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.

Rick
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.

X-Men
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.

Starwars
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.

Joke Batman
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.

Blue Batman
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.

Twin Peaks
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.

God Woke
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.

 

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

Valiant to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of “Eternal Warrior” with “Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1”

Valiant to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of “Eternal Warrior” with “Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1”

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From the creative writings of Robert Venditti, the one behind Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps., and the artistry of Renato Guedes of Wolverine and Bloodshot Reborn, Valiant Entertainment is excited for the release of their upcoming one-shot title Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1. A tribute to the original Eternal Warrior #1 comic first published in 1992, Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1 celebrates the character’s 25th anniversary.

Set in a time long before recorded civilization, the story follows an amnesiac warrior turned farmer named “Gilad Anni-Padda” as he tries to remember his past. He eventually discovers his heroic nature, and thus begins a new, bloody-conflict.

From what I’ve seen so far, the comic is lovingly done by Guedes. The artistry, intricate detailing, and befitting coloring all show a great level of care to this comic and its source material. Each page appears to be painstakingly put together and situated into panels when needed. The dialogue and lettering also does well to further demonstrate the dedication that has gone into it.

Eternal Warrior: Awakening #1 will go on sale May 10th of this year, retailing for $3.99. Don’t forget to add the date for this one-shot comic tribute to your calendar.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.