INTERVIEW: NSFW and Spoilers – Eisner Nominated Jason Shiga Talks About “Demon”

INTERVIEW: NSFW and Spoilers – Eisner Nominated Jason Shiga Talks About “Demon”

DEMONvol1RGBHilarious in execution, serious in subject matter, irreverent to human life, and an homage to various science fiction tropes; This only scratches the surface of what comprises Demon. Broken up into four books, this lengthy comic by writer and artist Jason Shiga and published by First Second touches on everything from scientific imaginings to questions of morality, all with a pinch of “Quentin Tarantino-esque” violence. The violent work that is Demon has been nominated for an Eisner award at next week’s San Diego Comic-Con. In a recent interview with Jason Shiga, who just last year moved from the states to France, I couldn’t hold back my plethora of questions regarding his work. Warning for all you readers, mature subject matter and spoilers ahead!

I just binged on all four of the Demon books. My first thought after my brain finished processing what I had just read were, “…Wow…”, followed by, “How did the author get anyone to publish this comic-insanity?” I guess my first real question is, what was it like, this journey from conception, to comic, to book?

Shiga: I assumed out of the gate that Demon would likely never be published. But instead of trying to make it “more-friendly” to publishers, I wanted to double down and make something even more unpublishable in both form and content. This includes varying issue sizes, from 4 pages to 60 pages, having an all-black issue and of course the depraved content which we’ll talk about later. The plan was that I’d release it as a series of self-printed minicomics over the course of 2 years, then call it a day.

How long did it take until all four books were finally out?

Shiga: It took 5 years all together to write pencil and draw but I don’t like keeping folks waiting for too long. I always think about that time between Eightball 19 and 20 when that bullet was just floating in the air for a year. The minicomics were monthly over a two-year period. The First Second collections come out every 4 months so it’s literally just a year to get all 4 volumes.

How did it come about that First Second would publish Demon? Did they have specific stipulations regarding the comic?

Shiga: None! Everyone at First Second was eager to follow me down this dark path. It’s still hard for me to believe that Demon is being put out by the publishers of Zita Space Girl. But it happened.

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Jason Shiga: Artist and Author of “Demon”

In what was basically the forward of the first book, you warned readers of the craziness that they would soon find. What was your motivation for the insane amounts of bloodshed and dark humor, sprinkled with “cum-knives” and camel sex.

Shiga: I like to think it isn’t all just shock for shock sake. I really did want to suggest a serious a philosophical theory about what makes for a meaningful life. It just so happened that I felt the hedonic treadmill was best represented visually by camel sex.

Did you find yourself going nearly as crazy as your main character during this project?

Shiga: I don’t think Jimmy is crazy in the story. I think everything he does is based on bedrock priors followed by airtight logical deductions. Even the cum knife.

I would really love to know what some of your influences have been, on this project and your other work.

Shiga: I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie, especially when it comes to sci-fi paperbacks. The observant reader will notice everything from Rudy Rucker to HF Saint’s “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” worked its way into the story. Of course, in terms of comics the biggest influence would be Death Note.

The art style definitely helped to remind that none of the book was to be taken seriously. Was it a choice made particularly for the comic or just your style in general?

Shiga: I’d like to say it was intentional, but that’s just the way I draw.

Last year you moved to France. How has the transition been for you and your family?

Shiga: It’s been wonderful! I was invited by the “Maison Des Auteurs” for a yearlong residency to work on whatever I wanted with complete freedom!!! It was very liberating to just forget about what publishers or even readers would want and work on a complete moonshot comic. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.

What prompted you to write about issues like suicide, mass homicide, demon possession, and mathematics?

Shiga: Well they say write what you know.
What reactions have you gotten over Demon?

Shiga: I’ve been abroad for the year so I’ve really only talked with my French readers. If France is any indication though, I think the reaction has been good so far.

How does it feel to be nominated for an Eisner Award at San Diego Comic-Con?

Shiga: It’s a great honor! I’m sad I won’t be able to attend the awards this year mostly because I would have loved to meet the other cartoonists in my category such as Charles Burns, Dame Darcey, Dylan Horrocks and Tom Hart who were some of my biggest influences when I was starting out.

What can you possible do next to top Demon?

Shiga: I’m working on a 600-page interactive comic with an automated memory system that unfolds into a cube.

Any regrets over things you wished you included or didn’t include in the comic?

Shiga: I wish there was some way to include all the crazy letters pages from the mini comics (like the one from a guy who said he tried to create his own cum knife but it didn’t work), but I guess that’s part of the ephemeral beauty of reading the story in minicomic form.

It’s too bad you weren’t able to attend Comic-Con this year, but good luck at the Eisners!

Shiga: Thanks! I’m returning to the States July 23, literally the final day of Comic-Con! Rotten timing but happy to have the extra time in France.

 

SDCC ’17: This Year’s Exclusive Collectibles and Merchandise to Watch Out For

SDCC ’17: This Year’s Exclusive Collectibles and Merchandise to Watch Out For

Forget about all that there is to see at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, what about all that there is to buy? Prepare to shout at unsuspecting vendors “Shut up and take my money” (which The Beat doesn’t condone) after you see some of these standouts among the piles of convention exclusives.

