Knights of the Dinner Table 220 Now on Sale

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Knights of the Dinner Table 220-smallActually, issue #220 of Knights of the Dinner Table has been on sale for a couple months now, and I missed it. I just found out it was the 25th Anniversary issue, and now I’m doubly embarrassed.

Twenty-five years ago, Jolly Blackburn created the Knights of the Dinner Table comic to fill an unexpected one-page hole at the back of his gaming magazine Shadis. Today, the Knights of the Dinner Table headline one of the longest-running independent comics in history, and they also feature in board games, card games, t-shirts, and even an independently produce live-action series.

But the heart of the KoDT publishing empire remains the monthly comic, dedicated to the misadventures of a group of misfit gamers from Muncie, Indiana. It is written and drawn by my friend Jolly R. Blackburn, with editorial assistance by his talented wife Barbara. Black Gate readers may remember the KoDT spin-off The Java Joint, which appeared in the back of every issue of BG (and was eventually collected in a single volume in 2012).

In addition to Jolly’s hilarious comic strips, Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine is packed with gaming columns of all kinds, keeping you informed on the latest and greatest in the industry. KoDT 220 has no less than 11 full-length strips, plus some short “One-Two Punches.”

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

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Magneto, the Comic Series

Saturday, August 1st, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Magneto002COV-102bd-ab93eFor my my interview with Marvel Comics Assistant Editor Xander Jarowey, one of the covers I enjoyed including in the post was Magneto #1. Magneto is one of Marvel’s most iconic super-villains, having influenced the Marvel Universe in various ways since his appearance in X-Men #1 in 1963.

He started off as an older villain who, from the beginning, served as moral foil to Charles Xavier in the debate about the place of mutants. His arguments in the early days were never deep, and his power faded with various defeats, until by the excellent Savage Land story arc of X-Men #59-63, he was using mechanical devices to simulate his powers, and then in Defenders #16, he was reduced to infancy by one of his creations.

Then, Chris Claremont got a hold of him. In X-Men #104, the new X-Men faced a young, rejuvenated and more powerful Magneto, and he’s downright terrifying in Uncanny #112 (one of my favorites). Claremont revealed Magneto’s full literary power in Uncanny X-Men #150, when he put Magneto’s past squarely in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II as a victim of racism and persecution.

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Discovering Robert E. Howard: Wally Conger on “Rogues in the House”

Friday, July 24th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

BG_RoguesComicOne of the cool things about being an active member in the Sherlock Holmes community is that I run across a broad spectrum of people with other common interests outside of the world’s first private consulting detective. Wally Conger and I have had back and forth conversations on versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles and other topics.

We may not agree on season three of Sherlock, but we do both enjoy reading Conan. So, I asked him to review “Rogues in the House,” which I knew he had just read. He was kind enough to do just that…


By the time Robert E. Howard launched into writing “Rogues in the House” in January 1933, he already had 10 Conan tales under his belt. He was very comfortable with the character.

In fact, upon publication of the story in the January 1934 issue of Weird Tales, Howard wrote to fellow writer Clark Ashton Smith:

Glad you liked ‘Rogues in the House.’ That was one of those yarns which seemed to write itself. I didn’t rewrite it even once. As I remember I only erased and changed one word in it, and then sent it in just as it was written. I had a splitting sick headache, too, when I wrote the first half, but that didn’t seem to affect my work any.

I wish to thunder I could write with equal ease all the time. Ordinarily I revise even my Conan yarns once or twice, and the other stuff I hammer out by main strength.

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Discovering Robert E. Howard: Bobby Derie on REH in the Comics – Beyond Barbarians

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

REHComics_REHOur summer of Robert E. Howard is just rolling along here at Black Gate. The latest entry delves into the comic book/graphic novel world of Howard’s works. I don’t know much about this area, but even I’m aware of Roy Thomas.

Bobby Derie is going to take us on a tour focusing on the non-Conan adaptations of Howard’s works. You’re going to learn about a quite a few you’ve missed. So, on we go!


The Golden Age of Comics passed Robert E. Howard by completely. The Silver Age treated him almost as poorly, save for in Mexico, where La Reina de la Costa Negra spun out the fantastic adventures of a blond Conan as second-mate to the pirate-queen Bêlit, and “The Gods of the North” found a few pages in Star-Studded Comics #14 (Texas Trio, 1968), and Gardner F. Fox borrowed liberally from Conan in crafting “Crom the Barbarian” for Out of this World (Avon, 1950).

In an era when DC Comics and their contemporaries felt no qualms stealthily adapting the horror and science fiction stories of H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, and Ray Bradbury without permission or credit, they apparently did not touch the evocative weird tales of Robert E. Howard; neither did the sport comics or westerns or detectives.

