Indie Cover Spotlight: Heart of Empire #1

Another Dark Horse Comics in the spotlight today, this time the amazingly talented and under-appreciated cartoonist, Bryan Talbot’s Heart of Empire: The Legacy of Luther Arkwright.

HeartofEmpire1

Published in 1999, this was a sequel to Talbot’s The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, originally published in Englad in 1987 by Valkyrie Press, and later reprinted by Dark Horse in 1990.

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    Want to be an editor for Vertigo?

    If you’ve ever wondered what the qualifications are for an editor at DC/Vertigo, here you go:

    Editor
    DC Entertainment – Burbank, CA
    SUMMARY OF POSITION
    DC Comics seeks an Editor for the Editorial-Vertigo department. Manages a line of editorial product within the Vertigo imprint.

    JOB RESPONSIBILITIES
    Performs full editorial function for a minimum of 4 monthly titles.
    Manages the creative process from conception through publication. Ensures that schedules and budgets are met and product quality is at or above Vertigo’s standards. Seeks ways to keep ongoing series fresh and exciting.
    Identifies and develops new editorial products for Vertigo.
    Identifies potential new talent and maintains relationships with current talent.
    Ensures that other DCE staff members have the materials required to maximize service to the product.
    Writes solicitation copy for monthly publications
    Supervise and develop a junior staff member.
    Performs other related duties as assigned.

    JOB REQUIREMENTS
    BA/BS degree in English, Journalism or Communications preferred.
    3-5 years editorial experience, comic books/graphic novels preferred.
    Ability to manage a creative team.
    Knowledge of comic book industry strongly preferred.
    Knowledge of art (ability to discuss composition, design, etc…) required.
    Copyediting and proofreading skills preferred.
    Ability to meet deadlines required.
    Ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing required.
    Ability for some light travel strongly preferred.
    Must have the ability to communicate effectively and tactfully with managers and other levels of personnel.
    Must have the ability to pay close attention to details.
    Must have the ability to organize.
    Must have the ability to work well under time constraints.
    Must have the ability to handle multiple tasks.
    Must have the ability to meet deadlines, manage multiple project elements simultaneously.
    MAC /PC proficiency required.
    Domestic travel up to 5%.

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      Indie Cover Spotlight: The Blue Lily #2

      An unknown mini-series from Dark Horse Comics, back in 1993: The Blue Lily.

      BlueLily2

      Created, written, and drawn by Angus McKie, featuring the character Rusty Spade, Metaphysical Metal Detective. Each issue was 48 pages, in the “prestige format”. I remember enjoying the heck out of it, but if memory serves me right, it was supposed to be a 4 issue series, but only 2 issues were ever published.

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        Review: The Losers (movie)


        Zoe Saldana!
        Chris Evans!
        Idris Elba!
        Jeffrey Dean Morgan!

        All good actors. All very likeable and popular actors. None of them a stranger to genre films, especially comic book-based ones. All doing a good job with the script they were handed.

        And therein lies the problem. It’s a terrible script, full of suck.

        Thank goodness I borrowed this film from the library, because while I ended up wasting my time, at least I didn’t waste any money on it. Based on the Vertigo series of the same name by Andy Diggle and Jock, it was a flop at the theaters, and I’m here to tell you there’s a good reason for it.

        It sucks.

        And not in that “they changed it so much from the source material” way that usually makes comic nerds upset. No, in the “wholly unoriginal, cliche-filled turd” way.

        God, what a horrible waste of money and talent. If you were going to make a shitty mid-80s action flick with bullshit macho dialogue, an unbelievably over-the-top evil bad guy, and an ending that’s the biggest “f*** you” to the audience who invested their money and time in this thing, why even waste a penny “optioning” a property? Just make your shitty movie, call it Extreme Patriots or Double Cross in Bolivia or Gunfight in L.A., release it straight to DVD, and save yourself the embarrassment, not to mention about $20 million off the budget.

