Tagged: small

Marc Alan Fishman’s Snarky Synopsis: “Figment #1”

Written by Jim Zub. Art by Filipe Andrade and Jean-Francois Beaulieu.

FigmentEver have a thing (in this case, a cartoonish purple dragon) on the tip of your tongue and you’ve just got to figure out where you’ve seen it before? I had to break down and look up Figment on Wikipedia. Figment is a Disney dragon who starred (Troy McClure style) in several shorts used throughout the Disney World theme park. So it would seem here, a salvo of Mouse-driven comic bookery, now put out by Mickey’s favorite movie-makers: a comic based on a barely-there cartoon character. Sure as hell beats a live-action Eddie Murphy star-vehicle about Tomorrow Land, I suppose.

Jim Zub, of Skull Kickers fame, turns in a script that could easily fare in a direct-to-DVD cartoon adaptation with ease. I am pleased to report that Zub comes from my favorite camp of all-ages content creators – building a book that doesn’t speak down to kids with crude humor or simple language. Instead he tells a simpler story, backed by a load of stylish flair and characterization. Our hero, the brilliant (and brilliantly named) Blarion Mercurial, is one of many fine minds working at the Academy Scientifica-Lucidus. Tasked by the demanding Chairman Illocrant to find new sources of energy, Mercurial is the quintessential dreamer with a heart of gold and a head in the clouds. We soon learn that Blarion himself is a man of meager means, given a shot at greatness because of his intrepid mind. His solution to the steam-punky world’s need for more power? The power of the mind, bay-bee. And his Integrated Mesmonic Convertor is the kind of kooky contraption a child might come up with on a rainy day.

The device harnesses the power of thought to generate electricity. Or that’s what Blarion would like it to have done. But like any good thrill-a-minute adventure book of days past, his invention doesn’t seem to work exactly that way. Instead, it created a sentient being built of pure imagination. Figment, the quirky and cute purple dragon – once an invisible pal to a young (and maybe lonely?) genius, now made real! But Zub doesn’t get long to revel in the science, as our hero is put back to the task at hand with seven days to solve the energy problem. I won’t spoil the ending – I know, that’s a change for me – but suffice the say the script zigs where I thought it might zag. It sets up the book for future chapters that clearly will be more frenetic than this first installment.

Concerning the actual words on the page, I reiterate my glee at a script that has no problem speaking above the target audience’s head. It causes would-be readers to stretch their vernacular in order to meet the mental demand of the story. That being said, this is a fun and whimsical book. One that I fret to admit I came in ready to hate with all the piss and vinegar I could muster.

Not to knock poor Walt, but Disney has not been synonymous to me lately with tons of good will. Cracking open this comic though reminded me of the company that set the tone for my childhood with aplomb. “Figment” is akin to those pieces of cinematic fiction that define generations of youth to strive for excellence. The fact that Jim Zub chooses to explore psuedo-science, and pair it with working-class sensibilities, and never take cause for a fart gag? It’s a sign to me that the all-ages comics are continuing to put to shame the cape and cowl sect – far more apt to dissolve into mindless action than tell a good story.

Art chores by Filipe Andrade and Jean-Francois Beaulieu give us a simply grand visual experience to enjoy. Andrade’s scenes are all awash in detail – sketchy detail – that show us an artist truly building a world … and perhaps layer abandoning it. His hand is loose and gestural, but his finished figures are hefty beneath the layer of slightly erased doodles. Beaulieu’s colors elevate the book to the stratosphere it aims at. Warm tones bring figures to the foreground against cooler-toned environments. And the bare hint of an occasional glow or knockout lend themselves more towards a painterly page than a Photoshopped one. While I had a few flashbacks to artists like Ryan Sook, and even Gene Ha in small doses, Filipe and Jean-Francois build a comic book that is simply a joy to read through. The fact that we can spent nearly 80% of the book without the titular dragon, and not miss it? It’s a sign that their work takes Zub’s script and carry us through universe-building without being a drag.

