Friday, 19 December 2014

Funding Friday, "Moonshot" - Comics & Crowdfunding News

Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection Vol. 1
Edited by Hope Nicholson

Hope is rapidly becoming the most cited person on this blog, which I suppose goes to show just how busy she's been this past year-and-a-bit. Having brought both Brok Windsor and Nelvana of the Northern Lights back to our bookshelves, Hope is building a reputation for being the go-to person for comics Canadiana and it makes perfect sense to me that she was the one Andy Stanleigh approached to edit Moonshot, Alternate History Comics' next cultural comics codex. Just this past year AH released another kickstarted anthology, The Jewish Comics Anthology, edited by Jewish librarian Steven Bergson, and hinting at what may become this publisher's modus operandi: collecting well-curated and respectfully presented collections of cultural stories as a literary window onto worlds which we as modern readers may not entirely understand.
Cover for Moonshot; original painting by Cree artist Stephen Gladue
For me, this respectful approach is one of the shining highlights of the Moonshot project. K.D. Callaghan's interview with Andy for directly addresses the issue that immediately struck me as the biggest problem a project such as this faces: cultural appropriation. Andy met the question head-on.
One of the biggest concerns when working with Indigenous stories and culture is that of cultural appropriation. You’ve noted that any traditional stories are being printed with the permission of the elders in their respective communities—a wonderful and respectful way to deal with this issue. Were there any other concerns around appropriation with this project? If so, how did you handle them?

There were definitely concerns about appropriation, and both Hope Nicholson and I are big comic book fans who have seen a lot of the character stereotypes out there. Even with the best of intentions, non-indigenous writers and/or artists can unwittingly cross that line from tradition to stereotype/appropriation. The way we’ve dealt with this is being extremely selective with which writers and artists we bring on board. The collection will be comprised of over 90% indigenous creators, who have all had a say in who they work with on MOONSHOT.  As well, the non-indigenous creators involved are all experts in the field who have a massive history of work in the community behind them, and are welcomed by the indigenous creators involved.
Now, that answer made me pretty damn happy, so when I got around to reading Hope's mission statement for Moonshot (as posted by Sequential), it was the icing on the cake.
  1. Accuracy – No mish-mash of cultures or appropriation. (ie. If a traditional story is being relayed from a Metis culture, don’t have characters with Cherokee outfits).
  2. Permission – a writer brought up that some stories are not meant to be told outside of the community. When in doubt in regards to the appropriate public telling of traditional stories, I’ve asked the writer to consult with an elder if possible. Google is a great place to start with research, but must be used judiciously.
  3. No addiction or self-harm in the stories. Not because these issues aren’t important or relevant, but when you turn on the news and that’s the only representation you see, it becomes a biased view of what everyday culture is. I know there is a greater variety of stories that can be told.
  4. Creators – Together, the publisher and I researched and found a great variety of artists and writers that identify as indigenous. Having stories told by members of the community, and to encourage young aspiring artists/writers is very important. It’s also important to me to prove that there is no excuse for a non-indigenous writer/artist to not create a complex indigenous character, and there are a few non-indigenous creators involved in this collection.
  5. Romanticizing – Too often a writer will see old-fashioned stereotypes and go so far in the other direction that they end up doing the exact thing they wanted to avoid. Any reference to a brave, dying culture rings to me as an untruth and stories that portray this type of depiction are not included.
I think the second item on the list is crucial. I'm far from being an expert on First Nations culture and one of the least comfortable people when it comes to engaging in the seemingly tenuous relationship between the North American indigenous peoples and all us other folk who came from somewhere else. But the sentiment I am most familiar with, and which coincides with what Hope mentions in her blurb, is that these stories are not ours to tell. I can't even begin to elaborate on what all that issue entails, and I won't try, but I'll say that it seems to me the Moonshot project is going about this matter in all the right ways.

"Water Spirit" - Haiwei Hou
As mentioned in that fourth item on Hope's list, the project sports an impressive team of artists and writers.
Claude St-Aubin (R.E.B.E.L.S., Green Lantern, Captain Canuck)
Jeffery Veregge (G.I. Joe, Judge Dredd)
Stephen Gladue (MOONSHOT cover artist)
Haiwei Hou (Two Brothers)
Nicholas Burns (Arctic Comics, Curse of Chucky, Super Shamou)
Scott B. Henderson (Man to Man, Tales from Big Spirit)
Jon Proudstar (Tribal Force)
George Freeman (Captain Canuck, Aquaman, Batman)
Mark Shainblum (Northguard, Corum: The Bull and The Spear)
Elizabeth LaPensee (Survivance, The Nature of Snakes, Fala)
Buffy Sainte-Marie (Fire & Fleet & Candlelight, Coincidence & Likely Stories)
Richard Van Camp (Path of the Warrior, Kiss Me Deadly)
Ryan Huna Smith (Tribal Force)
David Robertson (The Evolution of Alice, Stone)
Steve Sanderson (Darkness Calls, Journey of the Healer)
Michael Sheyahshe (Native Americans in Comic Books, Dark Owl)
David Cutler (The Northern Guard)
...and more!
Stamps by Jeffery Veregge

The campaign is offering a slick-looking selection of backer awards, including a set of limited-run Canadian postage stamps, some artsy bookmarks (something which AH did for the Jewish anthology too, and are well worth the money), and an assortment of prints and digital options. No original art offerings have been posted yet, but there are some canvas prints for those so inclined. Great looking rewards. Oh, and you can get the book too. In case you were wondering.

Suffice it to say I'm hardly the only blogger out here chronicling cool comics crowdfunding campaigns (though I may be the only one obsessed with alliteration), and certainly not the only one following this project. There's a whole host of worthwhile interviews, ponderings, and reviews out around the web that you should take a gander at. And while you're out there exploring, read this thing on First Nations creation narratives that Rebecca Solnit just wrote for The New Yorker. It's pretty rad.

Paper Droids
Geek Hard
The Beat
Digital Drum
They Stand on Guard
Pastrami Nation

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Hobbit - A Final Musing

Now that I've got all that out of my system, I really did enjoy the film last night. As with the previous films in this trilogy, there were characters and moments that came off flawlessly on screen. Bilbo's parting with the dwarves before the gates of Erebor had tears welling up in my eyes. It was a reminder of just how lucky this generation, and our parents', have been to see this world of our childhood brought to life by the magic that is cinema. I put my trust in John Howe and Alan Lee's vision of Middle Earth many years ago, and they have never let me down. By their design I've witnessed Tom, Bert, William squabbling over dinner in Trollshaw forest; listened to a contest of riddles in the dark; laid eyes on The Lonely Mountain across the Long Lake. And it's all been a rather profound experience. I still maintain that it would be worthwhile to re-edit the trilogy; if one were to cut out all the extraneous blockbuster-mongering action and romance, you would be left with a pretty darn accurate rendition of Tolkien's story. A lot of work for some fan out there, but if you ever pull it off let me know. I want to watch that cut.

