Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Artist Profile: W0lly

I first met W0lly at Free Comic Book Day over at Rebel base Comics in Charlotte. I saw his table all sread out with so much color- color isn't unusual to see in an artist's work, but when you're a penciler, the majority of what you have to show off is traditional black and white. But W0lly (who goes by the handle of William Wallace on Facebook and uses a pop art picture of Jimmy Hendrix as his icon- is this guy cool or what?!) likes to take as much of his work from beginning to end as he can.

Speaking with him, and later looking at his website,, I realized this is one of the hardest working guys around! His convention schedule this year included or includes C2E2 in Chicago, Heroes Con in Charlotte, NY Comic Con, the Baltimore Comic Con, the Return of Mini-Con, and a couple others he is waiting to hear back on! Whew! And that doesn't include his live performance art that he does at music events, too!

W0lly's current comic resume includes The Legends of the Black Pandas, an anthropomorphic martial arts epic featuring some mean looking pandas, and Fairy Tale Knights - a project W0lly has not revealed much about at this point. The best thing about the Pandas project is that the writing, penciling, coloring and lettering were all done by W0lly- an army of one!

Despite his achievements, W0lly is firmly set on the road of independent comics. He said he tried to break in with Marvel and DC several times but was turned away for different reasons, one being they didn't know how to market his style of art. Being an independent doesn't always get you the name recognition (or income) but it does free a person up to do more of what they want to do creatively and W0lly is embracing that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Comic artists coming to Indian Trail

Comic artists coming to Indian Trail   
A great story about the mini-con coming up June 15. It also highlights Snow Wildsmith's author visit on the 12th and the Capt. America movie on Flag Day, June 14. Check it out!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strikes! mini comic by Ben Towle

Winston-Salem based comic book artist extraordinaire Ben Towle has put out new mini comic. Strikes is author Bret Parks, as a first grader, telling of his experience of seeing The Empire Strikes Back with his father. Ben Towle (Midnight Son) provides the art which really shows a child's imagination at work in the real world. You can read it for free, or buy a copy for yourself. Follow the link HERE!

Noooo, Joe!

 This was to be the summer of the comic book when it came to movies. It probably still is, but for many fans, Hasbro and Paramount delivered a "bummer" right to the gut. After the boffo success of The Avengers, and the certainty that The Dark Knight Rises will be huge, there were a couple other comic book movies sandwiched in between- The Amazing Spider-man, and GI Joe: Retaliation. Of these four movies, I was looking forward to The Avengers and GI Joe: Retaliation. I could honestly pass on Spidey and I could wait for Batman to get to DVD.  Alas, I am still one of 30 people in North America who has not seen The Avengers yet (but my wife and kids are going while I am at work! Yeah- luvs ya, honey! Thanks!), but I was honestly looking forward to the new Joe film by director John Chu.

This new Joe movie promised a move away from so much sci-fi gadgetry and a focus on wild, military action (meaning summer movie style violence!) with a Cobra Commander who looks more like Cobra "I'm not Starscream" Commander and a Snake Eyes without lips on his mask. It also appears to have less "we are the world" flavor to its ranks. Now instead of a June release this summer, Joe fans will have to wait till March 2013 (doesn't that sound far away?) because Paramount and Hasbro said they want the movie to show better returns internationally and the best way to do this is to convert the film to 3-D.
 According to a tweet from Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, some scenes are being re-shot or added for the 3-D.

While the movie may do better at the box office, I have my own ideas on why Hasbro and Paramount are delaying this movie. 1) "You sank my Battleship!" What looked like Transformers on water has tanked. Big budget, lousy returns. 2) "Shawarma." The Avengers has been Marvel's biggest movie to date in every way that matters. And who is making a chunk of the kid toys from this flick? Hasbro! Do you think they want to push to convince stores to stock up on super heroes and mega soldiers and find that one of them (the mega soldiers, I'm betting!) ends up taking space on the shelves- space the retailers could have used for more Batman, Prometheus or, oh I don't know- Avengers toys, maybe?
3) "Who's tha King?!" Right now it's Avengers. But this summer still has Spidey's re-boot, Batman's finale, and the origin-smashing Prometheus all waiting. Who knows- something else like "Ted" might just go gangbusters, too? (No, please, no!)

