Extra Sequential #4
This final issue is a collection of great interviews and articles that were due for print with two different publishers, but alas "circumstances beyond our control" happened. Nevertheless, we're very proud of what's in these pages, even though they may not be as polished as we'd like. You'll find a look at just why Aquaman is awesome, the love affair between music and comics, a chat with Iron Man and Thor writer Matt Fraction, and Secret Avengers artist Mike Deodato Jr and so much more. Thanks for reading our humble issues! We had a blast making them.
AQUAMAN IS KING MUSIC & COMICS MIKE DEODATO JR. EDMUND SHERN AND EVEN MORE E Extra Sequential Magazine. All rights reserved. es began life our mag and sadly, our last issue. of been a long journey talent involved So this isas a free digital magazine, as a showcaseIt'sthe diversity and colossalto these pages. in today's sequential art (in other words, comic books). Created by myself, Kris Bather and Dave For the first seven Australia, of last year we issues have received almost 18, 000 subscribers onto Lapsley in Western months ES' three on-line created three free on-line issues dedicated comics and as well as a Rising Star status on Issuu.com, with almost 80 000 unique page views so Scribd.com the wealth of talented people behind them. It took a lot of effort to maintain far. the momentum outside of our normal day jobs and lives, so we waved goodbye to Extra Sequential in mid-2009. see if you guys and girls dig our vibe. ES pilot issue has been Now, we're moving to print, toHowever in the time since then we did grasp two wonderful published to to bring our we'd like to do on a regular basis and now it's up to you to spread opportunitiesshow you what humble mag to print. One of those opportunities did happen, in a the word and support us in order thata different publisher was one of those, "circumstances way, and the second one from our pilot developes into a much needed regular comic art showcase. We believe that the proof is in the pages in which today's hottest writers and artists strut beyond our control" scenarios. Oh well. their stuff, as you'll see here. Our aim with Extra Sequential was always pretty simple. In fact you can whittle it down The next issue to six words: is being created now but if you want it toWe hope you agree with us. This final comics are cooler than you think. see the light of day then buy your friends, family and strangers in the street a copy or just tell them about how cool Angel Phoenix is and in issue is kind of a raw edition. Computer breakdowns, job relocations and two hours particular the must have buy that is Extra Sequential. distance between us mean that frankly, this issue can't be as polished as our previous We hope that one day this little limited edition pilot issue will be available via ebay for ten times the ones. However, we wanted to unleash our hard work and let it be seen by more than just cover price! two sets of eyes, so we hope you like it and considering we're just two guys in Australia Cheers who love good stories and pretty pictures, we're proud of what we've accomplished. Cheers, Kris Bather and Dave Lapsley Kris Bather www.extrasequential.com www.comicbookjesus.com firstname.lastname@example.org All articles by Kris Graphic design by by David Lapsley. Words by Kris.Bather and graphic design Dave. Characters and artwork shown are trademark Printed in ? and (c) their respective owners. Contact: email@example.com All contents copyright their respective owners. Sequential xtra 3 Batman TM � DC Comics, Inc. All rights reserved. THESE SNAZZY CONTENTS PAGES AREN'T INDICATIVE OF THIS ISSUE. STILL LOOKS GOOD THOUGH! 5 0 Deodato Taumaturgo Borges Filho has been a professional comics artist for the last two and a half decades, but most superhero fans would know him as Mike Deodato Jr. His pages are always you get the feeling that adrenalin. From his early stint on DC's Wonder Woman to his more recent work with a variety of ES: Growing up, were you exposed to a lot of American comics? Yes -- of course! Occasionally I'd get my hands on Marvel, DC, even Warren comics... but a lot of stuff got reprinted down here in Brazil, in my native Portuguese. So I got to see all the marvelous, classic stuff - Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, all the greats. ES: And what was the Brazilian comics scene like at that time, and how is it today? American and European comics dominated the market - then and now. That really didn't change, except for some manga and a few Brazilian books popping up here and there. As an artist who worked in Brazilian comics for a short while, "Don't quit your day job" was the standard chant. That hasn't changed, either - you can't make a living on what local comics pay. ES: Does anyone still call you by your real name at all? ...creatively, at least. I don't plan as an artist. Getting better - it is care about what is the trend. I just Marvel books, such as She-Hulk,Amazing SpiderMan, The Incredible Hulk, Dark Avengers, and now Secret Avengers the Brazilian artist continues to capture the intense battles and dangerous lives of costumed characters. Only my closest friends and family -- and the ones who don't read comics. My agent calls me Moron. At least it's with a capital M. I return the favor. (Laughs) you've adopted over the last few years. What was the reasoning for your new realistic, darker approach to your pencils? If you remain static, you die - creatively, at least. I don't plan ever to stop learning and growing as an artist. Getting better - it is just something I like to do. I don't care about what is the trend. I just do what I like. It's been working. ES: What kind of different tools do you use now compared to when you broke into the business? Right now I'm in love with my 21-inch Wacom Cintiq. I'm doing a lot of things with it, especially on the more "talky" pages. someone do you break them all down the same way? Are there certain things you do with every script to make it manageable from an artistic point of view? Everything is in service of the story. I read the script once, carefully, all the way through, taking it all in, almost like and textures and nuances. My job at this point is to fall in love with the story. Then on a second reading, I romance it - I do the layouts, coaxing the best images of the script and the most passionate performances out of the characters. If a layout doesn't bring out enough heat to Marvel creators that often? Only at Conventions. I miss it. I really hope Marvel sends me to some Conventions this year. Hint! Hint! ES: It's a pretty exciting time to be involved with the Avengers franchise. Are you looking forward to fan reaction when they see what's next for the team? I'm lucky if I see out beyond my work studio window! I'll probably learn about it second or third hand. (Laughs.) ES: Do you follow any non-Marvel series, or characters that you used to work on? Not really. Unless one of my idols is on it, like Neal Adams or else. I do look at Black Panther, because my good friend Will Conrad draws it. ES: What's the best thing someone's said to you at a convention? ever to stop learning and growing just something I like to do. I don't do what I like. It's been working." the arguments, enough excitement to the action, or enough explosiveness to the denouement, I do it over again. Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me? ES: When you're drawing Thunderbolts, or Dark Avengers, do you have an evil grin on your face to get in the right mood? Yes. I thought I was the only one who would smile while drawing a smiling face, but now that you mentioned it, I assume there are more disturbed people around beyond myself, I feel relieved, thanks. ES: Do you get to catch up with fellow "Just that for the sketch? I'll pay you the double!" Kidding. My best moment was when I introduced myself at the last NY Con to Neal Adams and he gave me an unexpected big hug and told me he loved my work. Better than any comic book prize. ES: What do you do to relax when you have spare time? Spare time? What are you talking about?? Let's see...I don't do things like Skype or iChat or IM. I simply do not have time. I do Karate, go out to the movies, watch a TV show. Normal stuff. And I tell interviewers to remind readers to buy my books and vote for me at awards time! ES: The classic Hulk, Wendigo, Wolverine Wolverine: Origins #28 is one of do you choreograph something like that? Is there a lot of experimentation on and take photos? I like to experiment all the time. Photos, to make my work better, I'll use it. For example: Right now, I'm getting exceptional results with new design layouts where the small panels follow the perspective of the bigger scene of the page. I also recently switched back to handinking my work after years of giving myself Carpel Tunnel Syndrome burnishing down really dark, tight pencils. And now I'm even adding the ink wash technique. I'm thrilled Marvel has let me take that step. In some ways, it hearkens back to some of the Warren artwork that I grew up admiring. I'm probably giving my colorist, Rainier Beredo, If you want to buy Mike's books (as you should) then check out his splendid work on Secret Avengers, the new ongoing series with writer Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Sleeper), starring Beast, Nova, Moon Knight, War Machine, Valkyrie, and Steve Rogers (the original Captain America) in his swanky new duds. www.mikedeodatojr.com ore in vogue than ever, well presented anthologies are like an irresistible visual banquet, offering short stories sure to please the masses. Hard cover, large format, coffee table books containing more genres than your local Blockbuster store. What's not to like? For your ocular pleasure, we present such delights. The aptly titled The Anthology Project has been turning heads on its tour of comic and art centred conventions in the last few weeks. Nick Thornborrow, who along with fellow editor Joy Ang, is also a contributor to the book, sheds some light on its arty pages. EXTRA SEQUENTIAL: What was the reasoning behind starting the project? NICK THORNBORROW: Almost everyone in this book works for a studio of some kind. The main thing we wanted to do with this book was to provide an alternative creative outlet for all of the artists involved. Our motives were a little more complicated than that though, since there are plenty of ways to exercise one's creative muscles. Comic anthologies are nothing new, and there are certainly a few great ones out there. It's possible that we could have begged our way into an established volume, but valuable to learn how to do this ourselves from the ground up instead of trying to sell of friends that we wanted to collaborate with, and we were certain that the best way to ensure we were working with this group of people, was to do it ourselves. And after many hurdles, we can happily say that the challenges have been worthwhile. ES: What's the response been like so far as you've shown it at various conventions? NT: The convention circuit has revealed to us just how small and just how warm the comic community is. It's been a very positive experience for us, absolutely. ES: Do the contributing artists all have something in common? NT: The group is basically a mish-mash of two groups of friends. Joy and I went to two different art schools on opposite sides of the country, but ended up meeting at a video game studio where we worked together. When we decided that this was a project we wanted to initiate, we began by recruiting our friends who were scattered all over the country working for animation studios, video game studios, or working as freelance illustrators, and from there it grew into this collective. If you'll allow one conceit, if I had to pick one thing that they all have in common, it is their passion for art and story telling, and their remarkable talent. This group really has been humbling to work with, and a huge source of inspiration. www.theanthologyproject.com M ED MU ND SH ERN 17 In 2005 EDMUND SHERN co-founded Imaginary Friends Studios, a unique collective of artists based in Singapore with the aim of connecting Asian artists with international success. Shern helped guide IFS' sought after services in areas such as concept art, graphic design, advertising and comics, and the company was instrumental in giving Radical Publishing a unique painted look in series such as Hercules, Caliber and Shrapnel. Shern then translated Mateki: The Magic Flute for Radical which was based on Mozart's classic opera and adapted by famed Japanese painter Yoshitaka Amano (Vampire Hunter D, Final Fantasy). Since then, Shern has maintained a close working relationship with Radical, including Freedom Formula. in hi-tech racing suits has been pegged by director Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns) as a future project. These days Shern spends his time between Singapore and Los Angeles. ARCANA: When was the moment you realized you wanted to be a professional creative type, or did you originally have aspirations to be EDMUND SHERN: I've always wanted to be a comic book storyteller and even created comics for my classmates while I was in elementary school. Strangely I was a reserve never saw action (I was on the extremely reserve list!). You would have had different most American creators have. How has that helped you as a creator today? Being in a commonwealth country, I grew up with Brit and European comics. 