Tag Archives: juan romera

Review: Nancy Hernandez & The Black Widows Volume 2

Nancy Hernandez & The Black Widows Volume 2

Freddy Krueger is one of those characters that nightmares are truly made of. The Nightmare On Elm Street movies featured the iconic Robert Englund and exactly what my classmates talked about when I was in middle school. No doubt, Englund was scary and his performance was exquisite in how he inhabited the character. His portrayal compared to his contemporary horror villains, Michael Myers and Jason, was far more penetrating.

The one Nightmare On Elm Street film that stayed with me up until now, being the most memorable in all is A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The plot revolved around a group of teens at a mental hospital who all have been affected by Freddy.  The fact that each teenager was affected by  Krueger makes the shock even more real. In the second chapter of Nancy Hernandez and The Black Widows, we see almost the same predicament as the Dream Warriors, the Black Widows now know the threat of Nancy’s vengeful spirit. The spirit is taking up vengeance one by one. But what will they do about her?

We meet up with the Black Widows, as they deal with the aftermath of how Face disappeared mysteriously, as they realize they must band together in order to survive. But their luck only gets worse as the spirit picks them off one by one.

Overall, the issue is more than a satisfying end to one of the best horror books to come out in a while. The story by Scott Marcano is entertaining, well developed, and heartfelt. The art by Juan Romera is gorgeous as this art style serves this story well. Altogether, a story that is both touching and scary, proving these storytellers to be ones to watch.

Story: Scott Marcano Art: Juan Romera
Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Nancy Hernandez and the Black Widows Volume 1: The Call to Justice

Nancy Hernandez and the Black Widows Volume 1: The Call to Justice

I remember the first time I watched a horror movie. It was Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. I had no idea what I was getting into. It was twisted, gory, and just as fascinating. Needless to say, I went on to watch other horror movies, including the now famous 80s horror icons Michael Myers, Freddie Krueger, and Jason. Each of these movies would raise a generation of moviegoers who would take things a step further.

The films that really got me were the ones took place in high school like Carrie and Class of 1999, which was a cool hybrid between horror and science fiction. As they captured the sometimes terror of being in high school with the heightened element of horror. In the first volume of Nancy Hernandez And The Black Widows: The Call For Justice, a group of mean girls gets their just due in the worst ways possible.

We meet Nancy Hernandez as a young child. She’s a devout Catholic, even talking to God in the first few panels. She also just moved to South Central. We also meet Shorty, a tatted-up girl who has nothing but attitude for anyone that looks in her direction. There’s also her crew, the Black Widows, which consist of  Ratita, Face, Pollita, Tattletale, Dulce, and Roach. They’re a bunch of mean girls, who pretty much like being hostile. This is where Nancy meets the Black Widows, who make her life a living hell, the very first day, as they take her Walkman, and she tells on them during an initiation for one of their new members, Dulce.

Of course, the Black Widows will not let this stand. They wait for the perfect opportunity to pounce. As Nancy leaves Lacrosse practice early she’s confronted by the gang. They want to teach her a lesson but they go too far and kill Nancy by accident.

As her teachers and her family mourn her death, the Black Widows panic as their fates is tied as to whether anyone finds out the truth about Nancy’s death. As the detective on the case and the school security team up to find out happened to Nancy, spooky things start to happen all throughout the school. Nancy’s ghost seeks vengeance.

Overall, an engrossing book that starts out like your typical school story but becomes something even more, as Michael Myers wished he was as frightening as Nancy Hernandez. The story by Scott Marcano and Jaime Zevallos is a love letter to 80s horror movies. It more than elevates the genre. The art by Juan Romera is simply gorgeous. Altogether, an elixir of fright, teen angst, and revenge.

Story: Scott” Diablo” Marcano and Jaime Zevallos Art: Juan Romera
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: All We Ever Wanted

When it comes to how the future will look, most creators these days only show us how worse the world can get. This direction may be attributed to the decline of the environment and the primal predilection of man. Things don’t exactly look all that great for us. The stories usually involves zombies like The Walking Dead or the widening of the gap between the poor and rich like The Hunger Games. Rarely do they involve utopias as dystopias create the more interesting conflicts that drives our entertainment.

The thing is there was a time and place where we looked to the stars and though of the possibilities. This is why Back to The Future II was one of the most indelible movies of 1980s and probably most talked about out of that franchise. It gave us hope of what the world could be. Utopias for some reason seem out of reach to the modern imagination. In the latest anthology form A Wave Blue World, All We Ever Wanted, we get several different visions of life in the future where life can be better.

