monuments

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Monuments

Long ago, I stood on this beach and dreamed of you
Metal monuments bore the sun’s reflections
And the waves’

People chattered noise and cycles hummed
As if we knew them once
As if we ever know anyone

Birds flew past, chasing each other over the spray
Then they were gone
Like you

I have since built other monuments

The World Around Us #15: Prehistoric Animals

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Gilberton published The World Around Us #15: Prehistoric Animals in 1959 as part of its Classics Illustrated line. World Around Us is a must-have for any collector of dinosaur comics. Despite the way current advances in understanding dinosaur anatomy have made much of this book obsolete from a scientific perspective, it has a quaint historic charm and many stunningly rendered pages. It features uncredited artwork by Sam Glanzman and Al Williamson, according to Steve Bissette’s essay on PalaeoBlog. While dinosaurs take up much of the book, it also features prehistoric mammals, the origin of the planet Earth, and biographies of important biologists and paleontologists.

Collectors can often find a low-grade copy of World Around Us #15 at MyComicShop in the $5-15 range. Copies in various grades appear on eBay, with Fine and Fine+ grades listed in the $30-50 range.

In our second year on this blog, we presented the individual stories in this book as a series of posts. But now, here it is all in one shot for you prehistoric animal enthusiasts. Enjoy!

condor

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Condor

All poems have endings
The condor takes to the sky
Unburdened by earth

the saga of supergirl’s new costume

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adventure 397 0cover

As a guy, I can tell you that writing female characters presents some unique challenges—not the least of which is trying to sort out their clothes and hair! Back in 1969, Supergirl’s creative team rose to the challenge by engaging readers to come up with costume and hairstyle ideas. Both Action Comics #273 and Adventure #387 ran the following page about her hair:

action comics 273

By the time Action Comics #281 hit the presses, reader votes determined the winner by a huge margin. With nearly as many votes as all other hairstyles combined, the “Campus Cuddle-Bun” style won by a landslide. I would have preferred the “Contempo Cut” perhaps, but the “Pony Tail Sophisticate” really makes the most sense when half of your superhero time is spent flying through the air! As a hairstyle for Supergirl’s secret identity, any of these would work, but if I was flying faster than the speed of sound I would definitely want my hair tied back. And don’t ask me how the “Kitten Cut” would even work. How do you cut invulnerable hair? Maybe her stylist has a machine that pumps out red sun rays.

action comics 281

That settled her secret-identity hair. But as you can see from the fan letters below, Supergirl’s costume was the subject of much discussion. These letters appeared in Adventure #384-395.

adventure 384 lpadventure 387 lpadventure 388 lpadventure 392 lpadventure 395 lpadventure 395 lp2

Both male and female readers had pretty strong opinions about her costume. Who says guys don’t think about these things?

Here is the panel from Adventure #397 which reveals the winning design.

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The next issue, Adventure #398, added to the costume saga by showcasing some of the different designs submitted for consideration. Supergirl speaks to the reader directly, explaining that the winning design was actually a combination of two designs submitted by two different readers. She even asks one to write in because the address got lost!

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The final design looks pretty cool to me, but no sooner did it debut than it got drawn wrong! Look closely at the middle panel on the following page and see if you can spot what went missing.

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If you said, “The dang S logo on her chest,” then give yourself today’s SuperVision Award!

Supergirl wraps it up in Adventure #398 by speaking directly to the readers again, naming even more contributors and suggesting she might adorn herself in different costumes now and then just to give all the great ideas a chance. How hard would you have geeked out if you got your name mentioned by your favorite heroine?!

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This is a really good example of collaborating with readers to get ideas, and honoring them in print for those ideas. Heck, I’m tempted to try my hand at a Supergirl design after this! And if that isn’t enough Supergirl nostalgia for you, head over to The Supergirl Project and go nuts!

indie comics spotlight

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pariah missouri book one cover salazar pescadorPariah Missouri is much overdue for a chance in our spotlight here. Creator Andres Salazar has led more than one successful Kickstarter campaign to produce two hardcover volumes and a role playing game for this western horror series described as “Deadwood Meets Buffy.” Set in 1857, Pariah Missouri pits a detective and his rag-tag crew of frontier archetypes against murderous demons and other supernatural evils. We enjoyed the artwork from Jose Luis Pescador and encourage you to keep current with this project or pick up Pariah Missouri from the Salazar Entertainment store.

