Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Raising the Dead

IDW publishing and their reprint imprint YOE is producing some excellent high-quality hardcover comics reprint books. I've already picked up Bob Powell's Terror, and I'm very much looking forward to their Steve Ditko's Monsters, with separate books for both Gorgo and Konga. I can't wait! But like many reprint books, they are sometimes a little tough to squeeze into a guys weekly comics budget, even ones well worth the price. Haunted Horror by IDW is a nice compromise. Reprinting some of the best of 1950's horror comics in a high quality bi-monthly comic format. In the first two issues alone, they've reprinted over a dozen classic horror stories from great fun titles like; Weird Terror, This magazine is Haunted, Baffling Mysteries, Black Magic, Intrigue, Crime Detector, The Beyond, Worlds of Fear, Adventures into Darkness. Some great classic comics, scanned very well, without bleed through. I hate that. If you are going to scan and old comic take the time to put a piece of black board behind the page your scanning!

IDW makes a lot of good choices when it comes to their books, not just their reprints either their new Popeye book is great fun, well written and the art is beautifully retro, while still being crisp and spontaneous. I like their classic Popeye reprint books as well. These books are all printed on white matte finish stock, not glossy. I hate that. The new shiny papers make the old comics colors look garish and vulgar. Haunted Horror has a nice cover stock too, a great deal, an affordable comic, with high-quality reprints, showcasing some of the best of fifties horror comics. Scary!

Check out their whole line of awesome reprint books, at yoebooks.com 

Friday, January 25, 2013



"How long till my soul gets it right
can any human being ever reach that kind of light
I call on the resting soul of galileo
king of night vision, king of insight"

-- Emily Saliers

J. J. Abrams must have done some very good things in a previous lifetime.

The man was given the floundering Star Trek franchise, directed one hell of a reboot, and the highly anticipated sequel due out this May, and now he's just been handed the keys to a galaxy far far away. Word just broke all over the web that he'll be directing the next Star Wars movie. Can one man have that much power and not be tempted by the Dark Side? Sure, why not. He must be the reincarnation of Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi or maybe Jesus himself, to get to play with both these toy-boxes.

It hasn't been a great road for Star Wars fans recently. After some disappointing films, those of us looking for new Star Wars adventures were left with only video games and the only one, but often brilliant Clone Wars TV show. At least Trek fans had seven movies, and six tv series, all running multiple years, even an animated series! And best of all new movies, the bright new future that Abrams so carefully crafted to give the franchise a fresh start and somehow still picked up where the rest left off. But then it happened, the promise of a new Star Wars movie.

Then came the angst.

Would it suck?

Would it suck as bad as the last three?

Ever since the new Star Wars sequel was announced there has been a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of fan voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Relieved that something wonderful has happened. Comforted by the news that J. J. Abrams would be steering the next generation of Star Wars films closer to fine.

As long as they don't do a crossover film.

I know Kirk and crew had their share of omnipotent opponents. Trelaine, Gary Mitchell, Apollo, Charlie X, even Picard had Q. But I don't see them surviving Darth Vader and the Empire, even with some help from the Yoda and friends. But I could be wrong, what do you think...

Continue the discussion on the League Boards

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Indy Hunter:

I’m the InDiY Hunter and welcome to our first interview of 2013! Today we have Nix  Publisher, Editor, Writer, aka  Indie-Man O’ Mighty  Ken Eppstein with us! 

IH: You ready to mix-it-up-a lot sir?

KE: You may fire when ready, Gridley

IH: ...What do you call your style of Kung-fu? What would you prescribe this growth to?

KE: Rufus Thomas taught me "Monkey doing the Dog" style Kung-Fu.  Its the funkiest Kung Fu.

As to the growth... Well I'd say its a little illusory.  My second full year of publishing and Nix Comics still 90% me writing a bunch of stories, hiring on artists and hustling for placement and promotion.  Y'know... I work hard at that, and combined with a wonderfully ardent but actually small fan base, it gives the illusion that I'm a bigger publisher than I actually am. 

Real growth is a slow build... Convincing people outside of the small but ardent audience I already have that Nix Comics is worth their time and money.  

