BOOK ADAPTATIONS

BOOK ADAPTATIONS
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Various


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Comics and prose literature have had a long and fruitful relationship. Mention them together and the first thing that will spring to mind for many people is CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED. Indeed, various iterations of those books have been hitting shelves for decades at this point. But over the last few years, there has been a dramatic increase in a new type of comics-to-prose work: the adaptation of modern writers and best-selling works to sequential art format. There are generally two versions of how this works: a direct adaptation of the work or a prequel to the novel. The results have been… interesting. The manga versions of Dean Koontz’ ODD THOMAS have not only been excellent graphic novels, but actually better than the prose novel that inspired them. On the other hand, Diana Gabaldon’s THE EXILE was one of the worst graphic novels of the last five years. What it boils down to is this: who is really doing the work? Two new prose-to-comics works now hitting shelves are both easily placed in the “very good” category, in no small part because of those on the creative end of things.

SILENT PARTNER: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL adapts one of author Jonathan Kellerman’s most popular Alex Delaware novels, and it is a tasty slice of noir. Comics veterans Ande Parks (writing) and Michael Gaydos (art) take on the task of bringing the best-seller to a new audience, and they do so with a real zest for the material. Delaware runs into an old lover and the next day she is found dead, a turn of events he cannot even come close to explaining. This sets him on a trail of dead bodies, broken families, and strange pornography, all the while attempting to dig through his own past and discover who the dead woman really was and what she truly meant to his life. The trick to success here for Parks and Gaydos is that Kellerman’s work is intellectual at its core, not action-oriented; thus, deprived of huge visual moments, they use dialogue, body language, and a liberal dose of shadows to make a book that is all about mood and emotional depth. Having read and enjoyed some of Kellerman’s work previously, I was impressed with how well I felt like they brought the characters to life on the page and kept my interest in a work that is largely talking heads doing their thing. As far as straight adaptations of prose works go, this is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

The other kind of adaptation, the prequel, can be found in UGLIES: SHAY’S STORY. Comics veteran Devin Grayson worked with novelist Scott Westerfield to help bring the story of the YA series heroine’s best friend Shay to the page, and once again, having a solid pro on the case pays off. Grayson knows how to pace the story, structure the action, and keep the pages turning. Set in a post-dystopian future where every person is given plastic surgery at the age of sixteen in order to keep society equal, we meet Shay as she approaches that milestone with trepidation. Shay is more interested in exploring the outside world and joining up with others like her to pull off pranks against “the pretties” as a way to keep her individuality. Along the way, she gets in trouble, meets a boy she falls for, gets in more trouble, meets Tally (the heroine of the novels) and gets in more trouble. Steven Cummings, another longtime comics pro, handles the art, and he gives the book a fluid, dynamic, manga-like look. His version of Shay is cute, as required by the rules of manga, but not too far over the top in that direction, and he does just as well with Tally. Solid work, and exactly what it should be in order to draw interest for the prose books.




CHEW 24

CHEW #24
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Avril Brown

Issue #24 of CHEW presents the fourth part of the latest ongoing story arc entitled ‘Major League Chew,’ which has been altering its focus each issue on different central characters in the CHEW universe. This book belongs to Olive Chu, daughter of cibopath Tony Chu (currently held hostage by baseball porn loving abusive freaks), and certified renegade badass, especially after this issue.

When Mason Savoy tried to force feed Olive his offer of training her to hone her unique gifts in part two of ‘Major League Chew’ (whereas Tony goes for the bite, Olive first goes for the sniff), she smacked him upside the head with spaghetti, but when presented with the opportunity to save the day from some java-jonesing psychos, Olive rose to the challenge and accepted Savoy’s tutelage…on her terms.

The book opens with a butter sculpting competition, where the competition, judges and fans are literally cut to shreds by a xocoscalpere, aka chocolate sculptor, denied the coveted trophy. (Hell will be blanketed in six inches of snow if readers ever become accustomed to John Layman’s brand of weirdness.) Hershel Brown, the tetchy cocoa lover and wanted arms dealer due to his capacity to replicate the abilities of whatever it is he is sculpting, is the intended target, but when things go south Olive learns her powers may be even more singular, and paramount, than she ever thought.

Layman and Guillory prove yet again how their comedic symmetry make them a modern Abbott and Costello with references to South Park, Dr. Evil and even a slightly creepy Robert Kirkman shout out. Olive is shaping up to be as resilient, and possibly a bit bitchier, than her sire, making her a deserving addition to the CHEW family. This untouchable team seems determined to prove with each and every issue that CHEW is a book worth following.

