Friday, June 24, 2016

Kickstarter: Buyer Beware??

Kickstarter is a public-benefit corporation based in New York which has built a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity. The company’s stated mission is to help bring unique projects to life. Kickstarter has reportedly received more than $1.9 billion in pledges from 9.4 million backers to fund 257,000 projects such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology and food-related projects.

People who back Kickstarter projects are offered tangible rewards and one of a kind experiences in exchange for their pledges. But Kickstarter is not a store and your donations actually don't guarantee you anything and often these projects struggle to come to fruition despite being fully funded and have on rare occasions have even failed to materialize.

As of this month I funded a comic book project a full year ago that received far more in donations than its originally stated financial goal to complete two issues of a six issue series. At that time I modestly backed the project in order to receive the remaining two issues, but as stretch goals began to be earned, I upped my committment substantially in order to receive an art commission of the character of my choice. I am still waiting, and this isn't a reason to panic as sometimes the projects simply take longer. I am only writing this after long months of occasional inquiries have netted me little more than token assurances that progress was being made, plus samples of pages to back their claim up. I have no doubt that this series will be finished soon and the rewards sent out - finally.
The real reason that I object to the established professionals that sought help to finish their series is that over the last year on various social media forums like Facebook, they have periodically posted photos and comments from convention appearances where they've been selling one of the primary stretch goal items that backers earned and yet have not actually been sent? One of those token assurances previously suggested that they might go ahead and send the items that were ready, but that was apparently nothing but gas meant to assuage and then dissipate as soon as it was spoken. I have also found it galling to see the artist regularly posting completed commission artwork done for paying customers, including some that he has teased to be bringing to the upcoming San Diego Comicon. It is bad form, it is very discourteous unprofessional and downright shitty on their part; if you ask me.

I understand that life happens and that these men need to make a living, but they have been cavalier in their responsibility towards those of us who funded their project. I have lost all respect for the pair of them and at this point all that I and their backers can do is wait, while they continue to languidly take their time accomplishing two measly issues?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Is DC Rebirth doomed from the start?

Well the initial first issues for DC Comics "Rebirth" publishing effort have begun dropping and already cracks appear to be evident. Does this signal inherent problems with such ongoing rebranding efforts in order to periodically prop up sales, or is is just a bump in the road that will soon right itself? We have to wait and see!

No matter which options proves accurate, several things must be pointed out. Namely that titles initially shipped twice monthly is not the best way to treat your loyal customers. It is gouging the admittedly small fanbase, but price gouging nonetheless. This needs to stop! Of course in order to pull off this increased frequency multiple artists for some series is the method DC Comics has chosen to achieve this end. To me this makes it much more difficult to get a feel for the relaunched titles as the cohesion necessary to make a better monthly comic will be harder to discern given disparate art styles. This needs to stop!
DC comics chose to kill off the New 52 version of the Man of Steel who has been carrying the torch over the last five years, and now the pre-Flashpoint Superman exists alongside Clark Kent apparently, having survived the Flashpoint event living in hiding under an assumed named with his wife Lois Lane and their son Johnathan. “Pre-Flashpoint” or “Post-Crisis” Kal-el take your pick, but he doesn’t wear the classic suit and other than a color tweak, his costume mirrors his recently deceased namesake, but with blue boots instead of red. Because that makes so much better sense?

 Adding insult to injury, there is also an entirely different New Super-Man over in another book and he is Chinese. Lex Luthor is also Superman over in Action Comics and Lois Lane (or some alternate version of Lois) is now Superwoman. You can’t make shit like this up; unless (I suppose) you can?
Strangely some promoted series like Super Sons and Justice League have also just disappeared from upcoming solicitations. Further evidence of trouble or simply one of those things, who knows? Whether DC Rebirth will ultimately be perceived as the afterbirth that lived is a discussion for one year hence.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Penny Dreadful .... gone, but never forgotten!!

