Joe Corallo is a queer cisgender white guy who tries to keep his privilege in check while residing in Queens, NY. He's been an active participant in life for three decades, has been reading comics for over two of those decades, and has dabbled in writing comics for over half a decade. He's self published four issues of a cyberpunk comic titled Electronic, has work published in Geeks OUT Presents: Power Anthology, Margins Publishing's Our Hearts Still Beat zine, and Grayhaven's The Gathering: Music anthology. He's currently back at self publishing with a new series, Saturn's Call, alongside co-creator and illustrator Robby Barrett with issue #2 ready for release later this year. A couple of other projects are going on currently that can't be announced yet. Joe also contributes at Geeks OUT and [insertgeekhere].
Previously on ComicMix, we mentioned talked about how friend of ComicMIx and legendary comics creator Mike Grell makes an appearance in the latest movie that the RIfftrax crew did live, Star Raiders. While it’s no Space Mutiny (and really, what is?), Star Raiders has a lot to offer. I’ll be getting into that in the next paragraph though, so bare with me.
For those not in the know, Star Raiders is a Casper Van Dien starring science fiction romp put together with a modest budget. Though principle photography was finished in 2014, the team went to Kickstarter in 2016 to help offset the post production costs that ended up $40,000 over budget. Earlier this year, Star Raiders would appear on Kickstarter again through Rifftrax for their 2019 live riffing roster and to celebrate 10 years of Rifftrax.
Okay, okay, but what do I think about the movie? I was just getting to that I promise!
Basically, Casper Van Dien plays this guy Saber Raine who looks and acts kind of like Mal from Firefly and has to save this prince and princess who ended up getting captured by ancient bad people who have a plot at getting revenge because people were mean to them a while ago. There’s a bunch of other characters that do things sometimes, and a betrayal in the third act that feels pretty forced, and then a bunch of explosions, the heroes win, and they set up a sequel that we probably weren’t going to be getting, but now with the Rifftrax attention maybe that’ll be on the table.
The movie itself feels like a Sylvester McCoy era Doctor Who serial done today. Like, really, the special effects, the costumes, the filming locations, all of it seems about that quality. There were a few times that I genuinely thought I was watching the three parter Delta and the Bannerman. I wish they leaned more into how cheesy and campy it all was.
Honestly, one of the highlights in the movie was Mike Grell’s small role in it.
For Mike Grell’s acting debut, he plays the character of Jax Grymm (yes, we know, GrimJack), who steals the show for a precious couple of minutes when Casper Van Dien goes to him asking for help. The moment does feel like it could of been in Firefly or Blake’s 7 where a couple of morally questionable individuals are trying to work out a deal as you wait for one (or both) of them to double-cross each other. Everyone makes it out alive in this scene, however, so perhaps this means we’ll get more Jax Grymm if they ever make the sequel they tease at the end.
While this movie fails to deliver on its promise of the high adventure serials that it pulls inspiration from, it definitely delivers for the low budget sci-fi junkie crowd. If you’re into SyFy Channel Original Movies, this could make for some good Sunday afternoon watching.
If you’re watching this with Rifftrax, that’s another story.
This is one of the stronger Rifftrax Live events I’ve gone to recently. There are few if any boring lulls in the film like Octoman which gives our riffers Mike, Bill, and Kevin a lot to work with here. And like the best of MST3K and Rifftrax, they create a through-line with jokes going back to Casper Van Dien’s career having led him here and poor Gary getting killed all the time that honestly just never get old.
I highly recommend you check out the Rifftrax for this if you haven’t already. After it’s done showing in theaters, you can purchase it right on their website. For those braver souls out there reading this, you can check out the movie without Rifftrax on Amazon Prime.
A Wave Blue World or AWBW is an independent comics publisher founded in 2005 with a focus on graphic novels, anthologies and art books. The founders, Tyler & Wendy Chin-Tanner, put an emphasis on publishing culturally relevant works including American Terrorist, Broken Frontier, and last year’s This Nightmare Kills Fascists which was successfully funded on Kickstarter last year and available on Amazon and through Diamond Previews now with order code SEP181563.
The editorial team of Matt Miner and Eric Palicki from TNKF is back, joined by AWBW publisher Tyler Chin-Tanner to bring us All We Ever Wanted. Where TNKF looked at issues facing us from a horror angle, All We Ever Wanted takes on the issues that affect our lives with a more optimistic approach. It’s a collection of 24 stories that present a brighter vision of the future, meant to inspire hope that together we can create a better world. The creators behind this anthology include veterans of comics like Howard Mackie and rising starts like Nadia Shammas and Eryk Donovan with a cover by Ariela Kristantina and a logo by Katrina Tan Kit.
