Tag Archives: Adventure

Interview: Jeremy Holt on Writing Comics and BEFORE HOUDINI

BEFORE HOUDINI, script by Jeremy Holt and art by John Lucas

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview writer and graphic novelist Jeremy Holt. His most recent works include After Houdini, Skip to the End, Skinned (Insight Comics), Southern Dog (Action Lab), and Pulp (comiXology), which IGN has called, “…one of the best one-shot comics of the year.” For this interview we try to cover a bit of everything with a focus on Holt’s most recent title, Before Houdini.

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Jeremy, thank you so much for doing this interview. We’re going to focus on Before Houdini, your latest title with Insight Comics as well as do our best to bring out something about you and your creative life. I’ll start with the introduction by comic book writer Matthew Rosenberg for Skip to the End, another work you did with Insight Comics. In his introduction, Rosenberg talks about the urgency of punk rock and indie comics: both are raw and unfiltered. That brings to mind your one-shot, Pulp. I think, in the end, whatever the genre, whatever the vibe, you want your work to be honest, right?

PULP, script by Jeremy Holt and art by Chris Peterson

JEREMY HOLT: First of all, thank you for having me, Henry. Over the last ten years of making comics, I’ve thought a lot about the stories that I want to tell. I think, at the beginning, most creators go for those big bright ideas that might get them noticed. I was guilty of that. For instance, I tried doing a zombie story, not realizing that market was pretty saturated. In the course of finding collaborators and pitching to publishers, I’ve found myself taking ten steps backward and having to re-evaluate myself, as a writer and a creator, and really thinking about those stories I want to tell. So, yes, honesty is a very important factor for me.

Share with us how you go about creating a multi-layered character like Jonny, in Skip to the End. He’s got a lot of rough edges. He comes from a certain subculture. And yet people can relate with him. Or maybe sometime from Skinned or After Houdini, whatever comes to mind.

For me, usually it starts with a concept. That’s usually how my ideas begin, with a concept that seems like a really cool idea. Then, from there, I start to develop the main characters, the cast if you will, and then the plot. If those three things don’t actually connect, even after thinking about them for days, weeks, months, I tend to move on. So, as far as characterization, that’s an ongoing process as I’m writing the stories. What I like most about a lot of the projects that I’ve worked on that have resonated with the readers is that, at a certain point, if you’ve done your job as a writer and figured out who these characters are, where they come from, where they’re trying to go, at some point during the writing process, they actually start making their own decisions and speak for themselves. Maybe in an early version of an outline for a specific issue, I may have Jonny saying this but, by the time I am actually writing that scene, so much has happened leading up to the writing of that scene that he ends up saying something more true to his character than I’d even thought to note originally. That’s always fun to see.

AFTER HOUDINI, script by Jeremy Holt and illustrated by Kevin Zeigler, John Lucas and Adrian Crossa

Oh, sure, that’s all part of the process. So, share with us what I’m thinking of as a fascination with Houdini. What can you tell us about the creation of the Houdini books?

That’s a great question. To be honest, the idea of writing about Houdini began with the original artist I’d worked with, Kevin Zeigler. We met through mutual friends. We both went to Savannah College of Art and Design. He was a freshman and I was graduating. So, we missed each other by a year. But, through networking, his name kept coming up and so we got together. I would pitch him ideas but nothing seemed to gel. Then I decided to try a really good writer’s exercise: ask my collaborator what they liked to draw. He said he was very interested in Houdini. So, I began to do some research. One book stood out in particular: The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by Larry Sloman and William Kalush. That book opened my eyes to the idea of Houdini being this covert spy. So, I brought that back to Kevin and we tossed that creative ball around. That is how After Houdini came about, that collaboration.

I’d like you to share something about the storytelling process. You’re a graduate of the the Savannah College of Art and Design, known for its Sequential Art program. I envision you with a skill set to create your own comic alone if you chose to. But you’ve fine tuned your path to focus on being a comic book writer. Should I see you as someone like Ed Brubaker who did create comics in the auteur tradition but ultimately came to the realization he needed to focus on being a writer?

