WonderCon ’17: Annual End of Con Talk Back with John Rogers Hits Record

WonderCon ’17: Annual End of Con Talk Back with John Rogers Hits Record
John Rogers: President of Comic-Con International

Marking the end of every WonderCon and San Diego Comic-Con, John Rogers, Comic-Con International President, sits alone at the raised table and readies himself for what is typically a slew of questions and comments. As is also customary, he greets the room and asks for patience while he takes notes during each question. “Often, people think I’m ignoring them. I just take too long with writing my somewhat-legible notes.”

It’s worth mentioning that WonderCon made a brief visit to Los Angeles last year, as the Anaheim Convention Center was unable to accommodate due to construction to the structure. The fact that WonderCon was for now back at Anaheim was praised by a few people who took to the microphone. “It makes me really happy to see that it’s back here this year.”

Among the annual comic conventions, WonderCon is the darling of con-goers, evident by how many positive things they had to say today. This is undoubtedly due to the organizers’ steady planning and continuous communication with the facility managers. “This is a well-run convention… The exhibit floor was amazing; Easy to navigate, stand, sit, etc.” John Rogers and everyone else involved with the convention’s organizing has had the benefit of “cutting their teeth” with San Diego Comic-Con, seeing what works and doesn’t work, and applying it to WonderCon. You might be asking, “If that’s so, then why are there so many complaints every Comic-Con?” Simply, Comic-Con is a much larger event compared to that of WonderCon. Also, as John Rogers said a couple years back during one of these Talk Backs, “San Diego Comic-Con grew too fast, making it difficult to control now… with WonderCon, we made sure to slowly grow, letting us have a better handle on it.”

Again bringing up their flagship Comic-Con, one of the major issues with the convention usually revolves around the handling of ADA services being too disorganized. However, WonderCon appears to not have this issue as one convention attendee claimed. “Handicap services are fantastic… There was great crowd and line management, and a great job done with the aiding of ADA attendees… I have someone with me that is in a wheelchair. She told me that she feels safe here, and yet she never feels safe at a place like Target!”

TalkBack_1This year’s extent of complaints were very minimal, one of which dealt with the parking issue that occurred on Saturday. “Friday and Sunday went very well for parking, but Saturday was bad,” meaning that both finding available parking was difficult, and that there was a lack of direction of where to park instead. Another attendee seconded this, saying that there had been no mention by anyone that only people staying in the hotels could utilize their paid-parking structures. The same person also added that he wished there was someone giving direction at the Arena. “When I got out of there, I had no idea where I was going or how to get back. I just sort of had to wander around for a while.”

Another issue was that of inadequate seating for a few panels that had higher attendees than was expected, and a lack of direction with a couple of the panel’s guests and moderators.

Overall, the Talk Back was nearly all positive feedback and praise, finishing just under ten-minutes! A record as far as WonderCon goes, and an unheard of thing for that of Comic-Con, which is lucky if it can finish within the designated hour allotment.

Another great WonderCon is in the books, and president John Rogers says news of next year’s WonderCon will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

WonderCon ’17: How to Write Great Dialogue for Cartoons and Comics

WonderCon ’17: How to Write Great Dialogue for Cartoons and Comics
Marv Wolfman and Craig Miller

Ever wondered what the differences were for writing with a book in mind versus that of animation or comics? Are you an aspiring writer who feels they could use this sort of delineation in their writing? At the 2017 Anaheim WonderCon, writers Marv Wolfman, Craig Miller, Ernie Altbacker, and Holly Huckins all discussed the important distinctions that all animation and comic writers should keep forefront in their minds, as well warned of the pitfalls of inauthentic dialogue.

Craig Miller, long time writer and producer, having worked on such shows as The Smurfs, Beast Wars, and The Real Ghostbusters, was the moderator for this panel. He began by saying he originally envisioned only discussing the topic of animation writing, but chose to open it to comics as well to accommodate his friend and fellow writer, Marv Wolfman. Some of Wolfman’s credits are the 1968 Blackhawk, Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the 1984 four-part story line Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. “Today, we will focus on an aspect of writing,” began moderator Miller. “Primarily this was intended for animation, but we will talk some comics as well.”

Recalling a time from when he worked on Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, he shared a moment where actor Harrison Ford yelled at George Lucas regarding a piece of dialogue that he was supposed to say. “You can type this [stuff], but you can’t say it!” What this alludes to is dialogue that reads pretty, but is unnatural to say in regular conversation. “You may think you can write pretty and may want to show off those skills,” said Miler, “but you need to write dialogue that seems natural and real… what you would [normally] say.”

