Tagged: Touching Evil

Marc Alan Fishman: Kosmic Serendipity

norah-2I’m a fan of eating crow. Truly a student from the school of tough love. The other day I happened to be perusing my archive of articles here on ComicMix when I hit on the one where I vowed to buy more indie books. That article was published August 14, 2014. Shortly after it hit the site I threw out my mainstream subscription box that was brimming with Marvel Now! and NuFiftyScrewYou floppies.

Blink, and a few years pass by. And my vow? Beaten, battered, and broken. I could spend the entirety of this week lamenting on specifically why I broke my promise. But, that (as Alton Brown would say) will be for a later show. This week, I want to start making good on my promises. You know… a mere 26 months later.

One of the many awesome side effects of being an indie creator is the wealth of newfound friends across one’s social media streams. Enter Kasey Pierce. Whilst trolling my number-one-frenemy (Dan Dougherty, a.k.a. Beardo), a tagged photo on his stream peaked my attention.  Donning a Touching Evil tee-shirt-turned-tank-top with a brawny bicep hoisted up to a nonchalant smirk stood Ms. Pierce. Like all millennial creeps, I clicked her name to see what-the-what. Hanging her hat in the Detroit area had aligned her to a plethora of palookas I had a ton of love for. Hence, I clicked “Request Friend” and sat patiently awaiting the green light to stalk… err… peruse (yeah, that’s the ticket) her timeline.

In doing so, I learned she was a many an important things to me: writer, well-versed in sci-fi, lover of the WWE, and Britpop. I was able to look past her love of Dougherty and came to the conclusion (months ago) that my smart money would be to give her comic series Norah a try when our paths crossed.

piecesEnter the New York Comic Con. On one of the few jaunts I courageously took into the wild (a.k.a. the con floor), I made my way to Source Point Press – the small press publisher of many a Michiganer, dealing wholly in the horror and sci-fi sects. A few pleasantries passed (mainly me attempting to glean if Kasey knew who I was after our back-n-forth bantering over wall posts and what not) and two issues of Norah made their way into my mitts. They survived the journey home, and were consumed with the tepid worry that my friendship with Ms. Pierce might color my often-snarky synopsizing.

Luckily for both of us, my snark remained intact, and Norah was very promising.

Before I dust off my old MichaelDavisWorld chops though, let’s get the elevator pitch of the book into the ether:

Norah Seizhelm is a “Coma Fisher” for hire. With the ability to tap into the mind’s eye, she’ll either find and retrieve you or help you cross to the other side. A mission of peace, to be sure. But how she obtained this skill is a story filled with government secrets, the death of thousands, and a threat of mass genocide.

I picked up the available issues (1 and 2 out of the first 4 of volume 1, for you number types) for a whopping $6. Kasey’s Source Point compatriot upsold me on a horror book I’ve not opened yet for a cool $10 in total. But I digress.

Norah combines Pierce’s love of neuro-science, bio-weapons, and government conspiracy… wrapped in the candy coated shell of a bitch on wheels solo book. In concept? It’s a potent potable of pulp. With a personality that harkens directly to the Jessica Jones stock, combining with a compassionate mission that leverages medical procedural plots, the book is inherently niche in scope. Where it shines the brightest is truly there in the pitch. As presented in media res, we find Norah meeting drifters in infinite blackness… cajoling them to join her as details of their sur-reality come into focus. We grow accustomed to the truth of catatonia as the patient does. It’s neat narrative trick, no doubt.

The biggest positive beyond the pitch comes solely on the mystery of the soul of the titular telepathic. As she reads on the page, Norah is a foul-mouthed malcontent until she reaches the patient du jour. With what feels like a gang member? She is curt. With his absorbed twin residing in his psyche? She softens. In the real-world, she is passive and melancholy. To see this much nuance stacked on someone who is also bio-weapon engineer? Gives credence to a fully-realized heroine far beyond the traditional manic pixie dream girl. The hook of the book is tied totally to figuring out the whole picture of Norah Seizhelm.

