Monday, December 30, 2013

Mutant Elf number 5 page 18

I am posting this here because the regular Mutant Elf website is down at the moment.  Hopefully, there isn't a loss of quality.  Since you cannot look back at previous pages, I shall summarize: The Mutant Elf and Human friend (Myzla and Tom) were visited by a fairy who came to Earth searching for a lost fairy gem.  The group tracked the gem to the Children's section of the Public Library, where it is interacting with the fantastic writings in the book to create magical constructs that are dangerous, and perhaps, nefarious!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Showcase: Legion of Super-Heroes vol 1

My recent reading has included DC Showcase Presents: The Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 1.  This collection consists of the earliest tales of my favorite DC Comics team, published in titles such as Adventure Comics, Superboy, and even Jimmy Olsen from 1958 to 1964.  First off, I will admit that even though I am such a big fan of the Legion, I didn’t rush out to buy this when it was first released, and there’s a reason for this.  These comics are from an era that I’m not a big fan of, when comics were over-simplified and the Marvel style begun by Stan Lee in Fantastic Four #1 (1961) hadn’t seeped over to DC.  What I mean to say is, these are definitely comics from a different time, and some of the stories contained within are rather goofy.  However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t goofy fun!  It just means you have to keep in mind the era and the conventions thereof, at least as far as DC comics were at the time.

It is, certainly, fun to see how the Legion got its start.  The group of superheroes form the future seek out the young Clark Kent to join their club.  Back in this era, Superboy had incredible powers, and wasn’t stoppable except by kryptonite, so travelling in time was no problem for him.  The superhero teens catch some bad guys and play tricks on each other during their initiation ceremonies, and the ranks of the Legion continue to grow as new characters are introduced.  The writing is rather bland in most of these tales.  The Legionnaires don’t differ significantly in personality, and they are barely introduced except for their respective powers.  In fact, I’d say the tales of Polar Boy’s substitute heroes are more interesting, as the subs deal with being rejected from the Legion while still dedicating themselves to helping out.  The best development of the actual Legion I think is Lightning Lad, who sacrifices himself to save Saturn Girl, and Saturn Girl when she attempts to return the favor. 

There are many strange things in these stories, and I some tales involving Jimmy Olsen that aren’t told here.  Jimmy’s first adventure with the group in this volume makes it obvious he already knows the group, but how is not told. Jimmy has many goofy alter-egos in this era of comics, and he becomes a Legion Reserve as Elastic Lad.  Another strange occurrence is how Star Boy and Ultra Boy have changes in their powers with no justification, just explanations of what their new powers are.  Star Boy began as a Superboy copy, while initially Ultra Boy had only vision powers.  Then they change to their more classic versions, but without a real explanation.  My favorite bit of strangeness is Supergirl.  When she first appears she interacts with the adult Legion group.  This makes sense as she is a contemporary of Superman, not his teenage incarnation of Superboy.  Later, she is seen hanging out with Superboy and the teen Legion.  This would mean Superman met her before her “met” her as an adult when she first appeared in Superman comics.  Well, continuity wasn’t a big deal back then, anyway.  It’s also funny because we see Brainiac 5 join the Legion as an adult, then later he’s with the group and a teen! 

In brief, the writing is fun and goofy at times.  It’s never really great.  It is sometimes rather awful by any standard, but I don’t think it is bad enough that I wouldn’t recommend this volume to a Legion fan, or someone interested in comics from this era.

But wait!  I’ve only spoken of writing so far.  I must mention the art in this volume.  Simply put, the art is amazing!  Mostly due to the contributions of Curt Swan and Jim Mooney, who are absolutely fabulous! But I also have to give proper credit to John Forte, an artist whom I am not familiar with.  I thought he started off a bit shaky but by the end has gotten the team down just about perfectly!  If you like good comic book art, this volume is a must!!  Any weakness in stories is more than made up for with the great line work on these pages!  I have volume 2 in my reading queue and I’m looking forward to continuing the adventures of these teen heroes from the future!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Out With Dad 3.02 :Dining In & Out

Well, since I haven’t quite finished the Legion of Super-Heroes book I’m wanting to comment on, I think I’ll spend some more time discussing the award-winning webseries Out With dad. Let’s see…when I left off episode 3.01 had ended and Rose was going to go to Claire’s house for a dinner…date?