 

silvertongue interior 0 coverSilvertongue 30xx is back with a second issue, and creator Nando Sarmiento brings the outrageous story “The Chippewa Vendetta” to a high-powered conclusion. The manga-style artwork of Chris Mullins keeps the volume cranked up in this fast-paced science-fiction courtroom drama. Put down those boring John Grisham novels and brace yourself for an explosive ride across America in a giant courtroom on wheels, where the laws change every time you cross a state border! Head over to Little Nando’s store for sample pages from Silvertongue 30xx or pick up issues 1 and 2 on Comixology.

 

 

rise of the antichrist issue 6 cover geant kay

The sixth issue of The Rise of the Antichrist proves creator Betvin Geant and artist Kay have not even scratched the surface of how far out they are willing to take this concept. The lord of hell has now firmly convinced the sociopathically delusional “hero” of his divinity and set him on a nationwide tour of miraculous deeds and talk show appearances. Blasphemy, piety, and sheer insanity combine in this psychological horror story available at AntichristTheComic.com.

 

 

Interview with 4 Seconds creator Paul O’Connor

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Author Paul O’Connor joins us today for an interview about his newly launched digital comic book story 4 Seconds. You can read 4 Seconds for free at Mark Waid’s Thrillbent. Paul discusses with us the technical side of producing a story for Thrillbent’s unique reading platform, including how he invented a new scripting technique working with artist Billy King on the initial concept design and artist Karl Kesel on the final story.

4 seconds paul oconnor promo

 

Paul, what is 4 Seconds and how did it come about?

4 Seconds is an original comic story in digital form published at Mark Waid’s Thrillbent site. It is free to read right now, and I hope everyone will give it a shot. The story is self-contained and easy to complete in one sitting. It tells the tale of a petty thief who discovers she can see into the future… but only 4 seconds into the future! This proves to be just enough superpower to get her into trouble.

The story was born when I won Mark Waid’s open-microphone pitch contest at San Diego Comic-Con. I was super-excited for this job, because I am a big believer in the new way stories can be told at Thrillbent. There are dozens of stories at the site, many of them are free, and they all have something to say about how comic stories can be told beyond the printed page.

4 seconds billy king cassie character design

As someone who makes books, I’d love to hear about the technical side of creating 4 Seconds specifically for the Thrillbent digital format. What’s unique about Thrillbent compared to printed comics, or even other digital platforms?

Even during the pitch stage, it was important to me that I create a story best told (or perhaps only told) in the Thrillbent format. Thrillbent specializes in digital-native stories that expand the way comics stories are told. It is critical to understand that these are still comics stories. They aren’t motion comics, and they don’t have soundtracks or spoken dialogue. They are still words, pictures, and panels that the reader pages through at their own pace.

One way things are different is in the fluidity of transitions afforded by this platform. For instance, we can do actual fades, wipes, and pans, imparting a more cinematic feel to a traditional comics story. Likewise, this platform allows for new types of page architecture and panel borders, and new approaches to balloon placement and dialogue construction. In creating 4 Seconds, artist Karl Kesel and I tried to take full advantage of being in a paperless environment, and using this platform to tell our story in a more memorable way. 4 Seconds is built from the ground-up to be a new thing in familiar clothing.

4 seconds billy king precog scene layout

Tell me how those possibilities came to life in creating a scene from 4 Seconds.

For example, we might have a “master shot”—say, a nighttime interior of the mansion of the villainous Anton Glass. Rather than show the entire shot at once, our story might reveal it in portions—first showing just that slice illuminated by the moody moonlight leaking through the floor-to-ceiling windows, then picking up the trail of bloody footprints on the floor, then finding the outstretched hand of a body lying just inside the shadows.

Across this, we place our characters, posing them for the critical moments of storytelling. And then we bring in dialogue balloons, captions, and sound effects. What Karl had to deliver were all the many individual panels, frames, and character poses that made up the story, which are then placed in the correct order for viewing via Thrillbent.

The results are equivalent to what might be many panels and pages in a paper comic, all playing out in the same narrative space using comic conventions of panels to parse time and focus reader attention on the sequential elements needed to tell the story. It’s still the same toolbox used in conventional comics, but there’s greater freedom of expression in how it’s used, particularly when it comes to isolating specific elements that you want the reader to see.

4 seconds paul oconnor script sample 1

 

How was writing the 4 Seconds script different from comic scripts you’ve written for other media? Was it anything like a traditional comic book script?

This was a very different process. The Thrillbent format demanded that I take a new approach to scripting, and I also challenged myself to think in visual terms from the get-go. I deliberately went outside of my comfort zone of concentrating on dialogue and description and leaving everything else up to the artist. Instead, I wanted to provide a deeply thought-out visual blueprint for Karl, which he could (and did!) use as a springboard to make things even better in the penciling stage.