Well, no, not exactly like Ed Brubaker. I studied film. In essence, I was around storytelling but I concentrated on sound design which is more post-produciton, sound editing. I only did that for about a year after college. It really just wasn’t for me. I’d done some writing in high school but I had never viewed myself as a writer. Let’s see, I graduated from SCAD in 2005.  I didn’t collect comics as a kid. My oldest brother was a collector. It wasn’t until 2008 that I read The Dark Knight by Frank Miller and that opened up a door and made me want to start writing. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know how to start. So, it was a lot of trial and error. That’s what the early years were like.

SKINNED, written by Jeremy Holt and Tim Daniel and illustrated by Josh Gowdy

We all have our own unique perspective on the world and we’re all dealing with something. As a writer, you find ways to dig into a character to one degree or another depending upon the project.  Sometimes it’s more direct. Sometimes it’s more subtext. Do you have a preferred approach in your storytelling? More direct or more subtext or does it just depend? I think of your comic, Southern Dog, which basically goes for the jugular.

I try to walk that fine line between both being direct and using subtext. I definitely pull from real life experience as an Asian-American, and being an identical triplet, as well as being adopted. So, identity is something that is at the front of my brain. Skip to the End is probably the only story I’ve written that is not somehow drawing from my own experience. Jonny was a character I knew nothing about firsthand. I’m not a drug addict. I haven’t lost anyone to suicide. So, there was a lot of research I needed to do in order to feel comfortable writing about someone from that perspective. Generally, I try to weave some personal experience into a narrative that isn’t directly taken from my own life since that’s part of the fun of creating stories. You get to live vicariously through these fictional people.

SKIP TO THE END, script by Jeremy Holt and art by Alex Diotto

What do you hope readers will get from your Houdini books?

You get a sense of adventure. Before Houdini has a substantially darker tone than After Houdini since it has my take on Jack the Ripper. I think you get a sense of wonder from these two books. You get fun action adventure stories.

You’re living in Vermont. You came from Brooklyn. Maybe you could share with us what it’s like living in Vermont. And I’m also curious if you’ve had a chance to visit the Center for Cartoon Studies, located in White River Junction, Vermont. 

I did spend a good part of a day there. It’s a very small town. It’s very distinct. The Center for Cartoon Studies is right in the middle of this one single winding street. I’ve met its co-founder, James Sturm, before. He gives talks around the country. And I’ve met people who have given talks there or taught or went to school there. Vermont is a pretty small state so you end up rubbing elbows with folks. As far as why I’m in Vermont, I’m recently divorced. My ex-spouse took a job in Middlebury, Vermont so I ended up here. My friends thought I’d move back to New York. And I love New York. I lived there for five years. But, honestly, the quality of life here in Vermont is substantially higher in a lot of ways to the daily grind of living in New York City. And I still go back two or three times a year to visit with friends. It makes for a nice balance.

Page from BEFORE HOUDINI

I can see why the Center for Cartoon Studies would want to be in Vermont. You get to share that same mellow easy-going atmosphere.

Yeah, I think so. There are fewer distractions for a writer. I think, when I was younger, I was naive enough to think that the city providing me with inspiration. And in a lot of ways it did. But it also provided a ton of distractions. Since moving to Vermont I’ve become exponentially more productive than when I was in New York thinking that I was prolific. In fact, I’ve produced more, in a shorter amount of time, than when I was living in New York.

What might you tell us about two upcoming projects, Made in Korea and Virtually Yours? Are you still working on them or are you shopping them around?

Both of those have publishers but I can’t disclose who. As for Virtually Yours, I have finished writing and the artist is well under way working on it. And regarding Made in Korea, I’ve scripted two of six issues. I’ve outlined the entire series. I have a very clear idea of where it’s going. I plan to script the rest of it in the next two months. I’ve pitched a couple of new projects this week so I’m waiting to hear back from those publishers. I need to keep my fingers crossed.

