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.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

RIP Comics Alliance... Again

Not an April Fools joke, sadly. 

On Thursday, 2 May 2013, I wrote a sincere farewell to Comics Alliance, which, In my opinion, was the best comics related website in the business. Fortunately for me and it's millions of other readers, Comics Alliance was resurrected, and would go on to inform and entertain for many years to come.

Yesterday it was revealed that it wasn't so much a resurrection as it was a stay of execution.

You can go back and read my original article, pretty much all of what I said at the time still stands, except I probably would consider myself a comic book academic by this point, in all manners other than legal, and that's all thank to the work and the talent that Comics Alliance had on show.

But 2017 is not the same world as 2013, and I'm all out of sincerity. What the world needs more than anything is righteous anger, and what made Comics Alliance stand out from all the other sites was it's anger.

It's telling that this news lands at about the same time Marvel's David Gabriel comes out with this shit about backing down on diversity. It's important to remember that for all the joy, and wonder and sense of community that businesses like Marvel and DC bring, they are not your friends, and like all businesses, they'd sell you half the product for twice the price if they thought they could get away with it.

Most Comics sites forget this, often, but Comics Alliance never did. When the big two acted like gracious hosts, when they were giving away breadcrumbs, Comics Alliance were always at the ready to call them on their shit.

I'm ever grateful for the work they've done over the years, their focus on important subjects like diversity, harassment and LGTBQ issues are as critical now as they ever have been. Even outside the more topical stuff, their dedication to exploring lesser known comics and unknown histories keep the spirit and the heart of the comics world alive. It's exit leaves a hole in the comic book world that might never again be filled.

As a coda to this article, I got to meet current editor-in-chief Andrew Wheeler at Toronto Comic Con just a couple of weeks ago. He's one of the most intelligent, charming and driven people I've ever met, and the news that he'll be moving on to writing comic books full time is the silver lining to this cloud. Comic journalism's loss is definitely Comic writing's gain.

On that note, I'd like to give the biggest thank you to all of Comics Alliance's writers and staff, both past and present. The comics world wouldn't be the same without you. I hope you all go on to even bigger and better things. And in particular I'd like to give a special shout out to some of my favourite writers, Jon Erik Christianson, Katie Schenkel and James Leask, your work has shaped me as both a reader and a writer.

Godspeed Comics Alliance, and stay angry.