Tag Archives: comics

Comic contest cavalcade

I was gonna do it. I wasn’t gonna do it.

Late last summer, I read about a talent search the comic book company Top Cow was running. What interested me was they were accepting entries from unpublished writers as well as artists. So I uploaded the rules. Seemed OK. All I had to do was choose from a plethora of characters from the Top Cow universe.

I eventually decided on the futuristic world of the green-haired assassin Aphrodite IX. I picked up several issues featuring the character. I came up with a couple of possible story ideas.

Then I got cold feet.

I closed the comic script file and dillydallied on other writing projects. All the while, I’d get some idea spark, jot it down in the file, then forget about it.

This went on for several months. I eventually resigned to the fact I wasn’t going to enter the contest.

But the character kept nagging at me to write a story. All right, I told myself. I’ll give it a try.

Four days before the deadline in March, I fired up the laptop and got to typing. I came up with a quick outline for the story, typed Page One, Panel One, gulped, and dove right into the tale.

It was done within a couple of days. I read through it to make sure it didn’t have any glaring plot holes, then nervously sent it off to contest land.

Sadly, I did not win. Otherwise, I would have written a blog post that simply read, “OH MY GOD I WON THE CONTEST!1!!1!” It would have been cool to have my name printed on the cover of a comic book saying that I wrote this story, but alas, it wasn’t my time.

Am I burning with rage that I didn’t win? Absolutely not. I’ve got more than 30 rejections from my short story submissions. This is part of the process. I have to tell myself the story wasn’t right for the editors at that particular time. Otherwise, it’ll eat you alive and you may not get back to writing, which is what I should be doing anyway. Trying to get better.

And hey, I entered the contest, so that’s half the battle. The other half: I finished a comic book script.

Should Top Cow do another talent contest, I may give it another shot. Unless I get published elsewhere before that time. Which could happen. Maybe.

The story itself, “Lessons Learned,” was born from Aphrodite IX: The Hidden Files. That comic sports a lengthy timeline of the Aphrodite project. I noticed there was a wide gap from the time the character is put in stasis to when she is awakened in the first issue. I thought, I wonder what one does while in stasis.

The answer is in the script, found below the fold.

Continue reading Comic contest cavalcade

My comics prayers have been answered

Last July I had written about my love of Disney comics and how I hoped Walt Disney Comics and Stories would be resurrected from comic limbo.

Apparently, the fine folks at IDW Publishing listened to me (I know, I’m sure they didn’t, but still).

From IDW's website
From IDW’s website

Check out July. Yup. It’s WALT DISNEY COMICS AND STORIES. WITH THE ORIGINAL NUMBERING.

I am over the moon and Duckburg over this news. This means Disney comics will be out on shelves in America once more. And we’ll get to see some stories that were only available overseas. My wallet, of course, will be giving me the evil eye even more, but that’s OK. I’ll probably get Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and WDC&S , although my wallet is probably saying, “Well, if you’re buying three, you might as well get the fourth one, ya maroon!”

But wait, you might say. IDW? Why isn’t Marvel putting these comics out since Disney owns them? To be honest, I really don’t know. Disney has all sorts of licenses floating out there. Fantagraphics has been reprinting the Mickey Mouse newspaper strips, as well as (my personal favorite) the Carl Barks and Don Rosa Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge stories. Maybe Marvel’s plate is a bit full to add even more issues. Who knows.

I do have complete confidence in IDW treating this material right; I’ve been enjoying what they’re doing with the Transformers franchise, and my two girls are especially fond of the My Little Pony line (they like flipping through the digital versions, and they’ve got dog-eared copies of those mini-comics).

So now we wait until April for Uncle Scrooge, May for Donald Duck, and July for Walt Disney Comics and Stories. Good thing I’m patient. Mostly.

Comics! On television!

via DC Comics' Facebook page
via DC Comics’ Facebook page

Fifty years from now, when we’re all flying around in our rocket cars and taking an elevator up to Mars, historians will look back on 2014 as a banner year for seeing comic books in other media besides comic books.