Page from BEFORE HOUDINI

It sounds like you’re in a really great position. You have these impressive titles with Insight Comics and you’ve got a number of new projects well under way. It looks like you’re right where you need to be.

I think so. The important thing for any creator to figure out is working at a pace that isn’t daunting. Obviously, early on, I wanted to be a full-time writer and quit my day job. I do tech support during the day. But, to be honest, I am producing enough work in my free time outside of my day job that I’m hitting my deadlines without a problem. I know that, once I didn’t have a day job, my relationship to my creative work will change. I’ll be depending upon that in ways that I don’t now because I don’t have to worry about making a ton of money off my work. And I kind of like that. I like that there’s no pressure and I can just create and have fun with it. So, I’m not sure that I’m going to quit my day job anytime soon even if I have the opportunity because I think it makes me work harder.

And you have something that is really working, a really well calibrated routine. So, you don’t want to mess with it.

I think so. As a creative person, it’s about moving that goal post, not being afraid to say that something isn’t working, that expectations need to change. That allows you to keep working. For creators that don’t make these adjustments, it’s easy to burn out. You can end up feeling defeated or pessimistic about your career. I think it’s totally normal, totally acceptable, and even helpful, to move that goal post, to set expectations that are right for you at whatever place you are in your life.

Page from PULP

We could pretty much bring this to an end unless you had anything else you might like to add. 

This was great. Thank you for your questions. Thanks for your in depth look at my books. That’s a first.

Well, I found Pulp, for instance, at comiXology. It’s there for anyone to find. I highly recommend it. I particularly appreciate the indie flavor to it.

For me, Pulp was a writing exercise. I wanted to see if I could tell a story within 24 pages. I think, from the beginning of the concept all the way through production, it took Chris and me five days to put it all together. It was ridiculously fast, unnecessarily fast. But I still think it’s one of the stronger stories that I’ve written.

It definitely has that urgency and energy that Matthew Rosenberg was talking about in the introduction I began with.

Definitely.

Well, thank you, Jeremy.

Thank you so much.

Be sure to visit Jeremy Holt right here.

And check out BEFORE HOUDINI (Available July 16, 2019) at Insight Comics right here.

You can listen to the podcast interview right below:

.

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Filed under Comics, Gender, Insight Editions, Interviews

New York Focus: Airbnb: Photographing NYC with Pro Photographer Abdiel Colberg

Here are some of the photos that I took with pro photographer Abdiel Colberg.
He is a very kind, patient, and thoughtful person. Such a talented artist who was so generous with his knowledge. Here are some photos I took under his guidance. Check out his website right here. And check out the Airbnb course right here.

Be ready to walk around and take some great photos!

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Filed under New York City, Photography, Travel

Review: SONS OF FATE by Jean-Paul Deshong

SONS OF FATE by Jean-Paul Deshong

Jean-Paul Deshong is a professional in the comics industry. SONS OF FATE is Deshong’s first independent series. As he states in his introduction, his goal is to bring all the excitement from reading comics as a kid to this project. If you like adventures with a martial arts theme, then this is for you.

Ah, fate…

A look at this book reveals a lot of passion behind the work. Deshong revels in details. The origins to our narrative involve a fleet of medieval Japanese ships that are attacked by pirates. The ambush results in heavy casualties. One particular sailor ends up ashore a tropical island. The indigenous people are dark and savage in comparison to what our hero is accustomed to. But he gains their trust and even becomes a guardian to a boy from the village. It is this fateful union that moves our story forward.

The natives want something.

This is an involved and dense story that moves at a contemplative pace and is punctuated by lively action sequences. You can have a long interval with some characters opening up about their motivations and then, for the next scene, there’s a rampaging rhino. That works for me. You can never go wrong with a rhino. What I find most interesting and admirable is the level of dedication Deshong has brought to his work. That will carry him, and the reader, forward on this series and with projects in the future. SONS OF FATE is a solid adventure comic that a wide spectrum of readers will enjoy.