2000AD, Beano, and Battle Picture Weekly were my weekly staples, alongside old school manga and Hong Kong Kung Fu comics. One day I found ROM #5 at my neighborhood newsstand and I grabbed it. I was excited that it was a single digit number American comic! That's when I really wanted to be a comic book writer. Bill Mantlo wrote in a way that really resonated with me and there was a maturity to the characters that I had never seen in other comics before. Today, I still strive for that impact on my readers. How's the Freedom Formula movie going? Have you had much involvement with it? and I've had a few very good calls with scriptwriter Mike Finch, whose work I respect tremendously. I see my role as giving Mike as much ammo as I have in my head and letting doesn't. I loved his previous script Medieval and am excited to see what he can do with it especially under the direction from Bryan Singer. I also love The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie! In the meantime I've also been reworking some of the mecha designs to address certain practical concerns in bringing the concepts to a live action What was your involvement with Imaginary Friends Studios and do you still keep up to date with what they're doing? I founded Imaginary Friends Studios and built it from the ground up for 3+ years, but my partners and I decided to part ways. I still have lots of friends in the studio, after all I personally recruited most of the staff in the hopes of giving them a platform to shine, so I still keep track of them as artists that have a bright future if they manage their careers well. In fact, I'm now working on various new Storm Lion and Radical projects with many of the artists who left Imaginary Friends Studios after my departure. After reading Freedom Formula growing up? boys. The original Battlestar Galactica watched it in the local movie theatre that screened it in Sensurround. The theatre seats would rumble when the Vipers launched and I was totally hooked. I built paper Vipers, Cylon raiders and drew BSG fan comics. What exactly do Storm Lion, and Velvet Engine offer? Storm Lion is our Singapore based publishing imprint under Radi- Cannes must have been a highlight for you. Do you have any memories that stand out? Meeting Jean-Claude Van Damme and Adrian Paul was pretty cool. However the real highlight was kind of a spiritual on my hand. It stayed there for a good 3 minutes before it are going well. ideas and hopefully appeal to both American/International and Asian markets at the same time. Freedom Formula was a great example of how a story that drew from Chinese historical mythology and plays with Asian versus Western perspectives on themes such as freedom and duty, creates a fascinating story that can resonate with today's internationally aware readers. Velvet Engine is just my dumping ground for projects that I think are too personal to jusWhat does your role at Radical involve? My role at Radical is to oversee operations at a strategic level. That involves ensuring the organizational structure and business strategies align especially as we expand into other areas of publishing including foreign licensing, mass market books and other types of publishing beyond comics and graphic novels. Really it's just an excuse to hang out and plot with my best friend, partner and mentor, Radical president/founder, Barry Levine who has been such a huge part of giving me my big break. Will you be writing any more comics in the future? Absolutely! In addition to writing various new ideas that I have, I'm also enjoying the process of co-writing with various writers such as Andrew Dabb (TV's Supernatural), Tony Lee (IDW's Doctor Who) and Brandon Jerwa (Dynamite's Battlestar Galactica, Highlander). It's been good I'm guessing you have a house littered with all kinds of DVDs, action Not just a house but my studio as well. I'm a big believer in surrounding myself with things and people that inspire me. Sometimes it sucks because I wish I could have the cool minimalistic decor that they do so well in mu- sic videos but this works really well for me (my wife has other opinions). What lessons did you learn from working with Yoshitako Amano on Mateki: The Magic Flute? Yoshitaka Amano is the consummate gentleman artist. He's at a good place where his art speaks for itself and he can remove himself from the concerns of commercialism because everyone respects his art for what it is and are willing to pay well for it. Hanging out at his home studio in Tokyo was an amazing experience. Every- thing in the house was about art and his artistic expression was all around, right down to his personally hand painted cups. Everything in his home was about art and the beauty of art. It seems like you wear a lot of hats, so what do you say when people ask you what you do for a living? If it's in a casual context, I usually tell people that I'm a comic book creator. I think that will always be a role where my purest form of creative expression will be. www.radicalcomics.com www.stormlion.com f r o m t h e h e a r t Here we present three graphic novels that encapsulate the highs and lows of love. These tales are for lovers of sequential art, or sequential art for lovers. 40 f o r t h e h e a r t Blankets By Craig Thompson/ Top Shelf/ 582 pages If you've never laughed out loud, or cried while reading a graphic novel, Blankets will take you there, or at least dangerously close. Craig Thompson's ode to teen romance, growing up and wrestling with faith will open your eyes to the heights that sequential art can attain. Never heavy handed, this autobiographical tale of a young man's attempt at understanding the uncertainty of life while reaching for some tenderness in who know the joy and loss that tenderness brings. It begins with the young Craig Thompson daily torment at school, before moving to his teen years and discovering God. Craig Christianity, until he goes to a church camp and soon learns that his fellow students are no different than the bullies he's used to. It is at this crossroads that he meets Raina, a young outcast just like him. They sneak off together into the snowy woods, hide in the recreation room and eventually write to one another from miles apart. It's the simplicity and honesty of this relationship that is the book's greatest charm. There are moments of silent beauty, such as when Craig and Raina have their parents drive them both to a snowy rendezvous, halfway between their respective homes, and also powerful scenes with few words, such as the harrowing page with a cruel babysitter in Craig's youth. The turning point for Craig's life occurs in the two week stay at Raina's house as her parents cope with their divorce and he meets Raina's family, including her two mentally disabled adopted siblings. The pair begin an honest intimacy, both emotionally and physically. However like any early always easy and Craig and Raina soon start questioning the nature of love as well as the Christian homes they've both been brought up in. It is in the bulk of Blankets, in which Thompson shows two mature, creative people just enjoying the comfort of each other's company that he really shines as both a writer and artist. The dialogue seems like it's just been freshly plucked from a memory, while the occasional poetic captions reveal young Craig's yearnings. Teenager Craig Thompson is the protagonist of Blankets but we are also given glimpses of his childhood, including his imaginative playing with brother Phil, in which Thompson, the artist adopts a much freer approach to the visuals. Blankets touches on topics such as sexuality, spirituality and growing up and for some, it may be too graphic or revealing, but Thompson always adopts a graceful position as he shows much of his formative years. Every page is a thing of beauty and Thompson is not afraid to mesh fantasy and reality to embody the waking dream that he uses negative space and the richness of shadow with a romantic ease. From the lettering to the layouts to the occasional an enchanting story, linked by a snowy Wisconsin winter and the emotional uncertainties of youth. Blankets has been translated into several languages, such as French, Italian, Norwegian and Spanish and has an accompanying soundtrack by the band Tracker. It is the graphic novel equivalent of that favourite heartbreak song you play when you want to vent and is best enjoyed lying on the couch on a warm Sunday afternoon with a good cup of coffee, or a glass of wine. As one last example of the purity of Blankets, church camp, and her letter renewed my faith in the notion of making marks on paper. Her words were lonely and lovely and comforting and they cried for response. Thus, I found my muse." What's not to love? Shortcomings By Adrian Tomine/ Drawn and Quarterly/ 112 pages Originally serialized in Tomine's Optic Nerve series, Shortcomings is an relationships old and new. It's somewhat Closer, but with a more ordinary looking cast. Asian-American theatre manager Ben Tanaka is the protagonist and for anyone who's been in love, you'll see your own recklessness through his stubborn eyes. A man who has his age Tanaka's actions will have you shaking your head in disbelief before perhaps nodding in agreement at his next decision. He struggles to connect with his girlfriend Miko and occasionally reaches for comfort in other forms while soon discovering his attraction to other women, including Caucasians, which causes even more grief. Of course, any relationship is a two-way street and when Miko decides to accept a four month internship in New York that causes literal distance between them, hidden truths begin to surface. Tomine weaves a spellbinding narrative as he presents the opinions of Ben's friends at his actions and manages to make sure every character is distinct in both appearance and personality, including Ben's co-worker (and punk performer) Autumn and student Sasha. There's plenty of harsh honesty and profanity amidst this group of loosely connected twenty and thirty-somethings who grapple with the clash of expectations never seeks to make deep social or political comments. He simply has the characters speak their inner thoughts with a boldness that you can only get away with those who truly know you. The simple line work and realistic makes you believe you're experiencing a documentary in paper form. This is unmistakably a mature graphic novel for adults who have loved and lost before. There are funny moments, mainly thanks to the sarcasm of Alice, Ben's lesbian friend, who seems to be the only person negativity. However Shortcomings isn't a feel good book, and as the title indicates we all have, even if we discover them too late. It delves into issues of race, desire and commitment with restrained style and stitches together such disparate elements characters talk to each other, and about each other, in ordinary scenarios such as at a cafe or in front of the TV, or at work, their dialogue sometimes comes across it never seems jarring. Sure, Ben and his pals can be rude and careless, but aren't we all at times? Tomine's work reminds us that love is not just a warm feeling, but something that must be practical and learned; something that requires introspection and emotional growth. He cuts through any romantic pretence like a surgeon and of being yourself with another. The black and white pages are some of the bravest ever created in the medium of sequential art, and I dare you to not read it all in one sitting. The number of non-comics focused publications that have praised this should tell you a lot about Shortcomings. It's one of those rare books that you'll pass to your friends and then argue about whose character's side you're on later. with the so-true-it-hurts dialogue that it Every Girl Is The End Of The World For Me By Jeffrey Brown/ Top Shelf/ 104 pages Apart from one of the best titles ever given sized tale uses snippets of a normal life that anyone can relate to, in an honest, yet oddly charming fashion. Every Girl follows Brown in a 3 week period in which various girls come in and out of his life and is described by Brown as a, "mostly true story, not quite true drama, and this book sits somewhere between James Kochalka (American Elf) and Harvey Pekar (American Splendor) in its portrayal of the often blunt and sometimes boring aspects of interacting with friends and lovers, or any combination of the two. It begins with Jeffrey catching up with Allisyn, the girl he lost his virginity to, after not seeing her for three years and moves on to his meeting with pen-pal Lisa and then a series of encounters with females, new and familiar. This is a very downmundane topics such as work, travel, tattoos, food, movies, sickness and other people. There's a handy guide to the various girls as well as a map showing Jeffrey's "geographic timeline." Brown's loose renderings won't be for everyone, but it does hold a certain, crude charm. Blankets, this isn't. Every Girl life in which people come and go and relationships change. It's not laugh out loud funny, or particularly moving, but it is simple and real. Let's be honest. Aquaman gets a bad rap. Like Star Trek fans, he has been the subject of undue mockery for far too long. The fact is though, He's one of DC Comics' oldest, and most powerful superheroes. It's time to set the record straight and prove that Aquaman is more than rd issue of More Fun Comics. Created by artist Paul Norris and writer Mort Wesinger (who also co-created Green Arrow) the character debuted as a mere back-up feature in the series, which eventually dropped it's superhero ALL HAIL THE KING stars to become yet another funny book. Moving to Adventure Comics the sea dwelling hero received his own series. It wasn't all smooth sailing after that however, with the King of Atlantis moving between the as of late � until now, thanks to the epic Brightest Day series that resurrected Aquaman, and hopefully his deserved star status. Most people would be aware of the Atlantean character perhaps thanks to the parodies suffered at the hands of Family Guy or Robot Chicken, or with more dignity as seen in Smallville Entourage TV series. He has also appeared in animated as one of the