 What this says to me is that even with a turn from the first movie's style and approach, and even with stars like the Rock, Bruce Willis (in an El Camino!), Ray Park and Channing Tatum, and even with a slick marketing campaign that was ramping up and a lot of entertainment news coverage- at the end of the day, the suits who call the shots didn't have faith in their product to deliver. I really hope I'm wrong.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Stepping up for the kids!

Each year, publishers have stepped up to participate in our mini-con event, and this year is no exception! RightStuf! Media, which handles manga and anime and related materials sent a fantastic box of mixed goodies- pencil boards, t-shirts, bookmarks, key rings and more!
 Campfire Graphic Novels, who I have done several reviews on, sent a mixed box of graphic novels of all kinds of classic literature stories like Call of the Wild, Oliver Twist and Frankenstein. They are sending even more books featuring the writing of Dan Johnson for him to SIGN (win!) and give away! (double win!)

 A week or so ago, I posted a write-up of an interview I did with Chris Staros- publisher at Top Shelf Comix and one of the people on my list of "Comics Good Guys." Chris sent TWO boxes filled with this year's Free Comic Book Day edition to us (and he sent them BEFORE FCBD, too!). That's about 500 books, right there!
 :01 Books has also told me they are sending some books to us this year as well. :01 puts out some incredible graphic novels like Giants Beware and Friends With Boys that are well worth getting your hands on (whether that is free at the mini-con, through your library or buying a copy for yourself!).
 So if seeing great artists, collecting cool sketches, talking to skilled writers and just being in a comic book atmosphere isn't enough for you to want to come, maybe picking up some free comic books for summer reading will be!
 The big event is Friday, June 15 from 1:00- 5:30 at the Union West Regional Library in Indian Trail, The library will open for business as usual at 10 a.m. and will close at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Boingthump!" Video trailer for Wizzywig Graphic Novel

Wizzywig, by Ed Piskor, is the story of a computer hacker who goes on the run from the police. How bad are his crimes? Will the police catch him, and if they do, what will happen to him? Top Shelf is releasing this exciting graphic novel this summer. Priced at $9.99 for the digital edition or $19.95 for the hardcover book, the story weighs in at an amazing 288 pages!
 Check out this great video trailer Top Shelf publisher Chris Staros sent out Wednesday! It features some motion graphics and "nerdcore rapper" Adam WarRock.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cartooning Club for 5/17- Avengers!

 If you're in the area, be sure to drop into the Union West Regional Library this Thursday at 5:30 for our Cartooning Club! It's convention season and that means we will be reviewing our hauls from Free Comic Book Day, talking about the upcoming Return of Mini-Con at the library and about Heroes Con in Charlotte the week after! And in the spirit of one of the top-grossing films of all-time, we will catch scenes from The Avengers cartoons! Bring your pencils and paper. Bring your comics from Free Comic Book Day to show off and discuss, and bring your own popcorn for the viewing! It'll be epic!

The Return of Mini-Con is just a month away!! Here is the flyer that is already going out to some schools, and to various email accounts. If you are so inclined, you are welcomed to print it out and distribute it yourself.
 It would be great to have a crowd for every event during the week!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Al Bigley pages for Tao Boy and Dirty Work! Special Preview!