It’s especially been a banner year for DC Comics on the smallish screen. For the fall season, it’s got four shows on the air: Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, and Gotham. From what I hear, they’re doing gangbusters. While Marvel has a stranglehold on the multiplex, it does have one show on TV: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with several more in development. I guess I should mention that 100-pound zombie in the room, The Walking Dead, but I’m not a zombie kind of guy. Sorry.

As much as I would love to watch every single one of these shows, most of them air when my kids are heading off to the realm of Dream. Thankfully, since we live in THE FUTURE, I can watch them later online with limited commercial interruption (usually the same ads over and over).

When the fall season began, I knew I had to see The Flash, with Gotham lurking in the shadows for a tie. I was a big fan of Batman and the Flash’s earlier TV incarnations. One was a bit silly, the other had a mix of comedy, drama and action. All these years later, we would get another look at these characters.

The Flash would take on the Barry Allen version with some revisions to the origin story. It’s serious, but there’s a sense of fun among the characters. It’s not all doom and gloom. With Gotham, this would be more Batman: Year Minus One, giving the origins of some of Batman’s rogues gallery as well as the Gotham Police. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to catch any episodes of Gotham. I guess I’ll wait for the DVDs.

I drop in occasionally on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., mainly because “it all fits” but I haven’t seen a Marvel movie since Iron Man. Some of it is good, but I feel like I’m missing something. I saw a few episodes of Arrow last season and liked it once I figured out the scenes on the island were flashbacks and not scenes from the future. Nice, moody stuff borrowing a lot from Batman’s world. Sadly, I’ve fallen behind this season, the one where Ra’s al Ghul is primed for an appearance.

Then there’s John Constantine.

I’m not much of a horror fan, so I have stayed away from Constantine’s DC/Vertigo comic book adventures. But whenever he did pop up in comics I was reading at the time (mostly by some bloke named Neil Gaiman), it was always entertaining. Thankfully, I never did see Keanu Reeves’ cinematic turn as the character.

Out of all the shows DC was bringing out, this was the one I was waffling on seeing. Did I want to have nightmares every day and wonder if there’s some hellspawn masquerading as a lamppost?

The hell with it, I thought. I watched the pilot, and it was great. It had just enough horror to not give me fits at night, and actor Matt Ryan fits Constantine’s character like a well-worn glove.

I, for one, am glad to see the comics world on TV. It helps that the special effects have grown to the point of being able to re-create someone running at the speed of light or people turning into demons. But the biggest thing is that the stories don’t play down on the material. And above all, they’ve made me ask, “What happens next?”

Now I just have to carve out time to find out what does happen next, and pray that they don’t get cancelled.

One little spark

Comic books in America featuring Disney characters have become as rare as a short line to get into Soarin’ at Epcot.

At one time back in the 1940s and ’50s, Disney comics were some of the biggest-selling in America. But they slowly faded into near obscurity during the 1970s and ’80s, while they have thrived across the ocean. (Dan Cunningham has put together extensive blog posts on Disney Comics during the late ’80s and early ’90s) One of those ’70s comics is the fabled Donald Duck and the Golden Helmet issue, which I’ve documented elsewhere.

The original Donald Duck Dynabrite comic
The original Donald Duck Dynabrite comic

In the 2000s, there was a glimmer of hope. Boom! Studios picked up the license and brought Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories back from publishing purgatory, along with other stuff. It was cool seeing these stories that originally appeared in Europe. Boom! also brought in writer/artist Roger Langridge for some Muppet Show comics (I read one issue, it was fabulous).

But Boom! and Disney parted ways. My memory’s a little foggy on this, but it may have been right around the time Disney bought Marvel. While the immediate jokes of Mickey joining the Avengers appeared, part of me hoped that maybe WDC&S would return once more.

Seekers of the Weird No. 1, via Comic Book Resources
Seekers of the Weird No. 1, via Comic Book Resources

Instead, the House of Ideas went with a Disney Kingdoms imprint, kicking things off with Seekers of the Weird, which takes its cue from an abandoned Disneyland attraction called the Museum of the Weird that would have been within the Haunted Mansion. Plans were scrapped, but the legend grew over the years. Now, it has become a comic book written by Brandon Seifert, drawn by Karl Moline and  Rick Magyar, colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and lettered by Joe Caramagna. I’ve read the first two issues of the miniseries, and it’s pretty good so far.