In “The Pilot,” a pilot controls a ship her VR glasses only to encounter an alien queen and her earthbound ally. In “The Weight of Time,” one scientist uses time travel to try and wipe out anti LGBTQ backlash but instead realizes the problem is actually ahead. In “Una,” an alien wins the hearts and minds of the citizens she protects, eventually becoming a citizen because of it. In “Seventeen Souls,” one hero risks it all to save one girl from certain death. In “It Looked like Our Dreams,” two siblings wonder about a future where humanity does save itself. In “Gaea,” mother nature and technology defeat an alien invader in which one protagonist uses to her advantage.  In “Bombs Away,” a world is imagined where violence no longer leads to advantages or problem solving but unity as it was always intended.  In “And The Rest Was Magic,” one woman finds out how it is when one doesn’t buy into the propaganda of a dire future. In “Everything I Own,” one self-admitted pariah slowly builds a community around herself while at the same time, evolving. In “The Inventor’s Daughter,” one woman reunites with her mother after death and returns her to the essence. In “Blackstar,” one man helps people see their future for a cost. In “Life’s A Devil’s Bargain,” one woman shows how hate is more of a choice than one realizes. In “Chat Room,” one awkward girl finds solace with a friend that met online. In “Can you See it Now,” one couple finds out an evil corporation is behind a friend’s death. In “Just Like Heaven,” one young man’s defiance leads to him finding out the secret to the utopia he is living in. In “Alternica,” a man wakes up from being frozen to a world where money doesn’t exist. In “Owning Up To The Past,” one man admits to his daughter, the unjust violence he committed. In “Good Time,” one man’s wish is to see his daughter years after he is released from jail. In “Day At The Park,” a young girl teaches a robot how to fly a kite. In “Choice,” one man designed a robot to have the power of free will, to only regret his decision immediately. In “Seeds,” the grim reaper reminds a retired superhero that there is more to life than regrets.  In “Two Left Feet,” two thieves steal for the love of dance.

Overall, the anthology is an excellent collection of stories that shows that the future can be bright and we all should wear shades. The stories are as diverse and extraordinary as each contributor showing off a wide range of voices and visions. The art by each creator is magnetic, alluring, and vivid. Altogether, the world needs more visions of utopias and this book more than proves it.

Story: Matt Miner, Eric Palicki, Tyler Chin- Tanner, Lucia Fasano, Tess Fowler, Eliot Rahal, Jason Copland, Jennie Wood, Vasilis Pozios, Chris Visions, Lela Gwenn, Alex Paknadel, Chris Peterson, Alisa Kwitney, Mauricet, Josh Gorfain, Matt Lejuene, Howard Mackie, Dean Trippe, Justin Zimmerman, Wendy Chin-Tanner, Toby Cypress, Paul Allor, Jarrett Melendez, Taylor Hoffman, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, Rich Douek, James Maddox, Gavin Smith, Nadia Shammas, Erik Burnham, Kay Honda, Maria Frohlich
Art: Dean Trippe, Danica Brine, Chris Peterson, Robbi Rodriguez, Michael Wiggam, Maria Frohlich, David Stoll, Ryan Lee, Juan Romera, Tony Gregori, Tess Fowler, Chris Visions, Ethan Claunch, Jude Vigants,  K.R.Whalen, Matt Horak, Jeff McComsey,  Gavin Smith, Ryan Cody, Liana Kangas, Anthony Marques, Jason Copland, Eryk Donovan, Micah Meyers, Josh Jensen, Nick Wentland, Taylor Esposito, Matt Krotzer, Zakk Saam
Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

A Wave Blue World provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: All We Ever Wanted

When it comes to how the future will look, most creators these days only show us how worse the world can get. This direction may be attributed to the decline of the environment and the primal predilection of man. Things don’t exactly look all that great for us. The stories usually involves zombies like The Walking Dead or the widening of the gap between the poor and rich like The Hunger Games. Rarely do they involve utopias as dystopias create the more interesting conflicts that drives our entertainment.

The thing is there was a time and place where we looked to the stars and though of the possibilities. This is why Back to The Future II was one of the most indelible movies of 1980s and probably most talked about out of that franchise. It gave us hope of what the world could be. Utopias for some reason seem out of reach to the modern imagination. In the latest anthology form A Wave Blue World, All We Ever Wanted, we get several different visions of life in the future where life can be better.

In “The Pilot,” a pilot controls a ship her VR glasses only to encounter an alien queen and her earthbound ally. In “The Weight of Time,” one scientist uses time travel to try and wipe out anti LGBTQ backlash but instead realizes the problem is actually ahead. In “Una,” an alien wins the hearts and minds of the citizens she protects, eventually becoming a citizen because of it. In “Seventeen Souls,” one hero risks it all to save one girl from certain death. In “It Looked like Our Dreams,” two siblings wonder about a future where humanity does save itself. In “Gaea,” mother nature and technology defeat an alien invader in which one protagonist uses to her advantage.  In “Bombs Away,” a world is imagined where violence no longer leads to advantages or problem solving but unity as it was always intended.  In “And The Rest Was Magic,” one woman finds out how it is when one doesn’t buy into the propaganda of a dire future. In “Everything I Own,” one self-admitted pariah slowly builds a community around herself while at the same time, evolving. In “The Inventor’s Daughter,” one woman reunites with her mother after death and returns her to the essence. In “Blackstar,” one man helps people see their future for a cost. In “Life’s A Devil’s Bargain,” one woman shows how hate is more of a choice than one realizes. In “Chat Room,” one awkward girl finds solace with a friend that met online. In “Can you See it Now,” one couple finds out an evil corporation is behind a friend’s death. In “Just Like Heaven,” one young man’s defiance leads to him finding out the secret to the utopia he is living in. In “Alternica,” a man wakes up from being frozen to a world where money doesn’t exist. In “Owning Up To The Past,” one man admits to his daughter, the unjust violence he committed. In “Good Time,” one man’s wish is to see his daughter years after he is released from jail. In “Day At The Park,” a young girl teaches a robot how to fly a kite. In “Choice,” one man designed a robot to have the power of free will, to only regret his decision immediately. In “Seeds,” the grim reaper reminds a retired superhero that there is more to life than regrets.  In “Two Left Feet,” two thieves steal for the love of dance.

