Artist. Designer. Awkward wad of nerd. Fights off existential terror and self-loathing with Godzilla films.

Coming Soon: Shouting at the Void

Hey kids! I have a special announcement to make!

Remember when I participated in the Bill Counts October Game last year, in which I did a new finished piece of art every day of the month? In case you've forgotten, you can check out the gallery here as a refresher.

I'm planning on participating in it again, because I really got a kick out of doing it last year despite how torturous it got to be from time to time. Also I'm a horrible masochist. I'm something different this time around, though...

This year I'll be drawing a complete 30-page comic called Shouting at the Void.
I've been slowly plotting this thing out since the idea hit me early last month. Shouting at the Void is about an android hitman named Mint who lives in the desert city of Los Azules, where the appearance of a mysterious portal starts to shake things up in his life.

Every day of October I will draw a new page and post it online, over on the Facebook page for the game, on deviantART, on my art Tumblr (where you can see a couple of other early mock-ups), and on this site as well. To hopefully make things easier, each page will be drawn on smaller paper, 6x9 inches, which is the size of my medium sketches that I do at conventions, and the size that I drew the above concept piece. This is also the size that comics genius Moritat draws at these days, and is slightly larger than the size I print my zines at, so maybe when it's all over I can do a printed copy to sell.

In addition, I already have the story written out, and am in the process of breaking it down page by page as a script and still working on design stuff. If I have time, I'll be thumbnailing the pages out too. The idea is that if I get all of this done in advance, all I'll really have to worry about is drawing the pages themselves when next month hits, and I'll theoretically also be able to work on the final chapter of Other Sleep at the same time, yeah?

My only REAL concern is, well, um, see the new banner at the top of the page? That's an x-ray of my mouth. The "suspicious area" in the corner there is apparently a cyst or benign tumor that's been developing INSIDE of my jawbone. They're gonna have to cut that out, obviously, which means surgery. HOPEFULLY the surgery can be done this month. If not, well, we'll see what it's like to draw while doped up on painkillers, right?

So there you have it. A 30 page comic about an existential android hitman, to be drawn and serialized every day for the month of October. It's going to be pretty exciting, I think. I hope you'll all follow along when it happens!

Oh, also? Chapter 8 of Other Sleep will be up soon, some time next week I imagine. So I'll be definitely getting a head start on the final chapter before all of this begins. Still working on that art show for February too!

That's all for now. See you again soon!


"I'll smash through this hell or there's no future for me"

Alright kids, part 2 of Brett Watches Way Too Many Criterion Movies and Slowly Becomes a Stuck-up Film Snob. In this installment, a triple threat of Seijun Suzuki films, a double dose of satirical farce, and a bonafide classic.

Branded to Kill (1967): Seijun Suzuki’s masterpiece. The narrative of a Yakuza killer who’s betrayed and hunted after botching a job is dizzying and fractured, beautifully shot and drenched in shadow, with a lot of lonely harmonica music to set the mood. Suzuki was fired after making this, unable to do another movie for a whole decade, but man was it worth it. I can’t help but feel like a couple of my favorite videogames, Killer7 and No More Heroes, were heavily influenced by this. It's the king of existential hitman films, I think.

Tokyo Drifter (1966): I watched this for the first time earlier this year, back when Hulu had the Criterion movies available to watch for free for a brief period, and watched it again immediately after finishing Branded to Kill. It doesn’t hit as hard, it’s a bit more polished and not as fractured, but you can see how Suzuki got to Branded from this. It’s also my favorite of his. The colors are fantastic, the soundtrack is wonderful, and I really want the white suit that our hero Tetsu wears at the end of the movie. This movie also contains what may be my favorite barroom brawl in cinema, dozens of dudes slugging it out and drunkenly tearing the set to shreds. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing.

Youth of the Beast (1963): As you can see, I kind of watched Suzuki’s films in reverse chronological order. So with Tokyo Drifter, I was like “ah, that’s where (blank) from Branded to Kill came from!” With this, it was kind of the same thing. The movie opens in black and white, we see an object in color, then boom, the movie switches to full color and not long after starts to go off the rails, just like Tokyo Drifter. I wish I knew more about your standard Yakuza films of the time so I can better understand how subversive this was at the time of release, to know what’s being subverted, but I’m afraid I can’t. Narratively speaking, everything makes a bit more sense here as a thug is playing two gangs against each other in his search for the one who killed a cop. It’s not nearly as fractured as the other two. I thought it was going to end up being like Yojimbo or Fistful of Dollars all over again, but things take a few good twists into a dark conclusion, punctuated once more by that sad harmonica I love hearing in these movies.

Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966): From William Klein, the same gentleman who unleashed Mr. Freedom upon an unsuspecting world. This is another satire, this time tearing down the fashion industry, as Klein was once a photographer for Vogue. It’s not as mean and nasty as Mr. Freedom, it’s much more whimsical and silly. Prince Igor (a man whose bedroom leads me to believe he has aspirations of becoming a Bond villain), who loves the titular model, wishes to marry her and sends two men to find her. The subplot of them walking around Paris like a couple of drunken buffoons searching for her in the most inept ways possible is great. The bulk of the movie follows a TV show filming an episode all about Polly, while they simultaneously critique the fashion industry as a whole. I liked it quite a bit, it was a fun watch.

Daisies (1966): Like Tokyo Drifter, I’d already watched this once earlier this year and loved it. Polly Maggoo actually reminded me a lot of this, which is what led me to watching it again. Two girls (sisters?) named Marie decide the world is a spoiled mess, and so go about taking advantage of older men, destroying things, and eating everything in sight. Full disclosure? There are two reasons why I love this nonsensical farce of a movie so much. One is that it reminds me a lot of the Dada movement and videos I watched on it when I was in college, I'm in love with their whimsical chaos. The second is that one of the girls, the blonde, reminds me quite a bit of my own girlfriend, who also very much loves breaking men down, eating lots of food, and getting into drunken shenanigans. Plus I love how disjointed and visually interesting it is. Colors change at the drop of a hat, there are some great cut-up tricks and montages, clever editing, and more. Like a film student who learned all these visual tricks and crammed them all into one movie. I want to do a comic similar to this one day.

The Hidden Fortress (1958): After the immense international success of the Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa brings it on once more with this movie, known primarily as a huge influence on George Lucas and the first Star Wars movie. I worked my way through the original Star Wars trilogy early last month, and yeah, the similarities are quite obvious upon seeing this for the first time. Toshiro Mifune steals the show once again as a samurai general, hooking up with a couple of bumbling, bickering peasants to get a tomboyish 16-year-old princess and 200 pieces of gold across a border. Best scene? Mifune on horseback, sword in hand, chasing down and killing two enemy soldiers, charging into their camp, and starting a duel with their own general, an old friend of his. It’s hard for me to say a whole lot about this movie, but it’s an absolute classic for very good reasons and you should watch it.

NEXT TIME: German sci-fi, and probably more samurai movies, not sure yet.

"Life is a messy weapon."

A couple of weeks ago, I acquired a free 2-month subscription to Hulu Plus through a friend of mine. I am only using it for one thing: consuming movies from the Criterion Collection. I am binging on the stuff, and thought I'd write a little about each one I've watched. So, without further ado, here are assorted thoughts on six of what I've watched so far.

Sisters (1973): Aside from watching bits of Carrie on TV as a little kid, this is my first real experience with Brian De Palma’s work, and the one movie that was at the top of my list to watch. The movie is essentially a Hitchcock thriller turned up as loud and nasty as possible. The score is outrageous and unsettling, the cinematography quite voyeuristic. De Palma uses splitscreen for the first time in this movie for a gruesome murder and the cleanup afterwards, and from there the movie just keeps firing on all cylinders until the bitter conclusion. There’s a hypnosis/dream sequence towards the end that had my jaw on the floor. I need to get myself a copy of this on DVD soon, I absolutely loved it.

Fiend Without A Face (1958): All 1950s sci fi/horror movies are kind of the same, or so they feel sometimes. This one isn’t bad, but it isn’t anything new or different until maybe the last 20 minutes or so when the atomic monsters are finally revealed to be stop-motion brains that bleed quite a lot when shot or stabbed. I think that’s what made it notable in its time, taking things just a bit further than what audiences of the time were used to. I did find it interesting that a woman, Amelia Reynolds Long, had written the original story on which the movie is based.

