China the New Hollywood? And with Superhero Movies?!

THE ELECTRIC STATE, a graphic novel by Simon Stålenhag, soon to be a major motion picture.

China is the new Hollywood. Who knew? Big studio director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger) left Hollywood in favor of China years ago. Indeed, China is the world’s fastest-growing movie market. That said, China is poised to deliver its own blockbuster. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, much depends upon the Russo Brothers. Never heard of them? Well, you’ve definitely heard of the movies they’ve directed for Marvel. You know, some of the ones starring Captain America and the whole merry crew of Avengers. They are currently completing the next installment, “Avengers: Infinity War,” due for release on April 27, 2018.

Abra, Odessa Young, Hari Nef and Suki Waterhouse appear in Assassination Nation by Sam Levinson, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2018 Sundance Film festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The Russo brothers have recently joined with Agbo, a production company backed by China’s largest private film company, Huayi Brothers Media Corp. The goal is for Agbo to make its own superhero movies and/or related blockbuster movies. However, just because you could bankroll a successful superhero movie doesn’t mean you have the golden touch. There’s a whole graveyard of clunker superhero movies backed by buckets of money. But Agbo has cherry picked from the best. They also have the writers from the next Avengers movie working on projects. And there have been some very interesting developments.

Directors Joe Russo, left, and brother Anthony Russo at a press event last year at Durham Cathedral in England, a location for their forthcoming ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ slated for release in April. PHOTO: MIRRORPIX/COURTESY EVERETT COLLECTION

The most exciting project is an adaptation of “The Electric State,” a science-fiction graphic novel the brothers see as having franchise potential, directed by Andy Muschietti, best known for last year’s “It.”

Another exciting prospect, in conjunction with the new independent distributor Neon, is a $10 million buy for distribution rights to “Assassination Nation,” a teen-girl revenge thriller that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

So, China is the New Hollywood? Well, not exactly but definitely on the right track.

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Comics Review: ‘Courtney Crumrin Volume One: The Night Things’ by Ted Naifeh

Never Trust a Talking Cat.

What an honor it was to chat with Ted Naifeh at Emerald City Comic Con. He is one of a number of master cartoonists that has not gotten on my radar, due to my own limitations. This is The New York Times bestselling author of “Courtney Crumrin.” Oni Press has recently re-issued all its collected volumes. I give you a taste with a review of “Courtney Crumrin Volume One: The Night Things.” The humor ranges from pithy to laugh-out-loud. I can tell you that, as I scanned the books, along with original pages, I couldn’t leave without getting a fix.

Mr. Naifeh has a dapper style with a touch of steampunk. I refer to his writing and drawing of comics–and to the man himself. Naifeh brings to mind a number of masters of a certain stripe of gothic horror, like Edward Gorey, Mike Mignola and Roald Dahl. Ask Mr. Naifeh to name an influence and he’ll get even more specific, like fellow cartoonist, Phil Foglio. Our main character, Courtney Crumrin, follows in this tradition of deliciously witty work.

Whose Life Is It Anyway?

Childhood is meant for children. Adults don’t totally get it, as far removed as they are. They may have even sugar-coated the whole experience in syrupy nostalgia. It is left to the kids to navigate the often scary, if not utterly dangerous, terrain as best they can. So it is for Courtney. In this first volume the reader gets to see her begin life at Crumrin manor. Her social-climbing and spendthrift parents eagerly take up the offer to be live-in caregivers to a wealthy but highly eccentric old relative, Great-Uncle Aloysius. Little do they know that the old man has supernatural powers, is as healthy as ever, and simply finds them useful for his own designs.

“Courtney Crumrin Volume One: The Night Things”

The sense of dread and wonder is palpable as Naifeh has little Courtney navigate through wealthy brat bullies at school; and various hobgoblins lurking in every corner at home. Naifeh’s quill is precise with his depictions. Readers will quickly find themselves immersed in the narrative. The scenes with Courtney battling, and then bargaining with, a goblin are particularly creepy. Naifeh is spot on with his balancing and blending the otherworldly with harsh reality. Sometimes, you cross a goblin and you simply don’t come back. But, if you’re made of just the right stuff, it’s the goblin who is put on notice.

