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Preview: Assassinistas

Assassinistas

Tini Howard (w) • Gilbert Hernandez (a & c)

First there were three: Octavia, Charlotte, and Rosalyn, a trio of badass hit-women who picked up the slack when the going got too real for other so-called top-level assassins. But things happened. Octavia hung up her semi-automatic for a semi-lucrative kidnapping insurance scam. Charlotte chose expensive Chardonnay, love, marriage and, until recently, a baby carriage. And Rosalyn? There’s a lot of conspiracies, but according to the federal government, she’s simply M.I.A.

When a kidnapping hits too close to home, Octavia is forced out of retirement and back into the bounty-hunting business. Down two partners, she recruits her son Dominic and his boyfriend Taylor to aid and abet her in a semester of murder-based work study, where she’ll teach them everything she knows (if she can get them to put down the video games, stop making out, and actually focus on the mission already).

TPB • FC • $19.99 • 152 pages • ISBN: 978-1-68405-271-4

Preview: Assassinistas #6

Assassinistas #6

Tini Howard (w) • Gilbert Hernandez (a & c) • Rob Davis (colorist)

Someone’s fate hangs in the balance, and the future of the Assassinistas trio is uncertain, as all things collide at Winnie’s Hot Wheels roller disco party showdown in the final issue of the series.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Preview: Assassinistas #5

Assassinistas #5

Tini Howard (w) • Gilbert Hernandez (a & cover a) • Rob Davis (colorist) • Jim Rugg (cover b)

“Pack Some Heat With That Lunch!” Octavia, Dominic, and Taylor come together as a new generation takes shape—and takes swings at each other. Daddy’s home.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

C2E2 2018: Writer Tini Howard Talks Assassinistas, Euthanauts, and More

Tini Howard is one of comics’ most exciting new writers. She has worked on licensed properties like Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It and a series of Barbie graphic novels and has breathed new life into classic Image characters like Cassie Hack in Hack/Slash Resurrection and Magdalena in Magdalena Reformation. However, the main subject of this interview was Howard’s creator owned work for IDW’s Black Crown imprint where legendary editor Shelly Bond has kept the spirit of 1990s Vertigo alive in 2018.

Graphic Policy: So, you currently have two series at Black Crown. You’re sort of their flagship writer. Why has that imprint been such a good place for your recent projects?

Tini Howard: I’m a big fan of Shelly Bond’s work. I’m a huge fan of her sensibilities and taste. I’m a huge fan of Philip Bond. I was at a place in my career where I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. Skeptics was my first creator owned work, and it was a gauntlet making that book so I learned a lot about making comics. I was like, “Man, when I do my next creator owned series, I wish someone would call me up on the phone that has experience and say, ‘I want to help you make this book.'”

Shelly Bond was that person. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that she found my work independently of me begging her to like it. She reached out to me, and Black Crown is great. They have lot of support from IDW because the company very much trusts in Shelly’s sensibilities. So, I get to work with two of the all time greats in comics [with Bond] and Gilbert Hernandez as well.

One of the Black Crown sayings is that “We have an old guard and a new guard” so with Euthanauts, I’m part of the old guard so I get to bring someone new in with Nick [Robles].

GP: I love the philosophy that they have. Another thing I like about Black Crown is its intersection between music and comics. What have you been listening to while writing Assassinistas and Euthanauts?

TH: The Assassinistas playlist is a lot of grrrl punk. A lot of X-Ray Spex, a lot of The Go-Go’s, all the way up to Paramore and Natalia Kills. It’s angry girl music throughout the ages is the background of Assassinistas along with some little things. Like I’ve got some Pansy Division on there because Taylor’s super into queer punk.

Then, Euthanauts is Bowie, Bjork, Massive Attack. It’s dream pop, it’s weird, and death-y. Some VNV Nation going back to my Wax Trax! Goth kid days. It’s also got some weird meditative music on there, and then I’ve got “Rocket Man” by Elton John on there. That’s a song I connect a lot to Euthanauts. 

GP: When you’re writing Assassinistas, how do you find the balance and pacing between these super stylized action sequences (Especially the flashbacks.) and the tender mom/son, boyfriend/boyfriend kind of scenes?

TH: For me, everyone is multitudes. Even when I’m “on” at a con, I’m still internally feeling the things I have to deal with. As a writer, you’re like “A character is doing one thing”, but no one is ever really just doing one thing. We’re all doing one thing on the outside and feeling other things on the inside. For me, it’s remembering these people have experienced pain and are trying their best to connect while also doing really stressful things.

