Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Favorite Short Story: "How Interesting, A Tiny Man"

"How Interesting," Indeed
The story appeared in here.
I was sitting around thinking about how I enjoy short stories, and have at various points read books that collect them. I've tried the quarterly offerings from McSweeney's and Lapham's, looked at various monthly mini-magazines, and more. That makes it all the more interesting and somewhat bizarre that my favorite short-story was first read by me in a comic-book anthology.

"How Interesting, A Tiny Man" was in the first issue of one of the re-launches of "Dark Horse Presents" and caught my eye with its being an island of prose in a sea of comic-art. As someone who has dabbled in reading science fiction at various points in life, I of course am familiar with the name Harlan Ellison. I may not be someone who has read/viewed a ton of his works, but I have seen enough entertainment that involved his writing being put into a form of media that I know I generally like the guy's output. This story he made originally was in a now-defunct science fiction magazine, won a Nebula award, and found its way into the comic anthology with some minimal art. I'm glad it did, but you may be wondering just what is it about?

"How Interesting, A Tiny Man," follows a scientist who creates just that, a tiny man. He gets some fun press-attention for it, but then the tide turns against him and people get mad at his playing God. It sounds pretty straightforward but much of the pleasure comes from reading how Ellison tells the story itself. Plus, it has a fascinating dual-ending in that it offers for you to imagine a bunch of things that could have happened between the majority of the story and two quick conclusions.

In one ending the story has stayed relatively grounded with our scientist exhausted of the world's hate and destroying the tiny man by slamming a telephone book down on him. The other version takes us in a direction of the Tiny Man having become a God, destroying the world, and now looking down at his creator, the true tiny man. Both endings are equally "valid" and allow the reader to draw in their mind how the story could get to the point each describes.

I've read many short stories, but for some reason this one easily sticks-out in my mind as being a favorite. Others have discussed a fondness for it too and I would recommend trying to track it down and giving it a read, you might agree with me!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

This Is Interesting: Oni Press Starts Open Submissions in May

You Want To Start a Career in Comics? Do you Like Pain?
Marvel's view on submissions.
For anyone who wants to, "Break," into the comic industry it can be quite hard. Unless you have an, "In," expecting to just send your art or story-pitch to a comic-publisher will most likely get it tossed in the trash for two major reasons:

1. The time needed to read all the submissions is too great.
2. If a company were to say they read pitches, and then made a comic that had your idea, you could theoretically sue them for stealing your concept/idea and not paying.

Now, Image is of course famous for taking pitches from anyone, although that doesn't too often get a person a comic-deal (we know of the exceptions such as the Luna Brothers and Jonathan Hickman because they are unique of catching Image's eye).
DC's even more blunt statement on submissions.

The thing also is, Image lets people own their intellectual property so the whole can of worms that Marvel or DC would face with someone yelling, "I submitted a story idea where Iron Man literally becomes made of Iron, and that just came out two years after I mailed in my story, give me the monies!" is not faced by Image. Otherwise though, unless you go-down the road of self-publishing, posting stuff online, or finding a comic-convention where they have slotted time for portfolio're kind of SOL.

That makes the fact that Oni Press announced they will start taking open submissions as of May quite interesting.

The Deal

Oni Press puts out a variety of cool comics, with my recent review of "Kaijumax" showing one example of the interesting stuff they release. Back in the middle of March Oni Press made the surprising announcement they were going to accept submissions from writers and artists (and colorists too!) who just send stuff to them, a true blind submission. Well, its a bit different from the old days as they want you to email them the stuff, not send them a physical item, but you see what I mean.

There really isn't too much stuff they will automatically say, "Nuh-uh," too, besides stating outright, "No super-heroes, no trivialization of rape, and dear God, please no zombies," so as long as you have a truly original idea that you've always thought would make a superb comic, you could send it in.
And yes, vampire-zombies have been done,
so don't think you're being original with that either.
Now, the thing about this that makes me wonder is how I think anything Oni would express interest in that you send them becomes their intellectual property--meaning they will help print your comic and pay you, but the rights now belong to them. Depending on how much of a sticking-point this is for people it might be something to keep in mind, because if you really do have a million-dollar comic in mind and Oni agrees to publish it, your million-dollar idea will quite possibly just net you enough money as if you had a thousand-dollar concept.

Still, should you not be able to self-publish, be against the idea of putting your comic online for free in hopes of getting attention, or just fancy giving-it-a-go of submitting to Oni Press, as of May 1st that will be an option for you. You can find all the details here.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The More I Think About it, The More Insane "Archie VS Predator" Is

Just Plain Bonkers
I bought the first issue of the "Archie VS Predator" comic that came out a tad ago and finally had a chance to sit down and read it multiple times. The first time I read it the interesting aspect was how it really does seem like a normal Archie comic--if with some slightly more suggestive language than the all-ages digests (Reggie refers to himself as a, "Sexual Tyrannosaur") up until the point where the Predator arrives and spies on everyone. This all leads to the only truly jarring image of this issue, where we see that Cheryl Blossom and her brother have met a really, really bloody demise at the hands of our alien guest-star. The second time I read it was just to absorb how great a job writer Alex de Campi and artist Fernando Ruiz do giving us an utterly absurd concept and making it somehow work. The third time was to make sure I hadn't hallucinated something this bizarre existing.
The way the comic is presented in its more, "Classic," style of looking just makes everything feel even more messed-up. As I said, however, in this issue the Riverdale gang doesn't actually meet the Predator, they just almost encounter him while on a beach vacation and then find themselves unaware he has followed them home. By the way, I appreciate the comic keeps in mind how the Predators like to hunt in really hot places, resulting in it making sense he would encounter them in the tropics, and then follow them to a place maybe not normally suited to Predators--yeah, I'm being a stickler for movie-logic, I know.. Still, the fact this issue serves mainly as foreshadowing makes it not quite as good I would imagine the series will be when all Hell breaks loose.