That meant I was doing scene-blocking and transitions—new things for me—and also figuring out how to break the rules as fast as I made them! To tie it all together, I invented a hybrid script form that offers conventional comics direction, dialogue, etc., but abandoned panels as the unit of storytelling in favor of frame advances. Determining how much information to add/change to each advance drives the pace of the story, and sometimes the challenge is as much about deciding what to retain from previous frames more than it is about what to add.

4 seconds paul oconnor script sample 2

 

Thank you, Paul! 4 Seconds keeps the twists and turns coming right up to the very end. Revealing the story in frames like this means readers share Cassie’s experience of her world. They know something is coming in that empty space of the future, but they can’t see far enough ahead to be sure what it is. I found it drew me into the story and made me care that much more about what happened to her.

Read 4 Seconds for free at Mark Waid’s Thrillbent.

sketchbook sunday: a trip to the amazing arizona comic-con

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Amazing Arizona Comic-Con was well underway by the time I showed up for my four-hour volunteer shift. Holly gave me a volunteer t-shirt and sent me off with Amy, who had an assignment for me. From the original description of the volunteer position, I expected to be moving fifty-pound boxes around all afternoon. But Amy explained to me that Mat Nastos was scheduled to moderate the Chris Claremont panel on the main stage, and I was going to watch his table for him!

I’ve never been to a comic-con in my life, so this was quite an unexpected way to spend my first hour. Mat told me to feel free to sketch, and pointed to his bag of pens and markers. It held several Sharpie markers and one of the same Pigma micron fine point pens I like to use. This launched a discussion of brush tip pens in which Mat showed me his refillable Pentel brush tip and told me about a refillable kuratake pen from Japan with a sable tip, not synthetic like the one I’ve been using this year.

As if having a chance to discuss tools of the trade with a professional wasn’t fun enough, I then spent an hour on the artist’s side of the table instead of the fan’s. Thanks to my bright white volunteer shirt, only two people mistook me for the real Mat. Everyone else I greeted with a smile, asked them how they were, and let them know Mat would be back at 4 p.m. Several of them stayed and chatted with me about Mat’s artwork and prints on the table, or indie comic books, or a new tattoo, or that it was their first comic-con, too.

But what most impressed me in that hour was the unfailing enthusiasm Rob Liefeld showed each and every fan in the massive line waiting to meet him. Rob’s table was the next one over from Mat’s, and I have never seen anyone so genuinely cheerful to be posed and photographed over and over and over. I was in awe of his ability to project a positive energy and make every fan feel like he cared.

From Mat’s table, I also had a view of the other biggest line that afternoon: the one to meet George Pérez. Once Mat got back, I got sent to “float” for a bit and check on other volunteers, see if they needed anything, and lend a presence to any lines that needed tending. After making a few loops around the hall and chatting with people, I relieved the volunteer who was watching over George and his fans.

George’s table had no merchandise or books on it. He only had his sharpie markers, pads of Bristol paper, a donation jar, and flyers for the charity he works with: The Hero Initiative. That’s it. It was explained to me that people had numbered tickets in this line, and we were accepting them in numerical order, and anyone without a ticket could get in line but there was no guarantee we would get to them.

Neither the ticketholders nor George were in any hurry. This line barely moved, because each and every fan got George’s full attention. And I realized that made their wait worthwhile. In the meantime, whoever was in the front of the line got to chat with me about things like Perez’s work on Crisis on Infinite Earths and Teen Titans. One fan told me he had been in line for six hours, and laughed when I suggested that instead of a sketch he request a full-body Sharpie tattoo.

George was gracious and cheerful, and even addressed one fan as “my son” when posing with the sketch he had drawn for the young man. Fans brought up entire stacks of comics for George to sign. One fan had a large Bristol paper full of empty panels, and George drew Batman in the center panel. He signed a two-meter-wide Marvel poster one fan had collected many signatures on. One fan had George sign a huge plastic infinity gauntlet. One had his comics bagged and boarded, but with areas of the bag sliced out and bordered with electrical tape so George would know just where he wanted a signature on the cover. And George delivered sketch after sketch after sketch after sketch. For hours.

I have never seen anything like it in all my life.

Before the night was over, everyone with a numbered ticket did make it through that line, and the donation jar was full. In honor of the tireless joy and attention George and the other creators at the convention showed their fans, consider donating to the organization George was promoting: The Hero Initiative. Funds for Hero Initiative are raised and disbursed by comic book artists and industry leaders to comic book artists in need, especially aging artists who need major medical treatments or surgeries. Please visit HeroInitiative.Org.

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