The Showtime series Penny Dreadful pulled off a fast one in their third season finale, by bringing things to a conclusion. That is right! They stealth inserted a series finale to the surprise and disappointment of their hardcore fanbase. I count myself among them and have to admit that given series creator John Logan's asseration that this was planned all along, some things in hindsight seem a little suspect to me.
Why, if this was the grand finale envisioned all along, did Logan basically send his stable of story-wise tightly integrated characters so far afield individually this year only to bring them all together in the last episode? Also much was teased and/or intimated about what might have been season four content (do I hear "Imhotep" anyone)? Oh well, if this was where the tale of Vanessa Ives simply had to end, as a fan we were treated to a course of sugar to make the medicine go down.

I do feel as if viewers who have yet to give Penny Dreadful a chance will subsequently come to regret not having supported the show while it was airing, as this excellent television production has struggled to find a sizable enough audience to have perhaps changed the mind of its own creator. Needless to say the cast of Penny Dreadful (Eva Green, Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, Rory Kinear, etc.) was superb and rarely has a shortrun series managed to be of this high quality only to fade quietly away in the most unsuspecting fashion.

To those who may still be on the fence for what this series had to offer, if you have any familiarity with a terrible film called The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen starring Sean Connery from some years past, based upon the Alan Moore comic book; then this show was literally like that concept but done absolutely correctly. I am going to miss Penny Dreadful in the worst possible way!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ominous Press .... Reborn!!

This past weekend I enjoyed attending the 34th annual Heroes Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s always great catching up with the “tribe”, that vast coalition of comics and genre fans plus many talented industry professionals who’ve long made Heroes part of their yearly tradition. The ambience of Shelton Drum’s show is always palpable and guaranteed to be chockfull of fun. This year was no exception either!

Also these days you just don’t see the same degree of publisher presence as was typically common fifteen or twenty years ago, but one highlight of Heroes Con for me was seeing the rebirth of artist Bart Sears mid-1990s imprint Ominous Press. Sears alongside his partners, writer/editor Ron Marz, fellow artists Andy Smith & Tom Raney and publisher Sean HusVar debuted a new preview issue this very weekend in Charlotte featuring chapters introducing their upcoming titles and creative teams that will comprise the reborn Ominous; namely Prometheus (Sears-Mars-Raney), Giantkillers (Sears) and Demi-God (Sears-Marz-Smith).  The overarching plot that will entwine each diverse book is teased, and I do have to say that if the ongoing quality matches this premiere issue, then you should all plan to pick up these books once they hit the shops; although some details over how that happens have yet to be determined.
Sears and company seemingly steeped these new series in classic high adventure concepts and old school mythology, but with modern twists that may break out of normal fan expectations, but time will tell? I do know that I am looking forward to seeing where Ominous Press takes us!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Star Wars: Battlefront (Bespin DLC)!!

On June 21st the second major dlc for Star Wars: Battlefront drops two weeks early for season pass holders, like yours truly. Bespin will take the battle to Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back and also adds the rogue Lando Calrissian and the bounty hunter Dengar as new playable characters; plus another assortment of new weapons, vehicles, star cards, etc.

I've enjoyed playing this game and am curious to see how far this update will raise the current level cap, sitting at 60 for the moment. It will also be fun seeing stormtroopers get blasted off into the abyss, if I'm truly being honest. And it is about time to get back into the game, so don't look for me early next week. My non-work hours will be spent in a galaxy far, far away!!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Heroes Convention 2016!!

This weekend I will be heading to Charlotte, North Carolina for the annual Heroes Convention featuring the usual lineup of comic book industry favorites including: Neal Adams, Mark Bagley, Frank Brunner, Bob Camp, Kelly Sue DeConnick, DMC, Evan Dorkin, Steve Epting, Matt Fraction, Ramona Fradon, Basil Gogos, Michael Golden, Mike Grell, Jason Latour, David Peterson, Eric Powell, Don Rosa, Bart Sears, Bill Sienkiewicz, Brian Stelfreeze, Jim Steranko, William Stout, Babs Tarr, Lee Weeks and many more. The Inkwell Awards ceremony will be held there on Friday evening and the Saturday evening charity art auction is a thing of legend. Hope to see you all there and among the usual cosplay gang, will be Riddle herself (see image of her recent charity photo for Canada), say hello to Riddle and thank her especially for that one!!