“Courtney Crumrin Volume One: The Night Things” is published by Oni Press. For more details, visit Oni Press right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Oni Press, Ted Naifeh

ECCC 2018 Interview: Sloane Leong

Sloane Leong at #208 at Artist Alley!

For those heading out to Emerald City Comic Con on its last day, be sure to visit Sloane Leong at Artist Alley at Table #208!

PRISM STALKER by Sloane Leong

Sloane Leong is a self-taught cartoonist who has made remarkable progress with her compelling work. She has a comic book series, PRISM STALKER, with Image Comics. And she also has a graphic novel, A MAP TO THE SUN, coming out next year with First Second Books. What’s her secret? Like any hard-working and driven individual, Leong has a vision and cannot help but need to bring it to life.

A MAP TO THE SUN by Sloane Leong

I hope you enjoy this video interview. I begin with a little observation. Both of the main characters to Leong’s two big projects have monosyllabic names. And they both have an “e” in the middle. PRISM STALKER has Vep. And A MAP TO THE SUN has Ren. What to make of that? Watch the video interview to find out.

Let me add here a review of Leong’s mini-comic, A HOLLOWING:

A HOLLOWING

Here is a wonderful showcase of what makes Leong’s work so intriguing. With a confident and consistent tone running throughout, Leong takes us on a young woman’s tumultuous journey. Leong masterfully balances various ambiguous moments and images. She keeps the reader guessing by not spelling everything out. She takes the theme of horses, one of the great staples of girlhood in culture, and turns it on its head. You could say Leong is exploring deeper as she begins with a quote from Anna Sewell’s 1877 classic, “Black Beauty,” which resonates today with a fresh and relatively subversive vibe.

The dark and enigmatic horse.

In Leong’s hands, the horse is beyond mystery. This is a dark creature absorbing all of the young woman’s anxiety. In the course of the story, our main character, Casey, has been given a horse by her father. Now begins her training. This is symbolic on many levels, including the fact that Casey’s mother was an equestrian champion. Will Casey master the horse? That begs a more complicated set of questions. Leong’s gestural style and poetic narrative are simply mesmerizing. Discerning comics readers are looking for gems just like this mini-comic. If you’re at ECCC, you can get a copy for yourself.

Visit Sloane Leong.

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Filed under Comics, Emerald City Comic Con, First Second, Image Comics, Interviews, Sloane Leong

ECCC 2018 Interview and Review: Terry Mayo and THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS

Terry Mayo is at the TPub booth, #1606.

Emerald City Comic Con provides so many opportunities to meet exciting talent. Case in point is Terry Mayo. He is currently on tour in support of his comic book, THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS with Alterna Comics; and his upcoming comic book, DISPOSABLE LEGENDS, with TPub Comics. If you’re going to ECCC, find Terry Mayo at the TPub booth, #1606. The TPub booth features all sorts of goodies, like the ongoing series TWISTED DARK.

THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS #1 is a post-apocalyptic 6-issue comic book series from Alterna Comics. The creator and writer, Terry Mayo, describes it as “Mad Max meets Stranger Things.” We are midway through the series at this point so I’m catching up here. I can report that the first issue definitely sets the tone and proves to be a most enjoyable read.

When the Apocalypse hits, it comes down to survival of the fittest. Mayo plays with that concept with fine results. Think of this as having a bit of a Walking Dead vibe to with the focus being on one family clan in an alternate San Diego set in the future. You’ve got sophisticated government drones constantly hovering around and monitoring citizen activity. You’ve got a population that has been devastated by a mysterious plague. And you’ve got a civilization that is a mix of high tech and a throwback to another time more in tune with primal animal instincts.

THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS

What’s so great about going to cons is stumbling upon little gems like this comic. I am always on the lookout for something that has just the right quirky offbeat factor. If something is just a historical saga, for instance, it becomes a much harder sell for me to be convinced I should take the time and effort to say anything about it. In the first place, where is my motivation? If a creator is a bit of a prima donna, again, I need a reason to overlook that. The list goes on. My time is valuable and so is yours. With that said, I like what Terry Mayo is doing here.

I will start to wrap this up by just emphasizing how essential it is to have some sort of hook in a work of comics. I don’t know how some readers are attracted to some of the stuff that for me, and for more careful readers, looks like it has been stripped of any shred of humanity. My hunch is that most readers are sometimes willing to take something for what it is and then just move on. What I think a comics publisher like Alterna Comics does best is to keep to a core of authenticity. I kid you not, people sniff that out.

Overall, I look forward to seeing the collected trade to THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS. I think the whole creative team here should be proud of themselves. The artwork by Lucas Romero definitely has got a real deal human touch and goes a long way into getting the reader involved. Colors by Christopher Hall are spot on with the moody atmospherics. Lettering by Brandon DeStefano fits in exceptionally well into compositions and enhances the genuine and organic feel to this comic.

Rating of 10/10

DISPOSABLE LEGENDS

THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS is available at comiXology right here. For more details, visit Alterna Comics right here.

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Filed under Alterna Comics, Comics, Comics Reviews, Comixology, Emerald City Comic Con, TPub Comics

RICK AND MORTY PRESENTS: THE VINDICATORS #1 ECCC 2018 EXCLUSIVE VARIANT

RICK AND MORTY PRESENTS: THE VINDICATORS #1

An Emerald City Comic Con 2018 exclusive variant of RICK AND MORTY PRESENTS: THE VINDICATORS #1 by J. Torres and CJ Cannon with Nick Filardi. This convention exclusive is illustrated by Jen Bartel (Storm)! Available at Oni Press booth #216.

Keep up with Oni Press at ECCC on Twitter. Click to enlarge signing schedule below:

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ECCC 2018 Interview: Nilah Magruder and M.F.K. and Diversity in Comics

ECCC 2018: Nilah Magruder

The original webcomic, M.F.K.

Nilah Magruder is a writer and illustrator of children’s books and comics. From her beginnings in the woods of Maryland she developed an eternal love for three things: nature, books, and animation. She is the author of HOW TO FIND A FOX (First Second Books) and M.F.K. (Insight Comics) among other works.

It all began, or a lot of things started to fall into place, with the M.F.K. webcomic. That’s a significant work in Nilah Magruder’s career which includes both the comics and the animation industry. It was a story she had to tell and embarked upon back in 2012. The underlying theme to Magruder’s work is giving voice to those who have not been heard in the past. As she puts it, her stories come back to what she would have wanted to read as a child. “I’m writing the stories that I wish I would have read as a young black girl growing up in a predominantly white community.”

M.F.K.

Nilah Magruder’s postapocalyptic story about a deaf girl crossing the desert to release the ashes of her grandmother would go on to be the first recipient of the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics. In the summer of 2017, Insight Comics would publish the first installment of M.F.K. as its first original graphic novel.

HOW TO FIND A FOX

Magruder is as busy as ever. Among her work, she is the first African American woman to write a story for Marvel Comics. She has just completed storyboard work for the Disney “Tangled” animated television series. She is just as adept at creating children’s books as demonstrated by the adorable HOW TO FIND A FOX. Well, the list goes on. This week, for instance, a new anthology of queer teen stories, including a story by Magruder was released by Harlequin Teen, “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages.” And looking out to Spring 2019, there is “Creeky Acres,” from Penguin Books, a graphic novel by Magruder and First Second editor Calista Brill.