My spider senses really went off the scales when I learned the next miniseries in the Disney Kingdoms world was … FIGMENT! That lovable purple dragon, along with his partner-in-crime the Dreamfinder from the Journey into Imagination! ride at EPCOT Center (or Epcot, depending on how the wind blows) was going to get his own comic! It would be written by Jim Zub, illustrated by Felipe Andrade, colored by Beaulieu, and lettered by Caramagna.

But I kept reading stories on Twitter that the issue was selling out at comic shops. I bit my fingernails off. But! Someone on Twitter said that it was available at several places in Disney World, including a store in Downtown Disney. Our family was planning to go to the latter that weekend, so we had a new quest. We checked out the World of Disney store first (mainly because a massive thunderstorm hit), but I didn’t see any. The rain let up a bit, so we headed to Once Upon a Toy next. We reached the section where they have all the Marvel stuff. Lo and behold, tucked in with some other books was Figment No. 1.

Figment in the wild!
Figment in the wild! (photo by Michael Fortuna)

They also had the other issues of Seekers of the Weird elsewhere in the store, so I got No. 2. Strangely, they didn’t have No. 3. Weird, indeed.

As for the Figment issue itself: it was a great introduction to how Figment and the Dreamfinder met, and the ending sets the stage for a rather fanciful adventure. I’ve now heard the second issue of Figment sold out before it even hit comic shop shelves. Wow. Hopefully, Once Upon a Toy will have copies.

Add to Fantagraphics reprinting the mouse and duck tales of Floyd Gottfredson, Carl Barks, and Don Rosa, and it seems we’ve come into a bit of a golden age of Disney comics. Perhaps if we wish upon a star, we’ll see a lot more, maybe a resurrection of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories

Walt Disney Comics & Stories No. 715, via the Grand Comics Database
Walt Disney Comics & Stories No. 715, via the Grand Comics Database

The fastest post alive

When the Super Powers toy line appeared in the mid-1980s, my 8-year-old self naturally wanted every single figure representing the DC Universe. But, thanks to the law of Not Having Any Toy In Stock Except Generic Characters, that wasn’t possible. But I did snatch who I thought were the best: Batman. Green Lantern. The Flash. (My brother got Superman)

I’ve mentioned my love of Batman elsewhere, but with Green Lantern and the Flash, they tickled the science fictiony portion of my brain. The former was part of an intergalactic space police force who could form anything with his power ring, the latter was a man who could run really fast.

OK, that description doesn’t quite do the Flash justice. I soon learned there was more to the Fastest Man Alive. Right around the late ’80s, early ’90s, in fact.

Just like when Batman commanded the big screen in 1989, I got hooked on the Flash after learning CBS was bringing the character to the small screen. But as I picked up the comics, I learned Barry Allen wasn’t the Flash, it was Wally West. SPOILERS: Barry had died during the massive Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Wally went from Kid Flash to the Flash.

Secret Origins Annual No. 2
Secret Origins Annual No. 2

Someone had given me a copy of Secret Origins Annual No. 2, which featured stories centered on Wally and Barry. Barry’s tale, which was drawn by Carmine Infantino, the man who helped launched the Silver Age Flash, was especially cool to me. It showed various points in Barry’s career, including his fateful clash with the Anti-Monitor. He stopped the deadly anti-matter gun by going faster than possible. But he didn’t die. He traveled back in time and became the lightning bolt that struck him in the first place. Wow.

Also around this time, I was able to pick a couple of comic book subscriptions. I picked Batman and Flash. With the latter, I came in right when Vandal Savage killed the Flash. WHAT? It even had it ON THE COVER. Well crap, I thought. Thankfully, in issue 50, Wally wasn’t dead. Whew.

So now I was entranced by the television adventures of Barry Allen (played by John Wesley Shipp), as well as the comic book adventures of Wally West, thanks to the efforts of writers like William Messner-Loebs and Mark Waid and artists like Greg LaRocque and Mike Weiringo.