Overall, the anthology is an excellent collection of stories that shows that the future can be bright and we all should wear shades. The story are as diverse and extraordinary as each contributor showing off a wide range of voices and visions. The art by each creator is magnetic, alluring, and vivid. Altogether, the world needs more visions of utopias and this book more than proves it.

Story: Matt Miner, Eric Palicki, Tyler Chin- Tanner, Lucia Fasano, Tess Fowler, Eliot Rahal, Jason Copland, Jennie Wood, Vasilis Pozios, Chris Visions, Lela Gwenn, Alex Paknadel, Chris Peterson, Alisa Kwitney, Mauricet, Josh Gorfain, Matt Lejuene, Howard Mackie, Dean Trippe, Justin Zimmerman, Wendy Chin-Tanner, Toby Cypress, Paul Allor, Jarrett Melendez, Taylor Hoffman, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, Rich Douek, James Maddox, Gavin Smith, Nadia Shammas, Erik Burnham, Kay Honda, Maria Frohlich
Art: Dean Trippe, Danica Brine, Chris Peterson, Robbi Rodriguez, Michael Wiggam, Maria Frohlich, David Stoll, Ryan Lee, Juan Romera, Tony Gregori, Tess Fowler, Chris Visions, Ethan Claunch, Jude Vigants,  K.R.Whalen, Matt Horak, Jeff McComsey,  Gavin Smith, Ryan Cody, Liana Kangas, Anthony Marques, Jason Copland, Eryk Donovan, Micah Meyers, Josh Jensen, Nick Wentland, Taylor Esposito, Matt Krotzer, Zakk Saam
Story: 10 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy

A Wave Blue World provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

A Wave Blue World offers Free Comics to Supporters of Mark Waid’s Legal Fund

A Wave Blue World (AWBW), publisher of anthologies such as Broken Frontier, All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World, and the upcoming Death of the Horror Anthology, announces they will send free digital copies of This Nightmare Kills Fascists and a special color version of the All We Ever Wanted ashcan edition to anyone who donates $15USD or more to Mark Waid‘s legal fundraiser.

The longstanding comic book pro is currently being sued by one of the perceived leaders of the online harassment movement called ‘ComicsGate’. To fund his defense against the suit, Waid has launched a crowdfunding appeal on Go Fund Me.

Curated and edited by Matt Miner (GWAR, Poser) and Eric Palicki (No Angel, Atlantis Wasn’t Built For Tourists), This Nightmare Kills Fascists is a horror anthology in the style of Creepy and Eerie, told against the backdrop of modern politics.  It boasts stories from a plethora of hot creators including Vita Ayala, Tini Howard, Justin Jordan, Ariela Kristantina, Ryan Ferrier, and many, many more.

All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World is an upcoming anthology spearheaded by the same editorial team plus AWBW publisher Tyler Chin-Tanner that looks into a more hopeful and positive future, and has been described as “less Mad Max, more Star Trek.”  Currently available to order in the October issue of Previews, the anthology is set to hit stores in December.

The print version of the ashcan was an exclusive for NYCC ‘18, but can now be obtained digitally only by those who support this fund. It contains three of the stories from the anthology by creators Robbi Rodriguez, Tyler Chin-Tanner, Paul Allor, Juan Romera, Eric Palicki, and Eryk Donovan.

AWBW publisher Tyler Chin-Tanner said in the release:

Over his entire career, Mark Waid has always been a champion for creators’ rights and now he’s standing up for them against bullying and harassment. It’s important for us to come together now as a comics community to support him.

Comic creator Matt Miner added:

If our fascist-smashing anthology can help Mark Waid fight against actual fascists in comics then I’m all for it. I stand with my LGBT family and trans friends in denouncing comicsgate and all the hate that they spew.

Comic creator Eric Palicki also said:

I don’t know Mark personally, but I’ve followed his work for as long as I’ve been reading comics. It’s no surprise a writer who understands Superman or Daredevil so profoundly would devote so much of himself to standing up to real-life bullies, and I’m proud to help Mark in any way I can.

To obtain the PDFs for This Nightmare Kills Fascists and the All We Ever Wanted ashcan, please send a screenshot of your receipt of your donation of $15USD or more to Mark Waid’s fundraiser to tyler@awbw.com.

Creators Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 6–Pages in Progress and the Artist/Writer Collaboration

Over the summer, I wrote a few parts in a series detailing the creation of my comic Rebirth of the Gangster (on sale now!)

In case you missed it, check out these links to the first five parts-

Part 1: The Birth of the Idea

Part 2: Brainstorming and Outlining the Plot

Part 3: Outline, Synopsis and Chapter Breakdown

Part 4: Scripting the Action

Part 5: Finding the Right Artist

Last week I wrote about finding the right artist–and I definitely lucked out in finding Juan Romera, a perfect match for the story I wanted to tell. Wait: the story we wanted to tell. Even though I lucked out in getting such a great talent, we didn’t have as dynamic and smooth of a collaboration when we started issue 1 as we do now. Part of that might be because I was too controlling/too descriptive in my scripts, and part of that could be just the natural journey in any collaboration–the more steps collaborators take on that journey, the more they are able to convey directions that used to take a whole sentence with a simple word. And that’s led to some great work in the last year and a half of our creative partnership.