I’ll take a break here and mention that season 3 really is the best season yet!  Much of which is the better-than ever performances from the main cast, who just get better and better.  The production values of this show are incredible, also.  Though I have no real idea how to make a TV series, I don’t see a drop in quality between Out With Dad and the network shows on the regular tube.  Finally, the writing is practically perfect in every way.  The story is going places I thought it would go in ways I never foresaw. And that’s really cool!

Episode 3.02 is a rather humorous episode.  Probably the lightest of the first block of season 3.  Nathan’s joy over planning a romantic get-together with the lovely Angela, and his interaction with Rose about her attire for the evening help set up the light atmosphere.  I think I’ll discuss the Nathan/Angela relationship first.  Things seem to be progressing very well between the “senior couple” on the show.  We find from their conversation that they’ve been rather active in the off-season, except that they haven’t progressed to the point where they meet each other’s families.  Except for the big problem that Nathan is still afraid to tell Rose he’s dating.  Which he really needs to do!  Of course, we the audience know that Rose knows anyhow, which may just cause more problems when he does tell her, or she tells him.

Now on to the “junior couple”.  Claire’s family is great!  They are all just enough like Claire that they do seem like one big family.  And little brother Brian is certainly my favorite new character!  He’s very realistically annoying and know-it-all, nosy and fun to watch.  Claire’s mom’s clunky efforts to support her daughter are also fun to watch.  Her methods are different from the quiet support of Nathan, but she really does want her daughter to be happy in the end.  And Claire is her usual bubbly self, while we also get to see her more introspective side.  Claire is louder and less intellectual than Rose, but she’s also passionate and dedicated to a cause she believes in.  One of the reasons Rose and Claire are such a nice couple is how they balance each other in ways.  For instance, Rose may be honors level in academics, but Claire knows more about LGBT history.

I enjoyed the dinner sequence for the laughs stemming from the awkwardness.  The couch scene was extremely well done, also.  The switches in the conversation were interesting and natural, and the subtle way the girls come closer to each other was great.  And then the interruption when they finally kiss…oh boy!

Bu that’s better discussed next time.  I think I’ve written enough for today!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Out With Dad 3.01 "Starting Out"

If you didn’t know, season 3 of the award-winning webseries Out With Dad has begun!  This is my favorite webseries, and I can’t say this enough: you should watch it, and share it with your friends! Anyway, creator/writer/director/all around good guy Jason Leaver has decided to release the first section of season 3 of Out With Dad by posting a new episode every day!  This creates difficulty for me, since I enjoy writing my ruminations concerning each episode after I watch them, and there’s no way I’m reviewing an episode a day!  I have to sleep sometime, after all!  So I guess I’ll just start here with episode 3.01 and see how far I get before I decide to call it a day.  Or a week.  Whatever.

Episode 3.01, “Starting Out” begins by establishing some information about what’s happening with our main characters, Rose and Dad (Nathan).  This marks the debut of Jonathan Robbins as Nathan.  I’d say the transition is as seamless as possible.  It’s never totally seamless to replace an actor in a leading role, but Jonathan and Kate Conway (Rose) show an easy chemistry and I think I’m going to like Jonathan. The opening scene with Rose and Nathan also shows that they are almost moved into their new home, and Nathan’s relationship with Angela has progressed except that he still hasn’t mentioned to Rose that he’s dating.  Rose totally knows.  But Nathan hasn’t told her yet.  Also, Rose appears to be totally smitten with Claire, whether she realizes it or not.

Vanessa’s plight in this episode is more dramatic and more interesting to me.  We get to see her Dad more, and hear his views of how her life is going.  There have been comments from viewers that her dad (Steven) needs to be more assertive.  He seems to have done so here…but not in a positive way.  He mostly repeats the views his wife expressed last season, that Vanessa needs to stay away from her crazy gay friend and remember that she has a BOYfriend!  The fact that their daughter is miserable and lonely doesn’t matter because they’re saving her SOUL!  HER SOUL!!!

Also, Nathan designed Rose a blossom shirt.  This is to show support for her, and we’ll see more of this shirt later this season. He also mentions wanting to be supportive but not always knowing what to do.  At school, Claire and Vanessa have a brief encounter, and Vanessa overhears Claire and Rose plan a date.  Or is it a date?  It’s dinner. Overall, this episode is very good, though it’s mostly set-up.  I know we’ll get to the really interesting stuff as the season progresses!  The Out With Dad cast and crew have done a wonderful job.  I totally seriously believe this series is as good as anything I’ve seen from major networks this year!  And I guess that’s about all I have time to talk about today.  I’ll say more about this season in a week or two.