In 1970 when Marvel Comics licensed the character of Conan the Barbarian from Glenn Lord, acting as the agent for the Howard estate, they were on unsure ground; up until this point, Marvel had mostly worked on their own characters and properties. Yet the barbarian proved an unexpected success as the issues wore on, with writer Roy Thomas receiving permission even to adapt some of Howard’s original Conan stories to the comics, including such classics as “The Tower of the Elephant” and the novel The Hour of the Dragon.

The success of Conan led Marvel to license additional of Howard’s characters for adaptation — Kull of Atlantis, the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, and the Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane — as well as the creation of original spin-off characters, most notably Red Sonja, based in part on Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino.

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Is Berkeley Breathed Returning to Bloom County?

Monday, July 13th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Berkeley Breathed draws Bloom CountyBerkeley Breathed, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip Bloom County, posted the enigmatic image at left on his Facebook page, showing him working on a new Bloom County strip, with the caption, “A return after 25 years. Feels like going home.”

Bloom County, one of the finest comic strips of the 20th Century, ran from December 8, 1980 to August 6, 1989. It featured a great deal of political satire and commentary on pop culture, and introduced the characters Bill the Cat, 10-year-old newspaper reporter Milo Bloom, the completely moral-free attorney Steve Dallas, and Opus the Penguin. Breathed ended the strip in 1989 to focus on a Sunday-only comic, Outland, and later a number of best-selling children’s books, including A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story (1991), The Last Basselope (1992), Goodnight Opus (1993), and Mars Needs Moms! (2007), adapted into the Disney flop of the same name produced by Robert Zemeckis in 2011.

Breathed has not elaborated the exact meaning of his comment, but it seems pretty clear he’s returning to Bloom County in some fashion (and within hours of his post, speculation had already begun to spread that that’s exactly what he’s doing, in places like the A.V. Club and Comic Book Resources.)

However, there are some clues in the comments. Donald Trump, who was frequently the butt of Breathed’s jokes, and who played a role in the demise of the original strip (the final storyline featuring Trump buying out the strip and firing all the characters, forcing them to find jobs in other comic strips), is now running for President. Asked directly in the comments if Trump’s campaign had any influence on his decision to return, Breathed replied “This creator can’t precisely deny that the chap you mention had nothing do with it.” Stay tuned for additional details.


One Shot, One Story: Ray Bradbury

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Ray Bradbury-smallEnmeshed as we are in the world-shaking spectacle that is the 2015 NBA finals, this might be an appropriate time to take a break from the struggle of the Hobbits (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and their Golden State Warriors) against the dominion of the Dark Lord (LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers) and remember back to the last improbable time that professional basketball was mentioned on Black Gate.

That was in my article of last October, “One Shot, One Story: Clark Ashton Smith,” which was inspired by a discussion I had with a fellow NBA addict in which we debated the burning question, “If you had to pick one player to make one shot — to save your life — who would it be?” Once our argument had run its course, I started thinking about a different form of acrobatic exhibitionism — writing, which led to a related question: If you had to introduce a prospective reader to the work of Clark Ashton Smith with just one story, which story would you choose?

If you’re dying to know the sporting and literary answers to those queries, read the old article; it’s not bad, and I’m already thinking about an All-Fantasy Greats basketball team… let’s see, H.P. Lovecraft at point guard creating for his teammates, finding that punishing inside player Robert E. Howard in the post, or kicking out to Clark Ashton Smith for a deep three pointer… woah. Somebody had better stop me before I get silly…

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A Gateway to Fantasy for Young Readers: Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi

Monday, June 1st, 2015 | Posted by Nick Ozment

amulet coverWith the height of the “Harry Potter phenomenon” nearly a decade past, we now have a new generation of seven- and eight-year-olds who were born after the final book in that series came out. A perennial question comes up: What will be the next “gateway” work that ushers young readers into a lifelong love of fantasy and speculative fiction?

Well, some may rightly ask, why can’t it be Harry Potter? Or A Wrinkle in Time, or The Dark is Rising sequence, or The Chronicles of Prydain, or The Chronicles of Narnia, or The Hobbit, or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or…?

Many do still find their first taste of enchantment in books that are decades or even a century old, but there is no denying that — at least in the publishing and bookselling world — there has to be a “latest model.” Librarians still push those beloved older books faithfully, but their sales pitch is a lot stronger when it comes as a follow-up to a young reader who, having just read something that is currently “all the rage,” asks, “What else out there is like this?”