IH: ...Looking back at issue no.1, when it finally went to press to now the impending debut of issue 5. How does it feel?

KE: Oh gosh... I've been so busy the past couple of years with it all that I can't honestly put a single single feeling towards it.  Every comic I put out is an emotional roller coaster...  Anticipation as I wait in line for the ride and board my car and start out on that first incline, followed by the sick to your stomach thrill of taking the ensuing plunges and loops followed by new anticipation as I get back in line again.

IH: You’ve expanded your efforts to other genres, other demographics. What was the motivation behind the scenes?

KE: Well, first off, Nix Comics is still at it's core a vanity press.  I make the comics that excite me personally.  Before starting Nix, it had been literally years since I had been in a comic shop.  The gravity of the new material being made simply wasn't enough to draw me in.  The genres I tackle and the style I write in are a direct response to what I feel is lacking in the modern comic scene.  (So... It's an ego stroke as opposed to some sort of business plan)

Fortunately for me, that aspect of vanity matches up with decent business planning strategy.  I see a lot of gaps in the genres getting being represented in modern comics and lots of potential markets for comic books being untapped, and Nix Comics is ready to fill the gaps and reach out to those markets.

IH: What is a day like for Ken the writer, take us through that please.

KE: I hate this kind of question.  It exposes how I butterfly about in my writing practices.  Most writers I know have a schedule and style of working that they stick to dogmatically....   For me it tends to be pretty free-form. Sometimes a scene comes to me and I build a whole story around that.  Sometimes a whole plot unfolds in my mind and I write out a whole story in prose before breaking it down into script elements.  Other times I have a social issues I want to address and I have to work hard to put a framework around it.  I do a lot of focused free writing, where I just put down on paper or a google doc every brain snippet I can on a particular subject/genre.

When I'm on somebody else's dime (Like the Astonishing tech tales comic I did for a local IT services provider) I come at things a little more formally.  I outline and thumbnail the comic, I draft the script and go through at least three iterations of rewriting and refinement... Looking at both story telling elements and making sure I'm providing a clear blueprint for the artist.

IH: Out of all your scripts, which story would you say jazzed you up the most?

KE: Oh man.... You want me to pick a favorite child?  My favorite is actually a script that I've been fishing around for publication outside of Nix Comics... Another western titled "The Six Guns Of The Widow Boylan."  The basic premise is a rough and tumble Boston-Irish girl, who was raised by her father (a policeman) to be able to hold her own in a man's world is widowed as she and her husband attempt to start a new life homesteading in the west after the great fire of Boston.  It was an idea that took off on me as I was writing Nix Western Comics #1.

Of the Nix stories, probably my favorite is still the very first.  "The Devil and Ellis Church" was the one that i I enjoyed writing the most because it was as fairly simple devil story, but I managed to communicate my subtext so well.  Half of my friends who own independent record labels asked if I relaized that i was comparing them to satan hisself.  Ummmmm... 'Fraid so, but I still love ya guys!

IH: As of right now, You're the only writer on Nix Comics, do you see it staying that way for the foreseeable future?

KE: Not exactly true.  Rachel Deering, Dustin Goebel, and Patrick Roach have contributed stories to the quarterly.  James Moore from Two headed Monster has one in Issue #5 and I've been talking to Jamie Gambell from Monkey pipe studios about a story in #6.

IH: Any plans to expand roles in the Nix Bullpen? 

KE: Desire?  yes.  Plans? No.  Things need to take off more before I can start making those kinds of promises.

IH: If so what would you look for in a fellow-creator?

KE: Oh... you know....  Its like pornography.  i'll know it when I see it.

IH:  Do you think there’s any strategy to scheduling a kickstarter or heavy publishing run?

KE: Sure.  Of course there is.  There's always strategy to sales regardless of the venue.

