Review: Lazarus, vol. 1 – Family

Greg Rucka’s latest comic book series features yet another iteration of his trademarked tough-gal protagonist. But I found Forever Carlyle (also referred to as Eve) to be quite an interesting, complex lead character.

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The setting of the book is futuristic, and the world building is pretty solid. It’s not a world difficult to imagine: the wealthy, rather than governments, run the world. Power is consolidated amongst a few warring families, and everyone else is either a “serf” (useful and in the employ of a family) or a “waste” (left to fend for themselves).

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Each family has a “Lazarus,” a member who is endowed with the best bio-mechanical advances science can provide, to be the family’s ultimate warrior. This is the story of Forever, Lazarus of the Carlyle family. And although we see her begin to question her role and actions, she’s not exactly a hero. Yet.

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Michael Lark’s dark, moody artwork fits the tone of Rucka’s dystopian crime epic perfectly. It’s everything you remember and expect from Lark: atmospheric, lush, textured. The action sequences are well choreographed and presented like a punch to the gut. The character moments are equally well-crafted, with plenty of scene setting and emotional depth.

These guys are veteran creators, and work so well together. On Lazarus, they’re absolutely in sync, and the result is a complex, layered, nuanced story. I’m looking forward to future installments.

Indie Cover Spotlight: Absurd Adventures of Archibald Aardvark

Shameless self-promotion week continues, with a look at the cover of the trade paperback collection of the Archibald comics, published by Image Comics in 2009:

Artwork is by the immensely talented Grant Bond, whom I first met when we worked together on the Igor Movie Prequel at IDW. He had created this series and started out with a one-shot at Image, written by another writer. But after a couple of issues, he was looking for a different direction for the book and since we worked so well together on Igor, he invited me to writer the book. I wrote issues 3 and 4, which tied together and resolved all the loose plot threads from the first couple of issues. The whole series is collected in this TPB, including a bunch of 1-page gag strips, two of which I wrote and had the pleasure of working with my friends Tom Williams and Brent Bowman on art.

Here’s the original solicitation text:

JUNE 10
112 PAGES / 2C
$14.99

“BULLETS, BOOZE AND BEELZEBUB”
Once the toast of Tinsel Town, faded movie star Archibald Aardvark has been slowly going insane trying to solve the brutal murder of his brother. But despite the hard drinking, womanizing and hallucinations, he’s managed to follow the trail from the dangerous streets of Little China, all the way to the boardroom of Neptune Studios…and finally reveal the TRUE identity of the killer!

FEATURING A BRAND NEW 22-PAGE STORY COMPLETING THE ARCHIBALD SAGA! NOT FOR KIDS!!

If you’re interested, you can get a signed copy of the TPB directly from me (also signed by Tom and Brent), or you can order it through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Alice in Fractured Fables

Yesterday, I got an unexpected royalty check in the mail from Jim Valentino of Image Comics. It was for my 4-page contribution to the children’s anthology, Fractured Fables. I say unexpected because the book was published back in July, 2010, and I had already received a couple of royalty checks. As with most books, especially anthologies, I had assumed the sales had waned over time. But apparently FF is the little book that could. A new paperback version of it just came out last month.

Cover by Mike Allred

The book came out through Valentino’s Shadowline imprint under Image Comics, and was aimed at young readers. My involvement was rather circuitous, as Jim had asked artist Grant Bond to contribute a story. Grant, in turn, invited me to write the story for him. We had previously worked together, rather successfully, on the Igor movie prequel (IDW) and Grant’s own book through Image, The Absurd Adventures of Archibald Aardvark.

He wanted to do an Alice in Wonderland story, and I had a blast coming up with a little vignette that relied heavily on Grant’s superb illustration skills to get across the humor of the piece.

The book came out great, and I’m proud to be a small part of it. If you have younger readers in your household, or just want to own a collection of some gorgeous looking stories, you should definitely check out FF. The list of creators is like a who’s who of top talent: Jill Thompson, Bryan Talbot, Peter David, Ben Templesmith, Scott Morse, Doug TenNapel, Ted McKeever, Terry Moore, Larry Marder, and a ton more. And yes, there are kid’s stories by folks like Ben Templesmith and Ted McKeever, who you would never associate with the genre.

You can find the book on Amazon in hardcover or paperback.

My short stories used in college discussion

I received a very pleasant email about a month ago, out of the blue:

I’m currently a teacher of English at Waynesburg University and a fan of comics. Right now the classes I’m in charge of are looking at the concept of “the outsider” in comics; we’re looking at differing viewpoints in books like “Holy Terror” and “Persepolis”. I recently picked up DHP #4 and absolutely loved your short story…and I was hoping to share it with my class for a discussion.

The gentleman went on to describe how he would like to use my story, and whether I would be OK with sending him low resolution files to use in his PowerPoint presentation.

Needless to say, I was thrilled. Positive feedback on my stories are always appreciated, but to have one re-purposed to facilitate a discussion about multiculturalism is awesome. I gladly provided a digital copy, as well as a copy of the shorter piece I did in the CBLDF benefit book on freedom of religion.

The reply I got was equally welcomed:

I appreciate it greatly – and more importantly, they’ll go a long way in my classes this semester. I needed something to counterbalance the astounding arrogance of Holy Terror. I think this does the job nicely.

Sometimes it’s the little things that really lift your spirits.

