Tag Archives: independent comics

Review: Zachariah Thorn #2

Zachariah Thorn #2

It’s been 10 years since Zachariah Thorn inadvertently tore the veil between our world and the darkness beyond. Now his dark gift is his only weapon in his quest to banish the evil he has wrought.

Eli Merric has pulled Zach from his self imposed exile. The two returned home to aid in the banishment of a trio of Howlers who had taken root in the psyche of Cynthia, the young niece of their long time friend AJ Jordan.

With Cynthia now free of the Howlers’ thrall, Zach and his friends begin to shake loose the rust of their relationships…

…but old wounds have a habit of reopening.

It hasn’t quite been ten years since I read Indigo Comics Zachariah Thorn #1 (reviewed here), not even close if I’m being honest, but it has been some time (about three years if we look at the publication date of the first review). I am happy to say that even after all that time I was still able to pick up this long awaited second issue without the need to reread the first.

I was immediately drawn back into Scott Reichert‘s story as if I’d never left – but if this the first you’ve heard of Zachariah Thorn then fear not! You can get the entire first issue for free if you check out the link below, and the sequel is available for a steal of a deal right now (there’s another link below) on comiXology. And honestly, for 99cents, this is a fantastic deal for the two issues of Zachariah Thorn.

A comic that has echoes of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books in the setting (in that it’s a modern day magic based story with a well loved yet slight rogue star)Zachariah Thorn is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, with the world having a fully realized feel – even if the reader may not be totally aware of the history, it’s evident that Reichert has the details written down somewhere. We’re given exactly what we need to follow the story within the comic, and just enough to drive our interest further into the series with the subsequent issues.

Zachariah Thorn has a lot  about it that I really enjoyed – and for the price you’ll pay for this book, there’s absolutely no reason not to check out the two comics in the series thus far. 

Story: Scott Michael Reichert Art: Kristian Rossi
Colours Robert John Reichert Letters: Toben Racicot
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Zachariah Thorn #2 is available on ComiXology for $0.99 now. You can read the first issue for free here if you need a refresher on the story.

Amazon Isn’t Indie and Small Press’ Enemy, It’s Another Platform to Sell

If you read The Comics Journal, it might seem like one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was descending on Small Press Expo which takes place in Bethesda, Maryland this weekend. In an article entitled “A Plague Comes to SPX” RJ Casey makes the case that Amazon and comiXology‘s involvement in the show is an “affront” to those who attend and exhibit at the show.

comiXology is a digital platform that acts as a storefront for digital comics and was purchased by Amazon some years ago. Since then, the company has expanded allowing individual creators to upload their comics to sell through comiXology Submit and more recently launched a line of original comics called comiXology Originals.

Amazon and comiXology are bringing one of those originals, Hit Reblog, to SPX along with some of the creative team behind it and giving away printed copies to attendees. They’re also sponsoring portions of the convention.

Some feared when comiXology was acquired Amazon they would flex their market dominance putting pressure on publishers and brick and mortar stores. In the years since the focus has been more on experimentation and slowly integrating the service into the Amazon family such as Amazon Prime and Kindle. Even before Amazon, comiXology was the 800lb gorilla in the digital comics market and at any time could have easily become a tyrant with their exclusive contracts and market dominance. Though there were alternatives earlier and after, they remain the gold standard service by which all others will be measured. None have come close to matching what comiXology delivers.

While it is understandable to be nervous about Amazon’s entrance into the comics market and apprehensive due to their questionable treatment of employees, reality is their store had already been in the comic market for years selling individual comics and graphic novels and accounting for an unknown, but vital, amount of sales. Well before comiXology, Amazon had a section dedicated to comics with regular promotion and since the acquisition, those promotions have become better focused and better curated running appropriate sales during events such as San Diego Comic-Con and Small Press Expo raising awareness. ComiXology Originals are free to read for Amazon Prime a service millions are already paying for.

While the TCJ article spends a decent amount of time advocating for the rights of Amazon employees, its actual focus on the comics aspect seems to fall short in both facts and conclusions.

The fear seems to be, Amazon sponsorship of Small Press Expo is a trojan horse to take over independent comics as if there is one publisher by which that can be accomplished. The article and those concerned supporting it make indie and small press comics out to be both on the edge of collapse, easily broken, and also so lucrative that Amazon of course would want to snatch it up. It’s Schroedinger’s business. Both fragile and also immensely successful as is.

