The First New Valiant Character to Headline a Book is Punk Mambo

Created during his run on Shadowman, Peter Milligan will be teaming with Robert Gill for a one-shot issue in November which is all about Punk Mambo.

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Cover by Russell Dauterman

 

She is, y’know, a Peter Milligan character.

This marks the first character created since the Valiant relaunch to get their own title. Up to now, all the books put out by Valiant have been relaunches of new characters and teams – Punk Mambo is less than a year old, and now is headlining a one-shot story.

Might that indicate that Valiant could possibly be branching out and adding new properties and characters to their line? Possibly so. In the launch interview with Patrick A. Reed on Comics Alliance, Milligan is cagey… with every question, actually. But also the one where asked if this could lead to further comics focused on the character in future.

The one-shot will be released in November.

Action Lab’s Comics Go DRM-Free – At A Lower-Than-Print Price

When ComiXology named the publishers whose comics were going DRM-Free, there weren’t many surprises – Image were there, as were Monkeybrain and Thrillbent. The companies who are known to be creator-focused, in other words. But one minor surprise was that Action Lab Entertainment weren’t in that list, as they’re well known to be at the forefront of digital comics as a company.

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But no more! This week saw Action Lab take their place alongside those other companies as they announced that their comics will indeed be offered DRM-free on ComiXology. Even more notably, however, they also announced that from now on their comics will be launched at $0.99 each for the first two weeks of release, before moving to $1.99 thereafter. Their books will also be published digitally just as they show up in the Diamond Previews Catalogue, meaning they’re pre-empting comic stores.

That’s going to be interesting. Dark Horse attempted that a while back, and stores angrily reacted against it. I wonder how Action Lab will fare if their comics start doing the same. In the press release, they state that the idea is to give readers a chance to look at the comic online – and that’ll provide the incentive to pre-order thereafter. Which is a smart pitch to make, I’d say.

All very interesting.

Both Superior Foes of Spider-Man and New Warriors End in November

Marvel’s latest solicitations scythe has cut short the run of two of their team-y style books, with both New Warriors and Superior Foes of Spider-Man ending that month. The former will be clipped short following issue 12, so that’s the first year likely completed and ending with a solid conclusion. The latter went on for a little longer, and will finish with issue #17 – far later than even the creative team had expected.

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New Warriors was a book I heard nothing from once the first issue came out, which is usually a sign of an amiable comic which hasn’t sparked anything in the readership. It’s noted in articles like this one at Comics Alliance that the series was perhaps the closest in tone to the original comic that ‘New Warriors’ has been over the course of four or five volumes, and was a book which featured a lot of previously-cancelled characters (like Scarlet Spider) in the same team.

Meanwhile, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s Superior Foes was a pretty acclaimed book, which heralded a creative turnaround for Spencer after a series of poor comics like the roundly-panned ‘Iron Man 2.0′. The series focused on a group of B-List Spider-Man villains as they scrambled for a big score – betraying and backstabbing one another as often as possible. It was a comedy during a time where Spider-Man fans were worried about the dark-and-edgy stuff that was taking over the books, and received a lot of praise from fans and critics over the course of the run.

Dynamite Launch DRM-Free Comics On Their Site

What did I tell you? DRM-free comics are going to be the next step in developing digital comics as a whole. Following Valiant’s deal with DriveThruComics to offer DRM-free comics online, now Dynamite have announced that they, too, will be offering DRM-free comics away from ComiXology.

