Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oyster Wars! Great online comic!

If you haven't found it yet, you need- no, you MUST check out Ben Towle's online comic Oyster Wars.
For anyone who has read any of Ben's other works like Midnight Sun or Amelia Earhardt: Across this Broad Ocean, or if you enjoyed the art and setting of Shannon & Bruce Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge or Aaron Renier's The Unsinkable Walker Bean then Oyster Wars is your kind of read.
The story takes place in the years following the Civil War in the Chesapeake Bay. Seafood is a booming industry, and for the folks of Blood's Haven, the prime commodity is oysters. By regulating how much a boat can harvest, there is an assurance of work for plenty, and a steady crop for the people to depend on. But all of that is put into jeopardy by oyster pirates- unscrupulous sailors who dredge everything from the bottom leaving nothing to grow or for honest sailors to harvest. At the top of the list is a pirate named Fink, but oysters may not be all that pirate is looking for.
Out to stop him, by special appointment of the governor and Blood's Haven's mayor is the Oyster Navy- a one-ship group of misfits and immigrants led by Commander Davidson Bulloch of the Confederate States Navy. He seems to be a learned, "just-the-facts-ma'am" type who has a knack for totally skewering well-known phrases, sayings and quotes.
The coloring is beautiful, the art has a nostalgic feel to it and the story moves with a pace that feels just right- not too fast and not too bogged down in details. Much like a journalist, Ben focuses on telling the story from beginning to end, filling in the who, what where, when, why, and how as things move along. He also makes it clear why stopping the oyster pirates is so important that people would risk their very lives. Another thing I really have liked about Ben's work is that it is appropriate for an all-ages audience, yet the characters can still be very mature, the gravity of their situations is still there.
Give this online comic a read, tell others about it, leave comments to the author- because this North Carolina talent has made another story worthy of being read by a broad audience.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New Kid Books from Top Shelf!

Top Self comics has announced release dates for two new additions to their kids line-up! First up is the much anticipated third volume to Korgi!

A Hollow Beginning picks up from book two where Ivy and Korgi have discovered a mysterious piece of glass. Apparently, the shard has something to do with how their magical home came to be! Korgi, by Christian Slade, is full of intricate black and white line drawings that have the appearance of being "scribbled" into form but have so much going on in the foregrounds and backgrounds they create a visual delight of discovery for old and young alike! The wordless format makes the book accessible to all reading levels as well. (Soft cover, 96 pages, $9.95)

Next is Dragon Puncher Island by James Kochalka. This is a continuation of the first Dragon Puncher book. Kochalka's first Dragon Puncher and his Johhny Boo both incorporate silly situations and silly dialogue to make stories kids really enjoy. (Hardcover, 40 pages, $9.95)

Both books are available to order from Diamond through your local comics shop or online book retailer and will ship in September!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Sword's Stories Web Comic!

The Sword vs the Hordes of Darkness by John Tompkins

The Sword is a character I developed during my later high school years many, many, MANY moons ago. Over the years he has been revised, updated, changed and had his whole background re-arranged. Certain elements of the character always seemed to stick around, and it was these parts that I chose to use to define the character.

Various early design ideas for the Sword as I tried to get a look I liked.

The Sword, aka Mike Daniels (named after my two brothers), is a superhero and a Christian. He is a former pro athlete, and he is a young man looking for a job. He is someone who doesn't have all the answers and his confidence goes back and forth.

The Sword with other original characters Gilead Samson by Walter Reynolds, Blujaye by Gabe Dill and the Christian by Kent.

The Sword by Kent, aka Vagabond X

I have posted the first four pages of his origin story, with two more to follow. Drop in, check it out (remember to start at part 1!) and leave a comment! Click the title at the top of this story or go to

The Sword by Gary Pope.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Review: Campfire July Releases