Zippedoo-da. Zippedee-aye. My, oh my, what a wonderful day! “Figment” hit my pull-list like a ton of bricks – the idea of a Disney-penned also-ran, made into a needless comic book – but ended up making my day. Jim Zub and the team of artists build a tale of brilliance that celebrates the power of thought, the joy of imagination, and yeah … there’s a dragon in it too. When fiction strives to elevate it’s target audience through the use of fine language and adult concepts, and present it without pretense? You get an end-product that both the parent and child can enjoy on their own terms. Whether you’re a fan of Mickey or not, Figment is a fine comic to seek out. You needn’t dream about it further; here’s one piece of your imagination made real.


Box Office Democracy: “How To Train Your Dragon 2”

I came late to the first How To Train Your Dragon film.  I caught it on HBO well over a year after release and while I thought the “better than Toy Story 3” hype was a touch overblown it was a revelation for DreamWorks Animation, which had previously churned out franchises like Shrek and Madagascar that I flat out detested.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 is not quite as good as the first one but it’s a fine film that should hold up a little better to being driven in to the ground like every other shiny thing DreamWorks gets its hands on.

Where How to Train Your Dragon 2 shines is in the amazing action sequences.  The wide variety of dragons keeps it visually interesting and when it wants to the movi keeps the screen in constant fervent motion.  It’s definitely the kind of movie that can hypnotize a theater full of small children.  This is better action than Pixar produces, this is better action than Disney or Blue Sky put out, this is the standard bearer for animated action.  I don’t know what that’s worth as the rest of the field seems to be focusing on pulling on heartstrings and wow-ing academy voters but as a stalwart defender of the live-action popcorn action movie I must stand and recognize the efforts of the animated equivalent.

It might not be completely fair but I think the thing most holding me back on this movie is the performance of Jay Baruchel as the lead.  I hate the voice he’s doing here and you have to hear it an awful lot.  It’s grating and annoying and while I understand how that serves the character of an outcast intellectual Viking I can’t let my ears hang out in the platonic ideal the voice seems to be serving.  I don’t like hearing him talk and so I hated having the main character on screen.  That’s a pretty big problem for a movie to have.

I’ve also saluted the politics of Frozen and Maleficent so I feel obliged to ding How to Train Your Dragon 2 for feeling awfully regressive in places.  The movie does not pass the Bechdel Test and, more importantly, the second most prominent returning female character is given a storyline where she’s obsessed with this bad boy dragon trapper even after he’s terrible to her and even goes as far as to basically molest him at times.  None of the female characters here are ones I’d be comfortable with my non-existent daughter’s modeling themselves after and I don’t know that there’s space for characters like that in this genre any more.

But really, no one is considering or not considering this movie for its politics.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 is fun when it wants to be fun, stunningly sad when it wants to be sad and ultimately the best kids movie I’ve seen this year.  The shortcomings are far exceeded by the sheer joyousness of the picture and that’s a near impossible thing to nitpick away.

Jen Krueger: The Twist Ending

Jen Krueger: The Twist Ending

It’s rare for me to watch a movie and not have at least one complaint about it before the credits roll. I’d chalk that up not to me being overly critical of films, but to how incredibly difficult it is for a movie to hold water all the way through yet not also disappoint in some way. Edge of Tomorrow turned out to be one of the rare cases where I was wholly satisfied, but the second the credits began, two guys sitting in my row started loudly discussing why they weren’t. They were disappointed that the movie [spoiler alert] doesn’t have a twist at the end. And while I guess I can’t blame them for expecting it to have a twist given how pervasive twists have been in entertainment over the past few years, I couldn’t fathom why they’d be disappointed the story didn’t have one.

The very nature of a plot twist means it reframes the context of the story it’s in, but if someone’s taken the time to really flesh out a world, develop characters, and craft an intriguing plot, it’s unlikely changing their context at the eleventh hour will strengthen any of those things. While there are many reasons why I could endlessly sing the praises of Breaking Bad, perhaps the biggest one is the fact that every single thing that happened in the show was inevitable because of who the characters were and the roads their actions consequently took them down. The narrative as a whole was a string of dominoes whose end wasn’t necessarily visible at the beginning, but with each piece that toppled it became clear what the next few would be. I love that kind of storytelling, because it lets a plot be delightfully potboiling while avoiding seeming predictable, but it does so without the writers having to resort to throwing a random wrench into the gears just to shake things up.

