Thursday, December 31, 2009

THEN CAME ATLAS/SEABOARD! Part 1

Note: There will be plenty of links all over the place in this little missive, which gives greater details about the various people/entities involved. I'm trying to stick more to my views about the history, than a retelling of it. A wealth of information can be found on the Atlas archives site, most especially Jon B. Cooke's article, which was a great help to me in writing this. 


A LITTLE BIT OF THE HISTORY ANYWAY

Atlas/Seaboard was a plucky little comics company back in 1974 started by  Martin Goodman (founder of Marvel comics) to either make money, get revenge for his son Chip being fired from Marvel, or both -depending on who you believe. The story is before Martin sold out he made the new buyers (Cadence) promise to keep Chip Goodman on as editorial director of the comic books. Supposedly Stan Lee (Goodman's nephew by marriage) did some corporate maneuvering and got Chip kicked out. Having read about some of Stan Lee's golden age era antics as he climbed to the top, I have no trouble believing he could do a better than fair impression of a snake in the grass. Martin Goodman  wanted to go head to head against Marvel by offering better deals to the creators, and apparently copying the style at Marvel he helped develop. To assist him in the effort he hired writer/artist Larry Lieber away from Marvel, (allegedly Goodman had always wanted a chance to get him out from under the shadow of his brother Stan Lee) and writer/editor Jeff Rovin away from Warren Publishing. With deals that were supposed to include: higher page rates, return of art work, and shared character ownership Atlas went on a talent raid. Some of the names include: Mike Fleisher, Rich Buckler, Archie Goodwin, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Neal Adams, Pablo Marcos, Dick Giordano, Howard Chaykin, Ric Meyers, Ernie Colon, Larry Hama, Gerry Conway, John Albano, and Gary Friedrich. Reading the roll call it's obvious they had talent, but the company was gone from the scene by the middle of 1975. The comics line was losing Goodman money, so he pulled the plug. If you pick up an old Atlas comic today you can read about problems Atlas had with newsstand distribution in there own letter pages: "...But boy, are you guys bad distributors! How do you expect to sell comix, get popular, make money, and become numero uno, if we fans can't find your mags? I absolutely combed Chicago -it's a pretty big city you know- until I found most of your mags. If you don't do anything about this problem, I'll have to go back to the mediocrity of your competitors. Get on the ball!" [Morlock 2001 and the Midnight Men #3]  It has to be taken into consideration that comics were already on a down turn in sales in 1975, was culminated in 1995. Atlas/Seaboard also had an erratic publishing schedule that tended to leave fans giving up on there titles, a schedule Image comics would ape in every way when they started up in the 90s. Logistic problems is no small thing, but when the publisher and his editor have radically different intentions, you figure it's not going to end well -and it didn't.        


BUGFUCK VS. THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY

You can separate Atlas/Seaboard into two distinct periods the time while Jeff Rovin was still at the company, and then afterward when all the reins were turned over to Larry Lieber under the even more watchful eye of Martin Goodman. This goes hand in hand with the switch from Michael Fleisher writing a host of titles: (Brute, Morlock 2001, Grim Ghost, Ironjaw, Weird Suspense) to his being replaced by Gary Friedrich. This resulted in Atlas/Seaboard losing what made it special -if not commercial- to becoming a imitation of Marvel without the fan base acquired from years of publishing. Friedrich also took over the writing job on: Phoenix, Wulf the Barbarian, and the Cougar. Gary Friedrich isn't a bad writer, but Atlas wasn't Marvel and Goodman's folly was to go once again for the swipe, instead of the original. A comment Jim Kelly made on one of my past Zuda reviews sums up the Atlas reading experience: "...those comics were always just a little too close to the edge to have mainstream appeal, with themes or stories that tended to be just a little too edgey for their own good." That wasn't an accidental occurrence, it was the intent of purpose of  Jeff Rovin, the man who made Atlas, Atlas. "My own ambition from the start was to do characters that were a bit outré and experimental... somewhat more hardbitten and schizophrenic than the average super-hero." -which led to- "...The Code and I fought over literally every magazine Atlas published, starting with the very first, Ironjaw #1... and I didn't win a single dispute with the Code." [Jeff Rovin, in Jon B. Cooke interview] The comics code was always there to handicap any new innovations in story telling. Despite the code battles, I think Rovin's ambition was realized during his time there, the titles were definitely out there. Poor little blind girls eaten, teenage boy killed, cannibalism from spider people, vigilante killings, raping and pillageing, gooning it up with shakedowns, and that's just what the Atlas herores did! Martin Goodman's reaction to all this:
"Martin became more and more disgruntled as he read more and more of my comics. And what he decided, without having received a single sales report, was that they didn't look and read enough like Marvel Comics.
"'That's right,' I remember telling him with a mixture of disbelief and disappointment. 'Why should they look like Marvels?'
"'
Because Marvels sell.'
"'
Sure,' I replied, 'but that's because the characters have had 10 years to establish themselves, not to mention the newsstand clout Marvel has developed-'
"'
Look,' he snapped, 'I don't want to argue about this. Just do it.' To which Martin established a hefty warchest and told Larry and me to go out and hire away as many Marvel people as we could. Larry seemed disappointed, but I was frankly appalled...."    [Jeff Rovin, in Jon B. Cooke interview]
In Januray 1975 Jeff Rovin quit, and the great push to be more like Marvel was begun by Larry Lieber taking over as editor, and Friedrich taking over for Fleisher.
"Larry called me up and said, 'Help.' Well, I flew up to New York and Chip and Martin took me out and wined me and dined me and offered me a bunch of money to save the comics enterprise. I didn't succeed at it but I made a hell of a lot of money at it for a year or so. I just freelanced. I wrote all their titles. I just said, 'Larry, until you find some other writers, I'll write them all,' and I did. We weren't real rich in excellent artists, which probably caused the failure as much as anything, though we kind of got it turned around and put out a line of books that wasn't too bad." [Grary Friedrich, to Comic Book Artist]
Those last few lines sent my bull shit detector into radioactive. Atlas had plenty of excellent artists and writers they just weren't Marvel enough. What Friedrich didn't realize is there was nothing to turn around, unless you mean going from a unique comics line that didn't sell, transforming to a imitation of Marvel -that didn't sell. The abrupt about face in tone and direction at Atlas has came to be known as The Third Issue Switch. Lieber/Friedrich's changes weren't all horrible, in one or two cases it actually added a nice new direction for the title, but for most books it was a One Flew style creative lobotomy.

