Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Obscure Comic of the Month - Amongst the Stars

Obscure Comic of the Month takes a detailed look at a little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.

                                                   

Amongst the Stars by Jim Alexander, Mike Perkins and Will Pickering – Planet Jimbot 2015





Contains spoilers

A trippy tale of science fiction brought to you by the talents of Eagle/True Believers award winner Jim Alexander (GoodCopBadCop, Metal Hurlant, Wolf Country) and Eisner award winner Mike Perkins (Captain America, Ruse, Stephen King's The Stand).

Amongst the Stars is a comic that's big on ideas and low on page count. It's a comic that seeks to explore the deeper questions on the meaning of life and the nature of our place in the universe and it looks to do all that in under fifty pages.

Jim Alexander's cosmic fable is split across four different narrative strands, a murder in Turin, a party in New York, the last days of a dying race on the other side of the galaxy and the love life of a disabled astro-physicist who is almost definitely not Stephen Hawking. Through each of these strands Alexander draws parallels between the interconnectedness of each set of characters. Isn't the disabled astro-physicist's attempt to connect to with his daughter just like the disabled alien's attempt to convince their partner to accept their fates?


You've seen these beats before, but it would perhaps be unfair of me to write Aleander's story off as merely Cloud Atlas on speed. Alexander's little, and maybe too short, tales do resonate with an emotional effectiveness that could easily have devolved into whimsy. It's blatantly obvious that William Holland is a knock off Stephen Hawking, but that doesn't really stop you from being drawn into the story and believing in his character.

This slight of hand is mostly pulled off thanks to Mike Perkins' excellent artwork on the book, which really reminds me of the black and white era of 90's Doctor Who strips (which I've covered in the past,) particularly in regards to the alien sequences that make a bold use of clear white space to communicate the strangeness of their culture and the way they perceive reality.


And perception really is the main focus of the book. For what little plot there is it mostly concerns the alien race's last ditch attempt to save themselves backfiring when they accidentally interface with an old movie camera. Beyond that the beats are much more primal, raising questions of where our animal brains begin and where our human souls end (or should that be the other way around?)

Once again, most of the heavy lifting is done by Perkins' art. Beyond the Stars really wants to be more of an experience than a story. It'll end far sooner than you'll expect it to, and while it will leave you with thoughts to ponder, I do wonder if the story could have done with more time. Alexander's big ideas are still only touched upon rather than examined and, as mentioned earlier, the story will remind you of far deeper, richer works that cover similar ground.


So all in all Amongst the Stars is effective at what it sets out to do, though what it does has been done more effectively, and at length, many times before.

The book also comes with a back up strip in the form of Growing Pains. If you've ever read a 2000ad Terror Tale then you'll know exactly what you're in for here. It's a short, humorously told horror story with a grim twist at the end. It's a fun and unexpected addition to the end of the book, even if it does have practically nothing to do with the main plot.

                                        

Jack Harvey 2017. Amongst the Stars (c) 2015 Planet Jimbot. Images used under Fair Use.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

June Update


June Update

Just time to check in with a summary of what's been going on with my work lately.

  • As you may have already heard, my second ebook, The Scars of Jocasta Lacroix, with amazing cover art by Meg Daunting, is out now from Less Than Three Press. More details here if you somehow missed it.
  • I'll be attending Carlisle's August Megcacon on Saturday 19th August. This time I'm hoping I'm going to have some prints on sale as well as copies of Tales of the Modern Realms. I'm playing with the idea of doing a bunch like the Dorian one posted below, let me know if you have any suggestions.
  • I'm also hoping I'll have the John Paul Jones comic ready for August, but as noted previously, the current time-scale is for it do be done, when it's done.
  • I'm hoping I'll have a third Convention appearance some time in October or November. Nothing certain on this as yet though.



As ever, you can buy Tales of the Modern Realms here, the Carnack Ebook here, and the Jocasta Ebook here.

 And that's about all for now. Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Obscure Comic of the Month - The Collected Evil Wee Comics

Obscure Comic of the Month takes a detailed look at a little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.

                                                      

The Collected Evil Wee Comics by John Gordon Miller, Rob Miller and Adam J Smith – A Braw Book 2015



We proudly present the collected 'Evil Wee Comics' brand from Scots underground veteran John Miller. Features 'Secret Agent', 'Super Tales' & 'The Atomic Society' issues #1 & 2!

How exactly is one to describe Evil Wee Comics? My first attempt would be to say that they're a somewhat surreal homage to classic golden age superhero and spy comics, but that wouldn't be quite correct. My second attempt would be to say that they're a stream of consciousness reinterpretation of classic comics through a very Scottish lens, but that wouldn't quite cover it either.

The fact that the Evil Wee Comics are so hard to describe is in many respects part of their appeal. Explaining the plot behind the intricate, decade spanning world of the OSS and the Atomic Society is unnecessary and ultimately pointless. Plot isn't really the purpose of Evil Wee Comics, instead the whole experience is more about in the moment nuttiness and taking a journey to find out where the bizarre tangents end.