ROGUE ELEMENT 94

Rogue Element #94: Kick-Start Your Dreams!


By Avril Brown

There is a fabulous new platform sweeping the nation, and no, I am not referring to anything associated with an elephant, an ass, or something green. What I am speaking of goes by the name of Kickstarter. A truly magnificent vehicle for fundraising and advertising, Kickstarter.com is a place for creative souls of all sorts to raise money for individual projects they otherwise would not be able to afford to launch themselves. From comic books to novels to pie shops and even environmentally friendly window baskets for growing soil-free vegetables, Kickstarter is the place to pitch your idea and get the dough you need to breathe life into your personal dream.

Utilizing a unique all-or-nothing funding plan, Kickstarter projects have a monetary goal and a limited time frame in which to raise the funds needed. If the desired goal is not reached by the stated deadline, anyone who pledged money to the project will not be charged for their attempted contribution. Aside from putting a fire under the creator’s ass to get the word out to as many people with wallets as possible to get their project off the ground, this money raising technique assures fewer risks for all involved, including the creator who may start on a ten grand project with only five grand in the bank and be stuck with a deficit they cannot overcome.

Hopeful creators must present their idea in a professional and enticing way to the Kickstarter team in order to earn their place on this world-wide project platform, which includes a video detailing why this idea is worth considering and funding. If approved, the video will be included on your personal Kickstarter page, giving potential pledges the opportunity to put a face to your project and you a chance to show off the passion you have in your work. Few things are as attractive to a philanthropist than a creator’s true love and dedication to their own idea.

Another exciting aspect of Kickstarter is the benefits program for backers. Although creator’s will gladly accept donations of any amount, each project has added incentives for pledges which are all unique to that particular project and become more lavish as the monetary amount increases. Donating $5 to the Bang Bang Pie Shop Kickstarter project will get you a mug of coffee and a slice of pie at their soon-to-be-open Logan Square location, and donating $20 to local Chicago artist Dave Punk’s ‘Robot Envy’ book project will net you a wallpaper, a robot song, a ‘Robot Envy’ PDF, a signed sketchbook and more.

Artist and robot enthusiast Dave Pasciuto, also known as Dave Punk, has started a Kickstarter project to fund his specialty sketchbook starring his lifelong passion: robots. “I’m not a robot freak or anything,” Dave claims, “I grew up on a classic dose of robot anime and toys…this is my tribute to that influence.” A unique collection of sketches, stickers and postcards, ‘Robot Envy’ is this nerd’s idea of a fun little booklet. “This project blends two things I’m interested in: robots and package/graphic design. I’m hoping it attracts a range of people from comic readers to illustrators to graphic designers and everyone else who just digs robot stuff.”

‘Robot Envy’ is an attractive and delightful collection of designs with some sci-fi flair in a very appealing package. Dave is fervent about proper printing and presentation of his work, so each ‘Robot Envy’ is offset-printed, not digital, which improves the quality of the book (and price, hence the Kickstarter campaign) and insures genuine craftsmanship in each page. Check out Dave’s Kickstarter page and let him tell you his tale while you peruse his project specs and backer benefits. His campaign is only open for two more weeks, so explore, donate if you can and pass the word along.

In many ways, Kickstarter is a dream come true for creators of all sorts. Not only does Kickstarter provide an easy-to-use fundraising forum, they also play upon the vast resources of the massively popular venue of social media, allowing creators to, at the very least, advertise their beloved projects for as long as they are attempting to raise money.

Personally, I envy these Kickstarters. They are clear-headed men and women who have a creative idea they want to share with the world, and they are utterly unafraid to make the best effort possible at making that happen. Hopefully, someday soon, I will count myself among them, offering rewards such as a half hour foot massage or a personal dedication on the first page for buying my collection of columns. Kickstarter is the reason thousands of creative babies are being born every day, across the globe, making their parents cry with joy that their own personal miracle actually came to be. Creativity is beauty, so pick a project, pitch in and help keep the world radiant.