I've read some interpretations of the comic that the Predator may in fact not be hunting, but is instead romantically interested in Betty and/or Veronica--almost being like Archie in his inability to decide whom he loves most (I say he should pick Betty, it'll always be Betty). It would be funny to see a comic where it really is Archie versus the Predator, going man-against-alien for the love of his ladies. Whatever the case of why the Predator has come to Riverdale, I am excited to see what the next three issues in this mini-series hold. Now it just has to continue expertly walking the tightrope between cleverly silly, and just plain weird.
4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Television Tuesday: "Married At First Sight" is a Piece of Trashy Voyeurism and a Genius Sociology Study--All At the Same Time!

Oh, This is just too Good.
There was a show that had a season on the FYI network called, "Married at First Sight." I didn't see it because I didn't realize there even was an FYI network. However, the more-known station A&E picked-up the rights and when I was watching my usual trashy reality television on TLC I saw an ad for this new second season and said, "Oh man, I gotta get in on that!" which brings us to where we are now.

Just what is "Married at First Sight", I imagine you are asking? Well, out of thousands of applicants some professional "match-makers" create three couples, and these couples meet, literally get married right as they are introduced, and after six weeks decide if they want to stay married or get a divorce. No, this is not a fever-dream I had or my idea of a sick-joke, this shiznit is real.

Marrying a Stranger, What could Go Wrong?
They have been arguments and anger.
Yes, after trusting an assortment of people who study sociology, sprituality, sex, etc. with their romantic future for the rest of their lives (or at least a few months) some strangers get married, and we get to watch them either hit it off right away, struggle to get along, and/or variations between. We've just finished the sixth episode as of this evening and I'm ready to say this show is a fascinating mixture between feeling exploitative and stupid along with clever and ingenious.

It's funny there are people who say marriage equality threatens the sanctity of marriage and meanwhile straight folk can throw caution to the wind and marry a stranger so as to allow us television watchers to get our jollies. Really though, it is fascinating to examine the question of if giving some, "match-makers," the chance to use their know-how to find you love is reliable. Imagine if instead of putting all that effort into dating you could just trust some smart people, or a computer, to tell you your perfect mate--I mean, besides how sites like OKCupid use math to tell you who might be a good match, I'm talking something that says it with definitive assurance as it escorts you down the aisle to the stranger you will boinking at the end of the night (okay, not all the couples on the show have even had sex yet, but yeah).

The "Cast".
Left to Right: Jessica, Ryan, Sean, Davina, Jaclyn, Ryan.
The most helpful factor in this show being enjoyable is that the couples this season are interesting. We have Jaclyn and Ryan who at first weren't actually getting along but as of this sixth episode seem to quite possibly be falling in love. There is Jessica and Ryan who had sex as of the first night of their marriage, but find that fiery passion they share can spill into some intense arguments. Then, it gets really interesting.

The most bizarre couple has to be Sean and Davina. At first he seemed like a quiet and nice guy, and she appeared to be a sweet and lonely lady. As time has gone on though the happy wrapping paper has been removed to reveal a, "present," of a conflict-avoiding and passive-aggressive husband, and a wife who talks about compromise but treats the slightest questioning of her methods or hesitation at her ideas as grounds to get enraged. I mean, it is possible that clever-editing is making them look more questionable as people than they are, but you can only artificially create so much nastiness without some real problems existing too.

They're macking now, but just wait.
When the claws come out its dramatic.
Davina and Sean make for good television because their relationship has gone from happy to scary at lighting-speed. He's like that attractive and mellow guy who acts like everything is fine before stabbing you in your sleep, and she's like that hot and seemingly-sweet woman who eventually reveals herself to be batshit crazy and stabs you during a screaming-match--either way you have the "pro" of getting to grope someone sexy, and the "con" that you get stabbed.

Good Clean Fun. Well, Two of those Things.

Yes, "Married at First Sight" allows us viewers to leer into the lives of some people who agree to a bizarre experiment, but does have some social value. It gives us the chance to watch folk navigate the complications of relationships, from moving-in together to solving arguments with there just also being the "hook" that they are utter strangers who are newly married. So okay, it is tacky, a bit gross in how it trivializes the concept of marriage as the expression of love between two people, and makes me feel a little dirty watching it, but I just can't help but love a show with a concept this utterly insane. This has that little bit of redeeming features that make "Married at First Sight" more educational than, say, "Honey Boo Boo," ever was.

You can tune in to "Married at First Sight" on Tuesdays at 9PM Eastern Time, 8PM Central, on either FYI or A&E, and you ought to because things are only going to get more interesting as the couples fall deeper into love, or aggravation.
4.5 out of 5 stars for the season so far.