One last thing, we get the return of Rose’s astral self. For a perfect comment! I love it!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Review: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is my favorite new TV show! I have read a lot of reactions from many people about this new show, and they have been very mixed.  It seems the show is not “super-heroish” enough for a lot of people, and just plain boring to some.  I’ll try to explain why I like it so much.

First, I remember S.H.I.E.L.D. as the Supreme Headquarters of International Espionage Law-enforcement Division, though that is not the acronym being used currently.  I don’t know if this was made up for the movies (it was first used in Iron Man) or if it was changed in the comics.  I don’t even remember what the new acronym stands for.  I did not look up the original, I’ve had that memorized for many many years. This isn’t the only difference form the classic comics.  There aren’t any classic comic characters among the main cast.  Coulson, the leader, was created for the Marvel movies and the rest made their debut on the TV show.  However, I’ve never been too big on S.H.I.E.L.D. lore, and only Nick Fury has ever been more than a periphery character in the comics.  To sum up: the differences between the comics and TV don’t bother me at all.

I find the characters quite fun!  My favorite are “FitzSimmons”, the joined name for the resident scientists.  They have a funny way of finishing each other’s sentences with talk only Reed Richards could follow.  Coulson leads the group, trying to be a teacher and supporter while being haunted by the fact that he’s alive.  May hasn’t done too much but be cool, but the point of her character is to be quiet, mysterious, and deadly. Ward is a typical he-man, always looking for action but being forced to be a team player, especially by mentoring Skye. And Skye does a good job being the “outsider” which helps the viewers get briefed on S.H.I.E.L.D. procedures.  There are some interesting relationships between the characters, especially the attraction between different members and the possible ramifications thereof.

The stories have gotten more complicated and intense as the season has progressed, dipping slightly into the Marvel movieverse without involving anyone directly.  Unlike some, I don’t want a lot of Marvel characters showing up.  A “hero of the week” would make the team back-ups to the mainstream Marvel stars.  So I’m very happy so far.  The action is intense and the tech goodies are cool.  Also, there’s the ongoing question of Coulson’s remarkable survival.  Or…did he really survive??

Monday, November 25, 2013

Batman and Iron Man

I was looking at these sketches the other day I was struck by how Batman and Iron Man now have what is considered by most the two best Super-Hero movie franchises.  And it would be hard to say whose is best.  There have been Batman movies since the 60’s, while Iron Man has only appeared in 4 movies so far.  However, some of the Batman movies are considered awful, while all the Iron Man movies are considered at least “good”.  Personally, I like Iron Man better, but that may just be my Marvel-prejudice showing.  Anyway, here’s some recent drawing I did experimenting with gray-tone markers.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Rose's Video Diary #10: Body Issues

With the third season of the award-winning webseries Out With Dad only weeks away, we fans have been treated a new series of “Rose’s Video Diaries” to entertain us during the wait.  The Rose’s Video Diaries are a series of short videos featuring the main character, Rose Miller, talking into the camera about her thoughts concerning things that affect her character and sometimes move the overall story along a little bit.  I don’t usually comment on these videos (I did so once.) but the most recent video diary segment has had me thinking, and I think I have enough thoughts for a blog entry.  The diary is called “Body Issues” and can be seen here. I’ll try to comment on the character, the writer and actor, Kate Conway, and also society in general as it relates to this issue.  At least that’s my plan.  I’m not using an outline or rough draft here, so it may meander a bit.
Kate as Rose Miller
Kate comments about this diary that she wrote it based on her own experiences and feelings and what her teen-age character would think about the issue.  It reminded me of some stupid comment I read, probably on YouTube, back when I first discovered the series.  I can’t quote the comment but it was something about “fat ugly girls” and why would you want to watch them.  I don’t think Kate is fat at all.  And I’d also say she’s attractive.  Is she Gwyneth Paltrow? No.  Does she have to be? NO!  She’s just perfect for whom she is and she’s certainly perfect for the role of Rose.  My point here is that there’s no “perfect” body type, and I think people in society are too often over-critical of others, and of themselves.  On the other hand, if you look around at people and talk to them, you find a lot of people are not really that critical.  There’s a huge variation in what different people find attractive and everyone seems to be the answer to someone’s dreams.
Gwyneth as Pepper Potts
I do think women are held to a far more critical standard on our society than men are.  I also think women are often their own worst critics.  I’m sure men aren’t nearly as critical as women think we are.  Kind of like how just because so many of us can’t help but notice Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t mean we think everyone has to look like her.  In the video diary, Rose does a good job comparing herself to the other girls on the show.  And Rose is right that Claire (Caitlynne Medrek) is tiny and Alicia (Laura Jabalee) is pretty, but  she makes the incorrect assumption that this somehow affects Rose.  Rose only has to be Rose and she has enough friends and admirers as it is.  And I guess this is my advice to all the people (especially young women) out there: you are you and stop trying to match anyone else.