That great work isn’t the only reason I love working with Juan, though: he’s a great collaborator. He’s understanding, willing to accept feedback, and a true professional. I mean, he’s put up with me sending multiple emails of feedback on some of his pages, even when I’ve sometimes changed my mind. Like me, he wants to make Rebirth of the Gangster as good as it can be; if something isn’t working, he’ll adjust it until it does. Take a look at some of the below thumbnails and the exchanges between us to see for yourself.

 

SAMPLE 1:

Since flashbacks play heavily in our story, I wanted something special in the art to frame these flashbacks, making the transition between time periods easier on the reader. Juan sent the following two versions of the page to offer options. After the images, you’ll see my feedback on the flashback style and a request to change something else (the mistake was mine, sorry Juan!).

First style for page 1

first style p 1-page-001

Flashback style for page 1

flashback style p 1-page-001

Email 1 for Sample 1:

Hi Juan,

Thanks for taking the time to work this up; don’t worry about getting it to me a little later, since I’d rather you take the time you need than have you rush through it.  I love the sample page and the character sketches!

I love the flashback style and I’d like you to use that style for this page and other flashbacks (in the script I’ve attached the only other time you’d use this flashback style would be for page 9 and 10 of the comic, which are pages 16-19 of the script).  I like the other style that you sent, though, and I think that should be what we use for the other pages of the script, the parts of the book that take place in the present.

I only have one suggestion for the sample page: I would like Marcus, his dad and his grandfather to have a darker skin tone.  Make it look closer to the skin tone you have in the sketch for Marcus.

As always, if you think of a different interpretation for the layout of a page or a scene, let me know.  I’m open to ideas and adjusting if we both think it’s a better option.

I started a Twitter and Instagram account with a pseudonym (CJStandal).  I’m a teacher, and for right now at least, I’d like to use a pseudonym because some of the swearing and subject matter of the comic isn’t school-appropriate and might make me lose my day job if I don’t have that pseudonym.  And if I lost my day job, I wouldn’t be able to pay for your work long-term for this whole series; I’d only be able to pay for this issue.  If a publisher thinks I should use my real name, though, I’m definitely open to that.

Sorry for yet another long email (but you’ve probably already sensed that’s what I do).

Please let me know if you have any questions or other feedback.

-CJ


Email 2 for Sample 1:

And I should add this to my last email:

I like how young Curtis has longer hair, but I’d like old Curtis (present day Curtis) to have short hair and a graying beard.

And would you be OK with me posting your sketches and the first page on Twitter and Instagram? I would tag you unless you didn’t want me to do so. [The answer was yes unsurprisingly].

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

Email 3 for Sample 1:

Hi Juan,

Sorry to keep bugging you but after some thought I had a slight change to the point I made about the flashback style.

I said I like the flashback style, but on second thought I’d like to use a style in between the flashback style and the other one (just for the flashbacks; I still want to use the first style [not the flashback one] for parts that take place in present day). For the flashback style you sent, I like how the panel borders are different but I don’t like how the coloring/inking/shading looks different.

So could the flashback pages have the same inking/shading as the first style but have the same panels/borders as the flashback style you sent?

Thanks for your time and please let me know if I wasn’t clear or if you have any questions.

 

Email 4 for Sample 1:

Hi Juan,

Is it also possible to change the chalk outline on the first page to the actual dead body of Marcus’s grandfather? That seems more realistic and dramatic.

I did some further research and found out the chalk outline isn’t really part of police procedure: it was something created for movies. I want to be realistic and reflect real procedure by not having the chalk outline at all.

That last email is another example of me going about things a little backwards.  I should’ve researched before writing that page, but better late than never right?

(And I know, you’re probably thinking: How did Juan put up with this?  Make up your mind, CJ!) Thankfully, Juan took it in stride and agreed to make the changes I suggested.  I didn’t include his responses, because they’re so agreeable they’re boring.  And because I’m a narcissist that wants the world to focus on my words.  Why else would I become a writer?

 

SAMPLE 2

Sample 2 p 2-page-001Sample 2 p 4-page-001

Above (pages 2 and 4); Below (page 3, take one)

Sample 2 p 3-page-001

Email 1 for Sample 2:

Hi Juan,

Thanks for all this great work!  The corrections on page 1 are perfect!  The sketches look great!

I only have one small request for a change, and again, it’s not because you misinterpreted my script–it’s because I thought of something that would work better after seeing the sketches.

At the bottom of page 3, I think it would work better if we just saw a close up of the woman’s hand grabbing the glass.  That way we focus more on her grabbing more champagne (an image that better highlights greed and pairs better with Curtis saying “but we want more and more”).  It also gives more variety to the images, so that we don’t have too many big, crowd scenes.  Again, this is a change based off my own thoughts, not because you messed up .

And change it he did!