What the article fails to mention is that Amazon is already in the small press comic game and has been for years as both a platform and a publisher. Not only can creators self publish through their many services but the company also has Jet City Comics launched in 2013. They were already in the original comics publishing game well before the comiXology acquisition and that included distribution through comic stores. For a behemoth that is portrayed as so focused on closing brick and mortar stores, it’s strange that in their business model of their own comic line would include brick and mortar stores.

The article claims that Amazon wants to be “your printer, distributor, and most likely, publisher and editor.” As stated by Bedside Press‘ founder Hope Nicholson, Hit Reblog is published and owned by Bedside Press, not comiXology and not Amazon. An attack on the comic is an attack on a small press comic company. Similarly, Savage Game, the first comiXology Original comic to be printed, is owned by Cryptozoic.

Amazon and comiXology are the distributor and printer at most, very different than other comic publishers and more akin to a combination of Diamond Comic Distributors, the monopoly that currently is the major comic distribution service, and a possible printing company. Honestly in a way they’re like Image, a brand that comes with some benefits but in the end are creator owned. comiXology Originals sound more like paid for exclusives, a value added for comiXology and Amazon Prime customers and subscribers. They’re also willing to sink money into promoting comic projects featuring varied subjects and different creative voices that we don’t normally hear from other publishers.

The article also mentions a hit on “artistic freedom and intent” with a focus on the paper on which the comics are printed. While different printings can create a different reading experience, the focus on this, much as the article as a whole, screams of elitist gatekeeping as if there is one way to print a comic. ComiXology is providing these creators, and all of those that participate in comiXology Submit, a creator owned platform and the ability to do as they please with a possible visibility that can’t be replicated by any current comic publisher or distribution system. Amazon for years has provided print on demand services and it’s only natural that this be incorporated into this latest experiment of theirs.

As C. Spike Trotman emphasized in the comiXology Originals San Diego Comic-Con announcement panel, the ability to work with comiXology and Amazon is a value added and provides an opportunity to open doors. These are opportunities that might not exist to her as an already successful independent comic publisher (one who has been a regular at SPX for years). This is a comic creator who has raised over $1 million on Kickstarter. Trotman pointed out despite that success some doors are still closed to her. Amazon and comiXology are partners to possibly help open some and explore others neither have ever imagined.

With those incorrect conclusions and facts, the TCJ article warns of dire times when Amazon will force indie creators to print through them and undercuts creators through their platform. As if there’s not other on demand printing options and also downplays the do-it-youself nature of indie comics.

The reality is, a sale on Amazon because an individual saw the comic at a convention is still a sale. Yes, the creator will make less, but they’re still making money that most likely will have never been made otherwise. Conventions like SPX are as much about visibility and advertising as they’re about direct sales to the consumer. Conventions are about raising awareness and getting on attendees’ radars. That fee for the table, that’s the advertising fee. What you make there is some of which you make back immediately from that advertising. And Amazon’s cut of the sales through their platform? That’s no different than selling through Diamond or to comic shops directly or through Kickstarter or Etsy or Indiegogo which all take their piece of the pie. Amazon and comiXology are the technology platform through which these individuals can sell their wares globally and if done right get their creations before an audience that might not otherwise see them. That’s something TCJ’s parent Fantagraphics should be well aware as they use both Amazon and comiXology as two of their sales channels. It’s not an either or, it’s an all of the above to sell comics.

But where the article absolutely fails is its advocacy for attendees to throw copies of Hit Reblog in the trash. As if that comic is less worthy to be at the show than any other. TCJ seems to forget that the beauty of small press and indie comics is that anyone can make them. The paper it’s printed on, the format it comes in, and the ability of the creators are varied. Indie comics and small press are all an experiment. None of it is right, none of it is wrong. No one can “own” small press and indie comics because anyone can create them. Walk up and down the aisles at Small Press Expo and you can see that from the high quality books published by the likes of Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, and Top Shelf, to the comics xeroxed, stapled, and folded by the attendees themselves. RJ Casey, TCJ, and Fantagraphics has seem to have forgotten this and are becoming the gatekeepers they themselves would have decried years ago.

Small Press Expo Announces the Debut Comics Making Their Way to the Show

Small Press Expo has announced that nearly 200 books and comics will debut at the 2018 festival. The festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 15-16, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center and will have over 650 creators, 280 exhibitor tables and 22 programming slots to introduce attendees to the amazing world of independent and small press comics.

