Here is the second part to my recent 24-hour comics marathon at Palladian, a Kimpton hotel. The work neatly fell into three sections. In this part, we shift focus a bit to talking about myth byway of Hollywood.
Category Archives: Webcomics
This is the first part to my 24-hour comics adventure from last weekend at the Kimpton Palladian Hotel:
If you are looking for a fun and light all-ages graphic novel that tackles the big questions, then consider “Look,” by Jon Nielsen, published by NBM Publishing.
This is quite an engaging story told in a gentle tone with wry humor. Jon Nielsen has a fantastic track record with his webcomic, Massive Pwnage. This latest work provides a similar mix of goofy humor and thoughtful observation.
So, what goes on in this book? Well, plenty. First of all, if you can’t empathize with a sensitive robot seeking an epiphany, then I can’t help you. But, if you are, then you’re in luck. This story also includes a robot vulture sidekick!
Drawn in a very clean and spare style, Nielsen presents a comic that is easy on the eyes with a sharp style sense. If you enjoyed the misadventures of Wall-E, then you will definitely have a place in your heart for the misadventures of R-TY, or “Artie,” to his friends. And you’ll love this vulture bot, O-WN, or “Owen,” to his friends. These two don’t really know much outside of a rigorous routine they’ve been following for years until one day…the big questions have to be asked, like, “Why are we here?”
LOOK is a 144-page hardcover, priced at $15.99 US, available as of April 1st. For more details, visit NBM Publishing right here.
Daniel Warren Johnson is a freelance illustrator based in Chicago. Johnson’s webcomic, SPACE-MULLET, launched in 2012, got people’s attention. It is a quirky sci-fi tale following the adventures of such characters as Jonah, a stranded Space Marine from United Earth, and Alphius, a huge Zozobian who uses too much toilet paper. As Johnson told me, the whole experience of maintaining a webcomic turned out to be the perfect way to demonstrate to publishers how he navigates through a story. This process would lead him to the helm of his own comic book series, EXTREMITY, published by Skybound Entertainment, an imprint of Image Comics.
The world of EXTREMITY, as Johnson states, is “visually stunning in keeping with the characters.” This is a barbaric and futuristic landscape. Think Mad Max. It is a world of extremes. Johnson’s writing process focuses on the characters first and builds out from there. At the forefront, is Thea, from the Roto Clan, who has been horribly wronged by the Paznina. What makes this story different from a typical revenge tale, Johnson told me, is that it is not just one person dealing with what happens next but an entire village.
Story is everything. Johnson’s method is to write out a script first, let that settle in, and then pursue the artwork. He says he could storyboard the whole thing out but it’s getting that script down that proves to be the most efficient.
Johnson has a very disarming personality. He has an immediate and direct way about him. As I sat in with him for a bit at Emerald City Comicon, he worked on some art while always engaging with visitors. “I invite folks to ask me anything,” he says. One thing that Johnson has become known for are his portraits where he renders his subject as a zombie. So, if you should meet up with Johnson, maybe you should ask him to draw you as a zombie.
Take a closer look at Johnson’s artwork and you’ll find that extra attention to detail. Johnson thanks an extensive art training background starting out when he was a kid and getting private lessons from a kind but determined Italian woman named, Rosetta. “I watch out for the details. If I’m going to draw a car, for instance, it is definitely going to look like a car.” But, for what finally got him where he is today, that he has to thank his wife for.
What Johnson foresees for himself, and hopes for the future of comics in general, is a focus on story, going deeper, beyond a “crafting of cool.” “You know, stories can come to and end too. The standard model is to keep characters going on forever. It can be refreshing to break that model, tell one character’s story from start to finish, and move on.”
The figure of Charlie Chaplin looms large all these many years and rightly so. If Chaplin had only taken his career as far as his Tramp character, he would richly deserve all the accolades in the world. Unlike other silent screen giants, it was after dominating the box office in what he was known for, that he pushed himself to his greatest creative heights crossing over into the sweeping changes of a new generation. Chaplin’s achievement is so singular and unique that it simply has no equal. It is all on full display with his film, 1940’s “The Great Dictator.” In honor of such talent and vision, a webcomic and graphic-novel-in-progress plays off all the dynamics involved between Chaplin’s answer to Hitler. This is a bold and whimsical fictionalization entitled, “The Führer And The Tramp,” written by Sean Luke McCard, Jon Judy and illustrated by Dexter Wee.