Sample 2 p 2 take 2-page-001

Above: page 3, take two

SAMPLE 3

First draft of page 8

p 7 take one-page-001

Email 1 for Sample 3: 

The pages look great! One small change: I think the last panel on page 8 would work better if it was a close up of only Marcus’s face, so we can see that he’s really upset and lost in thought.

Next draft of page 8

p 7 take two-page-001

Not only did he do that; he made the panel before it a smoother transition into it (making it less of a bird’s eye view, so that we don’t suddenly shift camera angles).

That’s it for this installment of “Creating Rebirth of the Gangster“.  Join us next time, and in the meantime, check out all installments of Rebirth of the Gangster or visit me at my site.

Creator’s Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 5–Finding the Right Artist

Over the summer, I wrote a few parts in a series detailing the creation of my comic Rebirth of the Gangster (on sale now!)

In case you missed it, check out these links to the first four parts-

Part 1: The Birth of the Idea

Part 2: Brainstorming and Outlining the Plot

Part 3: Outline, Synopsis and Chapter Breakdown

Part 4: Scripting the Action

In today’s segment, I walk you through how I found the perfect artist for Rebirth of the Gangster, Juan Romera!

Finding the Right Artist:

Now that I had my story and script ready to go, I started looking for an artist. Yes, I realize that the best scripts are tailored to an artist, but as you will see (or have already seen), I sometimes go about things in a backwards way. What good is creating your own stuff if you can’t set the rules, am I right?  

I had a few guidelines in mind: I wanted an artist who wasn’t overly detailed, but could bring the heat when it came to creating character expressions. A lot of this comic is reliant on the “acting” of the characters and the reader inferring things, rather than me just telling them. Note–there is more telling and exposition in the first issue than the later ones will have, but that’s often the case with a first chapter or scene.

juan sample 2 faces

Image rights owned by Juan Romera: one of the images that drew me to him as my artist

I also knew that I wanted an artist who could play with shading and grab the reader with just black and white. Part of that, to be honest, is an issue of funds–everywhere I looked, artist’s price for coloring their pages was out of my budget. I also like to think, though, that black and white suit this story even better. It creates the noir atmosphere and tonally helps emphasize some of the thematic concerns, especially ones dealing with race and class.

juan sample 1

Image rights owned by Juan Romera: one of the images that drew me to him as my artist

Other than those two big guidelines, I was willing to be flexible and let the artist bring something new to the table. It might sound weird when you look at how detailed my script is–that’s how I envision each page and panel, but I’ve always let any artist I work with know that if they think of a better option, they should discuss it with me. After about a month of searching, I narrowed it down to two artists: Juan Romera and a European-based artist (I guess I can’t stand to work with people in the United States!)

juan sample 3

Image rights owned by Juan Romera: one of the images that drew me to him as my artist

Both of these artists were advertising themselves on a “Seeking Comics Artists/Writers” forum, found on zwol.org. The forum’s title gives you a clear idea of what it is for, but there are other comic creators that advertise themselves, like colorists or letterers (like I advertise my letterer service on that forum here).

The European-based artist had some things going for him, but I thought some of his storytelling and character work could get a little too abstract, so I couldn’t justify his extra cost, especially once I saw some of the sketches that Juan did for me, based off these character descriptions.

 

Marcus:

Age–26

Race–Black/Asian mixture

Hair–Black hair.  Curly hair, but we barely notice it because his hair is cut very short.

Clothes–He’s a lawyer, so he’s often dressed in ties and suits or in other fancy attire: button up shirt, dress shoes, and khakis/black slacks.  He’ll be in a tux in the first scene.

Other general appearance: He’s lived a clean life, so he’s fit (not overly muscled, but toned).  He’s professional looking, but often happy (or at least he looks happy–he focuses a lot on having a good appearance).

Hunter:

Age–26

Race–White

Hair–Long, brown hair.  It’s almost shoulder length and is mainly straight, not curly.  A little messy.

Clothes–He’s mainly wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and sweat shirts/flannel shirts.

Other general appearance: He’s a heavy drug user and drinker, so he’ll look older than Marcus (baggier eyes, more wrinkles, and his teeth are a little yellower).  He also has a little pot belly (not so big that he’s fat, but you can see that he drinks a lot, eats poorly, and doesn’t exercise a lot).  He’s mainly looks a little anxious, depressed and angry.  Every now and then, he’ll be happy, but that will mainly be when he’s high or drunk, escaping his stressful life with chemicals.

Lorena:

Age–26

Race–Mexican

Hair–Black hair that’s straight and just a little past shoulder length.

Clothes–She’s a detective, so she’s often dressed in  suits.  Her suit is a little wrinkled and of poorer quality than Marcus’s suit; she also doesn’t wear a tie (or if she does, it’s only loosely tied, there only for appearances).  When she’s off duty, she wears jeans, tennis shoes, and plain, long-sleeve shirts.

Other general appearance: Like Marcus, she’s mainly lived a clean life.  She’s fit, but has a few more wrinkles and bags under her eyes than Marcus, because of her stress growing up.  She can look serious to people that don’t know her but nice to those that do.  We know we don’t want to mess with her, but we also know that there’s nobody else we want on our side.

Andrea:

Age–47

Race–Asian (Hmong from Vietnam)

Hair–Short, black hair.  Not quite shoulder length, but not so short that she’s “looking like a man”.