Take a closer look at her professional journey and it follows an arc of determination to excel. “Comics and animation are highly competitive. It has to be a perfect storm of having the right skills and being at the right place at the right time. You have to have stamina. Success in this business is being the last person standing. What really drives you is the passion.”

It was my pleasure to get a chance to chat with Nilah Magruder and get a sense of her multi-faceted work. I hope you enjoy this video interview!

Be sure to visit Nilah Magruder at her website right here. And, if you’re in Seattle and heading out to Emerald City Comicon, be sure to stop by and visit with her in person! You will find her in Artist Alley at Booth P11 and on some very fun and interesting panels!

Nilah Magruder and ECCC

Nilah Magruder will be at Booth P11 in Artist Alley.

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Filed under Comics, Emerald City Comicon, First Second, Insight Comics, Nilah Magruder, Webcomics

Comics Review: MATA HARI #1 (of 5)

MATA HARI #1

Any close study of history will reveal a vast array of ironies and contradictions. Both individuals and whole nations have checkered pasts. Which leads us to Mata Hari, charged with treason and espionage and executed by a French firing squad in 1917. France had been rocked by the Dreyfus affair only a few years earlier, another case of someone being wrongly accused and being used as a scapegoat. In a new limited series from Dark Horse Comics, we get a fresh look at the enigmatic and exotic Mata Hari.

There is more prose involved with comics than some would think. Prose, lots and lots of prose, is the bedrock to any comics project. Then it is a matter of matching up, balancing out, just the right fit of text and image. MATA HARI is an excellent example of this process as writer Emma Beeby (Judge Dredd) began with reading, of all things, a book! Yes, she read “Femme Fatale: Love, Lies and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari” by Professor Pat Shipman.

Mata Hari as Salome

And then one thing led to another. Artist Ariela Kristantina (Insexts) came on board and did her thing. Then, like a mini-orchestra taking form, colorist Pat Masioni added her special skills. And, finally, we have the mastereo, the conductor herself, editor Karen Berger, who has conducted quite a lot of masterworks in her tine at Vertigo. You know, I have to say this: (and I’ll say more at a later date) it is a very misguided myth that the best comics are being created by the misfit in a garret. True, amazing work comes from there but we need to always come around to what quality gems are put out my professionals. Europe, for instance, has understood that for a very long time.

The quality, especially of offbeat and daring content, that Karen Berger is bringing to Berger Books is right in step with what readers in other parts of the world have appreciated for generations. DC Comics added that extra layer of quirk with Berger at Vertigo. And now Dark Horse Comics gives us Berger at Berger Books! What more could you ask for, right? So, you see a comic book like MATA HARI and you snatch it up, that’s what you do, my dear discerning reader. This is a five-issue limited run. The first issue sets the tone quite nicely. We get a sense of the woman who came to be known to the world as Mata Hari. We get a look at her as a little girl, growing up, and discovering early on that her interests and passions would make for a challenging, but quite stimulating, life.

Rating of 10/10

MATA HARI is available now. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics and Berger Books right here.

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Filed under Berger Books, Comics, Comics Reviews, Dark Horse Comics, Karen Berger

Comics Review: PRISM STALKER #1

PRISM STALKER by Sloane Leong

Sloane Leong is one of those special cartoonists who immerse themselves deep into a world of their own. This sort of artist-warrior is without exception, both writer and artist. Leong, following this highly individual tradition, has worked up her skills (never complaining since it never seemed like work) and come out the other side with comics of a caliber that has led her today to launching PRISM STALKER, her new title with Image Comics.

For a comics critic who also both writes and draws comics, I am confident in sharing with you what sets Leong apart. Among the many independent cartoonists out there, just like any other artists, a number of them will take one detour or another. Some will feel most comfortable remaining within self-published cliques. Others may need to keep a project under wraps and work on it on their own terms. But, if the stars are in alignment, and the cartoonist is particularly driven, the transition can be made from bohemian poet to career path. In the ideal case, the work retains that same idiosyncratic vibe. The work retains its integrity. The artist retains their integrity.