For more on the titles and personalities in Atlas and the mark they left on comics, be sure to check out the blog for part 2.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Zuda review The House Always Wins/ I'm hoping the house actually does win, would be a nice change...


December Zuda comic The House Always Wins, is done by Josh Hechinger and John Bivens. It got a favorite from me, here is the synopsis: Season seven of the realty reality show “Fix or Nix” is off to a bad start. In seasons past, the decrepit houses the show takes on have been known to have rats, or roaches, or inexplicably huge piles of junk inside. Fair enough.
This time, the house-in-question appears to harbor a malevolent spectral presence that violently murders anyone who enters it.
To safely solve the mystery in time for sweeps week, the producers have hired “The Hermit Detective” Raleigh Porter, a crime-solving genius who never leaves his house. Assisting Raleigh (re: doing his legwork) are Charlie Albarn (rugby talent turned forensic scientist), Jeff Lovering (black market anatomist), and Jackie Laika (a psychic pretending to be merely uncannily observant).
They’re a team of genuinely gifted crime solvers. They have a track record you could build a house on (no pun intended).
They are hideously out of their depth, and horrible things are going to happen to them.




Whenever I read a haunted house story I think of that song -can't help it

As the story starts off you're immediately hit with the fact the colors do an excellent job of setting the mood. Tying together a home improvement show with a haunted house is also a nifty idea. I really enjoyed the start with a plumber kicking back, and dropping plot points in a more natural way than you expect to find on most Zuda submissions. I have to give credit to some fine writing as the suspense played out across the screens. John Bivens is a Zuda vet who always delivers in the art, Marvel/DC/Dark Horse should get in touch with him already. I was also impressed at the characterization we had for the plumber, from the way it started (forgetting the movies Psycho and Scream) he could have been a main character. We get some humor, find out he's talking to his son he sees on the weekends, ends up with more of a tug at readers when he gets whacked by the end of the comic. Much better treatment than some of the Zuda contestants, where even main characters come across as red shirt card board cut outs, no one cares about.


Readers are led into Screen 2 by a T.V. going on the fritz sound effect which runs the duration of the above screen 2. Great layout, no dialogue, no pointless as hell narration, if you have an artist this good let his work speak for itself. The strange entity coming out of his T.V. screen (I like the Ring riff) frightens him into action in screen 3, by smacking it over the head with a pipe wrench. Much like bringing a gun to a knife fight, you just know it's not going to end well. Screen 4 has a nice 6 panel action sequence of the plumber bashing the hell out of the T.V. I was really impressed with the way it was colored, and how well the artist and writer work together to make the story better. Once the T.V. is good and crunched the plumber lets his guard down, which we now from every horror movie is a sure sign the danger isn't over.   
   
Is it wrong I want the house to kill them all, if for no other reason than a change of pace?

Screen 5 was some more amazing art, in such a well placed story. You just see a gnarled up hand placed on the plumber's shoulders from a bestial figure in shadows in panel 2. Panel 3 is a close up of the pipe wrench dropping out of his hands, it's not hard to figure this is it.Great silent screen, from the look in the plumber's eye you know he's scared shitless, no need for him to have a conversation with himself. Screen 6 features the 'hermit detective's' team (starting with tough guy turned forensics specialist Charlie Alban) going over the scene at the plumber's house. The plumber is sickly green, stiff as a board corpse by these point in screen 7, a fact the anatomist Jeff Lovering attests to. Porter also 'appears' here as a voice telling Lovering to stop shaking. Screen 8 we actually see Raleigh Porter watching three monitors asking the psychic Jackie Laika what she sees. The fact Jackie is: a psychic pretending to be merely uncannily observant, is a nice flip reworking of the Psych T.V. show  The comic ends on a appropriately scary moment with a demonic skull superimposed over one of Jackie's eyes as she has a vision. There was maybe one screen too many devoted to the team, but the writing/dialogue, and the art were fantastic. Given a win I doubt it gets, I would enjoy every screen as I followed this comic. Look forward to seeing the creators back in Zuda.

Zuda review Villain/ superheroes and villains on Zuda, -no really that's what it is

December Zuda comic Villain is done by Gregory Smallwood. This comic got a favorite from me, and my vote. Here is the synopsis: Terry Allen has the ability to manipulate energy. He can absorb it, channel it, or redirect it. It’s a powerful gift but, instead of using it for good, he uses it for profit and destruction. Under the guise of Shockwave, Allen commits high profile crimes and amasses a small fortune. But money and power are not enough to save him from earth’s premier superhero team, The Overmen. Caught during a diamond heist gone awry, Shockwave is given a life sentence on the prison planet, Atticus. Located in a parallel universe, Atticus houses some of the world’s most dangerous super-villains. With no guards and a super-powered prisoner population in the hundreds, it is a dangerous world where only the strongest and most ruthless survive. On Atticus, Shockwave is forced to confront his own nihilism and choose sides in a fight that determines the survival of earth.

I want to see Shockwave come back to earth only to lose again, otherwise it could just end up being a sanitized version of Wanted

In 8 screens this comic doesn't put a new spin on things, but it does make a very entertaining read. Considering some of the other comics this month, that counts for a hell of a lot. The story opens with the lead character fighting  this universe's super hero team. Screen 1 is a nice action scene, with text box thought balloons that get into Shockwave's villain logic. Screen 2 is a nice fight scene with this world's Superman stand in and some very well written 'it's all about me' text box though balloons. I also liked the flip put on the classic Spider-Man line in this comic, Shockwave's view: "With great power comes the opportunity to make your own rules". Less is more with the narration, cutting down on some of his 'deep thoughts' might have got the point across even better. The art is very well suited to this comic, and the colors make it even better. The script is a fun read, and the letters are all legible. Screen 3 reveals Shockwave was caught, and is being held at the 'Overmen' headquarters. Shockwave is defiant, but here you find out he is being shipped to the prison world Atticus. Screen 4 finds Shockwave has fallen silent, the 'Major' hero takes time to rub it in, but before he  leaves Shockwave vows to come back and beat him up. There are a number of ways this comic could go, should it come back for the win, none of which are really tipped off in the 8 screens.