If I can presume a little, I'm guessing that your question is a way to gingerly approach the fact that my recent "Big Ask" kickstarter didn't reach its goal. Directly to your question... Yes, I think that between the election, thanksgiving/the beginning of holiday shopping and the less predictable things like the tragedy of what happened on the east coast with Hurricane Sandy, I could have made a better choice of when to run the campaign.  I actually had considered a  lot of that, but part of my strategy was to have the campaign up and running for New York Comic Con, thinking I'd get a good starting boost from that crowd.  Which didn't happen.

That said, timing wasn't the only issue with the campaign.

The ambitious nature of the ask worked against me.  I know I talked to a lot of people who told me that they wouldn't pledge because I wasn't likely to meet my goal. That's a little perplexing to me... especially given how many of them were from Ohio and Cleveland Browns and Indians fans....  But there it was.

Mostly I was victim to that illusory feeling of growth I hit on in your first question.  I knew I had a following, but I didn't know how it would translate into actual capital at this point.  When I looked at kickstarters that made money in the range that I was asking for, the one thing that seemed to be the difference was great word of mouth... Or I guess Social Media virality.  The one question I didn't feel like I had the answer for at the start of the "Big Ask" was "How much buzz could Nix and its loyalists generate?"  Not enough, it turns out.

Fact of the matter is that asking for money is a tough deal.  You'll be turned down more often than taken up.  The important thing is to look past the obstacles and at the potential rewards.
IH: What was New York Comic Con like for you?

KE: It was a lot of fun.  Not super much my crowd, but it was nice to see so many people gathered in one place, having a good time and doing their own thing.  I kinda wish I had splurged for a full table because the exhibitors on either side of me had huge displays of anime/manga related stuff and it was hard for people to see me and my little devil comics squeezed in between them.

IH: But if they had pledge you would've been closer or have met that goal? Strange how that works.

KE: Yeah, I guess its a psychological disconnect.  Thing is, at this point I don't want to do kickstarter for anything less than a grandiose idea.  I could break it up into a bunch of smaller kickstarters, but then I feel like I'd be leaning too much on a third party resource as a major part of my business plan.  I feel like if I'm going to grind things out the hard way, I might as well throw away the crutches.

IH: Do you plan on moving out out of Ohio?

KE: Are you kidding me?  Columbus is going to be the next big comic mecca.  We already have one of the more venerated on going small press conventions in SPACE, we have the biggest collection of cartoon material in the world at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library at Ohio state and the rent is cheap!  We're only a stones throw away from all of the other great cons and resources on the east coast and the midwest.  Plus, Columbus is one of the key test markets in the country.  I love it here!

IH: Lastly where can people find you and Nix Comics? Websites, twitter, any other social media where they can follow the adventures of Boy Howdy and Ken Eppstein?

Thanks Ken!

-InDiy Hunter


Friday, January 11, 2013

Purple reign

I've recently become addicted to Netflix. So many shows and movies, so little time. One little gem I had missed when it was originally run on SY-FY channel, was a Phantom mini-series designed as a pilot for a regular series for a new Phantom.

The modern updating worked very nicely I thought, and the actors were pretty good, the love interest was a cutie, and the show had one or two good performances, some fun villains, and a tough mentor, but the new female version of Guran, the Phantom's right hand, was hauntingly sad, and conflicted. A surprising and interesting portrayal. I thought I saw a great deal of depth to mine later in a series. They set up a series very nicely. A fun interpretation of The  Phantom, with only a few glaring flaws and some of those things might have been fixed over time or with a bigger budget if it got the go ahead for more episodes. Compared to some of the crap SYFY actually runs with anyway, anyone remember the two seasons of SYFY's Flash Gordon remake were the Hawkmen, didn't so much have wings, as they were more an interpretive dance troupe?

The lead actor was maybe too small. In both stature and presence. And some of the special effects. The exterior skull cave set looked like a bad episode of Monster House, working with a tiny yard on a semi-detached town-home, leaving several scenes looking like a high-shool play. Scenes that needed gravitas, came across small and claustrophobic. The cave interior was fine. Maybe if they hadn't tried to build it all into one set.  Maybe a nice matte painting for the skull cave? and actual location shots for the tribal scenes may have worked better.