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Their alternative site will be their own site – the company come from a retailing background, and so it makes sense for them to develop that online market personally. They’re pitching this launch as part of their tenth anniversary, and so on top of everything they’re kicking off their new DRM-free comics with a massive discount. To start with, the following ten comics will all be offered online for 10 cents apiece:

  • Blood Queen #1
  • The Boys #1
  • Evil Ernie: Origin of Evil #1
  • Jungle Girl #0
  • Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet #1
  • Miss Fury #1
  • The Mocking Dead #1
  • Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time #1
  • The Trial of Sherlock Holmes #1
  • Vampirella #1

And the company also say that a tenth of all money raised across this month will be donated directly to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Dynamite CEO Nick Barrucci says:

Expanding into DRM-free content, made available directly to consumers from our website, is simply giving the consumers the option for what they want and how they want it, and continues to reach out to a non-traditional comic-reading audience, and then bring those readers in to the direct comics market to our retail partners. We’re optimistic that the availability of comics in a digital fashion will continue to draw new readers to the medium, helping to continue to complement the growth for physical sales through our retail comic store partners.

Following the trend we’ve seen over the past few years in our industry of digital helping to grow the physical for retailers and the market overall, the world’s continuing love affair with books in print will benefit from a surge in Dynamite interest.

You can find out more at Dynamite’s website here.

Interview: Becky Tinker and Joie Brown Bring Space Mischief to Thrillbent in ‘Everstar’

Only just launched in this past month, Everstar has quickly proven to be one of my favourite Thrillbent titles. Sure, it helps that it has robots, space adventures, lighthouses AND sailing in it – and who doesn’t love all four of those things? – but it’s mainly due to Becky Tinker’s light-hearted and bouncy script, and Joie Brown’s gleeful and vibrant artwork.

It’s the story of a young girl, Ainslie, a keen sailor and adventure fanatic who finds herself accidentally relaying a message into outer space which gets her – and her friend George – beamed up into a spaceship. Whereas anyone else might panic a little upon being shot into space, Ainslie takes to it immediately, forms a quick bond with the ship, and starts piloting it around the galaxy as the new captain.everstar5

She’s great, is Ainslie.

Anyway! With Everstar proving to be a warm, hugely enjoyable series, I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to both Joie and Becky about their work on the comic. They talk about how the series came together, what it’s been like working with each other, the joy of designing spaceships and robots – and also where Ainslie’s name comes from….

Read on!

Steve: What’s Everstar all about? What’s the premise of the series?

Becky: The simple answer is it’s about a girl and her spaceship. Ainslie, a fun and reckless young girl, accidentally sends an intergalactic signal into outer space and is picked up by a rogue spaceship hiding out near Earth. Ainslie forms an immediate bond with the ship, and when danger strikes she takes the lead and flies it herself. It’s about adventure, curiosity, and finding the courage to become the person you’re meant to be.

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Ainslie (who sails in the first issue, by the way – are you fans of BRITISH HERO Ben Ainslie?) is a really fun lead character, and so far she’s had one laugh-out-loud moment in each of the two chapters. Is it fun to get to feature such a contrarian lead character?

Becky: You are the very first person so far to recognize where Ainslie’s name came from! I used to sail growing up and it became a huge part of my childhood. I knew I wanted the main character to be a sailor as well and Ben Ainslie seemed like the perfect person to pull her name from, what with him being the best of the best and all (and once I tried it out the name just fit her so perfectly). I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed a British hero for this…

Ainslie couldn’t be more fun to write. The humor often came out naturally while I was writing because her personality led to funny sequences so easily. She’s such a mischievous kid and she has so much energy that it’s a given she’d create these humorous situations all the time.

Joie: It’s most certainly fun to draw a character like Ainslie! She’s a rather mischievous and expressive gal, which makes for some great reaction takes and interactions.

What do you think are her most notable traits? What is it that defines her, as a person?

Joie: From my perspective, it’s her uncrushable spirit. She’s young and excitable, but she’s also brave and extremely dedicated to adventure. When she makes a decision, get out of her WAY!

Becky: Above everything else, she’s courageous, especially for someone her age. She has limitless amounts of confidence and she’s truly a natural born leader—which is a role we’ll gradually see her step into as the series progresses. She has a wonderful sense of curiosity, so you can imagine what being in outer space will do to that side of her. However, being wild, inquisitive, and fearless can make for a dangerous combination, and as a result she doesn’t always think of the consequences of her actions before flying off the handle.