Holly Huckins and Ernie Altbacker

A recommendation on how to make sure what you write is “natural” sounding is trying to say it out loud. Each of the writers agreed that this a great method. Holly Huckins, mostly a writer for comedy animation who’s worked on Rugrats, Recess, and Totally Spies!, says she either gives it to someone to read or tries to be present when the voiceovers do their readthroughs. “It’s hard for people who didn’t write [the dialogue] to read it.” If you need to explain how to read it, it might need some revision. As a last comment on this topic, Wolfman added, “Your job as a writer is to communicate. Don’t try to show off what you think you can do. Try and make it something that you could see yourself speaking.”

Craig Miller shared another story about poor dialogue, this time going even further back in television history. “After the I Love Lucy Show, in one of her many off-shoot shows, there was a part where she’s trying to open a door, but having a difficult time doing it. Then, someone comes in saying ‘Just jiggle it a little, it’ll open,’ but faster than he should of for the line. Of course, Lucy can’t understand this, and another person comes through, saying the exact same thing with the same speed… This must have been a jab at one of the writers, Lucy showing just how ineffectual the writing is in everyday language.” He laughs at this, then tells the moral of his story. “We think we can write just because we are taught it in school. But what we learn there is proper grammar, which in everyday talk we certainly don’t use.”

Another topic for discussion was the manner in which an individual character would speak, from their word choices, intonations, and even their accents. “Every character should sound different; even if you can’t see a face or hear their voice, you should know that [their dialogue] would be something they normally say,” said Miller. Wolfman responded to this, saying, “You need to know about your character inside and out… even if that means making a character sheet for them. A trick that I tell all beginning writers is to think of someone who exists and use them as a template as you figure [your character] out.”

For comics, the art of balancing the amount of dialogue in one frame can be very difficult. “Every panel is like a snapshot,” said Wolfman. “Write out that snapshot, and if it somehow doesn’t fit, cut it into halves, and then cut it into quarters if you need to… You have to get it too fit so it works in the box with the art.” Ernie Altbacker, writer for cartoons and kid shows such as Justice League Dark and the recent animated adaption for Teen Titans: Judas Contract, said that a writer needs to ask themselves, “’What do I need to do to carry the story along with the least amount of information,’ because again, we don’t talk that way.”

At the end of the day, what these veteran writers are trying to impart is that dialogue for animation and comics must sound “natural,” or rather, “authentic.” If it’s how you would see yourself, your friends, your family, and your work mates talking, then it will be both understood better by the people reading/listening to it, and to the voiceovers who have to speak it if you are writing for animation. Don’t get overly involved, but stay true to your characters, true to the story progression, and true to everyday language.

WonderCon ’17: Comics Change the World: A History of Activism in Comics

WonderCon ’17: Comics Change the World: A History of Activism in Comics
Alex Cox of CBLDF

If you are familiar, or in the least semi-familiar, with the early history of the comic medium, images of fit men flying and punching everything in sight while wearing tights might blip through your imagination. Perhaps to your surprise, comics in the early 1900’s were diverse and meant for a broad audience. In fact, it was not unheard of for those comics to be used as political, social, and economic soapboxes for their creators. As discussed in room 208 of this year’s WonderCon by CBLDF’s Alex Cox, the history of comics and activism have come a long ways together.

“All the examples I have for you today were controversial in their own way,” said Alex while he prepped the PowerPoint he was going to present. He then looked over the crowd and gave an apology. “I’m working with a hundred years-worth of material here, and I didn’t know just how over my head I was until I started putting this lecture together.” He added that if anything, this was to be the lecture’s first “test run,” where certain omissions were to be expected. Eventually, when the odd bits and crooked corners were straightened out, he said it would be posted on their website. “I also left out [our] work from this. It seemed like the humble thing to do.”

The presentation began with a look at 1912, with comic legend Winsor McKay, best known for his eternal Little Nemo. “Windor McKay was deeply political and a pacifist,” said Alex as he showed strips entitled The Victor and Three More Days of the Suffrage Hike to Washington. 1913 had the likes of Nell Brinkley. “She was a very modern woman of the time,” said Alex. “She began to cartoon at the age of sixteen, and eventually caught the eye of William Hurst, who supported the arts.”

The 1920’s brought about socialist ideas surrounding President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” a response to The Depression. Harold Grays used his comic Little Orphan Annie to express his dislike for President Roosevelt’s program. “[Grays] worked at the Chicago Tribune and got a lot of support from his boss, who also disliked Roosevelt’s New Deal.” On the other side of that, comic icons Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster loved the program. “Superman was partially due to the New Deal; An alien to planet Earth who works his way up in life… Early on he fought dishonest stock brokers, slum lords, corrupt politicians… He was a post-depression hero.”

War marked a great deal of the 1940’s. With it, comic publishers used their properties as pro-war propaganda. Jack Kirby, another comic legend, co-created Captain America during this time. Iconic is the image of Captain America punching Adolf Hitler in the face. “G.I.s were buying these types of comics by the truckload,” said Alex. The Little Orphan Annie comic had also became pro-war, asking for the sale of war bonds and urging aluminum drives.

