Category: comic related

Rising Stars – A Starting Point For Comic Excellence

Contributed by Morgon Nequist

I am a latecomer to comics. Am I allowed to admit that? Well, whether I am or not, I just did.

I grew up on science fiction and fantasy – mostly books, and Star Trek. At an age when many other girls became obsessed with makeup or other more typical girl stuff, I devoured book after book and hour after hour of Star Trek and other sci-fi offerings.

I came by it honestly. Both my parents loved it too. Neither were comics fans. And with no brothers to introduce me to superheroes, I kind of lived in a world that didn’t really acknowledge comic books much. Not that there was anything wrong with it – it just wasn’t my sphere.

So my first introduction to comics is very different, and more adult, than what is probably common. I didn’t stay up hours after my bedtime with a flashlight reading comic books.

But what I did start with was Rising Stars.

I had just finished watching Babylon 5 with my then-fiance. And he casually mentioned that J. Michael Strazynzki had written a comic book. The entire thing was done at that point, and he had all the novels.

Keep in mind I’d never had anything against comics at all, or thought they were silly or immature – I’d really just never even really thought about reading them.

Babylon 5 is amazing, so it couldn’t hurt to try his graphic novel, right?

Rising Stars is narrated by the ever-serious Poet, one of the 113 children given superpowers the night a comet crashed into the earth. It eventually morphs into a bit of a Highlander story – whenever one of the 113 Specials dies, the others experience a power surge. Chaos ensues, and then the story ends the way it began in a beautiful bookend. It’s powerful, bittersweet, and one hell of a read. The story is excellently written, and the art helped express the story in a medium I wasn’t used to anymore. I hadn’t read books with pictures for years. Characters, with twists to the typical superhero powers that I hadn’t thought of, caught my attention and drew me in.  The entire story arc and comic left an impression on me. I’m sure it isn’t new necessarily new or revolutionary for old hands in the comic reading world but it was for me.  I won’t reveal too much more in case you, dear reader, haven’t had a chance to read this one.

I blew through all three volumes of the final released work in a matter of days, annoyed whenever I had to put them down to deal with real life. And after that, I knew I had to check out more graphic novels and comics. One taste is really about all it took.

From there I moved on first to some of the other more adult works – Watchmen, V for Vendetta, The Long Halloween, and even AU works like Gotham by Gaslight. Now the list is getting too long to type out, even though it hasn’t been that many years since I first sat down with Born In Fire, volume one of Rising Stars.

But the best part of my late entry into this fandom is the massive amounts of amazing backreading I’ve got to delve into.

Morgon Newquist started life by causing an international incident in Central America, and has been marching to the beat of her own drummer ever since. She grew up in the Rocket City – Huntsville, Alabama. After a stint at the University of Georgia to study Latin, she has returned to the place of her upbringing where she wrangles two dogs, a cat, and four children daily.

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The Crow: A Dark Awakening

Contributed by Amanda Kahl

Early on in my comic-reading days I had little exposure to anything other than the handful of superhero titles at my local drugstore. I wanted to read more comics, but had very limited access. Sometime in middle school, however, I took my Christmas money to the mall bookstore determined that I was going to buy myself a new comic. Something serious. Something grown up and important. That day I ended up with James O’Barr’s graphic novel “The Crow.”

I had scoped the book out before on previous mall excursions – drawn to the dark, brooding atmosphere of the art. A couple of friends had seen the movie adaptation and encouraged my interest, saying it was a good story. When I finally bought my copy I devoured it. The story was intense and emotional, the artwork was expertly executed and detailed. I could not have been happier with my acquisition. As the years went by, however, I reread it less and less frequently. I stopped bringing it up when people talked about favorite comics in favor of things that were more current or more highly acclaimed (whatever that actually means.) But really, when I look back on it, “The Crow” influenced me more than any other comic.

The most obvious influence of “The Crow” to anyone glancing at both it and my own work is aesthetic. I had already been a fan of dark and intricate artwork (having been an Edward Gorey fangirl since I was 7) but O’Barr’s beautiful book showed me that a Gothy style could be used in comics as well. This was something that had never occurred to me as I read the candy-colored popular comics of the day. I didn’t realize until I was much older and much more well-studied how much influence O’Barr was drawing from established masters (everyone from Michelangelo to Will Eisner.) All that mattered to me at the time was that it was gorgeous and that if “The Crow” had done comic art that way, then I could too.

Since “The Crow” was the first non-superhero/Archie/talking funny animals comic I ever read, it was my introduction to the possibility that comics could explore any genre. Since the story was centered on revenge for a rape and murder and takes place mostly in the criminal underworld it was full of scenes of violence, torture, sex, drug use, explicit language, and plenty of other things that would have made my mother throw the book out (had she but known!) At the time, I really only noticed this content as being “adult” and not fundamentally changing my understanding of what comics were capable of being (which is what was actually happening.) The story was also a personal one. The stakes are extremely limited and really just center on a handful of players rather than the more typical “saving the world” setup of many superhero stories. Most importantly, the story is profoundly emotional.

Outside of my own art career, one of the biggest impacts “The Crow” had was to show me the importance of art as therapy. The intensity of emotion that is conveyed in that book is not something that can be faked; it comes from somewhere real. The edition that I bought featured a forward explaining that James O’Barr came up with the story because he had lost someone and was working through the grief. At the time I just thought it was a sad back story, but in the years to come I would relate to it very deeply. “The Crow” taught me that sometimes the only thing you can do to make sense of your own pain and struggle is to use it to create something meaningful, and hope that you reach someone else. Hope that you let them know they are not alone.