 Local comics artist and pop culture guru Al Bigley has been hard at work on various independent projects. One is Tao Boy, which creator  hopes to stretch out to at least a third issue/chapter before shopping it to publishers and looking at other publishing options. The other big project Al has worked on is a short horror story called Dirty Work that is part of an anthology horror collection, ALIENS AMONG US ANTHOLOGY from Elevator Pitch Press. Al did the pencils and the inks on all these pages!
 Al has done work for Marvel, DC, Lucas Film, Warner Brothers, National Geographic Kids, and too many others to keep count of! He even had his own graphic novel, Geminar, published by Image and scripted by Terry Collins! If you want to see more of Al's work (especially his Batman stuff!) be sure to come see him at the Return of Mini-Con on Friday, June 15 here at the Union West Regional Library in Indian Trail!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Comic Book Good Guy- Chris Staros

Fifteen years ago, two men decided to put their love and passion for comics into a combined effort to find quality stories and artists and turn them into "top shelf" quality books. One of those men, Chris Staros, was kind enough to have a phone interview with me as he talked about what Top Shelf has accomplished and where the company will go from here.
 Chris Staros' venture into comics looked like a very unlikely thing a little over 15 years ago. Starting in the 1970s, Staros was into playing heavy metal music, and that was his career until retiring in the 1990s after he noticed the effect it was having on his hearing. He then moved into software development for a few years before fate brought him into a comics shop where he bypassed the "capes and tights" comics and was introduced to Allan Moore's V for Vendetta. Staros said it was a moment where he realized that comics were a medium that could present meaty and relevant stories to adults.
 "I thought, 'I can do that' and I started to do research," he said. "I researched by reading all that I could get my hands on. I went looking at the full spectrum- underground comics, the history of comics, other publications about them."
 By 1994, Staros had made his first fanzine, The Staros Report, of the best comics to read. From this, Staros said he learned the business end of publishing, from how to run the production to warehousing and taking orders. It was in 1997 when Staros joined forces with Brett Warnock in publishing an anthology series called Top Shelf.
 Fifteen years later, Top Shelf has a string of critically acclaimed graphic novels to its credit, including From Hell, Blankets, the Alec and American Elf series, Infinite Kung Fu, Essex County and Moving Pictures.
Staros said that while he competes with other publishers like :01 and Oni Press, he is also friends with many of them.
 Top Shelf expanded its audience when it began to introduce children's and all-ages titles into the mix. From the wordless adventures of Owly and Korgi to the silliness of Johnny Boo and Okie Dokie Donuts, the company has made a strong effort to find and produce material that any child could read. Staros called the offering of kids comics "an entry point" for new customers.
 "It is competition, but we know each other, too, " he said. "And the cartoonists we deal with know that, too."
 Staros said Top Shelf receives about 1,000 unsolicited submissions for graphic novels and comics each year, but getting one all the way to the store shelves for sale is the proverbial needle in a haystack.
 "About one-third of our titles are devoted to breaking in new talent," Staros said.These "new" artists are people who work the convention circuits, and have gotten to know the people in the industry while shopping their projects.
 And speaking of conventions, Top Shelf might be the best-represented publisher on the entire comic book convention circuit. Staros said he attends around 21 conventions every year!
 "Years of band tours taught me you gotta get out on the road," Staros said. "When it comes to small press, sometimes it means you make fans one at a time."
 That's not to say Staros is not a supporter of internet applications that can help his company. The virtual space of the computer world offers the luxury of 24-hour stores, and an environment that is like doing a comic show without having to move at all. The company has expanded into digital books, and email campaigns to make loyal customers aware of the happenings at Top Shelf.
  Telling great stories and putting art first has been something of the formula for Top Shelf's eclectic blend of titles in its vast catalog. "I would like to think that we are a company with a good heart and soul," Staros said. "While we are competitive, we want the whole industry to succeed. We want to work with creators who bring unique artistic vision."
 Staros said he has no idea what Top Shelf looks like fifteen years in the future or what it will accomplish, but he knows what will get the company there. "Fear, motivation, inspiration, and working our butts off."

 Staros' last "advice" to comics fans? Visit the Top Shelf website, come see him at a convention, and support your independent publishers.