After WWII, the 1950’s saw a rising again in the approach to social issues. “EC Comics, started by William Gaines’ father, use to be educational, geared toward religious studies… After his father died, Gaines turned it towards entertainment.” EC Comics is important because it introduced “New Direction Magazine,” which didn’t shy away from hard-hitting social issues. One comic that Gaines tried to push was one called Judgement Day, which featured an African-American astronaut. “The Comics Code kept rejecting the comic for various reasons… finally saying they would not publish it do to the black-main character.” In response to this, Gaines just about shut down every one of his company’s projects out of spite, except for a little magazine you might know called Mad Magazine.

The 1960’s became a time for the rise of women’s issues in comics, especially with the likes of Wimmen’s Comix.” “It was the first comic to feature an out lesbian,” said Alex. Afterward, the 70’s became marked with more cutting-edge satirical comics, with the likes of National Lampoon, a far different entity to how we know it today. It wasn’t long after this that Mad Magazine followed suite and increased their level of satire. Another important work of the 70’s was 1973’s Abortion Eve. “On the heels of Roe VS. Wade, this educational comic was released as a way to discuss women’s issues. Of course, it was also very controversial.”

Throughout the next couple decades, we got the likes of Blume County, Bill the Cat, Dykes to Watch Out For, The Boondocks, Love is Love, and many more comics regarding activist stances. However, with time running out on the panel, Alex Cox had hardly any time to thoroughly discuss them.

If we are to take at least one thing from this lecture, is that the comic medium is a great place for artists and writers to express the ideas and concerns that they feel are important for today’s world. Though it has a booming entertainment side, comics are also a refuge for activists and hopeful people who want only to bring about positive change in our society.

WonderCon ’17: IDW and Shelly Bond Gleefully Talk About Black Crown Imprint and New Books

WonderCon ’17: IDW and Shelly Bond Gleefully Talk About Black Crown Imprint and New Books
Shelly Bond, Tess Fowlerand, and Chris Ryall

It seems that at every major comic convention, IDW is afresh with announcements of new comic releases, media growth, and more. This year is no different, as the publisher and media company is eager to share all manner of information regarding a number of upcoming titles, as well as their mysterious collaborative imprint with Shelly Bond, known only so far as Black Crown.

Collected at this Year’s IDW panel are: Sarah Gaydos, group editor; David Hedgecock, Editor-in-Chief; Chris Ryall, Chief Creative Officer; And Scott Tipton, writer of comics such as Star Trek; Aubrey Sitterson, writer of comcis such as G.I. Joe. Chris Ryall began by discussing some of the companies exciting new releases. “Have anyone read Locke and Key by Gabriel Rodriguez?” he asked. The series in question is, in my opinion, fantastic and visually mesmerizing. “He has a story of his own that he is very excited for, and so are we. It’s called Sword of Ages.” The story of Sword of Ages follows that of Excalibur, “the sword of legend.” Before King Arthur, and before the sword is ever placed in stone, the sword belongs to a faraway planet, years and years before it makes it’s way to Earth. Ryall added “It’s unlike anything he’s done before.” IDW is hoping for an October release.

Scott Tipton and Aubrey Sitterson

Following digital comic trends, it appears IDW will be soon getting an app on Microsoft’s XBOX One consoles. Sarah Gaydos said that this will be more of a “soft-release,” as more additions and changes will be rolling out for it after its eventual release. No other information about the app is currently available, but more will be made known in the days leading up to its sometime release this year.

Utilizing its vast access to the Hasbro franchise universe, David Hedgecock discussed how IDW will be launching this July Rom VS. Transformers: Shining Armor. The older franchise character will finally cross paths with other metallic beings unlike himself. Hedgecock also said that, “There will be an introduction of a new, important character in the Hasbro mythos.”

For the world of G.I. Joe, Aubrey Sitterson had much to say on his comic. “G.I. Joe is the oldest Hasbro franchise… wait, no. I was once CORRECTED by someone, who told me it is actually Mr. Potato Head who is the oldest franchise.” After some bantering and kidding about an impeding Mr. Potato Head comic, Sitterson went on. “Let’s just say G.I. Joe is ONE of the oldest franchises… When I got this project, I just saw how [it] didn’t quite fit anymore with the other Hasbro universes.” To rectify this, it was decided on that big changes would be made to the comic, both in story and visuals. “We are working on re-workings of many of the character’s looks, the comic’s colors, the artwork in general… we even have a Transformer on the G.I. Joe team now.” So far, three issues are out for the comic, with of course plans of more to soon follow.

Preliminary art for “Kid Lobotomy”

The biggest and most anticipated news of the panel however was that regarding the mysterious Black Crown, a branding collaboration with IDW and the industry fixture Shelly Bond. Ms. Bond was mysteriously missing from the table, until she popped out from the front row of the crowd and plopped herself at the main table. Also called to the table was a woman by the name of Tess Fowlerand, who’s importance was soon to be made known.