And the Phantom costume itself was to bulky, especially the helmet, it looked very odd on screen. Even with a taller actor it would have looked odd. Trim down the head-piece a bit, maybe even trade a domino mask for the Centauran sized helmet and they would have been okay with the actor.

But even with the few embarrassing special effects flaws it's worth seeing, if you're a fan of the genre, The Phantom, superheroes or even just old comics.

Though there are better cinematic Phantoms to be found.

I would recommend the 1990 theatrical film starring, Billy Zane, Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, James Remar, Treat Williams and Patrick McGoohan. It's rare to see such an accurate adaptation of a comic strip character made with such great care. Both the portrayal of the characters and the storyline follow closely to the old newspaper strips. Yes it's simple, and two-dimmesional, full of gross caricatures, but it's fun, cartooney adventure that takes place in that over-simplified world many films attempt to emulate, but few films succeed at. Films like The Rocketeer or Alec Baldwin's The Shadow.

And if you are a true Phantom fan, you'll need to check out Phantom 2040. It's an animated series that was a half hour Saturday morning cartoon. It extrapolates the "Ghost who walks" into a future generation. Directed by Peter Chung, it has that same eerie style as Aeon Flux, and a really cool theme. Like the SYFY channel's version the lead character is unaware of his legacy and much of the story is his spent playing personal history detective. But unlike the SYFY Channel film, Phantom 2040 has richly designed visuals, with a fully developed future architecture, well developed and designed characters, creepy villains, and a cool new updated Phantom with a rich history and infrastructure, all living in bizarrely unique settings, but all in a strange and quirky dystopian future.

Netflix only has the multi-episode pilot movie at this time, but keep your eyes open for the rest of the show. It ran for two-seasons in syndication.

And please join the discussion at the League discussion boards...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

De mortuis, and all that

The saddest song ever written, is "The Streets of Laredo." In one version of the song, the dead cowboy gives instructions on what to tell his mother, "Please not one word of the man who had killed me, don't mention his name and his name will pass on." One of the many reasons to not speak ill of the dead.

One of the main reasons we started The League message boards, was trolls mucking up a memorial thread at another message board with unsubstantiated bile. Many of us were only trying to pay tribute to Joe Kubert at the time of his passing. When the resident sad, lonely troll who never achieved anything in his own life, came in wanting attention again, and felt it was an appropriate time and place to introduce unsubstantiated accusations and speculation of fraud and malfeasance. He got what he wanted, what all internet trolls want, a lot of fuss and bother.

Many of the people who are now members of The League, went on record there, arguing that a memorial announcement was a space for people to mourn, and criticism should be posted elsewhere out of respect.

We never said there was no place for such opinions, just that it would be suited to a separate discussion. That being said,  anyone who might be inclined to post a memorial thread should feel free to do so. Not that I'm expecting anyone to do so. Mr. Olney has made quite a career of making enemies, as well as making an ass of himself. For many, he will not be missed, but for his family we wish them peace, and sympathy for their loss.

Below is an excerpt from a eulogy for Mr. Olney written by one of the League's founding members, Alex Ness (originally published at the poplitiko blog).

"I understand that it is bad form to speak ill of the recent dead.   So I will leave his death be viewed as what it is, a human passing from the planet.

But in the comic world almost no one over the last 10 years who visited comic book message boards would not have heard or saw or participated in the fights and arguments and debates caused by this man.

I had my own experiences which I will keep to myself, other than to say he caused much frustration in my life, and I've forgiven him for it.

But here is a fellow owing many people and the small community of comics rose up to be outraged and tried to stop him from screwing and thus owing money to anyone else.   He will be remembered for this, but there are many many many more shysters in comics than Richard Olney, and many are far worse.

The point?

Well I think comics are too small for most people to care much about, but the creative community in  the comic book world is filled with stories of creators being robbed, with friends betraying one another, and with publishers absolutely screwing over people.

I have signed contracts with four publishers of comics in my life.  Only one fulfilled its obligations, and has been above board and moral."

Alex Ness, Sunday, December 30, 2012

Read the Poetry of Alex Ness at his blog, Alex Ness Poetry

And join the discussion at the League discussion boards...