I’m here today to suggest that if you want a contemporary work that will introduce 3rd to 7th graders to the pleasures of epic fantasy, steampunk, people with animal heads, and wise-cracking robots, you could do a lot worse than hand them the graphic novel Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper (2008) by Kazu Kibuishi. But be prepared: odds are good that they will immediately be demanding books 2 through 6. And then they will be waiting with bated breath for book 7 and cursing that there is now a two-year interval between volumes (welcome, Young Reader, to the Pains of Following a Series that is Ongoing. To better understand what you are in for, see any conversations referencing George R.R. Martin or Patrick Rothfuss).

But I’m also here to recommend them to anyone who likes this sort of stuff, regardless your age. I mentioned “3rd to 7th graders” in the last paragraph because those are the perimeters the publisher, Scholastic, says they are written toward. As someone who does not fit that demographic, I can vouch for them being worthwhile reads even if you are middle-aged.

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Editing Indie Comics and Editing Marvel Comics: The Different Worlds of Heather Antos

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Star_Wars_Princess_Leia_Vol_1_3_TextlessI’ve had a chance to e-chat with Marvel Comics editorial staff Xander Jarowey and Jake Thomas, as well as the indie comic creators from Mirror Comics. Now, I’m e-sitting down with Heather Antos, a newly-minted Assistant Editor at Marvel who also spent a year editing indie comics.

Heather got noticed by Marvel with her biggest indie credit, a comic anthology called Unlawful Good: An Anthology of Crime, which mixed together the innovations of creator-owned, anthology format, and Kickstarter crowd-funding. Crowd-funding takes a lot of work; check out its completed Kickstarter page and youtube promo video.

Kickstarter in prose as well as in comics is still relatively new as a business model, so New York Comic Con invited her to speak on a panel, which led to her hiring as assistant editor on Night of the Living Deadpool, Star Wars, Darth Vader, Deadpool and others.


So, some of your indie editor work still hasn’t come out yet. Are you able to talk about any of those works? Can you talk about Unlawful Good and how that was different for the industry?

Sure! My time in the industry as an editor is actually quite short. It was a little over a year ago that I began freelance editing. In fact, the whole point of UNLAWFUL GOOD was a bit of an experiment with myself to see even if comic editing was something I was capable of (I was a recent college grad trying to find ‘my place in the world’).

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Nine Positive Traits of the Jem Trailer

Friday, May 15th, 2015 | Posted by mariebilodeau

Modern adaptation that manages to keep the poofy hair = adaptation done right.

Modern adaptation that manages to keep the poofy hair = adaptation done right.

Jem and the Holograms, that quintessential 80s animated rock band, is back!

First, it returned in a monthly IDW comic book, written by Kelly Thompson and illustrated by Sophie Campbell, which is totally awesome. Then, this week, a trailer was released for the forthcoming live action movie. To say it wasn’t well received by fans is a bit like saying that the sun exploding would be bad for the Earth.

BUT, as self-help gurus would say: Try and capture the positive in your day-to-day. And slay goats. (I’m pretty sure they say that.) And so, in my continuous pursuit to see the positive in things that are easy to hate, I looked at the trailer three times (!) to pull out some positive traits.

1 – Ambition Is Tough (And Unattractive!)

Ambition is a crap shoot. You might succeed, you might not. It’s good that the trailer clearly showcases that Jerrica had absolutely no ambition and had to be convinced to pursue stardom. The lesson here is simple: Don’t pursue stuff. Be pursued! It’s a real life fairy tale! Plus, as often showcased, ambition is unattractive in girls. Who the hell wants to be unattractive???

Be pursued. Be attractive. Live the life.

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Knights of the Dinner Table #219 Now on Sale

Friday, May 15th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Knights of the Dinner Table 219-small DC Showcase 12 Challengers of the Unknown-small

The latest issue of Knights of the Dinner Table boasts another great Kirby tribute by the fabulous Fraim brothers. The cover is an homage to DC Showcase #12, featuring the Challengers of the Unknown, drawn by the great Jack Kirby and originally published in 1957. (Kirby later claimed he reused elements from this series at Marvel Comics, when he collaborated with Stan Lee to create The Fantastic Four four years later.) Click on the images for bigger versions.

I remember buying the very first issue of KoDT, at a comic convention here in Chicago. I had no idea then that it would become one of the longest-running independent comics in history.

Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine is written and drawn by my friend Jolly R. Blackburn, with editorial assistance by his talented wife Barbara. Readers of the print version of Black Gate may remember the KoDT spin-off The Java Joint, which appeared in the back of every issue (and was eventually collected in a single volume in 2012).

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