How did her design come together, Joie? Did you go back and forth on ideas for her?

Joie: After reading the scripts, I had a pretty solid idea of what I wanted Ainslie to look like. I wanted Ainslie to be a little rough-and-tumble, but not straight up tomboy. I also wanted her to always sport a bandage on her knee. I sent a short written description to Becky, and amazingly we were on the exact same page. I did a quick sketch, and BAM– we had our Ainslie.

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On that – how did you first meet one another? When did you decide to work together?

Joie: Becky found me earlier this year at WonderCon. I had a booth set up, and she saw my work and contacted me the next day. The second I read the scripts for Everstar I was 100% sold on the story, and jumped at the chance to do the art test.

Becky: I was very lucky in that after the scripts were written, Thrillbent was very supportive in allowing me to find an artist that would fit well with the style that I had in mind. I found Joie at Wondercon and I loved her work, so I contacted her afterwards to see if she was interested in taking on the project. Fortunately she was!

How have you found the collaborative process?

Becky: It’s been fantastic. Joie and I work very well together and it’s been amazing to see the project coming to life through her artwork. Oftentimes she’ll come up with a design that’s even better than I had pictured in my head. From the start we had similar ideas about what it should look like, so it’s really been a great collaboration. I feel very fortunate to have an artist like her bringing Everstar to life.

Joie: Collaborating with Becky has been exceptionally easy and fun. We are on the same page about just about everything. Her writing is expressive and strong so I can easily picture what she’s going for.

When did the series first come to Thrillbent? How did they get involved as publisher for your story?

Becky: It was actually originally written as a television script. John Rogers, the co-owner of Thrillbent, read it and thought that it would make a great comic. I was asked to come in and pitch the idea as a comic series to John and Mark Waid, which I did and soon after I got the news that they wanted to do it as a Thrillbent original series. They had been looking to reach other demographics, such as kids, so it turned out to be the perfect fit. It was definitely a dream come true for me as I have been a lifelong comics fan but had never been sure how to get my foot in the door of that area of writing.

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So far the comic is grounded on Earth, but you’ve been steadily building up to the cosmic element of things – once you knew the comic would be published at Thrillbent, did that change the way you paced the comic? Knowing that Thrillbent publishes things in chapters rather than the standard comic format?

Becky: There was definitely a change in the way it was paced. I put a lot of thought into where each chapter should be broken up to make sure the story still flowed and the pace never let up. With chapters, you have a shorter amount of time to convince people that this is a story worth reading, so I tried to make sure that there were moments in each one that would hook the readers and make people want to come back for more.

As a digital comic, you can try a lot of things that print comics can’t – a sequence where she’s sat on a chair in chapter two, for example, rocking back and forth. How’ve you found writing and drawing a digital series which can experiment like this?

Joie: I went to school for illustration and animation, so getting to use a digital format like this allows me to use that knowledge to help sell certain sequences. The chair-rocking part you mention is my favorite. It had a great 1 -2 -3 punch to it that really helped show Ainslie’s childlike mischievousness and glee that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

Becky: On the writing side, it was both challenging and incredibly fun. With the Thrillbent format (overlays that change from one “panel” to the next), it adds a whole other dimension that you need to think about when writing the scripts. Once I got the hang of it, getting to write those types of sequences was an absolute blast. It leads to endless possibilities for what we could do visually, and we wouldn’t have that opportunity anywhere else.

Other series on Thrillbent use the format for horror reveals or action sequences, while I thought it would be fun to play around with things like physical humor and character expressions to keep in line with the tone of the series. Joie did a truly remarkable job in actually executing those sequences and making them transition well on the page.

Steve: Joie, can you tell us more about how you approach those sequences?

Joie: Becky’s scripts are infinitely helpful when it comes to pacing. She indicates to me if she wants an action to span over a few different “swipes” (Thrillbent terminology for when you click the “next” button on the comic), and I’ll sit and think through how best to show that to the reader. It’s almost as if the Thrillbent format is a comic/storyboard hybrid– it really opens up the possibilities for storytelling!