Mr. Freedom (1969): I was uncomfortable the entire time I watched this movie, right from the first few minutes. It’s the most scathing satire I have ever experienced, vicious to the very end. Mr. Freedom is an American superhero in a riotous future, who gets called to France in order to introduce democracy, and things just keep getting weirder and weirder until the very end. There’s a real pop art/comicbook sensibility to the visuals, which makes the darker themes and dialogue stand out even more. At one point he develops stigmata, which then goes away after he eats a huge bowl of cornflakes. One of the movie’s “villains” is a giant inflatable dragon. I can’t do it justice with words, you just have to watch it.

The Sword of Doom (1966): Recommended by Chris Ready, this is a dark and brutal samurai film. The protagonist, though I hesitate to call him that, is a remorseless killer with sociopathic tendencies, uncomfortable to watch but so intense you can‘t take your eyes off of him. The movie opens with him mercilessly killing an old man on a mountain path before heading back to his village to take part in a duel. The action is quick and bloody, most confrontations over in the blink of an eye, which is something I always enjoy about samurai movies. Each strike counts. The end of the movie is a descent into madness and chaos, ending abruptly, as it was meant to be the first part of a series based on an unfinished novel with had been serialized in newspapers for over three decades. This is another one I need my own copy of, a movie that really sticks with you once it’s over.

Harakiri (1962): A classic. I had some issues paying attention to the first half of it (due in part to my stomach being lame), but the drama builds and builds, leading to a final act which feels like a hand around your throat the entire time. I’m curious about Takashi Miike’s recent remake of it, I feel like it just couldn’t be nearly as good as this is.

Shock Corridor (1963): A reporter gets himself checked into a mental institution to investigate a murder, only to go mad himself in the process. I like how the murder itself wasn’t really a part of the movie, it was all about Johnny’s descent into madness. Pretty well written, some neat color segments, and lots of fun psychological issues being thrown around. It feels like it was lifted right out of an old pulp magazine or EC crime comic.

Next time: A three punch combo of Seijun Suzuki films, plus um, whatever I watch after that. My queue still has 15 or so movies in it!

"Activate Kruger"

So I watched Elysium on Tuesday, and really enjoyed it. But the more I've been thinking about it, the more disappointed I become. Which is annoying when that happens, isn't it?

Let's get the good out of the way: THOSE ROBOT DESIGNS. Or, well, they actually called them droids in the movie, didn't they? Which was unexpected because doesn't Lucasfilm have that word copyrighted? Or well, I guess the copyright now extends to Disney, doesn't it? Anyways, I liked them a lot. And the titular colony itself, which was designed by Syd Mead. That's killer. The CG in this movie just looked so effortless. It was also nice to see a movie with a predominately Hispanic cast, though that makes Matt Damon stick out way more than he should.

I liked his "probation officer" being a shitty bot that looks like it was built by whoever came up with the Johnny Cab from Total Recall (a movie this bears a few passing similarities too), and it offering him pills to calm him down was the one moment where this movie leaned REALLY hard into Philip K. Dick territory. I wish it'd borrowed more from his (massive) body of work, honestly. I also appreciate the fact that Blomkamp is more than willing to really fuck up his characters in a way that most blockbuster movies shy away from.

And man, Sharlto Copley as Kruger. What a fuckin' piece of work that dude is. Just a grizzly psychopath who makes everybody else look like they aren't even trying. Seeing him all buffed up and foul after playing the scrawny, nerdy Wickus in D9 blew my mind. There's no doubt that he steals the show here.

But the story, the action...none of it was terribly great. For a movie about a giant floating colony occupied by rich people and their droid servants, taking place more than 50 years in the future, there's not a lot of world-building is there? Maybe it's because I saw it not long after my fourth(!!) time watching Pacific Rim, but everything is just kind of surface level, isn't it?
The main thing driving the plot, the main reason people on Earth want to find a way to Elysium, are the Medpods, which scan and magically fix anything that ails you. But who made those? Why aren't they available on Earth? Who came up with the idea of building a whole new colony for rich people and abandoning everyone else? How does the rest of the world, or even just our own government, respond to something like that? What was the original purpose for the exosuit thing they brutally strap Max into? Why do so many people on Elysium speak French? That was French, right?

Things don't feel as fully realized in the movie as I'd like them to be. There's a lot of cool tech going on, but it's just kind of there, and it's all disconnected from the rest of the movie. Max's exosuit looks cool, sure, but beyond the neural download and the two or three fights he gets in, it doesn't serve much purpose at all. It sure as hell isn't keeping him alive to do the job like I thought it would.