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Gold Variant Rick Figure

Just about everyone is still foaming at the mouth over Rick and Morty, who are returning to the airwaves with fresh content soon. Marking season 3’s July 30th premiere, Loot Crate will be a releasing a gold variant Rick and Morty figure, exclusively manufactured for them. You won’t have to worry about getting this golden “bad-grandpa” with purchase of a crate, selling for $20 by itself, but make sure you visit the Loot Crate booth at #3635 as supplies will be limited.

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POP! Marvel: Wolverine – X-23

Toys-R-Us, the company that had us as kids collectively telling ourselves “I’m a Toys-R-Us kid”, will feature a full-list of convention exclusives available at the Entertainment Earth booth, #2343. Of them, this Funko Pop! vinyl of the “X-23”, stands out as a must for collectors. The cloned daughter of X-Men’s Wolverine comes garbed in his classic yellow and blue jumpsuit, reminiscent of the classic 90’s cartoon.

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Transformers Masterpiece Optimus Prime

Yet another must have collectible from Toys-R-Us and Entertainment Earth will be the Transformers “Masterpiece Optimus Prime.” It’s a MP10 variant, taking its color from the original Transformers: Generation 1 animated series, that any Transformers enthusiast would love to call their own. Produced by Hasbro, this highly detailed figure comes with poseable fingers, stands at 9.5 inches in robot mode, transformers to truck mode in 24 steps, and comes with accessories such as: Orange Energy Axe, Spike Witwicky figure, Ion Blaster Rifle, Roller Unit, trailer that converts into a battle station and repair bay, and a mostly die cast Matrix of Leadership with a gem-like center that can be carried in the Optimus’ chest.

It wouldn’t be a collectibles list if the Funko booth weren’t on it. Before I get into some of my favorite Funko exclusives for this year’s SCDD, I must warn all you eager buyers that they will be handling the sales of their product differently this year. All who wish to purchase at their booth must line up first thing in the morning at the “Badged Member entry line,” attendee and professional badges allowed only, to enter in a raffle for a CHANCE to get one (1) wrist band per person that gives permission to purchase for that day. The line might even start as early as 6 AM! If you’re still with me here, then continue reading.

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POP! Star Wars: Holographic Princess Leia & R2-D2

Star Wars is definitely dominating the collectibles sales for San Diego Comic-Con this year. A throw-back to the original movie, or fourth for some of you, this double-pack “POP! Star Wars: Holographic Princess Leia & R2-D2” will be an awesome purchase. It also is a wonderful nod to Carrie Fisher, who will have a tribute panel in her honor at this year’s convention as well.

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POP! Movies: Suicide Squad – Joker Batman

What do you get when you put Jared Leto’s Jocker into a blender with Batman? You get “POP! Movies: Suicide Squad – Joker Batman” of course! This POP! character uses the standard Batman design, covered in variant green and purple colors, complete with graffiti and the Joker’s iconic smile.

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POP! Heroes: Blue Chrome Batman (Toy Tokyo)

As we can’t get enough of variant colors and anything shiny, this “POP! Heroes: Blue Chrome Batman (Toy Tokyo)” will have you feeling like you’ve just pimped out your car. Instead, it was Funko that pimped out Batman. Why they didn’t have this look in the WONDERFUL Batman & Robin movie, we will never know.

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POP! Power Rangers – 6” Megazord

Undoubtedly one of the most wanted POP! figures at Comic-Con this year is this “POP! Power Rangers – 6” Megazord.” This “6-inch Supersized POP” figure is the original Power Rangers’ season 1 megazord, the one that was stuck prominently in our minds as kids and has followed us into adulthood. The oversized POP head isn’t to scale of course, but it oddly works. Whether you’re a Power Rangers fan, POP fan or just a collector, this is the one to look out for this year.

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POP! Television: Twin Peaks – Black Lodge Cooper and Laura 2-pack

Lastly for my Funko highlights, I offer up this “POP! Television: Twin Peaks – Black Lodge Cooper and Laura 2-pack.” More as a reference to the end of the original series instead of the returned version of Twin Peaks, this couple deliver in nostalgia, chills, and of course confusing storyline.

Powdered Toast Man
Kidrobot Exclusive Powdered Toast Man, ‘Wheat’ Edition

 

The return of iconic 90’s cartoon shows such as Rocko’s Modern Life and Hey Arnold! in movie form is but a testament to how those who were kids in that era had it made. Those same shows that filled our Saturday mornings or school day evenings forever live in our minds to this day. For some of us, they also live on our collector’s shelves. Nickelodeon, the network that collectively controlled our watching habits at one point is banking on this. An example is this “Kidrobot Exclusive Powdered Toast Man, ‘Wheat’ Edition,” originating from the outrageous animation that was The Ren & Stimpy Show. Standing at 8” tall, this super hero that is both man and toast is priced at $50 and located at the Nickelodeon booth #4113.