British Writer Peter Milligan

Of the imprint news, Sarah Gaydos said we have to wait until June. However, for Black Crown’s first comic, that’s where Bond and Fowlerand came into the picture. “I’m very, very happy to announce that Black Crown’s first monthly comic is called Kid Lobotomy!” The project itself was described by Shelly Bond as, “If King Lear meets Kafka by way of Frankenstein.” The preliminary art gives the impression of gothic-horror with a dash of Lovecraft. The story is being written by British writer Peter Milligan, while the artwork is done by Tess Fowlerand.

Kid Lobotomy is to represent the aim of Shelly Bond’s Black Crown, an imprint meant for dark and gothic stories. Taking it a step further, Bond also shared that all her stories will exist in the same universe, with a pub aptly named “The Black Crown” as a sort of joining point for all of them. Here, we will even see the various characters of the eventual later comics talking and interacting with each other. “I’m very proud of what IDW has allowed me to do, will allow me to do with this,” she said brimming with pride.

Indeed a great many things are instore for IDW, as is always the case. The “crown” for IDW this year I feel will be this new imprint. More news is supposedly slated for June, while Black Crown itself and Kid Lobotomy will have to wait until October to be fully realized.

WonderCon ’17: News of Comic-Con Expansion Looking Unsure and Sales Floor Preview

WonderCon ’17: News of Comic-Con Expansion Looking Unsure and Sales Floor Preview
David Glanzer: Chief Communications and Strategy Officer

*As a foreword, this was meant to post for yesterday. But still great news inside!*

Returning to Anaheim this is year is the “fan-loved” WonderCon. For those who attended WonderCon last year, the highly-adored comic convention brought to us by none other than Comic-Con International was temporarily held in Los Angeles last year due to scheduling conflicts with the Anaheim Convention Center. To my joy, it has returned to Anaheim (for now at least).


Early on this Friday morning, Chief Communications and Strategy Officer David Glanzer met with various press outlets for a quick welcome and rundown of WonderCon history. “Thirty-one years ago, WonderCon began in Oakland,” he said. “…When resources weren’t there, organizers asked [us] to take over… WonderCon was a fun show and a great vibe, and it was felt that if it ended, it would send a negative message about the validity of comic conventions.” After some deliberation, Comic-Con International took over WonderCon, consequently seeing moves to San Francisco, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and of course this year back to Anaheim.

What may overshadow this convention for me, however, is what David Glanzer said at the end of his quick press meet and greet regarding the fate of San Diego Comic-con. “Comic-Con International does it’s best to listen to it’s fans,” he said. “We want to stay in San Diego as long as we can.” He informed our small group that the greatest remarks that he hears every year by fans is the cramped confines of the San Diego’s Convention Center and the high-price of hotel stays. “We listen to our attendees very closely,” he reiterated. The frankness in his words was if he was beginning the setup of some really-bad news. “Home base is San Diego, but that doesn’t lock us in.” There were some words of hope though as Mr. Glanzer told us that the city of San Diego will hopefully discuss this fall making the convention center expansion “contiguous” instead of “non-contiguous.” As Glanzer explained it, the current hopes of a convention expansion appears doubtful as other users of the convention don’t feel the expansion will in anyway benefit themselves. “An expansion for just Comic-Con doesn’t seem plausible.” More hope is that if San Diego gets the soccer stadium that is currently being pushed, that venue will also utilize some space at the San Diego Convention Center, aiding the idea of the expansion.

Moving away for now with this troubling news, we have to remember the focus of this weekend is WonderCon. WonderCon always features great booths (vendors, artists, small publishers and large publishers) and fun panels (fan driven or studio held). Many colorful and fantastic booths were still being set up a mere two-hours before the convention’s start.

WonderCon_0030_1Disney Music Emporium stands out as a quaint throwback to a record store. Rob Souriall, Vice-President of Global Marketing for Disney Music Group showed off their wares that were being featured at this year’s WonderCon. “Disney Music Emporium focuses on physical, collectible music merchandise, as we are seeing them disappear from store shelves,” says Souriall. In our expanding digital world, Disney Music Emporium sells prominently vinyl records that are also art pieces, with each side fully-colored graphics. Featured are seven-inch vinyl records for Inside Out, a collection of five that feature different covers and a unique “Side-B” soundtrack. Using the Star Wars property, Disney Music Emporium has this year the “First Market Star Wars: Rogue One Vinyl Soundtrack,” by Michael Giacchino, original Star Wars music by John Williams. If you need something to play these records on, for $100 you can also purchase the Mickey Mouse inspired “Suitcase Turntable” by Crosley.


