Review: THE WITCHER: FOX CHILDREN #1

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The team of writer Paul Tobin and artist Joe Querio have created some more magic with their reuniting for another Witcher adventure. Does Witcher go on adventures? He’s such a low-key guy. He did end up on a misadventure last time.

That’s what Witcher does: sort of ends up on misadventures. For this one, he has a trusty dwarf. He’s rather tall for a dwarf and quite pudgy but he’s a feisty guy. The two of them stumble upon a bad idea that just keeps getting worse. Let’s say you were a wandering warlock/poet and you just happened upon a mighty ship heading to your favorite port. But it’s teeming with suspicious characters. You wouldn’t just jump on board and take your chances, would you? Well, Witcher does. And thus begins our tale.

You just got to love Tobin’s droll sense of humor and understated style. A Witcher tale can start any time and any place The dude is up for anything. But he can get quite adamant when he sees danger up ahead. Danger is a bad thing one should avoid. As a rule, Witcher doesn’t take foolish risks. Maybe a calculated risk here and there, mind you. But what was Witcher thinking this time? His overly cautious sense of danger was completely out to lunch. He really is on a ship of fools! One by one, we learn just how foolish and stupid these men are. And stupid is a bad thing, just as bad as danger.

It’s gets spookier from here on out. It is definitely a fine example of the Dark Horse danse macabre: gloom and doom, spiked with a touch of whimsy. Lucky for us, Joe Querio draws the hell out of this story, complimented by wicked earthy colors by Carlos Badilla. The opening scenes set the stage for all that is to follow. You’ve got Geralt, aka The Witcher, having to placate, Dwarf, his rotund assistant’s ranting. Out of nowhere, a huge wild boar nearly mauls Dwarf. Witcher instantly kills, and roasts, the boar, to Dwarf’s delight. No sooner has Dwarf set his sights on a boar snack than he confronts a rival for his meal. This creature mirrors the size and shape of the boar and is fives times bigger. It’s all a wonderful mash-up of the Brothers Grimm and Game of Thrones.

And what about the fox children? Oh, you’ll find out soon enough.

“The Witcher: Fox Children #1″ is available as of April 1. For more details, visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Horror, Paul Tobin, Supernatural, Supernatural Horror

Interview: Don Wildman and ‘Mysteries at the Museum’ (8th Season Begins on Travel Channel, April 3, 9/8 central)

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Don Wildman, host of Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum

Don Wildman, host of Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum”

Don Wildman leads an active life. Among his many adventures in documentary television, he’s explored hundreds of mysterious tunnels, catacombs, crypts and bunker systems for HISTORY’s hit adventure series, “Cities of the Underworld.” As the host of Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Museum,” he brings that same spirited determination. Don was gracious enough to chat for an interview where we talk about the show’s own history and what you can expect as it enters its 8th season with its premiere episode this Friday, April 3, 9/8 central. You can find details at Travel Channel right here.

The Mystery of the King in the Parking Lot

The Mystery of the King in the Parking Lot

Each episode of “Mysteries at the Museum” presents six stories coming to you from a wide variety of places. Each is a mystery of one kind or another. And each has an unexpected twist. It is the sort of program that you can relax and enjoy and come away with intriguing facts. It may very well inspire you to read further, explore further, or create your own adventure. If you’re a fan of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, this will appeal to you. One interesting aspect to the show is how you can connect the dots with the past and the current scene. Do you think the Tea Party movement is something entirely new? Well, for example, you’ll want to see what the State of Jefferson movement was all about.

The Mysterious State of Jefferson

The Mysterious State of Jefferson

In this interview, Don gives us an exclusive as he describes the early days of the show with a very funny story involving the best use of props. And we talk about history and museums in general and, of course, about the show’s unique take on creating exciting content. As I’m in Seattle, we talk a bit on the vibrant Seattle museum scene which includes the new Museum of History & Industry and Living Computer Museum. Don clearly has a love for history and adventure. It’s a fun interview and I know it will add to your enjoyment of the show. Just click the link below to listen to the podcast interview:

You can watch “Mysteries at the Museum” on Fridays on Travel Channel, starting this Friday, April 3, 9/8 central. For more details, and clips to the show, be sure to visit Travel Channel right here.

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Filed under Adventure, Documentaries, Don Wildman, Mysteries at the Museum, Television, Travel, Travel Channel

Review: UFOlogy #1 (of 6)

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UFOlogy #1, published by Boom! Studios, is a very cool comic with very cool people in charge of it. Here’s the thing, a lot of us are repulsed by an ultra-slick high end production number. We wish for something with a shaggy dog vibe. But, if you let that dog get too shaggy, that can be just as bad as your typical mainstream corporate superhero comic. The shag, just like the ultra-slick, can get out of control. What you get with this comic is that scribbly sketchy feel you crave along with a sure-handed approach that demonstrates a mastery of the medium and a pleasurable read for you!