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Daughters of the Dark Oracle" AKA A Cool-Looking Kickstarter is Launching Today

Today friend of the blog Mike Wolfer (whom I've interviewed not just once, but twice!) has launched his latest Kickstarter for a project he calls, "Daughters of the Dark Oracle." A new series he will be taking to print, it features his character Ragdoll and other horror-monsters engaging in an assortment of adventures. The earliest issues will reprint his, "Ragdoll" comic of which I was a big fan with an all new prologue and be followed by other new stories that have werewolves, mermaids, and of course vampires--because almost all good horror-stories need vampires, I myself think.

You can check out the Kickstarter here, it looks pretty snazzy!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

So, That "Batman VS Superman" Trailer Was Dark AKA Tone in Movies

After leaking and having various people post grainy versions of it, the "Batman VS Superman Trailer" was officially uploaded by its director, Zack Snyder, as he and WB realized the cat was out of the bag and no matter how hard you try to force it back in, that kitty won't return to whence it came. I of course have the trailer right here for you with my thoughts below:

The first thing I thought upon seeing this was, "Man, that's intense," followed by, "I actually kind of am intrigued by the angle they are continuing to take." Just what angle am I talking about? Well, see if you follow what I'm getting at here. The DC Comics always had a reputation as being the more bright-and-cheery brand--even with Batman, then we had Marvel being thought of as the more, "Realistic," and at times gritty world. This of course was not always the case factually (I mean, DC put out "Watchmen"), but seemed to be the perception of folk. Now we have these Marvel movies that do at times have their serious moments, but tend to be a bit more peppy, while on the other hand we also have these ultra-serious DC flicks. Who would have predicted that back before DC did the Nolan-directed "Batman" films that brought us a more dour sort of hero?

It is interesting to see each company carve out a tonal-niche, with Marvel doing the more humorous movies, and DC going really dark. I mean, it did make sense for those Batman flicks to be a tad melancholy, but "Man of Steel" had some heavy material and "Batman VS Superman" seems to be picking-up that ball of questioning concepts such as religion and/or power and running with said ball for dear life (I loved the "False God" graffiti on the Superman statue, that was quite clever).

While I'm still worried when I hear how "Batman VS Superman" is trying to jam so many characters into the flick, this trailer does look promising, and maybe will help make the Ben Affleck haters pipe-down a little bit after seeing that intense stare he does that makes me feel as if Batman himself is indeed peering into my soul and judging me. As for my judgement about the quality of the film, we will know before too long if this the epic success DC is hoping for or an incredible failure. I know I myself would like a quality Batman and Superman fight if nothing else.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fascinating and Funny--"Kaijumax" #1

Bizarre--In an Awesome Way
I saw "Kaijumax" described as, "Orange is the New Black meets Godzilla," and while that is a strange way to describe a comic, it actually is pretty accurate. "Kaijumax" is what you get if you mix a prison drama and monster movie, throw in a good dose of humor, and sprinkle in some real human drama (even if the main characters are not actually humans). Yes, publisher Oni Press has something quite snazzy in this title.

This issue focuses on a monster known as Electrogor who has been captured by humans and is being taken to a prison for his kind. We get hints about how this is a world where giant monsters and humans have an uneasy coexistence, but the vast majority of the issue takes place in the prison, with us only getting a glimpse of Electrogor's children who he wants to return to outside of his island penitentiary.

Creator Zander Cannon supplies a story that is great, and art that is cute but has a bit of pathos, with character's looking adorable, but then talking about stabbing other monsters, or getting quite bloody when a brawl breaks out. It makes for a comic that looks a bit like a Saturday-morning cartoon, but with bits of dark maturity that hit a reader all the harder thanks to the counter of bright and peppy artwork.
Much of this issue is spent explaining how the prison works, establishing why Electrogor wants to get out so badly, and displaying how the Warden is not someone to be trifled with. I especially like how the world-building is done expertly, with exposition being presented in a way that feels natural instead of as an info-dump.

Overall I think the first issue of "Kaijumax"does all the things a first issue should do. It establishes the world, plot, tone, and most importantly is enjoyable. I'd definitely recommend checking this comic out.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 13, 2015

I Saw "Stomp " Live Yesterday and Quite Enjoyed It

The Way We Make Music
Should you be a fan of the musical arts--or even ever took a music class as they are quite popular--you have probably heard of STOMP. Should you be unfamiliar, STOMP is basically a mixture of performance art and music. The twist is that this music is made with items you would not necessarily think of as being musical, such brooms, garbage-can lids. The way these items are put together to create melodies and beats is pretty fascinating and arguably challenges some conceptions of the way we make music, showing how almost anything utilized properly can be a tool to create catchy harmonies.

While it had existed in various forms, it wasn't until 1991 that STOMP was actually given its name as two UK residents,  Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, brought their groups and ideas together to form the now widely-renowned group. Since then people have joined and left the official cast, but STOMP has always been touring around, performing shows at a set location, and occasionally having specials on HBO, or doing other televised events such as when they performed at the Lincoln Memorial at former President Clinton's, "Millennium Celebration," in 2000 (or more recently, at the close of the 2012 London Olympics).
This is not an image from the show I attended, but they did do this piece.
I saw STOMP yesterday afternoon with my fianceƩ and while I had seen videos of the show before, and had attended events like STOMP, it was quite exciting to actually be there watching it live. They did pieces I was familiar with such as using brooms to create a song, but there were other fascinating bits I had never seen before, such as when they used lighters to create quite the spectacle that was both visually and aurally amazing.