Artist's rendition of Rose

Particularly on the issue of weight, I understand the desire of most of us to want to do better, and weight issues seem to be one of those areas where we think we should be doing better than we are.  I do think there’s too much emphasis on “super-skinny” rather than just “healthy”.  I have personally known people who lost huge amounts of weight, and I’m happy for them because I think they will live longer, healthier lives.  But People need to be smart about weight and weight loss.  The extreme ways Rose mentions people try to lose weight are not good and healthy.  Diet and exercise; that’s the key!  And yes, I’d like to lose about 10 pounds myself.  I’ve gotten too sedentary as I’ve aged.  I need to get up and move.  Right after I watch some Out With Dad, of course!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: Fluid

Fluid is a comic I picked up at the Detroit Fanfare Comic Convention last month.  Creator Kamron Reynolds had his table next to mine and it was a pleasure to be beside him.  Fluid is one of many comics Kamron had available, and I picked it because it is aimed at younger readers, which sounded like fun to me!

I was right.  This is a good, fun comic to read.  The basic story is about a kid who is new in town and has arrived at a very interesting time.  It’s summer and the new kid, Joe, needs to learn the rules to survive.  Luckily he meets a friendly boy named Neal who can show him the ropes.  And teach him the rules. Most of which has to do with massive water-balloon fights.  And that’s what makes this comic so much fun!  Art-wise, Fluid is fun and cartoony, with nice action sequences.  Kamron does a very good job showing the emotions on the characters and the colors make everything clear. The only problem is that the story ends just as things are getting started!  But it’s a great set-up for a series and I look forward to reading more about Joe in the future.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Me, Howard Kaylan, The Turtles, and Shell Shocked!

I met Howard Kaylan, lead singer of the Turtles, in 1990 or so when my friend Dan Moyer* and I went to see The Rascals and The Turtles in Cleveland at a “rib fest”.  Howard talked to us about his young daughter (I think she was 2 at the time) and his moving out if the city so that she, among other things, would not have to choose which gang to belong to.  Howard also signed Dan’s Rickenbacher and my CD booklet and talked about music, explaining that they couldn’t perform “Like the Seasons” live without a string quartet present. (We didn’t really think they could, but it’s such a wonderful song we had to comment on it!)  Howard and his musical partner Mark Volman were incredibly friendly to us that day and I’ll never forget it.

I became a Turtles fan in High School after hearing some of their songs and picking up their Greatest Hits cassette, one of the few tapes I took with me when I was in the Navy.  I’ve since collected most of their catalogue on CD, including the Flo and Eddie albums.  The Turtles are definitely one of the best bands ever, at least vocally, and Howard is one of the best rock/pop vocalists ever.  They really are that good!

Top: my signed CD
Middle: Mark signing Dan's guitar
Bottom: Howard and Me!!
Recently I read Howard’s autobiography, Shell Shocked! It’s an amazing tale of everything in Howard’s life from childhood to the present.  I particularly enjoyed the music-related stories, such as the creation of “Happy Together”, recording with Bruce Springsteen, and putting together their “Battle of the Bands” album.  I did not know that Howard was musically talented as far back as his High School years playing clarinet and sax in a marching band and rock and roll band.

The more personal stories in the book are sometimes funny but sometimes sad and hard to read.  I was surprised at Howard’s birth name, Jewish background, and how intelligent he is!  At the same time I’m shocked at how easily such a smart person could so easily get involved with drugs and struggle with multiple marriages.  I know I would not enjoy living the life that Howard lived in these cases.  I don’t know how he kept going looking for work in the lean times or fighting legal battles for years.
I’ve seen the Turtles (featuring Flo and Eddie) a few times live and listened to their music many many more times, and they never fail to entertain.  If you have any interest in the history of Rock and Roll/Pop music or have ever enjoyed listening to “Happy Together” I believe you will enjoy this book.  My little review here does not begin to do justice to how entertaining and well written this book is!

Monday, October 28, 2013

2013 Detroit Fanfare recap

This last weekend I was an artist exhibitor at the 2013 Detroit Fanfare Comic Book convention.  I shall try to summarize the experience, though there is too much to tell and I’m likely to forget many things worth mentioning.