DYNAMITE IMAGES

DYNAMITE IMAGES
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Taking a look at some new series hitting shelves recently…

THE LONE RANGER #1-2 had huge shoes to fill. The previous series was one of the best things Dynamite has ever published, so it shows a lot of guts by writer Ande Parks and artist Esteve Polls to step in and start anew with the character. Is the result as good as the previous book? No. But it’s still a very good comic. Parks wisely realizes that he has to do something different, so he puts some focus on the Ranger in his role as an intervener in the lives of others. This means that we get a better idea of who the Ranger is helping out and why. The answers he gets and the people he meets have a nice variety to them, and Polls (who has experience drawing westerns) delivers the goods on the art side of it. The one thing I have a quibble with is that Tonto has taken a backseat as far as the narrative goes, but there’s plenty of time for Parks to get him situated right in the thick of things going forward. I was prepared to dislike this book, but it really surprised me. Dynamite has done better by the character than any other publisher ever has, and that’s quite commendable.

I was never interested in reading any of the old Extreme books, so when it was announced that those characters were returning, my response was a long, sustained yawn. The return issue of PROPHET turned out okay, but didn’t exactly curl my toes. So I was pretty stunned by how much I liked GLORY #23 by writer Joe Keatinge and artist Ross Campbell. The primary hook for me was Campbell’s art- I really enjoyed his WET MOON graphic novels, but I would have never guessed how well his art could translate to what is ostensibly a superhero story. It not only translates, it looks fantastic. Part of that is because Keatinge does some really smart things with the story. We may be picking up “mid-series” but we start from the beginning, introducing a new cast, creating a new quest, and mostly leaving the title character out of the primary mix. Instead, we’re given an audience surrogate who is really interesting and likeable in Riley Barnes, and her obsession with finding the missing Glory carries us through the tale briskly. This book is different, a little off the beaten path, and for that reason, I’ll be keeping my eye on it.

There’s already been a second printing announced for PETER PANZERFAUST #1 by writer Kurtis Wiebe and artist Tyler Jenkins, which indicates a nice level of success for this intriguing blend of Peter Pan and World War II. I can see why it’s finding a foothold with readers- the concept is clever, Wiebe keeps his script light (too much dialogue would spoil the soup) and Jenkins’ art has a pleasing aesthetic quality to it. That said, there isn’t as much here as you might want to see in an opening issue. It’s light on story, with the one major moment being Peter and the new “lost boys” taking flight while running from a tank, but that’s about it. The book also comes to an extraordinarily abrupt conclusion. I reached the final page, and kept turning to find more, but nope- we get a full page splash of the character making a strange noise and no indication of “to be continued” or “see you next month” or anything of the like. Again, the concept is clever, and there’s plenty of room for something spectacular to come of it, but the first issue comes up a bit short.




ROTTEN 10-11

ROTTEN #10-11
Written by Mark Rahner & Robert Horton and Illustrated by Dan Dougherty
Published by Moonstone Comics


Reviewed by Avril Brown

In ROTTEN’s latest issues #10-11, which are found exclusively in the ROTTEN VOLUME 2: REVIVAL OF THE FITTEST trade paperback (on sale now), the plot most certainly thickens. Agents William Wade and J.J. Flynn are summoned to their latest assignment in yet another small, religiously fanatical town called Ezekiel. They are confronted with another incarnation of the “revenant” disease, as the partners have been calling the dead arising affliction, and this latest version is a doozy.

Father Von Becker has taken the town of Ezekiel under his self-serving wing and has been attempting ‘cleansing ceremonies’ for the sick. Needless to say, they have not been going well, especially judging by the infected gentleman who escaped from the church and immediately ripped the jaw off of Wade’s horse. Only a few of the townsfolk have fallen ill despite them all sharing the same water supply, so Flynn and Wade set to work on unraveling the mystery, and as with every situation they have come into contact recently, there is more going on in this town (specifically in Von Becker’s house) than meets the eye. Flynn runs into an old colleague from medical school who appears to have fallen under the thrall of Von Becker, while Wade manages to inspire a member of the younger generation to step up and start taking matters into his own hands…just before Wade finds himself in a heap of trouble, of course.

The gore factor in ROTTEN has taken an enthusiastic leap forward, not only with the mere appearance of the infected but also the new freaky factor of what happens to these poor souls following their final death. Rahner and Horton’s ’s scripts maintain his trademark razor-sharp wit with Wade still on his game as the foul-mouthed, understandably bitter ex-patriot, and Flynn as the steady, sarcastic rock. The look of the book seems to have gotten a couple of shades darker, which suits as one of the themes touched on in these issues is somewhat somber, and the enigma of the white-haired man continues with a new, unexpected twist. Issues #10 and 11 are chock full of what readers have come to love and expect from ROTTEN: action, intelligent writing with slightly unsubtle social and political jabs, and a couple of badass heroes kicking ass and taking names. Essentially, this two-part story gives you every reason to pick up ROTTEN VOLUME 2 and crossed your fingers Wade will continue to knuckle-bolt another day.