You are the biggest dick, and not in the 'you have a future in porn' sense of the word

Which gets to the heart of the quandary in a story like this. There's only so many ways for the story to go at this point, course I give the creator credit who knows what twists he might have in mind. You could go the reformed villain route, or a less extreme version of Wanted where he comes back to win. For a surprise Shockwave could actually not get off the prison world. His opponents on this prison world are going to have be even sorrier than he is, to make me want to root for him to survive. There's no history, therefore no need for a villain popularity pissing contest to determine the 'winners' which is what DC's prison planet comic turned out to be. I enjoyed the artwork on screen 5, nice design work on Atticus. Screen 6 is Shockwave's first meeting with the natives, which featured some cool sound effects in panel 2. Shockwave avoids getting blasted by a guy with a cannon for an arm, and his scary looking partner.  On screen 7 you find out the guy with the gun is named Arsenal, and the other fellow is a speedster named Speedfreak. They say there the welcoming committe, and Shockwave prepares to fight. In some well done action scenes the speedster starts smacking him around. In screen 8 Shockwave gets some good one liners in, nice dialogue,  as the comic ends with him blowing up Arsenal's gun arm  accompanied by the screams of "NOOO!" This comic meets all the minimum genre expectations in this story. From the quality of the initial 8 screens I take it on  faith Villain will have a number of interesting twists by the time it gets to screen 60, should it win. Great potentil from a cool start, in a area of subject Zuda is short on, won my support. Best of luck Gregory!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Zuda review Daemon's Sphere/ The diminishing returns of finding bigger and better artifacts


December Zuda review of Daemon's sphere done by Andrew Hartmann and coppervines. Here is the synopsis: Introducing Reginald Daemon: a specialist in tracking and acquiring artifacts of extra terrestrial origin. It is 1957, the height of the cold war, and Daemon’s superiors, in a top secret, unnamed organization within the American government, have given him the task of keeping these artifacts out of Soviet hands. With the help of his friend and partner Steve Ross, a veteran of the Pacific conflict during World War II, he travels the globe, one step ahead (and, in many cases, one step behind) those who would have the artifacts for themselves. This time though, the artifact he seeks is something far more powerful and far more dangerous than any he has sought before. If he fails, it could mean much more than the destruction of the United States...the fate of the entire world could be at stake.

Is everyone in this comic whispering, or are all see through word balloons the start of a bad new trend?

Seriously, I kind of like see through word balloons to stand in for the old style whisper balloon, but not for every single piece of dialogue in the comic. The art has a nice distinctive style, and liked the coloring done on this work. I also really appreciated a 'silent' first screen with no excessive text box narration gumming up the works for pointless prattling. There aren't any words needed for screen 1 because the panel layout does a fine job of letting the reader know what's going on. A group of three obvious adventures parachute in and pull out a map. In screen 2 this merry band climbs up a hill and down to find a abandoned destroyed church. I was impressed with the layout of this screen especially the art in panel 4. In panel 3 Steve Ross makes a Jack Benny reference and then in the last panel you see the story takes place in 1957 at Tunguska, Russia. In screen 3 A Aztec looking symbol is found hidden on a wall which opens up a underground passage way. In a nice little cliff hanger moment the third person in the party pulls a gun on a nervous Ross and Daemon. I enjoyed the fact the comic move things along at an initial good pace for Zuda. The only problem is most times Zuda contestants move things along too slow in there entry, this is one of the few times where by the end events are rolling out too fast. Screen 4 shows a nicely stylized action scene, with Daemon telling the Russian agent he hid his accent well, but forgot something, before knocking him out. Daemon then admits to Ross he actually didn't forget anything, that was just the first thing he could think off. I could have just as well done without the motion blurs for the fight scene, but good panel design -especially with the last panel.




Indiana Jones did adventure stories with great effects in color, Laura Croft supplied the T & A quotient, what does this comic add to the genre to stand out -aliens?

Every story has to face the test of once you fulfill peoples genre expectations, what do you do differently to stand apart from all the others who have gone before you. In this case it seems intended to be a alien tie-in with the flying saucer scare 1950s' backdrop.  Screen 5 is another good action scene with Daemon narrowly avoiding falling to his death thanks to Ross. Some great angles and views where chosen for this screen's layout. Daemon figures out where the device, a glow-e-tablet thingy, was hidden and they go to make there escape only to be caught by the Soviet's. Some cool character drawing in the last panel as a annoyed Daemon looks at Ross as he asks the question: "have these guys forgotten anything". Didn't care for the word balloons, but I appreciated the good dialogue all throughout this comic. In screen 7 we cut to the Antarctic ocean and a man and woman on the deck of a ship. She's propositioning him, he's looking trapped, until she see's something shocking you have to click to the next screen to find out what it is. Screen 8's big reveal looks like a ancient ship trapped inside a glacier. This gets into my main problem with this comic moving too fast. I'm sure the Soviet's will take the tablet back, only to have Daemon steal it back from them, that's to be expected. With Daemon finding the tablet so quick, and the introduction of that ship, it seems to be piling on with bigger artifacts equal a broader, and better story. Or, it's going to be a scavenger hunt with one object leading to another, and then another, and another... I'm not attached enough to feel any sense of accomplishment on behalf of the characters for finding the tablet in only 8 screens. It would have been a better cliff hanger to me to end the comic with the heroes about to go into the tomb, or about to go in search of it. I don't know that if this comic won it would change moving on from one strange object to the next, without the page count necessary to really appreciate  Daemon's success or failure. I really didn't like the ship being brought in when things were just getting good with Daemon. The two screen closing vignette distracted from what should have been the whole focus with only 8 screens for the story, and led to speeding things up too fast to get to it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Zuda review Mark Wolfchild/ Oh Joy! Those evil corporations are up to no good again...