It is hard to describe a STOMP show as so much of it is something you need to witness in order to understand how cool it all is. Watching it on video doesn't even come close to the excitement of how they interact with you, the crowd, and the energy you can feel from the performers radiating off the stage as they run and jump about with their instruments. Really, all I can say is that I would encourage you to see a showing of STOMP if you are ever able, and that if you go you'll find yourself having a great time. So yeah, it was a nice way to spend the afternoon for sure.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Some Thoughts on Dash #3

A Stellar Series so Far

I've reviewed the 1st issue of "Dash" and have also reviewed the 2nd issue as part of a larger segment. One reason I've given the amount of attention to the comic that I have is I find the subject matter fascinating--a private detective in 1940's Los Angeles deals with the fact he is hated for being openly gay (not that he necessarily intended to come out, he was as successful cop before being revealed as a, "Homo," and kicked-off the force), and works his hardest to solve mysteries no matter who gets in his way. The end of the 2nd issue hinted at some fantastical elements coming more into play and sure enough they have as of this 3rd entry in the series.

Published by Northwest Press, "Dash" has protagonist Dash Malone in this 3rd issue continuing to deal with the fact a man he loved (called "Plink" by his friends) has been murdered, and that it all seems to tie into a strange conspiracy involving a mysterious mummy. At the end of the 2nd issue Dash was being assaulted by a woman named Zita who had attempted to hire him for a case, and this issue opens with Dash describing what happened to his only friend left on the police force, Sal, and his secretary, Cindy.

We continue with an expertly-illustrated fight scene between Dash and the dangerous--and suddenly quite strong--Zita. Artist Delia Gable provides some stellar and animated panels as Dash and Zita brawl, with the aftermath of Dash thinking he nearly died (or even did die and somehow came back) resulting in some serious trauma for our hero. As we reach the end of the comic we see Dash confronting Zita down at the police station (where she has been detained) and learning that something evil is definitely lurking in Los Angeles, and it is responsible for Plink's death.

When I first started reading "Dash" I did not know it would take a turn for the supernatural. I don't mind it doing so however, because Dash Malone is such a fascinating and easy-to-like guy that I would gladly read a story where he tackles any kind of case--normal, supernatural, etc. I greatly enjoyed this third issue but it suffers from a problem that many mini-series do in that with us being in the middle of the story a lot of things have to be set-up to pay off later-on. Therefore right as Zita is about to tell us some answers the issue ends. It results in me wanting just a bit more to keep me satisfied until stuff really gets crazy in the next issue, but I suppose I'll just have to wait patiently.

"Dash" has been a highly enjoyable comic so far, with much thanks going to writer Dave Ebersole for giving us such a great protagonist, and just as much appreciation being due to Delia Gable for her superb artwork. Should your comic store not have a copy of the 3rd issue of "Dash" you can buy it here, and I would recommend you do just that. Now I just have to try and stay calm while I wait for some answers in the next issue!
4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

For The First Time Since the Big Re-Launch, DC Has An Assortment of Interesting-Looking Titles

I Did Not See That Coming
A less-sexualized version of Starfire than we've seen lately?
Who would have thunk-it?
I have written before how I essentially gave-up on DC. I now am not even reading "Injustice" as I feel going into a "Year Four" is pushing it for a prequel comic to a video-game that had minimal story anyway (plus I miss Tom Taylor writing it, but he went and got an exclusive contract with Marvel, I believe). "The Multiversity" is almost done too so what will be left from DC that I'm reading besides the Vertigo-published "Wytches"? Well, "Batman"....and that's it. However, DC is also starting to do their re-tooling of comics--or "Batgirling" as they call it, and with that is a smattering of new titles that actually look interesting. Yes, there are upcoming books which have me a bit excited for DC for the first time since their big 2011 re-launch. I did not see such an occurrence coming.

Whether it is getting Gene Luen Yang to write a "Superman" comic, having an all-ages comic still set the "Canon" DC-Universe in the form of "Bat-Mite" (and other titles), or actually having a "Starfire" comic come out where the character isn't treated as an over-sexualized joke, DC suddenly has some promising titles on the horizon. Plus, there is some diversity in the characters and writers with "Midnighter" featuring the openly-gay hero, and "Cyborg" is finally getting his own comic too. Also, the books are written by a gay man (Steve Orlando) and a person of color (David Walker), respectively--so even though you don't have to be a particular orientation or color to write a character, at least DC is showing a commitment to a wider variety of characters and authors who might bring a voice to those characters that other writers at the publisher have not yet provided.

In addition, I have a soft-spot for Martian Manhunter (I feel he doesn't get the respect he deserves considering his skill-set and intriguing back-story) so seeing that he will be getting his own comic is snazzy too. Then, I'm not sure the famous (infamous?) "Hitman" comic ever happened in DC-continuity since the re-launch scrambling everything, but that isn't stopping Garth Ennis from doing a sorta-sequel to it focused on what has to be one of the worst super-teams ever, "Section 8".

After pumping-out a lot of comics that had me caring less-and-less about the publisher, suddenly all these books will be coming out post-Convergence that have my attention piqued at least enough to flip-through the issues and consider purchasing them if my budget allows.