Visit the SONS OF FATE website right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, graphic novels, Japan

Review: HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE NORTH by Luke Healy

HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE NORTH by Luke Healy

HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE NORTH by Luke Healy

What if you could run away and live off the land as you help settle the North Pole? Sounds kinda nutty, doesn’t it? Well, it made total sense to Vilhjalmur Stefansson, a Canadian Arctic explorer and ethnologist, active at the turn of the last century. Luke Healy’s new graphic novel, “How to Survive in the North,” published by Nobrow Press, looks back on this most quixotic journey.

Healy brings in a contemporary narrative thread that is interlaced with this bizarre arctic misadventure. It provides a nice counterbalance to the often dire arctic narrative. As weird as the attempt to settle the North Pole is, it is also weird, in a good way, to embark upon a graphic novel based upon this relatively arcane history. But a gem is a gem and it takes a certain talent to see that.

Panels excerpt

Panels excerpt

There’s a wonderful depth to this book with its full-bodied scope following the rhythms of a prose novel. Healy’s drawing style is economical while not missing a beat. The pacing, the light but spot on composition, and the compelling dialogue provide a rich experience. A lot of people today are ready to dive in and create their own graphic novels. There is no trick to it and there’s a great chance of failure. But, if you’re in love with it, then there’s no other way. Healy is clearly in love.

Panels excerpt

Panels excerpt

In fact, there’s plenty of love to be found within this story. One primary plot line, set in the present, follows the ill-fated affair between Sully Barnaby, a tenured professor, and Kevin, his student. Sully has been put on a forced one-year sabbatical to temper his lack of judgement. It is during this bittersweet one-year paid vacation that the prof immerses himself in the various documents related to the two arctic expeditions of 1912 and 1926. In the process, Sully gains a renewed sense of purpose.

Full Page Excerpt

Full Page Excerpt

Was it a very good idea to try to tame the North Pole? Spoiler alert: No, it was not such a good idea. But you will definitely root for the survivors. And reading this quirky and highly entertaining graphic novel is certainly a great idea! This book was first introduced to American audiences via the Center For Cartoon Studies, which launched the careers of Chuck Forsman, Jen Vaughn, and Sophie Goldstein, amongst others.

“How to Survive in the North” is a 192-page full-color hardcover. For more details, and how to purchase, visit Nobrow Press right here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Nobrow Press

Travel Review: Hotel Hotel Hostel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood

If you are visiting Seattle, then the perfect place to start your adventure is at Hotel Hotel Hostel in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. I had the privilege of having Hotel Hotel host my 24-Hour Comics Day drawing marathon this past weekend. Under these special circumstances, I found myself with the opportunity to review the hostel and share with you my observations. The hostel is for visitors outside of Seattle. For Seattle locals, there is the PizzaBar located adjacent to the hostel. If you are in Fremont, you will find it as it commands a prime spot within a building that is also home to other local favorite boutiques and shops.

Nancy, co-owner of the Hotel Hotel Hostel with her husband, Lee

Nancy, co-owner of the Hotel Hotel Hostel with her husband, Lee

Nancy, co-owner of the hostel with her husband, Lee, was a great guide and hostess. I witnessed her firsthand joking and making everyone feel welcome. She has a gift for meeting each task with grace and a friendly smile. Both Lee and Nancy love to travel and meet new people so they are a natural together in their hostel business.

Hotel Hotel is what you would call a boutique hostel in that it has gone that extra mile to create a welcoming and comfortable environment. Many hostels can be found in that category. It’s just a way of saying that you’re in very good hands.

Private room with bath

Private room with bath

Hotel Hotel is, at the end of the day, a hostel which means it’s affordable, centrally located, and convenient for the traveller not only on a budget but with an eye for something different.