We die-hard lovers of Tolkien's world have had to put up with some downright wrong implications in the films these past few years, fabrications made with the intention of tying Jackson's trilogies together into a cohesive franchise (because we all know Tolkien was no good at creating a unified world for his stories to exist in...right?). I think the most forced of these instances comes at the end of The Battle of the Five Armies when Thranduil sends Legolas off to find the Dunedain and meet/mentor a "young ranger" named "Strider". From a strictly canonical point of view, this is absurd. Aragorn was ten years old at the time of the Battle of the Five Armies, being fostered by Elrond in Rivendell, and would not even come to know his true name for another ten years. He would not be known as "Strider" for five more years after that. Tolkien would shudder, I think, at the implication that Legolas and Aragorn had known each other already for nearly eighty years by the time the Council of Elrond brought The Fellowship together. It's unnecessary conjecture on Jackson's part; mythology is meant to have gaps, but PJ is bent on explaining them away. Leave it! It's myth.

My point in all this is more than just bandying facts and inconsistencies about, which any Tolkien-obsessed fan can (and, with the slightest provocation, will) do. The films ends with Bilbo's return to Bag End, only to discover that his life (and many spoons) as he left it is being auctioned away. He's been presumed dead, and upon his return there is much debate as to whether or not he really is who he says he is. After all, hobbits who leave The Shire on such adventures are hardly expected, or desired, to return.
Bag End (by John Howe)
Indeed Bilbo found he had lost more than spoons - he had lost his reputation. It is true that for ever after he remained an elf-friend, and had the honour of dwarves, wizards, and all such folk as ever passed that way; but he was no longer quite respectable. He was in fact held by all the hobbits of the neighbourhood to be 'queer'-except by his nephews and nieces on the Took side, but even they were not encouraged in their friendship by their elders. I am sorry to say he did not mind. He was quite content; and the sound of the kettle on his hearth was ever after more musical than it had been even in the quiet days before the Unexpected Party. His sword he hung over the mantelpiece. His coat of mail was arranged on a stand in the hall (until he lent it to a Museum). His gold and silver was largely spent in presents, both useful and extravagant - which to a certain extent accounts for the affection of his nephews and his nieces. His magic ring he kept a great secret, for he chiefly used it when unpleasant callers came. He took to writing poetry and visiting the elves; and though many shook their heads and touched their foreheads and said "Poor old Baggins!" and though few believed any of his tales, he remained very happy to the end of his days, and those were extraordinarily long.
 The films does a superb job of illustrating the contrast between Bilbo and the hobbits he finds himself surrounded by upon his return. They clearly don't understand what he's been through, don't understand the weight of the name "Thorin Oakenshield" upon the contract papers he produces to prove his identity, cannot for the life of them fathom why he would have an orc helmet slung under one arm. The Shire, of course, was Tolkien's metaphorical England, the epitome of armchair-lounging, pipe-smoking, tea-drinking modern comfort. When confronted with the stuff of myth and legend, with the concept of adventure and the change in a character's spirit wrought by such trial, the hobbits simply don't get it. I couldn't help but watch that final scene with a wry smile on my face, for a I saw in those confused and disconcerted hobbit faces none other than Peter Jackson, who may have started out back in 2001 on a noble quest to bring us unadulterated Tolkien but who has long since lost himself in the armchair of Hollywood. 

I will likely return to the movies once a year or so, watching them with friends and family on holidays, and surely watching The Two Towers more often than any of the others. But I will surely return to the books and the world within their pages, crafted with almost palpable love. Someday I'll read the books aloud to my kids and introduce them to that world, where little folk are capable of great things and dwarves counselled by ravens rule halls of gold beneath a mountain. And maybe, eventually, I'll let them watch the movies, if only to see if they miss Roac, son of Carc, as much as I do.

Roac, son of Carc (by John Howe)

"Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!" said Bilbo.
"Of course!" said Gandalf. "And why should not they prove true? Surely you don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!"
"Thank goodness!" said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.

The Hobbit - The Rant (or, There and Back Again...and Again...and Again)

Heads up; this post may contain spoilers. As it is a commentary on a story published in 1937 to which the film in all major points adheres rather faithfully, any spoilers are, therefore, material that was extraneous to the film anyway, and really shouldn't concern you too much. Take that as you will.

So...I went and saw The Battle of the Five Armies last night (at least I think there were five; it got a little hard to tell at one point). A few key points from the film, before I launch into something a tad more detailed:
  1. Legolas successfully defends his title as Lord of Physics
  2. Dain II Ironfoot should be using an axe, not a hammer
  3. Armoured goats?
Now, to business. 

I've had mixed feelings about these Hobbit films for some time now. When Peter Jackson announced the fracturing of the story into three separate movies I recognized the money-grab instantly, but could also see the structural sense it made to split the story in three. The trouble is, I'm so much in love with the Middle Earth that artists John Howe and Alan Lee have helped the team at Weta bring to life that it's been hard for me to take issue with it. In The Battle of the Five Armies , however, changes have been made to some fundamental aspects of the story, changes which I am not sure I can accept.

This movie doesn't actually cover a lot of book. It would take me perhaps an hour-and-a-half to read aloud the last six chapters in which the events of the film are told, complete with details and entire characters that simply aren't in PJ's interpretation, and yet I sat through a two-and-a-half hour film last night. Knowing this, it saddens me that certain simple yet key things were either altered or overlooked entirely (Roac son of Carc, anyone?). I must urge everyone reading this, if you have not already, read Tokien's novel. If you enjoyed the tale you've encountered (perhaps for the first time) in this trilogy of films, go find a cheap paperback copy of The Hobbit, curl up in an armchair for the day and lose yourself in the tale as it was ever intended to be. Yeah, I'm sentimental about it; but you'll never understand why unless you read it for yourself.

