lovely angel queen it’s you,
Shaken from the long sleep, lovely angel queen it’s you,
Touching others like a child, loving others for a while
Come and take my hand, my heart,
In time we will be together
[Read Part 1 of Leiji Matsumoto, Bushido, Manhood, and Womanhood here.]
Recently, I watched the 1982 film adaptation of Queen Millennia. It was alright, not on the level of Galaxy Express 999 or Arcadia of my Youth. For those of you who don’t know, it is about a race of aliens on the planet La Metal, who, every thousand years, send a queen to secretly rule the Earth. In the far future year of 1999, the aliens are finally going to take our planet, but the current queen, Yayoi, has gone native. Conflict ensues. The movie’s plot is rushed and there are way too many scenes of apocalyptic destruction, to the point it gets boring. On the other hand, it has great sci fi visuals, and the scene where the boy Hajime climbs a skyscraper to rescue Yayoi during an asteroid bombardment is one of the most harrowing things I’ve seen in an anime. The film also has a wonderful soundtrack by Kitaro. There aren’t many things I miss about the 1980s. I distinctly remember being a little kid and wondering why everything was so awful. But I miss the days when bands used to do soundtracks. Tangerine Dream would routinely knock out sixty-minute synth-rock jam sessions that were better than the movies they scored (I’m looking at you, Legend). Toto brought their own brand of spice to Dune. And who can forget Flash Gordon and Highlander, fueled by the power of QUEEN.
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Satyricus is offstage sleeping for most of this issue, so we don’t get any comic-relief banter between that randy old goat and Arak. That’s as it should be, though, because this episode delivers a private and transformative event in Arak’s life. This is the issue where Arak comes into his own as a character. (Also, he scores — with one of the Fates, no less! ––which would have been awkward with a satyr on hand.)
Up until now, Arak has been a confused man lacking in self-identity. His tribe was wiped out when he was a boy. He was raised into adulthood by Vikings. Now he wanders in a land where everyone calls him a heathen “red devil.” As he interacts with more “civilized” people, he often displays a stronger innate core of morality and honor than those around him — ironically, and despite his Viking past. He is intelligent, resourceful, but quick to anger when he has been wronged or when he sees someone else wronged (the latter point making him more of a traditional hero than many of his anti-hero barbarian counterparts in fiction).
He is a man who is searching, on an existential quest about the very nature of the universe and his place in it. You see, he assumes his people’s god He-No died with his people, but he was always told he was the son of He-No — the son of Thunder. He has learned in his journeys that there are other thunder gods: Thor, Zeus, Jupiter, and the Christian deity who is said to be the god and maker of everything. Are all these thunder gods but names for one god, he wonders — and, if so, is he somehow a son to all of them? This haunting question has been further compounded by earlier events: his defeat of the sea serpent (back in issue 1) by stabbing it with a heavy metal cross that was subsequently struck by lightning. (Was it the god of the cross or his own father of the thunder who intervened?) Finding his own face carved next to that of Hercules, a Greek hero of old, atop Mount Olympus, only to witness the stone faces cleaved in two by a bolt of lightning. And now, he has discovered a tapestry portraying his life up until now, hung deep in the caves that honeycomb Mount Athos.
Answers to some of these questions will be given in the pages of this issue…
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As you well know, we here at Goth Chick News are mad supporters of the independent film industry. This is mainly because we’re obsessed with anyone who has the courage and determination to pursue their passion and are willing to let us watch.
That and I’m a sucker for brooding artistic boys…
And no one epitomizes these traits better than my friends at Pirate Pictures, who gave us a peek into the world of real movie magic by allowing us to ride along with their production of Shadowland. Now, Shadowland star Jason Contini and director Wyatt Weed have teamed up on a new project that isn’t exactly a typical GCN subject matter, but does involve a topic that is near and dear to most Black Gate fans… comics.
Four Color Eulogy is a drama/comedy revolving around the world of comic books and self-publishing. But rather that tell you any more, take a gander at this clip that not only explains the movie, but some of the process of getting a concept from script to big screen.
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Issue 13, “The Demons from the Dark!” (or “Demons from the Caves of Night!”, depending on whether you go by the cover or by the splash page), marked a second year for the series and DC seemed to have a contender on their hands to cash in on sword-and-sorcery popularity of the day.
The issue is dated September 1982. Clash of the Titans and Dragonslayer had brought mythological fantasy to the big screen a year earlier (Greek and medieval respectively, which Roy Thomas was fusing here in novel ways). Conan the Barbarian that summer — at the very time this comic hit the racks, since dating on monthly periodicals tends to lag by a month or two — was turning Arnold Schwarzenegger into a star at the drive-ins and the newfangled multiplexes. Dungeons & Dragons was firmly established as a cultural phenomenon.
Yes, legendary wizards, warriors, and monsters were becoming fixtures in the American household and DC had scored a coup by getting for this foray into the genre Roy Thomas, the writer who had turned Conan into a successful comic franchise over at their rival Marvel.
