Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: Olympians- Aphrodite, Goddess of Love

  George O'Connor has taken on quite an undertaking in creating a series of graphic novels on the Greek pantheon, each book focusing on a different deity. His latest book is perhaps his boldest to date, tackling the story of the goddess of love. Previously featured characters like Zeus, Hera and Athena figure prominently in the story adding consistency and familiarity to the book for those who have read the series.
  While she is a late-comer to Olympus when compared to the other gods, Aphrodite's origin story goes back before the time of even the Titans. Even so, finding acceptance and equal footing among the gods is not easy, but the goddess of love is a wily manipulator who isn't just another pretty face but someone who is smart and confident. And speaking of pretty faces, Aphrodite is a stand-out beauty compared to the other goddesses. With her tan skin, piercing green eyes and flowing brown hair, O'Connor captures a goddess who is beautiful, feminine and exotic.
  All of the previous entries in the Olympians series have been able to tell their stories effectively while still managing to be kid-friendly, but can a story about a goddess who is unfaithful to her husband and who embodies all aspects of love- spiritual, emotional and physical- still be appropriate for all ages? Amazingly, O'Connor pulls off the feat tactfully without dumbing down the material. Aphrodite's hair is long enough to fall strategically across her body  as she emerges from the sea, and Aphrodite's marriage to Hephaistos is described as more of a political tool by Zeus to prevent the gods from squabbling over her and not something either part of the couple wanted. Despite their flaws, Hephaistos tries hard to make Aphrodite happy and she seems to value him at times despite being repulsed by his appearance and his workplace.
 As part of Aphrodite's narrative, readers are treated to the story of Pygmalion, a sculptor who crafts a statue so beautiful her falls in love with it and begs Aphrodite to bring her to life. The marriage of Thetis and the antics of Cupid are also included. Maybe most important of all, we are introduced to a man named Paris, the apple of discord and the beginnings of the Trojan War.

  Hermes is a character that really emerges in this story and he seems to stand out with his casual attitude and anachronistic speech. Hopefully, O'Connor will be doing the messenger god's story soon.





Early cover concept. Go to http://www.firstsecondbooks.com/books/aphrodite-a-tale-of-two-and-a-half-covers/ for George O'Connors tale of the cover(s).
 Overall, Aphrodite continues the solid work done by O'Connor, with tight clean art with bright, vibrant, contrasting colors and witty dialogue.  There is 66 pages of full color story, followed by 10 pages of background information on key mythical figures in the story, asides on Greek culture and notes on selected panels in the book that help to add further meaning to the story. Aphrodite is published by :01 Books and carries a cover price of $9.99.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Madefire- It's about time you know about it.

 How well is the e-book market for comics doing? What is the market share of downloaded comics versus the number of print copies sold? I don't know. Maybe there is one place you could go to find all of those answers at once, but I haven't searched for it very diligently. What I do know is some of the e-books work to make the experience a little different from the traditional print reading and some don't.
 But there is a company working to take the digital comic experience to the next level. Since 2012 they have garnered rave reviews on their digital format/layout for comics. Some of the stories are originals. Some come form companies like DC and IDW. But they all look amazing when they have been given the Madefire treatment. It must be good when the App Store lists Madefire as one of the Best Apps of 2012, or when USA Today calls the Madefire books "groundbreaking." Madefore has gotten the attention of Wired, Time, The New York Times, MTV Geek, and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. They made major presentations at the New York Comic Con and the San Diego Comic Con.