As anyone who’s ever done a comic convention, anyone who’s ever planned a wedding, anyone’s who done a move, stress heightens all your familial tensions. Moving is one of the most stressful things for a family. I think they only say that because most families aren’t assassins. Maybe doing an assassin job is one of the most stressful things. It’s also interesting because despite these women being contract killers, what they’re there to do isn’t murder. It’s not a bloody book full of people dying. That’s their past. This is their future.

GP: My personal favorite part of Assassinistas is this budding romance between Dominic and Taylor.  What do you have in store for them going into the second half of the miniseries?

TH: The thing I love about Dominic and Taylor is that Taylor, in a lot of ways, is like the audience character because Taylor was not raised in this world. He’s kind of curiously looking at it the same way that we as the audience are. So, Taylor’s really important to me. He’s got the heart of someone who was raised in a supportive, normal environment, and that’s part of why Dominic loves him. It’s like “Look at you. Look at how normal we can be.”

Dominic craves normalcy, and to a lot of people, dating a boy with a pink mohawk is not normal, but it is his normal. It’s who he is. He loves this kid, and when Dominic looks at Taylor, he sees a white picket fence and them having 2.5 kids together. He gets a business degree, and Taylor has his awesome gender studies degree. He gets a job teaching and is a professor like his parents. When Dominic sees Taylor, he sees normalcy and sees something that’s not like his life.

Having a person that is the normal oasis from crazy family life being brought into his crazy family life, and having that person think it’s really cool is a nightmare for Dominic.

GP: The fights in Assassinistas are really, I guess, funky is the best way to describe them. What is your process like plotting out the fights with Gilbert Hernandez?

TH: The Hernandez Bros can draw anything because they’re great, but they’re not exactly known for these superhero style action scenes. Frankly, I don’t love writing long fight scenes without a purpose. I’m not the person who gets off on writing 18 pages of gory punches. For me, a fight is a reason to do something else. It’s a way to get a character somewhere. It’s a way to start a conversation. I love the way that Beto and Rob Davis on colors are doing the art for these pages. They almost remind me of old Batman ’66 fights. Bam, pow, yeah! We’re there for the kinetic moment, and what it draws.

Beto really understands it. Neither of us are people that love violence and want to make a hyperviolent book. Beto is in Vegas. That’s a place that has seen a lot of trauma. We’ve had moments where we’ve talked about it before. We have these people walking around with automatic weapons and have had that talk. Neither of us are fans of violence for violence’s sake. That’s a big touchpoint.

GP: Moving on to Euthanauts, which I’m really excited for. So, I grew up a Protestant with Heaven, Hell, the afterlife being a big part of my upbringing. What is your vision of the afterlife in Euthanauts, and how does that connect to your own beliefs about death and the afterlife?

TH: I’ve always been scared of space. I’ve also always been scared of death. I think it’s for the same reason. There’s nothing out there. It’s formless and unfriendly. I grew up watching the same VHS copy of Apollo 13 a thousand times, and it terrified me every time because you have duct tape and Saran wrap, you’re in space, and you have to get home.

So, I kind of started of contextualizing it and asking, “What if there’s an afterlife, and it’s not heaven, it’s not hell, it’s not even populated.” When most of us die, we just die. You die, and your spirit goes to that unwelcoming cold place and just fizzes out. Back before we knew what happened to you in space, we used to think people would explode in space or something. We didn’t know what happened to you out there.

That’s what I’m working with in Euthanauts. That’s a frontier. These people are pioneers. But death only goes one way for most of us. It gets into that Egyptian, or in some ways that Christian idea, of living life for the afterlife. Living your whole life just to prepare for the afterlife. For a Euthanaut, that’s what it takes. It takes a massive amount of preparation.

The three main characters we have all view the afterlife in different ways. [There’s] Natalia, our main character, who works in a funeral home. The way I describe her, if you’re a Six Feet Under fan, is she’s a Fisher. She’s very normal. She doesn’t talk about her feelings. She works at a funeral home. She’s a recovering Goth girl. She’s got a lot of anxiety about death and the afterlife, but she buries it deep down and has a very American view of the funeral. When death happens, we shunt it out of our vision and look at someone who’s made up and put them in a box in the ground.

