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Review: MPLS Sound

MPLS Sound
Cover by Jen Bartel

The phrase “put in the work” is often thrown around as an end-all/be-all take on success. What it actually entails, what it looks like, isn’t always clear. Joe Illidge, Hannibal Tabu, and Meredith Laxton’s MPLS Sound, a book about a fictional band trying to contend with the presence and influence of musical icon Prince, offers a good example of what that phrase means.

The book follows Theresa Booker and her Prince-inspired funk band Starchild as they rise through the Minneapolis music scene while also finding their place in it. Should Prince be an inspiration or a mold to shape one’s self into? What’s identity in music and how does one honor a legacy without being devoured by it? These questions follow Theresa and the band throughout the fast but contemplative story.

While not a requirement, having some background knowledge on the life and legend of Prince guarantees a more enriching reading experience. Some stops along the road of Theresa’s musical career are ripped straight out of Prince’s story.

The expectations of growing up the child of a musical family (if only on one side), demo recording at an early stage, a burning desire to make it big quick, dealing with the label of musical genius, among other things help fans connect the dots on just how much more of a Prince book MPLS Sound truly is.

This isn’t to say Theresa’s character mimics Prince entirely, but there’s a spiritual connection that’s hard to ignore. In fact, the book leaves you no choice other than to get sucked into the funkadelicness of that connection, especially with Laxton’s recreation of key musical spots in the the Minneapolis scene, including the Capri Theater and Sam’s (where he played to a sold-out hometown crowd in 1981). The locations are imbued with a sense of grandeur and magic that one can instantly recognize as belonging to Prince.

MPLS Sound

Illidge and Tabu’s script does a fantastic of adding historical flair to the storytelling, helping Laxton conjure up the required magic such places accrued as their legends grew. Tan Shu’s colors keep to a palette that celebrates purple in its various forms and all its glory, adding to the mystique of Prince’s presence all throughout the book.

An important note, though. Those expecting Prince to be a constant physical present as the plot progresses in the book might not be happy to hear the Artist’s ‘screen time’ is limited. Now, this doesn’t mean he isn’t present in every page.

The Prince character is more a vibrant and ever-present force that reminded me of the power Dracula holds in the classic Bram Stoker novel. Dracula’s interventions are limited in the book, but his presence can be felt in every page, often influencing character behavior and even the decisions they make. Prince plays almost the same role, being both inspirational and overwhelming at the same time.

Theresa and Starchild pose a lot of questions as to what’s expected of them being that Prince’s influence can either make of break the band’s identity. Of course, this is where Illidge and Tabu’s script takes the opportunity to focus on the value of going through the process, of putting in the work.

MPLS Sound

MPLS Sound presents the band’s growing pains as not only necessary but also as a kind of test to see how well the connective tissue between the band members holds when tensions arise. It’s all about the music, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing a band has to work on. As the creative team puts all of story elements together, the idea of hard work becomes this multidimensional endeavor that demands one’s commitment entirely. Nothing comes easy, a sentiment Prince both embodied and conquered.

Any excuse to pop in a Prince album and get lost in the sounds of his unique brand of funk is a good one. MPLS Sound doesn’t just give a good reason to do that, it gives the perfect reason to do so. The book invites a deeper understanding of music, craft, and of legendary musicians themselves, but also never at the expense of fun and excitement. What’s here possesses the stuff that makes certain comics go beyond greatness, an accomplishment worthy of the Artist that inspired it.

Script: Joe Illidge and Hannibal Tabu Art: Meredith Laxton
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy, along with the entire Prince discography

Humanoids provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleBookshop

Music and Horror Join Forces in Dead Beats from A Wave Blue World

Indie comic publisher A Wave Blue World has launched a Kickstarter campaign for Dead Beats, a horror anthology inspired by SyFy’s Haunted Collector and CBS’s Twilight Zone, incorporating music themes to bring an additional edge.

Dead Beats, curated by Eric Palicki and Joe Corallo, will be feature a diverse group of industry-shaping storytellers and artists, including recently announced Dwayne McDuffie Award winners Ivy Noelle Weir and Christina “Steenz” Stewart, GLAAD Nominated Magdalene Visaggio, Emmy-nominated writer of Late Show With Stephen Colbert’s Daniel KibblesmithDoom Patrol’s Rachel Pollack and Richard Case, Suicide Squad’s Vita Ayala, Women in Comics Collective International co-founder Regene Sawyer, and more.

