Tag: elf quest

From Comic Reader to Comic Creator

Contributed by Kevin “Grivante” Penelerick

I started reading comics around ten years old and had access to a lot of different ones. I started with things like Richie Rich and Archie. From there I graduated into silver age Superman, Spiderman, Captain America and other super-hero titles, but mostly Marvel, oh and the original Star Wars comics series.

My access to so many comics came from the fact that at a young age I helped my grandparents out running their stall at a flea market in Everett, WA. Being the kid, I ran the kids section which included everything from barbie dolls to baseball cards, comics and toys. When it was slow I would sit there and read and I would read everything!

First and foremost I had a huge love for Spiderman. The way he bantered with his villains while fighting and also how he was quiet and kind and just trying to do good in the world. I loved the world of superheroes in general. How they struggled against impossible odds but always overcame them and saved the day. The young boy in me really identified with them.

At some point in my flea market business days I met an older kid by the name of Scott. Scott was the one who introduced me to alternative comics and zombies. It’s there that my particular tastes started to shift. He introduced me to one of the coolest and first zombie comics, Deadworld. Deadworld had incredibly gruesome artwork by Vince Locke and blew my mind that comics weren’t just superheroes in tights or silly kids things.

The story of Deadworld revolved around the outbreak of zombies who were let into our world by a spell book which opened some sort of rift between our world and that of the dead. Amongst them was this badass motorcycle riding zombie named King Zombie, who spent most of the series chasing and trying to destroy our small band of dysfunctional survivors.

From there I fell in love with a whole host of independent comics including the early dark and gritty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Elfquest, which was where my love of deep fantasy narratives began and later, the comic Poison Elves by the late Drew Hayes.

By the time I discovered Poison Elves I was in my late teens and had graduated from selling comics at the flea market with my grandparents to having my own business online during the early days of the internet. I had a huge love for all things alternative, especially the indy comics market where I learned that you didn’t have to be attached to a big company to create and put your work out there.

The fact that anyone could create something and put it out into the world had a strong impact on my world view and how one could achieve success or at least satisfaction from creating. As I’ve gone through life and headed down the path of being an indie author, seeing the successes of those indy comic creators in my younger days has really inspired me to know that anything is possible.

I’ve wanted to write since I was able to read and when I finally got serious about writing ten years ago, I knew comics would somehow be in my future. When I completed my first zombie story, I wanted to try and make it a comic book. I spent several months learning about scripting for comics and then took the story and broke it down panel by panel. I was excited. I spent several more months interviewing and trying out artists before finally choosing one. Unfortunately, after twelve pages the artist abruptly quit. I debated continuing on, but after hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to get to that point, I couldn’t imagine starting over. I went back and released the story as a novella and from there began The Zee Brothers series.

I released the twelve pages that were completed as a mini comic, which you can grab for free here. I’ve also recently completed a new mini comic that tells a story from within The Zee Brothers universe, called Zombie Buffet, it can be found on Amazon, Comixology and my own website www.grivantepress.com. It explores one of the characters in my series as well as answers the question, what would happen if a zombie was allowed to eat all it could eat.

I recognize I was supposed to be answering the question of what comic impacted me the most and why would I recommend it, however for me, it was really all of the comics I read as a kid. There are so many great stories contained in them and I read and was influenced by so many it was impossible to really name just one.

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Again with the Superheroes?! A friendly, Well-Intentioned Rant.

I suspect I got asked to do this because my new circle of writer friends (I’m fairly new to telling stories with words only) know a few things about me: I have a Master’s degree in comic books (MFA in Sequential art, technically), and that I’ve painted, written, and self-published a handful of comics.

But this promotion doesn’t have anything to do with comics! It’s about a superhero novel! Why does the subject of superheroes always get paired with comics? And why do comics so often get paired with superheroes?

Let me say right here and now I have nothing against superheroes or superhero comics. I’ve read more than a handful that I really liked, from Marvel and DC and more. I love the recent proliferation of comics-based movies and TV shows. And I love that so much superhero fiction is popping up as novels and not just as comics. But it tends to get up my nose how so many people automatically equate comics with superheroes, and vice-versa.

Why? Because my entrance into comics came from two different angles at two distinctly different times, with neither one of them having anything to do with superheroes.

The first wave hit when I was 13 years old, or thereabouts. My older brother bought me the ElfQuest collection, an amazing effort of self-publishing in the days long before print-on-demand and promoting through the internet. I practically devoured the things, reading them over and over. And over the next few years, many of my sketchbooks frequently featured ElfQuest-style elves.