Friday, June 10, 2016

1970's Flashback: The Butterfly

Hell-Rider #2 (1971)
Skywald was a short-lived company best known for horror comic magazines like Nightmare, Psycho, and Scream (with a similar adult format as those released by Warren Publications), not submitted for Comics Code Authority scrutiny.  In 1971 two 64 page issues of Hell-Rider were published starring a vigilante-motorcyclist named Brick Reese. Backup features included another biker gang The Wild Bunch and the subject of this flashback. The Butterfly was the first Black super-heroine in comics history. She only had the two adventures in each of these issues, but her stories had top talent attached to them such as Gary Friedrich, John Celardo, and Rich Buckler.

Marian Michaels, alias The Butterfly, was a nightclub singer who also faced off against a white supremacist secret society with a leader who had penetrated the halls of power in Washington. The organization called the Brothers of the Crimson Cross mission was nothing less than the total eradication of non-white races in America. The Butterfly wore a really skimpy costume but never degenerated into typical blaxploitation themes common at the time and managed to present a well-rounded depiction of the lead African-American female hero.
Unused splash page by R. Buckler

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Newsarama picks the greatest DC Comics Stories of all time!

Newsarama has recently asked its readers to vote for the greatest stories ever published by DC Comics and the list of those tales that were selected is certainly very impressive including classics (going from #10 to #1)such as “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”; “The Return of Barry Allen”; “The Judas Contract”; “Sinestro Corps War”; “The Dark Knight Returns”; “DC: The New Frontier”; “All-Star Superman”; “The Great Darkness Saga”; “Crisis on Infinite Earths”; and “Kingdom Come.”

An assortment of exceptional stories and/or runs that have become known as classics for sure, but an argument could be made to include other Alan Moore works such as Watchmen or his “The Anatomy Lesson” from Swamp Thing, not to mention classic Denny O’Neil-Neal Adams work on Batman or Green Lantern/Green Arrow too. Still since these were fan picks, it is hard to take too much of an exception. If for some reason you’ve missed any of these adventures, trades paperback editions are readily available for you to catch up on.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Josie and the Pussycats are coming back!!

Perennial publisher Archie Comics has announced another reinvention from their catalogue of classic characters with the notice that Josie and the Pussycats are getting a makeover too.
Marguerite Bennett and Cameron DeOrdio will write the series, with art by Audrey Mok. Mok also draws the cover of the first issue (see above), but as with their upcoming Betty & Veronica reboot, Josie & the Pussycats #1 will also feature variant covers from fellow Archie Comics artists Veronica Fish (Archie) and Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife with Archie).  If the interiors look as terrific as her cover, artist Audrey Mok just guaranteed that I will be picking this title up this September?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Enter the DC Universe Online!!

DC Universe Online (abbreviated DCUO) is a free-to-play action combat massive multiplayer online game set in the DC Universe of DC Comics. Developed by Daybreak Game Company and co-published by WB Games, it was originally released on January 11, 2011.

The player creates a new, original character that interacts with the heroes and villains of DC Comics. Players choose their character's faction (Hero or Villain), gender (male or female), body type (both height and muscularity), personality (comical, flirty, powerful, primal, serious), movement mode (flight, acrobatics, speed or skimming), weapon, and power (fire, ice, gadgets, mental, nature, sorcery, earth, light, electricity, rage, quantum, celestial, munitions, and atomic). Further customization includes numerous hair, skin, and costume types and up to 3 colors which can be applied to your color scheme palette. Pre-built templates can also be utilized which are inspired by some key DC characters to expedite the whole character creation process.
Once the player's character is named (here you’ll need to be creative as most obvious names are already claimed), they are thrown into the world of DC Universe Online, having to fight their way out of a spaceship; the tutorial teaches counter mechanics and using power and skill points. Eventually the player's character is made an official member of the Justice League or the Secret society of Super-villains, where they continue on their missions to increase their level and skill in various content.