At this point the series hasn’t yet gone into outer space, but it looks like we’re on the verge of it! What can readers expect over the next few chapters?

Becky: There will certainly be a lot of excitement in the next few chapters! We’ll be seeing the story shift from Earth to outer space in what will hopefully be a really fun way. Readers will finally get properly acquainted with the spaceship Everstar and meet some new characters as well! Thus far we’ve gotten the setup for Ainslie being brought into outer space, and now we’re about to see that actually happen.

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Steve: How are you approaching the sci-fi stuff, Joie? Are you going for a complete hi-tech and futuristic look at outer space, in stark contrast to the reality on Earth; or is your goal to make space look realistic, beaten, battered, and not so disconnected from life on Earth?

Joie: It’s a little bit of both, I’d say. The Everstar itself (the ship that we spot right at the end of Chapter 01) is heavily influenced by sailboats with a touch of steampunk thrown in. It’s technological and sleek, but has a bit of a connection to our own technologies here on Earth. The Jade, another ship that shows up later, has a sleek and predatory look that’s reminiscent of both a hawk and an octopus.

There will be some amazing technology, but almost everything is rooted in or influenced by things we’ve seen here here on Earth– particularly things that relate to the ocean. Cool hologram projections and giant gears? We’ve got a little of both!

Steve: I have to single out the robot character, Rusty – because everybody loves a robot. How did you get their design together? Was it inspired by anything in particular, or is this something entirely from your own imagination?

Joie: Rusty was really fun to design for me. How does one take a hunk of metal and make it emote? You’ve got to show the eyes to really sell emotion with it, and of course he needed arms that could flail and cross. I wanted Rusty to be able to express his short temper, yet still be comically wobbly. So, I ended up with a little bit of Short Circuit and Wall-E plus Gizmoduck from Duck Tales. Everything is more fun when it rolls instead of walks!

In comics, there’s a tendency for sci-fi stories to be aimed at boys, rather than girls. Is Everstar in part a deliberate attempt to shake that up a little?

Becky: Absolutely. There just isn’t enough out there for girls, and that was something that I certainly grappled with when I was younger as an avid sci-fi fan. When girls are featured, it’s often only in a supporting role. When I came up with the initial “kid in a spaceship” idea, I immediately wanted it to feature a swashbuckling heroine to help balance things out a little and hopefully provide young girls with a protagonist that they can relate to.

Was it important to you both that this be an all-ages series?

Becky: Creating something for kids and adults and everyone in between was one of my main goals in writing Everstar. I grew up on amazing comics and movies and the like that reached both kids and adults equally, so I’m always hoping to do the same in what I write.

Joie: I generally prefer working in the all ages genre when it comes to everything—not just comics, so yes it was rather important to me. I want to create stories and material that anyone of any age can appreciate and be entertained by!

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How long-term are your plans with the series at the moment? Do you hope for it to go on indefinitely, or do you have an endpoint in mind for further down the line?

Becky: Right now the first volume will be twelve chapters, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’re able to do more in the future! My hope is for it to go on much longer, as there are many more adventures to be had and storylines to explore. Whether or not we’ll get the greenlight to do more of Everstar is a decision that’s up to the Thrillbent team. Hopefully readers will respond to it and ask to see more.

Joie: I don’t know what Thrillbent’s or Becky’s plans are, but I’d love for it to go on indefinitely. I see a lot of potential for hilarity and adventures with Ainslie & company.

What else are you working on right now? Where can people find you online?

Joie: Right now I’m doing various freelance projects, including concept art for theme park rides, and my own comic book Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi. I’ve got a few other unannounced projects in the mix as well that’ll pop up eventually. People can find me at www.joieart.net, on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and DeviantArt too if they’re bent on seeing everything I’ve got! Feel free to reach out to me on social media; I love talking to and connecting with new people!