Tyler of AWBW was kind enough to give ComicMix one of the 24 stories from All We Ever Wanted, “The Weight of Time” to premiere in its entirely on our site. This story examines how we view the queer civil rights movement and is written by Jarrett Melendez with art by Danica Brine and lettering by Taylor Esposito. If you like the story, please reach out to your LCS to have them order a copy for you with Diamond order code OCT181514 or send them this link. All We Ever Wanted will be available on December 12th, so get your pre-orders in with your LCS as soon as you can!
Earlier today A Wave Blue World, a graphic novel, anthology, and art book publisher run and operated by Tyler and Wendy Chin-Tanner, launched their latest Kickstarter. Organized and edited by Matt Miner and Eric Palicki who both previously published This Nightmare Kills Fascists through AWBW, this comics anthology moves away from horror and into optimistic speculative fiction; more Star Trek than Mad Max. This latest anthology, All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World, has nearly reached 20% of it’s goal in just a few hours.
I got the chance to chat with Matt and Eric about this exciting new anthology, which you can read below as well as seeing an exclusive preview page from Maria Frohlich’s story “It Looked Like Our Dreams.”
After the success of This Nightmare Kills Fascists, what made you both decide to tell such a different kind of story with your new anthology?
Matt: Eric and I felt that we’re already living in the beginning stages of the nightmare dystopian future promised to us by movies and books, and we wanted to do something uplifting, inspiring. The stories are all filled with conflict and problems, but told against the backdrop of a better future. So, think more “San Junipero” Black Mirror and less “Shut up and Dance” Black Mirror.
Eric: While there are some positive, cathartic moments in TNKF, most of the stories –often without subtlety — hone in on what has become a depressing reality. It has gotten difficult to outdo the horror on the nightly news, so it felt appropriate to redirect our attention away from grounding ourselves in the moment and toward a better future.
It’s also nice to undermine readers’ expectations. Matt is primarily known as a horror writer, thanks to Toe Tag Riot, Critical Hit, Poser, and GWAR, and my last book, No Angel, also had a strong horror element. It’s nice to step out of our respective comfort zones.
Matt: It’s nice I’m known as a horror writer now instead of the guy who writes political stuff. You start your career with a series about animal liberationists and you’re branded that way for a long time.
Outside a few people including yourselves there are no repeat contributors in this volume. Why is that?
Matt: We simply have too many friends and colleagues we wanted to ask to be part of these anthology projects so we wanted to give more people a chance to contribute. Our next anthology, presumably in 2019, might have some repeating creators.
Eric: The number of creators who approached me about joining TNKF during the campaign or, later, about appearing in the follow-up has been heartening. After filling two books with people whose work I admire, I still haven’t managed to fit everyone in. As with This Nightmare Kills Fascists, a few of the spaces are going to brand new voices, which is one of the most rewarding parts of this gig, and most of the TNKF creators I’ve spoken to have been really cool about ceding their place in the new book to give unsung or underappreciated talent a platform.
Is there anything you learned from doing This Nightmare Kills Fascists that you’ll be repeating or not repeating here?
Matt: I learned to keep a better eye on organization. Putting together a huge book with dozens of creators is a massive undertaking and my spreadsheets tracking contacts, deadlines, money, etc are much more detailed this time around.
This book has also helped Eric and I further hone our editorial skills and better do what it takes to help people tell their best story.
Eric: Editing TNKF opened my eyes to those moments when it’s good to provide firm editorial guidance and when it’s better to step out of the way and let the creators do their own thing. I’d like to think I’ve developed a more targeted approach to editing the stories in this new book.
I also think the division of labor between us is better this time around, or at least more logical. Matt is much better at the organizational aspects of planning and tracking, for example, so I’m happy to leave that to him rather than stepping in and ultimately making a mess.
Check out the Kickstarter campaign here to learn more. Backing at the $20 level gets you the physical copy of the anthology. Ends .
When most people think of Zenescope Entertainment they think Grimm Fairy Tales, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Most of their content is related to Grimm Fairy Tales, classic monsters, Alice in Wonderland, and things like that. We don’t often think of them as having creator-owned titles, but every once in a while they put one out like they did last week with The Mainstream #1. Created by writers Michael Dolce (also the letterer) and Talent Caldwell, artist Tony Moy and Darren Sanchez, this five issue mini series featuring colors by Jorge Cortes follows law enforcement agents Nate and Dex as they investigate an increasingly complex murder.
So what did I think about this first issue?
I’m going to more or less avoid big spoilers here. Basically, the issue opens with the murder taking place as the basic premise of the world the comic takes place in is explained; that there are alternate realities to our own and that it’s possible for someone to move through them. We quickly meet Nate and Dex afterwards and discover that Nate seems to have some special ability that Dex is aware of and trusts him with. Using his power, Nate is able to figure some things out and before we know it both him and Dex are hurled into some high tech trouble and we’re introduced to some more mysterious characters before the issue wraps.