Those who have only ever seen the films, for example, will never know that Bilbo is ultimately responsible for the slaying of Smaug. For it is Bilbo who, in his banter with the dragon, discovers that Smaug the Impenetrable is not quite as impenetrable as he might think he is ("Old fool! Why there is a large patch in the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell!"). He relates the facts of the matter to Thorin and company, a conversation overheard by...the thrush. The same thrush whose knocking upon the rocks leads Bilbo to discover the door.
"Drat the bird!" said Bilbo crossly. "I believe he is listening, and I don't like the look of him."
"Leave him alone!" said Thorin. "The thrushes are good and friendly-this is a very old bird indeed, and is maybe the last left of the ancient breed that used to live about here, tame to the hands of my father and grandfather. They were a long-lived and magical race, and this might even be one of those that were alive then, a couple of hundreds years or more ago. The Men of Dale used to have the trick of understanding their language, and used them for messengers to fly to the Men of the Lake and elsewhere.
"Well, he'll have news to take to Lake-town all right, if that is what he is after," said Bilbo; "though I don't suppose there are any people left there that trouble with thrush-language."
 Turn your eyes southward now, where Esgaroth is under attack. The town has seen the dragon coming, rallied, and with evacuation underway has met Smaug onslaught with a storm of arrows. A bowman named Bard is down to his last arrow, and is startled when a (nay, the) thrush alights on his shoulder. 
Unafraid it perched by his ear and it brought him news. Marvelling he found he could understand its tongue, for he was of the race of Dale.
"Wait! Wait!" it said to him. "The moon is rising. Look for the hollow of the left breast as he flies and turns above you!" And while Bard paused in wonder it told him of tidings up in the Mountain and of all that it had heard. Then Bard drew his bow-string to his ear.
There's a reason my SCA heraldry is
a black thrush holding an arrow.
The rest, as they say, is history. The film paints quite a different picture. Bard, the only person in the town fighting the wyrm, standing alone atop a tower with some ridiculous jury-rigged ballista (Smaug has broken his bow and is talking to him...what?) spots the gap in the dragon's armour all by himself. It removes Bilbo entirely from the central role for which Tolkien always intended him; this is a story about a hobbit who, intentionally or otherwise, is responsible for some incredible events (like the slaying of the last great dragon), the weight of which he does not fully understand.

Let's fast-forward to Thorin's death on the screen. He is killed in a gimmicky single-combat sequence atop a frozen waterfall with an orc who was meant to be dead 142 years ago. And I don't mean "meant" in that they supposed he had died from his wounds; Tolkien writes that Azog was killed in 2799 by Dain II Ironfoot, and the Battle of the Five Armies was fought in 2941. So, yeah. Way to stick to the text, PJ. That's been bugging me for three years now. Anyway, that's not really the point. The point is the way it affects Thorin's character at the end of the story. We see him come back to being himself again, come bursting out of the mountain and rally the dwarven forces to him, break the goblin ranks, and then...jump on an armoured mountain that materialized from frakking nowhere and bugger off up a mountain to chase a single orc. Where he dies, and Bilbo happens to be there also (because he must warn Thorin of the other secret army, which PJ invented so that he'd have something to warn Thorin about) just in time to hear the great dwarf's last words...which are damn near identical to Boromir's last words to Aragorn in The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). But that's not how the story goes.
When Gandalf saw Bilbo, he was delighted. "Baggins!" he exclaimed. "Well I never! Alive after all - I am glad! I began to wonder if even your luck would see you through! A terrible business, and it nearly was disastrous. But other news can wait. Come!" he said more gravely. "You are called for;" and leading the hobbit he took him within the tent.
"Hail! Thorin," he said as he entered. "I have brought him."
There indeed lay Thorin Oakenshield, wounded with many wounds, and his rent armour and notched axe were cast upon the floor. He looked up as Bilbo came beside him.
"Farewell, good thief," he said. "I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed. Since I leave now all gold and silver, and go where it is of little worth, I wish to part in friendship from you, and I would take back my words and deeds at the Gate."
Thorin dies not in single combat with some mythical orc but as a soldier, wounded many times by many foes as he led by example in the middle of everything. And lying, torn and bleeding on his deathbed after the battle is won, he asks for Bilbo to be brought to him so that he can make amends. It's his initiative, the summons of a king which Tolkien knew is no small matter. Jackson's obsession with nemesis, pitting Azog against Thorin and Bolg against Legolas (I'm not even gonna touch that one...except maybe once, later), has effectively robbed us of the intended destiny of Thorin Oakenshield.

How great would the battle scene have been if PJ had stuck to the text? I'm frankly sick of the narrative contortions through which the script had to go to set up certain characters' deaths. Instead of
Thorin wielded his axe with mighty strokes, and nothing seemed to harm him. "To me! To me! Elves and Men! To me! O my kinsfolk!" he cried, and his voice shook like a horn in the valley.
we get a bunch of elves and dwarves cavorting through towers on mountain peaks and hanging upside-down from giant flying bats (don't ask) in a bizarre series of swashbuckling hijinks that is...ridiculous. There's no other word for it. What of Beorn? He's overlooked entirely, except for one shot where he actually gets airdropped into combat by the Eagles. And then we never see him again. To PJ, this guy's just a giant shapeshifting bear-man who offers some sick CGI opportunities. Tolkien actually had a purpose for Beorn, as he had a purpose for everything he created.
In that last hour Beorn himself had appeared - no one knew how or from where. He came alone, and in bear's shape; and he seemed to have grown almost to giant-size in his wrath. The roar of his voice was like drums and guns; and he tossed wolves and goblins from his path like straws and feathers. He fell upon their rear, and broke like a clap of thunder through the ring. The dwarves were making a stand still about their lords upon a low rounded hill. Then Beorn stooped and lifted Thorin, who had fallen pierced with spears, and bore him out of the fray. Swiftly he returned and his wrath was redoubled, so that nothing could withstand him, and no weapon seemed to bite upon him. He scattered the bodyguard, and pulled down Bolg himself and crushed him.
And who wouldn't have loved to see Bolg killed by a giant bear, rather than...Legolas? Yeah, I went there. It bothers me. contest.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Electricomics - The Zine

In my earlier post on Electricomics, in which I reported on the Thought Bubble panel that I'd attended, I mentioned the zine I'd picked up from the Electriccrew at their table there. The booklet's available on  Alan Moore's online store, but it's likely that they're nearly out of stock. I've been asked if I could share the zine digitally, so I scanned it for your reading pleasure: an introduction to the Electricomics agenda, some wicked great art from Colleen Doran, an interview by Alison Gazzard, and a short comic about comics by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey. Enjoy!

(This publication can also be accessed here?e=12419341/10540340)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

When Art Critiques Go Wrong

I was perusing the long-defunct "Notes" section of my Facebook account today when I unearthed this gem from a few years ago; to be precise, from the 6th of October, 2011. I recall sitting down for an art history class called "The Critical Viewer" and being informed by a classmate that Steve Jobs had died of cancer. So naturally the lecture hall was abuzz by the time the prof walked in, calmed us down, and got the class rolling. He started by throwing this photo up on the screen...