Where Norah falters a bit for me comes with the presentation. The striking covers to the series – monochromic kinetic fields balanced under graphic forms — sets the tone for potentially fast-paced sci-fi. The interiors, by Sean Seal, are a murky mélange that counters the covers in stark contrast. Seal’s painted panels are a bit too unbalanced to be beloved as a whole. Some sequences are clearly coated in hours of careful detail. Others are slap-dashed and sloppily strewn across the page. Some faces are rendered in proportion, others are left feeling unfinished. Taken as a complete product? The sparse prose over the unbalanced art creates an inconsistent book. But heed me: Norah is still very much worth consideration.

The beauty of the indie scene is inherent in Norah. It’s an unfinished house with a sturdy foundation. A diamond still stuck under a bit of coal. As a character study and concept, it’s lightyears ahead of standard cape and cowl pulp… and commensurate with the better parts of early Dark Horse Presents… and the like. A mature concept that isn’t gory or salacious for the sake of a sale. Kasey Pierce has a larger point to explore in her heroine, and two issues in has left me desiring the necessary closure she’s selling. While the book may not show the sheen artistically (yet), the prose is more than enough to make my first deeper dive into the indie scene a successful one.

Here’s hoping my next venture down the alley for new reads is as nuanced and notable as Norah.

Marc Alan Fishman: When You Can’t Have It All

Touching Evil

Barely six days ago from the time this article prances across the interwebs to be posted to my little corner here at ComicMix, I will have once again broke bread with our ol’ E-I-C Mike Gold. Mr. Gold was in town (Chi-Town) for secret business. I’ve long since learned to stop asking for details, as when such a query is prodded Mike is prone to drum up a story with no fewer than seven name drops, and four blink-and-you’ll-miss-it delicious details about someone famous in comics. Before you know it, the subject has been changed, the barbecue brisket has hit the table, and you’ve completely forgotten your original question.

It was on the ride home that found Unshaven Matt Wright and me doing as we’ve come to do weekly: wax poetic about the state of our lives. You see, marrying our wives roughly two months apart, buying homes roughly five months apart, having our first kids about six hours apart, and then the second kids about two days apart has led he and I to fairly symmetrical lives. As such, these days … it’s been the world crashing down on top of us, whilst we have nary a baseball cap to keep from impending concussion. The finite details here are irrelevant. Let’s look to the macro.

When we’d completed our Kickstarter, we’d been about halfway through the inks on our final issue to-be-collected in the Curse of the Dreadnuts four-part series. Matt and I each felt that a solid four-to-six weeks would be all it’d take to plow through. Well. That was back in November. It’s not November now. And we’re still working on those final 10 pages or so. It’s blindingly frustrating. More than others may know because as much as we could choose any number of distractions in our lives preventing the completion of our book, it’s honestly the unrelenting pile-up of all of them at once rendering us barely able to scratch at a single page a week – if at all.

Reconnecting with Mike this past weekend reminded me that no amount of money sitting in my bank account will make up for the life not lived. Since November, when I should have been shuttering my side business to hunker down on a book, I took on five new freelance clients. And while I told myself the little bits and pieces of work they threw me would allow my family to exist when my wife eventually took her current maternity leave, I know I’m mostly lying to myself because the honest-to-Rao truth is I can’t say no. Until now, I suppose.

For example, take my ComicMix cohort Emily Whitten, who recently took a polite bow in order to tackle sundry missions in her neck of the woods. I read her wave goodbye and applauded. Make no mistake: I’m not going anywhere. I show up on a site a day before John Ostrander every week, which allows me to say I open for John Ostrander weekly to all geeks I meet on the street. I can’t ever give that up. Plus, my rants and raves about the geek culture I hold so dear is one of my favorite escapes when I sit down to write. But I digress. And screw Peter David. I stole that line from my high school choir director. Natch.

But the hunger pangs to be a true creative is now far too strong. I’ve denoted my fellow Midwestern comic makers doing amazing things as of late, and it makes me a brighter shade of Sinestro in jealousy of their output. My number one frenemy Dan Dougherty? He’s recently collected his comic Touching Evil http://www.beardocomics.com/#!touching-evil/c17ar into a trade paperback and is presently poised to release issue eight. And it’s seriously one of the best books I’ve read in years. I die a little every time I admit it.