Reviewers have been talking about the social commentary, but there doesn't seem to be as much going on here as there is in District 9. To me, anyways. There's the immense divide between the rich and the poor, sure, but that's just setup, not much else. ThinkProgress has a good article about how it fails as a commentary on how terrible our healthcare system is, something that I barely even thought about while watching the movie. Something that occured to me today is the scene where Jodie Foster's character (why is she trying to impersonate Shatner in this?) orders Kruger to shoot down the shuttles heading to Elysium...

...Shuttles filled with sick and injured people. Sick and injured people who are largely Hispanic. Trying to get to a colony populated pretty much exclusively with white people. That is totally referring to the immigration issues we've been having in the US lately, in a not very subtle manner, and yet I don't think I've seen anyone mention it yet.

So I think that's the big problem I have, is that the movie doesn't really try to comment on any one issue in a strong manner, just these passing references to a number of things while not really managing to say much about any of them. None of it is important to this movie in the way that the apartheid in South Africa was to District 9. It just feels like all of the care and attention just went into designing shit (without explaining much of it) and getting Max and Kruger into some nasty fights. It's too shallow, there's just not as much to chew on as District 9 had.

And that last fight between them...that was a mess in the way it was shot and edited, wasn't it?

All of that aside, I do want to watch it again. I feel like I missed some bits. There may be more going on in other parts of the movie that I just overlooked. Possibly my expectations were way too high, I was wanting more of a movie that had nothing in common with Iron Man 3 or Star Trek 2, something with a lot more meat on it. And it's still much better than those two I just mentioned.

It also probably doesn't help that I've been mainlining Criterion Collection movies on this free 2 month Hulu Plus subscription that I got. I'll be writing about those soon, because very little compares to the greatness that is the Sword of Doom.

Looming on the horizon

So I have a pretty big, awesome announcement to make.

Two weeks ago was Rob-Con, as you probably already know. I didn’t do as well this year as I did last year, but it was still a blast and I still managed some decent sales and got some nice stuff for myself too. I met a woman there who had been walking around talking to all of the other artists. She was from the William King Museum in Abingdon, where I’d taken a few art classes when I was at Highlands. She told me about how they were setting up an exhibition of comic art in one of their galleries early next year from the private collection of Shelton Drum. Shelton, for those who don’t know, owns the Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find shop in Charlotte and is the one who puts together Heroes Con every year, so I’m willing to bet he has some great stuff to display. Anyways, she told me that she wanted to do a show in the upstairs gallery that she curates to coincide with this one, showcasing local artists, and gave me her card.

Last week I emailed her. We set up a meeting for Tuesday morning, after I had a dentist’s appointment. I took my portfolio with me that had mostly poster illustrations, pages from the last few chapters of Other Sleep, and pages from Burst Reach 3.

She told me I was the only artist who’d gotten in touch with her about doing a show, and that I can basically do whatever I want. After some chatting, we decided that I’ll be doing a solo show exhibiting work from Other Sleep. Original pages, prints of the fully colored pages, stuff like that. And the show will be in February, coinciding with the comic show mentioned above.

Me. A solo show at the William King Museum. Based on Other Sleep. Be still my beating heart.

My plan always was to try and have the book finished by the end of this year. Now, I have an insanely good reason for doing just that. It’s more than just finishing the book, that’s just the first step, there’s going to be so much more to do, but this is a huge deal to me. I am buzzing with excitement.

So now I’m working like crazy, more motivated than ever before.  You understand, right?

Oh, and one other thing. Next Saturday, August 17th, is Koku Manga, an anime convention being put on by the same folks responsible for ETSUcon back in April. It’s being held at the Holiday Inn in Johnson City, and I of course will be there, purveying my usual wares and doing sketches. So come check it out, say hi, buy some stuff! Get a mutant portrait drawn! Because seriously, I didn’t do a single one at Heroes OR Rob-Con, and that’s distressing. Why wouldn’t you want your portrait drawn as something out of a body horror film?!

Finally, here are a couple recent pieces I haven’t really shown yet. Both are of characters from the new graphic novel I’m slowly formulating. I’m aiming for a look that’s a bit different from Other Sleep, as you can see:
Alright, that’s enough chatter. There’s work to be done. See you next weekend.


"my own dreams"

Hey everyone! Chapter 7 of Other Sleep is finally completed and online! 20 pages of Ninel swearing and punching things and getting bloody! It was a lot of fun to draw and color, so go check it out!