Then, we have Mercy, who is kind of her foil and the lead Euthanaut. Mercy is very scientific. It’s true that in the beginning of the 20th century, you can look at college grants to study the afterlife. Because to this day, we don’t have understanding of if something is there. Mercy is a researcher of that. She’s very much [into] the 21 grams of the soul, moment of death, and trying to understand consciousness and maintain that consciousness into the beyond. That’s really what the core is about.

Then, we have Indi, or Indigo Hanover, who is Nick’s favorite, and was supposed to be a tertiary character, but then became our third protagonist because we loved him so much. Indi is a radical fairy. He was raised by two lesbian witches. He grew up in that whole world. The book opens on him preparing his mother for her funeral, which is a beautiful, joyous event. He believes in reincarnation and the cycle of life and death. Indi doesn’t like the idea of going somewhere else and breaking that cycle. To him, that’s a little upsetting. He kind of gets conscripted into the Euthanauts.

GP: How did you end up working with Nick Robles on Euthanauts, and how does his vision of the afterlife mesh with yours?

TH: Nick is an artist that everyone in comics has their eyes on right now. He did Alien Bounty Hunter at Vault and is so talented. His first Black Crown work was that he drew a piece of Kid Lobotomy fan art, and Tess Fowler saw it was good that she gave up a cover so he could do a cover. (They already had a variant cover.) So, Nick’s fan art of the titular character from Kid Lobotomy became the cover for issue 6. From that, he was just on our radar hardcore. Shelly suggested him, and I said, “Absolutely”. I’m just a big fan of Nick’s work.

Nick loves pretty boys and loves drawing them. A lot of reason for Indi as a character is because of Nick’s instant affection for him. Nick draws him so beautifully and all the characters so beautifully, which is great too because we have some characters, like Mercy, who are not conventionally beautiful. Mercy is sick. Her appearance is that sh’es clearly dying in public. We first see her because she looks so unnerving and scary. But everything is beautifully rendered for Nick even the scary stuff.

GP: Yeah, I saw the first preview, and there were all these blood and guts and viscera going around.

TH: He’s very talented with that. He’s coloring the first issue too. Every time I post art, everyone is like, “Who is the colorist?” And I’m like, “It’s Nick.” He’s a legend in the making.

GP: I actually have a quick Rick and Morty question. How does the fandom missing the whole point of the show with the whole Szechuan sauce debacle affect your writing and working on it as a licensed property?

TH: I was very lucky to engage with the show before I was aware of the fandom at all. I have a really personal connection with the show. It touched me in a lot of ways. I grew up reading hard sci-fi so a lot of tropes they use are ones I’ve thought about. Humor aside, Rick and Morty is some of the best sci-fi around because it takes those tropes and makes them personal. That was good sci-fi does.

Rick and Morty does that while at the same time being gut bustingly hilarious. I always try and engage and touch what I like about the show rather than trying to please any part of the fanbase. I’ve been really pleased with how people respond.

GP: I have one last question, and it has to do with death. What does the Tarot card, Death, mean to you?

TH: That is such a good question, but I can’t really tell you why yet… Death is about change, death is a transference of energy. That is something I say in Euthanauts again and again. Death is not just a transference energy, it’s a state change. So, to the Euthanauts, death is the equivalent of boiling water and making steam. The only difference is that they haven’t figured out how to put the steam back in the water.

With death, it’s one way. And the whole thing about the Euthanauts is let’s say you die, and there’s something you want to write home about, how do you write home from the afterlife. And that’s where our tethers, Natalia, Mercy, and Indi, come up, and that’s their importance in the story.

 

Assassinistas #4 is currently out, and you can buy it here. Rick and Morty: Pocket Like You Stole It is available here. Euthanauts #1 is set to be released in July 2018

Follow Tini Howard on Twitter.

 

Preview: Assassinistas #4

Assassinistas #4

Tini Howard (w) • Gilbert Hernandez (a & c) • Rob Davis (colorist)

“Stay Sexy, Don’t Get Replaced.” THEN: Rox returns with new scars. Not a metaphor; she’s been shot a bunch. NOWish: Dominic gets the hang of his summer job, finally. LATER: Remember Carlos?

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Preview: Assassinistas #3

Assassinistas #3

Tini Howard (w) • Gilbert Hernandez (a) • Rob Davis (colorist) • Gilbert Hernandez (c)

“Don’t feed me—I’m allergic to you!” Dominic shoots someone in the head, and Mom talks him through it. Because that’s what parenting is all about. Also, more on that purse iguana we know you love.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Femme Magnifique Gets a New Print Through IDW’s Black Crown

Femme Magnifique, the wildly successful Kickstarter comic book anthology, is headed back to print for a beautiful softcover edition this September. It is a celebration of 50 iconic women who shattered glass ceilings and changed the course of history in the process.