 Comic artist and writer Liam Sharp introduced me to Motion books through our connection on Deviant Art. I follow him and ask him all kinds of questions, and Liam always very kindly replies with something very helpful or insightful. Liam promised that the motion books by Madefire "are going to be the wave of the future." Liam never has steered me wrong, so a few days later I made sure to check out his own book, Captain Stone is Missing. Beginning with the cover, this was different than what I was used to seeing. The images floated over each other- moving around the screen with the mouse would subtly shift the characters up, down and back and forth creating a 3-D feel. "Opening" the first page brought music and sound effects (Imagine that! The comic comes with its own soundtrack!) and clicking to continue the motion book brought small animations, light effects and changes to other panels that were visible but not yet read. The word balloons didn't always appear at the initial glance of the new page, but moving to each panel would reveal the script, a piece at a time.
 After reading the first installment of Captain Stone I sat back and thought about how this could/would change things and open up new roles in comics. The writer, penciler, inker, colorist, letterer and editor would all still have roles in this new format. But animators and musicians could be part of the team. An editor could get a "motions and effects assistant editor" to help deciding on how to take the static images and make them do something that adds to the story. In the bigger picture I imagine this would take programmers to continue to refine the tools used in these books, but also to create tools  and applications that the creative team could find themselves wanting or needing as they continue to explore the possibilities of motion books.
 And really, from this starting point, anything is possible. Imagine you are reading a Nick Fury story when your cell phone rings. You answer it, and what you hear is someone explaining the details of a dossier you see in the picture but didn't know what was in there. Suddenly, you have access to some of SHIELD's records and they pertain to the story. Or, what if the motion book included a small game that allows you to play out the fight scene to it's victorious conclusion on your tablet? Like that soundtrack on that motion book you purchased? Wouldn't it be great if it could be downloaded to your music list as part of the purchase?
 The ideas just keep coming!
 The only thing motion books haven't captured (no electronic format I know of has to date- correct me if I'm wrong) to date is the ability to be collectible. Print comics can be purchased and physically placed somewhere. They are limited in how many can exist. Their conditions vary, making finding the ones you want for the price and condition you want part of the hunt. Comics collections can move from person to person, whether they are handed down of sold. They have measurable value. But once a digital comic, e-book or motion book is purchased how does one grade the condition, limit the numbers, or find a way to pass them on or sell them?
 Still, Madefire is on to something big here, and I have to agree with Liam- this looks like the wave of the future! Madefire has a free app that allows you to read the books. They also have Facebook and Twitter and can be found on DeviantArt with many previews and some free issues. But check out their web page, www.madefire.com, and see the media buzz, meet the creators, learn about the motion tools and see what is in their growing library.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What to read during the cold snap/ deep freeze? FREE COMICS!

It's the winterpocalypse and if you aren't away from home you probably don't want to go anywhere else (unless you have access to the Bahamas of Hawaii or something like that). So how do you get your fix for pop culture, action adventure, art and humor all while relaxing from the comfort of your chair? Never fear- I have the answer (otherwise, I wouldn't have written this article, right?)!

 There are several blogs that do a good job of posting old stories from the golden and silver ages- and in some cases even, the bronze age- of comics, and then there are those who do it passionately.

 Among those who are passionately involved to the point they are bonafied authorities on their subjects are the following blogs:

Big Glee- It's not about the annoying "high school musical" show on Fox- this blog is about a sincere appreciation for the sweathouse artists of days gone by. Comics illustrator Al Bigley showcases fantastic cover art and pages- many of them unpublished or later revised. Al shows the skill these older artists possesed in drawing, perspective, layout and story telling.

Pappy's Golden Age Blog- I don't know Pappy, but I do know he finds some incredible stories from comics Golden Age to highlight! Finding and reading these stories in print would likely cost you a big chunk of your yearly take-home pay, but Pappy has either scanned or gotten scans from other collectors to give you access to these incredible treasures. In addition, Pappy offers a little insight before the story- either about a theme it shares with other posts, or about the artist or writer, or the publishing company. It makes the reading experience of these stories a richer experience.







Diversions of a Groovy Kind- This blog does for the Bronze Age of Comics what Pappy's does for the Golden Age. Filled with stories, pin-ups and other art from the artists that make that era great, this is a fun blog to keep up with!

Dial B for Blog- Robby is on hiatus until January 23, but his blog is another goldmine of behind the scenes drama that make comics history so full and exciting. Entries usually are posted over several days to fill in all the info he wants to share. Topics include early letterers at DC, the REAL story of how Batman and his world was created, comparisons to characters from opposing companies and so much more. Robbie includes plenty of visuals and his writing style is almost conversational and very funny. Another one worth your time!

 Flashback Universe- Flashback Universe is a kind of retro modern comics site. The free comics to download are all original- original stories and characters- but many of them have their inspiration and/or design pulled from Golden Age characters. The site also discusses trends in comics- it's movement to film, comic stores changing and closing, and the "paper comics deathwatch". The blog alone is worthwhile, but the free stories make this site extra-special!

 There you have it- a great starting point to fill your comics thirst during these freezing times. Enjoy 'em now- thank me later!