The TV show had that neo-retro feel that the Tim Burton Batman flick had. I especially liked it when Mark Hamill guest starred as the Trickster, which may have led to him becoming the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. In any case, it was deliciously evil. I tried to tape as many episodes as I could, but I missed a few (it probably didn’t help the show kept changing time slots). I even got the All-New Flash TV Special comic, which included two comics, some behind the scenes stuff, and an episode guide.

Sadly, the show didn’t make it past the first season. I was heartbroken, but at least I still had the comics, which showed Wally coming into his own as the Flash, instead of running behind Barry’s shadow.

I walked away from comics before Waid left and people like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns took over the writing reins. Around 2008, I learned of the unthinkable: Barry Allen was coming back. After being dead for some 25 years, which has to be a record of some kind. So I bought Final Crisis to see how it was going to play out.

Then I read that Johns was going to do a miniseries called The Flash: Rebirth, which would officially bring Barry back into the DCU. I did get goosebumps seeing the double-page spread of all the Flashes.

So now he was back. Yay, I guess? I mean, I’m all for having as many Flashes running around as possible.

Along came the New 52, which kind of reset DC’s continuity to give a fresh start. Barry Allen was the Flash, but where was Wally? Enjoying some vacation time in Hawaii? I did read the first issue and liked what Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul were doing. Due to budget restraints, I didn’t keep up with the title.

Thanks to the Showcase Presents black-and-white reprint line, I got to read the rather long tale, “The Trial of the Flash,” which led directly into Crisis on Infinite Earths, which I also finally was able to experience.

On the TV side of things, I had heard Barry Allen would be making an appearance in Arrow. I may have caught glimpses of it, but with two young children running around and yelling, it can be hard to concentrate. Still, I thought, cool, I wonder if this will lead to him becoming the Flash.

Then the CW announced it was coming out with a new series on the Flash.

 

Holy Speed Force, Barry! This looks promising. Now if only time could go fast enough to get to the fall. (taps watch a few times)

I think what still attracts me to the world of the Scarlet Speedster is that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Both Barry and Wally loved being heroes. Their Rogue’s Gallery was just as cool as Batman’s (the Mirror Master! the Weather Wizard! Reverse Flash! Abra Kadabra! Gorilla Grodd!). They could travel through time. Some of those Silver Age stories were plain wacky (The Flash has a giant head!).

Really, how can you go wrong with all of that? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll crack open The Greatest Flash Stories Ever Told again.

Mad about Donald Duck

One of the greatest cartoon characters from the Walt Disney oeuvre will celebrate its 80th birthday on June 9.

I’m talking, of course, of Donald Duck.

donald duck

I blame my parents for this. They were big Disney fans before I entered the picture. They were part of the massive band that performed during the opening ceremonies of Walt Disney World in Orlando in 1971.

Back in the early 1980s, either my parents or grandparents had bought a three-pack of Whitman Dynabrite Disney comic books — one featured Daisy Duck, another featured Uncle Scrooge, and the other featured Donald Duck. I don’t recall how it happened, but my brother got the Uncle Scrooge book, my sister got the Daisy book, and I got the Donald book.

The cover of the book, which had the title in big fun-looking letters, “Donald Duck: The Golden Helmet,” showed Donald hoisting a golden helmet and a map with his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie looking on.

The first story in the issue was “The Golden Helmet,” a 32-page adventure story where Donald and the nephews set sail to find the aforementioned helmet before Azure Blue (what a name for a villain!) could retrieve it and claim America as his own and make everyone his slaves. Up next was a shorter tale guest-starring Uncle Scrooge where they went looking for a gold mine. Then, the issue closed with a short tale of how Donald took a job as a dog catcher.

I read that comic endlessly. I even drew a crude rendition of Donald on the inside front cover. Like most things from my childhood, it was either packed away or thrown out. I moved on.