Monday, May 7, 2012

FCBD Round up

 Another FCBD has come and gone- but was it a success?  At it's heart, FCBD is designed to do two things- bring people to or back to comics, and to showcase what your company has to offer. For comic book stores, it gives them a chance to show what they have to offer in both new and old comics, books, toys, shirts and other collectibles. Plus they have the chance to guide new customers in making selections and recommendations.
 My sons and I went to Rebel Base Comics on Saturday morning. When we got there, just before the store opened, we were greeted with local artists showing off their skills- Jim McGee of the online comic Area 51 and W0lly of Rebel Stars Studio. Once in the store, we were able to choose from a great selection of comics. My older son was fortunate enough to snag the Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge while I snagged the Green Lantern/Superman Family book.  A friend of ours joined us just before noon, but by then all the free comics were already gone- we let her pick through our assortment and she said she got the two she wanted.
 There were a few cosplayers scattered about- one as a classic Dr Who with the floppy hat, rainbow scarf and bag of gummies. The other cosplayers were wearing boxes on their heads with some pixilated pattern on it. I have no idea who they were supposed to be. (?!?)
 One of the Cartooning Club families showed up a little later after hitting Pennyworth's in Matthews where they gave a positive review of their experience there. I wanted to venture further into Charlotte to Heroes Aren't Hard to Find (I was hoping to get over there to meet the gang from Sketch Charlotte and snag one of their specail edition FCBD books! Rats- foiled again!), but the weather began looking a little ominous (though as it turns out, nothing happened), and the boys were getting quite hungry. So we made our way back home, stopping at a MCD's drive through on our way there. To really find out if FCBD was a success or not, stores and publishers are going to have to wait a few months and see if there is any rise in circulation or store visits or revenues.
 For my kids, the free comics are great, but they enjoy the crowds, the sales, the cosplay and so many of the other things associated with FCBD that it is something of a family event for us, and something we look forward to each year.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Artist Profile: Ian Flynn

 Ian Flynn is one of the nicest, approachable guys working in comics today. I can say that from experience having met Ian in person, as a guest at the Return of Mini-Con, and over the ol' world wide web. I was thrilled when Ian agreed to let me question him for one of the blog's Artist Profiles. And while it isn't set, Ian is considering returning to the Return of Mini-Con- provided his schedule for the summer doesn't just swamp him!
 Living in Charlotte, Ian writes for Archie comics- primarily the Sonic the Hedgehog stories. Recently, Ian took up writing Mega Man, and on May 16, Archie Comics goes back to its roots with Red Circle Comics and the return of the New Crusaders. The comic will be available via the redcircle app, and will feature weekly 6-page installments!
If you get out for Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, May 5- look for the Sonic and Mega Man issues. They were both written by Ian!

Hey, Ian-

Thank you for taking your time to answer these questions. Thanks also for giving consideration to our event, too. I really appreciate that.

Sure thing.
 What titles do you write at the moment? What other titles have you worked on?

Right now I'm the writer for Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, Mega Man and New Crusaders, all published by Archie comics.  I also wrote the four-part Magical Tales of Young Salem, a spin-off of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, along with a few other Archie projects and some other odds-and-ends.  I've got it all listed on my website, (shameless plug)
 When and how did you decide to become a writer? Why comics and not magazines or novels?

It was something of a "sink or swim" moment.  I was clearing my bachelor's degree rapidly, and the prospect of entering the real world was daunting.  I was majoring in English, I liked writing as a hobby, and I was lucky enough I was able to apply what comes naturally to me to get a steady job. 

Magazines don't immediately capture my attention since I'm not very good at short pieces.  Informative articles feel like term papers, and op/ed pieces either feel like I'm dragging out a topic or I don't have enough room to cover all the bases.  Short fiction, serials (like comics) and novels are more my forte.  Call me long-winded.
 When you plot out a story, it ends up looking similar to a script. Do you "see" the story in your  head with all the different angles and views?

The manuscript for a comic really isn't all that different from one used in other media.  Where they differ most is comics don't have as rigid a design structure - there is no industry-wide standard.  Different publishers have different policies, and I use the form taught to me by my first editor.

Have you ever thought of scripting a TV show or movie?
 I'd be all for branching out into other media, but my plate's a little full as it is.  (which rarely stops me anyway, but I digress)
People (parents and older folks, usually) like to ask artists and writers, "That's nice what you do with the comics, but what else can you do with your skills?" So, do you use your writing skills in any other jobs?