Told by over 100 of the most talented creators in comics from around the world, Femme Magnifique features 3-page short stories about women from the world of music, art, politics, and science. Explored from a personal angle, the subjects of these mini-biopics include Kate BushOctavia ButlerRumiko TakahashiAda LovelaceMisty CopelandMargaret SangerMichelle ObamaUrsula K. Le GuinSally RideHarriet Tubman and more!

Femme Magnifique was conceived and co-curated by Shelly Bond and Kristy Miller & Brian Miller of Hi-Fi Colour Design. It features contributions from such comic book luminaries as Cecil Castellucci, Marguerite BennettBill SienkiewiczJen BartelMike CareyKelly Sue DeConnickTini HowardElsa CharretierTess FowlerRafael AlbuquerqueTee FranklinGilbert HernandezMing DoyleMatt WagnerJim RuggGail SimoneMags VisaggioMarguerite SauvageGerard WayPhilip BondHope NicholsonSanford GreeneSonny LiewJen HickmanMark BuckinghamPeter GrossTyler CrookDan Parent, and Kieron Gillen, among many others.

Maxing out at nearly $100,000 raised for the Kickstarter edition, earning over 240% of its initial goal, Femme Magnifique found its audience swiftly. Now, those who missed out on the first go-round can add this collection to their library packed with new bonus material including a foreword, behind-the-scenes process pages, and more.

The new paperback edition of Femme Magnifique will become available on September 4, 2018 and can now be pre-ordered using ISBN: 978-1684053209

Review: Assassinistas #2

In its second issue, Assassinistas digs into both the family drama and origin story angles as Octavia, her son Dominic, and his boyfriend Taylor get ready to rescue Octavia’s old colleague’s young son from yet another “colleague”. Gilbert Hernandez’s art has a simple elegance, Rob Davis’ colors explode in comparison to the bland suburban setting , and Tini Howard’s writing has plenty of personality and wit. The plot isn’t a rush job; you actually want to spend time with these characters. It starts with mom/son chats and ends with everything going to hell.

Hernandez has such control over his figures that he can convey comedy, anger, or just plain resignation with a raised eyebrows, some lines around the face, and occasionally a mini explosion. His mastery of the comics medium comes in the little parts of Assassinistas #2 like the slight curl in Taylor and Dominic’s brows as they’re a little amused and a little perturbed at the Assassinistas trading cards/dossiers that Octavia showed them. His most emotive storytelling comes in a small scene where Charlotte is freaking out about her missing child and goes from sarcasm to sadness and rage in the space of 11 panels. He and Howard position the wine bottle that she gets from her co-workers (Who are oblivious to the fact that she is a pregnant woman.) as a kind of symbol that she’s locked out of the assassin game for now even though she’s still sharp and admonishes her husband for getting the cops involved. Hitwomen never really retire. The shock of blonde hair that Davis gives her is like an extra exclamation point to any of her complaints or freak outs.

Even though there is plenty of peril ahead, especially for the rookie assassin not-interns Dominic and Taylor, a vein of awkward humor runs through Assassinistas #2 like Octavia whipping out the aforementioned dossiers when Taylor asks about her line of work like she’s ready for potential exposition situations. Dominic and Octavia have a good rapport, but he isn’t afraid to take jabs at her like quipping about using her “insurance company’s” coffee cups for target practice and even taking his father Carlos’ name as a coffee cup. They care for each other, but also get on each other’s nerves. (I can relate.) Howard and Hernandez don’t make Dominic and Taylor total badasses from the get-go, and they stumble through the mission’s early going. Just as there is a smooth operator rhythm to Hernandez’s depiction of the Assassinistas in flashback, there’s a flailing manatee, middle school slow dance rhythm to the new incarnation of the group. It’s not pretty, but it’s true. I also kind of love how Octavia gets maternal as the danger starts to ramp up towards the end of the comic.

In Assassinistas #2, Tini Howard, Gilbert Hernandez, and Rob Davis take the messiness, yet real love between a mother and a son and throws it in the middle of a gun toting with the potential for geysers of blood exploitation flick. It’s hilarious to see modern day teenagers react to intense situations they were far from prepared for, especially in the last third of the comic where Dominic goes from trading barbs with his mom to running around shirtless with a rifle. Howard and Hernadez find a solid middle ground between verbal and visual comedy without losing the suspense factor.