Kieron Gillen on comic book economics

Six years ago, writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie broke onto the comics scene with their well-reviewed Image mini-series, Phonogram. Since then, they have both moved on to better paying gigs at Marvel. But despite all the critical acclaim the series brought them, it’s depressing to hear the actual details of how little money they made off of it. Here’s Gillen, from a Comics Alliance interview a couple of years ago:

I feel frustrated. Enormously lucky, sure, but frustrated. We’ve done this wonderful thing we’re crazy-proud about. But if the whole economic system was just a couple of degrees to the left, everything would have been different. I mean, just to give you an idea about narrow the margins are between what we are and what we could be, if we were selling 6K instead of 4K, we could have done those 44 issues. The difference between breaking even and actually being able to do it in comics is insane. It’s like being kept under ice, clawing.

And this, from earlier in the piece:

There’s a difference between making only a little money and starving. We’re very much in the latter. Jamie’s lucky to get a couple of hundred dollars from an issue. While he didn’t tell me about this until after it was all done, there were three occasions when Jamie was seriously considering throwing in the towel. The problem is that Image’s deal is a back-end one. Will we make some money off the trade? Maybe. And that’s a big maybe.

That was in response to the “why not wait for the trade paperback income?” question. Since all profits from creator-owned Image comics are on the back-end, that means the creative team has to wait about three months or more from when they actually write/draw the book to see it get published, and get paid. If there’s any payment (remember, with the Image deal, they get to recoup their $2500 fee from the book’s profits first, then the creators get paid…or in many cases, are actually in the hole). Waiting for the TPB of your first arc to come out means a good 6-9 month wait before seeing any payment from that.

And this is for a series that had quite a lot of buzz, and was selling in the 4K range. One look at Diamond’s sales figures will show you that most Image books don’t even do those numbers.

Depressed yet?

The take away: you’d best be in this for the love, not the money.

Short story in the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s Liberty Annual is a comics anthology featuring big name comic book creators, as well as some up-and-coming young’uns such as yours truly, whose sale benefits the CBLDF. This year’s book is 48 full color pages, retailing for $5, and will be available mid-October from Image Comics.

The 2011 edition comes with two covers, from personal favorite Matt Wagner (featuring his Grendel character) and fan favorite John Cassaday (featuring Uncle Sam). Here’s the solicitation for the book:

CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011

story MATT WAGNER, J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI, KAZIM ALI, DARA NARAGHI, J.H. WILLIAMS III, MARK WAID, CARLA SPEED MCNEIL, AJ LIEBERMAN, MICHAEL BRAMLEY, STEVE NILES, BRANDON MONTCLARE, JUDD WINICK, RICHARD STARKINGS

art MATT WAGNER, KEVIN SACCO, CRAIG THOMPSON, CHRIS MITTEN, J.H. WILLIAMS III, JEFF LEMIRE, CARLA SPEED MCNEIL, RILEY ROSSMO, FRANK QUITELY, SHANE DAVIS, FRED HEMBECK, MICHAEL MONTENAT & JACK PURCELL, JOËLLE JONES, GREG LAND, GREG HORN, THIAGO MICALOPULOS & RODNEY RAMOS, DUSTIN NGUYEN, DAVE COOPER, IVAN REIS, SHAKY KANE

cover A JOHN CASSADAY
cover B MATT WAGNER

OCTOBER 12
48 PAGES / FC / M
$4.99

A COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND BENEFIT BOOK!

Stand Up For Your Rights! Censorship is the ultimate form of bullying. Censors want to take away the power people have to think, speak, or create freely. In CBLDF LIBERTY ANNUAL 2011, Legendary Editor BOB SCHRECK gathers an all-star line-up of comics creators to stand up to those censoring bullies with 48 powerful pages of ALL NEW story and art about standing up for your rights! All proceeds from this book benefit the important First Amendment work of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, who’ve been fighting censorship in comics for 25 years!

This year’s Liberty Annual includes incredible contributions, including all-new original stories by superstars J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI, FRANK QUITELY, J.H. WILLIAMS III, STEVE NILES, JUDD WINICK, MARK WAID, and CARLA SPEED MCNEIL. Plus, new tales featuring GRENDEL by MATT WAGNER, COWBOY NINJA VIKING by AJ LIEBERMAN & RILEY ROSSMO, and ELEPHANTMEN by RICHARD STARKINGS & SHAKY KANE. Plus a massive, and first ever color story from indy comics master CRAIG THOMPSON! Even Marvel and DC have stepped up to show their support all-new pin-ups including BATMAN by DUSTIN NGUYEN, X-MEN by GREG LAND, GREEN LANTERN by IVAN REIS, and THE AVENGERS by GREG HORN!

All proceeds from CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011 will benefit the important First Amendment legal work of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians and readers.

My contribution is a 3-page autobiographical short on the topic of freedom of religion. Titled “The Conversion,” it deals with an incident that happened to me in Iran when I was a kid. Here’s a sneak peek at page 1, featuring the artwork of Christopher Mitten:

Please ask your retailer to save you a copy, and remember that it benefits the work of the fund in fighting censorship and protecting comic creators’ first amendment rights.

Dara’s CBLDF Signing, 10/12, noon-2 pm

Hey guys, just wanted to let you know that I’ll be at The Laughing Ogre in Columbus, Ohio this Wednesday, October 12, from noon-2 pm signing copies of the CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011.

The Ogre is located at 4258 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43214. You can give them a call at (614) A-MR-OGRE.

I have a short story in the book, dealing with religious freedom, and as always, sales of the book will benefit the CBLDF’s fight against censorship.