And perhaps that’s exactly why I tend to dislike a twist at the end of a plot, because (with the odd exception) it’s little more than a cheap, empty thrill employed for the sheer sake of a shock. But by changing the context of a key element of the story just to surprise the audience, a plot twist often also undercuts that element at the same time. There’s always a part of me that feels cheated when I learn a character isn’t who they were purported to be, or worse yet, when I can see who they really are from the outset and have to wait for the story to catch up to the reveal. But with the increasing pervasiveness of twist endings, viewers seem to frequently be doing the latter, leaving writers unsuccessful in their attempts at pulling the rug out from under the audience as a plot approaches its conclusion. And if audiences are so often ahead of the process that these attempts fail, why do writers keep persisting with them?

Maybe because there are so few truly original movies these days. From Marvel Studios to my childhood toys to reboots of sci-fi classics, it’s hard to ignore the fact that we’re living in a golden age for movie franchises. To sell audiences on the idea that there’s something new enough at the heart of properties that have been around in some fashion for years or even decades, employing a twist in concert with basic modernization seems to be the order of the day. And while I do enjoy a number of the not-so-new franchises that have become popular in the last few years, I’d be hard-pressed to ever pick watching an installment of one of them over watching something original that stands on its own. Really, it’s an awful lot like the plot of Edge of Tomorrow. Movies are looking to repeat the same formula over and over while implementing one small change in the hope that it’s enough to yield success, but total deviation from the plan everyone thinks should work is much more likely to win the day in my book.

And despite how much I dislike them, this column unfortunately has a twist ending of its own: it’s my last. Other commitments have made an increased demand on my time and sadly left me unable to continue with a weekly column, but I’ve loved my time at ComicMix and will certainly miss you, dear readers!

Mike Gold: Nerd Alert – Here’s What Happens Next!

While reading reports covering Monday’s keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, the one where they took the wraps off their new operating systems, a small light bulb went off over my head. I figured out the next big change in our lifestyles… and, since these days nerd culture and pop culture are one and the same, I figured I’d use the ComicMix slice of the ethersphere to prognosticate.

Besides, it beats talking about the Fantastic Four bullshit.

It turns out that Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS8, will have the capability of allowing for phone calls and such to go over Wi-Fi as well as cellular… provided, of course, that your service provider agrees. Mobile-T and Rogers in Canada have already announced they’re joining in, so I think it will be difficult for others to be assholes about this one. Not that that hasn’t happened before.

Why is this important? You’ll be able to connect to and make calls from Wi-Fi networks for free, you’ll have more choice, a more reliable connection, better audio quality, longer battery performance and fewer bandwidth issues. Apple barely mentioned it; I suspect there will be a big deal made after AT&T and Verizon opt in.

Then my mind started wandering. I’m used to that, as my attention span is roughly equal to the life of a Lawrencium atom. I noted Apple is porting its fingerprint button over to the iPad and is finally allowing other companies to play with it. Personally, I’ve found the device to be almost ready for prime time but not quite. Given their history I think Apple will have it as glitzy as need be very soon. What could this mean for you?

Security. The biggest problem facing the entire computer industry is the theft of personal data. Just as the manager of your local Target or talk to Heartland Payment Systems. Hackers are stealing credit card information, social security numbers, passwords, and the fillings in your teeth. OK, that last one is a metaphor… thus far.

It affects other important operations as well, but this isn’t the place to go into NSA’s issues. That would be a digression.

But… if you had to use a fingerprint as your password, or as part of the password process, and you can choose which finger(s) to use on your own (which you can do already under iOS7), if somebody wants to rip off your bank account they’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way and point a gun to your head.