Gosh, I don’t know how I do this sometimes. I’ve been writing reviews, along with creating my own comics, for years now and the whole thing remains as fresh as a daisy for me. You see, it’s comics like this that show the way. They prove that the comics medium is truly inexhaustible. You give me a super duper industrial-strength superhero, and it will only work if the right talent is behind it. You can only create, or review, or heavily market, or simply read so many of these super duper comics before you just call it quits. At the other extreme, you give me something a little too precious and too uneven, and that can be annoying too. But you put together a creative team like this one for UFOlogy and you make a friend for life.

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UFOlogy was created and written by James Tynion IV and Noah J. Yuenkel. And the artwork is by Matthew Fox. A round of applause to all of you and here’s why. Our story begins in Mukawgee, Wisconsin where nothing is quite as it seems. You think this is just a sweet and innocent small town? Think again. Two teen-aged lives will collide here: Becky Finch, who would have been okay with a sleepy little town; and Malcolm Chamber, who demands the stars and the heavens. Throughout the story, we get snippets of the local FREEK podcast. The friendly deejay, Russ Chamber (Malcolm’s dad) keeps referring to the stars and it seems the town is due for a visit of monumental proportions. Or is the deejay just sort of freaky? This is all an ambitious scenario that takes off with no signs of slowing down.

Gettng back to the shaggy dog quality to this comic, it’s not something you can fake nor rely upon to get you by. The drawing here has a personal touch to it as you can feel that an actual person drew it. But that doesn’t mean that Fox takes that as a sign he can get sloppy. He maintains a sketchy quality that he also keeps under control with a nice clean line. There are other great sketchy styles out there to be sure. Fox’s style has that special natural look about it.

The writing too has a quirky and eccentric thing going on. That can get overdone as well. However, here we have something lean and determined. We get a chance to appreciate the dynamics of each character: Becky is something of a laggy, deliberately lagging behind for the sake of her family; Malcolm is as wild of a dreamer as his dad but we sense he may really be onto something. I think this comic is really onto something.

UFOlogy #1 is available as of April 1. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, Comics Reviews, UFOs

Review: ‘La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico’

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A war zone that may not be on your radar: the border state of Chihuahua and its city of Juarez. It is the site of more murders than war-torn Afghanistan. And ninety-seven percent of these killings remain unsolved. This is thanks to the inextricable link between drug cartels and official corruption. But thanks to human rights activists, these crimes will not fade away. Leaders like Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro won’t allow that to happen. “La Lucha,” published by Verso Books, is their story.

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Edited by Adam Shapiro, head of campaigns at the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, the goal of the book is to put a face to a crisis. Written and drawn by Jon Sack, you have here a series of profiles and reportage that have the urgency of dispatches from the scene. And the art adds to the immediacy of each story.

Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro

Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro

There are all compelling stories to be found here. One example is the story of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and her daughter, Rubi Marisol. Rubi was murdered by her boyfriend, Sergio Barraza. It was a clear-cut case. However, Sergio Barraza would never be found guilty simply for the fact that he was a member of the Zetas drug ring and that made him instantly untouchable. Rubi’s mother, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, led a fight to bring Sergio Barraza to justice. She was able to repeatedly track him down when authorities were not. Sergio Barraza was eventually slain in a shoot-out in 2012 with the Mexican Army. But during Marisela’s struggle for justice, the Mexican authorities, from the local level to the federal level, would not get involved. In the end, Marisela was killed for her efforts. This is quite an involved story. An excellent examination of it from Borderland Beat is right here.

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If Americans are sensitive to Iraq and Afghanistan, then they should surely take notice of Mexico. Yes, if you’re looking for the most bloody war zone, all you have to do is look south of the U.S. border. Marisela Escobedo Ortiz’s murder was captured on video (starts at 1:05). Trust me, you don’t need to know a word of Spanish to appreciate the above video. “Él le disparó en la cabeza.” translates to “He shot her in the head.” Just in case, you need that clarity. Cultural and language barriers should never be an excuse for not understanding. That is what this book breaks free from in a very compelling read.

In memory of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz

In memory of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz

“La Lucha” is an exemplary example of the comics medium. A book like this one proves how complex issues can be presented in a clear and concise manner that can benefit people in a myriad of ways. It can jump start conversations that require a number of facts that are not always easy to follow. It can make a difference. It can even save lives.