A complete list of debuts, including cover images and publishing information, can be found on the SPX web site.

SPX 2018 is proud to list a highlighted selection of books debuting this year:

Bastard

After taking part in a historic heist — 52 simultaneous robberies at the same time, in the same city — May and Eugene are now on the run not only from the law and double-crossed former accomplices, but also their violent past. In a surprising twist, these criminals are the unlikely pairing of a young mother and her preteen son. Thus begins the intense, yet touching, Bastard, Max de RadiguèsFantagraphics debut.

The Nib Magazine #1

Acclaimed daily comic publisher focusing on current events, The Nib is launching their first ever printed works. With brand-new, original comics from over 20 top-notch artists, the Death issue shares intimate personal stories, dark humor and thought-provoking reporting on the facts of life and death. Compiled and edited by The Nib‘s Matt Bors

Space Academy 123

Surviving school is tough; now imagine peer pressure and midterms while hurtling through the vacuum of space. Mickey Zacchilli blends Starfleet with Degrassi to make a classroom saga that recalls manga, Sunday funnies and composition book epics scrawled while ignoring the periodic table.

Blame This on the Boogie

Blame this on the Boogie chronicles the adventures of a Filipino American girl born in the decade of disco who escapes life’s hardships and mundanity through the genre’s feel good song and dance numbers. Rina Ayuyang explores how the glowing charm of the silver screen can transform one’s reality, shaping their approach to childhood, relationships, sports, reality TV, and eventually politics, parenthood, and mortality.

120 Project Anthology

A collection of short stories by writers and artists from across the country, this timely and punchy anthology explores contemporary issues, conflicts, and dialogues about race, gender, politics, diversity, discrimination, equality, activism, police brutality, free speech, family values, protest, immigration, bans, legislation, fear, hope, dreams, and current American reality. All contributors lent their time and artistry to this endeavor, and all proceeds will go to the ACLU. Edited by Oliver Mertz and Sarah Beth Oppenheim.

Homebody

New from Ignatz-nominated cartoonist, Richie Pope. A recluse takes a tour of brand new luxury apartments with the help of The Manager to escape her monotonous life and the disturbing memory of a recent event that happened in her own apartment complex.

The Secret Voice Vol. 1

The first chapter in a grand fantasy epic filled with psychic warrior monks, magic battles, monsters, and romance from the mind of Zack Soto. Doctor Galapagos, famed warrior-monk and agent of the ineffable Red College, is on a desperate mission to unite the realms of magic and man in a last-ditch effort to stop the seemingly invincible forces of the Smog Emperor.

Small Press Expo Announces the 2018 Ignatz Award Nominees

The Small Press Expo (SPX), the preeminent showcase for the exhibition of independent comics, graphic novels and alternative political cartoons, is pleased to announce the 2018 nominees for the annual presentation of the Ignatz Awards, a celebration of outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning.

The Ignatz, named after George Herriman’s brick-wielding mouse from his long running comic strip Krazy Kat, recognizes exceptional work that challenges popular notions of what comics can achieve, both as an art form and as a means of personal expression. The Ignatz Awards are a festival prize, the first of such in the United States comic book industry.

The nominees for the ballot were determined by a panel of five of the best of today’s comic artists, Mita Mahato, Carolyn Nowak, kevin czap, Leila Abdelrazaq, and Taneka Stotts.

Congratulations to all our nominees!, with the votes cast for the awards by the attendees during SPX. The Ignatz Awards will be presented at the gala Ignatz Awards ceremony held on Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 9:30 P.M.

Ignatz image by 2017 Promising New Talent winner Bianca Xunise.