WonderCon_0037_1In “geek-fashion,” Her Universe’s founder Ashley Eckstein is present to announce the release of her new line of workout clothing geared towards comic fans of the female variety. A collaboration of Her Universe and DC, this Kohl’s exclusive product not only was announced today, but also launched. Coinciding with the launch, Ashley Eckstein also made available a series of three workout videos all featuring herself. They are available for free online with each one themed with either Superman, Wonder Woman, or Batman inspired exercises. The Her Universe booth will also be selling a limited amount of signed “Ahsoka Funko POP! Vinyl figures.” This is quite fitting as Ashley was also the voice of “Ahsoka” on the Star Wars Animated show. Originally a Hot Top exclusive that quickly sold out, these figures are back for limited run with Her Universe only.


WonderCon_0041_1San Diego based IDW has “a lot of great announcements this WonderCon,” says Steven Scott, IDW Publishing’s Public Relations Manager. At the IDW Publishing booth, the company will be selling a myriad of items, such as: A thirteen issue, limited run of Transformers VS. G.I. Joe, a story that was imagined as movie, then adapted as a comic. Fun part is that they just cut out the actual movie part; A Batman – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventure comic, a take on Bruce Tim’s Batman: The Animated Series if it met the mutated reptiles. Limited to 500 copies, it’s a black-and-white variant cover of the #5 issue; Unique to the convention, IDW has “Deluxe Packs”, which are guaranteed to have $40 worth of comics inside and a Wyonna Earp #8 comic with a signed insert by “Katrina Barrell,” actress of the show’s “Officer Nicole Haught” character. IDW will also have two signings of their hit Love is Love comic, a collaboration with DC that raised $160,000 for the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, and more announcements at their panel which takes place later today.


WonderCon_0045_1Valiant, the small comics publisher that has always strived for “quality-storytelling” is proud of their latest release, XO Manowar #1. Released on March 22nd, Matt Kindt of Valiant says that the comic is reaching “records.” He believes that it will even make it into the Top 10 on the comic sales charts, making it a first for Valiant. “It’s unheard of to have a small publisher like us make it on there.” Great things are instore this year for Valiant, including a multi-movie deal with Sony, release of Secret Weapon (a comic featuring the character “Livewire” in her solo role), and a possible television series for one of their properties. Despite the branching into other media, Kindt reminds us that, “Despite the movie deals, we are still a comic company. Quality over quantity is what we believe in.”


Overall, WonderCon seems as fun-filled and bright as it always does and I am looking forward to having another exciting year her. But with the introduction of some disheartening news about San Diego Comic-Con, it really puts a damper on this reporter’s weekend. More to come about WonderCon over the next few days.

INTERVIEW: “God Country’s” Donny Cates gets “Bloody-Southern” with His New Vampire Comic, “REDNECK”

INTERVIEW: “God Country’s” Donny Cates gets “Bloody-Southern” with His New Vampire Comic, “REDNECK”

Redneck01_CoverWriter Donny Cates (creator of also God Country), alongside artists Lisandro Estherren, Dee Cunniffe, and Skybound Comics, have been hard at work for at their latest work, Redneck. This “Southern-vampire” comic puts a new twist to the already tried storyline, giving something grittier than what was already there. Instead of sex and violence, they give us hardship, carnage, and war. I was lucky enough to ask a few questions of the Redneck’s creator, Donny Cates.

In short, what’s the story on “Redneck”?

Redneck is the story of The Bowman family. A group of vampires living in East Texas. When our story opens they’ve been kind of leading this very isolationist life. Not bothering anyone (They run a cattle farm and live off the blood they take from the cattle they slaughter for the bbq joint their familiars run in town) and minding their business and living in peace with the townsfolk around them.

This is the story of how that peace comes to an end.

Where did you get the idea for Redneck and how long has the idea been brewing?

A few years now. I’ve just wrapped on issue 12 and Lisandro is drawing issue six I think. So we’ve been in production since 2015 or so. As for how the idea came about…god I don’t really know. Honestly? I think I looked at the word REDNECK and decided someone needed to tell a vampire story set in the south with it! Haha, I know that’s a boring answer, but it’s the truth more often than you’d think.

Since that initial thought, though, it’s morphed and evolved into something deeply personal. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to a book.

Southern Vampires?  Surely we’ve never heard this before. Why do you think makes the idea of vampires in the deep-South so appealing?

Well, no. It’s been done. But not really like this I don’t think. True Blood being the biggest one I guess, but even in True Blood they were still so pretty and charming. They were connected to the vampire community and all that bullshit. I wanted to do a story about a bunch of good backwoods people who just kinda…happen to also be vampires.

They aren’t pretty. Or charming or even particularly that smart. They’re just a bunch of “people” trying to get by. Trying to raise a family in a world filled with people who hate and fear them.

Often writers feel like they grow close connections with their characters. How are your feelings toward the vampiric Bowman family?

Oh, I’ve grown very close to them. A few characters in particular. Perry, the creepy (and incredibly dangerous) little girl of the family, is my favorite of the bunch. Followed by Bartlett, our main character. He has this kind of old school simple wisdom about him that I just love.

