Indie Cover Spotlight: The Replacement God

One of my favorite fantasy titles, from the immensely talented Zander Cannon:


This is the cover to the trade paperback collecting the first story arc. Published by Slave labor in 1997. It follows the adventures of a slave boy named Knute, his many attempts at escape from a dungeon, and an epic story involving finding a replacement for the God of Death. The story was funny and poignant and adventurous, with expressive artwork by Cannon.

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    Splash Wednesday: Keith Giffen, Phil Winslade, and David Mazzucchelli

    Another Wednesday, another trio of splash pages from different artists and different eras of comics. Kicking it off is a contribution by my pal Matt Kish. Here’s a page of Keith Giffen art from Amazing Adventures #38:


    Next up, a page from the way underrated Phil Winslade. This is from All-Star Western #4:


    And here’s the classic page from the old Ferret Press blog, and Craig Bogart’s no-nonsense introduction:

    If I need to provide a citation for this, you need to visit a different blog.

    Gimme a red!


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      Review: London’s Dark

      This graphic novel, originally published by Titan Books in 1989, features some of writer James Robinson’s earliest work (who went on to fame on DC’s Starman series, and some would same infamy on the more recent Justice league: Cry for Justice mini-series). The black & white art is provided by fellow Englishman Paul Johnson.


      Set in London in 1940, this World War II story is a nice mix of war, romance, and the supernatural. Jack Brookes is a patriot denied entry into the army due to a bad heart, so he does what he can on the home front as an air-raid warden, enforcing blackouts. Circumstances bring him into contact with the beautiful Sophie, a psychic/medium, and the two are soon embroiled in a murder that exposes the profitable black markets of the war-torn city.

      The storytelling is tight and confident, and experiments with different narrative devices such as multiple voices, flashbacks, and prose interludes. I felt that Robinson captured the bleak uncertainty of life during wartime quite well, while writing a story that’s ultimately optimistic (no small feat).

      The black & white art is equally experimental, using techniques ranging from photo collages to expressive brushwork, but is really difficult to follow in some places. For example, telling the different antagonists apart was a problem, and some panels are just so dark and cluttered that following the action is somewhat of a chore (sorry, I can’t get a good scan of the interior pages without breaking the binding on the book). Johnson’s later fully-painted color work in series such as The Books of Magic and Interface are amongst my favorites, but here I get the feeling he was still coming into his own. He does a good job with setting the right tone and mood for the story, though.

      Still, a good read overall, and quite a nice little departure from most of the books out on the stands now. It’s always fun to see the early work of obviously talented creators.

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

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        Bill Bryson quote

        I’m currently reading “A Walk in the Woods,” Bill Bryson’s memoir of hiking the Appalachian Trail. At times funny, insightful, academic, and even frustrating, it’s been a good read so far. The quote below is one of my favorite observations made by him on the nature of change in America:

        “At the time of our hike, the Appalachian Trail was 59 years old. The Oregon and Santa Fe Trails didn’t last as long. Route 66 didn’t last as long. The old coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway, a road that brought transforming wealth and life to hundreds of little towns, so important and familiar that it became known as “America’s Main Street,” didn’t last as long. Nothing in America does. If a product or enterprise doesn’t constantly reinvent itself, it is superseded, cast aside, . If a product or enterprise doesn’t constantly reinvent itself, it is superseded, cast aside, abandoned without sentiment in favor of something bigger, newer, and alas, nearly always uglier.”


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          Indie Cover Spotlight: The Men in Black II #3

          On Tuesday I featured the first mini-series, and today I’ll showcase the second volume:


          Cover painting by Adam Adamowicz.

          MIB returned for a second 3-issue mini series in 1991, once again by creators Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers, and published by Aircel. Like almost all other indie comics of the era, this book faded into complete obscurity. Except in this case, 6 years later the mega successful movie adaptation made the concept a household name.

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            Splash Wednesday: Frank Robbins, Sergio Aragonés, and Tom Sutton

            My friend Matt Kish provides this first page, from Adventure Into Fear #28, art by Frank Robbins:


            Next up, a typical page of insane detail, by the legendary cartoonist Sergio Aragonés, from an issue of Groo (sorry, don’t know which one)


            And, as always, here’s a classic reprint (from my old Ferret Press blog), as posted by Craig Bogart:

            From Captain Marvel #15, 1969; an issue replete with splash pages (more on Mar-Vell in a WBM entry shortly), I’ve passed up psychedelic visions of galaxies being born and the devil in Hell in favor of the shot that requires a straight edge and a few perspective lines. By Tom Sutton.


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              Indie Cover Spotlight: The Men in Black #1

              Where does a billion dollar film franchise begin? Right here, with this obscure black-and-white indie comic:


              Created by Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers, and published by Aircel (by then an imprint of Malibu) in 1990. I’ve actually never read the comic, but I’m sure there’s not a whole lot in it that resembles the mega-successful film adaptation that made it a household name.