Outstanding Artist
  • Yvan Alagbé – Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures
  • Ivy Atoms – Pinky & Pepper Forever
  • Tommi Parrish – The Lie and How We Told It
  • Richie Pope –  The Box We Sit On
  • Sophie Standing – Anxiety is Really Strange
Outstanding Collection
  • Beirut Won’t Cry – Mazen Kerbaj
  • Blackbird Days – Manuele Fior
  • Language Barrier – Hannah K. Lee
  • Sex Fantasy – Sophia Foster-Dimino
  • Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition – Julia Kaye
Outstanding Anthology
  • La Raza Anthology: Unidos y Fuertes – ed. by Kat Fajardo & Pablo Castro
  • Comics for Choice – ed. by Hazel Newlevant, Whit Taylor and Ø.K. Fox
  • Ink Brick #8 – ed. by Alexander Rothmans, Paul K. Tunis, and Alexey Sokolin
  • Bottoms Up, Tales of Hitting Rock Bottom – ed. by J.T. Yost
  • Lovers Only – ed. by Mickey Zacchilli
Outstanding Graphic Novel
  • Why Art? – Eleanor Davis
  • Run for It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought for Their Freedom – Marcelo D’Salete
  • Uncomfortably Happily – Yeon-sik Hong
  • The Lie and How We Told It – Tommi Parrish
  • Anti-Gone – Connor Willumsen
Outstanding Series
  • Ley Lines – Czap Books
  • Nori – Rumi Hara
  • Bug Boys – Laura Knetzger
  • Gumballs – Erin Nations
  • Frontier – Youth in Decline
Outstanding Minicomic
  • Dog Nurse – Margot Ferrick
  • Greenhouse – Debbie Fong
  • Common Blessings & Common Curses – Maritsa Patrinos
  • Mothball 88 – Kevin Reilly
  • Say It With Noodles: On Learning to Speak the Language of Food – Shing Yin Khor
Outstanding Comic
  • Recollection – Alyssa Berg
  • Hot to Be Alive – Tara Booth
  • Hot Summer Nights – Freddy Carrasco
  • Whatsa Paintoonist – Jerry Moriarty
  • Baopu – Yao Xiao
Outstanding Online Comic
  • Woman World – Aminder Dhaliwal
  • The Wolves Outside – Jesse England
  • A Fire Story – Brian Files
  • Lara Croft Was My Family – Carta Monir
  • A Part of Me is Still Unknown – Meg O’Shea
Promising New Talent
  • Yasmin Omar Ata – Mis(h)adra
  • Tara Booth – How to Be Alive
  • Xia Gordon – The Fashion of 2004, Harvest
  • Rumi Hara – Nori and The Rabbits of the Moon
  • Tommi Parrish – The Lie and How We Told It
Outstanding Story
  • Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures – Yvan Alabge
  • Why Art? – Eleanor Davis
  • Rhode Island Me – Michael DeForge
  • How the Best Hunter in the Village Met Her Death – Molly Ostertag
  • The Lie and How We Told It – Tommi Parrish

Those Two Geeks Special: Release Barabbas

On the docket this week: Alex chats with Liam McKenna, the creator of Release Barabbas, a webcomic detailing the life of Jesus Barabbas after he was release from Roman captivity in place of Jesus of Nazareth. You can find a sample of the webcomic below, and can find the rest at the link above.

Release barabbus 1.jpg

As always, the Alex and Joe can be found on twitter respectively @karcossa and @jc_hesh if you feel the need to tell them they’re wrong individually, or @those2geeks if you want to yell at them together on twitter or email ItsThose2Geeks@gmail.com.

 

SPX Has Announced its Graphic Novel Gift Program Recipients

The Small Press Expo (SPX), the preeminent showcase for the exhibition of independent comics, graphic novels, and alternative political cartoons, has announced that the Allegany County Library and the Ruth Enlow Library of Garrett County are the 2018 recipients of the Small Press Expo Library Gift Program.

This program, the first of its kind in the United States, is an outright gift of comics and graphic novels to the libraries as selected by their collections specialists, who this year selected 186 titles comprising 224 individual books.

There was a formal presentation of the books to the libraries by Small Press Expo Graphic Novel Gift Program Director Catherine Fraas on Saturday, August 11.

The books were selected by the libraries from the offerings of publishers Adhouse, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, Cartoon Books, and Koyama Press, all of whom support this program.

Ericka Lugo designed a special bookplate that has been placed in all of the books donated by SPX.

SPX’s Graphic Novel Gift Program is an expansion of the philanthropic and charitable endeavors that are part of its corporate charter, and is in addition to SPX’s annual support to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. The targets of this program are public and academic library systems in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area as selected by the Small Press Expo.

The goals of this program are:

  • to facilitate the availability of graphic novels to readers of all ages utilizing public and school libraries,
  • to promote learning and literacy through the availability of graphic novels at local libraries, and
  • to provide library systems with additional resources by which they can purchase graphic novels and comics.

SPX will be held Saturday, September 15 from 11am-7pm and Sunday, September 16, 12-6pm at the North Bethesda Marriott Convention Center in North Bethesda, Maryland. Admission is $15 for Saturday, $10 for Sunday, and $20 for both days.