December Zuda review for Mark Wolfchild done by Li Shi Peng and Davidlevack. Here is the synopsis: Chicago in the future is just one city suffering from the woes of the world; Overpopulation, rising water levels, and food shortage. This demands a new breed of detective. Enter Mark Wolfchild, known as a Reconciler. Equipped with a high speed computer capable of analyzing forensic evidence at the scene of a crime and cross referencing data in the blink of an eye implanted into his brain, Wolfchild still has a long way to go before he’s the next Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade. Ever since the Vandenburgh case, he’s gotten by on laurels, good looks and charm. You see, even with all of the clues compiled and given to him on a silver platter, Wolfchild has an unfortunate penchant for putting two and two together and getting six. It's a numbers game before everyone discovers what Mark Wolfchild already knows; he’s made a career out of getting lucky. Chicago's finest are puzzled by a grisly and bizarre multiple homicide on a train which leaves the suspect dead and seems to come back to an average looking ash box. While investigating, the mystery deepens, as things turn horribly wrong for Wolfchild. He's swept up into a nightmare that leaves the police squad hunting him down and forcing him to lay low while looking for answers. He takes to the dark alleys and seedy underbelly of Chicago to avoid detection but his reputation precedes him with the criminal element. It's the toughest case of his life as he battles thugs, the police, debt collectors and inadequacy issues. Even if he manages to come out from under this case, it remains to be seen if he or his career will remain in tact.

The art's real pretty, but then you read the words




The above is the first panel, fantastic artwork accompanied by  lame as hell population control/global warming/evil corporations at it again, in a text box narration political screed/ Cyberpunk 2020 RPG adventure comic adaptation. The evil corporations of the future/ alternate time line thing is a common genre, creators want to pull any weight with that you would be better off setting it in the here and now 2009 we know to bring a element of realism. Considering how screwed up things are these days the creators could have wrote a post apocalyptic present almost. "Debt and job loss threw people into a panic, society begin to cannibalize itself, government institutions and conglomerates begin to gorge on each other". You could apply that text to any government today in the here and now instead of in Metropolis. In these times -at least for me- this kind of science fiction has no ability to grab me as a reader. The ice caps melting, population control elements, might make the rowdy boys in Copenhagen rabidly read on, but it repelled me. Lucky enough the comic did get better, the recovery wasn't sufficient to earn a favorite from me, but it ended with a nice Hitchcock suspense vibe. The letters are easy to read, and the colors fit the comic well. Screen 2 is a text box thought balloon intro to the main character Mark Wolfchild. It was a good enough way to introduce him, with a 'meet his girlfriend Madeleine' mini-cliffhanger to click to on the next screen.Screen 3 had some nice panel layouts to go along with the narration which was a checklist of his cybernetic enhanced abilities. The screen ends at the scene of the crime with a police detective bemoaning Wolfchild being called in. Screen 4 is Wolfchild's arrival -cloaked in mist or exhaust fumes- with a little light banter with the cop in charge. The screens with readers and Wolfchild just about to find out what the mystery is.

Things finally get good starting with screen 5 when Hitchcock style suspense begins to arrive

Panel 1 has some nice perspective of 5 dead victims splayed out on a train car, the garbage arranged on the ground leads viewers eyes to take in the whole scene. It is a well done gruesome scene with a nice amount of blood and evident violence which gets readers to wondering what happened? We see Missy the call girl who looks like she was choked to death, Angelo the pimp with one of Missy's high heels stuck in his eye. A couple with bullet wounds who died from aspiration. Lastly is Kevin Ranney, who looks like a mild mannered geek but mysteriously started all of this. Well done screen layout for depicting the carnage, Wolfchild's bionic eye analyzed there deaths but came up with a 'syntax error' on Kevin Ranney's C.O.D., hence the mystery. Screen 6, another great layout, you have a series of panels that show the 'security footage' of what really happened. Kevin opened a stage box, then choked Missy to death, and stabbed Angelo with her shoe. Angelo fired his gun the bullet hit and killed that couple, in through one and out the other. Wolfchild examines the box and finds a little Madeleine doll inside. The close up view of the doll was a nice touch, and the implied threat a good reason to click to the next screen. The doll says "what have you done loverboy" and Wolfchild runs out of the room, meanwhile in a panel with the cop we see the box is really empty, and the doll was just in Wolfchild's mind. Wolfchild is freaking out as he rushes to his car, finding Madeleine's body in the trunk in the same poise as the doll. A 'heart broken' bumper sticker on the car was a nice touch. If Madeleine had actually talked to Wolfchild in the 8 screens and we had seen a little of there relationship, the death would have had more meaning than just a plot point. It's a good plot point for a mystery, but why pass up a chance to get readers to identify at least a little with the character. Any future flashbacks to Madeleine with a pulse (I'm guessing at least a few are predestined), would have been better set up. The cops show up on screen 8 to arrest him, and Wolfchild gains and loses pupils over the course of three panels. In a surprising move, Wolfchild seems to have the ability to shoot one of his arms off to attack the police with. This leads to a misfired ricochet bullet that appears to hit a future S.W.A.T. cop right between the eyes. Nice set up to the Wolfchild on the run sequence should this comic win. Mark Wolfchild would have been better off without the horrible worded start. I also believe the story could have been redone for a better fit on Zuda within the 8 screen limit. Too much text box narration, and not enough focus on the suspenseful weirdness at the end. Screen 5-8 range from very good to great, but the drag from the start was far too much to overcome.








Friday, December 18, 2009

Zuda review SubSuelo/ Everything was going along okay, untill the Lazer Tag rejects showed up


SubSuelo is another December Zuda comic done by Alfredo Rodríguez and Gabriel Rodríguez. Here is the synopsis: Román’s parents died when he was just a kid. He swore to himself, from that day, to protect Aura, his shy little sister. Today, as never before, his promise will be put on trial. Román stumbles into an adventure that will take him through parallel dimensions, fighting dangers never imagined before.