              Cover art by Max Fellwalker.

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                Review: Curse of the Dragon Slayer (movie)

                Back in the day, Young Dara loved anything and everything fantasy. That meant playing D&D with my friends, reading Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser, and watching any straight-to-video fantasy movie my friend and I could rent from Blockbuster. Of course, in those days, fantasy movies were pretty much uniformly derivative, cliched crap with terrible acting and worse special effects.

                These days, that hasn’t changed much, unless you have Lord of the Rings budget, which pretty much no other fantasy movie does, especially not an indie one. Indie horror movies are a dime a dozen, because they’re cheap to make. All you need are some torn thrift store clothes, a few gallons of corn syrup, and red food coloring. Fantasy movies, on the other hand, require costumes and weapons and armor and horses and castles and fight choreography and special effects. So while I no longer have the interest or patience to watch any ol’ sword & sorcery flick, every once I do yearn for a visit to the fantasy realms I loved so much as a kid.


                Which brings us to this impulse watch on Netflix.

                For starters, I’m not really sure what the official title of this 2013 movie is. On Netflix (where I watched it) it’s called Curse of the Dragon Slayer. On IMDB, it’s cataloged as SAGA: Curse of the Shadow. And on Kickstarter, where the filmmakers were looking to raise $20K (they ended up with over $33K) to “finish up an epic visual effects sequence” after the movie had already been finished, it was called The Shadow Cabal.


                Oddly enough, my biggest gripe is actually with the movie’s title, given a distinct lack of dragons, or any plot point having to do with dragons or dragon slaying. I’m not quite sure what the filmmakers were thinking. But identity crisis aside, this turned out to be a halfway decent fantasy action flick. Not great, but much better than you’d expect from a low-budget, independently produced fantasy film. Certainly much better than any dreck that would come out of the Asylum studios.


                The plot itself isn’t anything you haven’t heard a hundred times before, about a secret group called the Shadow Cabal trying to bring Goth Azul, the god of death, back to the mortal realm. Standing in their way is a rag tag team of 3 adventurers, each with their own agenda, working together uneasily. You have Nemyt, an elf bounty hunter who’s been cursed by the Shadow. Keltus the Wanderer, a paladin in service of “The Prophetess,” and Kullimon the Black, and orc who has lost control of his war party to another orc under the influence of the Shadow.

                Nemyt, Keltus, and Kullimon the Black

                Nemyt, Keltus, and Kullimon the Black

                Also, for no reason at all, there are a couple of scenes with a steampunk dwarf who uses muskets and blunderbusses. But we won’t concern ourselves with that.


                Honestly, where the movie exceeds, and overcomes, it’s obviously limited budget, is in its location scouting, cinematography, and costuming. The filmmakers found some truly beautiful outdoor settings to put their characters in. Magnificent vistas, gorgeous deserts, claustrophobic forests, etc. There are quite a few beautifully framed shots, utilizing nature to its fullest effect. And I found the costumes to be quite well done, as well. There’s a flourish to several of the pieces that transcends your typical medieval-ish looking clothing and armor. You can tell they put a lot of thought into it. If they had spent as much effort on the script itself, this could have been a really solid movie.


                The acting was fair to good. Paul D. Hunt, the actor portraying the orc Kullimon, had the standout performance. He managed to infuse humor and introspection into a character that could have easily just been another dumb brute. Richard McWilliams (Keltus) brought a certain zen-like calmness that worked well for his character, and Danielle Chuchran (Nemyt) did a servicable job as the fiesty, fiery bounty hunter, although the character’s propensity for spitting in anger every 5 minutes was somewhat annoying.


                By the way, the $33K they raised via Kickstarter for the final battle sequence produced a CG monster only mildly better than a video game cut scene, but I’m pretty sure you’d need a much bigger budget for truly epic VFX.

                Watching the movie, I got the feeling that the creators were really fans of the fantasy genre and were trying to do a good job at making a movie fellow fans could enjoy. I didn’t see the kind of cynical, half-assed effort that goes into other low budget flicks trying to cash in on the popularity of Game of Thrones or LoTR, so kudos to them. It’s not a great movie, but it is entertaining, with some great eye candy in the form of costumes and settings, and if you’re a fantasy buff you’ll probably enjoy it.

                Here’s the trailer:

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                  Splash Wednesday: Alfredo Alcala, Paul Gulacy, and Herb Trimpe

                  Kicking the feature off this week, let’s go all the way back to 1973, and an Alfredo Alcala page from Forbidden Tales of the Dark Mansion #13. Check out that gorgeous crosshatching and texture.

                  FORIDDEN TALES 013003

                  Next up, a page from Master of Kung-Fu #31 by Paul Gulacy:


                  And finally, this week’s “classic” page, from the old Ferret Press blog (June 2010), as posted by Craig Bogart:

                  “Holy shit, we’re in trouble. Courtesy of Herb Trimpe from Incredible Hulk #171. One of my favorite Power Records releases as well.”


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