The writing serves to push the story forward at a pretty breakneck speed. A lot happens in this first issue. I’d argue that maybe too much happens. There isn’t enough breathing room to really get to know Nate and Dex that well before the story takes off. One of my favorite bits in the whole comic happens when the two of them are trying to work out details on the murder and Dex brings beer. Nate says how Dex should know he doesn’t drink beer, and Dex replies with, “Who said I brought any for you?” It’s a nice little bit. I feel the issue would have benefited from a few more bits like this for me to get to know the characters better rather than being as plot heavy as it was.
The interior art for small publishers like Zenescope can be hit or miss. This is some of the better, more interesting line work I’ve seen from the publisher. Where as Tony Moy isn’t as sharp and refined in his line work as I’ve seen done with similar types of sci fi comics, he makes up for it somewhat in his stylization. It’s also elevated by Jorge Cortes’ colors which keep the it pretty dark and moody.
Overall, this is a pretty solid first outing from a creator owned comic at Zenescope. While I tend to gravitate towards more character driven than plot driven narratives, I acknowledge that’s a personal preference. If you like sci fi comics building towards some interesting twists and turns, it’s definitely worth a read. I wish we got a little bit more of a hint as to what’s in store next, which leads me to believe this may read better in trade, but we should all have a better idea where this is going on May 30th when issue #1 hits. Issue #1 of The Mainstream is available now!
It’s been a busy week for Marvel Comics! This past weekend new Marvel editor-in-chief CB Cebulski apologized for using the pseudonym Akira Yoshida in a piece for The Atlantic. Since then, many revelations about the future of the Marvel line have come to light.
A wave of cancellation announcements have been made since CB has taken over the reigns as well. Titles including Guardians of the Galaxy, U.S. Avengers, Royals, Uncanny Avengers,Iceman, Jean Grey, Hawkeye, Unbelievable Gwenpool, Like Cage, Secret Warriors and Generation X are all confirmed as canceled. All but confirmed as canceled include America, and Defenders, though Defenders could be on hiatus because of Bendis’ recent health issue. His leaving the company could end up putting the book to bed either way.Another book, Captain Marvel, appears to be going on hiatus for an unconfirmed amount of time as they appear to be changing editorial direction while keeping the creative team in tact.
These are the sort of big changes one may expect from a comics publisher bringing in a new editor-in-chief. It’s hardly the first time we’ve seen major shake ups like this and it will not be the last. While it’s disappointing to see a number of comics cancelled that prominently feature underrepresented communities with creative teams also representing those communities, it is important to note that all of those characters still exist in the Marvel Universe and will hopefully be heavily featured in other titles soon as well as giving other more diverse characters the chance to have the spotlight.
We wish Marvel the best during this transitional phase and most importantly we look forward to reading the new Marvel Comics that will be announced in the New Year.
As I’m writing this column on Monday the 27th, it’s my grandpa’s birthday. He’s turning 80 and a lot of the family is flying down to Florida later this week to see him. In the mean, I’ve been working closely with some of the ComicMix team to get Mine! out the door which is in Previews as well as on BackerKit for pre-order. I’ve also been reading some comics I’ve been way behind on!
I got to finish the first volume of Black over the weekend. The team of Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph, and Sarah Litt over at Black Mask Studios put together a book that takes on racial tensions with a superhero backdrop and absolutely no chill. Over the course of six issues we follow a young black man, Kareem, as he discovers not only does he have super powers, but so do many other black people. And that only black people have super powers.
For me, it takes until about halfway through issue two before the story really picks up a steam. Once the story gets moving though, the pacing gets very consistent and from issue four to the end you’re not going to want to put it down. Jamal Igle’s art in grayscale is absolutely gorgeous and helps make a few otherwise slow paced scenes of people sitting in a cell or an office very engaging. While the story is more likely to preach to the choir than to get some bigot to reexamine their backwards way of thinking, it’s still a great read and since the comic has been optioned you’ll wanna read it before the movie hits so you can be one of the cool kids.
Another series I finally got to crack into was Super Sons over at DC. Now, I was a little late to the party when Peter Tomasi was tackling Damian Wayne with the New 52’s Batman and Robin with Patrick Gleason. Peter’s work on Damian is honestly the best portrayal of the character I’ve read, and I say this as a huge Grant Morrison fan. The first arch of that Batman and Robin run had me sold and I kept up with that title for quite a while after, so seeing Peter back on Damian in Super Sons put this book on my radar right away.
Joined by the incredible artist Jorge Jimenez, Peter Tomasi tells us of the adventures of young Jon Kent a.k.a. Superboy and Damian Wayne aka Robin as they try to prove themselves to be just as capable as their super parents. As excited as I was to finally read this comic, it honestly surpassed my expectations.