        The-Losers-Team

        I should have stopped watching, when in the first 20 minutes of the movie, the bad guy, CIA insider “Max”, proves he’s indeed bad by a) asking our CIA covert ops protagonists go ahead with the bombing of a drug dealer’s compound, even after they find out he has 25 innocent kids on the premises, b) having a US jet fighter shoot down a US helicopter evacuating said 25 innocent children, killing them all, and c) thinking he’s killed our heroes, who have been serving their country selflessly. But wait, there’s more! As if that wasn’t enough to convince you he’s really, really bad, there’s a scene where he’s walking on a beach, and has an attractive female assistant carrying an umbrella to shade him from the sun. But when a gust of wind blows the umbrella away for just a split second, and the assistant apologizes instantly, Max grabs a gun and shoots her! Because, you see, he’s a bad guy. A real bad guy.

        But wait, there’s even more! So the entire point of the movie is that our heroes are on a quest for revenge, trying to expose Max’s slimy, evil ways, and restoring their good names so they can get their old lives back, but…

        SPOILER ALERT (not that you care)
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .

        Max gets away in the end. There is no closure. It’s just one huge, open-ended, “let’s set it up for a sequel” ending.

        As in: “f*** you, audience, for expecting a resolution.”

        So in that same spirit, a hearty f*** you to Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt, who wrote the bullshit screenplay for this movie, and all the assholes involved in greenlighting and making this movie.

        What a complete waste.

        (A version of this review appeared on my old Ferret Press blog on January 12, 2011)

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          Indie Cover Spotlight: Lost Heroes #0

          Wow, hard to believe, but this is the 200th installment of ICS! Be sure to check the archives for all the previously featured covers.

          So I had almost forgotten about this rather strange artifact of the late 90s, which I have in my longboxes somewhere: Lost Heroes.

          LostHeroes0

          Created, written, and drawn by Rob Prior, and published in 1998 by Davdez Arts (which, surprisingly, are still around, though not, it seems, as an active comic book publisher). It was a modern fantasy-adventure series about…honestly, I don’t remember at all. It ran for 5 issues (including the #0) before publications ceased.

          And yes, that’s Mark Hammill and Julie Strain on the cover. In fact, the book’s whole schtick was that all the characters’ looks were based on the likenesses of actors, used with permission. Who else “starred” in Lost Heroes?

          • Kevin Eastman (TMNT)
          • Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5)
          • Jason Carter (Babylon 5)
          • Walter Koenig (that famous TV sci-fi series, and Babylon 5)
          • Peter Jurasik (Babylon 5)
          • Bill Mumy (that old TV sci-fi series, and Babylon 5)
          • Richard Biggs (Babylon 5)

          …and more.

          Hey, I’m detecting a pattern here…what TV show ended in 1998, leaving a whole bunch of actors with plenty of free time on their hands? Oh, right, Babylon 5.

          LostHeroes404Pub

          Now I want to dig out my back issues and re-visit the series…

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            Indie Cover Spotlight: Age of Heroes #1

            Another long hiatus for ICS has ended. Let’s just jump into it with our look at covers for various independently published comics. Leading off this return is Age of Heroes #1:

            AgeofHeroes1

            This fantasy series was written by James Hudnall and featured the artwork of John Ridgway. Hudnall self-published it through his Halloween Comics imprint in 1996. I think the venture folded by issue #3. There was a one-shot special later through Image, and I think at some point Hudnall finished the initial story arc in a TPB, but I lost track of the details.

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              Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (movie)

              So brooding. So angsty.

              Guardians of the…oops, wrong movie.

              So I watched this 2013 Japanese CG animated movie on Netflix, totally on a whim. While I was aware of the existence of the Captain Harlock manga and anime, I had no exposure (or vested interest) in it. I’m pretty sure this slick remake/reboot differs quite a bit from the source material, but I’m going to review it based solely on my experience with the movie.

              We used to be a lot cuter.

              We used to be a lot cuter.

              To put it succinctly: the animation was beautiful, the story was a hot mess.

              So in the future, billions of humans have colonized space, but dwindling resources forces them all to return to earth. But since our world can’t possibly support all of them a huge war (known as the “Homecoming War”) breaks out for the privilege of return. Blah blah blah, a governmental body called the Gaia Sanction forms and declares Earth off-limits to everyone. Blah blah blah, alien race called the Nibelung, dark matter technology, Captain Harock and his dark matter ship the Arcadia, Gaia Sanction espionage, treachery, loyalty, angst, pseudo science, lots of futuristic jargon with the words “protocol” and “Jovian” and “oscillator” thrown about, ships blow up, people yell at each other, and then….