Hotel Hotel Computer Station

Hotel Hotel Computer Station

Keep in mind that location is everything. If you choose Hotel Hotel, you are in a very fun and active area. You could spend your whole time just in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. You are also right next to a fast and easy bus ride into Seattle.

I had a private room and bath and it is a spacious space with an upbeat and stylish layout: leather couch, king bed, nightstands, added lights, chair with ottoman, bookcase, fresh towels. All in all, it has the nice look and feel of a boutique hotel room.

I found the recreation room and kitchen to be ample and easily accessible. Along with the free Wi-Fi, you’ll notice that, at the stairs in a commons area, there is one tablet available for the use of guests. That can come in very handy and it is not something you can expect at just any hostel.

Complimentary breakfast

Complimentary breakfast

And what a nice complimentary breakfast all spread out for guests to enjoy! A great way to start the day.

How about that Fremont Troll?

How about that Fremont Troll?

Another great feature that Hotel Hotel offers its guests is a free walking tour of the Fremont neighborhood. It is your chance to have Megan, who is in charge of tours, to give you an in depth look at what was once a logging town that went on to become “the center of the universe.” There’s a lot to this story with plenty of local scenery, art, and landmarks to provide a fascinating journey. Have you wondered about Fremont’s curiously offbeat fixtures like those naked cyclists, or that huge statue of Vladimir Lenin? Or how about the Fremont Troll? Well, find out on this tour.

HotelHotel PizzaBar

HotelHotel PizzaBar

Ah, and getting back to the PizzaBar. This is a relatively new addition to Hotel Hotel and it’s a fun addition to Fremont’s night life. It is a perfect spot to settle in with friends, have some pizza and beer, play a game of pool, and check out whatever else is going on: a movie, a Seahawks game, a special open mic event.

Pizza at HotelHotel PizzaBar!

Pizza at HotelHotel PizzaBar!

As an avid traveller and adventurer, I was very impressed with the quality and care that Hotel Hotel provides. It is part of City Hostel Seattle, located in downtown Seattle. Both hostels are perfect places to stay and start your own Seattle adventure.

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Filed under Comics, Food, Fremont, Hostels, Hotel Hotel Hostel, Pizza, Seattle, The Fremont Troll, Travel

Review: Discovery Channel’s TREASURE QUEST: SNAKE ISLAND

Treasure-Quest-Snake-Island

There’s a disturbing scene in the new treasure hunt series from Discovery Channel. And it’s not about a shark attack or a snake attack. It’s during a meeting with the crew and the expedition leader, Cork Graham, is making a case for going to Snake Island to find a buried treasure of Incan gold. The island is crazy dangerous for many reasons. As final proof that they’re on the right track, Graham takes an overlay from a legendary map said to hold the treasure and places it directly over a map of modern day Snake Island, off the south eastern coast of Brazil. He keeps it there for all to see. But it’s not a match. It’s sort of a match. But not quite. And that symbolizes the leap of faith everyone is taking.

Herpetologist Bryan Fry and the Golden Lancehead pit viper.

Herpetologist Bryan Fry and the Golden Lancehead pit viper.

But it was never just about the gold, was it? No, it was never that simple. Look, we can go down the line. Take Graham, he’s as much in it to prove a youthful hunch from years ago. Then there’s ole Cappy, the boat captain. He’s in it for the glory. Mehgan, the expedition dive master, seems most interested with the historical significance of what they may find. Jeremy, the ship’s mechanic, seems most into the adventure and then with the possible big payday. And Bryan, the ship’s herpetologist, or snake expert, is in it for the snakes! Yeah, he is most eager to match wits with the legendary and dangerous golden lancehead pit viper. Sounds like a crew out of the pages of “Moby Dick” or “Jaws.” Surely, this is a cut above your typical reality TV show.