Jon Kent is the perfect foil to Damian Wayne. The way the two interact with each other in their playful rivalry creates a fun dynamic that I wish I saw in more comics. Jon’s youth, height, and natural abilities get under Damian’s skin, but handles it better than the less mature Jon who wears his heart on his sleeve. As the two try to a nefarious plot, we watch as the two rib on each other. Jon has taken it personally that he wasn’t asked to be in the Teen Titans despite being a ten years old. One of my favorite moments is when Jon points out a mistake that Damian has made and he responds by saying he learns from his mistakes better than anyone.
Between the fantastic story and the gorgeous, fluid artwork, I can’t possibly recommend Super Sons enough. If you’ve been loving DC’s Rebirth and haven’t picked this title up yet, get on it. If you don’t read DC Comics, you seriously should consider picking this up too. And while there is some violence, it’s definitely more appropriate for some younger readers than a lot of other Big 2 comics out there.
Look, I know I was late to the party here. Luckily with trade paperbacks and comiXology you can never be too late to the party when it comes to comics.
Many of you who are familiar with this column know I’ve been enjoying a new publisher this year quite a bit – Vault Comics. I’ve written about them and interviewed a couple of different creative teams on their books in the past few months or so. Although most of their output has been in science fiction they do have a new title, Songs For The Dead, in the fantasy genre hitting stores this winter. I got to interview the team of this new fantasy comic including Mike Heron, Andrea Fort and Sam Beck.
JC: Hey Mike, Andrea, and Sam! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. First things first; what’s each of your elevator pitches for Songs For The Dead?
Mike: Songs for the Dead is the story of a young bard named Bethany, who just so happens to be a necromancer. She’s on a one-woman quest across a foreign land to prove to the world that necromancers are capable of more than creepy and evil things by helping others along the way!
Andrea: Songs for the Dead is the story of an optimistic young woman named Bethany who happens to be a necromancer. But Bethany believes that her power can be used for good, and she sets out to prove that necromancers aren’t all as evil as the stereotypes by trying to become a hero.
Sam: A really happy-go-lucky necromancer just wants to be the hero.
JC: So how did you all meet and decide to do this comic together?
Mike: Andrea and I met online a few years ago, and one of the things we really connected over was both being creative people. Despite having different backgrounds in our expertise, and having never made a comic book before, we felt like it was the best way to tell the story of Songs for the Dead. Sam we found after an exhaustive search for the right artist to compliment our story – we lucked out and found someone who is the perfect fit!
Andrea: As Mike mentioned, we met online and one of our many similarities was our love of storytelling. We had been discussing a collaboration of some kind when the idea for Songs for the Dead came up. We did some brainstorming, some world-building and then we went looking for an artist who could help us bring our vision to life, we are amazingly lucky to have found Sam!
Sam: Andrea and Mike contacted me after finding me through deviantART of all places! We all live in the Greater Toronto Area so we’re able to meet up and talk through the comic in person which has been amazing. It really makes a difference in building a team.
JC: Bethany is not what most people think of when they think of a necromancer. How did Bethany come to be? Has she changed must from her initial concept? And what other fantasy characters helped influence her creation?
Mike: The genesis of the idea is really just that: I had the idea for an unassuming necromancer some years ago, before Andrea and I had met. I play a lot of RPGs, and anything with a character creation system really lets my imagination run wild. I landed on this juxtaposition of this scary and forbidden magic in the hands of a bright-eyed and optimistic young girl. The idea persisted and soon I was making notes about it here and there while working on other projects.
Bethany’s concept and appearance have been surprisingly consistent over the years, and a lot of that I credit to Sam, who really just got what we were going for from the beginning.
Andrea: Mike had come up with the idea for Bethany a while back and told me about her when we were discussing possible collaborations. I think he had the idea while he was playing an RPG. I was really into the idea right away! I love subverting expectations and defying stereotypes, so I was thrilled to work on building and developing a character like Bethany who is so much more than she appears.
Sam: Like Mike said Bethany’s character has been pretty consistent, I think we nailed down her look almost on the very first test page. Which is really a testament to how well Mike defined her in just a few words. Her outfit is a bit haphazard which reflects on her style of adventuring.
JC: Speaking of influences, what fantasy worlds and stories either helped inspire this story or inspire any of you to want to tell a fantasy story?
Mike: Well as I mentioned, Andrea and I are huge RPG fans. We’re also huge fantasy fans, so there’s really a mix of everything in there! Some Elder Scrolls, some D&D, some Dragon Age, some Witcher, some LOTR – we really tried to take inspiration from the best.
Andrea: I think all three of us really love genre, and especially fantasy stories. I am personally a massive fan of Tolkien’s writing and I think that informs a lot of my contribution to Songs. I also love the Dragon Age franchise and the way you discover lore throughout the narrative.
Sam: We’re all pretty big RPG fans, so my influences overlap with the rest of the team quite a bit. I also read a lot of historical fiction which has helped me stay in the right mindset for this kind of fantasy story. I strive to make characters and backgrounds feel like part of a larger world, beyond what’s shown in a framed panel.