That Arak never spun off his own movie, or television cartoon, or toy line (he did get one scarce figure in 1982 from Remco) is no basis on which to judge the series. So let’s dive right back in to the story where we left off: with one dead centaur, one missing Valda, one new satyr sidekick, and one befuddled Arak…
We open with Arak and Satyricus coming upon a band of Saracens slaying monks. Satyricus stays true to his established character trait of wishing to avoid confrontation (unless said confrontation involves young, nubile women). You can probably guess what Arak thinks about Satyricus’s suggestion of giving the scene of carnage a wide berth. As the narration informs us:
“The Quontauka’s only answer is a black-maned, well-chiseled head thrown wildly back, and a battle cry which echoes through these Grecian hills: ‘HAIII-YAAAH!’”
Satyricus is clearly going to be providing plenty of comic relief throughout his stint: “I – I wish you wouldn’t DO that! You nearly scared the ichor out of me!”
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Will Eisner is one of the most revered comic creators of the 20th Century, and for good reason. I’m continually astounded at the skill and command of the medium he exhibited, even at an early age.
He was inducted into the Academy of Comic Book Arts Hall of Fame in 1971 and he virtually created the graphic novel with his 1978 masterwork A Contract with God. Comic’s most prestigious awards, the Eisner Awards, were created in his honor in 1988.
So I’m a little disappointed that his most famous creation, the good humored crime-fighter The Spirit, isn’t more well known today.
The Spirit is flat-out one of my favorite early comics. Beginning his career as detective Denny Colt, shot and left for dead in the first three pages of his premiere appearance, the Spirit awakens in the abandoned and overgrown Wildwood Cemetery. From this new base of operations, and with his past virtually obliterated, The Spirit throws himself into life as a crime fighter, disguising his identity with a small domino mask (which he wears even while sleeping), an amazingly resilient business suit, fedora hat, and gloves.
With his sidekick Ebony White, an uneducated but resourceful black orphan (who sleeps in a sock drawer), the Spirit traveled the world, bringing justice to criminals and con men all over the world.
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A few months ago, the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story was given to Saga, Volume 1, the first trade paperback collection of the ongoing Saga comic book. Written by Brian K. Vaughan, with art by Fiona Staples (and lettering and design by the Fonografiks studio), the book deserved the win. It’s the first chapter in a promising story and manages to establish a simple and powerful basic situation for the main characters, while also creating a complex world, backstory, and array of subplots. If it sometimes seems overbroad, too accessible and glib, it also has a deep and original sense of history to its setting, and a design sense that makes that setting live.
It begins with a birth, a battle, and an attempt to escape war. In a galaxy (presumably) not our own, there is a planet named Landfall, where a species of winged humanoids have developed high technology; orbiting Landfall is the moon Wreath, where magic-using horned humanoids live. Moon and planet have always been at war, but have reached the point where they can’t battle directly in their home solar system without risking their own destruction. So the war’s fought on countless fronts throughout the galaxy, with alien species everywhere forced to choose sides. One front is the planet called Cleave, where the fighting’s especially vicious; there, a woman from Landfall, Alana, has fallen in love with Marko, a former warrior from Wreath. They’ve run away from the war and the book begins with the birth of their daughter — and their discovery by agents of both sides.
The story moves quickly. Factions enlist various agents to track down the young family. And these agents have stories of their own. The book cuts quickly between plot strands, narrated by the newborn daughter speaking from some unspecified point in the future. There are ghosts, robots, pleasure planets, bounty hunters, mass battles, and all the familiar genre furnishings. There are also less familiar things, born from the mash-up of genres. Forests of rocketships. An interspecies romance novel. And a grumpy-looking lynx who can detect lies. It’s an inventive, fast-moving story about parenthood and art that never overstrains its central metaphors.
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Mega Girl realizes that being a superhero isn’t the answer in the really excellent “Strong Female Protagonist.”
There’s a strange divide between superhero fiction and the rest of SFF. It may be because superheroes started out in comics. Almost all the tropes — the spandex, the tights, the rules of combat enforced by the Comics Code of the 1950s — come out of those comic book origins. As more and more superheroes hit the big screen, it hasn’t been surprising to see them in novels, some of them on the literary side of SFF (like Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible, Carrie Vaughn’s “Golden Age” books), and many of them looking at how those tropes play out when you’re not in a visual medium.
So how do you classify superhero webcomics that play with the tropes in the way that those SFF novels have done? Are they fantasy or are they superhero comics, or are those lines really more fluid than the divisions warrant? Either way, three of my favorite webcomics are superhero comics and all of them look at the genre in a way that questions our assumptions about how superheroes work.
What happens when a superhero gets married to a nice, normal girl — and what kind of strengths does it require to be married to someone with a secret identity? What does it matter if you can kick butt and take names if you’re not contributing to solving the big world problems? What is it like to be an 8 year-old superhero? Keep reading and find out how three very different comics are looking at superheroes (and why you should be reading them).
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