My goal is still to get the two final chapters online by the end of the year, which means I have 50 pages to draw, color, and letter in the next 5 months. No pressure.

On top of that, I've added some stuff to my Gumroad profile. Burst Reach 1 and 2 are now available together as a bundle, along with collections of chapters 1-3 and 4-6 of Other Sleep. And they're only a dollar a pop! How can you pass up a deal like that? Go get'em!

Finally, in case you've forgotten, Rob-Con is this Saturday! I found a hidden batch of my Distinguished Gentlemen/Exciting Tales! collection, so I folded and stapled those and will be giving them out for free. As always, I'll have my posters and buttons, the first chapter of Other Sleep, I'll be doing sketches, and I'll have copies of Burst Reach 3 as well! It's going to be a blast, and you're an idiot if you pass it up!

Aaaaannnnnndddd that's about it for now.


"I'll drop you like a sack of kaiju shit"

Minutes into Pacific Rim, I felt my eyes watering. About halfway through, after Gipsy Danger triumphantly brings down a kaiju on the edge of Hong Kong (midway through one hell of a setpiece), they came back. The movie made me cry tears of joy. I don’t think any movie has done that to me in some time. After being let down by Iron Man 3 and Star Trek 2 Much Crying, this is exactly what I needed.

 I don’t want to write a full-fledged review, or go into a plot synopsis or anything, you can go literally anywhere else to read something like that. I just want to talk about how this movie worked on a personal level for me and throw out a bunch of random thoughts that I’ve had in my head all weekend.
I grew up on Godzilla movies and Power Rangers. Giant monsters were just the coolest thing ever to me at 8 years old, so this stuff is just in my blood. When I hit my teenage years, that passion moved into giant robot anime, specifically shows like Gundam Wing, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Big O. Recently I’ve been getting heavily back into the old Godzilla movies I liked as a kid, along with the 90’s Gamera trilogy, tokusatsu shows like Super Robot Red Baron (which I wrote at length about here), basically anything I can get my hands on, and you can tell it's been influencing my art a lot too. So it goes without saying that I was excited for Pacific Rim. I feel like this movie was made JUST for me. I started grinning the moment that kaiju started tearing into the Golden Gate bridge and I don’t think the grin ever left my face until well after it was all over.

Yeah, yeah, the movie is cheesy. That’s exactly how I wanted it to be, though. I wasn’t sure how Guillermo del Toro was gonna handle the movie at first, but from the moment I saw Raleigh and his brother strutting down that corridor in leather jackets like rockstar fighter pilots, I knew the movie was in good hands. There are certain clichés in the movie, yeah. Idris Elba plays your stereotypical hard-headed military commander that’s in every Gundam anime I’ve seen, and he plays it perfectly. I would’ve been disappointed if there wasn’t macho posturing, bickering, and fighting between any of the pilots, and I believe that every kaiju movie NEEDS a ship trapped in the middle of a raging storm, mistaking the giant monster coming at them for an island. Okay, it was all a bit predictable, but really, tell me, what kind of human drama were you expecting? I didn’t want darkness and cynicism and crying, and thankfully neither did del Toro.
The WWII influence is all over the place. The leather jackets, the kaiju kill stamps on the Jaegers along with painted logos, the design of the computers that the characters interact with are all heavy, colored buttons, switches and microphones in metal casing as opposed to fancy touch-screen tech that we’re used to seeing EVERYWHERE now. I approve of that aesthetic, it’s much more physical. It IS a little weird that in a movie taking place more than a decade into the future, everyone dresses like they’re from the mid-to-late 20th century, but the costumes suit the rest of the production design and makes it all feel a bit timeless and more, well, heroic feeling in a way I can’t quite articulate. I love del Toro’s films for their visual aesthetics and this movie did not let me down at all.
That first Jaeger in the prologue, the blue one with the fin on its chest? That design just SCREAMS Go Nagai. Seriously looks like it almost belongs in Mazinger Z or an episode of Super Robot Red Baron, fitting for a first generation Jaeger. I wish we’d gotten to see more of it in action. Cherno Alpha, another Mark I that we see, is yes, SUPER RUSSIAN, but also brings to mind some old-school Japanese mech designs that have the kind of dome heads with no neck. Like this dude from Red Baron:
Also, the Jaeger designs in general feel more to me like Armored Core and Virtual On than Gundam or Evangelion. Yes, the computer voice is absolutely GLaDOS from Portal, no mistaking that, but that voice is also VERY similar to the announcer in Virtual On. “ROUND ONE, GET READY” is a thing that’s embedded in my brain from putting so many quarters into that game.