The average story in Evil Wee Comics usually starts with something resembling a plot. A secret agent must track down an escaped villain, a superhero team must fight one of their possessed members, but the stories quickly branch off into bizarre non-sequiturs about departmental budget constraints or Paul Jones – lead singer of Manfred Mann being an all round boring K**t.

Art duties bounce around a lot, with some great work by Rob Miller on the superhero fight sequences, but it's John Miller's own artwork that is the most notable. It's sharp and blocky, and often takes up only a fraction of the page, with some pages almost filled with nothing but text. It's another layer of bizarre to add onto a primarily graphic medium, with the humour of some of the strips being the slow inevitable crawl of the dialogue edging out the art.



And the humour is indeed the comic's greatest quality. Evil Wee Comics probably has more in common with newspaper strips than full length issues. It is at it's best when experienced just a coupled of pages at a time and revelling in the straight faced absurdity of it all.

Miller and Co are no slouches on depth either. It's clear that the team has a lot of love for the old Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D comics, and there are numerous nods and references if you know where to look. Likewise, the Atomic Society comics draw back to a lot of WW2 era superhero teams like The Invaders, and there's a po-faced nostalgia that's oddly not part of the many jokes on offer.



To go into more detail would probably defeat the point. Evil Wee Comics is Underground through and through, so it's not going to necessarily hold an appeal to more mainstream readers, but if you can handle the sort of punk rock weirdness of stuff like early Tank Girl then you'll probably find a lot here to be tickled by.

There's nothing else out there quite like Evil Wee Comics, and some of it just has to be seen to be believed.

                                    

Jack Harvey 2017. Evil Wee Comics is (c) John Gordon Miller, Rob Miller and Adam J Smith. Images used under fair use.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Announcing The Scars of Jocasta Lacroix

Hey folks! If you've been following my updates recently you'll have notice me mention that a new Ebook from Less Than Three would be coming soon. Well, the time for talking in hushed tones is over. It's time to announce...



After years of serving as a ranger across untold worlds and battlefields, Jocasta Lacroix is no stranger to scars, and her wife Katie knows the story of all but one. On their anniversary, Jocasta tells the story of her time as bodyguard and lover of Lady Gail Norringham, where she was drawn into a web of secrets and betrayal that led to her first encounter with notorious mercenary Carnack Cousland.

The Scars of Jocasta Lacroix is a follow up to The Reminiscence of Good King Carnack, though it's events actually take place before that story, so in essense you can read them in either order, so don't worry if you haven't read my last Ebook.

The story follows Jocasta, who was a minor character in Reminiscence and Scars seeks to explain how she and Carnack first met and just what their deal is. I've been wanting to write a full story with Jocasta for a long time, and I'm thrilled to finally see it out there.

Speaking of being thrilled, Meg Daunting returns to provide the cover artwork and I couldn't be happier with the finished piece.

I hope you all enjoy what I've come out with, and if you do, I can assure you that we'll be seeing more from Carnack and Jocasta's world in the future.

The Scars of Jocasta Lacroix will be available on June 7th for $1.99, and you can pre-order it here right now.

And if you haven't checked out The Reminiscence of Good King Carnack yet, you can also buy that here.

And while you're there, once again feel free to take a look at the great work other authors have got going on. You still can't go wrong.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Obscure Comic of the Month - Salvagers: Abandoned Cargo

Obscure Comic of the Month takes a detailed look at a little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.

                                                     

Salvagers: Abandoned Cargo by Bob Salley, George Acevedo, DeSika and Hde – Think Alike Productions 2016




In the distant future, the habitable planets are connected through trade of natural and artificial resources. The import and export business is flourishing for some systems, while leaving others at the mercy of major trade corporations.

After the Galactic War ended, peace blanketed the galaxy; however planets with little shipping resources turned to piracy or developed small guerilla military units geared to pillage trade ships. This spawned the necessity for trade companies to hire private security contractors for protection.

Even under the security of peacetime, there is no shortage of violence in outer space; from looting raiders, Navy destroyers neutralizing a rebel movement to the simplest space station falling victim to a rogue asteroid.

These destroyed or abandoned ships and stations are classified as “WRECKS”.

Licensed crews are commissioned by governments, empires and corporations to remove these wrecks.

In a hostile galaxy, the risk and reward is high for these crews.

They are known as... the SALVAGERS.

I picked up book one of Salvagers while I was at Toronto Comic Con back in March. It was the last day, and the comic's writer, Bob Salley, pegged me as somebody who might be interested. He gave me a heartfelt pitch, selling the idea that this was a series that really focused on the working men of a sci-fi universe. No soldiers or scientists or astronauts here. Just everyday Joes who have jobs to do and bills to pay.

I snagged the last copy, and he threw in a couple of issues of the next arc with it.

That is to say, I really wanted to like Salvagers.

It's competent to be sure. The writing comes together nicely, the plot is framed well enough, and George Acevedo's art fits well with the story being told, beyond a few panels feel weirdly off. By and large, there wasn't anything really wrong with Salvagers, but there wasn't anything for me to really get excited about either.

Look, I get it. Doing comics isn't easy, I know that. I'm sure my own stuff has it's fair share of flat writing and I'm certainly still making my way when it comes to art. So I know how much love and hard work you have to put into these things, and how you want what you come out with to be the best it can be.