Haven't all the dangers of parallel dimensions been imagined before by now?




It begins awesome enough, with a nice screen of a little girl and her big brother. The conversation where a young girl repeats all her favorite parts of a movie she has just seen to her much older brother reminds me of some real life conversations with my little sister. Fantastic art and colors throughout this comic, easy to read lettering, and the dialogue was well done. You still need a good hook/reason to vote  to end on and grab readers which doesn't happen with this comic. There are definitive amounts of cuteness on this page, you do care what happens to Aura from screen 1, and you get some character development for Román as well. With such a happy start to a Zuda story your just waiting for bad things to happen. I wish that level of engaging suspense with this story could of held up for the entire submission. The suspense held through screen 2 with the text box thought balloons (which weren't over done thankfully) revealing how Román is Aura's guardian and protector. There is too much white all around the panels with the artist not taking full advantage of the layout possibilities, but the art inside the panel managed to convey a lot of emotion in the characters faces. In screens 3 and 4 Aura is worried and afraid talking about how someone is coming after her. The screen ends with Aura pointing at this new menace which is a excellent way to get to get folks to click to the next screen. On screen 3 we see the villain (at least I guess he's the villain) It's a good entrance coming out of the shadows to a extreme close-up with a nicely designed character. The problem of too much white space 'look at all that bare screen there' is again very evident on this page. Screen 4 gives a nice action shot of the villain in panel  3, and Aura wanting Román to get away in panel 1. The last panel for some reason shadows out Román face except for his clinched teeth and angry eyes. I guess it was supposed to show his anger, but instead took away a regular guy's real humanity -channeling Todd McFarlane is not the way to go here- which the comic established back on screen 1. It was a distraction that did the artists who draw emotional on  faces so well no favors.

If it would have been more like X-Files meets Without A Trace, and less The Golden Child sans humor with super villains -it would have got a favorite from me

Screen 5 is another screen with too much white space around the screen. The first again has the characters faces covered in shadow. The panel layout was actually good I liked the insert shot of Román face in reaction to the bad guys powers. In the first panel the bad guy creates a portal to get past  Román then, appears on the other side grabbing Aura. The bad guy in question looks like the Grifter with War Blade's claws so he's cool all around. He can also shoot force beams which he does at Román in screen 6. It's a good action scene that actually shows  Román's face and how worried he is for his sister. The various energy effects and someone bouncing ass over tea kettle were also well done. Screen 7 is where it all goes wrong for me. This story could have been a fairly serious, and kind of rare for Zuda, missing child tale with a regular guy going up against a super powered opposition. Instead in screen 7 we got some kind of spider creature and a babe who both look fresh out of the Lazer tag Academy porting in at the last second. I guess the purpose of screen 7 was to introduce a love interest for Román, and more explosive fight scenes. The potential for a unique story got tossed so the multi-dimensional police could show up. The draw of the art and story isn't big fight scenes with blasters going off in all directions isn't the big selling point in this story. A regular guy who doesn't get inducted into the cause and issued a blaster facing forces overpowering him could have been. There isn't any emotional hook when your working the parallel worlds angle, it becomes just another Sci-fi shoot'em up.It ends with Román hating his failure to protect his sister, and the Lazer Tag 'pardner's' vowing to chase the bad guy down. A smaller scope story focusing on  Román's attempts to track down his sister could have been a great thriller. The prospect of "an adventure that will take him through parallel dimensions", isn't something I want to follow along for. A bigger scale doesn't always make it better, and interesting heroes don't always have to save the world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Zuda review Jason and the Argonauts Redux/ Zuda needs more creator originality like this



Jason and the Argonauts is a Zuda December competitor done by Barry Keegan which got a favorite from me. Here is the synopsis: This is the story of Jason and the Argonauts, one of the most famous Greek legends retold with a twist. In this version of the classic story we must ask ourselves why is everything robotic, why does everyone think this is natural, and what effects will this have on Greece considering nobody can fully die. Can Jason truly succeed in his quest of finding the Golden Fleece, an item with the power to return the lands of Greece from poverty to prosperity? With Greece's mightiest heroes at his side, Jason must face all manner of challenges to be victorious. Things are so much more different this time around, it is ancient Greece but not as we knew it!

Occasionally I can be blunt instead of pedantic ;), the fact this comic is in 9th place (currently) should be a damn crime

The comic opens with some nice establishing shots, and a voice calling out for Jason. The colors fit the story,  and the art is excellent throughout. The only bad thing is the lettering, which isn't even really that bad. It reminds me of a book called Eugenus -which was another excellent comic except for the lettering.  The art isn't overly detailed, or too cartoony it strikes a nice balance that excels in telling the story. The screen layouts are easy to follow and it establishes a nice little mystery by screen 2. Jason and his 'father' are stalking some kind of animal, being this is a mythology story it could be anything which adds to the suspense. I see this as the creator taking advantage of some genre story short hand. It could be a fantastic creature, it could be a Bambi look-a-like. Readers just don't know, but the possibilities are endless, this encouraged me to 'keep clicking' to find out just what kind of critter it is. I also liked the dialogue being well written and to the point. . The 'everybody is a robot' reveal at the end didn't thrill some readers. To me bringing in something like that was unexpected, and really made me wonder how this happened/ what it means for the future of the story? It was a great surprise to end on and a real twist to the cliffhanger. The surprise of Jason's 'Dad' being a centaur was tucked away in screen 3, and sealed the deal of my appreciation of this comic. It was a nice little reveal of the centaur telling him to be careful as Jason raced off to confront whatever creature he was after, the creator also had to good sense not to put too much of a finger on it in the panel layout. Neat little moments add up, especially in a month where most of the rest of the competition isn't thrilling me at all. In screen 4 you see the beast he was stalking is a Bambi-look-a-like. The exclamation point over the deer's head I could have done without. Panel 3 showed him leaping down with his sword in a way that didn't jive with how the blow must have fell in panel 4. I did like the spray of blood flying up over Jason, just enough without being too much. Jason's face covered in shadows as he killed the deer was a fitting touch. In action panels having the background color go read was also a good story-telling choice. If you weren't paying attention as you read the comic you might have missed the leopard lurking in that last panel on top of a tree. To me one of the highlight's of  Barry Keegan's story telling is he's not heavy handed in making his way through his story. Readers don't get nurse feeding close-up's or extreme close-up's to foreshadow this is what happens next you just read along and enjoy.