Avatar Aang
Zwyer Exclusive Avatar Aang Chibified Character

As we will never get enough of the original Avatar series, Nickelodeon will be offering this “Zwyer Exclusive Avatar Aang Chibified Character” in ultra-retro “Sephia” tone, a means to pay homage to past SDCC exclusive Avatar prints. This little guy will cost you $25.

Hey Arnold
Just Play Hey Arnold! Bean Plush Friends

If you’re going to be one of those to see the Hey Arnold! movie, then you’ll for sure want to snag these plushies of Arnold, Gerald and Helga. The “Just Play Hey Arnold! Bean Plush Friends” can also be found at the Nickelodeon booth, priced at $10 per plush.

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Stan Lee’s God Woke Signature Edition Graphic Novel

Toys are not the only merchandise to look out for at Comic-Con. Factory Entertainment is currently taking pre-orders of it’s Comic-Con exclusive “Stan Lee’s God Woke Signature Edition Graphic Novel.” The 120-page full color book is hand signed by Fabian Nicieza, Mariano Nicieza, John Herbert, and of course Stan Lee. The book follows both humanity’s and God’s search for meaning, all of which told using insightful understanding of character that was synonymous with the “Silver Age” of comics. Of the 100 limited copies that don’t get sold during the convention, they will be available for purchase at FactoryEnt.com.

It’s impossible to list all the exclusives that San Diego Comic-Con has to offer. That said, be sure to check out the official Comic-Con.org website for a list of all the vendors and highlighted merchandise, and stay tuned to The Beat’s Twitter and Instagram feeds as we’ll be posting live from the convention and sales floor.

 

SDCC ’17: No Parking? Try These Alternate Modes of Transportations for the Convention and Downtown

SDCC ’17: No Parking? Try These Alternate Modes of Transportations for the Convention and Downtown

If you have a vehicle, my first suggestion would be to either: A) Make sure your hotel comes with complementary parking, or B) Don’t bring your vehicle at all. Not to say that there isn’t parking to be had near San Diego Comic-Con, as every couple of blocks through downtown you’ll run across the likes of ABM, LAZ or Ace parking lots, but for a low cost or no cost at all, *polite chuckling*, good luck there. Even if you are willing to pay the price much like the amount of shekels you’ve already dropped on convention tickets and a hotel room, the lots typically fill up fast. Ultimately, unless you’ve booked your parking ahead of time in the same sort of lottery fashion that SDCC tickets do, you’ll be sans car during your convention experience.

The likes of Uber, Lyft and various cab companies are always available, but again you’ll  have to be prepared to pay up as you’ll definitely see an increase in fare during SDCC. Pedicabs can be a fun way to get around, but they too can suffer from SDCC increases, not to mention becoming inducers for cardiac arrest as they weave through streets and sidewalks. So, what are you to do instead? I’m glad you asked. Here are five alternative modes of transportation that not too many consider or know about, even locals.

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This year’s Conan Advertisement for Comic-Con one of the MTS Trolleys
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Discount Comic-Con Trolley Passes (Courtesy of the MTS website)

Trolley: San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) services anywhere from downtown, to Lemon Grove, to Santee, and even to San Ysidro near the Mexican border. This is perfect if you’re staying somewhere in downtown or in a neighboring area, complete with a stop just across the street from the Convention Center. Pickup times are typically every fifteen-minutes and vehicles are ADA compliant. True, this one does get a lot of use, but it is only in recent years that the idea of using them caught on. Special Comic-Con themed discount passes are also available at the MTS Store or at select Trolley stations during the convention. Just be prepared for crowding with every stop up to the Convention Center.

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Shuttle Buses: A staple for many years of the convention, shuttle buses operate for all five-days of the convention (which includes preview night). Depending on time of day, their frequency of pickup alternates between fifteen to thirty-minutes. They drop off right in front of the Convention Center, which is both convenient and inconvenient, as it adds to the already congested scene outside. For a full schedule of times and pickup locations, visit www.comic-con.org/sites/default/files/forms/cci2017_shuttlesched.pdf.

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DecoBikes: Unlike the pedicabs that look like rickshaws pulled by thick-thighed men and women, DecoBikes are a service that allow individuals to rent their own bicycles all throughout downtown San Diego. In partnership with the City of San Diego, standalone DecoBike stations are located just about everywhere downtown, offering bike rentals by the hour or more through their automated self-service station. When done, they can be returned to any other station. Though most people won’t be looking for this type of transportation to and from the convention, it offers a fun escape from SDCC and an alternative when wanting to explore more of what downtown offers. Prices can range from $5 for half-an-hour, $7 for one-hour, and $12 dollars for two-hours. For a map of their many locations and more information on their pricing, visit www.decobike.com/sandiego.