JC: Elissar plays the role of the brash brawler. Being that there are quite a few fantasy archetype characters while having just a couple of protagonists to start, what made you all decide Elissar would be a fighter rather than a ranger, rogue, paladin, etc?
Mike: That’s an interesting question! I’d say Elissar’s class is really informed by her personality. Elissar was actually a somewhat late addition to the story, as the original drafts of Songs for the Dead were more about Bethany being this lone wanderer. Andrea and I decided eventually that Bethany needed a companion, who was also a bit of a foil for her, something to balance out her overwhelming optimism. So when we started fleshing out who Elissar was and what she needed to be, her role as a Fighter just kinda fell into place.
Andrea: I love this question! And I love talking about Elissar! As Mike said, we decided that Bethany needed a companion. We wanted readers not only to have a different perspective of the world, but also someone whose personality would push Bethany’s personal growth. I really wanted to see Bethany’s upstanding morality challenged by someone who was much colder and more calculating, I wanted someone who was morally ambiguous. As we were developing that character, she naturally took the form of a fighter. Besides, Elissar’s eagerness to draw her sword is very useful in adding corpses for Bethany to raise to the story!
Sam: I always felt that Elissar was a big mash-up of a lot of archetypes; fighter, rogue, mercenary. I remember when I was coming up with a character design her armour matched, and the first piece of feedback was to mix it up. She’s not put together at all, that’s what makes her really fun and surprising.
JC: Songs For The Dead started out as a web comic. Why did you all feel that was the best place to start?
Mike: We didn’t, actually! Songs made its original debut in print and through digital release via comiXology.
Andrea: Songs for the Dead was released on comiXology, and then in print shortly after. Because of how limited our resources were, those original print versions are very scarce, but they’re out there! We wanted to get our book onto comiXology early on because we had so few resources that we really didn’t know how else to get our book to people. We believed in it, and we wanted people to hopefully read it and love the characters and world the way we do, so a huge online distributor like comiXology just made the most sense.
JC: Ah, sorry! I was conflating an online indie comics presence with web comics. I would like to ask you though, the web comic scene in general seems way more receptive to fantasy comics in general compared to the traditional floppy market. Why do you all think that is?
Mike: I find that fantasy comics, especially those released in print, tend to fall into certain traps that can alienate readers fairly quickly. Lots of lore dumps and didactic panels. Andrea and I consciously tried to avoid this when we started writing Songs, we really wanted the comic to focus more on the characters and show you what they’re all about. We actually have quite the extensive lore written up behind-the-scenes, but our plan is to slowly release it through the story.
Andrea: That’s a good question, and one I ask myself frequently. I wish I really knew why. I know that I personally sometimes shy away from fantasy stories because I worry that they’ll be derivative. There are so many great stories, but they can feel too much like the great fantasies that have come before. I really like to see big new ideas and I like to feel challenged by what I read. All of the fantasy webcomics I’ve seen online have been hugely original and I’m sure other readers respond to that, the same way I have.
Sam: Webcomics are a lot more willing to take risks; and fantasy as a genre is so flexible that it’s the perfect platform to take those risks in. There are so many strange and interesting permutations of fantasy and I’m so glad there are creators who want to explore that.
JC: Your comic was picked up by Vault Comics. First off, congrats! Secondly, why is Vault the perfect home for Songs For The Dead?
Mike: Thank you! Honestly, we love everything about Vault Comics. Their catalog to date has been ambitious and engaging. They’ve really made it clear that they care about the artists and their projects, and they’re finding new and exciting ways to get people interested. Ambition was a huge consideration for us when we were considering publishers; Songs was a hugely ambitious endeavour for us that saw us taking some pretty crazy risks in the interest of getting more eyes on our book. We needed someone to match that, and we’re confident we’ve found that in Vault.
Andrea: Thank you! We couldn’t be more excited that Songs for the Dead has found a home at Vault! We love Vault because they love comics as much as we do. They also celebrate new and exciting stories, the way we do. It’s an honour to be included in their catalogue. We took a lot of risks trying to tell this story, we were looking for a publisher who would was as dedicated as we are and the team at Vault is the best.
JC: As someone who’s done a few creator owned comics in the past I understand how sometimes when you hit your stride it’s tempting to look back and think what you may have done differently. Is there anything any of you either may have done differently early on with Songs For The Dead or anything that you decided not to do and are glad you stuck with your instincts?
Mike: Oh yeah, there’s tons. In terms of production, there’s a lot of missteps Andrea and I took when we got started, being new to the business and all. At first, we were really eager to get started, and we were even close on a couple of occasions when our artists fell through. It’s funny to think how bummed we were at the time, but in retrospect it was absolutely for the best. Not only for finding Sam, but for the fine tuning we did on the script that made all the difference in the final product.