But what you also have to remember is that a lot of small press and self published comics are done by writers who are just starting out. Fresh talent still forming. So when you see problems, it's best to point them out now, while there's time to iron out your bind spots.



See, here's the thing; when I read independent comics I'm going to be forgiving of a lot of things. There's going to be jank and cheese in the writing, there's going to be a little bit of the art that feels off. What makes up for that though, is getting to see fresh ideas, bold new voices. Subject matters that might not have a broad appeal but that the writer really cares about. Stories that might get a little scrubbed clean of character if it was under a major publisher.

Salavagers though, it doesn't have any of that. The story follows a crew of four as they explore a derelict ship, clash with some security bots, and find out that there is more going on with the derelict than meets the eye. You've seen this story before, you've seen these characters before. There's the big alien guy who's stoic and professional. There's his little funny looking best friend who's quick with a joke but is always getting into scrapes. There's the purple skinned pilot who's strictly business but can relax around the main character, and of course she's smoking hot with a dark and troubled past.

By far the biggest problem is our main character Bill Roenick. Bill is a rough, rugged ex-soldier (despite the fact not focussing on soldiers was supposed to be one of this book's selling points.) He's what I like to thing of as a 'place-holder' character. He's perfectly fine for the first draft but should have been replaced by a more interesting character by the time we got to print.



Here's a little experiment for all you writers out there. Next time you write dialogue for your main character, ask yourself if it sounds like the kind of thing John Mcclain would say. And I'm not talking about flawed, interesting, Die Hard 1 – 3 John Mcclain here, I'm talking about boring, invincible, no personality, Die Hard 4 -5 John Mcclain. If the answer is yes, I suggest you scrap that character immediately.

There are plenty of Bill Roenicks in the world of comics, I read indie comics to expressly avoid them.

So Salvagers real, and in it's defence, only problem is that it isn't bringing anything new to the table. There's nothing wrong with using archetypes, but you have to do something interesting with them. Even the comic's main selling point, working Joes in space, isn't all that original when you consider Alien did that back in 1979.



Fortunately, Salvagers can be salvaged (ah-heh). Abandoned Cargo is only it's first book, and I've seen far worse comics turn themselves around to become classics. The talent is certainly there for it.

But by it's own merits, Abandoned Cargo just sort of gets swept away by the dozens of other sci-fi comics that have covered similar ground over the years. If you're new to comics, there's probably a lot you'd find to like, but it's not what I'm looking for when I pick up a self-published comic.

                                                   

Jack Harvey 2017. Salvagers is (c) Bob Salley and George Acevedo. Images used under fair use.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Judge Cammy White


I don't normally post non-story related artwork here, but I'm going to be working on a bunch of pieces that I'm thinking of making prints of for the conventions I'm planning on attending in the future.

Since most of my artwork is just practice stuff and bouncing around ideas, I thought it would be best to really crack out something as good as I can get it.

So I'm pretty satisfied with how it ended up. What do you folks think? Would you be interested in buying it as a print?

Saturday, 8 April 2017

April Update and Dispatches from Toronto



The year is ticking along, so it's time for another quick update on the projects that I'm working on, but I also want to talk a little about my time in Toronto too, so let's get to it.

  • I enjoyed the heck out of my time at Toronto Comic Con. It wasn't as big as New York, but It sure as hell had the talent on display. I spent more money on swag than was reasonably healthy, and I picked up a lot of independant comics that I no doubt will be covering for my Obsucre Comic of the Month column.
  • The highlight of the show was meeting Andrew Wheeler and Jim Zub, both writers who I have a great deal of respect for. They were lovely to meet and talk shop with, particularly regarding...
  • Chapterhouse Comics, for those that don't know, is a Canadian comic book publisher most likely known for the current run of Captain Canuck comics. I was lucky enough to catch the Chapterhouse panel. The publisher's current line is resurrecting a bunch of vintage Canadian comic heroes and working them together into a shared universe. It sounds like a promising project, seeing them construct the feel of a decades old universe without the baggage of actual decades. I've read issue one of Freelance, by Wheeler and Zub, and I'm excited to see where they go with this.

  • Work continues on the John Paul Jones comic, which you can see some work in progress art for above. Visiting Fort York in Toronto was also helpful in getting a feel for era-specific clothing and weapons.
  • I've been planning for a while to self-publish a bunch of short Modern Realms novellas, with each one featuring a different artist. I don't really have a time-frame for the project, but I'm thinking about getting one out this year just to test the waters.
  • I missed out on doing an Obscure Comic of the Month in march due to Mass Effect: Andromeda multiple factors, such as being in Toronto, and getting out a eulogy for the recently closed Comics Alliance. We'll be back on schedule this month, however.
  • No release date on The Scars of Jocasta Lacroix as yet, but it's coming, oh boy, it's coming.

And that's about all for now. As ever, you can keep up to date on my projects through my Tumblr amd my Twitter. And if you'd like to support my work, please consider checking out my Modern Realms anthology and Carnack Ebook. Thanks.