They are all based on real people I know here in Austin, actually. So I’m very close to all of them.


How was the process of getting Redneck off the ground? What were some of your more memorable moments on the project so far?

Honestly, it was one of the most painless things I’ve been through in my career. Skybound reached out and asked if I had anything I wanted to pitch, and I just happened to be working on the pitch to REDNECK at the time so I sent it on over. They were very receptive to it and we got started pretty quickly. It’s been a joy to work with them.

As far as memorable moments go, I’d say getting the first pages in from Lisandro and then seeing them colored and brought to life from Dee…that was surreal. To see these characters that had lived in my head for so long come to life as perfectly as they did…that was a trip.

(I still can’t believe this book is real)

How would you say Redneck compares itself to “God Country?”

Well, certainly they both tell stories of families in Texas. So in that regard, I guess they both came from the same place to a certain extent. Two sides of the same coin really. Redneck is much darker and has really different themes. God Country is about holding on to the things you love and never letting go Redneck is about overcoming the past…it’s about being better than the people who made you.

Where do you see yourself represented in both God Country and Redneck?

Hmmm, well, as a Texan who is also a son and an Uncle and a big Kirby fan…I absolutely see myself in all of these stories haha. Yeah, I mean both of these stories are incredibly personal to me for different reasons.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that when I start doing these projects that are incredibly personal like this, I tend to draw Texas around me like a security blanket. It’s a place I understand. A place I love and feel safe in.

What have been some of your influences as a reader and a writer?

So many. In respects to comics; Jason Aaron, Mark Waid, Bendis, Hickman, Moore…those are the guys for me. Those are the guys who set the bar I’m constantly reaching for. Novels I’m all over the place. I love Cormac McCarthy, Philip Meyer, James S.A. Corey (The Expanse series is unbelievably good) Gaiman (again!) Larry McMurtry, and Stephen King. I think those guys are all big influences on me.

As a writer, what elements would you say is important to your process? (This is intentionally open-ended, HAHA)

Oh hmm, conversation actually. My wife and best buddy Seamus (Who is actually in the book!) are the two people I go to when I need to- break a problem down or I get stuck or need some inspiration. Every now and then I just HAVE to get out of my office and go and talk to someone. It always works too. I start talking things out and magically the blocks fall away and I’m able to get things where they need to be.

Without too many spoilers, anything you want to instruct the readers to watch out for?

If I say literally anything it will be a spoiler haha! So I guess just watch out for the book itself! And ask me this question again after you read the first issue!

When should readers expect Redneck to hit store shelves?

Next month! April 19th! In shops everywhere. Tell your shop you want one because it WILL sell out.

REVIEW: With Only 5 Issues, Is it Already the End for Deadpool the Duck?

REVIEW: With Only 5 Issues, Is it Already the End for Deadpool the Duck?

DPTD1When comic creators decide on doing a crossover, it’s pretty much guaranteed that shenanigans will ensue. When Marvel deemed that Deadpool and Howard the Duck should “join forces,” they might have taken that a little too literally.

Writer Stewart Moore and artist Jacopo Camagni have done a wonderful job in steering us down this Alice in Wonderlandish rabbit hole called a comic, where in which they filled the hole with anthropomorphic characters, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and nanobot filled barf. The idea of both Deadpool and Howard the Duck inhabiting the same body seems like a pure strike of comedic-genius, but Moore and Camagni took the zaniness a step further with the inclusion of characters like Doctor Bong (who’s been chasing the likes of Howard since 1977) and the familiar ball of “furry-fury” that is Rocket Raccoon.

The writing was a well-done marriage with the two worlds of Howard the Duck and Deadpool; The anti-hero talking waterfowl who is constantly drowning in all the crap the universe throws at him, and the anti-hero/mercenary for hire who takes all the crap that gets thrown at him and shoves it down said universe’s throat. The banter between the two characters alone, who find themselves inhabiting the same body, would have undoubtedly gotten tired and stale if it weren’t for the supporting characters that breathed fresh conflict and confusion into the over-the-top story. The fourth-wall breaks that are utterly Deadpool are all present, as well as perpetual disappointments that are purely Howard. As a fan of both characters (I was THAT kid who loved the 1986 flop that was the Howard the Duck movie FYI), I felt that every box was ticked.

Camagni’s artistry really pulls through, doing justice to nearly every Marvel character. I say “nearly” because I thought that Rocket Raccoon looked a little too “bottom-heavy” for my taste. His take on Doctor Bong is quite good as well, lending to the fact that Camagni is very use to drawing the male form. Bong should be truly flattered, as it appears that the artist gave him a little extra “padding” down there (he REALLY seems to like making men bottom-heavy). Even the coloring of Israel Silva was a proper balance of gritty mutes and shades of red. It could have been easy to mistakenly gone with the terrible color palettes that have plagued certain Howard the Duck issues in the past, but thankfully the colorist avoided that.