What you see on the comics page, the merging of words and images, takes on an added significance when created by a cartoonist in the traditional role of artist-writer. You end up with a window into the subconscious mind. I would argue that you can feel a disconnect, perhaps subtle or maybe distracting, in a collaborative work. That is why you hear so much said on the importance of chemistry between writer and artist. But you don’t have that concern when you’re running the whole show. In the case of Leong, she has taken on the added roles of lettering and coloring. All of that adds up to a more personal perspective. And, by the way, it is no surprise that cartoonists at this level are attracted to and invest a lot of energy upon depicting dreams.

And then you add a passionate vision and you have the whole package. A look at Leong’s website shows us a person with a heart-felt desire to tell the stories of those who have been pushed to the margins. That is exactly what we see here: Vep, our main character is toiling away as a slave on a hive colony run by giant insects. Who doing what where? you may ask. It is a very dream-like sci-fi tale about very serious problems.

This is a story that casts a very wide net and succeeds by balancing all the details. Vep is a strong and compelling character who the reader is immediately drawn to. The setting is pretty outrageous and highly ambiguous and becomes a character in its own right. You could say this is a comic that is both character and atmosphere driven. It becomes a true meld of visual and literary delight. You feel that unique push-pull connection. You recognize trippy originality when you see it right down to that wildly eccentric title, PRISM STALKER!

Rating of 10/10

PRISM STALKER #1 is available as of March 7, 2018. For more details, visit Image Comics right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Image Comics, Sci-Fi, science fiction

George’s Run Update: We Keep Moving Forward

Pencils with some ink.

GEORGE’S RUN, my graphic novel work-in-progress, is humming along. These sort of hand-made-with-care items take time, especially since I’m doing everything. People who know and understand, they understand. What I dearly wish is, in fact, to get this work not only completed but uploaded, printed, and hard-wired onto as many minds as possible.

Hand-drawn lettering completed on this page.

I can do a number of things. I can start showing this to the world as a webcomic, either here and/or at a separate venue. A show of hands for everyone who supports that move. Okay. I can also self-publish, which is certainly an attractive option. And I can also make just the right love match with that certain publisher I might click with.

Always studying pages as they progress.

Anyway, folks have asked, and I just wanted to provide an update. I hope you like this small batch of teaser images. I also just got a pedicure and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to show that off too. Why not, right?

Always looking at work from different vantage points.

I’ve learned quite a lot from this and I don’t regret one moment. Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the very first episode to be broadcast of “The Twilight Zone,” on October 2, 1959. That was “Where Is Everybody?” That is a very good question to ask as I seek to stoke interest in what should be a very worthwhile project.

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Filed under Comics, George Clayton Johnson, graphic novels, Henry Chamberlain, Webcomics

Rod Serling’s Original Planet Of The Apes Adaptation Comes To Life At BOOM! Studios

Planet of the Apes: Visionaries cover by Paolo Rivera

I have things I want to tell you and share with you–I’m that sort of guy. I value the time and effort involved in putting together any post that is more than just posting a press release–but sometimes you really can’t help yourself and you want to share a press release, especially one you may have missed. Any nerd worth their weight in gold can easily attest to the fact that Rod Serling was originally picked to write the screenplay for “Planet of the Apes.” But then, Hollywood being Hollywood, an opportunity at something deliciously original was pissed on. Well, they kept his idea of the Statue of Liberty sunk neck-deep on a beach. Fast forward, gulp, fifty frickin’ years and now we can enjoy a graphic novel adaptation of what Rod Serling would have done, had he been given the green light. Thanks to the bright minds at Boom! Studios, we will finally get what we should have gotten well-nigh a lifetime ago! Seek it out this August. Press release, as promised, follows:

Continue reading

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Filed under Boom! Studios, Comics, pop culture, Rod Serling