Our task was to form small groups and come up with supposed commonly accepted and alternate views on the meaning behind this image. The later didn't have to be feasible; we could interpret the picture however we chose. I must have been in some kinda mood that morning because I may have let this one get a little out of hand. As recorded in my Facebook note from that day (with some belated proofreading):
"We begin with McDonald's. McDonald's is probably the most blatant, the ultimate, symbol of American consumerism and capitalist corporate business society. Now, a very large portion of corporate profits goes towards military funding; America has the world's single most potent military force, an accomplishment they have fought much opposition to achieve. Now, the McDonald's symbol on the crab-like creature is upside down in this image, and so becomes the middle initial of President Bush. George W. was born on July 6th, under the astrological sign of the crab, Cancer. Bush's invasion of the Middle East coupled with America's social values of excess have greatly impacted the Muslim world, and many conservative Islamic people refer to America as "The Great Satan", a term embodied in the horned top of the crab. Let's move on to the ketchup creature thing. There is a saying that only two things will survive a nuclear holocaust: cockroaches, and the Chinese. This cockroach form is clearly representative of China, especially in the politically-charged military context I will get to momentarily. The cockroach is red, with a distinct little yellow crescent on it, a symbol of the communist power with the ability to survive nuclear war. The other half of this military reference is the crab's shadow, which mimics the form of Sputnik and is a symbol of Soviet Russia and the Cold War arms race. Both Soviet Russia (shown to be merely a "shadow of the past") and Communist China have opposed and threatened America in its rise to power, but now they are portrayed as weak; one is a fleeting, insubstantial shadow while the other cowers beneath the powerful predatory stance of corporate America.

Now, in case you aren't convinced of the validity of this argument, allow me to prove to you three more ways in which the crab made of french fries represents America. Firstly, it stands for corporate America, and this is where it gets creepy. Some of you may be aware that Steve Jobs, the CEO and founder of Apple Inc., died yesterday. He was head of a corporation that landed at number 35 on 2011's Fortune 500, a significant player in the American economy. Now, that crab is made of fries, and fries are made from potatoes. They are, decidedly, "French" fries, and the French term for potato is "Pomme de Terre"..."Apple of the Earth". Apple. Now like I said, Steve Jobs died today. Of cancer. Which, as I have already told you, is the sign of the crab.

Now secondly, it stands for imperialist America. The Roman eagle, the symbol of the Legions and of the power of the Roman Empire, was adopted by America upon its constitution. The eagle was tradionally made of bronze if it were to be carried on campaign, gold for ceremonial purposes. Both of these metals are yellow or distinctly yellowish, dependent on their quality. So what in this image stands out as yellow? Well, the fries, and the three points of the "W". If you count up those points there are eight legs, two 'arms', and the three prongs of the letter, you get thirteen. There were thirteen colonies brought into Constitution in 1787, the first States of America.

And lastly, it represents America's international efforts to remain a step ahead of all their competition. I have been calling the larger figure in this image a "crab" up until this point, but I seemed to be one of few who saw it that way in class. Most people referred to as a "spider", and it definitely can come across that way. It has eight legs, and is certainly predatory. So let us work with the spider for a bit. Spiders in many cultural muthologies are the tricksters. They are the only living creature that sets a constructed trap and lies in wait for its prey to snare itself. Out of this devious characteristic have risen legends like Anansi as well as ficticious constructions like Tolkien's Ungoliant and Shelob. The creature in the image bears all these connotations. The crab also carries a distinctly engineered skeletal feel to it's composition, and this is no acident. The Central Intelligence Agency is rumoured to have been founded by members of a secret society at Yale University called Skull and Bones, the members of which are referred to as Bonesmen. The CIA is responsible for feeding intelligence to the American military, as well as conducting operations within allied and opposing countries to plant and manipulate information. In short, the Agency sets traps, spins webs, and then waits for someone to fall in. As well, George W. Bush is a known alumni of the Bonesmen. Coincidence? Perhaps..."
Don't worry; I'm well aware of how inaccurate parts of that spiel are, and the blustering bravado of the young art student that saturates my words (or in Art Spiegelman's words, "the Artist as a Young %@&*!", which I was). But it's a fun bit of nostalgia to look back on and a ridiculous glimpse into my brain, and now it's your ridiculous glimpse into my brain.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Electricomics - Revelations From Thought Bubble

"Not so much pushing the envelope of comicbook storytelling as folding it up to make a nice hat."

If you've been following the Electricomics project at all, you've probably realized by now what a strange beast it is: hard research, solid comics theory, coding and programming, all addressing the public in the sultry and whimsical tones of every comics reader's favourite British warlock and mall santa, Alan Moore. I didn't know much of anything, really, about Electricomics until last weekend's Thought Bubble comic art festival in Leeds, where I was able to attend a panel hosted by five members of the Electricrew (not my word): Mitch Jenkins, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Leah Moore, John Reppion, and Pete Hogan. The infamous Mr. Moore himself wasn't there, as will surprise exactly none of his fans; a good portion of that infamy is the man's reputation as a recluse. What he did send along as a token of his involvement was 500 pre-signed "zines", stapled 14-page A5 booklets containing some gorgeous art by Colleen Doran, an exclusive interview with Moore, and a new comic about digital comics written and illustrated by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey.
Not a bad companion for my morning cuppa
The panel set out to answer some unresolved questions for those in attendance about what exactly it was that Electricomics is attempting to do. I suspect I was one of the least informed people in the hall, having only read (so far as I can recall) this article which seemed to revel in the ambiguity of the information available in the days immediately following the project's press release...
"almost all of the information is coming from a press release, which tells us Electricomics is “an app that is both a comic book and an easy-to-use open source toolkit,” before focusing on the app, then abruptly telling us “Electricomics will be a 32-page showcase with four very different original titles.” By the end of the press release, you can probably piece together that we’re talking about a self-published anthology that will be released on the app, also called Electricomics. Even then, we’re told that Leah Moore, Alan’s daughter, “will edit the project.” Presumably, this means the comic called Electricomics, not the app — which the previous paragraph was talking about."(Sequart)
So, yeah. That's what we had to work with.