 Clockwork leopard goes Clank-Clang, but why did Bambi's twin bleed?

In screen 5 the leopard pounces on Jason in a well laid out screen. I enjoyed this action sequence, which again featured a screen 3 with Jason holding his sword that didn't quite match up with the blow that felled the leopard in screen 4. Screen 5 is also the first inclination (most folks don't read the synopsis I know) that something is off by the spray of robot parts instead of blood. Again the action scene was accompanied by the background color going red. Screen 6 shows robo-leopard eviscerated carcass, as his Dad rushes to his aid. Jason also says he only had a flesh wound, but readers can see that Jason too is a robot with his ironic comment "it's only a flesh wound". The plot thickens nicely with this surprise as you wonder what is going on with the automatons, and seemingly normal deer??? Screen 7 has some panel design that helps the telling of the story. I particularly liked the way you could devide the first panel here in two along the lines of Jason's sword, and the robo-entrails of leopard corpse. Consistency that's good consistency isn't the hobgoblin of little minds, it's a well used thematic device. I appreciated the fact shadows darkened the dad's face in panel 3, as a balance to Jason's happiness in panel 2. From the words of the dad reader's also found out that leopard had been wrecking havoc for a while. Jason being no fool realizes that something is wrong in the last panel on this screen, a nice little segue to the conclusion. In the last screen we have the start of the traditional 'recounting of the hero's past' before he seats out on his journey. The dad point's down at a town called Iolcus and tells Jason that is where he was 'born'. This comic ends with Jason asking if this is the day he is told about his family and the dad saying yes it. Very well down father/son dialogue throughout this comic. The ending also holds the promise that readers would get to see how Keegan draws a city environment should the title win. The art and story are fantastic, I was very impressed with the good use this creator put to the 8 screens he had to work with. Not much hope for a rise in the ranks at Zuda, but if Keegan chooses not to continue this comic I hope to see his work again in a future contest.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Zuda review Witch Phase/ A comic book adaptation of a collectible card game that doesn't exist


Witch Phase is another Zuda November competitor done by Bryan Golden. here is the synopsis: Nestled deep in space is the vast galaxy of Salem-300. Home to the famous space witches, ethereal women gifted with staggering, powers, who explore the twisted corridors of space at light speed on their inter-dimensional broomsticks. We follow Ailith, a naive, newly awakened witch who has a very blurred, distant past, but attracts attention from the rest of the Space Witches due to her unprecedented magical skills. After learning the basics in controlling her powers and receiving her sacred orbs and broomstick,Ailith traverses from planet to planet, frequently running into other space witches in the pursuit of Artifacts, rare, ancient relics and crystals, from days long gone, which bestow new and unique powers and abilities to their holder. With the help of her trusty, loudmouth, artifact detecting computer M.E.O.W, encounters with mysterious strangers, controlling her newly emerging magical abilities, as well as unraveling her indiscernible past, Ailith sets forth on a grand mission to become the greatest witch in all the universe.
Witch Phase takes the original image of a witch and turns it on it's head as we head into space with Ailith and see how magic and science collide, the witches broomsticks are now inter-dimensional devices which with a spell can transform into a spaceship, and their spells can level a planet, not to mention a witches sidekick, a black cat, is now a highly sophisticated computer program capable of sensing danger and analyzing properties.

Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sailor Moon, and a little Hello Kitty homage mixed in -not my go-to genre

The letters are completely readable, colors are nice, the art work (manga-esque) isn't my thing at all. The story is just a undramatic fight scene with some cartoon cleavage to try to get you to pay attention. The first screen is a full screen shot of Ailith wearing her big pointy hat and holding her broomstick/ sickle out in space. There are only 8 screens to a submission and this first screen just seemed like a waste with a weak looking title logo. Screen 2 is another full screen shot which has Ailith finding planet Fino while looking like the woman in the 'leg chair' on Red Eye. You also see the  M.E.O.W. icon who looks are in line with the Hello Kitty insignia. There is no reason screen 2 couldn't have been screen 1 in this comic, and the creator would have had a extra screen to work with in making the fight scene more interesting. This submission reads a little like the first 8 screens of a 22 page comic just clipped for a Zuda submission, instead of created to fit the format. Screen 3 Ailith uses her powers to uncover some chamber holding artifacts with a faux-manga panel layout on the screen. The dialogue between Ailith and M.E.O.W. isn't bad, but it doesn't grab you as a reader either. Considering the set-up to this comic the interaction between these two characters needs to be as fine tuned and amusing as a classic vaudeville routine. If there was a good buddy relationship established in some sharp banter it could have been that one thing that made this comic more than just a fight scene. Screen 4 Ailith finds the 'Mercure Chrysalis' artifact. One of the habits of the artist is to draw no facial features on Ailith in long shots in a panel. Having the main character go faceless every time it's not a close-up shot is too disconcerting. There was a nice 'blurry finger' effect in the last panel on screen 4 as Ailith reached out to touch the artifact.

Stray attacks my witch, I play Red Knight Barrier to block, your turn. You attack with laser snort, I dodge then play Spinner's thread to attack. Your turn...