Treasure-Quest-2015

The more details you get about this expedition, the more of a mystery it becomes. So, yeah, maybe there is hidden Incan gold somewhere on Snake Island. Maybe all the theories add up. But, even if they did, how will this modern day crew do better than other missions going back hundreds of years? To add to the challenge, as the show makes clear, our crew may be made up of seasoned professionals but they’re also pretty much fish out of water. And, to their dismay and possible horror, they weren’t counting on modern day pirates. They thought about them in theory. But no so much in reality. And they’re very real. All in all, this is a story that should keep you hooked to the very end.

The six part series premieres on Friday, July 17 at 10 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel. For more details, visit our friends at Discovery right here.

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Filed under Discovery Channel, Reality TV, Television

French Comics Invasion: Reviews for Latest Titles from Delcourt Group Debuts In English on ComiXology

Delcourt-comiXology

Imagine that you are in Paris and you stroll into a local comics shop in search of comics, or “bande dessinée.” There are plenty of BD shops to choose from and, moreover, plenty of comics. Now, imagine that a massive selection of French comics is available to you right from wherever you happen to be. ComiXology presents to you what they like to call their own “French Invasion.” This week, comiXology unveiled its first line of titles from Delcourt Group, the leading independent comic book publisher in France.

We begin with five lead monthly titles and one lead graphic novel. Among the monthlies is “The Curse of The Wendigo” by Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard and writer Mathieu Missoffe. The lead graphic novel is “Come Prima” by Alfred, the Winner of the Prix du Meilleur Album at the 2014 Angoulême International Comics Festival. You can find them all by visiting our friends at comiXology right here.

Below you’ll find my reviews for all six of these titles. There are more than 150 Delcourt Group titles to be released exclusively by comiXology. This is truly a French comics invasion!

The-Curse-of-the-Wendigo

The Curse of the Wendigo written by Mathieu Missoffe and illustrated by Charlie Adlard.
To be published in two monthly installments, beginning July 6.
What creature is dangerous enough to unite the French and German troops in July of 1917? Only one man knows: Wohati, one of the 12,000 Native Americans in the U.S. Army. Wohati must lead two warring sides to solve the mystery of the Wendigo, for he alone understands the horror of what’s out there waiting for them.

This is what comics are all about: a story that takes you to some very trippy and scary places with a masterful sense of horror mixed with biting satire. You get great character studies here as we go back and forth between French and German trench warfare. But there’s a common enemy that will compel both sides to lay down their arms against each other. And, emerging from the background, as he’s not much of a talker, is the Native American warrior, Wohati. With his help, these two mighty forces can find the bogey man they seek and then resume blowing each other’s heads off.

Iron-Squad

Iron Squad co-created and written by Jean-Luc Sala and illustrated by Ronan Toulhoat.
comiXology exclusive cover for issue 1 by Matteo Scalera (Secret Avengers)
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
What if new technology in 1944 turned the course of World War II and led the Germans to victory?

What would a batch of BD be without a good World War II tale? Ah, and this one takes the cake. It will be sure to please many a reader of many levels. Having just read Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle,” I was in just the right mood to check out “Iron Squad,” an alternate history story with quite a kick. Filled with all the details that make for a good war story and sci-fi story, you will lose yourself in the spectacle of it all.

Josephine

Josephine created, written and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
Cartoonist and blogger Pénélope Bagieu tells the story of Josephine, featuring professional relationships gone awry, a series of faux pas, and many a failed romance.

“Josephine” is a perfect example of quirky light humor. Just as you may expect, we follow our heroine on a series of misadventures. She’s the cute girl who marches to the beat of a different drummer. This is a collection of webcomics that grows on you as you take it all in. I would be surprised to find this collection on the laptop of one of the characters from “Girls” but it would fit right in.

Prométhée

Prométhée created, written and illustrated by Chrisopher Bec
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
Preface by bestselling writer Mark Waid (Insufferable)
comiXology exclusive cover for issue 2 by Andrea Sorentino (Old Man Logan)
What happened on September 21, 2019 at 1:13 PM can never be explained. And then, for 13 consecutive days, another unexplainable phenomenon occurs&hellip every day at exactly 1:13 PM. Prométhée is a mind-bending science fiction story written and drawn by Chrisopher Bec that recalls Lost and the very best science fiction.