AISLE SEAT 2.0.71

AISLE SEAT 2.0.71: WORDS WITH BY FRIENDS

By Marc Mason

So RED SONJA: RAVEN shipped a couple of weeks ago, and it was a fantastic experience for me. Working for Dynamite Entertainment was an excellent experience, as was the kindness I received from retailers. I did a signing at Pop Culture Paradise here in Tempe that was a smashing success- thankfully, I wasn’t just signing books for people I knew- and my email inbox was full all day with notes from people saying kind things about the book. I couldn’t have asked for more.

In particular, some of my closest friends stepped up and helped promote the book to their readers and followers, which was incredibly kind on their part. I’m lucky to have the friends that I do- over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to meet and forge bonds with some of the coolest people I’ve met in my entire life. While there is plenty to find distasteful about geek culture, I tend to see it from a nicer POV. There are truly great people involved in this medium we love, and I am able to call many of them friends. That’s a gift.

Now, my sense of what is ethically appropriate generally keeps me from doing standard reviews of their work. I’m hardly an unbiased source. So don’t think of this as a review, because it isn’t. This is more of a heads up. I want to tell you about some of the work my friends are doing and why I think you’d enjoy it.

It’s hard to find something new to say about John Layman, as the multiple Eisner Awards he’s received for writing CHEW tend to speak for themselves. But if you aren’t already onboard the CHEW-train, here’s why you should be: it’s really fucking good. Month in, month out, John continues to dole out great stories, shocking plot twists, and hilarious dialogue. He always wants to tell me more about what’s coming up in the book, but CHEW is so fantastic that I refuse as many spoilers as I can. I like reading the book and experiencing it with a sense of wonder. CHEW would be one of my favorite books even if I had never met John; it’s just that good.

Upon my untimely demise, Brandon Jerwa inherits my comics and graphic novels. So if you are a policeman, please keep him in mind as a suspect. That said, I’ve co-written two plays with the guy, and we have a novel and screenplay in process as well. (Again, this may serve more as motive, but I digress.) I love not just the guy, but also his writing, and just recently he had a new trade paperback hit stands. HACK/SLASH/EVA crosses over the long-running horror comic with Eva, for whom Brandon has become the definitive writer. He does an excellent job of capturing the characters’ voices, and in structuring the crossover from a plot point of view. Brandon excels at doing this sort of thing probably better than anybody in comics. If you like good action and nifty horror, pick up this book. It’s a winner.

Brandon introduced me to Eric Trautmann a few years ago, and aside from having some of comics’ finest facial hair, he’s also a damn fine writer. Eric has been writing the main RED SONJA book for over a year now, and he’s done a spectacular job of maintaining the high quality readers have come to expect from the title. His Sonja is highly intelligent, cunning, and yet has an emotional core that makes her relatable to the reader. When I see people complaining that there are no strong women characters on the stands, that drives me nuts- Sonja is being written better than any other female lead out there. He’s also done the same for VAMPIRELLA. Oh, and in both cases, he’s dispensed with the costume that has offended women readers for years. What else do you need?

Elliott Serrano may be a drunkard and a traitor- apparently writing for this “Chicago Tribune” (as if there’s such a thing) is more important than continuing to write for the Comics Waiting Room- but he’s also a decent fellow with some grasp of personal hygiene. Oh, and he occasionally writes comics, too. He’s the scribe on the resurrected ARMY OF DARKNESS title coming next week, and I can’t imagine a more difficult job. You see, I’ve always found the AOD comics… lacking. I could never muster any real enthusiasm or interest in them. Yet, having read issue one, Elliott has changed that. By turning the focus to a new Ash- a female one- he immediately injects new energy into the entire concept of AOD. It was a revelation to read the book and see that there was something there that could capture my interest. So hats off to my buddy, and count me in for the long haul.