 First I must complement the organizers of this event.  Detroit Fanfare isn’t the largest Comicon around, but it’s just about the perfect size in the eyes of many exhibitors and attendees.  The small number of media stars present allows for more emphasis for the artists and more interaction between artists and individual attendees.  The attendance at the event was large enough to create a steady flow of people in the aisle all weekend without getting clogged, which I think allowed people to stop and look and talk as they wished.  I talked with many attendees who said Detroit Fanfare is their favorite convention!  One person in particular said that at other, bigger cons they felt like they were getting pushed around and yelled at all day, while everyone at Fanfare, including workers and volunteers, were very nice.

Personally, I did very well with sales and had a great time talking with attendees and other creators.  I bought a couple odd back issues I found plus some great priced trade collections. I also got some art and comics from other creators.  I’d like to say how nice the other artists around me were and how much they added to my enjoyment of the weekend. I’d also like to thank everyone who came by a talked to me at my table, whether you purchased anything.  If you did buy something from me I hope you are satisfied with your purchase!  I try my best to produce some nice products, and I’m still awed that there are people out there who want to own stuff that I make.

Finally, I must add how much fun all the kids at the con were!  Fanfare does a great job with children’s activities, including the Trick-or-Treating on Sunday. It’s great fun! Well, I hope everyone else’s weekend was as good as mine.  And I can’t wait until Detroit Fanfare 2014!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Statues- pre Detroit Fanfare

I thought I'd post some pics of statue art I've made recently in prep for

Thor, Cap, Iron Man
Mario, Yoshi, Link
Loki and Cthulhus

Some Halloween statues with glow-in-the-dark elements

Monday, October 7, 2013

Review: Astro City #4

Let me start by saying a few things in general about Kurt Busiek’s Astro City.  Astro city is a special comic series to me because it affected the way I thought about Super-hero comics.  Many years ago I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do artistically.  I realized I wasn’t going to jump into a job at a large comic book company.  But that was okay, because I really enjoy teaching and I’m proud that education is my profession.  But I still wanted to do something artistic, if only for fun.  I wanted to make a comic book of my own.  So I had to figure out what to do a comic about.  I thought about comedy, sci-fi, and fantasy ideas.  Anything but superheroes.  Superheroes just seemed like an idea that had been destroyed by the bad decisions of the major comic companies.  I didn’t think there was any way to do a superhero book that wasn’t a retread or a parody.  But then I read some superhero comics that were original creations, not parts of the major comics companies.  And these comics renewed my faith in superheroes as a genre.  The comic that affected me the most in this way was Astro City.  Astro City proves that superheroes are interesting and cool.  There’s nothing lame, condescending, or apologetic about the characters and situations that Kurt Busiek and company create in their world.  Superheroes in the Astro City universe are the most perfectly normal occurrence.  I’d even say Astro City proves that if super-powers existed in the real world, we would have costumed heroes fighting for truth and justice.  The idea doesn’t seem goofy, it seems…right.

Astro City’s current run has reached issue #4, and it’s a good point for me to write a review.  Issue four, titled “On the Sidelines” tells the tale of Martha Sullivan, a telekinetic who lives in Astro City among all the costumed super-folk but has no desire to become a crime-fighter.  She uses her powers to earn an honest living working in film.  There have been other comics I’ve read of super-powered people with no desire to use their powers (The magnetically powered character in New Teen Titans comes to mind.) but Kurt makes the best case for someone not wanting to be involved I’ve ever seen.  The flashbacks to her early use of her powers and her path to her current status are excellent.  But this is standard fare for Astro City.  Kurt doesn’t just tell about someone with powers, he lets you really get to know the character so you understand and care about her.  Martha isn’t perfect, but she’s competent.  I should add that I loved that she doesn’t have the “super hero physique”.  She looks and acts like a real person….who is a telekinetic.  I worried for her and I felt joy and sadness when things went well or badly for her.  The cameo by The Samaritan was very well done, also, showcasing the differences yet sameness of the two characters.  One last comment: the art is top-notch.  Perfect mood and action inside and an excellent cover.  And I love the pink thing.

I eagerly await for more!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Review: Dark Legacy of Shannara

A while ago I posted a review of the first book in the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy.  Now, having just finished reading the second and third installments of the story, I thought it time to comment in a completely full-of-spoilers way.  So be warned: you should really really read the books before reading this.  Not just the most recent trilogy, but all of Terry Brooks’ books.  If you like them half as much as I do, you’ll be very happy.