Becky: Right now Everstar is my sole comics endeavour, but I hope to be involved in a lot more projects in the future! Definitely check out Joie’s “Heavenly Kibble Guardian Corgi” comic. In the meantime I can be found on Twitter right here.

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Many thanks to Becky and Joie for their time! The first two chapters of Everstar are available on Thrillbent to read for free – chapter three and beyond will require a Thrillbent subscription. WORTH IT!

Review: Last Born by Patrick Meaney and Eric Zawadski

Last Born is published by Black Mask Studios, with issue #1 coming out tomorrow. The comic is written by Patrick Meaney and drawn, coloured, lettered by Eric Zawadski. My review is based on a digital review copy.

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What hits most after reading the issue is the extent to which is avoids categorisation. It starts off as a supernatural mystery, but then moves into a character-based drama before taking a step into horror, hard fantasy, and then finally full-blown sci-fi. It jumps at unexpected points into different genres, with the only constant being lead character Julia.

Thankfully, she provides a good grounding for readers, and it’s easy to quickly empathise with her. Her story is set in the 1960s, and it’s interesting to see how the narrative for her plays out as a more modernised retelling of the Alice in Wonderland fantasy. Her sense of boredom and anxiety to escape the repression which surrounds her is infectious and engaging, and provides the momentum which powers the reader through the comic – there are just enough pages to allow you to invest in her before she races off into the unknown.

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She’s also well-designed by Zawadski, who puts her in a red dress which I imagine will remain on her for the rest of the series. In the world of the 1960s – and especially the repressed household she’s living in – that red dress stands her out away from the rest of the supporting cast. She looks progressive for her time, and the colouring breaks her off the page – but then once the comic shifts tone and location, she looks dated amongst her new companions. It’s a smart touch, leaving her isolated in both the past and in the future, and keeping her foremost in the mind of the reader.

I’m already familiar with Zawadski’s art, as he pencilled webcomic The Ghost Engine for several years. He brings a strong sense of character and location to the comic, juggling the various locales of the comic in distinctive fashion which helps keep the reader aware of where they are at any given moment. The comic jumps around in various unexpected ways, but Zawadski keeps things grounded for the reader, and his storytelling from page to page is excellent.

The style reminds of Michael Gaydos, as it continually captures the characters at moments between expressions – rather than have everybody demonstrate a simple response to a situation, his art catches them a moment before or after they start responding to things. This creates an off-kilter style which makes them feel more messy and realistic, and builds into the script rather nicely.

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At the same time, some of his action sequences are a little confusing to follow at times. There are two sections which get a little lost – one coming right at the start, where the perspective changes from panel to panel in ways that disorientate the action and mixes up the characters involved; the second detailing a rabid fight which is at least partially deliberately an attempt to confuse the reader. For this exact reason, his conversational sequences are more interesting than most, as they similarly mess with perspective and positioning in ways which put some energy into the characters.

There’s a feeling that something is out-of-sync, and your enjoyment of the comic will depend upon whether you connect to that dynamic or not. The storytelling suggests this is intentional, at least in part, but your personal taste will decide whether you like it or not.

As far as I’m concerned – I want to read the next issue. I thought this was a well-constructed piece of work, which keeps you off-balance throughout and manages to pull off several twists without telegraphing them. There’s an immediate connection between the creative team which sparks, and they work well together in offering an off-kilter, almost overwhelming sense of scale and story – before reigning it all back in and redirecting the reader back into Julia’s perspective. Despite feeling like it may at times have gotten lost within itself, ‘Last Born’ proves to be a smart, aware comic, which leads in unexpected and rousing new directions on each page.

The Spire has an open submission policy, and accept review copies via the email address on the right. If you have a comic of your own you’d like to see reviewed on the site, please feel free to send it across – bear in mind that I’m going to give an honest opinion on the book, though! Reviews at The Spire can be up as well as down, etc etc.

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