The Pistoleers

Got my hands on issue #1 of THE PISTOLEERS this week. i got it because the creator, Dan Nokes was kind enough to send me a copy. Seems he was looking to shift gears after all of his work on THE PARANORMALS, so we go from the strange and supernatural to the wild west.

The story reads like a biography starting back in the civil war. We meet the Marcus family and see the details surrounding their adoption of a freed slave boy named Elijah. We then get bumped ahead to see the Marcus brothers now as adults visiting their father who had moved to a small town in Arizona. The story heats up when we discover old enemies with a score to settle with the Marcus family have decided to settle accounts.

Dan Nokes is, above all, a storyteller. He doesn't hit the readers over the head with an overwhelming amount of facts. He gives them interesting characters for the reader to cheer for and to guide them through the narrative. It's easy to simply fall into the story being pulled in by Nokes's always expressive faces and riding through the action and twists he gives us.

Give it a look, when you're looking for something different and cool.

Marscon report

Well, I braved the below freezing temperatures to make it to Marscon this past weekend. Chris couldn't make it due to illness. Talked to a lot of folks and handed out a lot of cards. Did a picture for a little girl who liked Wonder Woman and was therefore good people. The whole trip was made worth it when she saw the picture and yelled "COOL!"

I also helped with a basic cartooning workshop. I hope those who were able to make it enjoyed it and got something out of it. There was a lot of talent in that room.

The above Batman pic was what I was doing in my spare time up there. Things were a bit slow at my table, but that happens sometimes.

Big thanks to Butch Allen for chairing the show. Also got to see David Seletyn, an old college buddy who seemed happy to see Night Life again.

It was a fun show. I have to say I think I broke one of the con goers while discussing Batman. The point came up about FINAL CRISIS and Bats getting hit with the Omega Sanction and is now trapped inside of degrading synthetic lives, which means now ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER is now canon. His reaction was priceless.

The big bad Bat news.

OK, so if you haven't gotten to the comic shop and picked up FINAL CRISIS #6 stop reading right now.

Good to go? Onward then.

So, the big stink in comicdom now is "OMG Batman's dead!" which is nothing new since fans of Batman who have not been paying attention have been freaking the hell out about Bruce Wayne taking a dirt nap. Everyone got all up in a tizzy leading up to and going into "Batman R.I.P.", which was encouraged by DC editorial who really just want to make a buck. They took a well thought out story and turned it into an event/publicity stunt.

Well, the readers made it though R.I.P. although quite a few of them still missed the point and were still freaked out about Bruce Wayne dying even though the issue with the helicopter crash that many thought was his demise was narrated by Wayne in the past tense.

So onward to FINAL CRISIS in which the DCU is getting it's nads handed to them by Darkseid. Grant Morrison wrote both R.I.P. and FINAL CRISIS and I'm fairly certain he's having to keep a large blunt object with him at all times to beat back DC editorial who want changes made to the story.

So, Batman get's snuffed at the end of FINAL CRISIS #6? Um... no. He didn't. Want the full and accurate scoop on the entire thing? Go here. You want some more info on it, go here. If you're wondering who the freaking genius is would compiled all that information, it's the same guy who put together the original Black Casebook.

It's amazing what you can figure out if you look in the right places and actually pay attention. Gaiaonline's Comic Discussion forum got a bit of press recently in Lying in the Gutters. Frankly, if you want your comic news passed through the filter of intelligent people the CDF is the place to go.

So, this whole thing will be leading us to 'Battle for the Cowl' and then the obvious conclusion that was brilliantly stated by my dear friend Linda: Bruce Wayne is going to come back with a mullet and kick the hell out of the four Batmen that took his place.

The math of creation?

And before you get all excited, no I did not unravel the Universal Formula, nor did I develop mathematical proof of the existence of a higher power. That's next week.

Here's how it when down: Frank Miller made THE SPIRIT which got panned by critics and "hardcore fans" of the original Will Eisner comics. This led Kyle Baker to do a post on his blog essentually making fun of the hardcore fandom. A link to that blog made it over to the Comic Discussion Forum of GaiaOnline, and someone posted their thoughts on the blog piece. So Baker created an account on Gaia and entered the conversation, not realizing that he wouldn't be dealing with a bunch of teenagers, but a collection of very sharp minds who don't appreciate being talked down to or being asked to stroke someone else's ego.

In the midst of the debacle the man who refers to himself as "The Greatest Cartoonist of all Time" posted this:

"I'm not sure how much creativity factors into it. Writing, art and music are crafts which can be learned. If you study anything, you can master it. There are rules to writing which can be learned, and there is a very specific formula and method to writing marketable stuff. It's when people stray from formula and try to be creative that they get into trouble."