The biggest thing I kept thinking while reading the trilogy was how hard the plot was to figure out.  Brooks set up certain things in a way that made me think he was going down familiar paths.  For instance I was sure finding the missing Elfstones was going to be critical to defeating the Demons. But in the end, it was rather inconsequential.  Which begs the question of why Allanon thought the quest was so important to undertake.  I’m sure Brooks has a reason why it was so important.  Perhaps because it was the only time the Elfstones could be retrieved, it was important to get them now.  But why was it important to get them?  And was retrieving the crimson stones enough?  It seems like there must be purpose in all of this.  It also seems that the demons and the forbidding are going to be important in the future.

I also enjoyed the philosophical quandary of the demons all being imprisoned due to their race and not their individual deeds.  We have seen a lot of evil humans and elves and other races in the four lands, and we have now seen that some of the demons, like Tesla, are not totally evil.  Therefore, shouldn’t there be a way to free demons who don’t do bad things?

The final thing I’ll discuss today is the return of the Ilse Witch.  She didn’t really accomplish much to stop the demon except for defeating their leader.  But he would have been stopped by the reestablishment of the forbidding anyway.  But now he’s not inside the forbidding planning revenge.  The quest to free Grianne was about as useless as the quest for the missing elfstones.  And I was surprised in the final use of the magic ring.

Terry Brooks is my all-time favorite author, and this series shows he’s getting better and better!  I await his next creation with great anticipation!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Statues- custom made

I recently completed this statue made to the specifications of a customer.  I also wanted to take a chance to let anyone out there know that I make all kinds of clay statues.  If you have any particular interest, let me know and I'll be sure to try my best to fulfill your wishes!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Captain Midnight

“Captain Midnight, Ovaltine, and The Whip at the County Fair”

From The Statler Brothers’ song “Do You Remember These”

The above song, by one of my all-time favorite groups, was the first I ever heard of Captain Midnight.  When I saw that Dark Horse Comics was doing a Captain Midnight series, I wondered if it was the same Captain from the song.  It turns out is is.  And in a way it isn’t.

Captain Midnight, written by Joshua Williamson and drawn by Fernando Dagnino, is a new version of the classic serial character. So I’d classify the series as a reboot, I suppose.  But since I know nothing of the original version of the character, I can’t really judge the news series based on comparisons to any old series.  Instead, I’ll just have to tell you how good it is.

Captain Midnight is the tale of a World War II superhero that is transported in time to the present during a battle in 1944.  The Captain is a genius inventor named Jim Albright who’s major accomplishment seems to be a flying suit, but it looks like he’s created lots of very interesting gadgets.  He’s currently on the run in the present as he isn’t sitting still waiting for the government to decide what to do with him.  Also, there seems to be a surviving, perhaps immortal Nazi running a criminal empire in our present day world.

And that should be plenty of story points to get you interested.  I will add that the book is very very well done.  The writing is engaging and the story keeps moving while the mysteries keep you thinking.  The art is top-notch also.  It has a retro but not dated feel. Dagino’s action sequences are exciting and clear.  His quieter moments are interesting and his architecture and technology is well crafted.  Also, every character has a clear look and distinctive voice.

It seems I’ve been on a WWII kick lately (see here and here) but Captain Midnight is both a great tribute to WWII comics and a great new modern idea.  Kudos to all those involved for putting out a great super hero comic!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mutant Elf- the continuing saga

I would like to spend some time here talking about my webcomic, Mutant Elf.  I think this is a good time because this week marks the debut of the 5th and latest storyline in the weekly series.  The storyline that ran the summer was first published online and in print in the 2013 SPACE Anthology, so this marks a “return” somewhat of new Mutant Elf stories.  Mutant Elf is the story of Tom Tyler, an author of youth fantasy novels who meets a real-life Elf.  This elf, named Myzla, is a special kind of elf—a mutant – who travels between our world and the world of the Fairy.  Her job is to round up other fairy creatures that have crossed to our world and send them back to the land of fairy.  Along the way, Tom assists in ways both clever and lucky.  The series also features Tom’s girlfriend Teri, a librarian with a very scientific mind.  Due to her low tolerance for fantasy Tom and Myzla keep their Mutant Elf adventures secret from her, as well as from the rest of the world.

And somewhere along the way, hilarity ensues.