Indie Comics Review Roundup #5: Imagine That!

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s Indie Comics Roundup where we take a look at a handful of indie comics and try to work out just how accessible they are for new readers. Where possible we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in, assuming we’ve read any part of the story thus far.

Each comic will receive a both a rating of Friendly or Unfriendly as well as a score out of ten. The former is based upon how easy it was for new readers to pick the issues up; expect miniseries or first issues to be rated as friendly by default. For second or third issues, more consideration regarding the comic’s accessibility will be given for the specific issue being read rather than the series overall, but if reading a back issue will help, then that will be mentioned. The score out of ten is Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale, which is there to help you pick between issues if you only want to check out one or two.

We’d rather feature comics from smaller publishers, but from time to time you may notice an Image, Dark Horse or Dynamite book here. Ultimately it depends on what catches our eye, but we’ll always aim to spotlight lesser known comics.

All comics were provided for review purposes unless otherwise noted.


There’s a few first issues this week, so assume that those comics are all Friendly unless otherwise noted.

It Came Out On A Wednesday #1  (Alterna)  For $2 you get an incredible amount of value in this double sized anthology. This anthology is a lot of fun and well worth looking up. I’d happily pay twice the price for it. Rathing: 8.4

Konunda #1 (Statix Press) Step into the world of fantasy and forget what you thin great comic book art is. A beautifully illustrate book with a story that isn’t too punishing to follow as you’re swept along for near 50-odd pages. If you like your fantasy comics with some mythical beasties, grab this, sit down and enjoy Rating 8

The Last  Siege #1 (Image) Fantasy style comics, or at least those with a sword involved, seem to be the theme of the week – albeit quite unintentionally. Still, Image’s penchant for producing high quality fantasy comics continues, and the scene is set for a true David and Goliath battle in the coming issues while exploring the roles of women in the middle ages. I’m looking forward to the rest of this. Rating: 8.3

Magic Order #1 (Image) A secret society of magicians exists to protect us, but somebody is killing them off one by one. A beyon standard set up, but the comic is writtten with Millar’s usual flare  (though is considerably less gruesome than some of his other work. Far from a bad issue, it’s just not the strogest, either. Rating: 7.8

 

 

 

 

Indie Comics Review Roundup #4: Superpowered Infections and Demon Fuelled Zombie

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s Indie Comics Roundup where we take a look at a handful of indie comics and try to work out just how accessible they are for new readers. Where possible we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in, assuming we’ve read any part of the story thus far.

Each comic will receive a both a rating of Friendly or Unfriendly as well as a score out of ten. The former is based upon how easy it was for new readers to pick the issues up; expect miniseries or first issues to be rated as friendly by default. For second or third issues, more consideration regarding the comic’s accessibility will be given for the specific issue being read rather than the series overall, but if reading a back issue will help, then that will be mentioned. The score out of ten is Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale, which is there to help you pick between issues if you only want to check out one or two.

We’d rather feature comics from smaller publishers, but from time to time you may notice an Image, Dark Horse or Dynamite book here. Ultimately it depends on what catches our eye, but we’ll always aim to spotlight lesser known comics.

All comics were provided for review purposes unless otherwise noted.


 

Brilliant Trash #6 (Aftershock) Deciding to pick this comic up because of the cover alone, I had no idea what I was getting. That said, the entire issue reads like a flashback or recap designed to bring new readers into the series – and in my case it worked. I want to read more about a world where super powers are a disease. Obviously, this is a Friendly comic.  8.5

Pestilence: Son Of Satan #1 (Aftershock) In a surprise (to me) Aftershock double bill, the new volume of Pestilence, the comic that reimagines the bubonic plague of the 14th century as a zombie outbreak, kicks off and things immediately get worse for the living. Roderick Helms has hung up his sword, but he’ll need it soon enough. A curse heavy comic (not the magical kind) which could bother some, but one that’s a fantastic change of pace from the spandex crowd. A Friendly comic, that doesn’t spoil the first volume. 8.2

Fighting American #4 (Titan) The last issue of a miniseries is never the smartest place to start reading, but I’ve never claimed to be a bright person. That being said, despite this being the conclusion, it is still a surprisingly Friendly comic – assuming you read the recap page and approach it as if it’s a Golden Age hero in modern times. Because that’s exactly what this is. A hugely enjoyable comic with plenty of retro-fun for everyone who wants to take the plunge. 8.5