DCUO was added to X-Box One on April 29, 2016 and frankly I’ve been playing the heck out of it. This is a very fun game! Once you earn enough renown to get invited to the Watchtower (for heroes) and the Hall of Doom (for villains), things get even more exciting. I will say that paying attention to what NPC’s (non-player characters) say is crucial, particularly in arena matches to earn loot, or you will become lost. This has happened to me a number of times when matched with three other players, all of whom are expected to work together to achieve necessary goals within matches in order to advance to that areas full rewards. Many times in frustration players drop out leaving it almost impossible to complete tasks. Of course had those dummies been paying attention to all of the suggestions and/or on-screen tips, they may have realized that they were actually the problem all along?
I would still recommend DC Universe Online to anyone interested in creating their own superhero to ultimately fight alongside greats like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or their twisted counterparts Lex Luthor, the Joker and Circe (plus literally dozens of popular DC characters).

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Captain America: Civil War!!

I did not post a review of Captain America: Civil War when it was released earlier in the month, but now seems like a good time to sum up my feelings about the latest blockbuster Marvel Studios release. Simply put this great movie pulled off that rarest of film trifectas by becoming the first superhero trilogy to actually post a note perfect three picture run.

Man, this flick was equal parts great standalone film, a great next chapter in the overall cinematic Marvel Universe, and yet still managed to also serve as a great setup for fun things yet to come. The newly introduced heroes Black Panther and the latest Spider-Man were truly epic and fun, plus the large cast all shined in exceptional ways. It is weird being a 54 year old fan seeing stuff from your wayward youth brought to life on the big screen! If you have not yet seen the film and by some chance you are familiar with the 2007 comics storyline that this film is based upon, then expect some deviations from that material. For my money, this movies script improved upon many things from the original source material.
Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. each found impressive new depth in their familiar characters of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, but for fans it comes at a cost of seeing their onscreen relationship fractured by films end. Thematically tying up many threads from the previous Cap flicks and also incorporating incidents from the twin Avengers films surprisingly does not bog things down, a testament to the talent of the Russo Brothers as writers and directors. Jockeying a dozen major heroes plus a number of secondary roles seems to be their forte. In addition to Captain America (Evans) and Iron Man (RDJ) returning cast members include Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow; Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier; Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon; Don Cheadle as James "Rhodey" Rhodes / War Machine; Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye; Paul Bettany as The Vision; Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch; Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man; Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter; Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow / Crossbones; and William Hurt as Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (from The Incredible Hulk).  If that doesn’t seem like a top heavy cast, we are also introduced to Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa / Black Panther and Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man whose solo movies are set up by this films mid and post credits scenes (might wanna stick around for those at the conclusion). Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo provides the main villain of the film in a departure from his comics version, but very effectively done. Captain America: Civil War ranks as one of the best big budget superhero films of all time; hands down (and I didn’t even spoil some of the better moments for fans)!!

In Memorium: Mell Lazarus

Mell Lazarus, creator of the comic strip Momma, passed away at the age of 89 on May 24, 2016. Lazarus grew up in New York and like many of his golden age peers started his career as a cartoonist while still in his teens. He worked for Li’l Abner creator Al Capp and also for Toby Press (which was managed by Capp’s brother), he later turned his experiences in book publishing into a novel, The Boss Is Crazy, Too. He launched Miss Peach in 1957 (which ran until 2002); he later began Momma in 1970 and it is still running, although with different creators.

Lazarus won the National Cartoonists Society's award for Newspaper Strip, Humor, in 1973 and 1979, both times for Miss Peach. On January 23, 2016, Lazarus became the second recipient of that organizations Medal of Honor, established just last year. He previously won the Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, for Miss Peach, in 1981, and later that organization's Silver T-Square Award in 2000. The Catacombs extends its condolences to his family, friends and fans.