Campfire is a fairly new company on the comics scene, yet they have made their mark in reviving the niche for illustrated classic stories. Based out of India, the company uses Indian artists for the majority of their titles, and American writers to adapt classic works of literature (mostly written by the English and French) for the comics format.
Oliver Twist is the latest release from the Classics line, with the written adaptation done by North Carolina's own Dan Johnson. Now, Campfire has three new titles to debut in July- one Classic of War of the Worlds, a mythology story in Sita, Daughter of the Earth, and an original story, Space Race.
Starting with War of the Worlds, I was very pleased to see this story handled in the time frame that author HG Wells had set it in- at the close of the 1800's. Ryan Foley's scripting of the story is good, and doesn't seem to slow down from the first impact crater. Bhupendra Ahluwalia provides the art and has a great eye for detail, as many of the Campfire artists seem to have with presenting realistic images. The coloring work done by Akil Lal and Pradeep Sherawat may be just as important as the penciler's work. Too often today the inking process is skipped in many comics- pencils are simply darkened on the computer and the result is considered acceptable. This causes many comics to lose the crisp, clean lines and the solid blacks and whites that give the story a finished feel regardless of whether colors are added or not. The colorists on War of the Worlds make sure that the blacks do come out black, and many of the panels have a final visual result of having been inked.
The one scene that seemed a bit "muddy" was the death of the curate by the narrarator. The action is not clear and younger readers may have trouble figuring out what happened and who was to blame.
Still, a fantastic overview of this early sci-fi classic which delivers Wells' warning that mankind should not presume that because it enjoys a place at the top of the food chain, that it may not always be that way.
War of the Worlds has a publication date of July 5.
Next in line is Sita, Daughter of the Earth. This is a retelling of a Hindu myth of a king and queen who long for a child of their own and find one in the ground! Eventually, the royal couple have a child of their own, but unlike other myths, the sisters grow up together in harmony along with their two cousins. Rama, a prince of a nearby kingdom, catches Sita's eye. Like Sita, Rama is born of the gods but raised by men. After passing a trial, Rama marries Sita, and his brothers marry Sita's sister and cousins. Thus begins a life-long bond of family and friendship that supernatural forces cannot tear apart. Sita, Rama, and the rest survive years of exile, captivity, and epic battles that include other mythic Hindu characters.
It is only the fickleness of man that can pose a threat to Rama and Sita.
People not familiar with far eastern myths (present company included) will either find this fascinating or utterly confusing. I enjoyed the story and look forward to reading more of the myths Campfire has put out. I liked how terms and words were included/transliterated from the culture to add to the other-worldly experience for me, but others may get hung up on these words or slowed down by them. Fortunately, Campfire includes a glossary in the back to help understand many of the words and phrases used. The writer, Saraswati Nagpal shows a love of the Hindu legends and is careful to explain enough about a character when they are initially put into the story. The years pass by quickly, and given the characters appear to stop aging at adulthood, the passage of time is lost. I don't know if the lack of aging is part of the story, was called for in the script, or was overlooked by the artist. It could be the editor just wanting to keep the characters consistent- I don't know.
Manikandan's art really shines when he is drawing the mythical. His drawing of the ordinary and mundane is fine, but he really takes off when he draws the battles or characters like Hanumana, a sort of Monkey-King character. The coloring has an almost water-color array to it, which suits this tale set in fantastical places and times.
Sita has a publication date of July 26.
Last is Space Race, an original work by CEL Welsh and drawn up by KL Jones. Space Race is set in the future but tells the story of the advancements made in getting to outer space, and the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Welsh tries to lay down a lot of history in the story, while trying to make it sound conversational between Grandpa (a retired astronaut) and his grandson, Chet. I'm a nut for space history, and I wish Welsh had spent more time on the early Americans in the program- Mercury and Gemini astronauts, along with some of the breakthroughs leading to Mercury like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier and the development of the X-planes. But the story is called Space Race, and the way Welsh presents it shows it as a tie with the Russians getting the first sattelite, first animal, first man, first orbit, first multi-crew, first space walk, and first woman in space while the US has the moon landing to balance against all that. Unfortunately, readers unfamiliar with this era of history will be lead to believe America was working on only getting to the moon- they will know nothing of the early programs or how they contributed to the long-term goal of reaching the moon. Welsh mentions the Columbia tragedy, but missed the Challenger crash. He also gives George W Bush credit for redefining the future role in space, but fails to mention Obama's demands for getting a manned vehicle to orbit Mars and return to Earth.
The art in the book by Jones is good and he really comes through when drawing the vehicles and rockets of space. His likenesses for real-life people tend to be a little off- for example President Kennedy and Apollo 11 astronauts all have soft, rounded faces like someone's grandmother- not the impression of heroic men who were pushed to their physical limits.
Still, the book is a good read, and offers some good insight into the space race, especially for people wanting to learn more.
Space Race has a publication date of July 12.
To see previews of these books, go to Campfire's website!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Even more pics from Saturday!

Three comics fans threw together what they called their "one-minute cosplay gear" and showed up for our mini-con. They really liked the free comics- they chose Oni Press, Top Shelf, The Muppet Show, and a Campfire book. They were thrilled to meet Ian Flynn, writer of Sonic and Mega Man!

A young fan proudly displays her cartoon mustache from Dave McDonald, making her an official cartoonist!

Another young superhero- this original outfit needed two capes to create the look of "Super-E".

Some young ladies get excited to get free comics! They liked the cuter stories from The Muppet Show and Top Shelf, and they liked the posters from Viz Media, too!

Monday, June 13, 2011

More pics from the event!

One of our circ folks gets into the spirit of the mini-con dressing up as a character from the hugely popular Naruto series.