As for Dan’s karaoke cohort, Dashing Dirk Manning? Well, he just launched a Kickstarter for the third volume of Tales of Mr. Rhee (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dirkmanning/tales-of-mr-rhee-those-who-fight-monsters-hardcove?ref=nav_search, and I’m one of the 100+ backers onboard in the first day. By the way, Dirk met goal in less than half a day. It’s fitting given how wonderfully macabre that series is. Then there’s my good buddies Leo Perez and Mikey Babinski, who both landed their art into exclusive tie-in trading card sets for the upcoming Ghostbusters movie. Trust me, I’m barely scratching the surface. My Facebook feed overfloweth with glowing announcements of soon-to-be-released goodies. All my friends… living their dreams, while I tackle yet another logo, business card, and UI update.

Until now. My name is Marc Alan Fishman. My shoppe is hereby closed. My studio is now open nightly. My book will be done. I know now that I can’t have it all. But the truth is, I never needed it all in the first place. It’s time to get back to doing what I love. The rest of the world can wait.

What Marc Alan Fishman Looks For In A Comic Book

Following up on my column last week, I had to sit down and really ask myself what it would take to sell me on a comic book. Not to toot my horn of Stereotypical Jewishness, but the thought of wasting as few as five dollars on a product I won’t wholly appreciate causes me to back out of a deal faster than the Marvel greenlights new films. The fact is I am oftentimes a skeptic when it comes to consumption of media. Either the creators have to be known to me previously, or come recommended by a trusted friend or critic.

When I self-discover, it’s typically after I’ve consumed everything else on my personal docket (which, admittedly, is rare). Most recently, I consumed the movie Chronicle. It was on my DVR, when I had two hours of alertness left in me and literally nothing left to watch. I really enjoyed it. And now because of it, I’ll be more inclined to not hiss at the next movie iteration of the Fantastic Four, knowing that the director and one of the announced stars were both great parts of the aforementioned flick. But I digress.

It starts with the pitch.

This year at Wizard World Chicago, I’m going to attempt to be a blank slate in the Artist Alley. Rather than seek out what looks interesting to me (“art first” if you will), I’m going to randomly choose tables with indie comics, and straight-up ask the person behind the table to pitch me their book. If the pitch is tight, the hook is something original, and the book is five bucks or less, I’m taking it home. Regardless of genre, art style, or any other number of factors. This is me trying to break the bad habit of judgment and reward those who know how to represent their product. I wholly understand that artists are not salesman, and I shouldn’t punish someone for not being a huckster (like me…). But in those cases where the pitch can’t sell me on a book, I know then it’ll be my duty to sell it to myself. For that to happen I need something to latch on to.

The older I get, the crankier I become when I consume media I’ve consumed before. I freely admit, I don’t tend to like fantasy, westerns, or horror because of that fact. Each of those genres tends to cling to tropes tightly, and just gnash any number of them into their prose to fill the void where originality might be otherwise. Oh, that medieval epic you’ve penned… does it have dwarves warring with elves? Egad man, it’s never been done! Oh… but this time the dwarves has mastered ice magic?! Sorry, my bad. That being said, noir, superheroes, and hard science fiction concepts wind up on my shelf more often than not. For me, those stories tend to use genre only to set mood or environment, not drive plot. Think Kill Bill vs. any anime revenge story produced in the last decade.

If the plot doesn’t grab my gonads off the bat, then it’s time to just look at the damned book. On a purely aesthetic level if the comic is doing something visually I’m not seeing elsewhere? That’s a big step in the right direction. Moreso, if the medium being used is wholly uncomicy then I’m even more apt to perk up. Not to namedrop my own books, but screw it. The Samurnauts continues to sell well – beyond the well-practiced pitch – because we combine painted panel art for half the book with more typically sterile digital fare. Should I see a book rendered originally in paint, charcoal, or mixed media? It’s going to ring a bell or two near my buying hand because the creators are changing the language necessary to enjoy their piece.

