Sing, Muse: Ody-C Provides a Hundred New Twists on an Ancient Tale

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

ODY-C-1-CoverI love Classical literature. I have since the third grade, when I first picked up a copy of D’Aulaire’s Greek Mythology. That love drove my choices in schooling until fairly recently, and there was no work I enjoyed more than Homer’s Odyssey.

You may have noticed.

I also love comic books. I’m much more of a dabbler on that front, but I’m always looking for a new book to follow.

So when I heard that Image Comics was putting out Ody-C, a gender-bent Sci-Fi version of the Odyssey, I was excited. Actually, I think I squealed, screamed on Facebook, and immediately made plans to blog about the title here. This past weekend, I finally sat down and read through the premier issue.

And I still don’t know what I think. So while I will tag this a review, call it more a series of impressions and a place for discussion, while I wait for the next issue (which will be available December 24th).

Now, when I say I don’t know what I think, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like it. I think I do. In fact, I think I’m going to love it. But Ody-C is so deeply, intensely strange that it is taking me a long time to wrap my brain around it. Matt Fraction and Christian Ward have come up with a work that is thoroughly alien, shocking, and surreal.

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Future Treasures: Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula-smallSometimes it seems that all my fifteen year-old daughter reads is manga (well, that and fan fiction.)

That’s probably not true — I spot her with paperbacks from time to time. But it is true that manga is still extremely popular, especially among teens. I’m seeing a lot more US comics mirroring the format, too — compact comic volumes that fit nicely in the palm of your hand. The latest is Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, a light-hearted gothic fantasy of an overworked princess of an underworld kingdom populated by ghosts, vampires, and werewolves.  Andi Watson’s deceptively simple artwork is well-suited to the tale. The only negative is that it won’t be available until February — a pity, as it would make a fine Christmas gift.

Princess Decomposia is overworked and underappreciated.

This princess of the underworld has plenty of her own work to do but always seems to find herself doing her layabout father’s job, as well. The king doesn’t feel quite well, you see. Ever. So the princess is left scurrying through the halls, dodging her mummy, werewolf, and ghost subjects, always running behind and always buried under a ton of paperwork. Oh, and her father just fired the chef, so now she has to hire a new cook as well.

Luckily for Princess Decomposia, she makes a good hire in Count Spatula, the vampire chef with a sweet tooth. He’s a charming go-getter of a blood-sucker, and pretty soon the two young ghouls become friends. And then…more than friends? Maybe eventually, but first Princess Decomposia has to sort out her life. And with Count Spatula at her side, you can be sure she’ll succeed.

Andi Watson (Glister, Gum Girl) brings his signature gothy-cute sensibility to this very sweet and mildly spooky tale of friendship, family, and management training for the undead.

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula will be published by First Second on February 24, 2015. It is 176 pages, priced at $19.99.

Comic Fandom Coolness: The Women of Marvel Podcast

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

wom3From 2008 to about 2011, when I was reviewing comics for the most excellent Weekly Comic Book, I was reading very widely: the big two, Image, some Dark Horse, a lot of Dynamite, with some Avatar and BOOM! scattered in there. I did that because while I was reviewing, I wanted to make sure I had a good grasp of the styles and tones and mandates of as much of the comics field as I could.

A great way to keep on top of meta-developments were podcasts. I listened to the Mighty Marvel Podcast, the Dynamite Podcasts, and many of the DC podcasts. They were a lot of fun, usually filled with fanboy squee, and often sales garnishing, but the sales pitch is hardly unexpected.

After a bit of a hiatus, when I built up more of my own writing career, I decided to come back to both comics and some of their podcasts. I don’t remember how I found out about them four weeks ago (don’t ask me where my brain went), but I’ve been loving the heck out of the Women of Marvel Podcast.

They only started their podcast in June, so it was easy to catch up. I downloaded about twenty, loaded them onto my mobile and started listening to them on my commute. While the sound quality is sometimes so poor that I’m straining to hear, the content is top shelf.