“La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico” is published by Verso Books and is available as of March 31, 2015. You can find it here, here, here, and here.

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Filed under Human Rights, Mexico, Verso Books, War

Interview: Matthew “Griff” Griffin, Combat Flip Flops, and the Process of Rebuilding

An Afghan Special Forces policeman walks through a poppy field as he searches for Taliban fighters in the village of Sanjaray in Zhari district early April 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)

An Afghan Special Forces policeman walks through a poppy field as he searches for Taliban fighters in the village of Sanjaray in Zhari district early April 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)

It all began with the idea of combining the combat boot with the flip flop, a sort of yin and yang. More precisely, it was about finding peaceful alternatives to war.

One thing that I look forward to once the weather warms up is getting back into flip flops. They can be a haven from the world. But the flip flops that I’m wearing right now face the world head-on. These are Combat Flip Flops. They are more true to their name than you might imagine. And they represent an inspiring story about rebuilding where only chaos and destruction once existed.

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Yep, the above flip flops would do anyone proud in terms of style and comfort. But there’s a lot more going on here. Every item created at Combat Flip Flops was made by people from a region that has known extreme conflict.

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These fashion-forward sandals shown above are made in Bogota, Columbia. This is one of the newest items available from this most enterprising company.

Combat-Flip-FlopsThe story of Combat Flip Flops began in Afghanistan when Army Rangers Matthew “Griff” Griffin and Donald Lee had an epiphany. After serving multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, they knew they could do more to help people in war-torn countries. Initially, the focus was to transform a boot factory in Afghanistan into a viable flip flop business. But, that specific plan did not work out the first time out and meant reworking one’s way back with a different product that fit that region’s particular economic base. It just meant that one initial setback led down another path. And this process has led to a venture with a wider, and ever-growing, scope.

Matthew "Griff" Griffin models The Cashmagh

Matthew “Griff” Griffin models The Cashmagh

Support Business, Not Bullets

I got a chance to talk with co-founder Matthew Griffin, who goes by Griff, and he proved to be very confident and enthusiastic about the future of Combat Flip Flops. At one point in our conversation, I noted the arrival of spring and how everyone is ready to venture out in flip flops. Griff’s thoughts went back to the arena of combat. It’s spring that marks the beginning of renewed conflict. And, with that in mind, Combat Flip Flops has been doubling its charitable efforts to war-torn regions all through the month of March. And you could say it has been doubling its efforts in more ways than one. What you find here is a direct link back to helping those in great need. You can listen to my interview with Griff by clicking the link below:

Do visit the Combat Flip Flops site and view the assortment of products offered like The Cashmagh:

The Cashmagh
They say you can leave Afghanistan, but it it never leaves you. Over multiple combat deployments, the shemagh became a necessary tool for shade, warmth, cover, and style. It never left the toolbox. Typically made from cotton or polyester, the standard shemagh didn’t meet our standards for a world class product. So we made one. This 100% Afghan Cashmere Shemagh was born in the mountains of Afghanistan. Produced from the finest cashmere in the world, this endlessly functional accessory shows your global perspective, open mind, and willingness to do what others won’t—support business, not bullets. Lightweight, supple, and functional, this performance cashmere shemagh is fitting from the battlefield to the boardroom. We prefer the latter.

Visit our friends at Combat Flip Flops right here.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Business, Combat Flip Flops, Entrepreneurship, Fashion, flip flops, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, Peace, War

Interview: Bill Plympton and CHEATIN’

Ella and Jake in Bill Plympton's CHEATIN'

Ella and Jake in Bill Plympton’s CHEATIN’

Frank and Cora in 1946's THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE

Frank and Cora in 1946’s THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE

Bill Plympton Animation Available on iTunes as of April 2015

CHEATIN’ is Bill Plimpton’s seventh full-length animated feature. It is for adults who like an All-American gritty noir story and fans of great storytelling from such greats at Terry Gilliam and Federico Fellini. Read my review here. On April 3, CHEATIN’ opens in New York and then to selected cities throughout the month. It is also available online! You can see it on Vimeo. And you can see other Plympton features on iTunes starting in April. Yes, if you’re a loyal fan or are new to his work, Bill Plympton is here! For details, and to see the movie, just go to the CHEATIN’ THE MOVIE website right here.