The biggest bit of new information to come out of the panel at Thought Bubble, or at least what stuck with me the most, is that this is not a commercial venture. It's an academic one. All the money for Electricomics is coming from the Digital Research and Development Fund for the Arts (something I would have known if I'd read their website), and as the project's press release explains, "As a publicly funded research and development project, Electricomics will be free to explore the possibilities of the comic medium, without the constraints of the industry". Because I'm a nerd for this kind of thing, I was stoked about the scholarly possibilities for this platform when I still thought we were being told this is gonna be Alan Moore's Comixology knock-off. So I almost wept with joy when I realized that a) Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, an incredibly sharp theorist (and cartoonist) specializing in the mechanics of digital comics is part of their development team, and b) that because the project is grant-funded they will be producing detailed documentation of the entire process, success, problems, solutions, the whole shebang. It's going to make great reading someday.

Those of you picturing Alan Moore hunched over a computer workstation writing code with his beard nearly hiding the keyboard, stop it. Don't be ridiculous; that's what he has code demons for (No, seriously, a shed full of 'em. It's in the zine.). Mr. Moore may not be a wizard of the tech variety, but it seems his self-proclaimed alienation from modern forms of media has allowed to conceive this project relatively unpolluted by the endeavours that precede it. He doesn't know Comixology, Madefire, or Manga Studio. He knows comics. That's something that was made crystal clear through the course of this panel, the idea that, if you could distill from the form the Essence of Comics, then that would be the driving technology behind this project. That's what a couple top theorists, legendary writers (did I mention Garth Ennis?), and hotshot programmers are doing with a bundle of government money: not an exercise in visual FX, motion graphic, music, flashinglight and pretty colours, but attempting to take the narrative structural and spatial freedom of a digital workspace and make it understandable and accessible to you app.

Which is going to come to you in two parts, apparently: Electricomics and Electricosmos. The former is a creative suite, a toolset with which you can make, well, comics. We're not entirely sure yet what all the tools are going to look like, what kind of canvas you'll have to work with, but the idea is (as I understand it) if you can conceive of the idea, and it can be done as a comic, then you can make that comic here. Which leaves rather a lot of possibilities. Some people are getting hung up on the "page" issue; namely, if this isn't just a scan-your-physical-comic-and-make-it-digital-here deal, but a born digital creation platform with infinite canvas, then why is Moore announcing a 32-page comic released along with the app? The only answer I've got's not that simple. There's an excellent essay posted on the Electricomics site which I highly recommend reading, co-written by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Alison Gazzard, concerned with the concept of digital "pages":
A useful definition of the page comes from Charles Hatfield (2009), who observes that:
‘The “page” (or planche, as French scholars have it, a term detonating the total design unit rather than the physical page on which it is printed) functions both as sequence and as object, to be seen and read in both linear and nonlinear, holistic fashion.’ 
[...]In the early stages of the Electricomics project, we’re in the process of transitioning from traditional page to digital planche. In this transition we’ve observed a tension between the comics creators, who take a holistic view of the page, and the technology partners, who are keen to deconstruct the page into separate assets and mechanics that will need to be implemented in the toolset.
When it comes to comics theory, listen to the French.  And Charles Hatfield; he's a sharp dude. The gist of what's being said here is, let go of whatever you thought a page was, at least in a physical sense. There are going to people coming to this from webcomics backgrounds and from ink-and-paper background (like yours truly), and from what the team's saying the tools should feel natural to all of us. Knowing Daniel and the research I've seen from him in the last month, they're covering their bases over there, and we've got nothing to worry about.
Join the Electricrew; pick up some badges over at Orphans of the Storm
Now the second part of all this is Electricosmos, which is a little bit less defined even than Electricomics. It's the publication and social network platform into which the toolset feeds. You make comics in the app, and you share them In this space, which doesn't have any rules as yet, or an interface, or an idea of exactly how right to your intellectual property are going work. They're working on it, though; if there's one dude you can bet your soul on being picky about IP laws and comics, it's Moore. There's a lot of work being done, they said, around contracts, given the online collaborative nature of the space they're building. Someone asked a question about content vetting, and got a reply that said "we're working on it, we'll get back to you in seven years." Not in those exact words, but that's the sentiment: the team is treading on such unfamiliar terrain at this point that they simply can't answer questions regarding how their network of multiple millions of creator-owned online comics is going to work when they haven't put the first tool into beta yet. The release of Electricosmos to the general market is a long way down the road. And it may never happen. It's a research project, not a commercial enterprise; failure is an entirely viable option. As Moore states in the interview found in the zine:
We may end up creating something that isn't technically a comic at all but that's not a bad thing.
Dare I say...Nemo?
Visit the project at

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Comics Studies - Stuck Happily in Transition

It's too damn easy to get caught up in routines of thought.

We as scholars have a job, don't we? We're meant to break new ground, come up with new ways of approaching problems, and come up with new problems where nobody had considered them before. If this is so, the biggest threat to our success is falling into routine and ceasing to revolutionize our thinking. "Ossifying" as I just heard it phrased at London's "Transitions" comics research symposium.

Comics refuse to settle. In every iteration of the form through history they've sought to outdo themselves, climbing over each other in a race to reach untouched conceptual and technical soil. This shouldn't be surprising; it's a statement that holds true for most if not all forms of art that developed through the 20th century, be they visual or written forms. Initially driven by the pure capitalist motivation to sell, innovation in comics took a turn for the radical when the Comics Code threatened the industry with stagnation and hasn't slowed down since. So why, then, am I hearing concern voiced in the halls of Birkbeck University of London, that the bones of our field are stiffening?
I can't say I necessarily agree with D'Orazio. After all, in the past 7 hours I've also been recipient to a wealth of theory and analysis that has jumpstarted my interest in new directions of study and renewed my faith in the field that I'm attempting to enter. Her polemic felt oddly incongruous, claiming disciplinary stagnation in the midst of a symposium entitled "new directions in comics studies". I do understand D'Orazio's concern. Studies of comics from a purely literary direction fall appallingly short in dealing with a text that is more than purely textual. Studies that corral comics within the traditions of Art History and expect it to play by the rules will almost inevitably end up struggling with matters of multiplex authorship and unconventional paths of influence, unless they stay strictly upon the beaten path of the accepted canon of Spiegelman and Satrapi, maybe dipping cautious toes into something like Herriman's Krazy Kat.