Looking back at this comic book that influenced me so strongly, I am kind of embarrassed that I wandered away from it for so long. If someone, especially a young person who has many intense and emotionally charged years ahead of them, is just getting into comics and venturing away from the mainstream for the first time I would have to tell them, “Okay, so you’re going to think it looks dated, you might think the dialog is cheesy at first, but you really, really need to read ‘The Crow’.”


Gen13 – A Sexy Saturday Morning

Image Comics came out of the blue, a company created by names such as Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee who unlike other major publishers, allowed the artists to retain rights to their properties. In 1993, Gen13 became one of those titles and seven years later, it would be released as an animated movie. Much like the tone of the comic, the animation remained geared toward young adult, but like with many superhero titles of the 90’s, it featured narrow waists, large biceps, and breasts. While looking lie it’d be perfect for Saturday morning cartoons like its WildC.A.T.’s counterpart, it would have given my parents a slack jaw as we watched.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the movie’s plot is somewhat of a mess. Trying to condense seven years worth of story into an hour and a half is tedious at best. The story follows Caitlin Fairchild who is given a scholarship to attend a National Security Council school. School is a loose term. They train like soldiers. They study like Harvard medical students. Their social interactions are awkward. Caitlin meets Grunge, a surfer dude with horrible voice acting and Roxie, a shy mischief who is constantly looking for her next cigarette. There are shower scenes, near naked scenes, hell, even wearing clothes it looks as if breasts may tear through the fabric causing an animated nip slip.

When Caitlin discovers her parents were part of a secret organization, she finds herself the sleeping victim of a gene therapy in an attempt to make her “go gene active.” It’s only later when confronted by a fight or flight response, she grows and finds herself with superhuman strength. Her breasts literally tear themselves from her suit. Apparently the breasts earlier were foreshadowing. From here, the plot runs wild as we discover a man seeking to be their mentor and giving information bout Caitlin’s parents that seems oddly placed and useless to the plot. She frees herself and flees the facility only to turn around and run back in a final show down. We see Grunge use his material-synching abilities shortly thereafter but it’s Roxie who seems to have the “aha” moment despite being a throw away character.

At an hour and twenty minutes, it feels like the last thirty minutes are a story trying to wrap itself up. It doesn’t feel rushed, it feels like a hot mess on the television. If the dialogue wasn’t terrible, the motives are, and even the fights themselves seem out of nowhere. I wanted to like this film, a slice of my childhood, and maybe it would have worked when I was sixteen, but as an adult, it lacked coherence. Unfortunately, not even sexual innuendo could save this superhero animated film adaptation.

Things Better than BvS – DC Fan Films

K&K Productions wins the fan film award. I thought this was a cheeky (yes, I said cheeky) way to pay homage to the superheroes we all love and adore. The special FX are pretty spot on and hold up to the CW standard of superheroes. My only gripe, how long was he walking? He got through three hours of tv on a leisurely stroll? The soundtrack however, quickly makes up for any short comings!

The only fault in this Wonder Woman fan film is that I saw it after seeing an amazing performance by Gal Gadot. With that being said, I’m impressed with the level of special FX done by Rainfall Films and the stunning embodiment of Princess Diana. In just a few short minutes it tells a heroic tale, features her abilities, and presents the duality of the Amazon caught between Themyscira and the world of man. Amazing work on all fronts!

A Month of Comic Geekdom In Review

What happens when twenty-three authors and artists share a love of comics? You get a month long event of amazing unique perspectives about the comics that shaped them in their youth and continue to shape them. From social commentary, to fandoms, to geeking out, I had an amazing time reading these articles and finding people who share my passion for illustrated stories. If you missed a story, here’s a recap of the last month.

Watchmen: A Darkness Witnessed in the Heart of Men by Jeremy Flagg
Extraordinary Assaults by Jeff Deck
Gold Age of Comic Book Movies by Thomas S Flowers III
The Resurrection of “Street Level” Heroes by Errick Danger Nunnally
Modern Heroes: Where Myth Meets Reality by Joshua Guess
Reality & Continuity, Or Why 9/11 Reveals Some Insights About Live-Action Superheroes by Lance Eaton
The Folly of Subcultural Gatekeeping, or WWXD? by Amanda Kahl
Once Upon a Time, We Were All Kitty Pryde of the X-Men by Jeremy Flagg
I get it, but it’s still okay to love Superman! by Eddie Jakes
Necessary Evils by Steve Van Samson
Again with the Superheroes?! A friendly, Well-Intentioned Rant. by Angi Shearstone
X-tinction Agenda, An Arc to End All Arcs by Jennifer Allis Provost
Escapism in Comics by Thomas Washburn Jr.
In a World of Heroes be the Purrfect Villainess by Cameron Garriepy
For the Love of Long Form Storytelling by Chris Duryea
Comics Aren’t Just for the Boys: Girl Power by Amanda Pazzanese Minaker
What Comics Taught Me by Chris Philbrook
Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Not a Hero Because of Powers by E.J. Stevens
Adventures in Babysitting, But More Mutants by Trisha Wooldridge
They call him DOOM by James A. Moore
What’s with all the Nipples? Female Sexualization in Comics by April Hawks
Son of The Demon – The Batman the DCEU Needs by Martin Campbell
Comic Characters Who Need Their Own Movie by Max Bowen

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