To see Charlie Chaplin, in full costume as the Tramp, stumbling into a Berlin movie theater and ending up sharing popcorn with Adolf Hitler is pretty wild–and a fun start to this graphic novel. This is just a taste of things to come. It’s 1938 and Chaplin just happens to be in Berlin and one thing leads to another. Once safely back in Hollywood, it seems that all can go back to normal–but not if undercover agent Hedy Lamar, and her handler Errol Flynn, have anything to do with it! If you’re a fan of alt-history, a little zany spy hijinks, mixed in with some thoughtful observations on real history, then this is something you will want to seek out.
The idea here is to cast a fresh light on history as well as just have some fun. The webcomic continues to upload new material so it will be interesting to see how things develop. I think the script has an overall nice handle on the humor running throughout. Given that this is fiction, the story is free to take a number of twists and turns. It’s a tricky balancing act since, in large part, this fictional Chaplin has been robbed of his self-determination. Here you have others goading and pushing him along to move beyond what he knows and create a work of art with real political power. The real Charles Chaplin did not need to be pushed into creating “The Great Dictator.” Anyway, just wanted to clear that up. That said, this is a delightful webcomic. The artwork by Dexter Wee is spot on capturing something of the pathos and integrity of Chaplin. So, Chaplin is not treated all that bad here after all.
Keep up with “The Führer And The Tramp” webcomic right here.
“I’m going to smile, and my smile will sink down into your pupils, and heaven knows what it will become.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit
THE ABADDON is a very popular webcomic and is due out as a collected work on November 12th from Z2 Comics. It’s my pleasure to share with you some observations on the work and to share with you an interview with its creator, Koren Shadmi.
You’re this young guy in a new city who is desperately looking for a room to rent. You just happen to find what looks like the best deal you could hope for: cool roomies, one a potential romantic interest, a spacious loft, and you can pay what you want on rent. Huh? How does that work? Before Ter can ask too many questions, he’s voted into the group. Little does he realize he forgot to check if he hasn’t just made the worst mistake of his life. And so begins Koren Shadmi’s very quirky graphic novel, THE ABADDON. It is loosely based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s play, NO EXIT, and is due out November 12th from Z2 Comics.
I took notice of Koren Shadmi’s artwork with the recent graphic novel, MIKE’s PLACE: A TRUE STORY OF LOVE, BLUES AND TERROR IN TEL AVIV, published by First Second Books. You can read my review here. Shadmi has a very appealing style that truly brings each character to life. In the case of the character-driven THE ABADDON, he runs the spectrum of personalities, all of which are quite dysfunctional. Poor Ter never had a chance, although he may beg to differ. Shadmi does a masterful job of taking us on Ter’s surreal journey. Even if he were to escape his roomies, does he seriously think he can escape The Abaddon?
Shadmi is the sort of artist/writer who is at home with asking the big questions. With a cartoonist’s instinct for concise and precise communication, he distills those big ideas into accessible and entertaining content. He’s not taking anything away from the integrity of the subject at hand; even existential matters are fair game for comics. In fact, what better subject to tackle in the comics medium that questions of why and how we exist? The Abaddon proves to be a highly satisfying read.
In our interview, we touch upon existential matters, what led to the creation of The Abaddon, and what lies ahead for this up and coming illustrator and cartoonist.
I begin by asking him about one of his most compelling illustrations: a museum exhibit with a display for God. It’s one of the illustrations that you can purchase through his website right here. Click below to listen to the podcast interview below:
“What is a clown without a circus, a samurai without a master? When your character and identity are written on your skin, can you ever escape being the person you used to be?” — from Three Ring Samurai
Three Ring Samurai will not be denied! Pookie is a cross between High Plains Drifter and Billy Jack. He’s a homicidal samurai clown and sure looks the part, tattoos from head to toe, including permanent clown makeup. This is one fierce dude! We first meet Pookie as he’s reached his lowest point, lost and nearly dead. And then as luck, or misfortune, would have it, Pookie is found by some locals who crack his skull with a mighty blow and then take him home to rehabilitate him. Three Ring Samurai is an excellent webcomic, script by Ryk Brink and art by Ike Golden, that promises a lot and delivers a lot.