True, the ending was a bit anti-climatic, but I think that it’s ultimately befitting as nothing goes completely as the two anti-heroes would like. Violent, gross, and overtop are all words that describe the five-issue mini-series that is Deadpool the Duck, which means it’s creators truly nailed it. The biggest issue with this series is that it’s already over. Do I smell sequel, perhaps? Or is that just that nanobot-filled-barf again?

Coming out March 15th, find Marvel’s Deadpool the Duck at your local comic shop. Holding out for the collection? Issues 1-5 is slated to release on June 13th 2017.

PREVIEW: Body Parts Get Severed and Link Whines in “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” Manga

PREVIEW: Body Parts Get Severed and Link Whines in “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” Manga

liens-releases044The Legend of Zelda franchise has spread its lore far and wide since it’s 1986 Japanese release. Aside from being mistakenly called “Zelda” since the game’s 1987 American release, the protagonist Link is known by fans as “The Hero of Time, The Hero of Light, and of course “The Hero of Legend.” After thirty-one years, we have seen a slew of video games, cartoon adaptions, cartoon cameos, manga adaptions, and not to mention a ton of merchandise that has steadily helped to fill Nintendo’s coffers. It’s of no surprise that another product featuring our “forever-reincarnated” Link and Princess Zelda is releasing soon. No, I’m not talking about the upcoming Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild video game.

Following up his 2012 Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time manga series, Akira Himekawa has released the much asked for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess manga. Those who played the game, the Gamecube version versus the Wii version, will agree it was a great addition to the mysterious Zelda timeline. The manga was first released in February of 2016 in Japan and is finally getting released in America this month by VIZ Media.

liens-releases046Himekawa’s artwork is done quite well, with all the emotion and detail that a good manga calls for. A reader can get a sense of movement with every panel. There’s a great deal of humor that gives a healthy contrast with the rest of the story. As to be expected, story details from the video game differ with Himekawa’s manga adaption. For those that recall, the game was visually darker than most of the other titles, as our main character finds himself trapped in the “Twilight Kingdom.” Shadows and mute colors were largely used in the art style. As a whole, the manga has a darker tone than that of the video game, featuring the likes of townspeople being wounded and killed, the daughter of the mayor being shot by an arrow with visual bleeding, and even the likes of Link having an appendage chopped off of him. Despite the humor that I mentioned, this story is strictly rated “T for Teen”.

Another departure from that of the video games is that Himekawa’s Link talks. Ever since his 1986 debut, the silent protagonist has been just that; Silent! Whether this is because Nintendo knows that this is part of the character’s charm or that they believe it would be as traumatic as when the hard-rock band KISS took off their makeup in 1983, the consensus in the video games has been that “Link doesn’t talk!”

Sexy Midna?!

Despite this “Nintendo rule of thumb”, that hasn’t stopped the likes of those that have adapted the character for other medias. It’s difficult to have a story with a non-talking main character after all. Some bad examples of talking Links have been the thirteen-episode 1989 cartoon and the disastrously terrible Panasonic “CD-i” video games.

liens-releases047Sadly, Himekawa’s link wasn’t a successful adaption for me. Though visually appealing and utterly heroic in his deeds, Twilight Princess’ Link often comes across as whiney and more adolescent than his visuals make him out to be. It’s quite possible that Himekawa has given Link a case of PTSD, which is evident from a flashback featured in the story. Though I appreciate the effort that Himekawa is making with adding another dimension with the character, there are some things that shouldn’t be messed with.

It’s quite possible though that it isn’t Himekawa that is to blame for Link’s dialogue, but perhaps that of the English adaption team. There’s a scene where the townsfolk first encounter an oncoming hoard of monsters and one person simply responds with “YIKES!” When has anyone ever given a terror-charged exclamation of “yikes”? The English adaption is accredited to “Stan!” for goodness sake. No, I didn’t add the exclamation point. It’s there printed in the back of the book, with no last name to account for. Is “Stan!” someone like “Madonna” or “Cher”?


Overall, I thought the story was entertaining and a nice read. Though the dialogue was nothing to write home about, the beautiful scenery and the wonderfully drawn action was what kept me going. In the end, isn’t that why we read adventure stories? If you want true Zelda storyline with no shenanigans, best to stick to the video games.

Akira Himekawa and VIZ Media’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess will release March 14th online and book retailers nationwide.

REVIEW: Two Capcom Franchises Battle for Supremacy in Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers #0

REVIEW: Two Capcom Franchises Battle for Supremacy in Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers #0

Arcade fighter fans won’t have a hard time recognizing Capcom’s respective Street Fighter and Darkstalkers franchises. Any and all storylines have been separate at best, surrounding their various video game iterations, cartoons, comics, and mangas. Last week however, the combat driven Street Fighter series and the spookier Darkstalkers series finally crossed paths in UDON’s new mini-series Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers.