Super Friends during the in Justice League and as a rousing swashbuckler in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Recently writer Geoff Johns revived the character, along with many others, as part of the Green Lantern epic, Blackest Night. Up until then he hadn't been replaced by a sword swinging upstart, and becoming a rarely seen squid like creature known as the Dweller of the Depths. Yes, it's complicated, but he is after all a superhero that's been around since WWII. However, here are the basic Aquaman facts. More than just another superhero in a bright costume, Aquaman is a king, a general, a world-class soldier and ruler of two thirds of the planet. An imposing, always ready for action. He's surly at times certainly and isn't the most friendly fella at Justice League gatherings, but he gets stuff done. He'd much rather be feared and obeyed than be popular. Aquaman was born as Orin, the product of a tryst between Queen Atlanna and the wizard Atlan in Poseidonis, the capital city of the undersea kingdom known as Atlantis. You'd think having royalty and sorcery in your genes would be every kid's dream. However, Orin was born with blond hair, which is known as the Mark of Kordax by the fearful, superstitious Atlanteans, so baby Orin was left to die on Mercy Reef. Such exposure to air would kill most Atlanteans, but as his soon to be subjects would discover, Orin was not like most Atlanteans. Discovered by a kindly lighthouse keeper, Orin was raised as a human child, and given the name of his adoptive father � Arthur Curry. Orin eventually discovered his Atlantean heritage and journeyed to the undersea kingdom, where he married Mera, a red haired queen from another dimension. In between his new leadership role, he also became public, was granted the name Aquaman and became a founding member of the Justice League of America. Writer Peter David took the helm in the a new generation, much like he did with The Hulk for Marvel. In a controversial move in David's second issue of Aquaman's ongoing series, the King of the Seven Seas lost his left hand, thanks to the evil Charbydis and some very hungry piranhas. This would serve to shatter any misconceptions about the classic character. Not only did he receive a golden harpoon appendage, which he controlled via telepathy, he also received a new look and attitude. Gone were the clean-shaven appearance and vintage gold top and green pants. Now Aquaman looked like a hairy gladiator, with a metallic shirt and a menacing disposition. This was an unhappy, withdrawn king, but David made it work. The series focused primarily on Aquaman's dealings with his undersea expanse, political power plays and all the tumultuous events, injustice and horror that accompany any huge kingdom. Aquaman's history has always been one quaman's bilities (pre-Brightest Day resurrection) One of the most powerful members in the DC Universe, Orin/Arthur Curry is no stuffy old king. With a body tempered by the immense pressures of the ocean he is strength enough to lift a tank. He can swim at incredible speeds and can breathe on land just as easily as he can underwater. He has super senses allowing him to see and hear (and talk) in the complete darkness of the ocean's depths. Apart from simply talking telepathically with all sea life, he's also used this unique ability on any being evolved from marine animals, such as humans, and has exhibited minor telepathic abilities such as mind reading. Aquaman also had the ability to form his watery hand into hard weapons, open mystical portals, dehydrate enemies via touch or shoot scalding water jets. Aquaman's fans are a loyal, and vocal, bunch. Aqua-fans Bill Reed from comicbookresources.com and Rob Kelly from aquamanshrine.com were kind enough to give their thoughts on King Arthur. In fact their thoughts are far too good to shorten, so prepare for some unashamed, and well deserved, Aquaman praise. ES: Why does Aquaman tend to languish in the perpetually cancelled series domain when BILL REED: A combination of circumstances is to blame. The Super Friends stigma Aquaman one, which has turned Aquaman into a paragon of lameness in the cultural consciousness. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman will continue to exist in comics even after we've cut down all the world's trees and a new comic book issue costs 50 dollars, because they've Your average person on the street can identify them at a glance and explain their concepts in a sentence or two. Aquaman doesn't have that; yes, he's more recognizable than, say, Firestorm the Nuclear Man, but he's remembered at the butt of superhero jokes. No one's ever quite got a handle on him, because he has no conceptual stability. Superman and Batman and the like have undergone many permutations, but they always snap back to their classic portrayals, how we know them best. Aquaman's been a stoic family man, an angsty loner, a king, a superhero, a guy with a harpoon for a hand, a wizard, etc. He's accrued massive supporting casts who all disappear with the next writer's revamp. Each successive attempt to "revive" the character leads to ever-diminishing returns. DC's currently trying to "return him to form," but how long will that last if take over writing duties? just as much a "star" as Flash, Green Lantern, etc. If you look the advertising DC did at the time, Aquaman was pictured just as much as any other and he was appearing in JLA plus various teamups, back-up strips, etc. He had his own cartoon series, as well. B-lister. With no solo book where he could really to really grow and develop the character's history, like DC did with Flash and Green Lantern. Following that, he's been the victim of constant rebooting, to the point where he has multiple feature him, and there's a good chance they'll list different histories to the character) and I think that gives potential readers the feeling that following out who he is. Another thing that would help would be if DC didn't seem to go out of its way to bash its own character. I can't tell you how many quotes Aqua-Fans have sent me where Dan Didio said this nasty thing about Aquaman, that nasty thing from a business perspective--why run down one of your own properties? Over at Marvel, Stan Lee had the attitude that every character the company ever produced was nothing less than The Greatest Hero of Our Time, whether it was Spider-Man, Thor, The Inhumans, She-Hulk, Kid Colt Outlaw, or Machine Man. Sure, that was mostly total b.s., but I think that sense of potential has been in the DNA of the company from the beginning. Contrast that to some of the statements coming from Aquaman's corporate owners, and you think "Why would you say this about one your own children?" Not to overdo this comparison, but imagine a parent saying of one of their kids, "He has limited potential." You'd look at them like they were nuts. So Aquaman's rep as a sort of a loser character isn't helped when DC itself spreads it. ES: If you were given the task of writing a new Aquaman series what would you do? BR: Oh boy. I would forgo any attempts to make Aquaman cool, and just write him as though he was always cool-- which, of course, he always friends. He'd be the Brad Pitt of the DC Universe, an ambassador to the surface world, a champion of animal rights, a defender of the seven seas and all the world's shores (BP's oil spill? Capped!). I'd give him an almost zen attitude, aiming more towards the stoic version of the character from his best era. The undersea environment would be a vast, bizarre, magical world, his Atlantis a hybrid of Arthurian legend, ancient magic, and Jack squabbling between DC and the people that worked on it. I've always felt that that break was probably the single biggest negative moment in the discovered the character via the Super Friends cartoon, and while that was great for Aquaman's overall visibility, I think this general "also ran" status on that show sort of doomed him as a A round table? Sure, why not. Myths and weave together a larger tapestry of sea-based DC properties, expand Aquaman's rogues gallery (let's borrow Starro, The Shark, and the Deep Six, and create a lot of new enemies), necessary, and probably utilize a renewed sense of environmentalism, in line with our modern, greener viewpoints. Aquaman crosses genre adventure, and resides in a universe of vast, untapped potential. Aquaman comics should be imaginative and exciting, and very, very "new." Keep watching the seas. Oh, and one more note: Verisimilitude. What would it really be like to be the champion of the oceans, the undersea Superman? Let's really explore how Aquaman's world works, and how he functions in that world. I once dared DC to let me write the book for a dollar. They didn't bite, but the offer is still open. RK: I'm always hesitant to answer that because A)I'm not a writer, and B)I don't have to deal with all the myriad complications that come from actually writing the character, for a company that is part of a huge corporation, and dealing with all the rules and egos that must be part and parcel of writing comics for a living. Its easy to say "So and so should just do X" when you're sitting at home writing a blog. That said, I would write the character with two simultaneous tracks--make him more of a superhero, get him away from Atlantis. I think that's been done, and its too foreign a concept to really hook a reader on (if I read one more story where Aquaman complains about being a king...). I'd give him a recognizable homebase--a coast city like San Francisco, let's say--and build up Manta and/or Ocean Master all the time. I'd keep Mera (especially after Geoff Johns has done so much with her in Blackest Night), and add in the new Aquagirl. So while on the one hand I'm making him more like other superheroes, I'd also play up the environmental angle, which is unique to him. More than any other DC hero, Aquaman has a connection to the environment that always been one of my favorite elements of the character, With global climate change, the Gulf spill, and other environmental concerns being so much a part of our daily lives, I think tying Aquaman into that would be a way of making him more contemporary. I've said for years I wish DC did more of those "PSA" type comics, trying to teach young kids about social issues. I think a series of Aquaman comics centered around the world's oceans and sea life would be a great way to hook kids into the character (like the Brave and the Bold cartoon show is doing, albeit in a much different way). And while you didn't ask this exactly, if I could pretend to be editor for a moment instead of writer--I'd try my best to keep whatever creative team is on Aquaman in place for a while. In the 80s, DC scrapped the old Wonder Woman and brought her back with George Perez at the helm, and he almost single-handedly put WW back in the spotlight. Perez stayed on that book for run nowadays. I think if you had someone who really got Aquaman, loved the character, and knew how to do it, it would help tremendously to have that same person on the book for as long as possible. ES: Are you hopeful for Aquaman's future? BR: That depends on his status after the current Brightest Day series. I think it's clear DC's prepping him for another go at a regular series, but its success rests solely on the shoulder of its creative team. RK: More than I was when I started the Shrine Sword of Atlantis Aquaman would really catch on, and Arthur Curry would be forgotten entirely. But now that we have a genuine Aquaman fan--Geoff Johns--at such a high level in DC, I think that bodes well for the character. I'm looking forward to seeing what DC does next to capitalize on the momentum Aquaman and Mera have coming off of Brightest Day. Combine that with his huge presence on Brave and the Bold, I think we're going to see a new generation of kids who think Aquaman is cool. Which is good, since I'll need someone to take over the Shrine when I retire! F AMOUS F ANBOY 47 Allow us to introduce one of the world's top professional cyclists, and proud comic fan Dave Zabriskie. Dave has won national, and world cycling honours, hung out with Lance Armstrong and on occasion grown a crazy mustache. He even created his own chamois cream to protect one's `junk' whilst riding. Dave is a real world superhero going at superhuman speeds on a bike, in a bright training, non stop international travel, intensity of competition, marauding fans and being a husband and father he still ARCANA: You are well read and enjoy geek) but that's unusual for an elite athlete. Why do you think that is? DAVE ZABRISKIE: I grew up doing those things and I really enjoyed them. I don't think it's that rare for athletes to like the stuff. Look at Shaq - he is crazy about Superman. They connect me to my youth and remind me of how I want to be. When you're battling on a bike, muscles straining, lactic acid biting at your throbbing quadriceps, huddled down in an impossible aerodynamic position, over a bike NASA would be proud of, going at super human speeds do you ever imagine yourself as a superhero? training, but when it's race time it's just me. If I'm out there thinking, I usually don't have a good ride. When did you start reading comics and who's your favourite character? I'd say my earliest exposure was the Superman movies, and some cartoons. I didn't start comics until I was in middle school. I started out with a lot of Batman comics. Like all good superheroes you've had your share of battling inner demons including the untimely passing of your father and a broken leg and wrist after a head on battle with a SUV that left you in a wheelchair for a number of months. How did you overcome these and what drives you too keep pushing and putting in training sessions on the bike in all weather Yes, like most humans I have had to overcome some things. I do that by making the choice to do it. Not to say that I do not go through all the depression and tears, but then I decide enough is enough and I choose to overcome - to be the best I can be. Training for me is a real pleasure. It is my life. When you like it, it is easy. you have lived the American superhero tale. Young kid in dysfunctional family, overcomes problems to become a sporting great and marries child hood sweet heart. Is it as good as it sounds being a real live Peter Parker? I am living a really blessed life. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't say "living the dream" because that is what it feels like. My childhood wasn't nearly as bad as some people have. My father had his issues but I truly felt loved and he gave me great insight on the world and life. And my mother is one of the most loving people in the world. And without those experiences I would probably be just Dave Zabriskie working somewhere in the corner. You and Lance Armstrong are good buddies, is he the new Superman? I'd say more like Iron Man. Do you have a comic shop in Salt Lake City, and have you ever ventured inside? I live close by Dr. Volt's. I haven't been in there in a long time though. You've just one the American National Time Trial Championship again. Was it just so you could keep those stars and stripes on your back and continue to impersonate Captain America? It's for many reasons. I like the suit, there is no doubt about that. Is your son Waylon into superheroes yet? Not yet!he seems to like bikes and anything that gets plugged in. You have your own cream for cyclists which, as you put it, "protects your junk." Does DZNutz give you any special powers on or off of the bike? No special powers - just keeps me comfortable so I can train day in and day out. You've worn the yellow jersey for leading in the Jaune (the yellow jersey) the ultimate superhero costume in cycling? It's a good one if you are battling the Green Lantern I guess. Finally any thoughts on comics, professional cycling, geeks, the world, and the future for Captain Nutz? In terms of comics, I wish I had more time to geek out. On the pro-cycling front, it's pretty fun and a good form of employment. My future! well who really knows! www.davezabriskie.com - Born January 12, 1979 in Salt Lake City. - Became the third American to wear the leader's jersey at the Tour de France. - Made his professional debut with the Colorado Cyclist Team in 1999 at the tender age of 20. - Nicknames: The Green Hornet, DZ, Dizzy, Captain America, Zup. - In 2005 he set the record for the fastest ever time trial in the Tour de France, clocking an average speed of 54.676 km/h. - Stage wins in all three Grand Tour stage races (France, Italy & Spain). - Now rides for Team Garmin Slipstream. INVI Iron Man is one of Marvel's most treasured characters, but his current reign as superhero star is a fairly recent rise. Tony Stark was coopposite of everything a comic book hero was at the time. Stark was a womanizing industrialist, who made his fortune building weapons (a bold creative choice in the midst of the Vietnam War). He was also an occasional alcoholic to boot. foundations upon which the character has been built, i.e., weapons manufacturer wounded, taken hostage, builds suit and changes his life. The the surprise hit of the year. May's sequel is also directed by Jon Favreau and stars Robert Downey Jr. as Stark, and Gwyneth Paltrow as his faithful Support assistant Pepper Potts. Bad guys in the form of the Russian Whiplash, industrialist Justin Hammer and spy Black Widow are provided respectively by Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson. Replacing Terrence Howard as IRON 51 N M A Ns i Stark's pal James Rhodes is Don Cheadle, who will make fans' hearts leap when he suits up as War Machine. It's one more stroke in this new franchise attest after seeing the post end-credits scene with Before his cinematic debut, Iron Man was one of Marvel's most troubled heroes, both in his world and ours. Lacking the global popularity of Spider- NCIBLE Man or the instant cool of X-Men, Stark's comic book success over the decades rose and fell like the stock market. Across his own series, and in various Avengers titles Stark has had a life like a soap opera (as all good superheroes should). He's gained and lost his fortune, fought his own armor, and others copying it, battled with his alcoholism in the classic Demon in a Bottle storyline, and even temporarily reverted to his teenage form in a case It wasn't until Warren Ellis and artist Adi Granov their story Extremis Ellis' penchant for future tech and Granov's photo realistic art to great effect. It also fused Stark to his own armor. Over the decades Stark had carried his armor in a suitcase, or parts of it under his Italian business suit, but now, thanks to a hi-tech virus imbedded within him, Stark held the armor inside his own body. Ever since then Iron Man has been at the forefront of the happenings within the Marvel Universe. The events of Civil War propelled him to take Nick Fury's job as head of the military organization S.H.I.E.L.D, though Norman Osborn would replace him with far less noble intentions. the golden Avenger, The Invincible Iron Man. Written by Matt Fraction (Uncanny X-Men, Punisher War Journal) and penciled by Salvador Larocca since its inception it has put Stark in a place he's getting used to � the spotlight. The pair deservedly picked up an Eisner Award last year for Best New Series for their work on Invincible. Aside from driving the monthly adventures of Marvel's version of James Bond, Fraction (real name Matt Fritchman) is now also writing one of Iron Man's fellow Avengers, Thor. Similar Lieber and artist extraordinaire Jack Kirby) whose had his own ups and downs, Thor is also the next superhero to get the Hollywood treatment in Marvel's efforts to create several The Avengers upon cinema screens. Thor is being directed by British actor/director Kenneth Branagh and stars Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek, A Perfect Getaway) as the titular hammer wielder, with Natalie Portman as love interest Jane Foster, Anthony Hopkins as Thor's father and Asgard's ruler Odin and Jackson as the eye-patched Fury once more. More like The Lord of the Rings than a typical superhero blockbuster, Thor will hopefully familiarize cinema goers with the blonde Norse god of thunder as Iron Man resurgence on the printed page. His current series was relaunched by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Olivier Coipel. Their new ongoing series not only returned Thor to the land of the living, but his fellow gods and their city of Asgard, which is now magically hovering over a huge part of Kansas, and attempting to survive an onslaught led by Osborn's paranoia and the might of his twisted team of Dark Avengers. Fraction has just added Thor to his expanding resume (he's already written the character in several one-shots) as he continues to write The Invincible Iron Man as well and now has the enviable task of guiding two of Marvel's oldest characters as their parallel rise to cinematic stardom begins. He's also returning to fan fave Image series Casanova, the series that helped (and twin Brazilian brothers), Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, are also involved. _EXTRA SEQUENTIAL: Why choose the name Matt Fraction, and were there any other options that almost made the cut? _MATT FRACTION: It wasn't really... it was something a telemarketer called me, mangling comics work came from the people in and around that forum, it seemed to me it was pretty much the only marketing hook I had. So, uh, there you go. _ES: Iron Man and Thor are two pretty big keys to the Marvel kingdom. Did you do a lot of research on the characters before you started writing their stories? I've been a long-time reader of both, so I didn't need to do much continuity-reading. I did go back and reread the Norse myths and do research in that wheelhouse. But in terms of the characters themselves I had a pretty good working knowledge at the start. _ES: Iron Man is Marvel's most hi-tech hero while Thor is almost the opposite. Do those differences allow you to use your writing muscles in different ways? Well, I think that depends on what you determine hi-tech means. Arthur C. Clarke wrote that Asgardian "magic" isn't like what an iPhone would appear to be to mediaeval peasants? That said, yes, each character is a wildly different writing experience. _ES: Which one can you most closely relate to? impetuousness born of a belief that they can control more than they can control, and a belief that they have the power to make the world spin in the way they wish simply because they have the power to wish it. And each man has paid a price for that... hubris? Impetuousness? However you contextualize it. Anyway I can connect with them both. And sometimes I wish I had a big damn hammer and could just go smash stuff. _ES: Do you have a certain routine when you sit behind the keyboard? Do you have to be wearing your favorite socks, while drinking a vanilla latte and listening to `80s power ballads or can you get in the zone anywhere, anytime? in honey. Messy, counterintuitive, ineffective... _ES: You must be pretty excited to be getting into Casanova again, and the fans certainly seem to be. Do you feel pressure upon revisiting it? they'd gone out the door. I'd remembered it better than what it actually was; I feel like it's my creative calling card and reading it was like stabbing hot needles into my heart. I feel pressure to write the book I'd mistakenly believed it to be. MAN! What a downer answer. Favreau, the director; his assistant Karen, _ES: working for Marvel? It's allowed me to write for a living. To care for my family by daydreaming and typing and playing with some of the most iconic and mythical toys in the modern heroic toybox. _ES:How exactly did you work with the Feige, the head of Marvel Studios; and a dozen strangers with name tags in a room with a whiteboard and free bagels? There was a whiteboard and bagels, but there were only six of us in the room; Jon lastly there was me, a yokel. Amazing. myth, the characters. About Tony. About... well, everything. About planet Iron Man. _ES:You also helped write the Iron Man 2 game. Do you think this kind of multi-media strategy is a good sign for comics? It's a good sign for the multimedia industries that have sprung from comics' brow! We're winning. We're taking over. _ES:I believe you come from an advertising background. How does that experience help you when imagining the visuals of the script you're working on? I hope it helps me write more visually; to think in terms of visual storytelling and narrative beats. I suspect it annoys the hell out of my collaborators as I try to do their job for them! www.mattfraction.com F LY N N "There's a place for dark, brooding and troubled heroes but I wanted to move away from that and make Nick the kind of guy who for the most part is happy, enjoying his life and what he does. Although Nick is strong, brave and dangerous when necessary, he's also pretty easy-going and down-to-earth; the kind of guy you'd have a few beers with." So says Alex DeGruchy about Nicodemus Flynn, monster hunter extraordinaire. The writer of various short stories for Alterna Comics and Ronin Studios explains that Nick's father, "an expert in the arcane and supernatural, showed his son that there was a hidden dark side to the world that most people never became aware of throughout their entire life. Although monsters, demons and the supernatural were existed all over the world." Part of that ugly truth is a savage, powerful beast knows as the Pariah, who has been resurrected by an arrogant occultist. "Centuries ago, Gruchy elaborates, "and as Nicodemus Flynn hunts the most relentless creature he has ever faced, the question arises - will history repeat itself? The Pariah will not falter and it will not stop. But neither will Nicodemus Flynn." Coming soon from publisher Com.x Nicodemus Flynn is an original graphic novel (OGN) given vivid life by De-Gruchy and self taught Malaysian artist Robert Simon Ng. De-Gruchy reveals the tale, "came from me wanting to tell an action/adventure story with a supernatural angle and one that also drew from genres such as pulp adventure and superhero. There are certainly elements of characters such as Indiana Jones and Batman, for example, in the character of Nick Flynn." He admits, �I try to keep the characters and action fairly grounded in the real world to make the characters and the world in which they live more three-dimensional and believable, but at the same time keeping the supernatural side of things so open offers a huge amount of potential in terms of what I can put into a story." As for the rugged vigilante of the title, the writer explains, "I really wanted to make him a decent guy, one who tries to do the right thing but at the same time really doesn't consider himself a hero. The creators of Nicodemus Flynn discuss their thought processes behind the look of each of the main characters, as well as share their insights into a few pages of the book itself. Character Design - Nicodemus Flynn ADG: though I'd already seen samples of his work, when I saw this I was just blown away. He'd really nailed the look I wanted for Nick, who turned out exactly the way I saw him in my mind. Robin's artwork really does combine the best of both worlds as far as I'm concerned - it's bold and dynamic while still having this amazing attention to detail. RN: While working on the initial look of Nick, I thought the stubble looked great on him, and he has it in the opening scene of the story, but as the story progressed, the stubble seemed out of place for a man living in a mansion. It made him look messy. The clean look better suits his