This sort of heroic over-the-top story is a prime example of solid adventure BD. Full of larger-than-life characters tasked to save planet Earth, you better fasten your seat belt before you blast off. This is quite a treat as we follow a story full of mystery involving alien technology and a fateful Space Shuttle mission set in the not so distant future.

Spin-Angels

Spin Angels co-created and written by Jean-Luc Sala and illustrated by Pierre-Mony Chan
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
The bestselling, action-filled Spin Angels series features a Catholic Church Cardinal who runs a black-ops group of spies, and the mafia godfather who puts his very best hitman in service of the Vatican in order to settle a debt.

You’ve got to have at least one adrenaline-fueled adventure involving the Knights Templar! Turns out there’s a strong lead indicating holy relics, long since thought part of Templar myth, are to be found in present day Nova Scotia. Of course, it will take nothing less than an A-team commando squad to fight off all the interested parties. If you’re looking for a fantasy-laden madcap BD adventure, then this is for you.

Come-Prima

Come Prima created, written and drawn by Alfred
To be published on July 6.
With his award winning graphic novel Come Prima, Alfred (Why I Killed Peter) has created a poignant homage to Italian cinema and a surprising story about two brothers who hit the road following their father’s death.

The master cartoonist Alfred brings to life a most vivid world with a crisp and economical style. More cartoonists would do well to learn from him. We begin with a yell, “Fabio!” This leads us to bold and muscular scenery: a French cityscape, a boxing match, a boxing poster. It is circa 1958. Giovanni has come for his brother, Fabio, who seems to always find a way to escape responsibility.

It appears that Giovanni offers a path to redemption. Fabio, we can tell early on, is distant and yet vulnerable. He resists the call back home to Italy up until he sees that his brother is holding an urn with his father’s ashes. That is too much, and so begins a journey.

Alfred offers up a poignant story with plenty of twists and turns. We find that Giovanni is not so much the saintly son. And Fabio is not entirely the brute. But they can dig their heels in too and conflict is always around the corner.

Ultimately, we cheer them on and wish them as safe a journey as is possible. Quite a realistic story of two stubborn men coming to terms with life, mortality, and something greater than themselves.

And so there’s reviews for the first round of titles from Delcourt. You can find all these titles by visiting our friends at comiXology right here.

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Filed under Bande Dessinée, BD, Comics, Comixology, Delcourt, European Comics, France, French Comics

Review: ‘The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes’ by Zach Dundas

Holmes investigates Holmes. Art by Henry Chamberlain.

Holmes investigates Holmes. Art by Henry Chamberlain.

It is clear that Zach Dundas loves Sherlock Holmes. A quest to explore how and why the interest in Sherlock Holmes has endured is the subject of his new book, “The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes.” In a highly accessible and conversational narrative, Dundas weaves classic Holmes stories into his own idiosyncratic reportage. The result is jolly good fun and goes a long way in explaining the Holmes phenomena.

Can one really put one’s finger on the Holmes appeal? Well, sure, for one thing, he’s a comfortably familiar character right up there with Superman, Snow White, Snoopy, and Frankenstein. He’s the ultimate brand. Of course, do people still actually read the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Well, Dundas is here to assure you, if you have not, that it’s fun stuff. Much of the appeal to this book is Dundas’s unbridled enthusiasm for his subject. He makes no bones about letting you know his passion runs deep going back to reading Holmes tales as a kid.

Time and again, Dundas will casually describe to you an adventure from Sherlock Holmes lulling you in until you’re deep into the plot. Then he’ll alternate with one of his own quests such as dragging his family all across the moors of the English countryside or endless searching for the real-life potential counterparts to fictional Victorian London. For Dundas, part of the mystery lies in attempting to understand what all his fellow tourists see in Holmes.