If I ever find myself in a Mexican prison, I know it will be Mark Rahner’s fault. The only saving grace is that he’ll be in the cell next to mine, and they’ll hang him first. His zombie comic, ROTTEN, has always been fun, but he’s taken a leap forward with GREEN HORNET ANNUAL 2 and WARLORD OF MARS ANNUAL 1. The Hornet book really caught my eye, because Mark’s writing is working on different levels. The plot finds the characters fighting human trafficking, but the real story is about the newspaper industry, something the Pulitzer Prize owning Rahner knows more than a little about. This personal connection to the work gives it wonderful depth. The Warlord book is also strong, showing off some tremendous dialogue. Two books deserving of your time and money.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Joe Dilworth as well. Joe’s the head honcho at Pop Culture Zoo and he’s so much better than me at running a website that I should be embarrassed about it. He’s skilled, dedicated, and cares about presenting the best and broadest look at pop culture on the web today. Joe’s also diving into writing comics as well, and he has a Kickstarter project going on right now. He and I also share a goal of one day having the rights to the Gerry Anderson universe shows in order to make comics about them. Wouldn’t you all enjoy that?

Anyway, that’s what some of my best pals are up to right now. I hope you’ll support them, and what they are working on, just as they have supported me. They’re good people doing good work, and if that isn’t worth your money, I don’t know what is!









DYNAMITE ANNUALS

DYNAMITE ANNUALS
Published by Dynamite Entertainment


Reviewed by Avril Brown

Looking at two new books from ROTTEN writer Mark Rahner…

GREEN HORNET ANNUAL #2
Illustrated by Ronan Cliquet

The GREEN HORNET book thus far has maintained a pleasurable balance between blithe humor and heavy-handed themes, and while Mark Rahner’s GREEN HORNET ANNUAL #2 leans more towards the later, the somewhat dire theme of this book gives the story genuine emotional power and gives the reader more reason to respect the Hornet.

Britt Reid is a flawed and flippant hero, often cracking jokes while cracking jaws of the bad guys, but this issue opens with him losing his temper in a bar after overhearing a couple of jerks lambaste his newspaper The Daily Sentinel. Inherited from his murdered father, Reid’s newspaper is failing and he is feeling the heat, or rather the frustration of watching his father’s legacy die. As the Green Hornet he has an outlet for his anger, particularly after learning of a human trafficking ring in his town, but he allows his rage to bleed over to where he is unnecessarily snippy with his partner Kato, and excessively ruthless with his enemy to little gain.

Thankfully Kato Senior is present to dispense some invaluable advice with regards to Reid’s day and nighttime professions, and their conversation is interlaced with images of Hornet’s spotty solo attempt at shaking down the trafficking ring, providing excellent juxtaposition to the learning experience Reid is undergoing.

Rahner writes Reid as who he is: a man growing up and into his roles as a newspaperman, a vigilante, a student and a friend. Cliquet’s pencils are a pleasurable blend of modern and traditional lines and his fight scenes are fantastic, but the colors by Impacto Studios have an almost watercolor look to them, making the characters appear too washed out at times. Overall this issue is a revelational story for Britt Reid and an inspirational one for the readers, and the harmony of Rahner’s words and Cliquet’s action in the last panel will have readers punching the air in support of Dynamite’s coolest duo.

WARLORD OF MARS ANNUAL #1
Illustrated by Stephen Sadowski

The first WARLORD OF MARS ANNUAL is an emotional tale of the horror of warfare, and how the bond between brothers can be forged, tested and destroyed. Starring John Carter and Tars Tarkas, the two best warriors Mars has ever seen, this issue opens and closes on their unique relationship, but the majority of the story is that of Tars Tarkas and one of the worst periods of his life.

Before John Carter of Earth unexpectedly dropped in on Mars, turning the entire planet on its head, the Tharks or Green Men were a brutal, blood-thirsty people, existing for the joy of battle and slaughter. Tars Tarkas, however, though hailed as one of the strongest and most ruthless fighters of his people, was beginning to fully recognize how different he was from his peers, particularly his excessively brutal hatch mate Hok, and Tars’s bone-deep exhaustion with war and violence was becoming stifling. When he and his men discovered one of their incubators, the machines which grow their young, was destroyed along with all the young it nurtured, Tars was forced to make decisions which exposed his doubt and differences. As Hok, the closest thing Tars had to a brother, begins to question Tars’s lack of immediate bloody revenge, Tars himself begins to question his aloneness among his people in feeling emotions other than war lust, leading to an educational and painful confrontation.