THE MUSIC. The main theme is great for getting you pumped up and rooting for the Jaeger pilots, and the darker stuff, when the kaiju were attacking, was remarkably similar to the music I’m used to hearing in kaiju films, especially Koh Otani’s scores for the Gamera trilogy and Giant Monsters All Out Attack. Bravo, Ramin Djawadi.

All of the kaiju, while pure CG, looked like you could conceivably cram a guy in a suit and make it work. The way they moved, too, while more natural and animalistic, still had little touches that made them feel like guys strapped into heavy rubber suits from time to time. My ONLY complaint about the movie is that I wish the kaiju had been more colorful, or had more markings on them. I can only handle so many greyish tones and blue bioluminescence. Individual roars, while not necessary, would have been great. Each kaiju in a Toho movie has its own unique cry, easily distinguishable from one another, and a nod towards that would’ve been great.

The names! Mako Mori, Newton Geizler, Hercules Hansen, Stacker Fucking Pentecost! Those names alone are enough to inform you of what kind of movie you’re going into. You just don’t let people with average names like mine pilot a 250 foot tall robot designed specifically for punching the crap out of giant monsters from another dimension.
The only characters who really curse in the movie are Chuck Hansen and Hannibal Chau, which is very fitting for both characters. And most of the swearing is of course from Hannibal. I just thought that was a nice touch. While I'm at it, let's take a moment to appreciate how ballin' Ron Perlman is in this movie, brief as his appearance is.

Clifton Collins, Jr. I’ve only seen him in two other movies, Scott Pilgrim and Crank 2, but I dig that guy. Not sure why he was dressed as the Eleventh Doctor, but I have no complaints. And the balding, long-haired dude running Hannibal’s shop, is that the same actor who played that vampire in the beginning and end of Blade 2? And why was that old guy with the metal detector so familiar to me?

…So yeah, it’s safe to say I loved it. I’ve seen it twice now, the second time in 3D, and plan on seeing it at least once more. The last movie I saw more than twice in theaters? Hellboy 2. Funny how things like that work out.

This is my design

Bear with me. Trying to articulate thoughts that have been running through my head is always kind of difficult.

As I'm laying out plans to get the final three chapters of Other Sleep finished this year, I'm slowly beginning to sketch out the basics of my next graphic novel idea. It's going to be an entirely different beast. Some things will be similar to OS I guess, sci-fi with a female protagonist, but I want to tackle it in a different manner. I'm thinking about story structure, most specifically.

This week, I blasted through the entire first season of the new Hannibal TV show. Which is weird, I never go through an entire season of ANY TV show that quickly, unless it's the Tim and Eric Awesome Show or something equally ridiculous and short, you know? But yeah, I watched all 13 episodes.

Airing on NBC, Hannibal definitely has its roots in network television and the standard episodic structure that most shows follow, but it's the way it subverts that structure which I was really keen on. Like Law & Order, CSI, all those other shows, it was a "villain of the week" kind of thing, where each episode had our intrepid team of FBI agents hunting down a different serial killer. But unlike those other shows, the killers were hardly the focus at all. Part of the appeal was definitely seeing the crime scenes, the incredible and gruesome ways the victims were mutilated and placed, but beyond that? The killers hardly mattered. They didn't get into harrowing chase scenes with the killers, deal with crazy hostage situations, nothing like that, half the time catching the bad guy was just...anticlimactic. You don't get that cathartic moment of victory when they snag them. That's not what's important.
What's important to the show is Will Graham and his relationship with Hannibal Lector. The serial killers are just there as foils, seeing how they relate to Will and Hannibal. And, well, even if you made a totem pole of mutilated bodies, sorry, you're STILL not as fucking horrible as Hannibal is. If Mad Mikkelsen had facial hair, he'd be twirling and stroking it every second while trying not to let out a Dick Dastardly laugh. Dude's just an incredible villain. Will's downward slide into insanity, Hannibal's manipulations, those are the focus. The drama isn't in catching the guy who cuts his victims backs into wings and poses them as angels, the drama is in watching Hannibal and Will sitting and talking. I love that.