So it’ll be easier and safer to buy stuff. It’ll also be easier to renew your driver’s license, do high-end banking (as if), notarize documents, buy a house, rent an apartment… and, if the politicians ever grow up (as if), vote. Maybe our voter turnout will actually get as high as 60%.

How does this affect comics readers? Well, besides the nerd thing, it is clear that electronic comics are making substantial inroads and are also bringing in an audience that doesn’t have access to comics shops. The younger you are (unless you’re me, and you wouldn’t want that), the more likely you are to be reading comics on a tablet, computer, or teevee screen. Safe and reliable e-commerce will be an integral part of the future of the comics medium, no matter how it evolves.

And evolve it shall. This is a great time to have a short attention span.


Jen Krueger: The Digital Divide – Reading Comics on My iPad

Jen Krueger: The Digital Divide – Reading Comics on My iPad

As someone who has more books than room on my bookshelves to accommodate them, an obsessive collector of cool artifacts of things I love, and a completionist in almost all regards, I don’t think I surprise anyone by saying I love comics. But I have definitely noticed confused head quirks when I admit that when it comes to the question of physical copies versus digital versions, I prefer to read comics on my iPad.

I should preface my preference for comics on a screen by saying this: I hate reading books digitally. On a purely aesthetic level, the size, weight, and smell of a book have always been an integral part of the reading process for me, so an e-book has just never been able to command my focus the same way a physical book does. A progress bar at the bottom of my screen somehow doesn’t give me the same sense of how much is behind and ahead of me that a bookmark in real pages does, and the pagination in general in e-books has always seemed off to me. Hand me an 800 page hardcover novel and I have, with a very small margin for error, a clear idea of the scale of what I’m diving into. In an e-book, the same text seems like it could take up anywhere from 800 to 2000 pages depending on the way it’s formatted.

But the biggest reason I’ve never been able to embrace e-books with gusto is that reducing a book to a file that looks like almost all other e-books takes away an individual book’s character. Hand me an iPad or Kindle and give me a quick glance at a few pages from any two e-books, and I probably won’t be able to easily distinguish them by their author or what work they’re from. Hand me two physical books and give me a quick glance at a few pages from each, and I’m exponentially more likely to be able to not only identify them, but also get a sense of what each book is like. Handing me a physical book is handing me a whole and unique package, and while there’s something tempting about being able to carry around hundreds of texts in one relatively small device, I’d rather sacrifice the space in my bag for fewer works that retain the character of their physical forms.

So if I’m so gung-ho about preserving the character of a book by only reading the physical version of it, why am I okay with filling my iPad with comics? Because the character of a comic is so bold and evident on every page that I don’t feel like I’m losing things in the digital translation. Look at a single digital page from any comic and you’re likely to be able to tell a lot about the work, and the sense of the comic’s character you get by doing that is much more in line with what you’d get from doing the same thing with a physical copy. That makes the big con of e-books moot for me, but this isn’t the only reason I lean toward my iPad when it comes to reading comics. In fact, this con made moot takes a significant backseat to a pro of e-books being made even better when applied to digital comics: I can take hundreds of them with me in one relatively small device.

While I can get by only having a couple books on me at a time, my habit of binge reading means I’d be carrying around an awful lot of trades if I only read physical comics. And since my preference for digital comics doesn’t mean I dislike physical ones, I’ve definitely carried around trades with me before. It takes so much less time for me to burn through a whole trade than it does a whole novel that the benefit of having 5 trades’ worth of comics on my iPad is evident in and of itself, but the volume of comics I’d need to have on me when reading a series isn’t the only problem I found with trying to read the physical versions.