Our volunteers greeted folks at the door and handed out comics while talking about what was going on inside the building.

Kacy checks through the boxes to make sure things are sorted properly, and that they are easy to reach. Handing out comics is easy when two or three are coming through the door, but when 15-20 all come walking in at the same time, things can feel a little hectic!

A crowd shot from later in the day- some of the early crowd is still hanging out in the general area, while new folks have replaced the ones who moved on to the meeting room to see Ian Flynn, Jester Press, and the $0.50 comics offered by Rebel Base Comics.

Mini-Con Pics, Rd. 3

Here is a sampling of the goodies our wonderful publishers sent to the mini-con. Items were grouped based on two things- target age of the books, and the apparent reading level of the books. Age ranges went from beginner (the youngest), to elementary, to tween and teen books. In all, we had about six boxes set up for our volunteers, Kacy & Kaelyn, to hand out comics, DVDs, posters, etc. to the kids as they entered the library. By the end of the day, nearly every box was empty and the remainder was consolidated into one box. After setting aside some extra issues for future purposes, we boxed up the extras and sent them along with Dan Johnson. Dan has a friend who knows folks, and these extra comics will go to the USO to be distributed to soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines stationed all over the place. We estimated that about 300 comics were sent on their way. Part of that number comes also from Ian Flynn, the writer of the Sonic the Hedgehog comics and the Mega Man comic. Ian generously gave a LARGE stack of various Archie digest titles that helped fill our box for the soldiers. Thank you, Ian! You Rock! I know the soldiers are going to really appreciate looking at Betty and Veronica in all those comics.

More Mini-Con pics!

From the top:
Dan Johnson does a nice Spidey;

Derek Davis- one of the fastest hands out there, does the sketching while Nikki Davis does the talking (smart!);

Jim McGee sketches while answering questions about some work-in-progress pieces in his portfolio;

and Fourth:
Dave McDonald, who was a cartoonist-in-residence this spring at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, inks up a headshot of Vincent VanDoodle!

Photos from The Return of Mini-Con (Strikes Back!)

Wow! Sorry for not posting the day before, the day of or even the day after t he mini-con. Just know I've been very busy but I am now getting the photos from our mini con up! The library estimates over 300 people came for the show (just how much over we don't know), which is good considering several things- Heroes Con was the weekend before, many families were going to graduations over the weekend, many more families were taking trips to the beach or just out-of-town for the weekend, the Monroe Airport was giving FREE planes rides to kids, the Monroe Mall/Crossing had a science fair exhibit, etc., etc.
From the top, we have author Dan Johnson taking his turn at a sketch, Al Bigley talking with some fans, and two shots of the crowd just minutes after we started!
Many comics were given out thrilled kids- Oni Press' Rated Free For Everyone, Transformers from IDW, Top Shelf's Kids Club Comic, The Muppet Show comics by KaBoom!/ Boom! Studios, a variety of titles from :01 Books, Viz Media (and some cool bags, posters and other neat stuff), RightStuf (who also sent t-shirts and DVDs), and Campfire/ Steerforth Press. There were also some great posters from Dark Horse Comics. We were able to group the comics and graphic novels by age and approximate reading level, and everyone got something they enjoyed. Each of these companies actively act as ambassadors for the comics/graphic novel industry and they understand the importance of not just doing trendy or adult comics, but of looking to make people into lifelong readers and lifetime lovers of the comics format. They produce quality work that goes beyond the typical wrestling throwdowns seen in the bigger companies of Marvel and DC. It is worth noting that although Marvel and DC are the top two companies in terms of comics revenue, it has been the "smaller" companies that have been so willing to reach out to the kids at these types of library events. So, yeah, I'm making a shameless plug for you to look for them at your comics shops, bookstores and online and support them in return.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rebel Base Comics brings the dollar bin!

Heroes Con has come and gone. I didn't get the chance to go because of car trouble, which is really a shame because I so badly wanted to see some friendly faces again, like Chrissie Zullo (who is moving away from Charlotte- "sniff"- we'll always say we knew you when, and God bless you, Chrissie!), Jeremy and Kelly Dale, Marcus Hamilton, the gang from Sketch Charlotte, Chris Staros from Top Shelf, the guys from Tsunami Studios and some folks I've gotten to know through other venues like Deviant Art. There's always next year.
But, some good news- our library's mini-con event is just five days away!
And the good news keeps coming as Troy Hasbrouck, the chief writer, creator, editor and assistant-whatever-else-is-needed of Jester Press and the Night comics series also happens to run his own comic shop in Charlotte called Rebel Base Comics and Toys. Just look for the link on the left for store hours and location. Troy has agreed to bring a "dollar bin" of comics to the mini-con. What's a dollar bin, you ask? These are often times older and/or well-read (used) comics that are resold for a small price and can still be enjoyed. Since I'm a reader, this is how I prefer to buy my comics, and I enjoy the older comics more.
So if you want to get familiar with some comics, build a collection, or get some cheap reads for the summer, come check it out!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Heroes Con begins Tomorrow!