So again, episodic nature, but the episodic stuff is completely secondary to what's developing over the course of the entire season, which is Hannibal getting inside Will's head, pushing him further and further into darkness. The last two or three episodes cast off the episodic stuff in favor of pushing Will over the edge and tying everything up. The finale was kinda sloppy and disappointing, but still, it was a great show to power through.

And then we have the Japanese TV show Super Robot Red Baron, from the 1970's. Yes, I'm about to compare Hannibal to a show that's entirely about robots punching each other. Feel free to stop reading at any point.
I got Super Robot Red Baron on DVD just before going to HeroesCon, and started watching it around the same time I started watching Hannibal. The entire series is 39 episodes long, and I'm not even 10 episodes in because, well, I was also watching Hannibal, and um, watching more than two episodes of Red Baron at a time would probably leave me catatonic.

The first few episodes of this show are INCREDIBLE. Okay, it's given that this is a tokusatsu (special effects) show, all about giant robots fighting, aimed at kids, but there's still a story there, and the way it handles that story is insane. Character development? There really isn't any. In Hannibal, you're watching Will slowly lose his damn mind, episode by episode, dramatic tension building until everything snaps in the finale. In Red Baron, the main protagonist's brother, the scientist who built Red Baron, is killed just a few minutes into the SECOND FUCKING EPISODE.

And I MISSED it. It happened so fast. I turned my head to look at a text message or something, and when I turned back, shit was exploding and robots were fighting, and it didn't even occur to me until the end of the episode that anything had happened to the brother. This show is so dedicated to putting giant robots onscreen punching each other that it speeds through plot relentlessly. I mean, dude's brother was strapped to a fucking crucifix with a bomb tied to his neck, which just went off. That's a hell of a way to watch a family member die, especially since they briefly mentioned in the first episode how their parents and ANOTHER brother went missing after a car accident! Ken, our hero, doesn't have time to mourn, he's gotta pilot Red Baron and BARON PUNCH the fuck out of the Iron Alliance!

Then the villains make an android double of the dead brother and send him out to fuck with Ken. This happens in THE VERY NEXT EPISODE. There is no time given over to Ken coming to grips with his brother's death, with his new responsibility of piloting a giant robot or any of that. Any other TV show would have waited until mid-season or something before pulling a move like that, but the writers of Super Robot Red Baron give no fucks, nor do the villains that they write.

In any other kind of show, that would be terrible writing, but for some reason, with this show, I can't help but actually ADMIRE it for being so dedicated. They waste no time blasting through dramatic developments and plot twists to get to shit exploding. A single 20-minute episode feels like its half its length.

See, there are plenty of examples of storytelling where a plot development or dramatic twist is rushed through, and it feels sloppy and wrong, or shoehorned in because it doesn't fit in with the rest of the story, but Super Robot Red Baron does it so goddamn consistently that I can't help but be in awe of it. It's not like Power Rangers, Ultraman, or your standard Godzilla movie, where you're sitting through bad jokes and boring crap before you get to the robots and monsters fighting. This show just cuts to the chase and gives you more action than you know what to do with. You have no choice but to roll with shit as it happens, and I love it for that.

An example of abandoning the episodic structure almost completely would be the new season of Arrested Development on Netflix, the episodes of which you could technically watch in whatever order you wanted if you so choose, due to its labyrinthian style of jumping through time from character to character. Then there's the Wire and Mad Men, which are less like TV shows and more like novels in the way the story unfolds in each. What I love about the Wire is that it's one or two related cases developing over an entire season in a more realistic fashion, completely bucking the standard cop show routine where each episode is a different case.

So what does any of this have to do with my new graphic novel that I'm slowly plotting? I have no idea right now. The storytelling in Other Sleep is so straightforward because I just sat down and wrote it beginning to end, picking out dramatic moments to end each chapter on and then working with the page count from there. I want a more solid structure for this next graphic novel, and I feel like some sort of episodic structure would work really well for it. For years before I started Other Sleep, I was constantly tinkering with a comic that would've been structured like an old-school videogame, but that's a subject for an entirely different blog entry, yep.

Anyways, I've rambled enough now. Go watch Hannibal. And Super Robot Red Baron! BOTH.


Burst Reach 3 now available!

Rising up from self-imposed exile to let you all know that I put a PDF of Burst Reach 3 up on Gumroad for a mere dollar!

Go check it out:

And, you know, if you want a physical copy? Email me. It's 3 bucks, plus shipping, and I'll sign it and throw in a free sketch or button with it!