The comic by Matt Moylan and Hanzo Steinbech opens in the Darkstalker Dimension, where we are first see the likes of Jedah staging a coup. The art style is a cross between a cartoon and a manga, using a great deal of colors while maintaining a level of relative realism (as much as fighting demons and living mummy-kings can be real). The detail and shading work is well done, but perhaps a little more contrast with lighting and shadows and a little more texture would make it resemble an edgier comic of which the likes of the Darkstalkers franchise deserves. Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers #0 boasts 3 extra variant covers, the main story cover featuring Lilith sitting on a pile of Street Fighters, made by Edwin Huang, where the different variants are entitled “Homage Cover” by Panzer, “Poster Homage Cover” by Joe Vriens, and “Friend Pie Exclusive” also by Panzer.


The writing is standard, but it’s not really the writing that fans come for with these respective franchises. The action feels just like one of their fighting games. The interest for this comic series will be how the two groups interact, and what plans Lord Jedah has instore for the Street Fighter characters.

Street Fighter VS Darkstalkers #0 is definitely worth a read for all Capcom and fighting game fans alike. Be sure to check it out and then watch for issue #1 which releases on April 5th of this year.

REVIEW: Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro’s “Decelerate Blue” Speaks Truth For Today’s “Go-Go” World

REVIEW: Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro’s “Decelerate Blue” Speaks Truth For Today’s “Go-Go” World

decelerate-blue-coverAdam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro’s graphic novel, Decelerate Blue, published by First Second couldn’t have been released at a more opportune time. Dystopian stories are seeing a renewed rise in interest lately, of which I personally believe can be thanked to the U.S.’s current political state of affairs.  Just last month, Amazon reported a rise in sales for George Orwell’s book titled 1984. The seventy-year old novel became the website’s number one top seller for several days following President Trump’s inauguration and subsequent “alternative-facts” regarding Sean Spicer’s claims of having the “largest audience” of any other U.S. inauguration.


Timing aside, Rapp and Cavallaro have produced a fine piece of fiction which can stand on its own. The story revolves around a fifteen-year old girl, Angela, struggling with the fast-paced, consumer-driven world that she has grown up in. In this futuristic world, people busy themselves with all manners of distraction: Mall trips, advertisements around every corner, constant consumerism, and even increasing their own heartrates while the government is able to move on its own with little disruption. The only real concern for the people is protecting your “Guarentee,” seemingly a status symbol that marks you as belonging in this “go-go” world. If the tradeoff is being able to live in relative comfort, most people are glad to accept the “Go Guarantee, Go” doctrine.

The opening scene shows Angela sitting down to family dinner as her parents discuss their flavorless and non-consequential day, throwing around buzz words like “hyper” and “accelerate.” As Angela expresses a dissatisfaction  with the “Megamail” and the “really hyper movies” that run around fourteen-minutes long, her parents are concerned with her dissention.

As the female protagonist finds herself eventually in an underground colony of individuals who have decided to go “off-grid,” matters take on a new shade of dire for the future. In comparison to the “fastness” of the upper-world, the underground dissenters hold dear the ideals of slowness, of meditation, of slow breathing, and of living simply; everything that the “Guarantee Committee” speaks out against.


At first, the art style and dialogue of the graphic novel threw me off. The simple black-and-white drawings with little detailing looked to me as lazy. Though as the story unfolded, I realized that the art was rather intentional. The fast-paced future in Rapp’s story prided itself with being succinct and efficient. Citizens were instructed to keep their sentences short and to the point, encouraging the use of contractions such as “can’t” instead of the slightly longer “cannot”, and avoiding as much as possible the use of adverbs. The art reflects this “to the point” attitude, being as efficient as it can to tell the story. There are panels where we are shown Cavallaro’s real artistic prowess, displaying the full range of emotions and thoughts that the main character is slowly awakening to. The writing was the same way as I had difficulty with how each sentence of dialogue ended with the word “Go,” of which I soon realized was intentional; another sign of how the Guarantee Committee was controlling the way citizens spoke, urging people to “use their Goes.” Luckily, we the reader get a reprieve from our “goes.”

What cuts truly deep about this story is that this where our society seems to be heading to now. We may not have chips imbedded in our arms, but we have cellphones that we check on average eighty-times a day. What’s to say we won’t be use to the idea of getting a tiny chip installed if it’s advertised as “timesavers” and “effortless.” There is always some product that some company is insisting we can’t live without and in turn always some technological device that we ourselves feel we could do better for if we had. This graphic novel truly is an important read, especially to that of our current generation of young adults who hardly know anything less that “instantaneous.” This is a great reminder that there are benefits to just sitting down, smelling the flowers, and perhaps taking the time in a world where there seems to be no time whatsoever to perhaps read a book.


Check out Decelerate Blue at your local bookstore or online. While you’re at it, check out the rest of First Second’s library of great reads at their website, www.firstsecondbooks.com