This music-themed horror anthology centers around the proprietor of a music store that contains a number of unusual artifacts. As the “shoppe keeper” guides readers through the shop, each creator will weave a haunting tale revealing the origin of these mysterious items.

A Wave Blue World is asking readers to be involved and to support Dead Beats Kickstarter Campaign by preordering Dead Beats, selecting Exclusive awards offered including original art by artists like Jen Hickman and an one-on-one portfolio review with Joe Illidge, A Wave Blue World’s Editorial Director, formerly editor at DC Comics, Lionforge, and Valiant, or simply just pledging to be included in the backers page.

Dead Beats

Joe Illidge and Lisa Y. Wu Join the A Wave Blue World Team

A Wave Blue World, an independent publisher is expanding its staff to continue connecting people through storytelling and provide a platform for a multitude of creative voices. In their mission to use comics and graphic novels as a medium for change, they have appointed Lisa Y. Wu as Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Joe Illidge as Editorial Director.

Experienced in community outreach for diverse organizations and leveraging innovative dynamic marketing strategies to maximize brand awareness, Lisa previously utilized her skills to impact audience and sales growth as Director of Retailer Relations at AfterShock Comics. Among other roles, Lisa also worked as Social Media/Promotions for Saga Communications and Marketing Coordinator for Dave & Busters. Lisa holds a B.A. in English and M.A. in Teaching from The Citadel and is an M.B.A. candidate at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business.

As Editorial Director for A Wave Blue World, Joe will work with creators from the comic book and global entertainment industries to develop groundbreaking books celebrating inclusion and heroism.

In his career, Joe served as an editor on the Batman for DC Entertainment, Senior Editor for Lion Forge Comics, and Executive Editor for Valiant Entertainment. Joe’s first job in the industry was at Milestone Media, Inc., a publisher of inclusive superhero stories, best known for the award-winning animated series “Static Shock” from Warner Bros.

Around the Tubes

It’s a new week and we’re coming close to the end of the year and have three new comic films all out this week, which feels amazing. Which do you all plan on seeing? What are you excited about? Sound off below.

Joe Illidge
Joseph Illidge Photo by Milo Stone

The Hollywood Reporter – Former Valiant Executive Editor Joe Illidge Releases Open Letter to the Industry – We wish Joe the best and can’t wait to see what he does next.

CBLDF – CBLDF Seeks Community Development Manager – If you’re looking for a job or change in career.

Review

Comics Bulletin – Oblivion Song #10

Valiant Promotes Robert Meyers to Senior to Editorial Director while Joe Illidge is Out as Executive Editor

2018 continues to be the year of staffing musical chairs…

Valiant Entertainment has announced that Editorial Director Robert Meyers has been promoted to Senior Editorial Director. In his new role, Meyers will help guide the vision of the Valiant Universe and the rich cast of characters.

Meyers joined Valiant Entertainment as an intern back in 2013. Throughout the years, Meyers fully immersed himself in the Valiant Universe, wearing multiple hats and always pushing the brand and its characters forward. He was named Managing Editor in 2016 and became Editorial Director earlier this year. He is not only an essential member of Valiant Entertainment but also one of the Valiant Universe’s biggest fans.

In other staffing news, Joe Illidge has left Valiant as their Executive Editor. He joined the company back in April. Illidge was formerly an editor at Milestone and DC and also worked for Lion Forge where was integral behind their Catalyst Prime initiative. Illidge did release a statement:


I’ve had a lot of dynamic and provocative conversations the last few days –  and am excited to be connecting with people who are truly ready to explore the deep and inherently powerful connections between character and culture in contemporary comics and other media. Stay tuned!!

But, that’s not all! Marketing Manager Victoria McNally also left the company recently. McNally was promoted in April to the position and joined the company in 2017.

Valiant Adds Joe Illidge as Executive Editor

Valiant Entertainment has announced, that, as of April 5th, it has added celebrated comics professional Joe Illidge as Executive Editor. Illidge will work closely with Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons as they spearhead the publishing plan of Valiant moving forward.

Illidge’s first job in the comic book industry was at Milestone Media, Inc., the groundbreaking comic book publisher and creators of “Static Shock,” the character featured in the award-winning WB animated series. As an editor on the Batman line of comic books for DC Entertainment, his tenure included the year-long event “Batman: No Man’s Land” and Batman line-wide relaunch. Illidge’s experience as a Batman editor led him to become the DC Entertainment liaison with WB’s animation team on the critically acclaimed Batman Beyond animated series. Recently, Illidge was a Senior Editor for Lion Forge Comics where he spearheaded “Catalyst Prime,” the publisher’s superhero comic book line.