The durability of physical comics, or more accurately the lack of it, is the last big factor in my preference for digital ones. Most trades are an awkward size to fit into the kind of bag I carry with me everyday, and though their size is more amenable to the backpack I take when traveling, they’re often not sturdy enough to stand up to being jostled around amongst the devices and travel paraphernalia I cram into my backpack in preparation for a trip. Where a hardback novel has the heft to take sharing space with a hard-sided headphone case while getting shoved under an airplane seat, and a paperback novel is compact enough to perch in the smaller space on top of the other things in my backpack, I’ve found my trade comic books just large yet just malleable enough to take a beating every time I pack them no matter how careful I am with the bag. But an iPad full of Locke & Key means an entire flight’s worth of reading without giving up the space the physical versions would take up, or the inevitable bummer of seeing them worse for the wear when I get to my destination. So while I’d certainly never turn my nose up if offered a physical trade of a comic, I’ll opt for the digital version if given the choice. Unless the trade is signed or some kind of special, limited edition, of course. That would make it a cool artifact, and I’m still an obsessive collector, after all.

Mindy Newell: The Comics Community

“Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

Oprah Winfrey

Today, as I write this, is June 1, 2014. Here in Bayonne New Jersey there’s not a cloud in the robin’s egg blue sky, and from this window I can see the waters of New York City’s harbor sparkling like diamonds. It’s so clear that I can see the glint of car roofs speeding along Brooklyn’s Belt Parkway. The eastern tower of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge rises over the lush rolling hill of green… that is Staten Island.

It’s a day for being outside, not stuck here in the house writing this column. Perhaps that is why nothing is coming to me. My mind wanders to other memories of days like this, and I have to figuratively slap it to bring it back to attention. But still nothing comes.

So rather than writing about Iron Man 3 (which I watched again last night on cable and decided that it’s a pretty good movie after all), or writing about some bullshit which isn’t really where my head’s right now, I’ll just come out with it, tell you why I’m having trouble focusing…

Don’t worry; the end of the story is a good one.

I’m in what athletes call a slump. Only it’s not my batting average or my RBI’s or my pitching stats I’m talking about, it’s a financial slump. The kind that makes my stomach hurt and my muscles tense and my head ache. The kind of slump that makes it difficult to sleep. The kind that makes it impossible to think about anything else. The kind of slump that has me spilling out the jar of coins I keep on my dresser top and counting out the quarters and dimes and nickels and pennies.

Have you ever been there?

Scary, isn’t it?

I work hard and I bring home a pretty good paycheck. I don’t think I spend money frivolously; I can’t remember the last time I went shopping for new clothes or new shoes. I continuously wonder how I got here, even though I know it’s just an accident of circumstances, a – what’s it called in astrology? Oh, yeah – a conjunction of events.

Yes, in astrological speak, my planets are afflicted. I just have to wait for the next progression.

But, hell, I wish they would progress already! I mean, talk about the planets being in bad positions – Jeesh, yesterday I was supposed to be in a class for my CPR renewal, without with I can’t work, but instead of counting out chest compressions on a dummy I was stuck in traffic for three hours and never got there. Which means that I’m going to be in class on Tuesday so I’m going to be not at work and not earning the money I so desperately need right now.

I wish I had a super power that could fix this. Yeah, that’s it. A super power to coin money. I could call myself Mint Maid. Nah, that sounds like I pass out Tic-Tacs or Altoids or something. Well, at least I’m not thinking of being a super villain and robbing Donald Trump or Warren Buffet. That should count for something in my karma, shouldn’t it?

But there’s this thing about comics.

It’s a small world.

A small world with big people.

Big people with even bigger hearts.

I’m not going to say who it was who, upon hearing that I was – face it, Mindy – broke, without a moment of hesitation asked me how much I needed to get through this slump. S/he tsked-tsked at my embarrassment and my shame and opened up the wallet.

“We’ve all been there,” s/he said.

Yeah, there are lots of people working in comics today who are riding in limos, and maybe there aren’t many who would ditch the limo to ride on the bus with you.

But I know one.


Marc Alan Fishman: Don’t Let Your Dreams Crush Reality

Yeah, you read that right. You see, while spending a rushed weekend at the super-fantastic MCBA Spring Con (Hi Russ!) in Minneapolis, me and my Unshaven cohorts had nearly 14 hours of drive time round trip to gab about literally everything on our minds. And, boy, did we exhaust our brains. We discussed every TV show we’d seen in the last season. We reviewed every comic we’d read in the last month. We reminisced about junior high school, high school, and our college years. After that hour was done, we resorted to actual work.