These disciplines have tools to offer Comics Studies, to be sure. Literary theory is, by nature, multidisciplinary. It deals with and is applied to the literary, but it often begins elsewhere: gender theory, sociology, philosophy, aesthetics, and so on. Comics can be literary, D'Orazio states, but they are not literature. Neither are they art, though they are undoubtedly an art form. Art History, a field that has developed to study the creation and impact of images in a canonized tradition, is not entirely equipped to deal with the network of image, text, book, labour, reproduction process, distribution, consumption, and criticism that makes up the scope of Comics Studies (I'm sure I missed some areas; please add them in the comments). I think what D'Orazio is saying is that we can apply literary theory and aesthetic theory to comics, but we must be careful not to stop there and get comfortable. I agree. But if she's worried that we've already stopped and settled into a holding pattern of platitudes on the form I'm afraid she's sorely mistaken.

We have the advantage not only of being a young and recently institutionalized field but also of being a field with a constantly and dynamically growing body of subject matter before us. We also have the advantage of being a field rife with creators, with figures like McCloud and Horrocks both working creatively as industry cartoonists and critically as key theorists in the field. Comics-specific theory is emerging to tackle the ways the changing industry is changing the form. We're standing with our feet planted firmly on either side of a historical transition as the Age of Mechanical Reproduction gives way to the Age of Digital Reproduction. The possibilities are endless, and if #Transitions5 has proven anything it's that if you fill a room with comics scholars they will all come to comics from a different direction. We're not exactly Shakespeare scholars here. There's no way we'll ever run out of material to study, unless your conception of the field begins and ends with McCay or Caniff, in which case I say to you WAKE UP! We live in an unfolding tapestry of webcomics, motion comicshypercomics, comics that occupy whole galleries, hand-printed comics, comics dissertations, 3D comics, poetry comics, journalism comics, info comics, comics with stoner-hipster bears quoting Bukowski...

...if we're getting bored, we're doing it wrong.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Gnosticism in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", and Other Stuff (like zombies!)

It's always a bit of an adventure tackling a topic you really know next to nothing about. When Canadian lit critic Jeet Heer fired up his Twitter essay machine yesterday and starting writing about Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a Gnostic fable, I knew I should respond. I also knew that I knew squat about Gnosticism, so basically there was a lot of of knowing about knowing about knowing going on and I figured I should write something on it. The brief essay I produced is published on Sacred & Sequential's website, along with all of Jeet's original thoughts on the matter. He makes some excellent points about the way the film fundamentally altered Hydra's role in the Captain America narrative, potentially even changing the nature of the narrative itself. I'm not entirely in agreement with Jeet there, but they're ideas worth discussing. Read it, give it a like, come back here and we'll talk.

In the realm of "other stuff", I've finally justified the name of this blog. If you pop on over to, there is empirical proof that I am now in England and painting watercolour horizons. Or at least, a watercolour horizon.

And if you catch this in the next hour-and-a-half, head over to Kickstarter and give AH Comics a last-ditch boost in their crowdfunding for the wicked cool zombie-head t-shirt that Adam Gorham designed for them. It's a rad shirt. You should buy one.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Crossing the Pond: A Cartoonist Abroad

This blog is about to become, heaven forbid, exactly what it was created to be...

A travel blog.

As has been mentioned before, I started this blog anticipating a year-long trip to Scotland that never happened. During the summer of 2012, with my travel plans in limbo, the Aurora theatre shooting in Colorado happened, leading me to write my first post, and after that this blog became...something else. A comics, arts, and culture blog, I suppose. It did, however, retained the sappy, romanticized title given it by an art student fantasizing about watercolour sketching on the highlands. So, there's that.

Now I've come full-circle, and the year abroad is actually happening! I landed in Manchester on Sunday morning, and I've settled into the little northern town of Durham for a year studying medieval English literature and theology at Durham University. It's the perfect place to study, really. Not only is Durham home to a world-class literature program, but the town exudes an oldness, a tangible air of history I have never encountered before. The town is overlooked by two monolithic structures left behind by Norman builders of the 11th century: the famed Durham cathedral and castle, stone towers of rugged and imperious beauty. It's like nowhere I've ever lived before, and it's all kinds of inspiring.

Durham from the train station viewpoint
While I may be writing more on here about my travels than I normally would, by no means does that mean comics will be left out of the equation. For starters, I'll still be drawing. Durham University's student newspaper (or at least, one of them), The Palatinate, has hired me on as editorial cartoonist for the year, so as those pieces are finished and published you'll see them appearing on my other blog (the one with all the art) at I finished my first cartoon for them Wednesday morning; you should be seeing updates shortly, and I'm pretty damn excited to see what the year holds in store, particularly for the political side of my work.

Life of a mobile cartoonist; given enough time, every hotel room becomes a studio
Also on the calendar are visits to the British Cartoon Archive housed at Canterbury's University of Kent, where I'll be interviewing head librarian Dr. Nicholas Hiley about his role in the archive's digitisation project, and to the Thought Bubble comic art festival in Leeds in November. So, there will be comic news, and reviews, and likely a bit of fangirling over people I meet and things I find. Stay tuned; more from Durham coming your way shortly.


My humble lodgings at Josephine Butler College. How I love it.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Funding Friday: The Saturday Edition! Comics & Crowdfunding News

Having skipped one week of this Funding Friday blog (I was busy, and it was going to be hard to follow that Twitter conversation with Neil Gaiman), I am pleased to announce that Johnny Canuck: The Return of a Lost Golden Age Hero, by Rachel Richey, is fully funded!

Thanks to you lot the campaign hit its goal of $23,000 four days ago, and the money hasn't stopped. Four hours ago we hit a stretch goal of $25K, ensuring that the reprinted volume will credit the names of all its backers, immortalizing you in print as someone who helped bring the Canadian Whites back to life. Rachel and Johnny have their sights set on the next goal, $30K, which will upgrade the entire print run to hardcover! This bodes well, as my hardcover Nelvana volume is truly a thing of beauty.

I've also had the absolute pleasure of watching art in progress. Following Scott Chantler on Instagram is a treat; you can see some of his work progress from thumbnails, to pencils, to inks, and it's pretty damn cool. With the last Kickstarter update in my inbox came the news that Scott's piece of original art for the campaign is FINISHED, though sadly already scooped up. I promptly fist-pumped in the air, because YES! it is scooped me! I could not be more excited to have this stunning piece of comics Canadiana proudly displayed on my wall.

And now, without further pumping of my own tires, and with no more ado, I present...

Concrete Martians Part Two 
by Keith Grachow and Mitch Cook

Those radio people, man...
Let us set the stage.