Ultimately what will sell me a comic will be the passion on the page. Certain comics and concepts just ring true when you hear them come from their creators. I’ve mentioned more often than I’d care to admit that Touching Evil by Dan Dougherty is one of the best books I’ve read in the last decade. And truth be told, the pitch did nothing for me at first. But even a single page in, after Dan let his guard down, and gave me a glint of his creative process, I was sold. And one issue later? I was a card-carrying member of the Touching Evil Empire.

So, by the time these words will hit your eyes, I’ll be milling about the Artist Alley. And next week, you’ll hear all about my exploits amongst my brethren. Until then, I bid you good reading.


Marc Alan Fishman: Con Shopping Extravaganza!

While I am buried deep under a pile of production – completing “The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #3” in time for Wizard World Chicago later this month – Editor Mike reached out to inspire me. In other words, he didn’t want me to bore ya’ll one more time with my annual bitching session regarding the passion of the indie creator. Instead, he suggested I suggest to you, my adoring public, a few books that I’m reading and loving right now… that do not come from the big two publishers. There was only one problem with this prompt.

Since I’ve been knee-deep in digital art-ing, lettering, editing, coloring, and laying out(ing?) a comic for the last month or so… I’ve basically all but stopped reading comics.

Of course I could fall back on my staple suggestions: Touching Evil by Dan Dougherty, Solution Squad by Jim and Rose McClain, Product of Society by Cheeselord Comics, and Monkey Fist by Sun Bros. Studios. But then it dawned on me, I could kill two birds with one stone! I could excite the masses about the passion of indie comics without suggesting any particular book at all. Indeed kiddos, I could be that good.

When the book is off to the printers and my life is freed up once more to consume amazing comics, I’ll find myself at Wizard World Chicago. And where better than the annual comic con to take a chance to immerse myself in sequential fiction not otherwise touched by Mickey Mouse or Brother Warner. My plan is simple:

Seek books within Artist Alley, and Artist Alley alone.

Across dozens of tables will sit books built first and foremost out of passion. While it’s likely true that Scott Snyder is symbiotically betrothed to Batman, at the end of the day the caped crusader is not Mr. Snyder’s own creation. Not to get all Robert Kirkmanny here, but there’s something to be said when a book is wholly the idea of a given writer (and/or artist). Without the constraint of an editorial office, calendar, or marketing strategy, an indie title has the least weight on its shoulders to succeed. Of course the alley cat who peddles the pulp sure wants due-payment and fortune. Suffice to say though, there are far fewer hands in the cookie jar wanting their rightful crumbs. Because of that, I’ve found that the independent book tends to push the edge harder conceptually speaking. And because of that, the books may not be as polished on the page, but they read incredibly in the mind.

Set a budget, and buy a breadth of material – not pour a fortune down one well.

As a creator I want nothing more than passersby to be so enamored with The Samurnauts that they feel compelled to purchase every last ounce of material available at the table. But turn that table around and I’m often a misanthropic cheapskate. In a case of “Fool me once, shame on me…” a few times I got snookered into less-than-stellar indie titles in my early twenties. Because this was well before the near-affordable print-on-demand days, these indie rags went for double the price of a typical DC or Marvel book. And they weren’t in color. And they were poorly written, drawn schizophrenically, and sold to me under false pretense.

Well, a decade later, and I’ve crawled out from the behind the rock. My tactic is simple: Get the pitch, agree with the pitch, look over the product, ensure the product is priced appropriately, and make the damned purchase. But I digress.

The key to making the most out of exploring the Artist Alley is as I’ve noted above: it’s all about trying out a ton, not committing to an entire series without first enjoying only a taste. If an artist is worth their salt, they’ll make their line of work available to me after the show is over, or at very least offer up to me the next shows they’ll do. In the day and age in which we live, social media is the great uniter. And any artist in the alley not taking advantage of the free services that open their art and products to the world simply do not deserve my continued business.

In essence, my trip through the convention will be amassing an unencumbered anthology specific to the genres, art styles, and creators I find most akin to my wants and desires. And with an open mind (and an empty stomach…), I’m going to make it a mission to be social. To look every creator in the eye, and proudly ask them to tell me about their comic.

And in a few weeks, I’m going to let all of you know exactly how it went. Excelsior.