Andrea: Looking back to when we started, I see so many little things that could change, and so many times we could have simplified our process. When we started, Mike and I had never worked with comics or this kind or storytelling before, we learned as we went. It was intimidating and tough, but to come out with something like Songs was really rewarding. There were a lot of hiccups and I think we chose the hard way a few times, but every bump in the road helped us learn. I wouldn’t change things, simply because the more we struggle the better we’re getting. Plus, we are yet to make the same mistake twice (knock on wood).
Sam: Ask any artist if they can change something in their old work and they will say yes! I had really just entered the comic scene when I started working on Songs for the Dead, so I’ve grown a lot as an artist since then. It’s nice to reflect on where you’ve come from and apply what you’ve learned to future work.
JC: Before we wrap this up, is there anything else anyone would like to add?
Mike: Probably just to say thank you again to everyone who has supported Songs thus far. As lifelong creative people and newbies to the industry, I really can’t tell you what it’s meant seeing people excited about our book and these characters. Moving forward with Vault we’re really excited about the future, and whether you’re new to Songs or are anxiously awaiting the next part of the story, we hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Andrea: I take every opportunity I have to say thank you. Thank you to our amazing team including Nick Robles, Deron Bennett and AndWorld Design, Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain, as well as Vault for believing in us. Of course, to our friends and families who don’t see us as often because we eat, sleep and live all things Songs for the Dead. Thank you to all these incredible people for putting up with Mike and I. Songs wouldn’t exist without them.
Sam: I’m really thankful that Andrea and Mike took a chance with me as their artist. I was really green when I started and they trusted me with their comic-children! I’m so excited to see where Songs for the Dead goes.
JC: Thank you all so much for your time! Where can people find more information on Songs For The Dead and when can they get copies from Vault Comics?
Mike: You can follow all of our social media, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @songscomic, or check out our website at songsforthedead.com! Songs for the Dead relaunches in January 2018, but you can pre-order at your local comic shop NOW – and you totally should!!
Andrea: We’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as @songscomic, and our website is songsforthedead.com. Book one launches on January 31st, 2018 under Vault Comics so make sure you pre-order it now!
As of my typing up this column, DC Comics employee of over twenty years and Superman Group Editor Eddie Berganza has been fired from the company in relation to the sexual harassment and assault allegations raised against him for nearly a decade. This is in large part due to the Buzzfeed article that hit this past Friday, the amazing journalism of Jessica Testa, Tyler Kingkade, and Jay Edidin, former DC editorial staffers Janelle Asselin and Liz Gehrlein Marsham for speaking to Buzzfeed on the record, and all of the other victims who spoke anonymously out of fear of the very real fear of retribution. Since the release of that article, Molly McIsaac has also come forward about her encounter with Eddie Berganza’s sexual harassment.
Many people are rightfully asking why did it take so long remove Berganza when his sexually abusive behavior has been an open secret for nearly a decade? For better or worse, the answer is that in a post Weinstein world we are taking these accusations more seriously. This happened because Buzzfeed reported on it. When people tried to put pressure on DC Comics to act in April of 2016 in the aftermath of Shelly Bond’s dismissal – including myself – it wasn’t taken seriously outside of comics press and the story died in the wake of Dan Didio deleting his Twitter account and DC Entertainment honcho Diane Nelson sending out a memo assuring us that DC Entertainment cares about the safety of their employees. The memo didn’t even mention Berganza’s name. It was a heavy slap in the face to comics journalist, pros and fans all over that helped to reassert the notion that victims are the problem and abusers will always be protected until it is absolutely impossible to continue protecting them.
Make no mistake; DC Comics did what it did because there was absolutely no way to continue protecting Eddie Berganza.
As of my writing this, DC Comics has not addressed Bob Harras’ role in seemingly and allegedly ignoring filed complaints with HR and assisting in Berganza’s rise in the company at the expense of many women within DC and countless more that were denied opportunities as a result of his continued employment or didn’t even attempt to throw their hat in the ring because of Berganza’s presence. Nothing will salvage the comics careers of all of those women, some we know and some we don’t, who fell in love with these adored characters as kids and grew up to learn that you would need to be willing to endure sexual harassment, propositions, and compromising your ethics to work in – of all places – the Superman office.
And Eddie Berganza isn’t the only person to make that statement true.
An open letter to Dan Didio has been circulating for over a week that not only brings up Berganza, but Mike Carlin, as a known harasser that inappropriately touched a female staffer. Like Eddie, Mike has been both a Superman Group Editor and an Executive Editor at DC Comics with his greatest achievement being The Death of Superman. Mike Carlin’s name is printed in literally millions upon millions of comics. He’s had lines wrapped around stores waiting for his signature. Unlike Eddie, Mike was able to allegedly harass his way to further promotions. He was promoted out of the comics division and currently works as the Creative Director of Animation for DC Entertainment. As of this writing this there has been no indication that Bob Harras covering for Eddie Berganza or Mike Carlin’s alleged harassment are being looked into.