When the Disney Channel was in its infancy, we loved watching the classic Disney shorts, especially Donald’s misadventures. You can bet when my siblings and I came home from school that we didn’t miss another exciting episode of DuckTales (OK, so Donald only appeared a few times, but it was still good). When our family did go to Disney World, many of the souvenirs I picked up had a ducky flavor, including a hat in the shape of Donald’s head and a porcelain figure of Donald in a pirate outfit. When I went to Star Wars Celebration V, I picked up an action figure of Donald Duck as a Dark Trooper.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned the identity of the artist and writer of those comics: Carl Barks. Soon I became obsessed interested in learning about the history behind the Good Duck Artist. Sadly, finding reprints of his work was next to impossible, unless you lived in Europe.

A few years back, I went looking around on eBay for a copy of that Donald Duck comic, and as luck would have it, I found it. As a Father’s Day gift, I got me a near-mint copy of the comic. As soon as I opened to the first page, I was immediately taken back to my younger days. I found myself reading the story slowly, savoring each panel’s artwork and dialogue. Yes, these stories were still amazing.

In a strange twist of fate, I was helping my parents clean out boxes in my grandparents’ garage where some of my childhood stuff had been stored. I opened a few of the boxes with my name on them, and there it was.

The Golden Helmet comic. It was in one piece.

The original Donald Duck Dynabrite comic
The original Donald Duck Dynabrite comic

Imagine my delight when I learned Fantagraphics was going to publish Barks’ Donald Duck catalog in hardcover. I immediately thought, “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.” So far, I’ve got three volumes — Lost in the AndesA Christmas for Shacktown, and The Old Castle’s Secret. Apart from a few questionable caricatures from the era, these stories still hold up. My goal is to get every single volume in the collection. I think I can do it. Might take a while, but it’s doable.

In A Christmas for Shacktown, you probably can’t guess which story appears. Yup. “The Golden Helmet.”

Comparison of the Dynabrite comic (complete with my crude Donald drawing) and the Fantagraphics book
Comparison of the Dynabrite comic (complete with my crude Donald drawing) and the Fantagraphics book

To make matters worse, er, better, Fantagraphics will be publishing all of the Duck stories created by Don Rosa. I pretty much missed all of these comic books when they were first released, so being able to get my mitts on these will be another dream come true. (My wallet is screaming at me now)

Happy birthday, Donald! Try not to lose your temper too much.

 

It is a world transformed…

And now, another chapter in the Continuing Saga of Childhood Nostalgia…

It is the fall of 1984. The Star Wars saga concluded the year before, but its fire was slowly going out of the universe. What’s an impressionable 8-year-old to do? There were some Saturday morning cartoons, but my mind escapes me as to what was on at the time (for some reason, I’m thinking of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, but that may have come out a year or two earlier).

And then, something from Cybertron beamed its transmissions (and its accompanying wares) to Earth.

The NBC affiliate in Jacksonville (which became the ABC affiliate, which is now the CW affiliate) started airing The Transformers. I was immediately sold on the premise of the Heroic Autobots battling the Evil Decepticons, AND THEY TURNED FROM ROBOTS TO VEHICLES AND BACK! To make matters worse, they made TOYS BASED ON THE CARTOON? (or maybe it was the other way around) I’m sure I bugged my parents and grandparents to get me two or seventy-three of the toys.

The first toys I did acquire were Soundwave with Buzzsaw, as well as Twin Twist (he’s an Autobot that transformed when you pushed the car back and let it go). They each came with small folded catalogs showing you all the other toys available, including the leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron. Through the luck of the Matrix of Leadership (and my parents’ and grandparents’ endless searching), they were welcomed into my home.

Artwork from the 1984 Transformers boxes
Artwork from the 1984 Transformers boxes

Besides the cartoon’s stories, I found myself drawn to the voice actors, trying to match the name listed in the credits with the character. Eventually, I put two and seven together to find many of these actors were in other Marvel/Sunbow productions. Who could forget the bravery of Peter Cullen’s Optimus Prime, the over-the-top evil of Frank Welker’s Megatron, the screeching of Chris Latta’s Starscream? Then, to learn one guy did three or four different characters? Mind. Blown. My ear also picked out sound effects that sounded familiar to what was heard in Star Wars. That, of course, made the show doubly cool.