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FRED: No, I’m not suggesting you play horsey with an unfortunate gentleman named Fred. The Free Ride (nick named “FRED”) is a small, electric-powered shuttle that you request in the same way you would an Uber or Lyft. It will pick you up and drop you off anywhere along its pre-determined route. What’s the cost? It’s FREE! The catch is you’ll have to bear with a few extra pickups along at the way and sit in a tram covered in advertisements, but the cost and convenience greatly makes up for it. Hours slightly vary per day, with them taking pickups on Fridays and Saturdays up until 12 PM and 9 PM on every other day. This is definitely a downtown secret that not even too many locals know about. Download their app for your smartphone through their website and check out their map of pickup locations at www.thefreeride.com/san-diego.php.

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Harbor Drive Shuttle: Operating for a sixth season, the Harbor Drive Shuttle is a promotional service held on behalf of the Port of San Diego and managed by Ace Parking that runs seven days a week, 10 AM to 10 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10 AM to 8 PM on Sundays through Thursdays. Those using the service who have parked at the San Diego Convention Center or Hilton Bayfront Ace Parking garages can get a discounted ticket costing $1 if they show their parking receipt. Up to four people per receipt can get this discounted price. For those who haven’t parked in those lots, the regular rate is $3 per person for unlimited, all-day rides. Pickup times run about every twenty minutes and stops include: Sheraton Hotel and Marina, Maritime Museum, Marriott Springhill Suites/Residence Inn Bayfront, USS Midway Museum, Seaport Village, Manchester Grand Hyatt, Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge, and the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina located right next to the Convention Center. Tickets can be purchased from six out of the eight pickup locations listed or from the shuttle drivers themselves.

If you’re one of those who still insist on driving themselves to and from the convention, websites like http://www.parkingpanda.com or sandiego.bestparking.com can lend a helping hand with finding nearby, available parking, leaving more free time to worry about San Diego Comic-Con itself.

“San Diego Comic-Con Staying Until 2021” Says Mayor Kevin Faulconer

“San Diego Comic-Con Staying Until 2021” Says Mayor Kevin Faulconer

 

Yesterday morning, outside of legendary Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced that the San Diego Comic-Con will be staying in the city through 2021. The San Diego mayor was accompanied by Tourism Authority CEO Joe Terzi, Convention Center CEO Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe, Comic-Con International’s Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer and others as he broke the news in a press conference. He thanked Glanzer and his group for coming to this agreement, as well as reminding the collected press of Comic-Con’s importance for San Diego. “San Diego has always been the proud home of Comic-Con and we are extremely pleased that we can carry on that tradition of being the destination for the world’s premier celebration of the popular arts,” said Mayor Faulconer. “San Diegans can be excited to know that Comic-Con will continue to pump millions of dollars into our economy to support local jobs, street repair and neighborhood services.”

Three-years longer than the originally slated 2018 date, this news comes as both a cause for celebration and a source of prolonged aggravation for fans and convention goers. As the mayor of San Diego went on further to say, “It is more important than ever that we continue to push the [expansion on] the convention center so we can ensure Comic-Con and other large conventions continue to stay in San Diego for years to come.” It has been common knowledge for a great while that Comic-Con International has outgrown the confines of the San Diego Convention Center, pushing big names such as Nintendo and Marvel to use banquet space in the surrounding hotels. Not only that, but Comic-Con must turn away droves of potential vendors, as they don’t have the space to accommodate them either.

The “simple” solution of expanding the Convention Center has been in talks for many years now, ranging from the logistics of the expansion, to lawsuits, and to how it will be paid for. One example of such expansion struggles is when ballot measures in November of last year calling for increased hotel taxes to fund the expansion failed to pass. There seems to be no end in sight yet to the struggle.

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David Glanzer, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer for Comic-Con International

With the difficulties of reaching a convention solution, Comic-Con International has opened their minds to the idea of moving to other cities. Hearkening back to a small press gathering of this last April’s Anaheim Wondercon, CCI’s David Glanzer said that, “Home base is San Diego, but that doesn’t lock us in… An expansion [of the Convention Center] for just Comic-Con doesn’t seem plausible.” Cities such as Anaheim and Los Angeles have thrown their hats into the ring, trying to lure Comic-Con their way. Due to scheduling conflict last year, Wondercon had to temporarily relocate to Los Angeles, away from the Anaheim Convention Center which played host for the three previous years. As Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a press conference at the start of that convention: “L.A. was the hub of creativity and deserved such an event as this.” Most likely, Mayor Garcetti was using Wondercon as a proving point that they can handle Comic-Con in the future.

For now, the new 2021 date gives more time for San Diegans to enjoy everything that the convention brings to the city, as well as gives more time for city officials to hopefully figure out a viable solution surrounding the Convention Center and its expansion. As for us Comic-Con fans, it’s not hard to feel however that the extension is more like a reprieve from a scheduled execution.

Valiant Entertainment’s CEO and Editor in Chief Discuss Claims Against Independent Status at Valiant Summit

Valiant Entertainment’s CEO and Editor in Chief Discuss Claims Against Independent Status at Valiant Summit
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Warren Simons and Dinesh Shamdasani

Last Monday, Valiant Entertainment held their 3rd annual Valiant Summit, where they teased and celebrated some of their most exciting titles for the ongoing year. Proudly, the company boasted of the success with their X-O Manowar #1: Soldier comic, which as of that day had sold more than 90,000 copies. Valiant claimed this a record for them: “the bestselling single issue by an independent publisher.” This claim hasn’t gone with without argument, as many question Valiant’s “independent” status. I met with Valiant’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Dinesh Shamdasani, and Editor in Chief, Warren Simons after the summit and asked them to respond to the claims made against them.