Brother Nash #1 (Titan) A first issue in a three part miniseries is always Friendly (or should at least hope to be). Thankfully, this one is, and the supernatural tale of a trucker with a past is engaging and well presented. Hunt this down and you won’t regret it. 8.5

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #83 (IDW) Can you pick up a series 83 issues in? Yeah. Kinda. The main thing is that even though I had no idea what was going on when I opened the cover, I could largely follow along fairly seamlessly. Certainly well enough to consider this a Friendly comic. Ultimately my main TMNT knowledge comes from the 90’s cartoon, and so where there is unfamiliarity in the comic it doesn’t help when the characters aren’t the same from an old cartoon to a modern comic. Still, an enjoyable read. 7.8

Valiant High #1 (Valiant) In a standalone four issue miniseries that has no bearing on the main Valiant universe, we get what is essentially Valiant meets Archie. You don’t need to know the characters to enjoy this Friendly comic, but the more you do know Valiant, the more you’ll get out of this.  7

 

Goblins, Trees And Hope: Talking Farlaine The Goblin With Pug Grumble

Pug Grumble, the pen name for the mysterious creator behind one of the most effortlessly charming series you’ll ever come across, would rather your attention be on his creation rather than himself, which is fine because his creation is wonderful. Farlaine is a book about a goblin shaman desperately searching for a home for his best friend, the tree Ehrenroot. With the sixth book en route very soon, Graphic Policy  recently sat down for a quick chat about the on going creator owned book series.

farlaine banner.pngGraphic Policy: For those who haven’t heard of, or read, Farlaine the Goblin before, can you tell us what it’s about?
Pug Grumble: Sure! Farlaine the Goblin is a story of a little tree goblin shaman named Farlaine who’s been searching for a forest to call his own for a looong time. He’s been searching for years, has gone through hundreds of lands, and is down to his final 10 lands left to explore. His only companion on this journey is his best tree Ehrenwort, who he carries in a pouch on his back. Ehrenwort is from his parents forest where Farlaine grew up, which means Ehr provides a conduit back home to the magic of that forest. This magic lets him make seeds grow really, really fast!
The series is 7 books long and each book is a self-contained story about one of those lands. And they’re all weird lands! In The Saltlands everything is made of salt, even the people. In The Racelands you need to race everywhere you’re going or get stuck in an invisible box. The Twistlands is full of twisters and tornadoes of every shape and size. The idea being – there’s a reason he hasn’t found his own forest yet!
GP: Where did the idea for the story come from?
PG: It all started with a drawing. I started doodling this big ogre/troll with big horns and a grass skirt and all these skulls and potions on his belt. He was casting a spell and was a very scary looking dude! But I also gave him an empty backpack that I didn’t know what to put in. I did the rest of the drawing first, and while pondering what to put in the backpack it suddenly clicked – a tree! If this guy was a shaman, that’s what he’d carry with him if he went on vacation. He’d take a tree so he could cast spells away from home!
It seemed perfect. I labeled the drawing “shaman from another land”.From there I started to ponder him and draw him more. He just stuck in there, and over the next year or two he became more polished, his personality emerged, and a story started to take shape. Finally, I got to a point where I really wanted to bring this character to life and read his story myself. So I did :)GP: The story has a very all ages feel to it without being overly kid like, which is wonderful. Do you find it more challenging to write in a style that appeals to both young and old kids? 

PG: When I first started writing the series I wrote it entirely for myself. There was no plan to write for any specific audience; I just wrote what I wanted to read.

After I finished the first three volumes and started showing it to people I began hearing the phrase ‘all-ages’ bandied about and realized I’d accidentally written a book that appealed more broadly than I’d guessed. I think I just have a silly view of life that accidentally translated well :)
After I made that discovery I tried to keep it in mind going forward. There were some stories where I might have thrown in a swear word or made something a little more adult, but intentionally toned it back down to avoid crossing the line I’d accidentally set up. I still remember one book where I wrote “helluva”, thinking nothing of it, and had a reviewer complain it wasn’t a kid-friendly word. In my mind I was using a word common enough to be found on a brand of cheese, but to some, it was too adult. I changed that word for subsequent printings and made sure to now read for those kinds of perspectives.
I also tried hard to simplify some of the wording and length, especially after Book 3 where I felt I got too wordy and over-explained things. I tried to use less words, tighten things up, and be ready to break apart panels or add pages if it made for an easier read.
Even now I still overwrite a page or scene and find myself chopping out and rewriting dialogue to keep things within reason. I never want to talk down to kids, but I also don’t want to intimidate them with word balloons :)
farlaine pageGP: Personally, I’d never have considered “helluva” to be a crass word, but then I’m probably less offended by certain words than most. That being said, I think the all ages tag line lends a much purer feeling to the book; I couldn’t imagine the story any other way at this point. How long does it take you to create each issue? Can you talk us through the process?