I've used it to do a lot of ad copy for various Archie books.  I've also been very active interacting online with the readership, and a well-spoken presence goes a long way.  With the launch of New Crusaders this May, I've been inundated with interviews, and finding fresh ways to reiterate the same points can be a challenge.

You were a fan of Sonic before you took over writing the stories. What made you like Sonic and his world so much? Was it the video games, cartoon shows, the comics or something else?

The game caught my attention first.  They were fun, and I could play them with a high degree of success. (as opposed to Mario or Mega Man - can't beat those to save my life)  I came upon the comics and cartoons about the same time, and I was drawn to the world used to expound upon the game's simple premise of "hedgehog jumps on robots and fat man's head."
 How did you end up getting the job at Archie working on Sonic?

The one way they tell you to never try: unsolicited personal application.  I improvised scripts, gathered letters of recommendation, and kept contacting the editor once a year.  My lucky break came when there was a change in editors, and the new guy happened to be open to new talent.  I did a lot of clerical, record-keeping stuff for the series bible and then graduated to script writer.
Did you ask for Mega Man or did Archie approach you about the book? Were you a fan of this character, too?
The story goes that Capcom, the owners of Mega Man, were interested in expanding the franchise and approached Archie to do a book.  Due to my success with the two Sonic titles, I was asked to pick up Mega Man.  I've always been appreciative of the franchise from the sidelines because, like I said, I fail terribly at his series of games.  Thankfully, the internet is full of dedicated fans who catalogue everything about the series.

Have you ever had to take on an assignment or character you did not like at first, but after working on it you became a fan of the book or character?

I can't think of any project I've gone into dreading it, but there's been a few where I feel like I'm out of my comfort zone.  Once I get into the characters, world and lore, however, I think I can get by pretty well.
As a kid, what were the cartoons, comics, and other things that helped steer you towards comics?

I was a child of the 80s.  I grew up on those half-hour toy commercials like He-Man, Thundercats and Transformers.  (personally, I preferred Silverhawks and Go-Bots, but nobody seems to remember those as fondly) My parents encouraged me to read, and we usually had Bearinstein Bears and Dr. Seuss books in the house.  So I grew up on high fantasy/adventure with clear morals and colorful, memorable character archetypes.
Is there another dream project out there you would love to do?

Get something of my own published!  I've got a myriad of original comics, graphic novels and short stories I want to put together.  It just takes time and focus, neither of which I have a lot of lately.
 If you could jump in right now and rescue a storyline or change one, which comic would need you most right now?

That's a loaded question (haha).  I don't want to be so presumptuous to say a story "needs" me.  There's stuff going on in the comics I grew up with I'm not fond of, but I also know that a lot of those writers are just following orders from their editors, and that those orders can originate even higher on the food chain.  It's part of the job - the nature of the beast - and I know they're doing the best they can.
You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?

That reminds me - y'wanna know how I got these scars?
Who would win in a footrace- Sonic or Quicksilver? (Poor Quicksilver- he's supposed to be so fast but everybody can beat him it seems!)

Are we talking comic-Sonic or game-Sonic?  616-Quicksilver or Ultimate-Quicksilver?  If the former, before or after M-Day/Secret Invasion/yadda yadda yadda NERD SPEAK!

 Any words of wisdom for future writers who read this? Any epically bad ideas and no-no's you'd like to offer them as well?

Gorge yourself on media.  Cartoons, comics, TV, movies, music, fiction, non-fiction.  Take in the good stuff, the classics, the industry-crafted junk, and the terrible.  Everything you take away from it - the good, the bad, the mentally scarring - will shape how you approach your worlds and characters.

Don't be afraid to walk away from a project if you're stumped, but make sure it's only to refresh your mental faculties.  Don't shelve a project indefinitely.  Keep working, always write.  In this day and age where everything is digital, you have no excuse not to have a million pages of practice.