At least I hope so.  When I worked out the concept for Mutant Elf I wanted to do a comic that I could have all kinds of fun with.  And I am having fun.  One thing I thought would be fun would be to start each storyline (except the two 8-page stories done for the SPACE anthology) with very similar scenes, which I have reproduced below.  The full stories are available here, and print mini-comics are available for order from me via my e-mail.  You can also send me comments and questions about the series if you'd like!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos

 No, I’m not reviewing a new self-published comic this week.  Rather, I will be discussing the classic Marvel Age series known as Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos!  I recently had the opportunity to pick up the Essential collection of Fury’s squad’s first adventures and reading them has been an absolute pleasure.  For anyone reading who does not know, Sgt. Fury is the very same Nick Fury who would eventually become the head of the counter-terrorist agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D.  In a slightly different incarnation he has been featured in the Marvel movies of the past few years.  The Howling Commandos (minus Fury) also made an appearance in Captain America: First Avenger.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos was the Marvel Age of comics’ entry into the war genre.  Comics covering action during World War II have existed since the war was actually being fought, but there has always been nostalgia about the efforts of the good men who fought against Hitler and his ilk.  Stan Lee with Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers created a group of WWII combatants unlike any seen before or since.  The Howling Commandos were completely off the wall and extreme in their personalities and looks.  They weren’t by-the-book soldiers, but rather a strange assortment of characters that were the best anti-Nazi force the allied forces had.  They took on great challenges and succeeded despite overwhelming odds by using their unique talents and quick thinking to fool their opponents and pull off win after win.

I’ll try to give you somewhat of a feel for the individual members, but they’re hard to describe. (It’s better to go ahead and read the comics.)  Nick Fury works his men hard and never smiles, though we know he really cares for the men.  Dum Dum Dugan is huge and always complains about his wife and mother-in-law.  Dino is a famous American actor who uses his talents, including his ability to speak Italian and German, to infiltrate the enemy lines.  Percy is the proper British gentleman, who wields an umbrella in addition to a smg. Izzy is a great mechanic and munitions expert.  Reb is a southerner and has some ridin’ and ropin’ skills.   And Gabe is a jazz trumpeter who plays a bugle to distract and intimidate the opposition.  The group is known for being rather diverse, especially because Gabe is black and the US Army wasn’t desegregated until well after WWII.  But it works to perfection in this comic.  Just ignore the historical inaccuracy.

The Commandos manage to be light-hearted and fun while tackling some serious issues, including war and death and the toll upon people in occupied countries.  The Commandos often subdue their opponents without killing them, and the violence is very toned down.  Having been created in the 60s, there wasn’t a lot of violence allowed in comics.  Stan, Jack, Dick, and the others involved in this comic have been praised by many a fan over the years, and I don’t know if I’ve said anything new, but I’m glad I got around to reading these comics and I’d say it’s the best non-superhero comic Stan Lee helped create.  One last note: the final comic in the Essential collection is a Howlers’ reunion during the Korean War.  It was amazing the feeling of nostalgia I had despite the fact that I hadn’t waited years between this tale and the WWII stories!  Excelsior indeed!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review: The Serial Squad

I was at the Sandusky Art Walk (a local art-in-the-park type event) this summer and someone was looking at some sketches I had done of the Serial Squad.  As I was trying to explain the concept to him he asked “So it’s stuff like Captain Crunch?”  I had no idea where he had gotten that idea.  Then, a few hours later, it hit me!

Anyway, the Serial Squad is an excellent independent comic created by Paul Schultz, and is another comic I picked up at a recent convention.  Actually, I filled up my Serial Squad collection this year, as I had some issues from previous encounters with Paul.  Obviously, if I’m picking up more I like the book.  I’d say it’s my favorite independent super-group book.  And there’s a good reason why.

You ever read something, or even see a movie or TV show and think: What a great idea!  Why didn’t I think of that?!  That’s the Serial Squad to me.  The Serial Squad takes place in the 1940’s during World War II.  The US government has put together a group of costumed heroes to instill hope in America and defeat the Nazis (the most evil group of villains in history!).  The costumed heroes consist of actors who play costumed heroes in movie serials.  If you didn’t know, a movie serial is a story broken down into short episodes that was popular in the early days of Hollywood, including during WWII.  New episodes of a serial were usually shown every week in the local theater before the “main feature”.   Many of these serial involved heroic characters in action-oriented tales and some involved costumes.  Anyway, the government puts together a group of these Hollywood guys and sends them into real action using the abilities they’ve honed while doing their own stunts in the movies.  This leads to lots of high adventure in the classic Hollywood style and encounters with Nazi scientists and other weirdness that turns out to be more than just Hollywood special effects!  The story is gripping and I’ll warn you not to get too attached to any one character…they don’t all have happy endings!