Ever wanted to know how Unshaven Comics writes and conceptualizes issues of The Samurnauts? Well, even if you don’t, you’re gonna find out, kiddo! It’s during great long drives to conventions that we crack open the laptop and plot out 36 pages of Samurai-Astronaut action at a time. We start literally at page 1 panel 1, and begin to plan. We argue about pacing. We dissect character moments. We plod through action sequences. We get distracted and take an hour to discuss the look of a giant robot. We try hard to remove child-like grins from our bearded maws to no avail. And by the time we need to stop for gas, munchies, and snacks, we’ve built up the finale to Curse of the Dreadnuts.

The second half of our trip allowed us to daydream a bit. Between sips of Mountain Dew, and drags off of various candy bars, we imagined a world where all our hard work would have paid off. You see, no surprise, we plan on launching a major crowd-funded campaign when the final issue of Curse is rounding the bend. We’re going to be seeking funding to get us to the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, in 2015. There, we intend on doing what we do best – pitch fearlessly – in hopes of snagging a deal to take the Samurnauts property to the next level.

No doubt you see how hard we must have been dreaming. For you see, shortly after that jaunt into the surreal, we envision someone optioning our licensable property for a TV show. And shortly after that, we were buying office space in Downtown Homewood Illinois and running our lives on the small fortune we’d amass.

And there we sat, in the still of the night… the engine hum and highway hypnosis setting in. Wisconsin is a boring state to drive though when it’s pitch black out. After a few beats passed, I’d snapped out of our collective haze of profiteering. “But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, boys. We haven’t even finished the colors on issue 3.” A wave of cold, honest truth passed through us. With it came the most wondrous moment of clarity after our long weekend.

Whether we crowdfund our way to Vegas, or not… whether we ever turn Samurnauts into the global phenomenon we know it could be… whether we ever realize any reality beyond our current station – traveling by car, anchored by day jobs, and still floored that we have legitimate fans – truly it’s been the journey that has been the prize all along.

For the last half a decade, I’ve had the opportunity to see my two best friends grow into consummate professionals. Matt Wright produces insanely detailed, beautifully nuanced, forever under-appreciated commission work at every convention that the greats don’t take time to complete. Whereas others I’ve seen in the Alley whip through markered slap-dashery in order to profit, Matt always feels compelled to turn the hard-earned dollars of the fans into frame-able art. And Kyle Gnepper? Beyond his abilities in plotting, writing, and word-smithery, he’s the backbone of Unshaven Comics. Any success we’ve ever enjoyed comes squared solely on his silver-tongue and fearless nature. Kyle has forced himself to stand hours on end, literally hawking wares to every passerby. We’ve equated him to the Predator. Heat signatures walk by, and they are politely pounced on with true passion.

To wreck our reality with needless navel-gazing is truly absurd. Certainly when we launched ourselves as a company, the intent was to break-in to comics at breakneck speed. After five years, we realize that’s a dream no longer worth having. We know the reality – there’s no barrier to entry in the industry. We’ve been faking it until we made it, and no one has been the wiser. DC and Marvel will likely never call, but the fans who pick up our book and declare that it looks like nothing they’ve ever seen (and they love that) prove to us that we need not ever be a part of the big two.

Nor do we feel compelled to land at Boom!, Avatar, Image, or Dark Horse. Much like the Mouse and the Warners… there’s little reason to serve in heaven while we rule in Hell. And as such? We’ve toured the Midwest, shook hands with the East Coast, and are now looking West. We’ve put literally thousands of Samurnauts into the hands of the unsuspecting public. We’ve done it on our own, and now enjoy having a reputation (small as it may be) with a growing fan base. To destroy that reality with pipe-dreams of piles of unknown riches is akin to losing sight of what we’ve been after all along.

The reality is we’re living the dream now, and no amount of money should get in the way of that continuing.*

*But don’t get us wrong. If you want to license the Samurnauts, call me, e-mail me, or wink loudly. We’ll sell out in miliseconds.