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Benedict Cumberbatch Confirmed as Doctor Strange

Saturday, December 6th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Benedict CumberbatchA few weeks ago, Marvel Studios leaked that it was in discussions with Benedict Cumberbatch to take the lead role role in its upcoming superhero film Doctor Strange. Several outlets picked it up as a news story, but I thought it was strange. Who announces they’re “in talks?” Don’t you keep that quiet until terms are concluded? Cumberbatch is about as hot as a young actor can get, what with the title role in Sherlock, and his roles in Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit, and The Imitation Game. Making a big noise in the press about your top choice before you even start negotiating seems like a sure way to drive up the price for the talent — or to end up disappointing fans.

Well, either Marvel knew the outcome in advance, or they just really know what they’re doing, as this week they announced they’d reached terms with Cumberbatch. He will appear in the film version of Doctor Strange, to be released in 2016 as part of Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Producer Kevin Feige said:

Stephen Strange’s story requires an actor capable of great depth and sincerity. In 2016, Benedict will show audiences what makes Doctor Strange such a unique and compelling character.

Doctor Strange was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1963 (not long after they co-created Spider-man). As I said when we first discussed it here, I hope the film draws inspiration from Ditko’s fantastic art, and especially the way he portrayed the dimension-hopping adventures of his sorcerer-hero. Marvel announced the director would be Scott Derrickson (who directed the fabulously creepy Sinister, and Deliver Us from Evil), back in June.

Doctor Strange is scheduled to be released in November 4, 2016. It will be directed by Scott Derrickson, from a screenplay by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus).

New Treasures: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H. P. Lovecraft and I. N. J. Culbard

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath-smallIn January of this year, I reviewed I.N.J. Culbard’s graphic novel adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness. And I loved it.

Since then, Culbard has produced several additional Lovecraft volumes, including comic adaptations of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Shadow Out of Time. And while I was at my local comic shop on Saturday, buying D&D dice for my kids, I spotted another one in the new arrivals rack: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, a thick 144-page adaption of one of H.P. Lovecraft’s lesser-known fantasies.

Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it.” Randolph Carter embarks on an epic quest across a world beyond the wall of sleep, in search of an opulent and mysterious sunset city. When he prays to the gods of dream to reveal the whereabouts of this magical city, they do not answer, and his dreams stop altogether. Undaunted, Carter resolves to go to Kadath, where the gods live, and beseech them in person. However, no one has ever been to Kadath, and no one even knows how to get there — but that won’t stop Randolph Carter from trying.

While The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is not as celebrated as some of Lovecraft’s more famous work, it is highly regarded by many of his most dedicated fans. It’s also received several high-profile graphics adaptions in the last few years, including a gorgeous hardcover edition from P.S. Publishing (part of their new Pulps Library), and a Kickstarter-funded graphic novel from artist Jason Bradley Thompson. (And if you insist on going old school, of course, there’a also the Ballantine Adult Fantasy paperback.)

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath was published by SelfMadeHero on November 18, 2014. It is 144 pages, priced at $19.95. There is no digital edition.

Firefly Friday: Leaves on the Wind Comic

Friday, November 21st, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Serenity_Leaves_on_the_Wind_HC_coverThe film Serenity brought a fair amount of closure to fans of Firefly, but as with any great story it didn’t end there. Each character goes through events in the film that transforms them in some way, and the story is never over. The classic hero’s journey ends not with the climactic battle, but with the return. The hero comes back to where he (or she) began and, through the events, has been transformed. Indeed, often their home itself has been transformed in some way, even if only in the way they view it.

The 6-issue limited comic book limited series, now collected together in Serenity: Leaves on the Wind (Amazon) completes the “Return” aspect of the hero’s journey for our crew … and since it’s a story in its own right, it also contains a full journey within it, with a new call to action, a new conflict, a new shift under the feet of the heroes. New allies and enemies are introduced, and the crew continues to change.

The series begins in the aftermath of Serenity, where the revelations about the origins of the Reavers spark heated debate across the ‘Verse. While pundits debate the veracity of the allegations, both the Alliance and a growing New Resistance movement are looking for the man who started it all: Malcolm Reynolds.

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Goth Chick News: From Hell Gets the Small Screen Treatment from FX

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

From Hell Alan MooreThe FX Network is making bank giving us the creeps.