Clothes–She wears blouses, fancy slacks, and high heels.  In the opening scene, she’s wearing a fancy dress.

Other general appearance: She’s really pretty, but you can also tell that she has an edge to her, a hard side (dark side).  Like Marcus, she also mainly puts on a happy face for appearances.  As the story progresses, though, she’ll start looking tougher and more serious.

And from those concise character descriptions, here are the sketches Juan sent me:

Rog sketch

Not only did Juan have a better feel for the characters, he was cheaper!  In fact, the only suggestion I made was this:

“Hi Juan,

And after further thought, I’d like the character design of Andrea to still have black hair, not white. She’s going to be a badass and I think it’ll be easier to sell if she’s not too “old looking”. It’ll also match the flashback and make it easier to transition from past to present.

Sorry to keep flooding you with feedback. If, because of all the emails and changes, it’s a little confusing, I can send you one email to look at for my feedback.

Just let me know if that would be better for you or if you have any other questions.”

I didn’t know how I lucked out to get both of my major needs met, but I didn’t want to waste time and let Juan slip away to some other lucky writer.  So I agreed to work with Juan, and haven’t looked back.  

That’s it for this installment of “Creating Rebirth of the Gangster“.  Join us next time, and in the meantime, check out all installments of Rebirth of the Gangster or visit me at my site.

Creators Corner: Creating Rebirth of the Gangster, Part 1–The Birth of the Idea

A month or so ago, I wrote a broad overview about the inspirations for Rebirth of the Gangster, the comic that I write with artist extraordinaire Juan Romera.  I got so much good feedback from that article that I decided to keep up the behind the scenes look at my crime comic, but I thought I’d twist the concept and get into the nitty-gritty, the nuts-and-bolts of actually making a comic, not just the inspiration behind it.  In short, this series will tackle the blood, sweat and tears part of creating a comic, not just the childhood seeds that eventually bore fruit.

The Birth of the Idea

A while back I wrote a poem as a model for my students (I’m a high school English teacher if you didn’t know).  I no longer remember what lesson this poem was for, but I became obsessed with the themes it established.  I also wanted to know more about who the narrator was, and where he would go with his life after being “born out of darkness”.  Would he really find the light?  Who or what was responsible for creating that darkness in the first place?  Below is the poem I created, which I adapted, more concisely, to start the comic (compare the poem to the first page, which I’ve attached shortly after the poem).

Birth

“Prologue”

I was born out of darkness into light

But I bet I didn’t view my birth with such optimism.

Rather, I imagine that my newborn eyes

balked at the harsh glare

and I suppose that my meek mind

reeled at the excitement of a new world.

While I truly hope that my small self greeted this new world with

the passion of a pioneer staking out new land,

I realize that, instead, I must have lashed out at this new experience:

wailing and wavering,

like a rabbit dodging birds of prey.

 

As I flinched at this world of light

my grandfather’s flame flickered and fell–

leaving my torch in greater darkness

but with a greater chance to flare up

illuminate

burn.

 

My mother rattled and shook with the pain of

bringing me into this world;

my grandfather, too, rattled and shook with the pain of

saying good-bye,

severing ties.

 

I was born out of darkness into light.

But,

as I recite the conditions of my birth,

dear reader,

I am left with one simple question-

What makes my birth so different from

Yours?

And

Yours?

 

Enlighten me.

“Chapter 1: The Future is Mine”

As you can see from the “Prologue” and first chapter title, I always intended to use this piece in a longer work.  However, my plan was to make a sweeping historical novel centering around two families during the Great Depression (the Marcus character would be white and rich, and the Hunter character would be black and poor). Clearly that’s not how it’s playing out in the comic.  I thought it might be too stereotypical, so I switched the race of the narrators to make it more unique and I brought it to present day to make it more relevant.

After I wrote this poem, I started working on a different comic titled “The Eye of the Beholder”–if you’re interested in that comic, one of my past Kickstarter rewards that I’ve written about is a sample script, so you might be able to track it down or email me requesting it–but I quickly realized I didn’t know where to take that story.  I hadn’t done excessive planning, and I was writing the comic for a stylistic experiment more than an actual, engaging story.  So, while that comic went nowhere, it did teach me some valuable lessons:

  1. Other writers might be able to start with a spark of an idea and improvise as they write.  Not me.  Or at least, not me at this stage of my career.  I found that I need a very detailed layout of the story before I even start it.  This isn’t to say that I will follow that outline completely, but I need it to have a clear picture of where I’m going.  And besides, I’ve found that having that outline in place has freed me up to be flexible, ironically: it’s easier for me to adjust if I know the rest of the skeleton is intact, and if I know where I need to bring a story element back into the bigger picture.
  2. I also realized that I loved writing for comics.  I mean, it shouldn’t really have been a surprise, since I’ve read comics obsessively since I got a Christmas gift of 30 X-Men comics from my parents, but I had been stuck on this idea of establishing my literary merit with a novel before switching to comics.  I had the mindset I’d often raved against: that comics can’t be seen as serious literature. (Don’t worry–I don’t believe that now, and I didn’t really believe it wholeheartedly then. I was just letting fear run my life more).