Illidge was listed as one of the “Best Editors of 2017” by Comicosity. In addition to his coverage by The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN Money, the BBC, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and Publishers Weekly, Illidge has been an invited speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the C3 Comic Creator Conference, Skidmore College, San Diego Comic-Con, his alma mater The School of Visual Arts in New York City, Purdue University, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and The San Francisco Public Library. Illidge was featured in the 2017 History Channel documentary series, “Superheroes Decoded,” discussing popular comics icons from Batman to Luke Cage.

Review: Black Comix Returns

The world of comic books has always spoke to part of everyone who has picked up a comic or has been drawn to its characters through television or the movies. As children of color looks to the world and to media, for reflections of themselves, for my generation and ones before, this was a hopeless venture. This has changed for children born in the new millennia as the times have become increasingly progressive yet somewhat backwards at times.  As shows like Black Lightning, and The Runaways, gave viewers, a more realistic view of the world, this need to find images that looks like their audience has never gone way.

When I read the first Black Comix, back in 2010, I was excited to find all those new artists and follow their careers. Since I have been writing at Graphicpolicy.com, I have and many of fellow contributors devoted many of my reviews to finding artists who would otherwise not be seen by the mainstream media and that book embodied one of our goals, to highlight indie creators and publishers. In the sequel, Black Comix Returns, which was released this year, and Kickstarted last year, the reader gets a more comprehensive overview of the artists that have sprung since .One of the first creators, that caught my eye, Paris Alleyne, whose aesthetic has a serious Anime influence, and writes a book called Haven, one he works on with Kevin Parnell.

Enrique Carrion’s essay, Comics as Hip Hop, draws an interesting parallel between the evolution of hip hop music and how black comic book artists/writers, are injecting their aesthetics into mainstream comics. Shawnee & Shawnelle Gibbs‘ book, The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, mixes steampunk with alternate history and actual historical figures like Nikola Tesla into something pretty cool. In “The Room”, Joseph Illidge talks about breaking into what some consider success, and how important it is to have a minority voice in these places. The books also highlight one of my favorite creators of all time, one whose comic book series, Blackjack, rarely gets the love it deserves, but swash buckles with the best of them.

Overall, an excellent resource to find the independent black voices that comprise what is not only considered “black comics” but what is art of the ever-changing comics landscape. This helps the reader in where you have seen each artist before and where you can find them now. This books also gives fans a list of comic book conventions where you can find most of these creators gathered together in one place. Altogether, as both a fan and a comic beat writer, this book more than suffices my need to find new creators and creators that speaks to my experience.

Edited by Damian Duffy and John Jennings
Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Joe Illidge Talks Lion Forge Comics’ Astonisher

The most dangerous corners of the universe live inside the nightmares of super-powered people.

Magnus Atitarn, heir to the Atitarn Satellite Corp., tried to save the world with his experimental one-man spaceship — and ended up a broken man. Now a celebrity joke suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Magnus has the power to travel inside the mind of super-powered people, where he discovers nightmares which threaten the entire human race.

Astonisher is the latest series to debut as part of Lion Forge Comics’ Catalyst Prime universe. Written by Alex De Campi with art by Pop Mhan the series is an intriguing entry to the comic line.

We got a chance to talk to Senior Editor Joe Illidge about the series.

Graphic Policy: Where did the concept for Astonisher come from? It’s interesting in how it fits in with the other series that have come out so far.

Joe Illidge: The CEO, David Steward II, came up with a basic premise for the title and certain ideas he wanted to explore in the Catalyst Prime universe. When I thought about it, it seemed like the kind of book that traditionally in superhero comics you would expect a man to write with a white American male lead character. I thought “ok, I’m tired of seeing a male perspective on men, I want to see a woman’s perspective.” When I thought about who was one of the most unique and talented female writers out there, Alex De Campi was on the short list. I went to her and told her to take this nugget and expand upon that.

She’s the one that took it to the next level in terms of making it what she called the more “Steve Ditko/Grant Morrison” corner of the Catalyst Prime universe.

GP: The vibe I got from the comic is that it shares a lot with some of the other rich male characters out there. It’s the brash, full of ego, into technology. Is that the right take on it?