The fight scene with the calling out of named maneuver's really does remind you of a CCG. There are some nifty sound effects throughout, on screen 5 that 'Mercure Chrysalis' sends out a beam that unless the Stray. The Stray looks like a cross between a bull with a tiger only a couple of extra eyes, it's decent creature design.  Screen 6 is the start of the "Red Knight Barrier" fight scene with a good panel layout that lends itself to well flowing action. The problem is at no time did the creator make it seem like Ailith was actually in any real danger from the attack. Bryan Golden can draw combat scenes well, but with no real suspense or excitment thinks to the standard genre set-up. Screen 7 is Ailith blasting the Stray with 'Spinner's Thread', while working in some insulting banter. Screen 8 the leggy witch does the Tri Gate Breaker to defeat the Stray, and the comic ends in a close-up on her saying she's going to claim her reward. Calling out the moves Dragon Ball style just turned me off to the whole comic. As far as a Sci-Fi updating of the whole witch mythos -too much bubble gum pop not enough well written humor, or creepy horror with the monster she had to face. If this was adapted into a cartoon on adult swim it would probably find a huge audience, as a comic on Zuda I don't see it going anywhere.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Zuda review Brother of Bronze Hammer/ Goldilocks and the Three Bears on a acid trip


Brother of Bronze Hammer is a November Zuda comic done by Andrew Alexander. It got a favorite from me, here is the synopsis: Brother of Bronze Hammer: The Three Bears
Gritty Tale of an underdog who beats the odds?
Silver leaves his desert farm home to find his sister who was kidnapped the previous night.
The kidnappers (and murderers) ended the lives of his father and older brother in the process, leaving their bodies as Silver's only means of tracking them. And if that wasn't enough...
Colony One
A crime filled trade city, a resting place for the scum and filth outside of the desert. This is Silver's first destination.
The Six Shadows
A mysterious group of Shades (or Desert Sorcerers) that also have plans for Silver's sister.
Lord Kresster
The king of the desert and all things around it. Is he to blame for Silvers problems?
A world with no boundaries and unexpected twists and turns..
Can a sixteen-year-old boy save the day?

Do people in hell (or a desert) want a drink of ice water?

In this flip reworking the Three Bears are total bastards who kidnapped  'Gold Lock', and Silver sets out to find them. It's a sepia tone comic set in the desert sands so everything is the color of parchment. It did make the comic stand out this month, but it might have been even better with more color added. The art is a minimalist style, or Alexander hates drawing backgrounds, either way it works in the page layout. It stands apart as something different than the expected which helps a lot on Zuda. The first screen of Silver standing there with two little sand dunes/hills in the far background is a good indication of the style of this comic. The font on the letters is one size too small, but the text box thought balloons work for this story. The first two screens are shots of Silver looking severe, and filling readers in on the high points of the synopsis with his thoughts.  In between the focus on all the stares there is a close up of a sword Sliver is wearing. All the text is on one panel of screen 2, the 'I'll make the kidnappers pay' style dialogue might of had more meaning superimposed over the sword in the scabbard panel. I enjoy the art style of Alexander otherwise I wouldn't have been able to take all those 'glamor shot' style head shots of Silver. Screen 3 opens with a shot of the entrance to colony 6 nice design on that, and one of the bears is talking about how they got the gold, and Gold Lock is locked up. The character design on all the bears is done very well as they're all memorable looking obviously reprehensible bastards. A part of this comic that really shined is the way Alexander handles the dialogue throughout. On screen 4 two of the bears have this exchange: "Wonder what's so special 'bout her that the six shadows want her?? Maybe we shoulda asked for more money.." to which bear number two responded "Don't overthink it... we're good either way and the jobs done. No looking back.." That's some great hardboiled goon dialogue, all the more enjoyable because you don't expect it to pop up in a fantasy story.

So Silver is Bronze Hammer's brother... right???

With screen 5 we see all three bears including the little pissed off midget bear. The more thoughtful bear in the middle was amazed they could get away with it, which was a obvious foreshadow of a fight scene. The few panels per screen do cut down on the action impact of each screen. Screen 6 had midget bear rambling along, then seeing Sliver show up in the distance hidden in shadow except for his eyes. Screen 7 is a full screen shot of Sliver flying through the air with a sword to attack bear number one. This is a good action screen which sets up an expected cliff hanger. Screen 8 was a good screen layout which got away from some of the stiff head shots earlier in the 8 screens. the first was a neat looking shot of the after effects of bear number one getting sliced and diced. Bear number two said your going to pay for that, and the last screen managed to introduce a new character -a female bounty hunter. If those first screen text box thought balloons had been worked into screen two you could of had more of a fight scene without losing the back story.  A sped up pace could have giving readers more story, but the dialogue was excellent throughout. The art you will either enjoy, or not -but you reaction to it won't be meh/ with a shoulder shrug. Plenty of promise enough to get a favorite, but not enough to get my vote. I'd enjoy seeing future comics from Andrew Alexander in the Zuda contest.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zuda review Children of the Sewer/ Edmond Ratt -that's a Dickens-esque touch in a name for sure


Children of the Sewer is a comic done by Benito Gallego. It got a favorite from me, and my vote. Here is the synopsis: Edmond Ratt is a serial killer. While stabbing a woman in the middle of the street he is spotted by two Police Patrol Officers and escapes seeking shelter in the city sewers. He immediately feels like home in that dark, wet and stinking place.
After killing the police officer who was chasing him Edmond is captured by two strange and pale men who belong to an unknown race called “The Children of the Sewer”. They are born, live and die in the city sewers and rarely go up to the surface. The two men carry Edmond through tunnels and passages to the lair where more people like them dwell.
Their leader, a hulky man called Shlyder, challenges Edmond to a fight to the death. Edmond defeats Shlyder and is about to kill him but when he hears the shouts of the people of the sewer encouraging him to do it he hesitates: for Edmond killing is a way of gaining satisfaction through an antisocial and contemptible behavior. His aggressivity can’t be expressed in a consenting environment.
Shlyder see his opportunity and tries to strike Edmond from behind but Khela, one of Shlyder's women warns Edmond who instinctively hits him and makes him fall to a waterfall drowning in the filthy residual waters.
Edmond becomes new leader of the Children of the Sewer but has little time to relish. He must face mutant monsters that stalk the hidden pipes and tunnels of the underground and fight the enemies that oppose him to rise an incipient empire in the drains. But the biggest threat will be Forensic Psychologist Zoraidh Cripst. She has come to the sewer and is after him!