When it came to adapting this poem to the first page, I quickly realized it was too wordy, especially once I saw Juan’s great storytelling ability.  Below, you can see the complete page where I’ve bolded the lines that were deleted.  As they say when revising, “Murder your darlings”, and that’s exactly what it felt like.  But I think it made the comic better and more concise. Decide for yourself though, and compare the comic page with the first draft of the script for that page that follows.

rog page 1higher def.jpg

________________________________________________________________________________________

Rebirth of the Gangster, Issue #1  CJ Standal, 1

MY NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFO WAS HERE.

PAGE ONE (nine panels, standard 3×3 grid, each panel the same size and shape)

Panel 1.  We open on a completely black panel, starting our story the way all our stories start: in darkness.  This page will be a flashback.  We’ll have a lot of these flashbacks throughout this story, so it would help if you manage to visually separate these pages and panels from the rest of the piece, either by having a different style or even something as simple as creating a different outline for the panel borders.

 

CAP/MARCUS

“I was born out of darkness into light.”

 

Panel 2.  The fluorescent glare of hospital lights shines through and breaks the darkness.  We see these lights, the ceiling, and that’s it; we’re essentially taking on the perspective of the narrator as a new-born baby.

 

Panel 3.  Now we’ve shifted out of that perspective and are looking down on Marcus, the new-born baby.  A close-up of a screaming baby shakes the borders of this panel.

 

CAP/MARCUS

“But I bet I didn’t view my birth with such optimism. Rather, I imagine that my newborn eyes balked at the harsh glare, and I suppose that my meek mind reeled at the excitement of a new world.”

 

Panel 4.  We’ve widened our camera angle to see the thrum of a busy hospital room.  Doctor and nurse hover near the hospital bed, standard birthing accessories/machines wait for the next birth, and Marcus’s mom and dad hold him, welcoming him into their lives.

 

CAP/MARCUS

“While I truly hope that my small self greeted this new world with the passion of a pioneer staking out new land–”

 

Panel 5.   Zoom in on a scissors snipping an umbilical cord.

 

CAP/MARCUS

“–I realize instead I must have lashed out at this new experience: –”

Rebirth of the Gangster, Issue #1 CJ Standal, 2

PAGE ONE, CONTINUED

 

Panel 6.  This panel is similar to panel 4, but now we’ve completely zoomed in on Marcus being held by his mom and dad.  Like all new parents, love radiates from them and his mom’s eyes water.  Marcus continues to howl.

 

CAP/MARCUS

“–wailing and wavering, like a rabbit dodging birds of prey.”

 

Panel 7.  We shift scenes (keeping the voiceover from Marcus).  Now, we’re on the streets of Madison, WI at night.  On the left side of the panel, hands holding a gun creep onto the panel.  The hands clutch the gun as it blasts a few shots, attacker knowing how to prep for the recoil.  On the right side of the panel we see the target of this gunshot: an old, black man (Marcus’ grandfather).  He’s wearing a suit, newly bought.  He’s pushed back by the force of the gunshots, flailing as his feet leave the ground.

 

CAP/MARCUS

As I flinched at this world of light, my grandfather’s flame flickered and fell–”

 

Panel 8.  We’re at the same scene as panel 7, but time has passed, the murder has been discovered, the body is gone, and all we see is a chalk outline of the grandfather’s body.  It’s still night, but we can see this area more illuminated than in panel 7; flashlight beams cut across the chalk outline and this panel.

 

CAP/MARCUS

“–leaving my torch in greater darkness but with a greater chance to flare up, illuminate, burn.”

 

Panel 9.  We’re at the same scene as panel 8, but now we’re panning out to seeing the area surrounding this chalk outline.  We still see the outline, but it’s crowded by police tape and cops talking with each other and with witnesses.  Their flashlights still shine against the darkness.  There will be two captions in this panel: the first one will be at the top of this panel and the second will be at the bottom.

 

CAP/MARCUS 1

“As my mother rattled and shook with the pain of bringing me into this world, my grandfather, too, rattled and shook with the pain of saying good bye, severing ties.”

 

CAP/MARCUS 2

“I was born out of darkness into light.”

 

*Note* To see more behind the scenes, check out “First Shot: The Making of Rebirth of the Gangster for sale on Amazon!

And stay tuned for more posts on creating the comic: I’ll cover writing the script, finding the artist, communicating with the artist, lettering the art, and the all-important process of submitting a comic to publishers, plus revising based on feedback.  Until I shine the light on this process again, good luck in the dark!

Review: Rebirth of the Gangster #1

rebirth of teh gangsterRebirth of the Gangster is described as “a crime, family-driven drama that mixes elements from Othello, Breaking Bad, The Wire, 100 Bullets, and Criminal.” That’s a lot of awesome to live up to, and the first issue sets up a series that definitely falls into the intriguing end of things.

Written by CJ Standal with art by Juan Romera, the first issue is exactly what I look for when checking indie comics and it’s a genre I personally enjoy, a crime/gangster story with a focus on the characters instead of the violence. While Standal mentions a lot of pop culture in his pitch for the series, one that’s not mentioned is The Godfather, and with some scenes and the talk of honoring one’s family, I feel out of the crime stories mentioned that is one that has the most influence in this first issue.