Now, the question of course becomes if the potential in these new titles is in fact delivered upon. That is something we will only know for certain once the comics actually start coming out, of course. Still, for the first time in a long while I'm actually a little excited to see what DC has on-tap for us. I'll say it again, I did not see that coming.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Re-Interview Time: Mike Wolfer

I've spoken with Mike Wolfer before, focusing mostly on his first Kickstarter for "Ragdoll" which I was quite a fan of (see my review here). He has a new Kickstarter for the "Widow Archives" nearing its conclusion (there is still time to pledge though) which collects some of his earlier work when he released comics about a character named, what else, "Widow"! For a long time it has been difficult to find all the issues of this series, but thanks to this latest Kickstarter old fans of the character--and people new to her thanks to enjoying Wolfer's more recent and easier-to-find works--can enjoy this bloody, sexy, and scary horror comic. Having read a bit of Widow before and loved "Ragdoll" I thought it only made sense to speak with Wolfer again about the "Widow Archvies", and what the future holds for "Ragdoll" in her new series, "Daughters of the Dark Oracle."

The Interview Begins!
Hello Mike! We have spoken before about your “Ragdoll” comic which I was quite a fan of. For those who are new to the blog or forgetful would you mind re-introducing yourself?

Sure thing! I’m Mike Wolfer, a comic book writer and artist. I started my career in 1987 as a self-publisher, did that for almost ten years, then signed-on with Avatar Press in 1996. I’ve been with Avatar for almost twenty years, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, George R.R. Martin, so many incredibly talented creators. Most people know me for my horror work, on titles like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, GRAVEL, FRIDAY THE 13TH, LADY DEATH, and a bunch of others. 

Tell me a bit about the history of “Widow” and what made you want to revisit this character?

My first self-published book was a giant monster homage called DAIKAZU, which had generated quite a loyal fanbase, and had run for 11 issues. I was having a great time with it, but decided to take a breather and do a quick, little, self-contained, three-issue, mini-series that was outside of the giant monster stuff. So in 1992, I whipped up WIDOW: FLESH AND BLOOD, a kind of throwback to the old, exploitation movies I loved from the ‘70s. Two cops are stranded on a tropical island, there’s a scientist conducting genetic experiments, he has a beautiful and mysterious daughter, and there’s some kind of blood-thirsty, spider-monster on the loose.

It’s really interesting how everything took off. Keep in mind, it was the beginning of the indy comic boom. My intent was to do something that no one else was doing, a really gory, sex-filled, horror piece. One story, and done, then back to DAIKAZU. I was doing the WIDOW story mostly just for me, because it’s what I would have liked to read, and I had no idea if anyone else felt the same. I didn’t even reveal until the climax of the series that Emma (the scientist’s daughter) was actually the monster, and I think that blew away a lot of people. So the book came out, and sales were really good, far surpassing my DAIKAZU sales. Something about WIDOW just clicked with readers, even before the hook was revealed. Emma was on every cover, but never in her spider form, of course; that would give away the ending. And that last issue came out, Emma sprouts spider legs, and readers were like, “What the hell?! You can’t end it now! We want more!” Naturally, I listened to them, and published four more WIDOW mini-series, for a total of fourteen issues.

Then Avatar Press came along and made an offer to publish WIDOW as one of their core titles, so we did WIDOW #0 and the WIDOW: THE ORIGIN mini-series, some crossovers and one shots, and they reprinted all of the old stuff with new X-rated material and titled it WIDOW X. But I was also working on other books for them, and that slowly dominated my schedule, so there wasn’t any time for more WIDOW. But for years, fans have been asking me, “When are you going to do trade paperback collections of the WIDOW stories?” I’d been so wrapped-up in my Avatar work that self-publishing wasn’t feasible. I couldn’t imagine even attempting it, as I’d have to totally rebuild a company from scratch, and I just didn’t have the time, unfortunately. But as I saw one Avatar project after another disappear from my schedule, I realized two things: 
1.) I needed to do something to make money, and... 
2.) Now I have the time to focus on returning to my roots, and give my fans what they’ve been asking for.
The Kickstarter for the “Widow Archives” has been extremely successful as it nears its final stretch. Now, you have successfully delivered on promised goods before (something I appreciate in this era of many Kickstarters getting funding and then disappearing into the night with funders’ money)…

A: Well, let me go on record to say that there’s one project I have yet to deliver on, and that’s COUNTESS BATHORY. That was a one-shot book, which was supposed to ship to backers in February, but I’m way behind schedule on it. It’s written, and I’m drawing pages, but I still have a lot of work to do. What happened there was that I’ve been working on a six-issue arc of CROSSED for Avatar Press, but I ended up being out sick for almost two months last fall, so that threw everything out of whack with my schedule. I have GOT to get the CROSSED series done first, so BATHORY has been pushed back a bit. I’m looking at delivery that to backers in May. Which, really, if you look at how some Kickstarter creators deliver years late or never at all, it’s not too terrible of a delay.

I won't hold being a behind a couple months against you considering there is stuff I've backed that I'm still waiting for years later! Is it a bit intimidating to have to handle the logistics of having not just one book, but multiple volumes printed? How are you dealing with the challenge of coordinating all books along with other rewards?