If internet fanfic were a thing back then, who knows what might’ve happened, and how much of my life might’ve got lost down such a rabbit hole. Luckily, my enjoyment of this title remained fairly healthy, and sadly never brought me to the next step: Going into a comic book store in search of anything else like it. It would take a few more years before comics as a thing would get some hooks into me.

Fast-forward five or so years, and I’m in college. Something has happened in comics. Some things actually. Some things that another ten or fifteen years later, I’d write about in my thesis for that MFA.

One of these things is this: The cost of paper, ink, and the printing process became cheap enough that comics could be printed on higher quality paper. This higher quality paper could withstand larger amounts of ink and preserve a higher level of detail. With this, people started to paint comics.

Well, actually they’d started to paint them some years before, in 1983 (Scott Hampton on Silverheels), and painted covers reach way back. But it still took a few more years for painted interiors to be relatively common in comics.

This technical development allowed for a wider range of artistic styles. The art could now better reflect darker themes, more dramatic expressions, and more passionate emotions.

And that’s the stuff that caught my eye.

I was working on a BFA in Illustration at the time. Along the way, I forged a strong and lifelong friendship with watercolors, and also with a bunch of nerds like me. But unlike me, some of those nerds were already comic book fans, and had been for a while. And so I started to read some of their comics. Much of it was mainstream and superhero, good stories for sure. But they still lacked an addictive “must read and re-read” quality for me.

Then I got my hands on some painted stuff.

I’m not sure which painted title showed up first. But the earliest offerings I can remember featured Moonshadow, The Books of Magic (the original 4-part series), Arkham Asylum, and Elektra: Assassin. You might note that two of these do in fact feature superheroes, but even these were more than superhero stories. They brought to the table far more satisfying superhero stories; darker, weirder, and creepier than comics had so far managed to offer – to me, at least.

More painted comics showed up on the scene, and most of them showed up in watercolors – Probably because they dry pretty darn fast, the colors scan well, and printing can reproduce them fairly accurately. So they spoke to me on that level.

The paint served as bait, but that wasn’t what kept me there. It wasn’t what drove me to comic book stores every Wednesday for the next twenty years or so.

It was some of the stuff that ran alongside the painted stuff.

I don’t know which came first; perhaps one is the chicken and the other the egg. But DC’s Vertigo imprint showed up around the same time as I tried to get elbows deep in reading painted comics. While the Vertigo interiors rarely featured fully painted art, the stories delivered metric tons of the darker, weirder, creepier, and not-so-much-with-the-fights-in-tights tales – the very stuff that lit up my life and made me wish all of those stories could be fully painted:

The Sandman. Hellblazer (John Constantine). The Books of Magic. Preacher. Transmetropolitan. Lucifer. Lots more. I did not read EVERY Vertigo title, nor did every title I read come from the Vertigo line. But there’s probably a solid 75% overlap between the two, and very little overlap with the superhero set. I love the idea of the anti-hero; the poor role-model as hero or main character. I love the morally ambiguous gray areas, surrealistic twists and turns, and stories that end messily, if they end at all.

So, I’ve spent about half my life up to my eyeballs in comics, but not so much with the superhero stuff. I’ve got maybe eight long-boxes worth of comic-y goodness. I drifted away as DC started to smoosh their universe and stuck Constantine in with the Justice League.

I didn’t need that peanut butter in this chocolate, thanks.

You wouldn’t assume every movie meant romantic comedy. You wouldn’t assume every TV show meant crime investigation drama. You wouldn’t assume every chocolate candy had to have peanut butter in it. (Or would you? Hmmm? It takes all types to make the world go ‘round, I suppose.)

So, please, stop and ask yourself. Do comics have to mean superheroes? Do superheroes always have to connect to comics? Because I’m a nerd here who’s had kind of a lot invested in one, with precious little of the other.

And that said, I am EXTREMELY grateful for the invitation to take part in this adventure, no matter how my invite got here! Hope I didn’t blow it. 😉

Superheroes are awesome, regardless, so go buy Remy’s awesome new book!

Angi Shearstone is an award-winning professional artist with a small herd of cats, undeniable geek tendencies and a great love for ska-core & punk rock. She’s worked with Scott Hampton comics on Batman: Gotham County Line and Simon Dark, and with Jeremy Whitley on Princeless: Tales of Girls who Rock. She also collaborated with Mur Lafferty in Beyond the Storm: Shadows of the Big Easy, and otherwise has self-published a handful of comic book projects, two of which with Joe Sutliff Sanders. Right now she focuses on turning her partly-published vampire comic BloodDreams into a series of books.

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