Earlier this week, IMDB reported the network responsible for the nightmare-inducing American Horror Story is developing a TV series based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s critically acclaimed graphic novel From Hell.

From Hell was published in comic form from 1989 to 1996. It totals 572 pages and I own every one, having purchased the entire series in mint condition at a flea market.

Do not underestimate the opportunities at a flea market.

The comic book series depicts a fictional account of the gory Jack the Ripper killings in Whitechapel, London as part of a conspiracy by the Freemasons and the royal family. The series also used some historical facts and actual people involved with the case to create a narrative for the story.

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Culture, Corporate and Otherwise

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!It’s been a while since I posted anything here at Black Gate. There’s no one reason; a number of things have kept me busy or occupied, most recently a persistent head cold and ear infection. I mention this because being under the weather has indirectly to do with the following post. Firstly, being sick led me to watch some TV shows which I now want to write a bit about. Secondly, my mental state shaped the way I thought about what I experienced; I can only hope now to capture the sense of coherence I had then. This essay will be more shapeless than usual, I’m afraid, an attempt to explain the connections that drifted through my mind between Alan Moore, Doc Savage, and Scooby Doo, among others.

When you’re feeling sick — or at least when I’m feeling sick — it’s sometimes restful to read or watch something familiar. As it was coming up to Halloween when I caught a bad cold, I decided to watch something spooky but unchallenging. And it turned out that Canadian Netflix had both the very first Scooby-Doo TV series, 1969’s Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears), and the most recent, 2010’s Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (created and produced by Spike Brandt, Tony Cervone, and Mitch Watson).

I’d read some very good things about the latter show, some here on this blog from Nick Ozment, so I decided I’d rewatch the series I knew from my youth and then see the modern reboot. Because curiosity takes many odd forms, I also ended up drifting around Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database, reading up on the creation of both shows. Which touched off a few reflections on the shape of stories, generational differences, and popular culture.

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Firefly Friday: Better and Not-So-Better Days in Serenity Comics

Friday, November 14th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

SerenityBetterDaysNext week will mark the release of the hardcover collection of the Serenity: Leaves on the Wind (Amazon) limited series, which marks the first official story set in the post-film Serenity ‘Verse.

However, this is actually the fourth collection of Serenity comics. I previously reviewed the Serenity: Those Left Behind comic story, which was published before the release of the film Serenity. Two additional stories have been released as comics to tell further adventures of the Serenity crew since the film came out, but these were telling stories that took place before the film.

Serenity: Better Days (Amazon)

The second limited series to get collected together, Better Days tells the story of a mission that goes surprisingly right for the Serenity crew. It sets them on a path where they all might be able to live their wildest dreams. More importantly, though, the series is set before the events of Serenity – so the series includes characters who don’t make it out of the film alive. We get yet another glimpse of some of our favorite characters all together.

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Selling Short Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror Fiction, Part II

Saturday, November 1st, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken


Don’t sell your copyright. Superman smash!!

Hey everybody. Welcome to the second of a three-post series on selling short fiction. Last time, I talked about knowing the markets and how your own writing fits into them. This week, I want to talk about sales, contracts, payments, and what rights you’re selling when you sell short fiction. This blog post is in no way a sleep-aid, despite the fact that the last sentence included the words sales, contracts, and rights.

To snap you awake, let’s assume you’re new and you’ve written something. What’s your second worry, after worrying about backing up your masterpiece of short fiction? That nobody steals your shit! You’ve heard about Siegel and Shuster. DC owns Superman. Same with Batman. They sold the copyrights.

You’ve probably heard some variant of “brilliant-but-shy-artist-shows-his-genius-to-a-Hollywood-producer-who-says-no-and-three-years-later-sees-his-magnum-opus-on-the-big-screen-with-all-the-names-changed.” I’ve felt that fear. I’ve written stuff I thought was genius. Hahahahaha. No, seriously. People are worried about losing what they created.

So, first thing: You own it. Only you can sell the rights. And the rights you sell are always described in a contract, that you can choose to either sign or not sign. So, sigh of relief. Let me explain what you are being offered by way of example.

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