If you want a quick preview of the contents of the comic, here's a Tumblr post I did on it.

Thanks, and let me know what you think of it!


HeroesCon 2013

I spent this past weekend at HeroesCon, neck-deep in nothing but comics culture and nerdery. We got up at 3:45am Friday morning to drop my girlfriend’s mother off at the airport before we drove the three and a half hours to Charlotte, so I spent all three days of the con sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, much like everyone else there, it seemed. This is basically how I am now that I‘m back in the real world:
Last year was the first time I’d ever been, wandering aimlessly and trying to put copies of the first issue of Burst Reach into the hands of artists and writers I admired. This year, however, I shared a table with my friend, comics mentor, and convention veteran sketch monster, Jeremy Massie. This is basically my third con appearance, and, like I said in my previous blog post (I think??), I had no idea what to expect at all.
The truth is? I think I did better in one day at ETSUcon back in April than I did in all three days at Heroes. Everyone was saying that Saturday would be massive, that I’d be slammed with sketch requests and people buying things from me, but it turns out actually that I sold more books and drew more sketches on Sunday alone. I barely had anybody Friday and Saturday. This, ah, well, um, led to a bit of an existential crisis Saturday evening. I had packed so much, unrealistically thinking that Burst Reach 3 and Other Sleep would sell really well. I DID manage to get rid of all of my leftover copies of the first two issues of Burst Reach, which was a great relief, but still, I could feel despair closing in as I sat at my table watching hundreds of people walk by without so much as a glance in my direction or worse, standing in front of my table in order to get a look at the insanely cool collage pieces at the table next to me while awkwardly pretending I wasn‘t sitting there.

After some talking about it, I understand completely now. HeroesCon is just HUGE. It is packed with hundreds of artists and vendors, some who are new to things, others who are con veterans, heavy-hitting Marvel powerhouses like Paolo Rivera and first-timers like myself, all of whom are scrambling and struggling for the attention and money of con-goers. Why would you want a copy of Other Sleep from me when Sean Murphy is just about 20 feet away with Punk Rock Jesus and some killer prints at his table? So it makes sense that I did better at smaller cons with fewer artists. I mean, come on, I was at the same convention as Jim Steranko and Eric Powell, who was I to think that I’d do well in their presence?

It wasn’t all existential pain and self-doubt, of course. On the first day I got a personal inking lesson from Paul Maybury, who is a great artist and great person to chat with. I got to watch my girlfriend who’d never been to such a massive con run around, meeting up with old friends and making new ones while formulating a plot to leave me for Matt Fraction and Ben Templesmith. She had a blast all three days, and it made me extremely happy to have been able to bring her along with me and watch her having so much fun. And some good friends of ours came down on Sunday and we ate at Pinky’s Grill with them, which was fantastic.

I did some pretty fun sketches for people, too.
And saw some fantastic costumes.
And, despite not making much money at all, I got a TON of stuff.
(not shown: two shirts, a badass Ultraman poster, and a few other comics and stuff)

And on top of all that, here are some other highlights:
-After two days of searching for each others tables, I finally met up with Alejandro Bruzzese. Check his work out, it’s killer stuff.
-After seeing Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick together, my girlfriend claims that they’re exactly like she and I. Her words echoed in the back of my head when I got my copy of Hawkeye #1 signed by Fraction and felt like I was having a conversation with myself. That said, she still wanted to kidnap him.
-I saw Nate Bellegarde’s original pages for Nowhere Men and swooned.
-Did I mention Pinky’s Grill? That place is amazing. I like fried pickles now, how did that happen?
-I got to watch Massie draw this strange sketch request of Burt Reynolds playing cards with a lion:
-Supermag by Jim Rugg is a thing of wonder. And when I gave him a copy of Burst Reach 3, he complimented the look of Stranger Rains!
-The Out of Step Arts table may be my favorite. I got a great Paul Maybury shirt last year, and this year got a Toby Cypress shirt and a couple of Liz Suburbia’s minicomics. He’ll be at Rob-Con next month, too, so be sure to stop by!
-There was a Republican convention going on at the same time, and the juxtaposition of cosplayers and nerds with old white men in suits made for some fun people-watching.

…And I think that’s about it. I’m going to disappear for a while to work on chapter 7 of Other Sleep, and will resurface sometime in July as Rob-Con approaches!