              Well, I’m not sure. See, while there’s a beginning to the story, and what could pass for a middle, there’s no ending. It’s a complete and utter failure, where the motivations of both the protagonist and the antagonist (and the antihero) are completely forgotten or dropped, and there’s no clear resolution to anything The origin or purpose of the Nibelung? Harlock’s mission to reset the “Genesis Clock”? All forgotten. The narrative focus jumps around more than a faulty projector, random facts and events are thrown at the audience for no apparent reason, and…well, you get the point.

              This is a script that could have used some serious, serious editing.

              maxresdefault

              The visuals, on the other hand, are very strong. I found the costumes, sets, and world building to be top notch. There’s a bit of steampunk sprinkled in with the slick future tech, and the weapons and armor and spaceships all look really well-designed and impressive.

              18zoct5saophljpg

              There’s lots of epic space battles that look good (but make zero sense if you stop to think about the logic of what’s happening). And I’ll admit, each time the Arcadia burst out of a cloud of dark matter “smoke,” it looked pretty bad-ass.

              So in conclusion: great eye candy and entertaining in some ways, if you’re willing to turn off your brain, and not try to make sense of things.

              Update 8/26: On Facebook, my friend Tony Goins asked the question “How does this fit with your essay from a while back, that not every story needs a beginning, middle and end?” Here was my answer:

              Good question. I guess my feeling on that is the work as a whole needs to embrace that aesthetic for it to work. So for instance, it’s ok if it’s a Jim Woodring comic, or a Jim Jarmusch movie, or a Jack Kerouac book. But when you give me a very traditionally structured story, then in the 3rd act be all like “eff it, man, I don’t need an ending because ART!” that doesn’t work for me.

              Maybe you can get away with that in some rare cases, like Christopher Nolan’s Inception. That movie was tightly plotted and hewed closely to the Hollywood 3-act paradigm, but it still left the audience with a very ambiguous ending. But it worked, because that ending tied in directly to the very theme of the movie, it’s whole DNA, about what exactly is “reality”?

              But in the case of this movie, not only did it start out with a very traditional story structure, but it’s very look screams sci-fi action video game, a medium firmly rooted in beginning-middle-end storytelling.

              Of related interest to this discussion: this article about the Chinese & Japanese 4-act (introduction, development, twist and reconciliation) plot structure called kishōtenketsu, which doesn’t rely on conflict to advance the narrative.

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                Review: Paris, Je T’aime (movie)

                paris_movie-754580I really enjoyed Paris, Je T’Aime, a 2006 anthology movie featuring 18 vignettes set in (and inspired by) Paris. It features an ensemble cast of American, British and French actors (Bob Hoskins, Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, the ubiquitous Gérard Depardieu, and many more) and directors (Alfonso Cuarón, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, Bruno Podalydès, The Coen Brothers, etc.)

                As with any anthology, there are hits and misses, but the vast majority of the shorts were well done. A few of my favorites:

                Parc Monceau – A conversation between Nick Nolte and a young woman, filmed in a single continuous shot, with a very clever, funny, and unexpected ending.

                Loin du 16e – a heartbreaking piece about an immigrant nanny.

                Quartier des Enfants Rouges – notable not so much for the story itself, but actress Maggie Gyllenhaal delivering her entire dialogue in French, with a great accent to boot.

                14e arrondissement – a bittersweet story as told in broken French by a middle-aged American tourist (actress Margo Martindale, who went on to win an Emmy for her role as Mags Bennett on Justified, one of my favorite shows). She’s making a “book report” of sorts for her French class about her first trip abroad, and it’s simply emotive and quietly heartbreaking.

                Watching the movie, it suddenly occurred to me that this is what a Lifelike movie would look like, were such a thing ever to come about. The individual films are all very short, 5-10 minutes each. And they’re filmed in a variety of styles and techniques.

                The producers of this film followed it up with New York, I Love You in 2008, but I didn’t enjoy that one quite as much. It just didn’t have the same charm and ambiance, probably because I romanticize Paris way more than NYC.

