FRIENDS IN SMALL PRESSES (PART ONE)
Travelling around and going to conventions is a blast. I love making comics. I love selling OUR comics. I love meeting people interested in reading our comics. But one of things I'd always dreamed of was having peers who made comics. Meeting other people going through the same process and feeling the same pains and rewards I was. I thought I'd take a moment this week and dedicate this post to everyone I've met in San Jose and Las Vegas who are hitting the pavement and peddling their wares just like we do. Over the next two weeks I'd like to honorably mention ten series (and their creators) who have won my hearts. These are comics that haven't made it to Boise outside of my own suitcase and they're definitely comics you SHOULD be reading.
10 - PLAY WITH ME!
Let’s just get this one out of the way early because no… it’s not a comic. It’s a children’s book. David, the author, and his son came by our table the first day of this year’s Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con. David’s son mentioned a book his dad had written about him and we got to talking about it. David was inspired by his son every day so he wrote a book about their relationship and what he had done to change and enhance David’s life. He then sent the script to his brother, Ben, who was a published children’s book author. Ben illustrated it and they were off to the races.
The book is adorable. It’s simple and to-the-point as a children’s book should be, but at the end of the day I can’t help but feel it’s wearing a disguise. This 22-page book is meant as much for the parent as it is for the child. There’s a bittersweet melancholic joy to it as the main character (an adult) reminisces about his childhood, the things he enjoyed, and the things he’s lost.
You can pick this one up for the kid in your life (or in my case, for yourself) at BarnesandNoble.com for $9.95 (paperback) or a Kindle edition is available at Amazon.com for less than $5.
9 - HARD-BOILED
All I have of this comic book is a 5-page preview without narration or dialogue. Yet it still made my limited list of recommendations. This preview has captured my imagination. I flip through it frequently wondering when I’ll see a full issue, how the scene it depicts fits into a larger story, and whether the creator even knows I’m thinking all these things.
The second day of the Amazing Las Vegas con this year David Woolston and his son brought David’s brother Ben to our table. Ben, you’ll remember, illustrated David’s children’s book Play with Me! We got to talking about Shivertown and pulp and noir and Ben handed me the preview book for a series he was working on. Mind you this is no ashcan printed on printer paper. This is professionally printed by Ka-Blam (who printed the first 6 of 7 of our publications) sporting their ad and everything.
Hard-Boiled appears to be a gritty noir story set in Las Vegas and starring a roster of anthropomorphic gangster frogs and rhinos and a (possibly) detective duck.
Here’s the intro on the inside cover:
“FRANK MALLARD is a detective in a town that has been called “Disneyland for adults.” But this is no fairy-tale--beneath all the glitz and glitter of the neon jungle is a festering underbelly of greed, lust, and murder. Where people behave more like animals, and every imaginable sin and vice can be had for a price. This is the world of HARD-BOILED. Get ready for hard-hitting action, anthropomorphic nudity, and no limit sex and violence. As they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And what happens in HARD-BOILED will leave you spellbound and screaming for more.”
You can keep tabs on Ben and his work at BenWoolston.com.
8 - INDIGENOUS DEFENDER CAPTAIN PAIUTE OF THE SOUTHWEST
I’m not sure how much of that is the title, so going forward I’ll probably just refer to it as Captain Paiute (but I’m secretly hoping the full title is IDCPS).
I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing me rant about diversity in comics but, hey, afford me one more (let's face it, a few more after this too). I met Theo Tso this year at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con at his table, and we talked for about ten minutes about his projects. Theo is the writer, penciller, and inker of a superhero book called, you guessed it, Captain Paiute.
The first issue is short, clocking in at 12 pages. There’s a lot there, but it never feels cramped. Reservation life and the history of the main character’s bloodline feel natural, no different than Peter Parker is from Queens and he’s an orphan raised by his aunt and uncle. His one-page origin would fit seemlessly side-by-side in the Marvel Universe. Captain Paiute’s costume is unique and distinctive. I’m a big fan of simple designs for superheroes (the nineties… YUCK). The twelve pages end with the main character looking down on his town, daring all comers to threaten it. I’m ready for them to try.
This comic touts its diversity. It flaunts it in the title and its logo of War Paint Studios. It’s home is with Native Realities, a publisher dedicated to indigenous artists, writers, and stories. And its tongue-in-cheek stamp “Approved by the Indigenous Comics Code Authority.” But inside this does not read as a “Native American comic.” It’s just a comic, as it should be. It’s subtle and informative and it plays it straight, sliding easily into a long history of superhero stories that have followed the straight-white-male archetype for far too long.
Theo is also involved, along with War Paint Press and Native Realities, in a number of other projects including an indigenous comic con. You can keep up with them at NativeRealities.com.
7 - THE LAST OF THE MYRMIDONS
Writer Paul Jamison had other titles at his table at 2015’s Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con and I’m still kicking myself for not picking them up. The Last of the Myrmidons released that year and he was really excited about it, and rightfully so.
It is apparent within a couple of pages that a lot of work went into this book. For one thing, it’s hefty, clocking in at 35 pages (traditionally Marvel and DC turn in 28 or so with ads). It’s also dense. By the end of the first page we have a fully-realized idea of where we are, when we are, and who the main character is… in two panels. The story is told through the eyes of Diogenes Nayaw-rit Audelo Guillen, or Chico, and Chico’s thick New York accent is literally spelled out for pronunciation and is so rife with thirties-era lingo that a glossary is included in the back.
All of this work pays off. The characters are colorful and visually distinctive. The first eleven pages are dripping so heavily with Great Depression era New York that the story’s departure to a mythical, Greek-pantheon driven medieval world sets up a culture clash that paints this world so distinctly it becomes unforgettable. When the mystery and intrigue of the metal-masked Claymore leads to an action-packed other-dimensional climactic battle you have to take a moment to yourself and realize this first issue has run the gamut of of tone, setting, and subject matter.
It’s a lot, but it’s balanced deftly.
The art is cool too. I’m a fan of the colors which range from this polished, digital lighting to a quick marker-color that defines the New York street scenes.
The Last of the Myrmidons is pulpy and fun, just the way I like it. It’s one part The Rocketeer and one part Land of the Lost with a splash of Greek mythology and seasoned with Marvel’s Doctor Doom.
Published by Superhero Network Entertainment you can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as well as SHNComics.com.
6 - S.O.T.O.A. - SOLDIERS OF THE ORANGE ARMY
In 2015 at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con a young man stopped by our table in Artists’ Alley. His name was Matt McCrickard and he was eager for advice. He’d just released the first issue of a comic book he’d co-written with a friend and he wanted to know where to go, what to do next, and he wanted feedback on the book. My memory could be tainted but it feels like we talked for an hour. I was only ahead of Matt by a couple years and a couple issues but I tried to give him what answers I could. This book has been endeared to my heart ever since.
I’ve read this one a few times and it’s rewarded me every time. It’s the story of a group of immortals leading a mortal army. They’ve been promising war with a half-man half-ox threat for years and the natives are restless for a fight. They’ve been pent-up behind the walls of a fortress and you can feel the tension ready to bubble over immediately. The series features prophecies, a mythic beast, and near-Shakespearean characters.
Then in the issue’s final moments you realize the shape of the army they truly face. Wait… is that a robot?! Awesome.
The first issue ends on one Hell of a cliffhanger and I’m in. I can’t wait for these guys to put out another issue so I can find out what happens to that guy’s arm.
You can follow the book on Facebook.com/soldiersoftheorangearmy
Come back next week for Super Suckers, a stuffed green bunny with organs, and a comic book prequel to an award-winning screenplay!