As he waits in line to enter a replica to 221B Baker Street, Holmes’s fictional digs, he can’t help but get a little smug assuming no one else in line has actually read Doyle. This lapse can be forgiven. When the only thing setting you apart from the crowd is the fact that you’ve read something that they haven’t, that’s more of a humbling experience than something to be proud of. And, it’s in that spirit, that Dundas shines as he shares his various facts and insights.

What you get here is a low-key and quirky look at what Holmes meant in his own time and what came soon after-and beyond. As Dundas observes, Holmes went retro rather quickly and embraced his new position, as it were, with gusto. With the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Victorian era quite literally came to an end. However, in the Holmes universe, the Victorian era would now enter a perpetual loop as Doyle kept on creating Holmes adventures set circa 1890. In short, Holmes was the original steampunk. And, with that in mind, it makes more and more sense as Dundas explores the myth and mystique of Holmes leading him all the way to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Ultimately, the mystery to Holmes does seem to be that such an esoteric character should have such broad appeal. That said, there are a number of erudite, refined, offbeat, and just plain weird characters that have struck a chord with wide audiences. Doctor Who is one, for sure. But you can rattle off any number of them from Star Wars to Game of Thrones and so on down the line. The general public is not always looking for some obviously populist figure to be the next pop culture superstar. And, with Holmes, you get a ready-made multi-layered artichoke of entertainment at the ready to be peeled back for deeper and richer understanding. That is what Dundas delightfully demonstrates in this quite entertaining book.

“The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes” is 336-page hardcover, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and available as of June 2. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, mystery, pop culture, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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

Mysteries-at-the-Museum-2015

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 Documentaries, Don Wildman, Mysteries at the Museum, Television, Travel, Travel Channel

Review: NINJAK #1

Cover art by Lewis Larosa

Cover art by Lewis Larosa

It is a pleasure to see Matt Kindt’s mind at work. He’s always had a thing for intrigue and circuitous plots. His latest work on Ninjak is right in step with that. I love how this comic opens up with a dramatic fighting scene that turns out to be something from a movie that our main character was viewing when he was a kid. It’s one of those added touches you can expect from Matt Kindt (RAI, Mind MGMT). And you’ve got great follow through from artist Clay Mann (X-Men: Legacy, Gambit) in the first of two parallel stories running in our first issue.

Ninjak-Valiant-Comics

The idea is to show you Colin King from two perspectives: as a raw recruit; and, some years later, as a seasoned MI-6 master assassin. Kindt has a way with getting you deep into the story in unexpected ways. We next see Colin fight the sexy and deadly Roku. She’s been genetically enhanced. Her hair alone is a lethal weapon. It just takes three braided strands and her hair can “garrote or behead a man. It can cut through metal and it has incendiary capabilities.” Whoa, hang on there, how do you “garrote” a man? Yikes, that’s smarts. Quite quirky and memorable line. Kindt is definitely the guy to take Valiant’s Ninjak to new places.

Let’s linger just a bit more. Here’s the thing with a Kindt adventure, it just keeps building, twisting, and turning. That opening scene with the kid repeats itself in different ways to reveal a tumultuous and abused young life. But the kid keeps fighting.

We ultimately find Colin infiltrating the notorious Shadow Seven and then we make the jump to Colin as a raw recruit in North Korea, this time teaming up Kindt with artist Butch Guice (Captain America, Action Comics). The style is rougher and fits in well with that more gritty time in Colin’s life. This second ongoing story lacks some of the potency of the first but perhaps that balances things out. The thing I like most, so far, in this whole comic is the flipping back and forth between the 10 year-od Colin and the 30 year-old Colin in our first story. Overall, this is a well-executed first issue.

NINJAK #1 is available now. For more details, visit our friends at Valiant Entertainment right here.

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Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Matt Kindt, Valiant Entertainment