character. Character Design - Holloway ADG: Holloway is Nick's closest friend and often his partner-on-the-job, the two of them having worked together for several years. I wanted him to dress smart/casual and at the same time I also wanted him to be a man clearly in good shape for his age, since although Holloway is well-mannered and polite, he also has this air of isn't going to be revealed anytime soon. RN: It never occurred to me while designing Holloway, but now it seems to me he's basically Alfred the butler but can kick more ass! Character Design - Anthony Klein ADG: Klein is like Nick in that he's a hunter who specialises in the supernatural, but unlike Nick, Klein is in it for the money. He and Nick have crossed paths in the past and although their relationship is slightly antagonistic, there is also this grudging, unspoken respect that exists between the two men. Robin gave him some nice visual later on in the story. RN: cowboy boots and a revolver on his thigh. I thought it was a cool way to differentiate him from Nick, since they have the same profession but are from different countries. Character Design - May Marsden ADG: May gets caught up in Nick's hunt for the Pariah while pursuing her own agenda, although they soon realise that they share a common goal. I'd always thought that the story needed a prominent female character but it wasn't an issue I really worked at until Eddie and Ben [publishers Deighton and Shahrabani] at Com.X pushed me become integral parts of the book. Robin worked hard when it came to May's design and we eventually decided on a look that was cool but still realistic. RN: I think May's design was quite straightforward. A female assassin should be sexy and deadly. Wanting her to look different from what's already out there is what made Character Design - Sturges ADG: I don't want to say too much about Sturges as he has an interesting backstory who plays his cards close to his chest. Visually, I wanted him to be something of a contradiction in that he has the Old West-style moustache but at the same time he carries a sword, which you instinctively think of as more of a Far Eastern kind of thing. RN: As you can see in the sketches, one of Sturges' facial designs has a clean look, without his moustache, which just seemed wrong. His facial hair and his personality are like two sides of the same coin, it just works so well on him. Issue 1 - Cover pencils ADG: Originally I was thinking of Nicodemus Flynn as a mini-series and this was Robin's design for a potential Issue 1 cover. I think it's great - I really like the fact that it's not pose. There's a lot more than that to Robin's design here and that image of Nick and the skull is just fantastic. RN: I got this idea from the Inside Man movie poster. The layout really works because I wanted the cover to feature other characters as well as Nick and at the same time have something different from the typical comic book cover. ADG: Com.X asked for a promotional image they could use at a convention, so Robin drew some sketches and we chose this one. It was ideal since I didn't want to reveal too much of the Pariah at such an early stage. I also really like what Robin has done with Nick's pose and body language here, the image is very cool and attention-grabbing but in a subtle way. RN: Well, the initial idea was to not give too much away but still feature the main character, so I thought what's better than showing the back of the character? From there, Alex and Eddie came up with this cool idea to have the Pariah in the darkness right in front of Nick. Chapter 1 - Page 3 ADG: meet Nick he's a little battered and bloody and in the middle of escaping a demon-infested castle. This scene doesn't waste any time in showing that Nick is very dangerous and very capable when it comes to weapons, whether they are guns, blades or his own body. The Abahgor - the demons demon that exist in Nick's world. Also, near the end of this opening scene, Nick jumps out of a window, because it's just not an action scene without someone jumping out of a window. RN: I remember the excitement of doing this page, way back at the beginning of this project. It was also a challenge for me to translate the script, in which it sometimes seems like all the action's happening at once, into panels on a page. So I said, okay, we'll take an action at a time and break it swords of the Uruk-hai from the Lord of the Rings movies. In the last two panels, I wanted to give the readers an actionand-effect kind of feel - you see Nick's strike and then the result of his attack. Chapter 1 - Page 17 ADG: Nick's father died when Nick was a boy but his mother, Jennifer, is still alive and the two of them are close. The thing is, Jennifer doesn't know what Nick really does with his life � she thinks he runs his own climbing equipment business, a lie that Nick told her years ago. Although Nick has never liked lying to his mother, he knows that if she knew the truth, she would only worry about him, and he doesn't want to burden her with that kind of stress. Having Nick hide the truth from one of the people he is closest to is obviously a nod to the superhero genre and the concept of the secret identity. RN: This was a very interesting page to draw, even though panel, I tried to show more of the scenery - the building and the gardens - which I thought was a great way to not bore the readers, which could happen if it was just panel after panel of talking heads. Since much of the page would be taken up by speech bubbles, the last four panels are long, vertical ones, showing mostly sky as the background. At the same time I could still zoom in and out to focus on the characters. Chapter 2 - Page 11 ADG: We get to see Nick taking on human opponents in the-job Holloway. We see Nick diving into a situation where the odds are against him and we also see here that when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, along with his martial arts knowledge, Nick's not above improvising and brawling incorporate a certain level of realism into the story alongside the more fantastical elements - I want the action to have weight and impact, and I think Robin's artwork certainly delivers on that front. RN: This scene was an enjoyable and challenging process. Working on this scene, I was able to put my obsession with kung-fu movies to good use. I remember playing a particular DVD in slow-motion to try to make sense of how a certain move was done. With a scene where there are a lot of things happening at the same time, it's always a challenge www.comxcomics.com www.nicodemusflynn.blogspot.com/ W e've come a long way since The New Kids on the Block had their own comic in the early 1990s. The last 3 years in particular has seen the increasing love affair between music and comics grow exponentially, thanks in no small part to the success of The Umbrella Academy. The brainchild of Gerard Way, the frontman of popular band My Chemical Romance, the series launched in 2007 with artist Gabriel Ba and publisher Dark Horse to immediate acclaim. Writer Grant Morrison famously declared it to be "an ultraviolet psychedlic sherbet bomb of wit and ideas," and said that the seven unique children behind the series were, "the superheroes of the 21st century." With two successful volumes collecting The Umbrella Academy's adventures (Apocalypse Suite and Dallas) and a third on the way (Hotel Oblivion) other publishers are perhaps looking for the next big thing with cross-over appeal. The last year in particular has seen an outpouring of new series with well-known names behind them, as musicians declare their love of comics and welcome the new storytelling possibilities the medium offers. 67 And a little thing called Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark premieres this year. Yes, a Spider-Man musical. On Broadway. Written by Bono and The Edge and directed by Julie Taymor (the Lion King musical, the Across the Universe has more credibility than may be initially apparent upon hearing the concept. Amidst this sequential symphony is indie publisher Poseur Ink, the brainchild of writer/artist Rachel Dukes who launched the company in 2003 as a small press anthology in 2007 devoted to music, entitled Side A: The Music Lover's Graphic Novel, Dukes along with partner Mike Lopez also continuously create witty shirts, posters and buttons. With perhaps a rebellious sensibility that sits somewhere between punk and hippy the often humorous merchandise makes such declarations as, "Christopher Walken for President," and "Make Comics Not War." Their most recent anthology, Side B is touted as "the music lover's comic anthology," and that's exactly what it is, with tales examining the connection between the two art forms. Dukes explains just what it is that allows comics and music to work together in pitch perfect harmony. ARCANA: What makes the link between comics and music an obvious one? RACHEL DUKES: Music completely drives our day-to-day life. Drawing, e-mailing, driving around town... whatever it is that we happen to be doing, there's a soundtrack behind it. We knew we were not the only people who lived this way - most of the artists we know are equal parts comic and music nerds - and thought it would be key here - what makes the link so obvious - is that people are inspired by art in general. Comics and music are just our favorite mediums. And, you know, both are topics people take very seriously. (Except when you say you want to do either of those things for a living!) Will there be a third anthology? Possibly... probably months and we only had about two weeks to edit the whole thing together to make sure the book got to the distributor on time (February) for the release date (June). This certainly doesn't mean that we don't want to do a third installment but, when have a set contributors list before we start. That way there's less chance for people to tell the same stories over and over, as everyone would be working together from the get go. It would also mean we would have less stories to go through before we even began the proper edits, which would be helpful! What do the unique t-shirts and buttons add to Poseur Ink? Given that Mike and I are both artists - illustration and graphic design, respectively - we love to create things. Be it comics, shirts, buttons, posters; whatever, we're very keen on creating things that come to mind. While Poseur Ink has become more and more known for our comics (a good thing) it's not all we do, or all we intend to do. We like expanding into related media regardless of whether the content is based on the comics or simply our own imagination/ humor. Essentially, the shirts and buttons are just another vehicle for self-expression. The shirts give us the opportunity to be silly in a way that the comics don't. It also provides us with merchandise for people that are nerds who may not be into comics and minis. Having merchandise that's unrelated to the comics also gives people the opportunity to see more facets of our creative process. Something that could hopefully lead to more related creative opportunities in www.poseurink.com Perhaps no-one embodies the music/comics collaboration better than Claudio Sanchez, the wild haired lead singer and guitarist of popular prog-rock band, Coheed and Cambria. In October the singer/songwriter launched Kill Audio, a unique mini-series focusing on an indestructible troll looking for answers to his immortality. Along artist Mr. Sheldon, Sanchez has unleashed a raucous, entertaining adventure. Sanchez is no stranger to the world of sequential art creation. His tie-in series, The Amory Wars, from his Evil Ink publishing company has worked hand in hand with the release of each new Coheed and Cambria album (the latest of which is an upcoming prequel galaxy of Heaven's Fence. a believer that storytelling in music doesn't always have to be literal and revolve around lyrics.There is just as much story in the progression of the music itself, whether it be a guitar riff or even the choice of an instrument for a song. Everything tells a story really. In my experience making music and comics, the blending of the mediums the blanks left by the other. Kill Audio tackles some pretty big themes like immortality and creativity, but in an unexpected way. How did Echert and Sheldon help you achieve that vision? Having a quirky, non-traditional creative team was different writing strengths, but basically the same sense of humor, which I think gives Kill Audio its life and unexpected depth at times. Plus, being able to work at all hours of the day is the perfect brainstorm situation: If one of us has an idea for a character description on the way to dinner, we'll turn the car around, grab Chinese have called a "kindred spirit" in Sheldon, who did a color Amory Wars Trade. We had him do some Kill Audio character sketches early on that blew my mind and that was it. We like to give the artist room to do what they do without feeling restricted by the script and Sheldon's not a passive artist that just draws what's written. Most of the scripted panel layouts are just suggestions which he'll crunch into something twisted and awesome. www.coheedandcambria.com Are there any particular comic writers, or novelists whose work you follow? It's hard to stay current with monthlies when I'm on the road, so with this little bit of down time at home, I've been catching up on a lot of Bill Willingham's Fables trades and Eric Powell's The Goon. I'm about to start on Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan as well. ARCANA: Do you think the storytelling possibilities between music and comics share more similarities than have yet to be realized? CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: I would agree with that, though I'd expand it to include books in general. A big part of my youth was spent