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A Gritty Tale and a Sexual Odyssey

CHEATIN’ is visually stunning and immersive. It features the journey one woman must take in order to find what she wants. In the tradition of noir, characters must go through the yin and yang to find their true selves. Light into dark. And then dark into light. Truly, a perpetual swirl of desire and searching. And you throw into the bargain a magical soul-transfer machine, and you’ve got yourself a Bill Plympton animated feature.

Disney Can Give Bill Plympton A Call

It is always a pleasure to chat with Bill Plympton. For this interview, we cover a lot of ground on the storytelling process. We chat about how CHEATIN’ and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE would make for a perfect double bill. And I asked Bill, the king of independent animation, if he’d ever consider working with Disney if the right project came along. Yes. Bill would take the call.

What if Hitler Opened a Theme Park Called, “Naziland”?

And we discuss some upcoming projects. You’ll want to listen to that.

Below is the podcast interview. Enjoy:

Be sure to visit the CHEATIN’ website right here. And, if you’re in the New York metro area, be sure to go to Village East Cinema on Friday, April 3, and you’ll see Bill Plympton in person! He will create a drawing for anyone who asks for one.

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Filed under animation, Bill Plympton, cartoon, Filmmaking, Independent Film, Indie, Interviews

Giant Days #1, published by Boom! Studios

Giant Days, drawn by Lissa Trieman

Giant Days, drawn by Lissa Treiman

Giant Days, drawn by John Allison

Giant Days, drawn by John Allison

Not too long ago, I reviewed a John Allison comic under the same title. This first issue of “Giant Days” is different material and published by Boom! Studios. It is very cool to see this comic getting a higher profile. This one is by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. It is the same trio of college friends from the webcomic. But, just so you know, Allison only writes it. And it is Treiman who does the art. Now, I know Allison has a strong following that know his work as the result of his writing and drawing. For those fans, how do you feel taking his characters in a new direction as it were? It does not completely sit well with me. But should that really be the case? Probably not.

Having another artist draw one’s comic creates a whole new dynamic to say the least. The original Allison characters are delightful: very deadpan, droll, with an overall cool demeanor. This new version warms up Daisy, Esther, and Susan in a way that is subtle but still there. This got me to thinking. It seems like you can get away with that with Adventure Time characters being drawn by various artists. That’s because they’re such broad and elastic characters drenched in irony. But you could never truly get away with the Peanuts gang being drawn by someone else. That’s because they’re such personal creations. I submit to you the newer Peanuts animated TV specials for your review. The oldest ones, you know the ones, may not have been drawn by Charles M. Schulz but they sure had the look and feel of the characters spot on.

There’s definitely a shift in tone here. So, I thought some more. It’s like once you’ve seen Ricky Gervais in “The Office,” you’re kind of spoiled and won’t ever fully accept Steve Carell, even though he’s a comic genius. Hmm, that said, it has to be an honor for Allison to see his characters transcend his own depiction of them. That part is nice. And Treiman does a fine job. And, well, if you didn’t know this already, it is Allison who requested that Treiman pursue this latest run that revisits the girls getting used to university life.

But you see my point, right? Comics are a very tricky thing. They involve body language, style, and a whole way of looking at the world. Hmm, for me, the change in the art alone made this comic feel less British. It is, mind you, still set in Britain and the dialogue alone attests to that from time to time. Maybe some small adjustments have been made in the bargain so it’s just not quite as British. But, to heck with it, I do enjoy the American version of “The Office!” If you’re not easily won over, this different Giant Days may throw you threw a loop but, at the end of the day, it’s very funny. I dare say, what with all the changes, it has a nice charm about it.

“Giant Days #1″ is available now. For more details, visit our friends at Boom! Studios right here.

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Filed under Adventure Time, animation, Boom! Studios, Cartooning, Cartoonists, Cartoons, Charles M. Schulz, Comics, Comics Reviews, John Allison

ECCC 2015: Top Shelf Productions and Shannon Wheeler & Mark Russell

IDW Publishing at Emerald City Comicon this year brings a wide variety of comics goodness. I wanted to point out that Top Shelf Productions, now an imprint of IDW Publishing, will be at booth #1225, where you can meet the creative team behind the hit satire “God Is Disappointed in You,” Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler! The book is very funny and informative. Read my review right here.

"God Is Disappointed in You," by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

“God Is Disappointed in You,” by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler

Shannon Wheeler is a cartoonist best known for creating the satirical superhero Too Much Coffee Man, and as a cartoonist for The New Yorker. Find him here. Mark Russell is a writer and a cartoonist. His writing has been featured in McSweeney’s, The Nib, and Funny Times, among other places, and his cartoons are featured regularly at Nailed. Find him here. And, of course, you can definitely purchase “God Is Disappointed in You,” from Top Shelf Productions, right here.