This reminded me of a little chat I had over in Lis Fies' blog. There's a tendency for creators to compare themselves to other creator as opposed to actually describing themselves and their work. This is enforced by those whom the creators must pitch there work to and probably only have a minute or two to hook the person in question.

So let's take that and apply it to Baker's statement. It ends up being true. Producers want to make money. They want something that works. THE MATRIX worked so for years we heard about upcoming movies being compared to THE MATRIX. It was the new formula for what the people wanted and so it had to be cut open and examined. It's element had to be studied so that writers and directors and film makers would have a blueprint as to how to make a successful movie.

Yep, his statement is true. It's also horribly depressing that a cartoonist would even think such a thing. And so now we have a new dividing line.

Are you a creator who wants to be successful and is struggling to find that recipe for success?

Are you a creator who has a vision and wants to create for the sheer joy/need to create?

Are you about the love or the dollar? Sure you can have or want both, but at the end of the day why are you doing what you are doing?

You can be very good at creating and even successful, but not love it. It's work. It's how you pay your bills. That's fine. We all gotta eat. But it's all so much better, and the work you produce is so much better when you love what you're doing.

So what about that pesky creativity that'll get you in trouble if you let it? Embrace it. Stretch your imagination so that you can reach out through your work and stretch the imaginations of others. Don't try to figure out the formula for what's going to work. Art is not math. Art is emotion given form. Think about the creators you admire, the one's that create the formulas that others try to emulate. Do you think they were trying to just find what works and stick with that? I doubt it. They do what they do, and let us try to apply the numbers afterwards in out vain attempts to figure out 'how'd they do that'?

Lis asked me who do I compare myself to.

I answered: No one. Let the fuckers compare themselves to me.

Nerd Prom cometh!

Marscon looms near. Chris and I will be in the artist's alley whoring our selves to the masses. This year's theme is steampunk, so for everyone who's going eager to see me in my best steampunk costume, don't be too disappointed when you find it looks just like a t-shirt and jeans.

I'm impressed.

This move took stones. Serious stones.

HEXED #1 hit stores today. Saw a copy over at Kings so I'm stoked that it made it here. For those wondering as to my thoughts on the book itself: I liked it.

Here's the ballsy part: BOOM! released the comic online today free for anyone. Not a preview. Not a teaser. The whole damn book! On top of that BOOM! also did what they are calling the "5 for 500" promotion. They sent 5 copies of the book to the top 500 comic retailers in the country for free, and completely returnable. That's 2,500 copies that BOOM! won't make a dime on. All the money goes to the retailers.

That's just insane. Nobody does this. Which means we were past due for somebody to pull up their big boy pants and throw down the gauntlet for the "big" companies to try to match.

Very nice indeed.

Marty's adventure into Warhammer 40K

I first saw Warhammer years ago. The editor/publisher of a local zine I was trying to get on board with was a player. Our initial meetings would take place in a gaming shop called The Dagger’s Sheath. I’m not much of a gamer myself. Nothing against it, but I lack the time and resources for it. So here I am, walking into a store and seeing the tables lined up and covered in green with little bit of landscape and architecture scattered about and what was likely a thousand miniatures strategically placed all about. Players on both sides hunched over it the miniature battlefield, feverishly devising stratagems to try to take out the other guy. I located my possible future employer, already locked in mock battle. He took the submission pieces I had for him and chatted a bit as I watched the game.

It all seemed simple enough. They were throwing die and the person who rolled higher won, eventually “destroying” the opposing piece and removing it from play. At this point, in my struggle for understanding what I was witnessing I cried out:

“Ah HA! It’s like Risk, ain’t it!” This of course drew a few sidelong glances.

“No. This is what Risk wants to be when it grows up.”

So that was my first encounter with Warhammer. Fast forward a few years and I’m only a little more familiar with the game. Don’t get me wrong, it looks like a blast, but I like I said, I don’t have the time nor the money for it. Besides which, I can see one of my doggone kids getting a hold of one of the miniatures used to play the game and ingesting it. I don’t relish the thought of sifting through the contents of a diaper in a rescue effort to save said piece. It wouldn’t be fair to the piece really, because it would have to carry that stigma with it into battle.

“You survived my kid’s digestive tract, but you can’t beat a damn Orc? Dammit soldier! What the hell kind of Ultra Marine are you?”