Ed Catto: Yoe’s Haunted Pop Culture

Every two months, I’m not ashamed to admit that IDW supplies one of the guiltiest pleasures in my stack of new comics. Craig Yoe’s Haunted Horror is a ghastly anthology of the horror stories from comics’ Golden Age. But beware: these aren’t those hackneyed horror stories you’ve read so often before. Each issue is a collection of seldom reprinted tales – filled with shock endings, grisly artwork and politically incorrect morality plays well calculated to make you recoil in shock, disgust and horror.

I caught up with the head horror-meister, Craig Yoe. As a fan who’s fascinated by this unique series, I wanted to better understand what sort of sick mind could be behind it all. It doesn’t take long before you realize that Craig mixes his love for the genre with a deep appreciation of the talented-yet-underrated artists who originally produced these stories, and then mixes it all up in a cauldron of mischief.

Craig explained it all started with the Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein hardcover collection that he developed for IDW Publishing. “That was the first one out of the tomb”, said Yoe. But it was as much about the stories as it was about the creators, and that’s why it made sense to start with that particular volume. “Briefer was able to mix a touch of horror into his humor, and humor into his horror.”

That was followed by two more collections: Bob Powell’s Terror and Zombie. And as he’s recounting the history, Craig can’t help and pause to muse about Bob Powell. He was an “amazing artist,” Craig reiterates.

Soon there was a notion of turning these creepy collections into an ongoing comic series. Craig first recollects that it was IDW Publisher Ted Adams who first came up with the idea. “Wait, wait – was it a good idea? Maybe it was mine,” Yoe joked. “I view comics as an endangered species,” said Yoe. “And I hope it never goes away. It’s the perfect package: it’s not too big, you can fold it up in your back pocket, you can hide it under your mattress and it won’t make a big lump there so you can hide it from Mom. And then you can read it under the covers.” Clearly Yoe is a supporter of traditional comics. “A comic is a wonderful thing,” he declares with conviction.

He also compares comics to a 45 RPM record: short and complete. On the other hand, the older comics he loves so much usually offered a number of complete stories in each issue.

Each issue of Haunted Horror is 44 full-color pages for just $3.99. And Yoe ensures that each issue offers a variety of stories, with a variety of artists –many of them unknown greats to today’s readers. Clearly, Craig is more reader than a collector, and creates this labor of love for other readers. “I’m not the type to put my comics in tombs of plastic,” he boasts.

In fact, Yoe often tries to showcase the work of “lesser known but brilliant” artists. And then he and his cadre of experts play “comic art detective” to diligently ascertain the correct artwork credits.

Is there a rhyme or reason to the stories that actually get selected for print? Yoe explained that longtime fan Jeff Gelb ‘cracked the code,’ and told Craig that he figured out Yoe’s strategies for choosing which tales are included. “It’s either tales with strong art providing a visual blast, or jaw-dropping stories.”

Still there have been some surprises for even a comic book horror expert, like Yoe. So often in these vintage stories, especially in the EC comics, the last panel would provide a shocking surprise. In fact, many fans would regularly get in a habit, when turning to the last page, of covering the final panel with their hand, lest their eye be drawn to the grisly surprise.

However, in the Jay Disbrow story in the first issue, this innovative artist had such an impactful, wide-screen style image, that he drew that last panel full page and sideways. “It blew my mind,” recalls Yoe.

I did ask Yoe if he ever found any the content he found too grisly or gross or in bad taste. “My moral compass broke years ago and I never replaced it,” he shrugged.

Yoe is also very particular in choosing covers. “The more simply designed covers seem to work the work the best”, said Yoe. “There’s no spinner rack these days, so the covers have to work at a very small scale – in Diamond’s Previews or online. You have to have a strong and immediate image, a force, that really reaches out and grabs you.”