Dinesh: I think we’re a 100-percent independent, in the sense that we’re not owned by a giant conglomerate. It’s very different when, for us, we have to live with the idea that we not only have to fight Marvel and DC, but Disney and Warner Brothers as well.

Warren: We are an indeed an independent publisher. Every single month we put out a book and that book competes with Disney, and it competes with Warner… Listen, we have friends who work at those buildings, who write for them and work for them. But at the end of the day make no mistake about it, they’d take us out back and put two in the back of our heads.

Dinesh: And they have a swat team to do it.

Warren: And a tank, and a C130 cargo plane, and a nuclear missile in the ground if it calls on it. What we got? A couple of switchblades.

Dinesh: Not even, dude. We got a couple of sporks.

Warren: We have a prison spork that we’ve melted down and folded over.

Dinesh: A “spork-shank.”

Warren: So yes, we are unquestionably an independent publisher.

Dinesh: But I love whoever thinks we’re not independent, because that means we are doing a very good job of projecting strength and getting our licks in.

Warren: And one of the benefits of this is that one of the only pressures that we have is storytelling and that’s really one of the great benefits. Now that pressure in of itself is not an easy one, as either of us can attest to, but there’s no, “We need to make it for this quarter… We to make this for this movie…” All there is, is just “Tell a good story.” And that’s really one of the foundational elements of our success.

This also brings up another contentious claim by other detractors, who feel that Valiant is only putting on a front when they say that storytelling comes second to sales numbers. When further asked about this, the two men stood by their statements, reinforcing that the story is what truly matters to valiant, and that not every book has the power to reach extravagant sales numbers like X-O Manowar.

Warren: I’d say we always hope for the best, but again if that’s the high-point of our year, awesome. Amazing job to the entire team for getting that done… But I like I do say every year, “The best is yet to come.” We’re very proud of what we’ve done in the past, but we’re not content to put our feet up and just say, “Great job! That’s it!” We’re trying to constantly beat that and do better than the last month.

Dinesh: It will 100-percent be the biggest book that we publish this year for the simple fact that numbers are primary goal. Will it be the best book that we publish this year? I think it will be among them. I think it’s a fantastic 10 out of 10 book, but I think a lot of the books that we talked about today and some of the others that we haven’t talked about yet that we’ve got planned will be fantastic works too. For us it’s about what’s the optimum case for each book. X-O is a flashy character for us who wanted to be a “big-big” launch and get as many people as we could to read it. Even here today I’ve met a bunch of retailers, who a few said they’ve been selling out of DC and Marvel trades because of X-O.

Warren: I just had a retailer thank me for the story of X-O because it didn’t seem to drag, and it didn’t seem rushed, and we took our time with it. It’s great to hear that kind of feedback.

It’s obvious that these two men are passionate about what Valiant does and what it stands for, showing why they are in the positions that they are in with the company. With a few more hopeful words, Warren and Dinesh had this to part with:

Dinesh: That’s the benefit of not having a giant conglomerate on your back or why we’re independent, so we don’t have to make everything sell 90,000 units. It can be what it needs to be, what it’s built to be.

Warren: That just means that it’s a little, organic book that people read and they like it, and then they go back and they pick it up and word of mouth spreads. And that’s what we’re striving for. We’re just trying for when you put a Valiant book down, you’re saying, “That was well worth it. Let me go get the next one.” That’s really what our goal is every time.

Valiant Summit ‘17: The “Little Comic Company That Could” Boasts of Record and More

Valiant Summit ‘17: The “Little Comic Company That Could” Boasts of Record and More
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Hunter Gorinson, VP of Marketing and Communications

2017 has brought about the 3rd annual “Valiant Summit,” where Valiant Entertainment teases some of the titles they are most excited to release in the ongoing year. Valiant is one of those independent comic companies that prides themselves more about the quality of work and the amount of dedication that goes into every book, rather than the rise and fall of sales figures. Don’t go thinking that I’m claiming they don’t care about sales. Any company that wants to stick around for the long haul does, but they don’t let numbers dictate what they feel makes a great story.

IMG_20170417_102737This year, the Valiant Summit was hosted by the guys at Hyper RPG, in the bowels of Los Angeles, California. Delivering the goods were Valiant’s CEO & Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani and Editor in Chief Warren Simons. Also, playing as moderator was Valiant’s own Hunter Gorinson, VP of Marketing and Communications. The three opened the summit with the announcement that their X-O Manowar #1 comic had just hit more than 90,000 copies sold. “X-O Manowar just launched this last March 22nd, and since has become the best-selling single comic issue by an independent company!”