JI: Absolutely. When Dave Steward II conceived it, he really thought about the convergence between Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson in the Catalyst Prime world and where those paths meet in terms of bravura, youth, Silicon Valley, wealth culture. That’s the nucleus of where Astonisher came from.

What Alex did was expand it in terms of the family dynamic that would surround a person like that and how people treat each other in social circles. The main character Magnus became a character that we could use to examine wealth culture through his entire family.

GP: After reading the first issue, this feels like the first comic you’ve put out where I’m struggling to find a character I really like. They’re assholes each in their own special way. It’s interesting that there’s not the sympathetic character at all. Still, I found myself wanting to go along with the ride to see where it goes.

JI: It’s interesting when you say that. I was a big fan of the show Six Feet Under, created by Alan Ball. I remember that’s what someone said to me about Six Feet Under. The core of Astonisher is Magnus, who has a good core to him, but that good core has been warped by his social status, fame, vanity, but even the kind of ego it took for him to take his ship and go out into space and think he would as one man save the world. But suffering and coming back from that with PTSD, losing his level of celebrity, and how that keys into his sense of self, I found all the characters interesting. While they may not be immediately likeable, they are all characters that are human and believable. I think that is at the core of the Catalyst Prime universe, stories about characters.

You can see in various ways how this family represents the influential architecture of the Catalyst Prime Universe. When you think about it Magnus is the center of that, that opens up a lot of dramatic possibilities. We’re so used to getting superhero stories where we first meet them and they’re people that we like. They’re people to whom we’d already apply the term “heroic.” What we’re doing here is a story of a character’s journey towards heroism. That’s why we’re starting where Magnus is now because we’re going to take you on that journey. What we pride ourselves on in the Catalyst Prime Universe is that the readers will be able to go on the narrative journey with the characters at the same time.

GP: What’s interesting and stood out is that even though he’s unlikeable, it’s not a negative thing. It’s rather interesting because he’s not coming from an altruistic starter. Let’s be realistic: Tony Stark wouldn’t be altruistic. He’d be driven by ego and profit and because he thinks he knows best from a privileged place. That’s where this seems to be coming from, in a good way.

When Magnus created an app, it wasn’t what it did, it was how much he made. Now he has these powers, it’s about how he can make money off of them. This isn’t something you usually see in a superhero comic.

JI: Absolutely, the thing of it is, when you look at someone like Magnus, he comes from a position of entitlement right off the bat. His perspective on life, his perspective on doing good is going to be warped and in an interesting way parallels some of the things we see in real life. Part of what it does, it speaks to the true variety of the Catalyst Prime line, when we talk about inclusivity, when we talk about diversity, we’re showing people from different backgrounds and walks of life. The character of Magnus and his family in Astonisher speaks to a specific corner and perspective of the Catalyst Prime Universe. The name Astonisher is going to be apropos. We’re going to surprise you in different ways with this character as the story goes forward.

GP: Something that sticks out to me, through the various series that have come out, you have the Foresight Corporation, which is playing a huge role. Here you have Magnus and another corporation. My gut says that we’re going to see two corporations clash at some point.

JI: Basically, the same way you can look at our world and see titans like Google, Microsoft, Apple, you can look at the Catalyst Prime Universe and over time we’ll reveal the superstructure. The social, the financial. So, the company Magnus is the heir to which was founded by his mother and known as the Attarian Satellite Corporation, otherwise known as ATISAT. ATISAT is a major player in what’s going on in the world. The relationship between ATISAT and the Foresight Corporation is something that will slowly be revealed and in terms of a conflict of companies…when we get there it’ll be natural and make sense. It won’t be forced. It’ll be closer to a true world dynamic. What companies of wealth consider combat is different than what we consider combat. What they consider as competition, at that level, it’s a different point of view. That’s you at the top of the mountain look down, whereas most people are not coming from a position from wealth so they’re only looking up and their perspective is skewed as a result. It’ll be interesting over time the perspective that these families have of each other.

GP: Magnus’ powers are very different than others. They’re psionic or telepathic. When it comes to powers people can get, is there a guide as to what we’ll see in the Catalyst Prime world?

JI: We try to keep it science based and we want all the characters to have limitations. With this one, even though we’re entering a psychic landscape, that landscape and the discoveries of Magnus’ power, which connect to pieces of meteor in his body and one close to his brain, how that works with the Astonisher technology is quite science based. In terms of the logic of the powers, we wanted to take a different approach which is usually superpowers as an extension of personality. You’ve seen that successfully done in the past, but there’s something that’s more interesting if it’s random.