Obviously, I’m not a gamer. I’m a reader. I recently discovered that BOOM! Studios publishes the Warhammer 40000 series of comics. Initially I was wondering exactly how much of a story could be culled from a game like this. Well, it turns out there’s a lot. A whole lot. Games Workshop the creators of the game branched out into publishing under the label of The Black Library. They published both comics and prose novels. There’s a freakin’ ton of continuity here. It’s a gigantic gothic space opera all concocted around these miniatures that you can buy three to a pack.

This is a very popular game, so I had to figure that BOOM! was reaping the benefits. This had me curious so I started asking gamers online what they though about the comics. The majority of them didn’t even know the comics existed. Somewhere there’s a disconnect, and I determined to figure out where.

Around here if you want to find Warhammer players you go to Atlantis Comics. I walked in with a smile on my face and a song in my heart and set about asking some questions. I told them I wasn’t player and knew little about the game itself.

At that point they all rose up and attacked me, hurling small painted miniatures and attempting to beat me senseless with their skillfully crafted homemade battle terrains! I was holding my own until a Tau miniature got me in the eye. I was forced to flee, crying all the way to my car.

I’m kidding of course.

I chatted with Elliott Rosenblum and Harvey Brown first and asked them if they read any of the comics. Brown had not, but Rosenblum was familiar with the old stuff from Black Library. He told me the old comics did a great job in capturing the feel of the game. Of course, there’s a major difference in telling a narrative and playing a game. In the game there’s rules and a balance to things. That way you can play as whatever faction you like and still have chance.

“In real life, a sniper is going to kill you. In the game, you have a chance.” Makes sense. You can’t plan a story around the role of the dice. So, the writers do what they can with what they have. It seems that it worked out well, but neither Rosenblum nor Brown were readers of the comics from BOOM!.

“I don’t want to jump into the middle of story and be lost.” They both agreed on that. It’s the double-edged sword of continuity. It’s awesome when you’re immersed in it, but getting in or getting back in after time away can be a very daunting task.

From there I headed over to another table where Warhammer wasn’t being played, but another table-top game involving flying saucers battling dinosaurs in the middle of a city. Eric Langendrfer took some time away from some hardcore probing to chat with me.

“I love 40K Fluff.” He told me. He read the old Black Library stuff, both the comics and novels. However his love of Warhammer 40K got squashed by his car being stolen and much of his 40K paraphernalia with it. That would be enough to leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth.

The fellow across the table from Langenderfer was Nathan Bond who had only recently gotten into playing the game. He seemed pretty enthusiastic about the game, but I have to wonder if they enthusiasm would translate into him purchasing the comics. For the record, Atlantis Comics does indeed carry the comics. One of the managers had informed me that there were a few guys who pick it up regularly, and maybe a few more who just happen to grab it off the wall.

So I had to ask, “What would make you want to pick up the comics from BOOM!?" The answers varied a bit, but one thing they all agreed on: Space Wolves. This is a group within the game, which I can best describe as Vikings with a serious weapons upgrade. This group got covered quite a bit in the old Black Library works apparently.

So after doing my leg work and getting a notion of what I was looking at I dove into the WARHAMMER 40000: FIRE AND HONOUR trade from BOOM! Speaking as a guy who is next to clueless about the game, the story is a really solid read. The art is great from top to bottom. It’s well written and a genuinely engaging story. It’s got plenty of explosions, shooting and general mayhem all tied around the battle for one city and the betrayal of a high-ranking official.

The story follows the 71st Unit, a group of Cadians who are battle hardened and ready to face damn near anything. The betrayal pulls the rug right out from under them forcing them into a race to reveal the traitor all the while the enemy forces of the Tau are looking to obliterate them. It’s a pretty straightforward tale but there were a couple of twists right at the end that made it memorable.

I felt very comfortable reading it despite never playing 40K or reading any of the novels or other comics.

It book is good stuff. Good enough to have me looking for the previous trades for more. So, why isn’t it hooking these gamers? BOOM! has done quite a bit of cross promotion with the 40K online game offering exclusive virtual items. Well, the tabletop gamers aren’t warming up to the online game. It’s something I fully understand. Online gaming is great, but there’s an entirely different feel to sitting across the table from a guy and having it out. It is harder of course to offer actual items for promotions as opposed to virtual ones. Perhaps offering trades as prizes for tournaments would be a way to help hook new readers.

There we have it. There’s a product out there that fans would like, however they either don’t know it exists or are leery about checking it out. So, I’d have to say to the Warhammer gamers out there: see if you spot the comics, and give them a shot. I think you’ll like what you find.