October 30, 1938. It was a dark and stormy night in Concrete, WA, a fitting prelude to Halloween. Much of America was sitting around their radios, listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his famous doll, Charlie McCarthy. Anxious to skip over the musical interlude and return to the show they impatiently twiddled their dials...and found a news bulletin. It seemed innocuous at first, a discussion of weather and meteorological intricacies, until a Chicago astronomer reported observing "several explosions of incandescent gas occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars". Then reports came in of an unidentified object crashing into a field outside Grover's Mill, NJ. Tension built, exacerbated by the thrashing winds and flashing lightning outside, culminating in a tortured declaration issued from radio speakers across America...


And then the power went out.

It was, of course, the night of Orson Welles' infamous War of the Worlds broadcast, an ingenious radio drama adapted from H.G. Wells' novel by the same name. Tuning in late on that fateful night, the residents of Concrete missed hearing Welles' opening disclaimer. When the power quit and the phones went down, cutting them off from the rest of the country, panic set in. This is approximately where Mitch Cook and Keith Grachow's first issue of Concrete Martians left us back in March when the book premiered at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, 96 miles from the story's setting. The story follows sheriff Ted "Teddy" Wilson in his struggle to maintain order as bedlam overtakes this small northwestern industry town. As the promotion video for their campaign states,
See what happens when a harmless radio play conspires with mother nature to bring a small town to the edge. 
The broadcast was and is an iconic moment in America's history. The nation was poised on the brink of a second world war. Hitler's Germany was a brooding force on the other side of the world, the threat of invasion heavy on the minds of the Western world. Radio was the only non-print news and entertainment source available. In print, it was a golden age of Science Fiction; pulps in the Gernsbackian tradition were in full swing, fan zines were sweeping the nation, and the first superhero had appeared earlier that year. Welles' timing was impeccable; the War of the Worlds broadcast was his Halloween prank on America, the equivalent "of dressing up in a sheet, jumping out of a bush and saying, 'Boo!'" (in the words of the master dramatist himself). As the campaign page states, "The power that radio displayed in those early days of mass media showed us that, even without meaning to, the theatre of the mind can and often does wreak havoc amongst the masses." Would that we were still so new to media that we could find ourselves awash with that kind of wonder.

Sucker for nostalgia that I am (you may or may not have noticed, I don't know), this campaign is right up my alley. I thoroughly enjoy seeing projects form around historical events, finding the lesser-known facts, the neglected areas of coverage, and offering a newly crafted perspective on it. Good historical fiction, I think, ought to be both entertaining and informative, and Concrete Martians has pulled together a solid combination of those elements. it!

The rewards are a little steep; the lowest perk on the list sits at $20 (UPDATE! This situation has been remedied; backer rewards are now available at $5 and $10 intervals). The most interesting backer rewards, by far, are the cleverly named original art options: "Alien Andy" (Andy Stanleigh), "Mike Rooth Martian Madness", and "The Crippen Crater" (Jacob Crippen), among others. I'll always advocate for buying original art; it's a superb way to support an artist's career, and it carries the distinct appeal of being something that nobody else will ever have. This campaign's got some sweet art available. Jump on it.

Dan Holst Soelberg's martian art

Friday, 8 August 2014

"A Hope in Hell" UPDATE - Neil Himself Weighs In

I asked Neil Gaiman on Twitter what his thoughts were on the aforementioned Kickstarter for a Sandman fan film. His response was wonderfully straightforward.

Never one to be satisfied with a straightforward and obvious reply, I prompted him further.
...which is hard to argue with.
And that was it, the extent of my conversation with Neil. But let's end this update with a sentiment from Andre Kirkman, the director of Hope in the Abyss.
And now it's all been said.

Funding Friday, "A Hope in Hell" - Comics & Crowdfunding News

I got a bit of a shock when I checked my inbox this morning. There was a message waiting for me that read,
Hi there,
This is a message from Kickstarter Support. We're writing to inform you that a project you backed, Hope in the Abyss (Sandman Fan Film), is the subject of an intellectual property dispute.
The message goes on to notify me that, while my pledge to the project remains active, the Kickstarter page itself has been hidden from public view for an indeterminate period of time. This is a shame as I was hoping to share an incredible-looking fan campaign with you, and I can't seem to find a cached version of the page. It's truly a beautiful-looking project. Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series has been well and widely loved for a couple of decades now. This film aims to follow the story set out in the title's fourth issue, "A Hope in Hell", in which Dream, the titular "Sandman", journeys to Hell to retrieve a possession lost during his centuries-long imprisonment. It's a great story, maybe my favourite from The Sandman.
Hope in the Abyss is being produced by Ben Dobyns who, along with Seattle-based production company Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, has fan-funded some of the greatest fantasy I've ever seen (correction: ZOE, however, is not connected to the Hope project). The list of professionals attached to the campaign is impressive, but one stuck out for me in particular: a puppeteer from Laika Studios. That detail alone (Dobyns' involvement aside) was enough to pique my interest. Laika is renowned for its luscious stop-motion work on the animated feature of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, the more recent children's zombie flick Paranorman, and the upcoming (and adorable) Boxtrolls. The studio has a way of telling great stories with great style, and the idea having one of their puppeteers helping bring Dream's descent into Hell to life send tingles down my spine. Standing in the way of that happening, though, is this message from Warner Bros....

...which I really want to be snarky about, but I suppose they are within their rights to do exactly this. Now, I don't know how much, if any, pull Gaiman has with his publishers and the licences they hold to his creations. But Neil, if you're reading this, I'd ask you and Amanda to put in a good word for the fans; if anyone understands the nature of crowdfunding and community coming together around art it's you guys, and I know many of us would love to see this project completed, to see a version of your world come alive through the work of people who have loved these stories for many, many years. 

And now, in other news...!

Brok Windsor - Lost WWII Comic Book Returns!
by Hope Nicholson

I shared the Brok Windsor campaign with you folks last week, and lo and behold you made it happen! The project reached its goal yesterday, officially propelling an iconic Canadian comics hero back into print. Congratulations; you guys officially rock.
And if you've been having doubts about the impending awesomeness of Brok Windsor, let this assuage those misgivings
Yeah. It's gonna be wicked great.

by Dustin Smith

I had a friend tweet this my direction last week when I neglected to mention it in my post, so allow me to rectify that oversight. Knightstalker is a classic "be careful what you wish for" story set in a world where superpowers exist as a terminal disease, giving you extraordinary abilities but killing you in the process. It's one of those concepts which sounds like old hat, but which fits the superhero genre so well that it really shouldn't be avoided. Sacrifice for the sake of power is a theme that's been around a lot longer than comics, a message that echoes back through may mythologies. King Midas desired wealth, and found himself sacrificing those he loved as he slaked his thirst for gold. Odin gave his eye to receive wisdom. It's an old story told many times, but it still resonates with us. Brandon Stanton, the man in charge of the photoblog Humans of New York, is currently overseas documenting people and their thoughts on life...
...which is kinda what he does best. The man has a gift. The words he receives from people are often profound, sometimes thrilling, joyous, sometimes sad. His tweet this morning hit me between the eyes:
There will always be things we would give to fix the word around us. And this is why stories like Knightstalker will always be worth telling. On a purely formal note, the art looks great, really clean lines and colours, and decent page layout. It's really quite an affordable campaign to back. The rewards are small and manageable: posters, digital comics, physical copies of the books, and variant covers. The $5000 goal is easily reachable with the right interest. So, share it around. Let's see if we can get another small comic off the ground.