Comics professionals including Rafael Albuquerque, Gail Simone, Cliff Chiang, Tee Franklin, Lilah Sturges, Sophie Campbell, Tony Isabella, Kurt Busiek, Tini Howard, Sina Grace, Kate Leth, Amy Chu, Tamra Bonvillain, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Christopher Sebela, Matthew Rosenberg, Kwanza Osajyefo, Tess Fowler, Mark Waid, and so many more stepped up to make their voices heard in the aftermath of the Buzzfeed article dropping on Friday. This is important not only because we should be standing up for victims of abuse, but because comics professionals are terrified of retaliation against them by DC Comics.
I want to make this crystal clear to people reading, as fans and casual readers may not be aware of or understand the reality of all of this. Speaking out against the brass is more than looked down upon; it’s disqualifying. Rafael Albuquerque mentions this in his statement on Berganza. Other professionals including Kwanza made it crystal clear on Twitter that speaking out could mean getting blacklisted, but it would be hard if we all ban together. Maybe in a post Weinstein world speaking out to defend victims won’t get you blacklisted like it has in the past to rising stars like Nancy Collins, but I talked to many comics professionals off the record during all of this with Berganza and many freelancers are still terrified. That should be alarming, but also sobering to everyone reading this that standing up against serial sexual assaulters can lose you work, but turning a blind eye to victims can get you a gig on a Superman book.
We might have the power now to change the dynamics at DC Comics and much of the rest of the entertainment industry if not all industries. We may be at a tipping point where we will no longer be a society that protects abusers, but rather one that stands up for victims. We need to be that society, and we may not be there just yet but we might be close. The only way we can do it is if we stand together. They can’t blacklist us if we all protect each other.
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating; diversity in comics is more than just the characters we see on the page. Who is behind the page is incredibly important. Also important is where that page came from. You can read comics with all sorts of characters reflected on and off the pages, but if you’re only reading print comics from the big two then you’re just not getting that diverse of a selection.
Two of the biggest alternatives to traditional American comics we see get some coverage are webcomics and Manga. If you love comics and you haven’t dabbled in either, you should. Even if you’re just checking out Manga like Akira, it’s important to see how different people and places present stories in similar mediums. Another country that has a strong comics tradition is France.
One of my favorite graphic novels from France in the past few years has been Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Keroscoet. The English translation was put out by Drawn & Quarterly back in 2014. It’s a gorgeously illustrated dark fairy tale that ingeniously juxtaposes the bleak nature of the story with whimsical characters and brilliant colors. I can’t possibly recommend it enough. The worst thing about it is that it eventually ends.
Fabien Vehlmann and Keroscoet are back at it again with a new graphic novel, Satania, from NBM Publishing. Satania at it’s core is the story of a girl, Charlie, trying to find her brother, Christopher. Once again Vehlmann and Keroscoet implement their brilliant use of juxtaposition having beautifully vibrant illustrations depicting some rather dark and hopeless situations.
The journey that takes place in Satania is one that leads Charlie and a small rescue party to search deep underground for her missing brother. What starts as some gorgeous but mundane imagery of tunnels slowly warps and gets more and more twisted as you turn page after page. Not only do the backgrounds begin to twist and bend, but so do our heroes. Charlie is also haunted by the image of her mother; an emotionally abusive woman who’s done considerable damage to both Charlie and Christopher over the years.
Whereas Beautiful Darkness comes in at about 96 pages, Satania is a meatier story coming in at nearly 130 pages. For me, while Beautiful Darkness is a wonderful story, it did feel as if it could have benefited from running just a little longer to immerse me in the story more. With Satania I feel the story is at a perfect length. I was compelled to read it in one sitting and wanted nothing to distract me. I was fully engulfed and immersed in the increasingly dark, dangerously, and inhuman world that filled the pages. It’s rare that a comics work that isn’t multiple volumes hits me as powerfully as Satania did, but when I finished this graphic novel it stuck with me and still lingers as I write this. It’s so deeply tragic and upsetting while also hopeful and inspiring.
If you’re familiar with the works of Fabien Vehlmann and Keroscoet this may be their best outing yet. If you aren’t familiar, this is a great introduction to their work that will get you wanting more. I can’t recommend Satania enough, and once you read it you’ll understand why.
Way back in September, it was announced that Marvel was bringing back Jean Grey for the first time in thirteen years. No, not time displaced Jean Grey. No, not the reanimated Jean Grey from Phoenix – Endsong; the real fictional character. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the announcement. I’ve wanted to say something here, but I just wasn’t sure. I’ve talked privately with people whom all more or less agree with me on this to a point, so I’m finally going to say it here in my column.