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At this announcement, Matt Kindt, New York Times best-selling writer and writer for X-O Manowar, joined the Valiant crew and talked of this new series. “Aric has just been one of those characters that I was excited to work with,” he said. “Getting him back in ‘Barbarian-mode’ was one of my favorite things… Then getting him into an alien planet that felt real, has its own histories and peoples that we hadn’t seen before…We built this new world from the ground up.” For Kindt, he has major plans in the works for the character of Aric. As the first issue came with the word “Soldier” underneath the main title, it was revealed that the writer intends the character to rise up the ranks of this alien world throughout the series, eventually gaining the title of “Emperor.” “It’s going to be really interesting to see his evolution of character.” Looking ahead, Kindt reveals that there will be a separate story in issue #10 of X-O Manowar entitled “Bounty Hunter,” following a collection of alien bounty hunters. The story will also provide extra character development for Aric of Dacia in his storyline progression to the role of Emperor. This issue will release in December of 2017.

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Continuing with the writing talents of Matt Kindt, another new comic named “Rapture #1” will bring together both the recognizable characters of Ninjak and Shadowman. “This is going to be The Lord of the Rings for the Valiant Universe,” said Kindt of his new Rapture series. Of what Dinesh, Warren, and Matt hinted at, part of this story will explore the question of if the rather possessed Shadowman will eventually be redeemed or if he’s beyond redemption. The ninja and “soul-man” will invade store shelves this May.

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In other Valiant news, the story of Britania will be continuing with a new series; Britania: We Who Are About to Die #1. Written by Peter Milligan and illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp, this story will follow both the familiar Antonius Axia (“the world’s first detective”) and a new female gladiator who must both fight in the arena and survive plots made against her by the empire. This story will keep with the crime and mystery solving of the previous series, all the while presenting a thrilling tale of its own. Britania: We Who Are About to Die #1 will be on sale April 26th, 2017.

The month of May will be set aside especially for that of “Free Comic Book Day,” on which a special X-O Manowar Free Comic Book Day 2017 Edition will be available. Mark calendars for May 6th.

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June will see the likes of Valiant favorite “Livewire” in her first standalone comic. Secret Weapons #1 will be written by the Oscar nominated screen writer Eric Heisserer. The series will follow the likes of various “rejects” who find themselves being hunted down in the light of their existences. Some of their powers include: making objects glow, talking to birds, and making one’s skin harden. As Warren put it, “Think ‘Island of Misfit Toys.’” Definitely not belonging to any “A-Team,” Livewire will round up these “non-sequentials” and build them into an effective fighting force as to save the day and their very lives. Making a return will be the classic Valiant villain “Rexo.” “There’s a new plan for him,” said Dinesh. “A new program for him to follow that explains why he is back.”

For collectors and avid fans, Secret Weapons #1-4 will be available in “Pre-order Edition Bundles.” They will boast 8-pages of behind the scenes content and 4-expanded, 40-page issues. As the name implies, they will only be available for those who pre-order. See your local comic-book dealer for more details.

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2016 was a big year for both the comic Faith and its writer, Jody Houser. Fans fell in love with the voluptuous Faith and her “can-do” attitude when it came to saving the day. “They told me to take a look at Harbinger and see what characters stood out [to me],” said Jody. “[Faith] was the one that stood out to me… It’s been so much fun putting her optimism to the test.” Following her further, the new comic Faith and the Future Force #1 will bring together other superhero characters from the Valiant universe. Not only will the comic retain the writings of Jody Houser, but will also see the artistry of many artists, such as: Steven Segovia and Barry Kitsen. Not too many other details were made known, but Dinesh commented, “I know we’re being coy for now… but this is a book we’ve put a lot of time in with.” Faith and the Future Force #1 will be out July 2017.

Speaking of coy, when the month of August came into question, the only thing that Dinesh in Warren had to say were, “August is Classified… You got to wait and see.” Whether this was a silly way to tease a large title or just a cheesy marketing ploy, we’ll just have to do what they say and “wait and see.”

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Keeping with the theme of returning characters, September’s Bloodshot Salvation #1 will feature that of “Bloodshot” and the introduction of his daughter, Jessie. Jeff Lemire will be lending his writing talents to this project, in which Warren was most enthusiastic about. “I’m excited that Jeff has already written a year into this 15-issue comic, all with various arcs.” Hunter also added that, “There is nothing in this that is an accident… [Jeff Lemire] drawn a treasure map.”

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Valiant is greatly utilizing the writing talents of Matt Kindt, as we see him again in October for another new series: Eternity #1. “It takes off right after Divinity 3,” says Matt. “But now, there’s a baby!… But really, Divinity has a kid, and then loses him. He tries to use his powers to try to locate him, but finds that he can’t.”

No, this series shouldn’t be regarded as a continuation as Hunter pointed out. “It’s not ‘Divinity 4.’ Eternity uses Divinity 3 as a jumping off point… What you should also know is that ‘Eternity’ is not a person, but a place.” This ‘place’ is subtly hinted at being a science based universe. “We’re definitely going more cosmic,” said Matt. “I’ve been doing so much research on pocket universes, only to find that it’s a real thing.” Pocket universe, you say?