The cover to the latest issue, Haunted Horror #10, really stands out. It features a lurid face, perhaps a ghoul or a mandrill, framed by an evil candle (the candlestick holder even says “evil”) and colorful winged creatures flittering about. “I was intrigued by this bizarre poster like cover by Golden Age great L.B. Cole.” Craig explained that he had many conversations after the artist’s comic book career. “Cole brought a graphic design sensibility to the design and color of his covers, in addition to his draftsmanship. He wanted to make his covers stand out on the crowded newsstand –and they did!”

In fact, Yoe is always looking to make each issue of Haunted Horror standout. He selects the stories to print not only from his personal collection, and those of his friends.

But in the great tradition of comic (and TV) horror hosts, Craig Yoe transforms into the creepy Warlock the Forelock in the pages of these comics to introduce the stories. And he doesn’t do it alone. Haunted Horror is actually the brainchild of several creepy editors, who fans know by their horror host alter egos: Madame Clizia and Mr. Kraswell. Yoe is so very appreciative for the help of his co-conspirators and friends in this mad venture. “I’m grateful for the kindness of my friends.” And that’s not so horrible, is it?



Microsoft to sell Xbox One Without Kinect… and…

Microsoft announced via their Xbox Wire blog a number of changes to its Xbox One Console and related services.  A new package without the Kinect camera and motion control accessory will be available starting June 9th for $399, putting the system on par with the better-selling PS4.

The Kinect allows users to play a small number of games,as well as enable many of the interactive features that Microsoft hoped people would find exciting and useful, but many have instead found superfluous and creepy. Users without the Kinect will lose the ability to use voice and motion-related commands to power on the system and perform functions like changing programs and display options. They will also lose the ability for the unit to recognize the users face as they long, as well as many of the potential “Big Brothery” features like being able to count people in the room (and charge accordingly), being able to deliver targeted advertisements based on response data the device picks up, and the fact that the peripheral is “always on,” ready to pick up your voice commands, features that many users feared could be used in the future for more monetized strategies.

For those who change their mind after the fact, the Kinect peripheral will become available separately this fall, but no details on exact date or price have been revealed.

This is the latest in a series of reversals in the Xbox One’s marketing.  Before its release, gamers railed at what they saw as prohibitive and restrictive requirements to loan a game to a friend. A requirement that the system be always connected to the internet vanished shortly after when people took them to task for assuming that every player had full-time internet access – many pointed out that soldiers in other countries were frequent gamers but their limited web access effectively excluded them from playing the new system.

The general PR boondoggle around the launch resulted in Don Mattrick, Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment, leaving the company after some extremely short-sighted comments about the console’s potential users. Many have continued to complain about the console’s higher price, based mainly on a peripheral that some find unnecessary, a complaint this change finally addresses.

In other Xbox news, Microsoft announced that many Internet services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Skype would no longer require the Xbox Live Gold (paid) membership, but would be available for people with the unpaid Silver accounts. Gold is still required for online play of multiplayer-equipped games, something also required on the PS4 via the PlayStation Plus service. Following the lead of the Plus service, Microsoft has offered free games for Gold members for some time, and would soon offer “Deals with Gold,” offering discounts on games, a service also already part of PlayStation Plus.

In their blog post, Microsoft states:

We’ve heard that you want more choices from Xbox One. You want a wide variety of options in your games and entertainment experiences and you also want options in your hardware selection.

While it’s good that Microsoft has heard these wishes, one would not be out of line in wishing that they had responded more quickly after processing what they had heard.

Dennis O’Neil: Mark Twain and The Seven Basic Plots

O'Neil Art 140424The day is bright, the Earth is coming back to life – Tuesday was Earth Day, even there are a flurry of birthdays in the offing… I mean, you don’t really expect me to work, do you?

So, instead of trying to be original (and good luck with that, mi amigo) we’re going to delve into the innards of the computer and see what we can haul out.

Ah, what have we here? “Seven Basic Plots.” Okay, that’ll do, but first… a small and probably totally unnecessary spoiler alert: If you’re a person who feels that looking at things like plot lists, taking writing classes, reading how-to-write books will compromise your vision or creativity or wreak some other harm… maybe you should cut out now and return, if you like, next week, when the topic will be completely different, unless it isn’t.