Yeah, the WIDOW ARCHIVES is actually a total of five volumes with the addition of the FANGS OF THE WIDOW ANNUAL, so there will be some crazy logistics to take into account. But like you said, I’ve done Kickstarters in the past, so we have shipping backer rewards down to a science now. And since these are reprint collections, the creative work is done, so it’s just a matter of having the printing and shipping done. Natalie Jane, who letters all of my new work, is doing all of the scanning and clean-up and production for the WIDOW ARCHIVES, so that’s an incredible weight off of my shoulders. As she cleans up the pages, I’m going in and doing some art corrections in Photoshop, to fix some of the anatomy and facial feature mistakes I made twenty years ago when I first drew those stories.

Is there a possibility of new “Widow” material coming out in the future seeing as how an interest has been expressed via the big success of the “Widow Archives” Kickstarter?

Absolutely. I guess a cool concept is a cool concept, and people are seeing WIDOW as a cool concept that’s not dated. Just like when I created that first mini-series back in 1992, I didn’t expect such interest to be expressed. I’m doing the WIDOW ARCHIVES as a “thank you” to all those old-timers who have asked for these collections for years, but I’m pleasantly surprised to see new readers jumping on, who have never seen or heard of WIDOW. With the primary focus of my company, Mike Wolfer Entertainment, on RAGDOLL and DAUGHTERS OF THE DARK ORACLE, fans are naturally asking if Widow might be making a comeback. Let me just say, there’s another reason why I’m putting all of the old material out there now, just before DAUGHTERS launches. I want fans to be familiar with her, just in case she pops her pretty head into another series, if you get my drift.
You have plans to start soliciting the “Daughters of the Dark Oracle” through Diamond Previews as a monthly title. Correct?

Right. You know, it seems that with every project I try to explain, it gets crazy convoluted, but that’s a good thing- It means that reader reception has been so great that I have to scramble to alter my original, modest plans! THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL was a seven-issue serial that ran years ago in RAW MEDIA QUARTERLY. Very few people saw it, but I always thought it was one of my strongest concepts, so I decided to collect that story into graphic novel format and fund it through Kickstarter. That was my first, modern testing of the self-publishing waters, and I planned to publish a new RAGDOLL graphic novel maybe once or twice a year. I followed CURSE with the COUNTESS BATHORY one-shot, as a prelude to that second RAGDOLL graphic novel, which would be titled RAGDOLL: ORGY OF THE VAMPIRES, to be released in 2015. But the Kickstarter for THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL went so well, and reader and critical response was so overwhelmingly positive, that I figured I’d better make some alterations to my original plan. I’ve also had it in the back of my head that my Kickstarter projects have only been getting into the hands of backers, and not comic book shop clientele because they’re not distributed, so I made arrangements with Diamond Comic Distributors. All of the new RAGDOLL stories I had planned will now be in a monthly, comic book format, rather than twice a year as graphic novels, and the new title is DAUGHTERS OF THE DARK ORACLE.

What is the reasoning behind the title change? Is the idea that the world of “Ragdoll” is so big you needed to expand it beyond just her and also discuss the other characters?

The whole concept of RAGDOLL is totally, retro ‘70s. It should be viewed as a combination of Hammer and horror/exploitation films and Warren Publishing magazines (EERIE, CREEPY, VAMPIRELLA). That’s the vibe I’m going for, right down to the gray-toned, black and white interiors. With that in mind, I wanted each new RAGDOLL installment to be a kind of “RAGDOLL VS. _______,” because that’s just plain fun. As I developed each story (yes, I’m working way ahead), I realized that these antagonists are incredibly strong characters in their own right, and could easily be the stars of their own series, and Ragdoll herself is sort of the delivery method for introducing those characters to readers. The story isn’t so much about Ragdoll, but about those she encounters, the world in which they live, and how they influence or change the course of each others’ lives.

“Daughters Of The Dark Oracle” begins with the original saga of Ragdoll?

Yes. The first story I did in this “universe” was THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL, so we really have to begin there, to establish the premise. Basically, Ragdoll is a Frankenstein’s monster kind of creature, created through an unholy amalgamation of science and magic. She’s haunted, however, by the memories, spirits, souls, or whatever you’d like to call them, of the women who originally owned her composite parts. All of those women met untimely deaths, so Ragdoll’s mission is to track down the various killers responsible for those murders. But in the course of her quest, she crosses paths with others of supernatural origin, and she (and we) are seeing that there is much more darkness in the world than we are aware of, and that myths and legends and monsters are real.

So you’ll be expanding out to the other characters, making it so that those of us who have backed the Kickstarters have a “head-start” of sorts (plus of course all the Kickstarter bonuses)?

Exactly! The first mini-series is titled DAUGHTERS OF THE DARK ORACLE: THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL, the second series is DAUGHTERS OF THE DARK ORACLE: ORGY OF THE VAMPIRES, the third series will be DAUGHTERS OF THE DARK ORACLE: BEAST FROM THE BRINE, etc. Quite a few people backed the Kickstarter and have already read THE CURSE OF RAGDOLL, so for you guys, issue #1 of the monthly series has a new, 12-page intro chapter that features Countess Bathory, the Wolfwoman, the Siren, and an all-new character who ties all of them together.
Sample Artwork from "Daughters of the Dark Oracle".
Is that character the “Dark Oracle” of the title?