In August 1986, my dad drove me to the local mall to catch a showing of Transformers: The Movie. I had been seeing previews on TV constantly and couldn’t wait to see these guys on the big screen. We walked into the theater just as the DEG lion logo twirled onto the screen.

I was gobsmacked as Unicron ripped a planet to shreds. I got goosebumps when the hair metal band Lion (boy, did they go far) rocked out the theme song. But, I’m sure I felt a little queasy when the Decepticons dispatched the crew of an Autobot shuttle like it was nothing. Seeing smoke spew out of Prowl’s mouth freaked me out. I liked Prowl! How were they able to die so easily when they got through the cartoon without much injury? Of course, this was the toy company’s way of making way for the new line, but still. To that 10-year-old me, they were real.

Then the unthinkable happened. The epic clash between Prime and Megatron. One would stand. One would fall. For a moment, it looked like Prime was victorious. But that wasn’t meant to be. Optimus died.

Looking back, that event hit me hard, though I probably tried not to show it. I’m sure lots of kids my age who saw that were affected. Here was this amazing robot who led the good guys into battle, and he lost.

Thankfully, toward the end of the third season, Hasbro had a change of heart. They brought back Optimus Prime. His toy version was as a Powermaster where you put this tiny robot engine onto his chest, and you can transform Prime into this bigger robot.

Unfortunately, as the toys went off in strange directions (the Pretenders: hide a robot inside a giant human-looking shell; yeah, that didn’t seem right), I lost interest.

Transformers No. 26, via Grand Comics Database
Transformers No. 26, via Grand Comics Database

The comic book that started it all (which actually came out May 8) hadn’t quite entered my universe just yet. The first issues I got were part of a three-pack: issues 26-28, which came out in 1987 or so. These issues dealt with the aftermath of Optimus Prime’s death (great! I get to experience it twice!). I discovered the Marvel version of the Transformers was a tad different than the cartoon continuity. For one thing, the cartoon had jumped to 2005 in the movie, but the comic stayed in the present. I didn’t pick up a lot of this series when it was around.

Just like Star Wars, it seemed like the Transformers were going to fade into the dustbins of history. At least it did in the U.S. for a while. Then came the Energon, Universe, and Armada lines, which I didn’t follow that much. I watched and enjoyed the Transformers Animated series. I watched the first of Michael Bay’s rendition of the franchise in theaters, and I did feel goosebumpy when we see Prime driving down the alleyway. It was an OK movie. The second one, I will never speak of again. The third one, meh.

Rhino brought back the original series on DVD, so of course I had to buy them. Watching them with older eyes, yeah, some of the stories are stupid, the animation gets kind of wonky at times, but it still holds up.

Star Wars may have been a defining moment in my life, but the Transformers really got the ball rolling. If I wasn’t a fan of science fiction-type tales, this sealed the deal. Right around this time, Voltron appeared on TV screens, and I ate that up. I became fascinated with other Japanese animated shows and movies. I thought, maybe I’ll be a voiceover actor when I grow up (that didn’t pan out). It also showed me that you can give a robot a backstory and a personality, and it will work just as well as a human. Sometimes.

A couple of years back, I unearthed my toy collection from storage and displayed them for a few weeks. I was amazed I remembered how to transform them all, and that they stayed mostly intact while sitting in a garage for many years. They looked like they had been through a war lasting millions of years.

tf collection 01

Thanks to the fine folks at IDW, I have enjoyed the Bots’ comic book adventures once more, including All Hail Megatron, More Than Meets the EyeRobots in Disguise, and Regeneration One, as well as reprints of the Marvel and Marvel UK stories. Whenever I had a chance to watch, I’ve enjoyed the recent iteration, Transformers Prime. I even bought the Masterpiece edition of Optimus Prime. Now THAT thing is a pain in the Matrix to transform. Looks cool, though.

20th optimus

Megatron’s pointing his fusion cannon at me, telling me to wrap up, so I better do that. Happy 30th, Transformers. May you continue for another 30 or 30 million.