As I noted above I have some Serial Squad sketches in my sketch book.  This Is because I am working on drawing a serial squad story, written by Paul.  I won’t say more about that here however.  You’ll have to check back here at another time.  First, you should go to Paul’s Site or his blog and order some Serial Squad comics!  You do support the allies cause, right?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Falcon vs Arnim Zola: 3 stages of art

I love it when I get the chance to scan a piece as I complete each stage.  I've been reading Jack Kirby's 70's Captain America run recently. It's one of my favorite Kirby runs.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Threadcount

Threadcount is a comic I picked up from its creator at Motor City Con this year.  Jay A. De Foy was actually set up right next to my table, so it was an easy comic for me to get ahold of!  Threadcount: The Tale of Norman Crest is a very interesting comic about a guy with the super-power of thread!  Does that sound ridiculous? Silly? Well…it could be, but it is handled very serious and straight-forward by Jay in this comic.  Norman Crest is an adventurer and archeologist and lover of Greek Myth and culture.  On one quest he encountered the Fates and they turned him into a living skein of thread.  I am a great great big lover of Greek myth  and I love this origin.  It’s a new and clever way to use Greek gods and I always like the inclusion of Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, the three aspects of Fate that control the tapestry of life.  It’s the idea that these three know what is happening in the world and can use their powers to influence, sometimes subtly, the fates of mortals that makes them fascinating to me.

In Norman’s case, his powers as a living skein include thread travel, which is like teleporting from one fabric to another, increased elasticity, and the ability to project balls of yarn.  He can also control his clothing to make a disguise or a heroic costume.  Jay notes in the introduction that the idea of these powers was to create a hero with power unlike any other.  As I said earlier, this could have been done in a silly way, but instead it reads like someone who really does end up with such powers.  Plus the Greek hero connection makes Norman take it seriously.  Oh, and I don’t mean there’s no humor in the book, or related to his powers, I just mean that the powers aren’t there just to be made fun of.

The book also introduces Norman’s intern Charlie Wild.  She’s pretty much mad at Norman all the way through the book.  Which probably means she’s his future love interest.  That’s how it usually works, right?

You can see Threadcount’s origin on Jay’s deviant art page.  Jay has a lot of really good art posted on his pages.  I didn’t mention it above, but the guy can really draw!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review: The Signifiers

I cannot discuss Michael Neno’s work without first mentioning Jack Kirby.  Jack Kirby is the greatest comic book artist ever.  There are a few that draw better than Kirby, and some that rank higher than Kirby on my list of favorites, but that doesn’t matter.  No one, and I mean absolutely NO ONE, has had as much impact on comics and what they are today than Jack “King” Kirby.  Kirby has been a great influence on artists and writers since he reached his peak popularity during his over 100 issues penciling and co-plotting the Fantastic Four.  There are many artists today who draw inspiration from Kirby or outright emulate him.  I will admit my own art is certainly influenced by Jack, and if mine work doesn’t look like Kirby’s it is because I don’t do a good enough job copying him.  Michael Neno is one of those artists whose work derives heavily from the King.  I do not classify Mike as someone who copies Kirby, but rather someone who does a great job channeling Kirby.

But enough of that.  On to the review!

The Signifiers is another comic I picked up at a recent convention.  It is entirely conceived and crafter by Michael Neno.  It looks great!  The ink work really catches your eye and the back-and-white printing helps this comic look very mysterious and far-out.  Many of the characters are humanoid animals, and they are incredibly visually striking!  The stand-out character is the dog with the human face.  Or is it a human with a dog body?

Which bring me to the story, which I can best describe as far-out!  The world of the signifiers is dark, creepy, and fantastic.  There’s some type of psychic energy all around and factions feuding over territory and power.  Or at least that’s the impression I get.  There’s a lot of mystery and the big question of what the “Voyst” is.  There are lines like “Cosmic consciousness in its most essential form emanates from the Voyst” which sounds very freaky but also like something Kirby would write.

Michael has lots of examples of his work on his website, so check out his work!  It’s old-school greatness!!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sketches: Blink, Green Gorgon, Inquiring Minds

So, when sitting around with some paper and having just read some of Max Ink's Blink comic, what do I do?  This:
Max Ink's Blink

And these sketches were created in similar ways, as something to help keep me fresh when I ad some spare time.  I hope the respective creators enjoy my little tributes!

Mike Indovina's Satyr

John Steventon's Inquiring Minds

Mike Indovina's Green Gorgon
Just a Spaceman I made up