This ANNUAL offers more interesting background story into the lives of the Tharks, and more reasons to love Tars Tarkas, a wonderfully unique character. Rahner injects more passion, humor and emotion in this one issue than an entire story arc in the ongoing WARLORD OF MARS, making Tars seem more human and relatable than ever before. Sadowski’s pencils are very similar to most of the art seen in the regular series, though his capability of conveying emotion in the Green Men is unparalleled. The panels of Tars’s almost childlike understanding in the midst of his epically vicious contest with Hok cement WARLORD OF MARS ANNUAL #1 as one of the best told stories in the series yet to date.

SINA GRACE

Artist Sina Grace is one of the busiest guys in comics right now and the book he draws, LI’L DEPRESSED BOY, has defied conventional wisdom about nonsuperhero comics and found an adoring – and well-deserved – audience. I caught up with him at the Amazing Arizona Comicon a couple of weeks ago.


Transcription assistance thanks to Brooke Unverferth.

MM: This is Marc Mason with the Comics Waiting Room. I’m here today with artist Sina Grace. Sina, hello.

SG: Hello!

MM: We are at the Amazing Arizona Comicon and you are here with the Skybound contingent in multiple roles. You edit, correct?

SG: Yes. I am Robert Kirkman’s editorial director for all of his Skybound books, so I am here hawking Invicible, Walking Dead, Super Dinosaur, The Infinite, Witch Doctor, and several other books that I’m proud to be a part of.

MM: But for me, I want to talk to you about The Li’l Depressed Boy.

SG: I’m not going to stop you!

MM: This book has really caught my attention since it’s been out. It’s something different on the stands. It’s not a superhero book.

SG: No. I mean, for anyone who doesn’t know, which is all of you, it’s about a ragdoll boy who looks for love in kinda the wrong places. He starts off with a punk-rock girl, and that leads to all sorts of hijinks. We’ll leave it at that, yeah?

MM: And he’s drawn as a ragdoll character when the rest of the cast is drawn as human, so he’s almost anthropomorphic. It’s a fascinating decision that really works. How did that come about?

SG: That’s more on the writer, Struble. That was his call before I ever came on as the artist. It was a drawing he had done in his notebook back in grade school, and he had been developing this notion of the Li’l Depressed Boy for near ten years before it became a comic book. He just took that design and went with it, and took a lot of his personal stories and injected those into the comic book that you guys are reading.

MM: One thing that also jumps out about the book is that it’s the closest thing we have to a music comic on the stands, I think.

SG: Yeah! I mean, I think Scott Pilgrim started that in the 2000’s, or you know of this generation, he tried to, Bryan Lee O’Malley tried to do that for comic books recently, and to put myself next to Scott Pilgrim is stupid, but, you know there are bands we like, and we put them in there, and it’s fun to draw, it’s also hard to draw all of their equipment and gear, but, you know, it’s a way for us to connect both with fans and the musicians, and for us to interact with artists and build up what we are trying to do artistically.

MM: I think what I really appreciated about it is the book is never condescending. You respect the audience and you bring them along with you. And it’s emotionally honest. Tell us a little bit about that.

SG: Again, I entirely credit the writer, Struble. He does not ever want to manipulate or take advantage of readers and go for kind of easy kills or what not. There’s a conclusion to a recent story arc that we argued about for a while because I thought it was like, “eh, the fans are going to get pissed.” But he wanted to make sure it was an ending that felt right for the characters regardless of the ending people want.

MM: Do you have people that come up and talk to you and say, “Yeah, I was that guy.”?

SG: Yes. A lot. A lot. Everyone is like, “I am L.D.B.” and I’m on g-chat and people are like, “I’m so L.D.B. today.” And I’m like, well that’s one of us.

MM: Artistically, you have a very clean look to your art, you have a very clean line, your storytelling is pleasing to the eye. When did you start drawing? Has it been a lifelong thing?

SG: Yeah, yeah, since I was five. I actually just found old notebooks at my mom’s place of me drawing Batman and his friends Catwoman and Penguin. I was like 19 – no, I was like five when I did that. Yeah, I’ve been drawing since forever and I’ve always wanted to draw comic books, I never, I never slowed down, and you know, when you want to do something you just keep trying and keep trying to figure out what you did wrong and then do it better the next time around.

MM: Who would you say your influences have been?

SG: Not even because I’m looking at my Skybound booth, but all of the Skybound artists are phenomenal, productive, timely, efficient people who I love. Namely, Charlie Adlard, Ryan Ottley, Cory Walker, Jason Howard. Lukas Ketner, who’s doing a book called Witch Doctor. They all do different things real really well. So, it’s kinda great that my day job is to look at other comic artists and watch how they do it.