The color palettes for this comic appear to be plush with neon, resembling something of Jack Kirby’s New Gods. This appears to be intentional, as Dinesh, Warren, and Matt all acknowledged the likeness to Jack Kirby’s work. In all, the three men had a great deal to say about this project. “This is the most ambitious thing in comics that anyone is talking about,” said Warren.

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Valiant and their fans apparently love the character of Ninjak, as he has flit in and out of some of their various comics since his modern day appearance in X-O Manowar (2012) #5. Is it because he’s “Bit of a dick” as Warren Simons points out? But what of the ninjas that have come before him? What of the program that recruited him as “Ninja-K”? In November, we will see Ninjak as he tries to seek out the person or persons responsible for the murder various people connected to the Ninja Project. Ninja-K #1 will feature writer Christos Cage with the story periodically visiting those of Ninjas A through J, all spanning from World War I onward. Warren and Dinesh boasted that this comic will run 40-pages long and be a tone unlike that of any other Ninjak comic. “If you’ve never read Ninjak before, this won’t affect how you’ll enjoy Ninja-K,” said Dinesh.

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Finally reaching the end of the year, Valiant will be giving us the return of the outrageous and lovable likes of “Quantum and Woody.” Quantum and Woody! #1 sees the once buddies now no longer on speaking terms, only meeting once per day for the required slamming of their metal wristbands, because you know…the whole going to dissolve thing. This comic about the two adoptive brothers will delve into what happened to cause their falling out. Let’s hope it ends with a reconciliation, because you know…the whole going to dissolve thing. Expect Quantum and Woody! #1 out this December. And yes, more goat is in store.

At the end of the summit, Hunter, Dinesh, and Warren had one last teaser to give. “I know some of you might be asking yourselves, ‘What about Shadowman? Aren’t we going to get another Shadowman comic?” said Warren. “Nope, nope. Absolutely note,” answered Dinesh. This is not the case however, as on the display screen a familiar face with the terrifying image of hands literally pulling away at their face was shown, above emblazoned in red numbers was the date “3/28/18.” “That has always been a special date for Valiant,” said Dinesh, “and we always make sure something special happens on it.” Hopefully more information will be released as we reach the end of the year.

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This year’s summit had a great deal of announcements, planned releases, and a lot of Matt Kindt. Thank you Hunter, Dinesh, Warren, the various writers and artists of Valiant, and those of Hyper RPG for hosting the Valiant Summit this year. If Valiant holds up to everything they’ve promised during the summit, it’s quite possible they will be hitting more milestones like they did with X-O Manowar #1. For information on Valiant, visit their website at www.ValiantEntertainment.com, and for Hyper RPG, visit www.HyperRabbitPowerGo.com.

 

 

San Diego’s Little Fish Comic Studio Is Educating A New Generation of Fans, Artists, and Writers

San Diego’s Little Fish Comic Studio Is Educating A New Generation of Fans, Artists, and Writers
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Alonso Nunez, Co-founder and Executive Director of Little Fish Comic Book Studio

In recent years, more teachers and librarians are finally recognizing the educational appeal of comic-books. Yes, we the fans have known of their artistry, their (mostly) great writing, and the sheer enjoyment they illicit, but for many other adults, it still seems like a “nonsense medium.” Perhaps for this reason it is why places like Little Fish Comic Book Studio are needed.

I stepped through the doors of Little Fish, located in San Diego, California, and was met by the always friendly Alonso Nunez. Co-founder and Executive Director of Little Fish Comic Book Studio, Alonso sports a pointed beard and “ear-to-ear” grin that can rival a Guy Fawkes mask. And boy, does he love to talk comics. As for his studio, the walls are completely covered by comics in every sense: The entire left side of the room is lined with thick-black bookcases filled with all manner of hard and paperbacked comics; The right side has more shelves, but instead hold references books, very-used singled comic issues on (roughly) alphabetized shelves, a scanner, and a large printer; The back wall has a movable chalkboard like one would see in an old schoolroom; And the entire bathroom is wallpapered in comic pages.

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For many adults who hadn’t grown up with the medium, are not artists, or are not writers, they are hesitant to give comics a chance, let alone recommend them to their kids. This is most likely due to the lack of information regarding the comic-book job market. “What sort of jobs are connected with comics anyways? Artists are known to starve in small apartments. And writers, do these small books even need writers?” Truly, there isn’t a lot of easily accessible information on professions connected with the comic-book industry, which again does largely influence why adults aren’t too keen on introducing comics to their children in the first place.

WonderCon_0148This is the greatest impact that Alonso and Little Fish can have on the community at large, teaching kids and adults about the comic industry; the art, writing, and other aspects that go into making a comic, and possible opportunities that wait for those who wish to work fulltime in that world. For this reason, I wanted to visit the studio for the first time and ask some questions of Alonso.

As Alonso and myself set ourselves at one of the long-white tables of the studio, a number of teens between 14 and 19-year-old filter through the doors.