In closing, the campaigns I mentioned last week are still going strong. Nick Bertozzi's Rubber Necker print run was successfully funded (and I can't wait to get my comics from that!). Rachel Richey's Johnny Canuck campaign is moving steadily forward; I give it another week to reach its goal. And the Stranger zombie comic campaign from AH Comics is still running...and nobody's scooped Adam Gorham's original cover art yet. It's still sitting there, mocking me.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Funding Friday - Comics & Crowdfunding News

Every Friday my Twitter feed exhibits a host of people hashtagging lists of follow-worthy people as part of the weekly internet trend "Follow Friday". I'm putting my own spin on that; today is FUNDING FRIDAY.

Well, Crowdfunding Friday, but for the sake of alliteration...

On the list today: comics, comics, comics, and, um, well yeah, it's mostly just comics. It's a wonderful thing, really. The amount of crowdfunding going into the comics industry these days is phenomenal. It builds community, closes the gap between the creator and consumer and helps each recognize the other is there. Which is important. It's something that's too damn easy to lose sight of. For me, it's provided a way for me to interact with and support people who are making things that I think are incredible. I was even recognized by someone at TCAF this year because I'd been vocal on Twitter in promoting their project, and that kinda blew my mind. So, without further ado (that was already quite a bit of ado), here are the projects on my radar this week.

There's a bunch of wicked exciting stuff happening in Canadian comics at the moment, and I'm bumping this to the top of the list because it's the latest release. Hope's Kickstarter went live yesterday, and support for the project is already well underway. A little bit of background: Brok Windsor is the latest in a string of Canadian Golden Age comics reprints, the initiative of historians Hope Nicholson and Rachel Richey to pull these old stories out of obscurity. Many of them have simply been unavailable to readers for some fifty years, despite being an important piece of Canada's popular culture in the 20th century. Projects like this are my favourite answer to the rants I hear against our government for cutting arts and culture funding. It's evidence that the people still care about cultivating their country's arts and reinvigorating their cultural history, even when the government seems to have abandoned such causes. Last year Hope and Rachel Kickstarted a reprint of Adrian Dingle's iconic Nelvana of the Northern Lights, to enthusiastic public response. And these projects are gaining momentum online; Comics Alliance just published this interview with Hope, which sheds some light on the character, the matter of forgotten history, and the forward-looking goals for Canadian Golden Age comics. Hopefully, exposure like this brings more backers (like you!) on board with this project and many, many more to come.

You ever watch a Vancouver Canucks game and see their mascot, that goofy-looking lumberjack in plaid, with a hockey stick in his hand and pom-pom proudly bouncing on top of his toque? That's Johnny Canuck, or one rendition of him at any rate. He used to be part of Canada's stable of action-adventure heroes back in the 1940s, along with Brok Windsor. Rachel Richey, the other half of the Nelvana team, is Kickstarting the printing of a Johnny Canuck collection which will feature an introduction written by legendary Canadian cartoonist Seth and a short biography of Johnny Canuck creator Leo Bachle, written by Robert Pincombe. The campaign kicked off earlier this week and is in full swing. Among the backer rewards for this project (and for the Brok Windsor campaign) is a host of original artwork by various industry giants, providing a superb opportunity for you to support classic Canadian comics and build a collection of comic art! Ever wanted work by Ramon Perez, Francis Manapul, or Marcus To? Go get it! I snagged the Scott Chantler piece as soon as I could, and now I'm broke. But it was worth it.

"Sunswift", campaign art by Gary Shipman

I can't look at this campaign without feeling a twinge of guilt about how little I can actually expound on it. I'd never heard the name Dave Cockrum before this gem popped up in my Twitter feed, but looking at the attention this project has garnered and the artists who have jumped on board and contributed their work to commemorate his work it's clear that he was a giant of the Bronze Age. The project achieved its financial goals a while ago, soaring past its $6000 goal and on to stratospheric heights. It looks like the final book is gonna be a blast to read, a treat for anyone who appreciates the superhero classics and misses a time when comics were free of the expectations Hollywood blockbusters have now burdened them with. 

This project's a little more low-key than the previous ones. No superheroes or lumberjacks here (unless Betozzi surprises us; there could very well be lumberjacks). Just an alt cartoonist from New York pulling together printing costs for issue #6 of a snazzy looking comic. The goal is modest, and the backer rewards are nothing drastic: comics, posters, a bit of original art. The top end of the reward list, if you want to pitch $200 his way and happen to be in New York at the time, is a portfolio review, which I think is a stellar reward. Crowdfunding should build community, and Bertozzi seems to have a handle on that.

Let me preface everything else I'm going to say with this statement:

That cover is BADASS.

I've never read D.A. Bishop's webcomic Stranger, but I plan to remedy that shortly. This Kickstarter from Canadian publishing newcomer AH Comics Inc. looks sweet. I helped back their Jewish Comix Anthology Vol. 1 project a while back, a beautiful volume collecting some wonderful cultural treasures. Stranger looks equally promising, and decidedly less Jewish. The backer rewards are pretty cool, too: t-shirts (I'm snagging one of those), bookmarks, prints etc.
However, in my opinion, the crown jewel of the rewards list is down at the $500 dollar mark: Adam Gorham's original cover art, plus the book, t-shirt, stamps, bookmarks, and a digital edition. It's still open, and damned if I'm not tempted to scoop it before the rest of you. That is a gorgeous piece of artwork. If any of you readers end up getting it, let me know. I'll drool on my keyboard in jealousy on your behalf.

And that's all for now, folks! Of course, there's a host of other projects out there. My tastes may not be yours (in which case you're reading the wrong blog); head on over to Kickstarter's comics project page and see if anything there catches your fancy. Many, many creators are looking for funding, or looking to build a following as they start out on the long road that is a career in comics. You might be the addition they need to make that happen, you never really know. That is, quite simply, the beauty of crowdfunding.