 Story: Tini Howard Art: Gilbert Hernandez Colors: Rob Davis
Story: 8 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.7 Recommendation: Buy

IDW Publishing/Black Crown provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Assassinistas #2

Assassinistas #2

Tini Howard (w) • Gilbert Hernandez (a) • Rob Davis (colorist) • Gilbert Hernandez (c)

“Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts” Dominic Price is a college-age cutie pie who just wants to spend the semester making out with his boyfriend, Taylor, in between rounds of TurboLight Fighter and maintaining a solidly passable 3.2 GPA. His mom, Octavia, formerly a badass action-movie-quality bounty hunter, didn’t pay his tuition, because she had to get back in the business and spend 40K on black market weapons and body armor And she’s bringing Dominic with her, because the alternative is making lattes for a semester, and he’d rather die. Good thing in mom’s line of work, dying is an option!

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

Review: Assassinistas #1

In Assassinistas #1, writer Tini Howard, artist/Eisner Hall-of-Famer Gilbert Hernandez, and colorist Rob Davis weave the tale of a retired assassin named Octavia “Red October” Price, who gets back in the game one last time to rescue her friend/former colleague Scarlet’s baby from the third member of their crew, the enigmatic, dagger wielding Blood Diamond. And tagging along is her college aged son Dominic and his boyfriend Taylor, who are taking a kind of gap semester as her “interns”.

Howard and Hernandez’s approach to storytelling is economic, yet entertaining as they introduce the three “assassinistas” to the reader in a quick three page sequence ending in a posterworthy splash page of Red October, Scarlet, and Diamond causing mayhem for various corporate types. Howard swings nicely from past and present and uses the flashbacks to introduce relevant parts of the story like Dominic’s dad, and how even though she has a house and a son in college, Octavia still hasn’t completely said goodbye to her action-packed lifestyle unlike Scarlet, who is kind of the perfect health conscious young mother. She foreshadows this with some nice banter about Octavia’s theoretical wedding, including a grenade pin ring and “Xanadu” as a wedding march. The plot of Assassinistas is pretty tense, but Howard and Hernandez keep things tongue in cheek.

Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez also do an excellent job of making both Dominic and Taylor fully realized characters and not just comic relief or victims. Dominic gets about as many story pages as his mom, and Hernandez shows the adorableness of his relationship with Taylor in an extended cuddle scene that is the opposite of the violent cold open or his mom’s house littered with all kinds of weapon and body armor even though she technically works in insurance.  He’s just a college kid who misses his boyfriend and wants to have a normal life away from his mom, who he cares for very much. Letterer Aditya Bitika crafts dueling word balloons that work well with Hernandez’s six panel grids as Dominic gets kind of let down by his mom when she doesn’t pay his tuition or room and board, and he’s unceremoniously thrown out of his dorm on the first day of classes. The facial expressions are subdued, and Howard doesn’t up the melodrama level, but this isn’t really what Dominic had planned for the semester. However, Taylor is way into his mom being an assassin, and their physical closeness combined with their honest, easy rapport makes their relationship the strongest of the series so far.

I really liked how Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez handled the awkwardness of Dominic telling his mom about his boyfriend. Octavia isn’t overtly homophobic or anything, but Dominic does a little nod thing when she asks if he’s with a girlfriend and automatically assumes that his romantic partner is female when he talks about bringing someone along to help them on their mission. However, she doesn’t make a big deal about Taylor when he shows up at her house and immediately throws a bulletproof vest in his face because it looks like Assassinistas #2 will be the action issue. But it’s nice to have an issue to establish the character’s relationships and quirks before Octavia channels her inner Pam Grier.

Gilbert Hernandez’s art is one of a kind, Tini Howard combines domestic drama with grindhouse film thrills a la a  the opening scene of Kill Bill Vol. 1, and Rob Davis’ colors are brash and bold. Assassinistas #1 is the tasty comic book dessert you deserve for getting through 2017, and it’s cool to see a genre comic centered around a mother/son relationship that deals with both big guns and pointy weapons as well as finances and bringing your boyfriend to see mom for the first time.

Story: Tini Howard Art: Gilbert Hernandez Colors: Rob Davis
Story: 9 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

IDW/Black Crown provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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