Standal also has a diverse cast with the main focus on Marcus, a rich black lawyer, and Hunter, a poor white blue collar worker. Both of their moms will play heavily into the story–Marcus’s mom is a first generation Hmong-American, and part of her story will focus on that struggle.

The two main antagonists to Marcus and Hunter will be Lorena and Kaitlyn. Lorena is a homosexual, Latina cop who grew up in the inner city and struggled with her faith, her sexuality and getting out of the hood.  Kaitlyn is a black lawyer who works with Marcus, and she comes from a more privileged background than Lorena.

Lizzeth, a Latina teacher; Dennis, a white man just released from prison; and Devonte, a black man wrongfully imprisoned, close out the rest of our cast of characters.  While their story lines might start out separate from Hunter and Marcus, all the characters and story lines will converge.

With an interesting cast, someone for everyone, Standal does an excellent job introducing us to some of the characters making sure to give us a lot of depth to flesh them out. Hopefully this is a standard for the series as we rarely see comics written with that as such a focus.

Romera’s art brings it all to life and with a diverse cast, we also get diverse looks. Each character is unique in that department which is fantastic to see. Everyone is identifiable and standard cookie cutter designs that are used over and over between different characters are nowhere to be seen.

So, good story? Check. Diverse cast? Check. Solid art? Check. This is a comic to check out and support.

A Kickstarter for the second issues is currently running through Sunday.

Story: CJ Standal Art: Juan Romera
Story: 7.8 Art: 7.7 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read

CJ Standal provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Kickstarter Spotlight: Rebirth of the Gangster

rebirth of the gangsterby CJ Standal

CJ Standal grew up reading comics, probably to an obsessive degree. But he didn’t get stuck in the insulated world of comics culture. As an English teacher and History major, he’s always been interested in all sorts of stories and societies, using books, movies, music, and experiences of all kinds to break free from the panels confining comics’ culture, while still paying homage to its great history. And this is a perspective he brings to anything he creates, especially his first comic Rebirth of the Gangster.

Rebirth of the Gangster is a crime, family-driven drama that mixes elements from hip hop, punk rock, Othello, Breaking Bad, The Wire, 100 Bullets, and Criminal. The first issue was already released March 23, 2016, which can be found on Amazon.

The Kickstarter is raising $1,000 for the second issue. All of the proceeds from the Kickstarter campaign will go to paying Juan Romera for his art and to mailing the few physical rewards. Some reward highlights include personalized sketches from Juan, interviews/podcast appearances by CJ, 50 pages chronicling “The Making of Rebirth of the Gangster”, a cameo in the second issue, and more!

CJ Standal explains the reasoning for his Kickstarter, saying, “This series is beautifully illustrated with a noir-ish play between light and dark shades by Juan Romera, and he truly deserves to be paid for the great work he does.  Juan is a 10 year industry vet, working on titles like Strange Nation, Los Muertos, Zombie Killer, and more!”

Rebirth of the Gangster covers a huge cast of characters, painting each one as the hero of their own story.  So far it has focused mainly on Marcus Thompson, but like The Wire, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones, its focus will only continue to expand, giving readers plenty of characters to relate to and root for.  As it continues to expand, readers will also see that it’s extraordinarily relevant, focusing on issues of race, class, sexuality, and flaws in our justice system.

rog page 1higher defMarcus Thompson, son of the rich mogul Curtis Thompson, is a successful African American prosecutor struggling with his job, especially the unfair treatment he sees happening to minorities and poor people.  He’s also haunted by the suspicious death of his grandfather and a recent robbery he witnessed.

Although Marcus doesn’t know it, he was robbed by Hunter Anderson, a poor white blue collar worker, who is mysteriously connected to Marcus’s dad Curtis.  Hunter was sucked into this life of crime because of the medical bills for his dying mom and the reality of growing up without a dad–his dad was also killed under suspicious circumstances.

Lorena Sanchez is a cop who grew up in Hunter’s neighborhood and almost joined him in a life of crime.  After struggling with her faith and the discrimination for many reasons, including being gay, she decided to police the same types of neighborhoods she grew up in, hoping to help people avoid her own mistakes.  And she’s recently been investigating a string of robberies that have deep connections to Hunter, and shortly, to Marcus.

Andrea, Marcus’s mom, and Linda, Hunter’s mom, both are hiding secrets from the past.  But these secrets look like they’re about to see the light of day, and they’re trying to protect their sons from these secrets and the past mistakes they’ve made.   Adding to these characters we’ll see Lizzeth, a Latina teacher; Dennis, a white man just released from prison, trying to avoid his past mistakes; and Devonte, a black man wrongfully imprisoned.

According to CJ Standal, “All of the funds raised for this project will go to pay Juan for his work (and to the small amount I’ll have to pay to mail the sketch rewards).  I don’t want to make Juan a starving artist, and if you’re on this website, I’m sure you agree with me.

This is also, unfortunately, why the rewards are all digital (with the exception of the sketches, of course): I don’t want to commit to the huge expense of printing issues, shipping them, and encountering complications with a printing and distribution process I’m unfamiliar with. Trust me, this digital-only focus is for your benefit.”

The Kickstarter will end on May 15 at 3:30 pm. Please consider supporting a new voice to comics and a groundbreaking new series!

 

 

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