MM: Does it get difficult having the day job and then finding the time and energy to draw the book?

SG: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a lot of nights. Again, you know, you have to do it. You’re working a weekend right now. It’s like, this is what we do when we want to pursue our dreams.

MM: You finished the second arc now with L.D.B., you’re heading into a third arc, and you’ve been getting some guest covers. How have you been going about getting these guest artists on covers?

SG: There’s a really long wish list. And then there’s a really short what we can pull off list. And it’s a lot of pulling in all of our favors. Rob Guillory did the cover for issue five, he’s the Chew artist, and Struble knew him because he used to work on Chew. And then Charlie Adlard, we got him because I worked on The Walking Dead, Jamie McKelvie we’re both friends with, Steve Rolston is Struble’s friend. We have another round of guest covers coming up. I just can’t say who will be on it, but again, it’s like, “who do we know, who do we love, who do we think would draw a really good L.D.B. and how do we go about begging them to do it?”

MM: Are you surprised at how you’ve defied the odds? A lot of comics these days don’t really get past their first arc. You guys are heading into a third.

SG: Your readers can’t see me shake my head in disbelief. Yeah, it’s really weird and the fans are so incredibly nice. I was having a really rough comicon, and a girl came up to me holding and L.D.B. ragdoll, you know, a stuffed doll that she made by hand, and I fucking, I died. It’s really weird and it means the world to me that people are looking for things to connect to and that it exists. I would say that anyone who has a story that personal should go out there and try to tell it. You’re not – no one’s going to take you down when you’re really trying to do something from the heart and not just for dollars.

MM: That is the best advice I’ve heard all day. Sina, thank you so much for joining us in the Comics Waiting Room.

SG: Thank you, Marc.

JOSHUA HALE FIALKOV

Joshua Hale Fialkov is not only a prolific writer of comics- he’s a versatile one as well. Horror, superheroes, licensed books- he does it all, and he does it for virtually every publisher in the business. I caught up with him at the Amazing Arizona Comicon in early January.


Transcription assistance provided by Brooke Unverferth.


MM: This is Marc Mason in the Comics Waiting Room. I’m here today with Joshua Hale Flalkov, writer of a metric ton of things, so let’s get started. Josh, tell us a little bit about everything you’re writing right now.

JHF: That’s a broad question! I’m working on the Last of the Greats is coming out from Image Comics. My trade paperback is out in like two months or so. It’s about a family of superheroes who come to Earth and give us absolutely everything we’ve ever wanted. Right? And we hate them for it, we resent them, we despise them, and we systematically murder six out of seven of them. Finally, the aliens show up to destroy the Earth, and we have to go and beg this last Great to save our asses. Despite the fact that we’ve murdered his family. The book is really really dark and really is a lot of fun if you like books like Irredeemable or like Nemesis or you like dark superhero books, because this is my version of what does it mean to be a superhero in a world of people like us.

MM: It is a very dark book. I just read Issue 4 a few days ago, and there is a fairly unpleasant rape scene in it. So tell me about having to write that scene.

JHF: Well you know, let me ask you: when it happens, does it feel like it comes from somewhere?

MM: Clearly it comes from that character’s anger and hatred. I mean, it’s definitely an act of violence. Deeply expressed violence.

JHF: Well, and it’s also for me the idea that he was sitting in his ice castle while his siblings were out living and feeling and becoming part of the world and then kind of being demonized for it. For literally giving of themselves, they were murdered. And so it’s almost like an act of defiance. And you see, you see his kind of sexual frustration building up throughout the books until finally it barfs out in this horrible, horrible form. So it was really hard. I wanted it, I knew it was going to happen, I knew it had to happen, but in finding a way to do it that was, you know, shocking and grotesque in all the right ways, while still coming from somewhere and really being rooted in the story was a huge challenge. I feel like we did a pretty good job at it. We’ll see. It comes out soon. We’ll see what people say.

MM: Your writing has been on sort of a dark path lately, because I think –

JHF: Always.

MM: Yeah, starting with Elk’s Run- I suppose it was very dark. But Echoes was an incredibly dark project.