Yes and no. The “Dark Oracle” is a concept, rather than a character, and that’s all part of the unfolding story, the revelation of what that concept or force is. The character I mentioned is Madame Sabina. In 19th century speak, she’s a “gypsy fortune teller” and “cartomancer,” but in modern terms, we’d call her a “psychic medium,” with true, supernatural powers. She’s the one who is tapped into the supernatural magic which ties all of our other characters together, and she uses what are called “Oracle Cards” to guide her through a very scary, perilous world of monsters. One of the backer rewards in all of my Kickstarter campaigns has been Oracle Cards, which are sort of like Tarot cards, and I just threw them out there with no explanation. They’re just these cool, peripheral items you can play around with. When people read DAUGHTERS #1, everything will all come together, because you’ll see Sabina using those actual cards in the story itself.

As I understand it, the plan is to follow “Widow Archives” with a “Daughters of the Dark Oracle” Kickstarter that will launch on the 20th of this month. Can you share a bit more about this?

Right! Kickstarter has been an incredible blessing for creators. It’s enabling people like me to do those dream projects that might not have seen print otherwise. Let me break it down in simplest terms, while also generalizing. Here’s how it goes: I have a new project I want to do. I pitch it to a publisher, they decline. It’s a risky proposition for them, because comic publishing can be a dangerous, financial endeavor. So now what? I could self-publish it, but where do I get the money for all of the up-front expenses like printing and advertising? Since I’m not working for a publisher who’s sending me paychecks as I complete the work, how am I going to pay the bills while I’m drawing the project? Enter Kickstarter, and the incredible support of those who enjoy my work. I’m giving them cool collectibles and unique, personalized items, and they’re helping me to survive while I create a new project just for them. We’re seeing an incredible burst of creativity in the field, just as we did with the indy boom in the late ‘80s, and it’s all because of Kickstarter.

But yes, the DAUGHTERS OF THE DARK ORACLE Kickstarter launches on April 20, and will run for 30 days, with a goal of $3000, just enough to cover all of my start-up costs for Mike Wolfer Entertainment, as I embark on a regular, monthly release schedule. Backers will be getting Kickstarter Exclusive, signed and numbered variant covers of DOTDO #1 (Blacklight Edition and ‘70s Spanish Movie Poster Edition), as well as an all-new book, MIKE WOLFER’S GALLERY OF TERROR, which is a full-color pin-up book of my work, and a first for me.

What other upcoming works do you have coming up?

For Avatar Press, I have that six-issue arc of CROSSED, which I’m both writing and drawing, hitting stores in July. As for my self-published work, DAUGHTERS is the only thing on my agenda at the moment. There is the possibility that I’ll do other books if I can find the time, but I’m focusing only on DAUGHTERS right now to make sure I’m solidly on-schedule. Considering the success of the WIDOW ARCHIVES Kickstarter, I’ll probably make those available through Diamond as well. I do have several other projects that I’d like to do, and you’ll see some of those represented in the GALLERY OF TERROR book, and I do have a few other surprises that are currently in the works with another publisher, which I’ll be announcing soon. 

As you said, when you first began in comics you engaged in self-publishing, with “Widow” being one example of that. As you once again move back into self-publishing, what is the best/most-rewarding thing and what is the hardest part when it comes to being a self-publisher?

The hardest part is budgeting your time. When I’m working for another publisher, all I have to do is write the script or draw the pages, and that’s it. My single responsibility is to create. With self-publishing, I can spend an entire week creating graphics for ads, doing computer work designing covers and logos, doing email and podcast interviews, promoting upcoming works and Kickstarter campaigns on various social media platforms, fielding emails from creators, distributors, and printers… And not pick up a pencil the entire week. But the most rewarding thing is everything that I just mentioned, because I’m doing it all for me, and I get an incredible sense of accomplishment from knowing that I am going to be directly compensated for all of my time and effort. It’s so much work, with quite a bit of stress, but it’s incredibly fulfilling, particularly when I know that all of that effort is being applied to something which is bringing joy to other people, in the form of escapist entertainment.

Thanks again to Mike Wolfer for taking the time to do an interview. You can find the Kickstarter for the "Widow Archives" here (in case you missed it at the top of the post). You can view a preview of the upcoming Kickstarter for "Daughters of the Dark Oracle" at this link, and to keep up-to-date on everything Mike's doing you can visit his official Facebook page.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Film Friday--I Saw A Variety of Those 2014 Releases I Said I Wanted to View

Movies, Yah!
At the conclusion of 2014 I discussed how there were a good chunk of movies I wanted to see from the year. I haven't seen all of them, but managed to view an assortment and shall now share my thoughts in alphabetical order, as I did the first time.

The Flicks
The Equalizer
This movie actually surprised me in that it took it as long as it did to start getting violent and action-packed. The extended time in which we see Denzel's quiet life on the screen gives everything a strange kind of sad calm, with it becoming all the more jarring when he starts killing people to protect a prostitute he forms a friendship with--and then finds those actions attract all sorts of angry characters. Denzel's character comes off as a bit of a Mary Sue, skilled at single-handedly taking down any threat he faces, only seeming to really break a sweat during a surreal finale where he rigs a hardware store full of traps between his fighting with the gangsters after him. Anton Fuqua has of course worked with Denzel before ("Training Day," for one example) and their familiarity and comfort with one another helps result in Denzel giving an even-more-excellent-than-usual performance, alternating between icy-calm and red-hot rage. A solidly good time, with the superb acting and Fuqua's stellar cinematography for the action helping elevate this beyond a standard action-movie.
4 out of 5 stars.