PG: Yeah, I can’t really fault the original comment too much. If you’re reading the book to a 5 year old it could force a tricky explanation for a parent. And in general, it probably helped send me down a safer path going forward :)

WARNING: Rambling Ahead!

The books have taken me more and more time as I’ve gone, pretty much the opposite of what I was expecting when I began!

When I first started I’d left a job and had some savings and unemployment to last me a year. I had the first book written before I started and had the plot and story well defined for books 2-3, so I had a good sense of where I was going with those first 3. Those 3 books I finished drawing in 9 months, roughly 110 pages of art.

But from there things slowed down dramatically. I had to go back to a desk job and a long commute, so the next year was spent editing the first three books, drawing the covers, pitching to publishers, and finally designing and printing copies of Book 1 in order to submit it to Diamond so I could get in their catalog and into stores.

When Diamond accepted me I then had to do all the publishing work of releasing 3 books, getting reviews, hitting conventions, etc. It was a lot of work to fit around the day job, so by the time I started writing Book 4 it had been a year since I’d finished drawing Book 3.

My goal was always to tell the best stories I could and not focus on a release schedule, so even though I knew it wasn’t great to have huge gaps, I tried to think longterm about the quality of the finished series. In my mind Farlaine had potential as a fairy tale that could appeal to audiences for decades.

Starting with Book 4 the stories weren’t set in stone, which meant a lot more time building the stories out. The process for Books 4-7 has been different from those original 3.

Book 4 I wrote and drew while working a full time job, so it took me more than a year to complete. I realized at that rate it would take me 5 years to finish the series, so I saved up some money and left the job with an eye on finishing Books 5-7 in one run.

Which finally brings me back to your original question – how I work now.

First I collect ideas for months, throwing story ideas, tidbits, lines of dialogue, plot points, world building, and everything else into a bunch of text files in a folder. Once I collect enough ideas and reach critical mass, I start to coalesce them down to a real story. I spend a lot of time on the plotting and writing side of things to try to not do obvious stories or repeat things I’ve already read. My hope is to come up with something a little different that I haven’t read before.

It usually takes me a month or two to write an issue of Farlaine, with my focus mainly on the dialogue and overall plot points and not as much on the visuals.

Once I finish the script I start drawing, but it’s almost like a different part of my brain, so I just print off a page or two at a time and draw what’s on that page. I don’t memorize it or look ahead, letting myself be surprised by things I forgot.

I generally draw one page at a time. For me layouts get boring and lose a lot of their enjoyment and creativity if I plan too far ahead. I prefer surprises and giving ideas the space to grow as I go. I often end up drawing things that weren’t in the script but came to me as I was working. I like that organic aspect a lot.

I also draw really slow. Most guys in comics seem born with a pencil in their hand – I didn’t start drawing until I was 15. So I’m slow and need to figure things out. What I discovered by issue 3 of Farlaine was an approach I stole from David Petersen of Mouse Guard. I started drawing pencil versions of all the characters and angles on separate pieces of paper, then scanning them in and Photoshopping them together with the dialogue onto a template page, which I’d then print out and lightbox. This allowed me to manipulate the sizes I drew characters and move them around to fit the dialogue properly. In that first issue or two you can see a lot of places where the proportions are off, the dialogue is covering art, body parts are randomly arranged or cut off. Most of that was my weak spots showing through:)

So once I started the ‘layout and lightbox’ approach I think the art got a lot better, but also took a lot longer. These days I usually spend one day on all those layout drawings, scanning them in, and printing off that 11×17 rough template. It then takes another day to re-pencil the page, tighten things up, add backgrounds, and finally ink it. I work traditionally with a nib and bottles of ink, so it adds time for ink to dry, pencils to be erased, etc.

From there I scan the finished art back in, do some digital whiteout, and letter the page, before finally printing off the next page of the script and moving on.

In general, I average about 2-3 pages of finished art/week when I’m in a groove. If I get caught up with publishing duties or the rest of life, sometimes that dwindles to a page or less in a week.