WonderCon_0146“Hey there,” greets Alonso. “I trust you all have your thumbnails?” Last week, Alonso gave some students an assignment to adapt a test-script into comic thumbnails and asked them to bring them back on this day. One boy waves his completed assignment in the air, but a few more look down at their backpacks and fumble with the zippers. “I sort of didn’t,” says one of the girls.

“No worries,” responded Alonso. “Tell you what, you have 10 minutes to get something done for your thumbnails. So, have at it!”

Q. Alonso, what can you tell me about Little Fish?

A. Without making it so “elevator-pitchery”, Little Fish’s mission is that we teach classes and camps utilizing techniques and a love for comic-books, all while advocating for the comic-book art form in the community. That means doing stuff like our Comic Savvy and our monthly free workshop, where the community is invited to come in, hang out, talk comics, see the studio, and take free comics home with them.

Notably, we have a partnership with KPBS, where we are then partnered with their “One Book, One San Diego” program. It allows us to go into schools once a year and talk about whatever graphic novel [the program] selected for the year. This year, they actually selected two. One is Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese, and the other is Jimmy Gownley’s The Dumbest Idea Ever, which is an awesome book about “the dumbest idea ever” of becoming a comic-book artist.

Q. What age groups do you usually see come to the studio?

A. We work with ALL age groups. Most of our classes run the age gamut, all except one, which is specifically designed for 7 to 10-year-olds, called the “The Young Artist Class.” You can think of it as more of a traditional art class for kids, but in this case with comic-books. But everything else except for that class is designed to be accessible to all ages and all ability levels. A class can have an 11-year-old, sitting next to a 40-year-old, sitting next to a 25-year-old, sitting next to a 17-year-old. It’s one of those things that when we started Little Fish, we were saying, “I don’t know if this is going to work… but let’s try it.” Now, for me it’s a big point of pride. A lot of times parents or students are asking, “Really, this works?” And then when they come in they’re like, “That was a amaaaaazing!”

WonderCon_0154We have a woman who just started our Thursday class called “Project Management”, which is for people who have projects well underway or a tightly-conceptualized project, and she is in her early 50s. She was like, “I don’t want to be the old lady in a group of kids.” When she came in the first day, she was able to see the level of collaboration and the bouncing of ideas of other people… She found it really cool.

At this point, Alonso takes a moment to excuse himself from the interview looks across the table at his busy students, namely the one who said she didn’t do her thumbnails. He asks, “How’s that thumbnail coming along?” The teen gives a half-hearted reassurance. In response, Alonso says, “Can you at least get one more done in ten minutes? No, wait. How about this; You have ten minutes, knock out another one. Move with the speed with we usually reserve for the opera.”

Alonso looks back to me and explains that last comment. “We have a cool partnership with the San Diego Opera where we go and sketch during their 2nd dress rehearsal of their performances. It’s really neat.”

Q. What other “Hydra-tentacles” do you have out there?

A. Well, we have that partnership with the San Diego Opera, we’re partners with KPBS, we also have a strong partnership with the Kevin Workman Foundation, which is a foundation that operates out of Qualcomm that advocates for art, technology, and community; Through them, we do a once-a-week workshop at the “Monarch School” in downtown [San Diego]. The Monarch School is for kids who are somehow impacted by homelessness, so it’s really cool to get in there and to teach art to kids who don’t have access to art programs.

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Q. What’s your favorite thing that you do through Little Fish?

A. Mm, wow… I think it might be the annual One Book, One San Diego stuff. In the last couple decades, comics have gained more of a mainstream recognition; we’re now accepted as a legitimate artform. But there’s still this lack of awareness from the larger world of what comics are really are about and what they can do as an artform.

So with the One Book, One San Diego program, we kind of sneak in via the “serious” prose-book selected as the book that all of San Diego is supposed to read because it has themes pertinent to San Diego or it’s by a San Diego author, and being the young-adult companion graphic novel, we get to be involved in everything, host panels, and talk about why comics are awesome… We get to connect with a lot of people that once they realize “Oh, this is what comics can do,” their eyes light up and they begin to see the possibilities that they can utilize comics with connecting with others. Through that, it’s led to partnering and visiting other schools within the last couple years,

WonderCon_0130Q. Where would you like to see Little Fish in the next 5 years?

A. I’d like to see us bigger, with more partnerships, since we are still fairly young. We should be getting “501(c)(3)” status any day now, which will open us up to grants, letting us reach out to a wider audience and letting us do more workshops in schools and other venues; A big part of what I want to do. I think we’ve really solidified our camps and classes program.

Q. Finally, what animal would you be, and what superhero would you belong to?

A. Ow, I like this. I would be an octopus, so that way I would have eight hands in which to answer emails and draw simultaneously. Aquaman would be the obvious answer, but I would like to think that I belong to Batman. Then I would have access to the Batcave and that wealth of information.

Alonso Nunez and Little Fish Comic Studio is doing tremendous work in the education of comic-books. The impact that this organization and others like it have on communities, comics, and literacy may not be felt now, but it certainly sow the seeds of what’s to come.

If you wish to know more about Little Fish Comic Studio, visit their website at: www.lilfish.us