Gone Girl
Well, that was extremely interesting. A number of people have not yet seen this movie, which is perfectly okay as I took awhile to see it myself. It's just there is a big twist about an hour into the flick and as I did not have this this plot element spoiled for me and greatly appreciated it I would like to spare anyone still planning to see the movie having it ruined for them. What I can say, is that the acting is stellar, with Tyler Perry even doing a great job (and I've expressed concern about his moral-messaging in his work before, so perhaps the key is to just get him acting instead of writing and directing). Ben Affleck portrays the husband and Rosamund Pike is the wife. We learn a lot about their relationship through her journal entries, and what starts as a fairy-tale romance clearly begins to show concerning issues until we arrive at the present and are left wondering if the wife suddenly going missing is Affleck's fault or not.

Characters come into the film and out of it at various points, such as the aforementioned Tyler Perry as a famous defense lawyer and Neil Patrick Harris as an extremely creepy ex-boyfriend of Pike's character who does a great job making me feel uncomfortable anytime he appears on-screen. I found myself at the edge of my seat throughout the film as all the shocking revelations came at us with lightning speed and by the end of the flick I was dumbfounded at how insane it all was. A stellar movie that shows David Fincher may direct some movies people hate ("Benjamin Button" "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) but that he still can make something stellar (like "Fight Club").
5 out of 5 stars.

John Wick
You can actually take a lot of what I say about "The Equalizer" and transfer it to "John Wick". A hero who lost his wife, lives a quiet life, and finds himself returning to violence. In this case however it is clear that Wick once was a very bad man who became better, and that brings with it some interesting elements. "John Wick" gets to the action a bit faster than "The Equalizer" and has a bit more humor in it, but both are solid films. I really like Keanu Reeves as I often read how he is a very nice guy, and despite criticisms of his acting I feel he emotes plenty, with the few scenes where his character discusses the pain of losing his wife showing the hurt behind Reeves' character. Another great action movie.
4 out of 5 stars.

I liked this, but God was it bizarre. Sometimes funny, sometimes violent, and often entirely based on fake-science, "Lucy" features Scarlet Johansson basically becoming a super-hero as she gains more and more powers to the point she is an unstoppable force. This film is full of plot holes (so who did her boyfriend even get those drugs from at the start of the movie she was forced to deliver? How come no one else has tried taking a massive dose like her? And countless more questions abound), everyone is mad it makes up more science than it uses, and the ending is a bit of a disappointment, but I still had fun. At the end of the day if you want some dumb fun, this is worth checking out.
3 out of 5 stars.

There You Go!
That is all so far of the movies I had said I really wanted to see, although I definitely do plan on viewing "Birdman", "Nightcrawler" and others I discussed in the future.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"To Pimp a Butterfly" by Kendrick Lamar is Already the Album of the Year

Yes, It's That Good
It only came out at the end of March, and already "To Pimp a Butterfly" is arguably the album of the year. Kendrick Lamar's sophomore album is so good, so solid, and so spectacular you would think it is the latest release from an artist who had been around for decades and had slowly been building to such a superb piece of musical-artwork. It is kind of funny as readers of the blog may recall that at the end of 2014 I bemoaned my lack of a, "Favorite" album that came out during the year, and here we are still relatively fresh (-ish) into 2015 and what I consider to album of the year is out and astonishing almost all who hear it.

From the initial song "Wesley's Theory" and its touching on topics such as race and taxes, to the concluding track "Mortal Man," this album truly has no song I dislike. Okay, maybe I get a bit tired of Kendrick constantly yelling, "Boo-Boo," on that 10th track, but other than that this CD/Record/iTunes file is pure dynamite. One thing I found fascinating is many tracks have Kendrick reading parts of a poem at the end of the song, with the following track touching upon a line from his poem. This continues until the end of the album where he finishes his poem and asks what the listener thinks, only for it to be revealed he is speaking with none other than Tupac Shakur. Through the magic of sound-editing we hear Kendrick carry on a conversation with the man he identities as his idol, and in most cases this would probably read as tacky or inappropriate, but considering how Kendrick has said Tupac is his inspiration and even has told the story of how he had a dream with the ghost of Tupac appearing before him, this feels more genius and touching than it does crass or exploitative.
The image that greets someone when they open the CD case.
The thing that sets this album apart from so much other rap coming out today is that isn't just about the stereotypical rap-concepts of money, women, drugs, etc. It touches on those subjects, but often in a way that is self-aware of the near-joke much of rap has become, with Kendrick stating on the song, "For Free? (Interlude)," how, "I need forty acres and a mule, not a forty ounce and a pitbull." Kendrick also exposes a vulnerable emotional side we usually don't get to see in hip-hop, discussing loneliness, desperation, and sadness in a way that it feels is rarely glimpsed in rap music. Plus the pure sonic-pleasure of the music, be it synthetic squeals and clicks or catchy jazz and funk instrumentals played on a brass instruments results in an album of not just amazing lyrics, but extremely satisfying music.

"To Pimp a Butterfly" may be the best 2nd album from an artist I've heard since OutKast dropped "ATLiens" back in 1996. Of course, I didn't hear ATLiens until I was older, but a clear example is there in how considering OutKast are my favorite band that it is as surprising as it is impressive to see someone so incredible on just their sophomore LP. Should you not have listened to "To Pimp a Butterfly" yet I would strongly encourage you to buy/stream it/borrow it as it is just a stellar piece of art that pleases your ears just as much as it stimulates your mind.