The above is “Acid Rain,” original concept art for Three Ring Samurai by Ike Golden. If you’d like your very own high res desktop background, go to Gumroad right here.
Ike Golden has a nice easy flowing and precise style. The violent moments are artfully dealt with and evoke a profound finality with the demise of each character. Of course, Pookie will tell you himself that he’s not trying to kill everyone in sight. There are plenty of lowlifes out to get him. He just gives back as good, or better, than he gets. For fans of dieselpunk, Fallout, Mad Max, anime, kung fu and samurai films, this one’s for you. Keep up with Three Ring Samurai right here.
Alex Degen is working in a place that many cartoonists want to be working in. It’s a place of wonder and experimentation. He’s definitely someone I’d love to sit down and have a long talk with over tea, beer, whatever. What he does in this collection of comics hits close to home since it’s the sort of comics I like to create. I feel that I know a goodly amount about this as I’ve studied numerous similar work over the years and I know several cartoonists in a similar boat. That said, this is a pretty specific way of working.
Some label this type of cartooning as “dream logic” or “psychedelic.” What they mean is that the work evokes an anything-goes quality or follows a stream-of-consciousness narrative. This is seemingly loose work. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free pass to get sloppy. Instead, you want to be pretty clean and precise with your presentation in order to go to some weird places and have it read properly. All this Degen does quite well.
This book collects six parts of previous webcomics which add up to one wild journey. Each part ends with a “to be continued” and it provides an essential pause. I say this because that may help break things down a bit for you, if you’re totally new. What you’ll initially find is a world where it seems as if anything is liable to explode or melt or some such surreal craziness. Let’s get one thing straight, the definition of “cancatervater.” It means, “to heap into a pile.” Does that help? Well, does it? Okay, think of this Cancatervater as a most sinister force plotting to take over the world. Now, add Mighty Star, our superhero, to the mix.
What happens is, well, a little of everything. It’s science fiction, fantasy, manga, and bit of a bodice ripper. Twice, we have two pretty young women suddenly bare breasted. One is Bijoux, a typical manga type in skin-tight clothes. The other is far less obvious, an aerialist, Zoe Trala. In both cases, it seems that a certain amount of tension, made up of pent-up hormones and angst, has reached a point of no return. The women’s clothes are not ripped off of them. They simply find themselves without tops. So, needless to say, this book has mature content, more for older teens and above. In the end, this book is more cerebral than titillating.
It’s after this second incident with Zoe Trala’s missing top that more nudity is included but it has purpose. It’s always of a rather understated nature, not offensive or particularly gratuitous. And it leads us to one of the most compelling scenes in the narrative. Mighty Star’s journey leads him to a forest. And hanging from the trees are numerous naked bodies of both men and women. They aren’t hung dead bodies. No, instead, they fall from the trees just like apples. In fact, they each have a big apple stem where each head should be. This is the most explicit symbol of the forbidden knowledge that Mighty Star has been confronting all along.
All the characters here are elusive and enigmatic. Moreover, the superhero motif is not obviously vigorous but mysterious. In a setting for action there is farce and ambiguity. The style here is a somewhat rougher version of King City’s Brandon Graham. Offbeat. Off–kilter. Dialed back to just the right frequency. When you expect conflict, you may end up with a muffled sedate response. Sex. Violence. Superheroes. Leave it to a cartoonist like Alex Degen to balance all that with such a wry and ironic sensibility.
Yes, Alex, I’ll be waiting with tea, beer, or whatever. I’m sure we’d have one hell of a good talk.
MIGHTY STAR AND THE CASTLE OF THE CANCATERVATER is a 172-page, black & white, trade paperback, priced at $15.00, published by Koyama Press. For more details, visit our friends at Koyama Press right here.