                Anyway, I highly recommend this movie.

                (A version of this review originally appeared on my Ferret Press blog, January 2008.)

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                  Review: The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics

                  The_CartoonistAnother library rental, and a very enjoyable one at that, The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics is a 2009 documentary about local boy made good, Bone creator and fellow Columbusite, Jeff Smith.

                  As you would expect with any documentary, this one charts Smith’s career, from his childhood doodles to his college days, animation career, and self-publishing Bone. Along the way, we’re treated to interviews with Smith himself, as well as a friends and fellow cartoonists like Paul Pope, Coleen Doran, Scott McCloud, Harvey Pekar, and Terry Moore. Oh, and of course Lucy Caswell, of the Ohio State University Cartoon Library & Museum, who was one of Smith’s early supporters and mentors.

                  There was a fair amount of time spent on Smith’s seven years with Character Builders, the animation house he co-founded with two friends after graduating college. It was fun seeing snippets of commercial animation from the trio, including an opening sequence for a planned Jack Hanna animal show called Super Safari, as well as ads for Warner Cable (featuring the superhero Warner Man) and White Castle (in claymation, no less!). Smith credits the discipline learned from years of doing animation, both in terms of craft (learning to draw every character consistently and with varying emotions) and business (heeding deadlines, interacting with customers and vendors professionally) as one of the reasons for his success as self-publishing.

                  Jeff-inking

                  Smith himself talks about his early influences (Carl Bark’s Uncle scrooge, Walk Kelly’s Pogo), as well as the seminal comics from 1986 that opened his eyes to the potential of the medium: Maus, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns. (Quick digression: I was lucky enough to catch a talk by Smith at CCAD about 10 years ago, where he spoke passionately about his love of comics, and incorporated dozens of images from the aforementioned books in his presentation to explain the intricacies of the craft.) Parts of the interview are also set in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, specifically Old Man’s Cave, wherein Smith talks about the influence of that specific geographic region on his art and the settings of Bone.

                  JandV-at-puter

                  Smith’s wife, and business partner Vijaya Iyer is also featured. In a humorous clip, he explains how he talked her into quitting her promising Silicon Valley job to help him make comics. In another interesting anecdote, talking about the genesis of his new series RASL, Smith mentions coming up with the basic premise back in 2001, and running it by his friends Paul Pope and Frank Miller. At one point, they were going to work together on a science fiction anthology called Big Big, with RASL being Smith’s contribution. Alas, scheduling conflicts kept the project from ever materializing, but that would have been a trip, no?

                  PPope-interview-pic

                  Oh, and on a personal note, it was cool to see my local comic shop of choice, The Laughing Ogre, featured in several of the shots in the documentary. Ogre employee Lloyd even makes an appearance in a segment set at the Smith/McCloud talk at OSU’s Mershon Auditorium. Speaking of which, most of that talk (which I had the pleasure of attending) is included on the DVD as a bonus feature. There’s also a mini-feature where Smith discusses his new series, RASL, talking about his research into both the real science and fringe science that makes up the backbone of the story.

                  For fans of comics, Bone and/or Jeff Smith, I’d definitely recommend this documentary. It’s professionally produced, well written, and contains good interviews, with some clever bits as well (like incorporating black & white film footage as humorous interstitials).

                  (A version of this review originally appeared on my Ferret Press blog, February 2011.)

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                    Claire’s Day Children’s Book Festival

                    I’m thrilled to be a guest at the 13th annual Claire’s Day, Northwest Ohio’s largest children’s book festival. The event will take place this Saturday, May 17, at the Maumee-Toledo-Lucas County Public Library in Maumee, Ohio. And best of all, it’s free!

                    clairesday

                    The festival features children’s book authors and illustrators from throughout the Midwest, plus a crafts area, teen tent, live music, and more. A highlight of the day is the C.A.R.E. Awards (Claire’s Awards for Reading Excellence) given to children nominated by their principals as being the most improved readers in their schools.

                    As part of the event, I’ll be doing presentations on Friday at 2 Toledo-area schools. I’m looking forward to talking with all the students, and will post some pictures and a write-up after the events.

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