reading comics and listening to music and I feel a big connection with both of the mediums. I'm How have the Coheed & Cambria fans responded to your comics so far? Coheed's fans have always been extremely receptive of the venture in a very hands on way. They're understanding and enthusiastic about the stories I want to tell and will done half-assed or off schedule. I like to think we have a supportive, almost familial relationship when it comes to the comics. Publisher Com.x may not produce a lot of comics, but when they do, they get noticed. Cla$$war and the more recent 45 are the UK based company's calling cards, and now a unique melding of technology, dazzling visuals and superb music looks set to take its place amongst Brian Cowden, artist Jon Lam and renowned Hollywood composer Rolfe Kent (Up in the Air, Sideways, The Men Who Stare at Goats) Passions Requiem is an intriguing graphic novel which promises to deliver an unusual, yet satisfying reading experience. At the story's centre is Sarah Orr, described by Com.x as, "an attractive but uptight woman who experiences a night of incredible passion with a mysterious stranger she believes has saved her life. In reality, this person is the (her) Angel of Death. This night of passion and her awakening takes place in the Passions apart from other projects on the shelves is its integration of music. According to Kent, the soundtrack album for Passions, "will be a free download for anyone who owns the book. Sequences of the story will have a musical score, for those pages to add to the immersive atmosphere of the story. There will be footnotes on pages of the book to play the relevant track for the sequence." Passions Requiem is an artistic example of the language of song and story enclosed in one attractive package. Here the three creators describe the tale in their own words. W riter EXTRA SEQUENTIAL: Why do you think a project of this ambitious nature hasn't been done before? BRIAN COWDEN: It boils down to evolution. Art forms evolve; the blending of different disciplines could be a dead-end experiment or a progressive step. We believe the latter and will enhance the reader's experience to be transported away. ES: Do you think the average comic book reader is ready for a new reading experience like this? BC: The intent of the artist is to reach the broadest audience as possible. The inclusion of different disciplines will always attract interest. Hopefully this interest will translate into a larger readership as well as attract other artists who will bring new energy and perspectives. Plus, technology is always evolving which opens up possibilities that didn't exist before. Last year there was no such thing as an iPad. How cool will it be to read text with accompanying music on a next generation iPad or whatever? A rtist ES: Were you privy to Rolfe's music as you were creating the art? JON LAM: I like to have something on in the background while I do work. I had Dexter running in the background, so it was the best of both worlds. Listening to my favorite show, and to Rolfe's amazing score to put me in the mood. ES: Fittingly, the story seems very passionate and heartfelt. Did you have to be careful not to overdo it in the comic alone, and allow room for the soundtrack to work in the reader? JL: It's a very collaborative effort with Rolfe and Brian. We are always communicating about how the story will affect the page's composition, and I feel we have an understanding of what the other wants to express. I feel that good art, no matter the medium will complement each other. C omposer ES: There's a lot of musicians writing comics these days, and the two art-forms aren't the most obvious pairing, so what makes comics and music create such beautiful art together? ROLFE KENT: I think both art forms allow for a huge breadth of expression, anything you can imagine really. Sure there are conventions, but we are all pushing those boundaries. Here's the opportunity to collaborate on something truly original. In Passions it's been fascinating for me to see how Jonathan imagines, interprets and renders the script, because it's kind of similar to how I work, but in a whole different medium. His work is rich and atmospheric, and so you have these delicious visuals, and I can add tonal color with the music and sound, deepen the emotion, create a whole ambience around the reader. So these arts really compliment each other in creating one hell of a powerful experience! ES: Do you often have a soundtrack in your head when you're reading a story? I guess that's a RK: I don't usually have music in my head as I read. I am inspired by images, and in this case the combination of Brian's incredible narrative and Jonathan's involving art really got my imagination sparking. That's why I didn't start composing until the images were well under way, because I am simply supplementing them, and needed to work with and around them and be inspired by them. ES: What can music do that other forms of art can't? RK: Firstly music can have an impact on you without you really noticing, for example, it can change your time perception, making things seem very fast and intense, or slow and sensual. Music can also create or intensify an atmosphere, and this is the score's main role in Passions Requiem; to really draw the reader into the world of the book, and connect emotionally with the story. Jonathan's work has a great sense of space, and that has a big impact on what the score can be, what kind of atmosphere is created, and the spatial character of the soundscape. ES: What's the strangest instrument you own? RK: Probably my Indian "banjo", which is made of old typewriter keys and strings. Sounds nothing at all like a banjo but has a kind of junkyard charm all its own. ES: How did you all come together on this project, and did you know each other beforehand? BC: Rolfe and I have known each other for a long time. It was Rolfe's idea to explore the possibility of producing Passions Requiem as a graphic novel with an accompanying soundtrack. When we looked into it, we realized what a novel approach this was and decided to dive in and see what might come of it. RK: After Brian showed me his story I was really amazed by it. It's got this incredible intensity and passion, and it made me think it might be a great opera. When we decided to create the book I just wanted to make some kind of contribution, which is why the idea of composing some music came up. ES: With the melding of art, music and technology isn't exactly a normal comic. I can imagine a lot of publishers being wary of taking something like this on. RK: Com.X were fantastic. They are really creative people and they were really struck by Passions' great story. That's where everything starts; all the other ingredients, the artistry, the music, have to live up to that. I think that's what got all of us together; the opportunity to tell an unusual and passionate tale in a gorgeous and dimensional way. BC: I agree with Rolfe; Com.X has been instrumental in the development of Passions Requiem at every level and are excited about the addition of music. For the launching of Passions Requiem, Eddie's (Deighton, Com.x co-founder) plans are for Rolfe and an ensemble to perform the music be done at the different conventions and will be spectacular. The music of course will be an integral part of Passions' web page. Think how cool it will be to be reading off an iPad with the music playing to pull the reader into another world. ES: Can you see more projects of this magnitude being done in the future, either by yourselves, or maybe others that might be inspired by Passions? BC: Of course; we're already putting together the next one. We were inspired by others, so yeah, others might be inspired by us. RK: I certainly want to. It's such a great medium to work in; free of constraints that exist elsewhere. We have been having exciting discussions about what we might do next. www.comxcomics.com 74 John & Leah in Wonderland artners John Reppion and Leah Moore are used to working together by now. Reppion has contributed to books, and magazines such as Fortean Times. Moore long ago proved herself as a unique voice outside of her father Alan's (legendary writer of Watchmen, V for Vendetta) shadow. Together the English duo have written Wild Girl and Albion for Wildstorm, as well as Witchblade: Shades of Gray, stories for Gene Simmons' House of Horrors and the Doctor Who: The Whispering Gallery one-shot. Recently the pair has had success with their faithful examinations of classic literary works for Dynamite Entertainment, consisting of The Complete Dracula, The Trial of Sherlock Holmes and now, The Complete Alice in Wonderland. The latter is based P on Lewis Carroll's much-loved 1865 novel and its 1871 sequel. The four issue mini-series features interior art by Erica Awano and covers by John Cassady, who also provided covers for the Dracula and Sherlock series. Each issue of The Complete Alice in Wonderland is a 40 page adventure suitable for all ages and serves as a more faithful approach than the lush Disney feature film just around the corner. ARCANA: In this age of prequels, sequels and re-imaginings, do you think it's actually more difficult to convince audiences of the entertainment value of the original work? JOHN REPPION: I think it's more a case of the originals being in danger of being overlooked. Dracula is probably the best example; ask people to name ways to kill The Count and most will list "sunlight". They're wrong. In Stoker's novel Dracula has less power during the hours of daylight than he does after dark but he can happily walk about in the sunshine without crumbling to dust or bursting into flames. These iconic characters and tales have been around so long that the original stories almost become lost beneath the huge amount of derivative works. The mythology surrounding Count Dracula or Sherlock Holmes takes on a life of its own and other people's ideas get mixed in with the original ones. With Dracula and Alice we've tried to get as close to the originals as we can, hopefully exposing them to a new audience. With Holmes our approach is slightly different � we want to remain true to Doyle's stories (and to fans of them) while expanding things a bit by losing Watson's narration. In all cases we're not trying to re-invent or re-imagine but add faithfully to the original works by adapting them for the comic book medium. Both Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland have now both received recent Hollywood treatment. What do you think when you see other artists adapting the same tales? Are you filled with curiosity or slight apprehension? LEAH MOORE: I think that apprehension is always there just because a Hollywood film has so much budget and so much space on the screen they can always find new ways to make something terrible. I have to say that with the classics being adapted, there has to always be curiosity too, because you want to see how they coped with your favorite bits. Sometimes a couple of entertaining scenes can be worth the price of admission on their own. It's hard to really judge one adaptation against another because one could be faithful but really dull, and another could be a complete reimagining that doesn't stick to the story at all, but is vastly more entertaining. That said, I have to say our versions of these stories are the very best...of course! Has all the research you've had to do in your recent projects inspired you as writers? REPPION: Definitely. We've both always enjoyed researching projects anyway but Dracula was the first time we ever found ourselves doing it at an almost academic level. The work we did on The Complete Dracula totally transformed the way we think about our work, not least because it was a bit like having a guided tour "behind the scenes" of the way Stoker worked. Thanks to books such as Miller & Eighteen-Bisang's Bram Stoker's Notes for Dracula and Klinger's New Annotated Dracula we were able to deconstruct this iconic novel and see it as it truly is � warts and all. It might sound odd but it's the little mistakes or errors that Bram Stoker made in the novel that really made me love it and want to do it justice. These things humanize the author but also, to me at least, make the work more personal. Knowing that these huge, important texts are by no means flawless gives me confidence as a writer � no-one is perfect but a good writer should try to improve with every work. That's pretty inspiring, much more so than reading something and thinking "that's just perfect, I wish I could do that". a true fairy-tale in the Alice stories but there's much more to them than that. The wordplay, the poems, the comedy, all these things make the books as appealing to adults as they are to children. Wonderland and Looking Glass never talk down to their readers. In fact some of the more complicated stuff most probably goes over the head of most adults too. There's a section where Alice is trying to check that she is still herself. She decides to try to remember her times tables, "Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is--oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!" This seems like an amusing bit of nonsense at first until you learn that Alice's calculations are actually correct: 4 X 5 = 12 in base 18!!! For all the visual fun you can have with the Mad Hatter, Humpty Dumpty and all the rest it can be quite difficult getting all that cleaver prose into a comic book too. Does Alice in Wonderland have an equivalent today? If so, what would it be? Harry Potter? Twilight?! MOORE: I'm not sure it does, because Carroll told it originally only to Alice Liddell, the little girl who inspired it. She asked him to write it down, and then the classic children's book grew out of that. There probably are children's books written initially for the writer's own children, which then go on to be published, but I think that would always be a business decision on the parent's side now, rather than the child's suggestion. I think that there are stories which obviously capture children's imaginations in the same way, but I doubt they will be as long lived, or seep so deeply into our culture. Alice in Wonderland is part of us now, so it's not simple to find another one just like it! The TPB of Moore and Reppion's The Complete Alice in Wonderland is available on February 24. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland film, starring Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and a 19 year old Alice returning to Wonderland, opens in most countries on March 4. www.dynamiteentertainment.com www.moorereppion.com Images � & � DFI 2010. What did Stoker, Doyle and Carroll have that today's novelists don't? MOORE: They had a limited market. There weren't millions of people all churning out similar stuff to be stacked high in supermarkets. There wasn't the awareness of writing as a big money business where if you hit the jackpot you get to go and live next to J.K Rowling. The writers we love from the past were always writing in totally different circumstances and for totally different reasons. The most modern of the above I think in terms of the reasons for writing, would be Doyle, who killed off Holmes at the height of his popularity, but was then forced by money and public outcry to bring him back from the dead in a Dallas style twist. I think Doyle must have felt very differently about his character after that, and might see the adaptation and merchandising of Holmes today as just the natural progression from that moment. Alice in Wonderland appears to be such an adaptable series of novels, especially in comics. It`s one of those rare timeless tales that every generation gets a hold of. Where does its longevity come from? REPPION: Again it's partly familiarity I suppose but, as with Dracula, most people are more familiar with adaptations than they are with the originals. I think Carroll managed to capture the timelessness of 76 with his detailed work on series such as Frank Frazetta's Swamp Demon for Image and Chucky and G.I. Joe for Devil's Due Publishing when he was hit with a rare form of cancer. It was not long before friends, strangers and the Hero Initiative charity came on board to help Medors in any way they could. His original art was sold to raise funds for the medical bills, donations were job offers started to arrive. Over 2 years later and Medors continues the good artist. ARCANA: How did you come to discover you had cancer and what was the initial reaction from yourself, your family and the doctors? was in shock. It was like I won the cancer lottery. The doctors were clueless on how to treat it. They pretty much started trying different things. Having to deal with these treatments, and the knowledge that if they really put a lot of strain on my marriage. My wife and I spilt up shortly after I started treatments. The treatments really tore me up. I could barely walk, or eat. It didn't take me long to realize how much I needed my wife. Eventually we worked things out. We knew if we were going to beat this we had I believe you've had some rather odd treatments. Where does your mind wander when you're getting chemo, or is it even able to? The doctors started out treating my cancer with radiation, although they went all out treatments were done, that they had given me the maximum dose allowed. I was of treatments didn't work they could radiate the radiation was unsuccessful. The place where I was taking radiation treatments seemed hesitant about what would be the next step in my treatment, so I started trying illness aggressively. I was really starting to lose hope. I was about to just give up when I set up an appointment with a doctor that was recommended kind of off hand. You know one of those ("Oh hey I heard this guy was awesome you should try him out.") it turned out to be some of the best advice practiced at Ohio State University James Cancer Center, right in my back yard. This doctor was amazing. He wasn't afraid to try new things, and he was aggressive. We started out with chemo, that didn't work so he tried a different type of chemo, once again it didn't look as if that was working, so he wanted to try a different method that was a bit different. This new method JOSH MEDORS JOSH MEDORS: It was actually an accident. I was helping out at my son's basketball practice. If I remember right, it was adults against the kids. I went for a stray pass and twisted my knee. I remember thinking the whole way to the emergency room "man this sucks getting old." Well to make a long boring story short, my back started hurting me. The pain in my back was horrible. I told my orthopedic surgeon about it when he was looking at my knee. He had me get an MRI. I was lucky (or unlucky) that I had a doctor's appointment later that day. I knew something was wrong as soon as the doctor walked in the room. She told me about the tumor, and said I had to go in for surgery that day. I was scared shitless. I had been a healthy person my whole life, and now this tumor. I was in surgery for six hours. After the surgery the doctors told me that they had got all of the tumor and it was benign. Two months later my symptoms started to return. I went back in for another MRI, the results showed the tumor had returned, and now they were saying it was malignant. After several pathology reports, the last one coming from the Mayo Clinic, they told me the type of tumor I had, and how rare it was. I involved cutting and peeling back a section of my scalp. Next he would drill a hole in my skull. He then would insert a tube in between the two halves of my brain. This sounded scary as hell, but I was up for anything at this point. After the surgery I would meet with the doctor once a week. At these appointments the doctor would take a needle and stick it in the port in my head and inject a new type of chemo. I made it though four of these sessions. After the fourth session I had a severe reaction to the chemo. I blacked out on Tuesday and didn't wake until Friday. I found out later that I came very close to losing my life during those four days. I ended up staying in the hospital for two weeks. During the chemo treatments (they last of really supporting creators in need and it's industry necessarily. How have they helped you so far? I was amazed by the reaction of the comics' community. Jay Fotos, my editor and colorist, at the time, put together a charity auction at Emerald City Comicon. I was blown away by the response he got when he sent out the email letting everyone know about the auction. The comics community really stepped up. It seemed just about everyone who has something to do with comics donated something. To make a long story short, the auction went off! Raised more money then I could have imagined. I was so touched. I couldn't believe that a community of people, could come together for someone it, it would have been almost impossible to Has the cancer changed you as a person, and as an artist? It has made me realize that life is short. It has hade me appreciate each day that I am given. I spend more time with the people I love. I realized that my time with them is limited so each minute spent with them is precious. I have done some of my best art that's because I spend more time at the art desk. Are you still able to work at the same pace, motivated to get behind the drawing board You've done a lot of horror and fantasy work, and are also a child of the wonderful time Are there any strange positives to this whole experience at all? I mentioned that my wife and I split up responsibility for this. I turned into a complete jerk. I am lucky my wife was nice enough to take me back. This split made me realize how important my wife was to me. I found out that I can't live without her, and that I was an idiot to try. Since getting back together things have been perfect. Our relationship is better now then it has ever been. So I guess that would qualify as a strange positive. don't think I would have survived if it wasn't for my art. Being able to draw kept me going. For a while there were talks of me losing the use of my arms. I think that was when I was the most scared. I knew that my art and my family was the only thing getting me through this. When things got bad all I had to think about was my art or family. The comics' community has a unique history they didn't know. In what other industry could did the community do this for me once, Dave Kopecki (the guy who spends his spare time selling my original art) put together another auction, and the response was just working in an industry among such fantastic people. The money raised in both auctions couldn't have come at a better time. Without and would rather stay in bed all day? There are days, that because of the meds, I just can't get out of bed. Some days I try, I drag myself out of bed and to the drawing desk. On those days I end up asleep with my head on the page I am working on. On the days I do feel ok, I can't work at the pace I used to work at. That really bothers me. I used to be able to knock out a few pages a were at the forefront of pop culture. Do you have any fond memories of those days as a kid watching The Goonies, or whatever? I was a huge horror fan as a kid. I think my parents thought I was pretty weird, but there were cool and kind of let me do my thing. I remember at one time I had Jason and Freddy posters covering the walls of the room I shared with my brother. I would wake Eventually he gave up trying to sleep in the room and moved to my other brother's room. You know my studio resembles my room from back then. Were you always known as the kid in class who was always drawing and selling handmade comics to his schoolmates, or did your artistic desires and abilities develop later in life? I always was in some sort of trouble for drawing in class. However, I always got out of that trouble because I played football and baseball!. I guess you could call me a jock. Yes it is true jocks get away with everything. I remember my junior year in high school a We had it printed up and we sold it. I think the print run was around 500 and we sold we were rock stars! I own one copy of that comic and I will never show it to anyone! you're addicted to at the moment? Hmmmmm! not really, for a while my wife and I were hooked on Lost, but after season three we kind of lost interest. I read the Ultimatum series that Marvel did. I picked it up because I love Finch's art. Other than that that there's really nothing. I am either at the drawing table or coaching my son's football team. What are you working on now, and what's in the pipeline? Right now I am taking a break from deadlines. I am trying to catch up on some long overdue commissions, and just sketching and having fun. Are there any dream projects you'd love to have a go at? I would absolutely love to have a shot at Batman!! I think my style would work perfectly with the Dark Knight. He has always been one of my favorite characters to draw, and I think I could rock out on some Batman. I'd also love to take a shot at Spider-Man as well. McFarlane's Spidey is what made me want to draw comics for a living so Spidey will always be up there on my list of characters I'd love to draw. What makes you laugh? Small wind up robots that dance. www.heroinitiative.org REVIEWS Radical have become known as a publisher with a consistently beautiful array of new books, with Hotwire and The Last Days of American Crime being prime examples. Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost will surely be added to that list. A new 3 issue mini-series by writer Ian Edginton (Warhammer 40 000) and artist Patrick Reilly, Aladdin is another deft adaptation/reinvention of a classical tale; a strategy which was worked well for Radical with their Hercules and Caliber series. beauty and should be embraced by those with a fondness for the Prince of Persia games, and a springboard into Tolkien territory Edginton and Reilly present an unabashed adventure story. There just aren't enough swashbuckling tales like this in comics today. Edginton explores this myth, which is strangely Vikings and such, with boldness. Newcomer Patrick Reilly drips the pages in ancient wonder and Middle Eastern charm while making sure every costume, creature, character and city is This is a fast paced book, with daring action scenes which are mainly concerned with running, as Aladdin does so from an angry crowd in thanks to a scheming sorcerer named Qassim. Aladdin is the key to the power of the lamp and the 3 wish granting Djinn contained within it, but the young pick pocket seems in no rush to part with of his heroic bloodline just yet. With a surprising appearance by Sinbad as a potential mentor and visuals that use light and texture to great effect Aladdin is an exciting start to a new sand and sorcery epic. #1 of this monthly mini-series is available now. Creator James Kochalka is one of the rare breed of writer/artists who is able to cross genres with ease. His autobiographical American Elf series has offered up whimsical, yet mostly real daily slices of his life over the last decade, whereas his Johnny Boo series of kids' books never fail to entertain and enchant with their child-like simplicity. SuperF*ckers is a different book entirely, although Kochalka's distinct art style remains the same. This TPB collects the Top Shelf four issue mini-series of the same name, as well as a new intro and a chapter focusing on Jack Krak. If Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame teamed up with the guys from Robot Chicken, this is what you'd get; madcap antics with a generous dose of fantasy and immature