I hate that they’re bringing Jean Grey back. It’s genuinely a terrible idea.
I feel terrible talking about this because the writer, Matthew Rosenberg, is a great guy writing incredible comics at publishers like Marvel and Black Mask Studios. He deserves all the success in the world. Leinil Yu is a fantastic artist. This has nothing to do with the creative team on this book; it’s about the editorial direction. It’s just plain and simple a terrible idea.
Most glaringly this transparent stunt shows off how Marvel just doesn’t know what to do with the X franchise so they’re just repacking greatest hits collections. In write ups about the move, Marvel makes statements about how it’s interesting because how will the other X-Men react to her suddenly being back? The real question is why would anyone care when we’ve already seen this done before. More than once. More than twice. That’s not an interesting or unique angle.
This also reminds everyone just how needlessly convoluted the continuity is for the X franchise. In the ads for this book they state that this is the return of the adult Jean Grey. Yes, they have to specify which version of Jean Grey is actually coming back. That is a problem. There is no other way to look at this. If you want new readers coming in, this is not how to do it. If you want lapsed readers coming back in, this is a way to remind them why they stopped reading in the first place. I’m a low hanging fruit X-Men fanboy and I will absolutely not be participating in this event. That should be viewed as a bad sign that have no interest in even humoring this concept.
I’d also like to remind everyone that Jean Grey was literally so boring and played up as a damsel in distress to the point where Chris Claremont came in with incredibly talented collaborators like Dave Cockrum and John Byrne and turned her into a space goddess. She remained so uninteresting they had to make her a villain and kill her off.
The first time she was brought back was for X-Factor in which, again, she was the least interesting team member. As characters like Angel and Iceman were fleshed out by Louise and Walter Simonson (in some of the best and lasting ways either of those characters have been portrayed), but even the Simonsons could not elevate Jean Grey to the kind of character Marvel seems to think she should be. Hell, they just started a solo, time displaced Jean Grey comic earlier this year and in the first issue they already started referencing Phoenix. That is how boring this character is, or at least how creatively bankrupt Marvel is regarding the character.
When Grant Morrison took on the X-Men in New X-Men Jean was actually portrayed with a level of depth she’s rarely been given before. She had a complicated emotional story arc that really elevated her and her death resonated. Despite all of that, Marvel has moved so far away from the incredible work Grant Morrison did with the X-Men, even though the collected editions are constantly in print and available, still solid sellers thirteen years later. These stories have been reprinted in more formats than most other Marvel comics. It’s baffling why Marvel would move so far away from a direction that was working in favor of an over a decades long emo mutant sadness porn.
We need stakes in our stories. Stakes are what keeps the reader engaged. Why should I read this story if ultimately nothing of consequence will happen? Of course there are some exceptions, but not when we’re dealing with the heavily action based superhero genre. The characters are what keeps people coming back to these stories. Can Peter Parker pay Aunt May’s rent and stop the Lizard this month? Will we find out more of Wolverine’s past? Stuff like that.
It’s safe to say that in most situations the highest stakes for a character is that they could die. When those stakes are completely removed, as they are in the superhero genre, it makes it difficult for readers to want to pick up and read them month to month. Why am I going to care about the issue where X character dies when I know they’ll be back anyway? There is no more shock value in that and the ways characters come back from different dimensions and magic and aliens makes it hard for anyone to get too invested anymore. It makes it hard for me to get invested.
Mainstream comics have a problem, and instead of dealing with it they are actually celebrating it. People are championing (adult) Jean Grey coming back after thirteen years as something that was a long time coming that we should celebrate. Finally, she’s back! It’s about time! When I hear that, it sounds like people celebrating that their friend or loved one that’s been sober for thirteen years is finally drinking again. This is not only not the time to be celebrating, it’s also very depressing and leaves you feeling hopeless.
Look, I love Marvel. Really. I adore the characters, the stories, the movies, and the TV shows; I even had a Jean Grey Phoenix action figure growing up. Some of the best characters and comics ever made or that will ever be made are from Marvel. The reason I’m writing this is because I care and so do a lot of other people. The comics industry needs Marvel to succeed. I want Marvel to succeed and, in particular, the X franchise to succeed. Back in April, I wrote this open letter to Marvel regarding the direction I saw ResurrXion going in. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be getting better, but just getting worse and the sales numbers are reflecting that.
Remember a couple of years ago when rumors started swirling that maybe the X-Men would be put in their own mini-universe separate from the rest of the Marvel Universe? Remember how some people were genuinely excited by that idea, and were kind of sad when Axel said that wouldn’t be the case? Instances like these are maybe worth taking more seriously, because I honestly can’t fathom that approach being worse than what’s happening now and you, the reader, probably can’t either.
I understand that this is a problem that didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time to get here and it will take a long time to get out. Either way, something has to change soon, because this is not sustainable.