Top Shelf Productions

I have a soft spot in my heart for the ebullient quality of Shannon’s cartoons. I include above a video interview I did with him at last year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego. Seems like the perfect blast from the past to share with all of you. Below are the details on the panel with Shannon Wheeler and Mark Russell:

Saturday, 2:00 – 3:00 Room Hall C (TCC 301)
God is Disappointed in You (The Sequel), with Mark Russell & Shannon Wheeler—Last year’s standing-room-only hot ticket returns — now with even more Biblical bewilderment! God Is Disappointed in You, published by Top Shelf, is the tongue-in-cheek “condensed” version of the Bible you never knew you needed — hilariously modern, but surprisingly authentic — packed with cartoons by Eisner-award-winner Shannon Wheeler (The New Yorker, Too Much Coffee Man). Join him and author Mark Russell (writer of DC Comics’ upcoming Prez) for an hour of unforgettable irreverence, including Q&A, audience sketches, and the hilarious-yet-accurate “ten-minute Bible.” PLUS: a taste of the Audie-nominated audiobook, read by Dr. Venture himself, James Urbaniak (The Venture Bros), and an exclusive announcement about the upcoming sequel!

For more details on the IDW schedule at ECCC, go right here.

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Filed under Cartoonists, Cartoons, Comics, Emerald City Comicon, God, Humor, IDW Publishing, Religion, Satire, Shannon Wheeler, The New Yorker, Top Shelf Productions

Image Comics at Emerald City Comicon, March 27-29

DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Image Comics returns to Seattle for this year’s Emerald City Comicon on Friday, March 27 through Sunday, March 29. You can expect an impressive assortment of creator-owned panels, signings, and con exclusive variant covers like the one above for DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, priced at $5 (#Y-05, also available at Image booth #312). DESCENDER is about a young robot’s struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. Read my review here.

Here’s a rundown on Image Comics variant covers at ECCC:

VARIANTS SOLD AT THE IMAGE BOOTH (#312):

LOW, VOL. 1 hardcover by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini, $35

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #9 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, $5 (also available at creator table #II-06)

DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, $5 (also available at creator table #Y-05)

VARIANTS SOLD AT CREATORS’ TABLES:

SEX CRIMINALS, VOL. 2 hardcover by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, $40 (Table #II-04)

WAYWARD, VOL. 1 hardcover by Jim Zub and Steven Cummings, $30 (Table #HH-11)

DESCENDER #1 by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, $5 (#Y-05, also available at Image booth #312)

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC #1 by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko, $10 (#HH-05)

WAYWARD #6 variants by Jim Zub and Steven Cummings, starting at $5, blank sketch covers for $10 or $25 with sketch (Table #HH-11)

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #9 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, $5 (also available at Image booth #312)

For a full schedule of Image Comics events at Emerald City Comicon, visit our friends at Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Dustin Nguyen, Emerald City Comicon, Image Comics, Jeff Lemire, Seattle

Emerald City Comicon in Seattle: March 27-29

Lady Killer #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Joelle Jones (500 copies)

Lady Killer #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Joelle Jones (500 copies)

Emerald City Comicon takes place this weekend in Seattle, March 27-29. For those attending, you are sure to find something special whether it’s a book signing, a panel, or a special ECCC comic book cover like the one above for “Lady Killer #1,” published by Dark Horse Comics. Lady Killer, by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich, is about a 1950’s housewife-turned-assassin. The story is set in Seattle during the 1960 World’s Fair. It’s great crime noir comics with an extra kick to it.

Visit our friends at Dark Horse for their full schedule at ECCC right here. Below is a complete rundown of Dark Horse exclusive covers for ECCC 2015:

EMERALD CITY COMICON EXCLUSIVES

A set quantity will be available at opening each day of the show. Limit of 5 per person per day while supplies last. Each comic is $5.00.
Frankenstein Underground #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Mike Mignola (1,000 copies)
Prometheus: Fire and Stone—Omega ECCC exclusive variant cover by Patric Reynolds (500 copies)

Lady Killer #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Joelle Jones (500 copies)

Past Aways #1 ECCC exclusive variant cover by Scott Kolins (500 copies)

Conan Red Sonja #1 limited-edition black-and-white variant cover by Dan Panosian (1,000 copies)
We’ll also have a variety of Dark Horse comics, graphic novels, art books, and collectibles for sale in our booth.

For more details, visit our friends at Emerald City Comicon right here.

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Filed under Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Emerald City Comicon, Joëlle Jones, Seattle