JHF: Yeah, Echoes is dark in a different way, I think. You know, Echoes is kind of near and dear to my heart, as my father, he is a serial killer….no..again, you know, I look at it, I start every story I do from a place of “what is the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to you?” You know? So the idea of Echoes came out of, you know, I was having a kid. And when you’re having a kid you start to realize that everything that is wrong with me…I have a lot of health problems, I have a lot of health issues and stuff like that, and knowing that I’m passing on this genetic weakness to my kid really kind of haunted me. And then, you know, as a writer, you start extrapolating from that. And then it suddenly becomes, well what’s a more engaging thing than me just having diabetes? What’s something even worse that you can pass on to your kid. The idea that being a sociopath and being a murderer and that being a genetic, you know, a genetic bond just was really vibrant and alive for me. And that’s sort of the idea behind the story. I think it’s also what makes it work for people is we all see that. The older you get, you start looking at your dad or your mom, and are, “Oh my god, I’m them!”

MM: It had one of the darkest endings I could remember in a recent comic. Were you really, this is kind of a weird question, but were you excited to get sort of really, horrible dark place at the end?

JHF: That’s what’s great about comics is that you can do that. You can get away with it. I’ve got a book published through one of the major publishers that has the most depressing, sad endings you can do in books where it’s like the bad guy wins and everybody else is just left for shit.

MM: I sat there going, “Jesus!!” Wow…gutsy move, I thought.

JHF: Thank you. Well, you know the idea is that if the book does well, we have a sequel actually. There’s more! It is no happier, but there is more. And I hope we get to do that, Rahsan and I are chomping at the bit to do more.

MM: Now, on a bit of a happier flip side, you’ve gotten involved with Dr. Who. How did that come about?

JHF: Um, I’ve known those guys, the guys at IDW, I’ve been friends with Tony Lee who’s the writer on Doctor Who for years. Whenever, you know, we have a Dr. Who convention in L.A., every year I’m a guest and I go, so I’ve just kind of gotten to know those guys and they know that I’m just a huge huge huge nerd and would do anything to work on the characters. And you know, the time came when Tony had to move on for other reasons and they came to me and asked what would I do? And I pitched something they liked. You know, for four issues I get to do something that five year old Josh would have crapped his pants to know he would do.

MM: I think what makes me curious about the Doctor Who gig is that Doctor Who has one of the most rabid fan bases on the entire planet. Did that add extra pressure to having to write stories?

JHF: It’s terrifying. Like I, this sounds horrible, it sounds egotistical, when I read review, because generally, my reviews, I’ve been treated very well by critics throughout my career. I think this week will be the first time where they will come out and I just don’t want to see any of them because I’m terrified. I set out to write the book to not disappoint myself because I am a rabid rabid Doctor Who nerd. And I knew I had to get the voices right. Like I know the fact that I’m American is a huge huge handicap in trying to get things to feel authentic and feel real, but I really, I feel like I got the voices down. I know BBC was really happy with the issues. I’m very excited to hear what people think, but at the same time I’m really not looking forward to it out of terror.

MM: Is it also a relief to sort of work outside of the darker realm a little bit?

JHF: Yeah, you know the funny thing is I have a kind of staunch belief of the big thing missing in comics is comics for all ages. And that’s not kids’ comics, that’s comics that you can give to anybody. And a lot of the stuff I’ve done at Marvel is that. Whether it’s, I did a Marvel Girl one-shot that was for the First Class stuff, I did a Fantomex versus Batroc story, like everything I did over at Marvel was sort of me being like, “No no, look! These should be fun!” I have a Spider-man I wrote for them that’s the same thing, that was sort of a fun, all-ages Spider-man. I really feel like comics are sort of missing that element. And part of it is me being like, well I can’t bitch about it and then make literally the most miserable books in the world that are appropriate for, like you can’t show them to, you literally can’t even be like, “Look at this cool comic!” So whenever I get the opportunity to do something that is all ages, that is, you know, lighter, it’s a huge relief. It’s just so much fun. Because you can worry about – the emotions you’re playing with are so much less upsetting as a writer. Because you really get into the head of your characters, you feel what they feel and you go through what they go through, and that’s the thing – I didn’t even write a horror Doctor Who! Like, I wrote a fun, it’s still crime noir-y, I guess, it’s like a fun, 40’s adventure serial with the Doctor. And it’s like I said, it was a dream come true and it’s exactly what, what I think about what I think the comics should be, that’s what I tried to do with the book.

MM: Well, it just goes to show what a versatile writer you are. Mr. Fialkov, thank you for taking the time to be with us, and continued success.

JHF: Always a pleasure, thank you.