The annual Heroes Con begins tomorrow at the Charlotte Convention Center! This is by far the biggest three-day comics event in the Carolinas and usually boasts an incredible line-up of current and former stars of the business, along with other pop culture icons (in the past they have had people like Lou Ferrigno and Butch Patrick in attendance). One of the coolest features at the con is the center area, known as Indie Island where independent and small-press creators can show off what they do. Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) will host several crash courses for budding artists, and of course their will be discussion panels about some of the summer's biggest movies.
Kids under 12 are free with a paying adult. All other tickets are $15 for a one-day pass or $30 for all three days. Details can be found here at the official website.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oni Press Makes a BIG Splash on the Mini-Con!

When I got an email from Corey Casoni at Oni Press a few weeks ago I was already excited. Corey had said that Oni would be sending some goodies for the mini-con and while they were shipping as media mail, they should get to the library in plenty of time for the event. THEN I get four more emails of tracking numbers! Not one package, but FOUR! Well, all four packages arrived last week and my jaw dropped when I opened them- inside each box was 250 copies of this year's FCBD edition- Rated FREE for Everyone. That's 4 boxes X 250 copies each= 1,000 comics!!!!
Oni Press, who was VERY generous last year, was even moreso this year. Thanks to them, every child who comes to the mini-con should walk away with at least two comics this year. If that won't help encourage kids to become comics fans, I don't know what will.
If you check Oni Press' webpage you'll see they have some fantastic kid titles like Possessions, and Salt Water Taffy (a favorite of mine!), and Ted Naifeh's (Polly & the Pirates) series Courtney Crumrin, which I haven't read yet but seems to give nods to past comics, and book series (like the cover for the League of Ordinary Gentlemen which combines the title from Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with Harry Potter and a classic pulp noir picture).
Come by The Return of Mini-Con Strikes Back on Saturday, June 11 from 1-5 pm and get your FREE Oni Press comic along with some other great swag!

Top Shelf Comics Delivers

Last week we got in a BIG box from Top Shelf Comics and inside it was over 250 copies of their FCBD offering!! This year's edition is a great showcase of the company's growing children's selections, which just a few years ago was limited to Owly, Korgi, and Johnny Boo (which are excellent and well-crafted comics). Now, Top Shelf has devoted an entire group to kids' comics-the Top Shelf Kids Club. Newer additions include Okie Dokie Donuts, Dragon Puncher, Pirate Penguin vs Ninja Chicken, Upside Down Vampire Tales, Pinky & Stinky, YAM, Spiral Bound, Squirrelly Gray, Grandpa & Julie: Shark Hunters, and the graphic adaptations of Percy Jackson & the Olympians. Whew!
Right now, you can also join the kids club (WITH your parent's permission- don't forget that part!) and receive updates and activities sent to you by email. When you sign up, you will also get a kids club poster for FREE!
If you didn't get your hands on Top Shelf's FCBD comic, you can hopefully ge one at The Return of Mini-Con Strikes Back on Sat., June 11 from 1-5 p.m. Admission to the event is FREE and you'll get free comics and meet some great artists and writers!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Campfire treats the mini-con to Robinson Crusoe

I just received a box of graphic novels from Campfire- about 50 in all- and WOW! It is filled with classic stories like Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer, Wizard of Oz, Call of the Wild, Frankenstein, and many, many more. Along with that assortment is a copy of Oliver Twist and about 25 copies of Robinson Crusoe! Why do I put those two titles in their own sentence and why so many copies of Robinson Crusoe (or Rob-crew as we call him around here!)? Glad you asked! Both of these titles were adapted by author Dan Johnson, who will be one of our featured guests at the mini-con on June 11 and he will be signing the copies of his books!
It's great to see a publisher get involved by giving books for an event like this, but it is even better to see them support the people who make their books happen. Both Campfire and Dan were a part of our mini-con last year, and we are very honored to have them both back this year! If you ever read the Marvel Classics, or better yet- the Classics Illustrated comics from the Golden Age, then you will appreciate the work Campfire is doing in re-introducing these stories to young readers. Classics are great literature and great reads, usually, but sometimes they aren't all winners, or they may need some more selling to get someone drawn into the story. Wishbone the dog was the last great intro to the classics for young people (look it up- it was a PBS show for a few years. George Plimpton hated the series!), Campfire looks like it is ready to take that same spot now.
Go here to read our Artist Profile on Dan Johnson from last year's mini-con!