relationships. There's a guilty laugh on every page and the impish cartoon visuals and blinding colors make it all "I folded the day, erased it forever from the history of men." So says the protagonist behind this expansive offering from Archaia. The unique 5 issue mini-series is presented in this Hard Cover collection, with a bunch of great extras, including a dazzling cover gallery, sketchbook section and a great making of humanity saving goodness. Phil Hester and Frazer Irving set up the intriguing premise in We learn that the mysterious white haired `man' has been watching humanity forever, (and was quite lonely during the age of dinosaurs.) He's Earth's secret protector and when we face days of particular horror, he erases them, or rather replaces them with alternate days in which he leads us to victory. Each issue is focused on one of those days and is produced by a different creative team. 1815 is the setting Shelley appears and The Steward intervenes in the raising of the dead. Other stories are created by the likes of Ian Edginton, Lee Moder and Matz, with Hester and Irving also creating The concept behind this story is ambitious, but the talented roster of creators behind it make it work. It's certainly not an action driven th issue is rather rollicking) but for those attracted to great dialogue, philosophical musings and grand ideas, Days Missing will satisfy, and is available the reception on a TV in Dimension Zero while awaiting rescue. From there, the weirdness continues as we are introduced to the members of the titular team. All of them are dressed like members from a glam rock band, from the angry Jack Krak to the blonde who gets her powers from brushing her hair exactly 1000 times. There's also the drug use of the slime drippings of their blobby team-mate Grotus. (It smells like "burning dirty armpits.") Also included is Radical Randy's simple attempt to win the tryouts and become part of the team, aided by his sidekick's "power grip" to open a childproof bottle of pills. As you can guess by now, this isn't one for the kids. In anyone else's hands it could be almost too much, but Kochalka knows when to pull back and give the poor reader respite before the next profanityladen tirade or barrage of violence. The "Slap Down Count-Down," "Computer Fists Activate," and the struggle of two lonely, pink creatures to get inside the team's house � it's all in here and pages will force an evil laugh from your lips, and South Park and Family Guy 79 Thomas Hall and Daniel Bradford are long-time friends, and founders of Blacklist Studios. Together Hall, the writer and Bradford, the artist, have given the world the three issue mini-series Robot 13 which impressed many with its bold sense of style and simple adventure tale focused on the mysterious, (which isn't hindered by his appearance which consists of a skull enclosed in a transparent bowl, sitting atop a nimble mechanical body.) Also out from the self publishing duo is the four issue mini, KING! as former Mexican wrestler Jessie King, with a look inspired by a certain rock the common Man and threaten Freedom and Fried Foods everywhere!" He may look like a Las Vegas Elvis impersonator, but don't be fooled. The real Elvis didn't kill dastardly creatures with his Blue Suede Colts. EXTRA SEQUENTIAL: What's the inspiration behind the name Blacklist Studios? TH: Daniel came up with that. One day he just told me that he wanted us to call ourselves Blacklist Studios, and I liked the ring it had to it. I think it's a name that we have grown into more than anything else. When people see that we call ourselves Blacklist, they have an expectation that we aren't doing everything in an expected and "safe" manner, and I like that. We need to keep pushing ourselves, and I guess the name is part of that. Keeps us honest, I guess. DB: That's actually a VERY good question. I have no idea. I really don't remember why I thought of it. It was something I kinda had rolling around in my head around the time Tom and I began working together and needed a sort of mark to give us an identity of sorts. I seem to remember that it was just something of an attention getter as a name. I'm sure we'll come up with a meaning for it at some point. ES: How did you two end up working together? TH: I saw some of Daniel's work online, and I just loved what I saw so I sent him an email. It was kind of a fan letter, really, and at the end I slipped in there that I'd love to write something for him. He got back to me pretty much right away and we talked about a lot of stuff and found we both been our respect for what the other person brings to the table and our mutual drive to do this. It takes a ton of work and commitment to do comics, and it's great to have someone I know is putting as much effort and ability if not more into this as I do. It's been a great partnership and I don't see us stopping anytime soon. ES: How do the advantages of being a self publisher compare to the disadvantages, and how do you remain motivated to continue creating? SKELETON CREW DB: The motivation comes from two things for me. First would simply be the love and challenge of storytelling and using sequential art as the method. I believe I speak for both Tom and I when I say that neither one of us began doing this for the money. We both have separate jobs and do this on the side when we can. It's just that strong desire to tell a story. Not just start The second motivation would be the readers. These stories are meant to be told to other people so the more readers we have, the stronger the desire to keep telling stories. It feels great when we're told how much somebody enjoys Self publishing is a pain in the ass. It's way too stressful, way too expensive, self published R13 is that I learned a tremendous amount about comic book production. Tom handles the marketing stuff so he can expand on that, but from my experience the production of a comic book has been seriously the greatest feeling of accomplishment. When working under a publisher a lot of those duties are lifted off your shoulders so that's good. Less stress is always a good thing. But it's that whole "It takes a village" thing with a publisher. There are several hands touching your baby and in the end it's not really your baby anymore. Sure it still looks both good and bad, depending on the publisher. Hopefully it was a good village that raised your baby. TH: Motivation for doing comics is pretty easy. I love telling stories, and I especially love working with someone like Daniel who gets how cool it is to see your work come to life like this. I wouldn't say the creation aspect comes easy, because it often doesn't. The third issue of Robot 13, for example, went through more than a dozen drafts and a couple of them were scrapped front to back in the process. It happens that way sometimes, and it's frustrating to a point but it's also part of the motivation. You get the idea in your head that you of comics just comes out of love for writing and for the medium for me. Motivation to self publish, however, is a whole different animal. Originally we were motivated by the bad contracts we were offered and the somewhat shady situations that smaller publishers tried to pull us into. Most of them wanted the majority of our rights, some even wanted us to give them everything and allow them to kick us off our own books if they wanted, and none of them seemed if we could build a following a little at a time. KING! 89 copies and we got some notice from Robot 13 and see where hard work could get us. We found out it was a ton of hard work, and now I think we are motivated by the fact we put our money and all our hard work on the line for this. Not having Diamond to distribute the book was a big hurdle, but so far we have gained a bunch of new stores with every issue we put out, and the feedback we are getting is that our books are selling well. That the fans like the book and retailers are happy does make it worth it to us. But it's still a tremendous amount of work. ES: Has KING! changed much from your original discussions through to DB: Ok...some background on KING! rushed job that, despite how beautiful it, indeed, turned out, I was never very happy with it. So many things I wished I had the time to do differently. Now, 3 years later, we're reworking the book at a larger scale...more pages (completely redrawn save for a few panels), new designs, more zombies, and a much better looking monster. So has it changed much? Absolutely. But the heart of the story literally (take that how you will). But to answer your question more in line with the intended context: our books always change from initial discussion to the printed product. There are situations we discuss for the story that end up not really working out, so we problem solve. Other times I just don't know how to draw what Tom is conveying so we talk about alternatives. I can't draw cars so the dude walks. Actually, in a previous book there was a sequence where two characters are talking while one of them is driving. I just couldn't get it down right so we gave them a driver that you see in one panel. Boom. Problem solved. AND we upped the character's tax status which I'm sure he appreciated. TH: Stories always change from the idea stage to the point where you are going to print them if you want those stories to be any good. There is a reason why editors exist and it's not to make writers and artists break out in a contagious rash. It's because even the best ideas need work, especially when you have as many processes involved as you do with comics. Ideas need to become scripts, and those scripts need to be turned into pages of sequentials which have to be inked, colored and lettered. Even if one person handles all the visual stuff, there are tons of places where, potentially, you will have to make changes. With the KING! one-shot, we literally had book. When that sold out, we wanted to re-print it and go on from there, but looking at it we realized that it could have been so much better. So now, we are taking the time to do it right, and that is giving us the opportunity to make the subsequent issues that much better as well. ES: Do you believe readers are more open these days to trying new series outside of typical superhero stuff? DB: Not only more open but actually desiring it. There's some great stuff in the hero books right now but sometimes a reader really wants to know how Jesus would kill zombies. Or how an isolated town in Alaska would survive a vampire attack. Wanna know how a corpse controlled by a worm helps to maintain the balance between dimensions? Or who would win a war between zombies, robots, and Amazonian women? Not gonna get any of that in Spider-Man or Justice League. The hero books will always be there and, generally, you know what you're gonna get with those. But readers have come to realize that there all their own and they tell the stories you'll never get from the Big Two. you will not only see a lot of non-superhero comics, but you will see a bunch of them very high on the lists. It's not that people who read comics hate superheroes all of the sudden, but it's that telling good stories is coming back in fashion. I have always been more of a left-of-center type comic fan, in that I gravitate toward indie books and the more unusual superhero stuff anyway. As a person who always favored that stuff, I much going on beyond superheroes and there has been for years. It just took some of us who like telling those now is a great time for comics, because people can get some really amazing superhero stuff and they can get stuff like Chew or Scalped or Robot 13 too. It's exciting and I hope the trend continues. ES: Where would you like to be in 5 years? DB: Watching my kids play with their Robot TH: Daniel and I have enough ideas to keep us going at least that long, so hopefully they will all see the light of day. Other than our projects, who knows? Maybe DC would want us to take a stab at Detective Comics. Other than something like that, I hope we have just done really good work. That's the most we can hope for really, to do stuff that's good and that people really like. www.blackliststudios.com KING! #1 issue of Robot 13, which you can www.robotcomics.net for your iPhone and other portable devices. Released: Created By: Writer Mark Waid and artist Alex Ross. Published By: DC Comics. The Basics: Kingdom Come is one of the best things DC has ever made. Inspired somewhat by the Biblical Book of Revelation, the story focuses on a possible future in the DC Universe in which Superman retired decades ago due to personal loss and a crisis of faith. Within this vacuum of heroism, his fellow Justice Leaguers have either given up or are operating on the fringes of society, allowing a new, harsh breed of super "heroes" to rise up with no care for protecting the innocent. Bloody, devastating battles occur with familiar characters taking surprising sides, leading costumed characters that we know and love, or their children or successors. It may be overwhelming to DC-newbies, but it's eye meltingly gorgeous and Waid's characterisations are pitch perfect. The Spectre guides preacher Norman McCay (based on Ross' own father) through this new, shattered world, bringing a greater humanity and much needed everyman perspective to the disturbing events. Filled with drama, cataclysmic action and more than a few surprises, this is the way Kingdom Come should be enjoyed, with behind the scenes info, interviews with the creators, character sketches, annotations and more. Coming up in Ex- 95 tra Sequential #2 There won't be In 25 Words Or another issueWar of Less: Civil Extra Sequential A-Zunfortunately, but Of Characthis ters: double page Batman spread was too Jr. Mike Deodato good to delete! and much more. NEXT ISSUE... THANKS FOR READING! KRIS & DAVE