Since my stories are now ranging between 40-50 pages each, this means a single volume can take me 6+ months to write and draw, as opposed to those early ones that were cranking along in about 3 months!farlaine page 2.jpg

GP: It sounds like you prefer a very fluid process when creating the comic. Have you ever found that the art can take you in a different direction than the original script?
PG: Yes, for sure. That’s a large part of the reason I try to keep it fluid. Many times I’ve overwritten what can fit on the page and need to consolidate it down, which can lead to creative solutions. Other times I’ve had ideas on one page that completely altered the next few that followed it. I’ve even had a few characters that grew organically out of what I was drawing. A good example would be in the third issue, The Racelands. I didn’t have a lot established for the other race participants in the original script. I knew one was going to be the pirate mushroom and another the timberjack, but little else. As I was drawing the book I really enjoyed drawing the pirate mushroom, so I tried to not only include him more, but tweak part of the end of the story to incorporate him.The fungal end of that story came from that fluid approach. And now he’s popping back up in Book 7, which I’m drawing right now. Originally, he was just a background character for a few pages.
GP: So it’s safe to say that the way you create the comic keeps the essence of Farlaine’s creativity?
PG: Yeah, I think of Farlaine as a fairly creative character, often having to think his way out of situations, and the comic is certainly similar. It’s a lot of writing or drawing yourself into a corner and then having to figure out a way out of it that works and feels authentic to the story and characters. There have been a few times I’ve certainly cornered myself and then spent a month trying to figure out how to get out of it!!

I’m sure there are a lot of parallels between the story and the creation of the book :).



Farlaine
is available for purchase here.

Indie Comics Review Roundup #3: Space Marines And Boarding Schools

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s Indie Comics Roundup where we take a look at a handful of indie comics and try to work out just how accessible they are for new readers. Where possible we’ll also be providing  recap of sorts for the relevant story beats up until the issue in question in order to help you figure out if the series is something you’re interested in, assuming we’ve read any part of the story thus far.

Each comic will receive a both a rating of Friendly or Unfriendly as well as a score out of ten. The former is based upon how easy it was for new readers to pick the issues up; expect miniseries or first issues to be rated as friendly by default. For second or third issues, more consideration regarding the comic’s accessibility will be given for the specific issue being read rather than the series overall, but if reading a back issue will help, then that will be mentioned. The score out of ten is Graphic Policy’s typical ten point scale, which is there to help you pick between issues if you only want to check out one or two.

We’d rather feature comics from smaller publishers, but from time to time you may notice an Image, Dark Horse or Dynamite book here. Ultimately it depends on what catches our eye, but we’ll always aim to spotlight lesser known comics.

All comics were provided for review purposes unless otherwise noted.


Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch #1 (Titan) The world of Warhammer 40,000 is deep and full of history, characters and technology that simply can’t be explained in a recap page to open a four issue miniseries. Likewise there is no way someone unfamiliar to the franchise can ever hope to catch up just to read this comic, so don’t worry about it; you will feel a little confused, and maybe a touch lost, but never so much that you won’t enjoy this comic. It is just about accessible enough to newcomers to earn a Friendly rating, and it’s also a pretty interesting read to boot. Rating: 7.2

Fence #6 (Boom! Box) Funnily enough, not a comic about fences.  Fence follows a group of boys at a boarding school trying to make the fencing team. One is a prodigy, one is full of raw talent with minimal training, one is a playboy sleeping his way through the team and another is the All American athlete. Each of the characters feel fully realized, and there’s a surprisingly accurate fencing backdrop to the boys competing with each other to make the team. Even six issues in, this is still Friendly. Rating: 8

Relay #1 (Aftershock) The first issue of a new science fiction based series that seems to be positioning the traditional villains, those who assimilate worlds and cultures, as the protagonists. Relay is an interesting beast from the outset, but the comic seems to struggle as it both establishes the universe it is set in, the characters and the plot within the first issue. That said, this is still a series that has a tremendous amount of promise, and is one you really should be reading. Friendly, because it’s the first issue. Rating: 7

Grimm Tales Of Terror Volume 4 #2 (Zenescope) A single issue story in the vein of the classic horror comics of yesteryear, this is by it’s nature a Friendly comic. If you’re into b-movie style horror stories then this’ll be right up your alley. With a knife. Waiting for you…. Rating: 6.8

 

 

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