GP: With the meteor still embedded in Magnus’ head, I immediately think of people with bullets still in them and how that changes their life and PTSD. Is that going to be explored?

JI: It’s definitely going to be explored. Magnus is suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury. What we’re going to see is how people treat him differently. There’s your own trauma and then there’s the trauma that’s inflicted on you by other people’s perceptions of you. That’s something that Alex De Campi keys into with this character.

GP: I can see that in the first issue, definitely. How did Pop Mhan come on to the series?

JI: I’ve been a fan of Pop’s for years I loved his recent work for DC Comics on Masters of the Universe and when I thought about this comic and how it takes certain expectations and subverts them I thought Pop would be a perfect artist that would be able to give us the twisting actions and adventures as we go into the psyches of those infected by meteor exposure. And to give us personal drama which is just as dramatic and just as revealing of character, if not more so, as the battles. I really wanted to find someone that could get the balance. Someone that really could do the human expressiveness in body language, facial expressions, and Pop is one of the best out there. I was thrilled when he decided to come on board for the title. Jessica Kholinne as colorist is really doing an amazing job. She’s a true godsend to the book and her palette and approach to color and lighting is showing a level of thought and understanding that’s at the top of coloring in this business.

GP: With the series, it’s interesting that everything from Catalyst Prime fits in a silo. You have the team book, the teenager, the speedster, the loner character, and this with the arrogant tech and family dynamic. Astonisher could just be the “tech book” but that family dynamic makes it something else. When coming up with the various stories, how much of that is on your minds?

JI: Part of that comes from the different writers. Astonisher would have been a different kind of book with a different writer handling it. Because it’s Alex, her thinking is so brilliant and varied, she brought her sensibilities and self to the title and made it distinctive. Part of it, I think readers want to deal with familiar archetypes but want to deal with them in different ways. In one way Astonisher is where Batman, Iron Man, and Doctor Strange meet. In another way but he’s not like any of those characters. I feel like the readers are sophisticated and they should get stories that challenge them. Astonisher is the type of comic that can challenge expectations.

GP: Thanks for chatting!

Listen to Catalyst Prime & Comics Diversity with Guests Christopher Priest, Joe Illidge, & Desiree Rodriguez on Demand

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher ¦ BlogTalkRadio ¦ Listed on podcastdirectory.com

“Diversity” has turned into a marketing buzzword in comics and few deliver that behind and on the page. Lion Forge Comics‘ new Catalyst Prime universe of comics is actually delivering that in every sense with new characters we’ve never seen and a group of creators who bring varied perspectives to the page. Talking about this exciting new universe are guests Christopher Priest, Joe Illidge, and Desiree Rodriguez.

Christopher Priest is the legendary comic writer who has written for Marvel, DC, Valiant, and more. He was part of the group of creators who launched Milestone Media. Along with Illidge, Priest oversees the Catalyst Prime line of comics.

Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by The New York Times, CNN Money, the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World’s forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, The School of Visual Arts, Purdue University, on the panel “Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books” and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City. Illidge is the Senior Editorial Manager for Lion Forge Comics.

Desiree Rodriguez is a pop culture critic who has written for Women Write About Comics, The Nerds of Color, is the co-host for the DC TV Classics podcast, and editorial assistant for Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime initiative.

Catalyst Prime & Comics Diversity with Guests Christopher Priest & Joe Illidge Live Tuesday

“Diversity” has turned into a marketing buzzword in comics and few deliver that behind and on the page. Lion Forge Comics‘ new Catalyst Prime universe of comics is actually delivering that in every sense with new characters we’ve never seen and a group of creators who bring varied perspectives to the page. Talking about this exciting new universe on Graphic Policy Radio are guests Christopher Priest and Joe Illidge.

The show airs LIVE this Tuesday at 7pm ET.

Christopher Priest is the legendary comic writer who has written for Marvel, DC, Valiant, and more. He was part of the group of creators who launched Milestone Media. Along with Illidge, Priest oversees the Catalyst Prime line of comics.

Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by The New York Times, CNN Money, the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World’s forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, The School of Visual Arts, Purdue University, on the panel “Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books” and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City. Illidge is the Senior Editorial Manager for Lion Forge Comics.

Tweet us your question @graphicpolicy.

Listen to the show LIVE this Tuesday.

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