Benito writes a synopsis the way I write a review ;)

The art does remind you of John Buscema, and of the old EC comics stable. The lead character being a serial killer who goes underground and meets the sewer's denizens makes the story bride the gap between a Marvel or Atlas/Seaboard bronze age comic, and quality crime comics like Crime SuspenStories/ Crime Does Not Pay. Completely legible font (I hate text box thought balloons, but they're mostly well written), and the colors are something else that make this comic stand out. Having a character that can only 'enjoy the kill' when he gets to proper response is a nice nod to Sin City: That Yellow Bastard, among other works. The story opens with Ratt lying in wait for some poor unsuspecting girl to get closer. Having a first screen give you a reason to click to the next isn't uncommon on Zuda, but having a story that you can follow without the synopsis with almost nothing lost is. Screen 2 is the screen that really stood out to me. The artist/writer creator does not let the words cramp the art. It also helps that Benito is a good enough artist to really convey emotion in his characters faces. Panels 3 and 4 came off as dueling primal screens in depictions that linger on the brain. From the set-up it's obvious there will be a number of action scenes in this title, which Benito handles quite well in fluid figures. The police show just in the nick of time and chase Ratt away down a sewer. The text box thought balloons actually pay off in this sequence as what you see in the panels isn't what's going on in Ratt's mind. The whole thing is a trap for Ratt to get close to the cop and carve him up. Screen 4 is the first time we see this creator's imagining of a sewer and it's a well done background. If your going to set your comic in a sewer you need to be able to draw a scary sewer, which this creator does. I don't even want to know what makes the water green...With the text being short and to the point you get all the insight you need into Ratt's thoughts and motivations.

Having a 'bad guy' as your lead

Screen 5 is the confrontation between Ratt and the cop, which is a nice action scene. Screen 6 is where the sewer people finally make an appearance. As Ratt is standing over the police officer's body in ankle deep sewer water they capture him. The actions scenes are so well done with a easy to follow page layout. The only miss being Ratt's thought balloons "his thorax was wrecked" was a clunky thought to have unless he used to be a doctor. "Make them pain, I'll let them do" stream on consciousness style following along is hit and miss at best. Most of the text on this screen was a miss, we don't always have to read what Ratt is thinking. By now every reader should have a good grasp on the way Ratt 'reacts' pull back on the text and let the art be even more amazing. Benito does some nice design work on the sewer people  which you see as they rope Ratt then knock him out with a sewer pipe. The big eyes, pale gray skin, made me wonder just how many times someone had pissed in there gene pool. As you read this comic take time to enjoy the backgrounds (Benito draws a mean sewer), and a little 'old school' panel layout. Screen 7 did a good job in mixing up the close-ups and long shots of the two 'children' carrying off Ratt. Panel 4 was my fav here, Benito can also draw a mean rat. Screen 8 gets to the reveal of the rest of the children of the sewer as well as there slur for normal -looking- folks calling Edmond Ratt "you tanned". It's a cool reveal to end on, and the text box thought balloons here were well written, and gave useful insight into Ratt's future plans. It would have been nice to see at least a panel, or two of Zoraidh Cripst, maybe a cut away to her starting on the case, just to establish Ratt's other major foil. It could help with readers who are looking for a more rootable character to follow along with.  In the comments section on this comic there is a question about the reader investment potential of a story with a unsympathetic lead character. It's not a issue with me because I like the villain on the run stories, and seeing a story mainly told from the other perspective from time to time. Readers don't know how this story will end, but the introduction of Zoraidh Cripst tracking him down for justice will change things. Readers can root for Ratt to reform, or hope Zoraidh tracks him done and makes him pay in a showdown. There's always the potential the whole lot could be eaten by a giant sewer gator. Readers just don't know yet how things are going to play out in Children of the Sewer, but will want to find out what happens next.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Robot 13: Colossus! Review/ Looks like a Scooby-Doo villain, kills monsters like nobody's business!

 


Robot 13: Colossus! is a new print comic done by Blacklist Studios: Daniel Bradford and Thomas Hall. It's up to issue 2 now and can be ordered at there web site, here is a short synopsis: On the surface, Robot 13 is about a skull headed robot who fights giant monsters from Greek Mythology. From a storytelling standpoint, however, it's somewhat a reworking of Frankenstein meeting Homer's Odyssey- it's the story of a thing created by Science who goes on a Hero's journey of sorts to find out who he really is...




 Kill the Kraken, Kill the Kraken, Kill the Kraken 

Based on revelations in the second issue it actually has a much deeper theme than just robot vs. monsters, but no need to rush over one of its coolest points. The bulk of Robot 13 #1 is taken up with R 13 getting pulled from the sea, along with a almost instantaneous attack by a Kraken looking sea monster. What members of the crew don't get eaten look on in horror as the fight begins. If your going to draw a western comic you have to be able to draw horses, if your going to draw a comic with robots and monsters you have to be able to make all those critters look cool. looking around in comics shops and online I get a little stunned at how many creators can't pull it off. The creators of this comic didn't just pull it off, they did one of the best action/suspense scenes I've seen in comics lately. In order for readers to take these static images and fill in the blanks between the gutters the art has got to be smooth. You have to be able to draw the figures in conflict from all angles taking advantage of fantastic page composition to wow your audience. I always appreciate it when a character is fighting for there life (or to avoid being crushed into recyclable materials in this case) they don't spend a lot of panels blabbing as they fight. Never mind being realistic, too many word balloons hinder the art, and can slow the action packed pace down to a crawl. In this issue you have a mostly silent fight scene that lets the great art really grab hold of the readers. There are no unnecessary panels everything is done mindful of the 24 page economy to give readers the most bang for there buck and page count. As I said at the start you get more than just an amazing battle sequence. The Robot doesn't know who or what it is, or from whence it came. There are some tantalizing flashbacks that serve to get you wondering about it's origins. A doctor smuggles the robot out on a ship, then casts him adrift in a small boat so he can be free. The robot's confused state, unable to understand human concepts, is well done with the added benefit his confusion about what's going on in the world is one of the most human emotions a character can have. The robot on his little boat promptly gets attacked by a giant lobster that he begins fighting it out with. There is a nice movie like transition shot between the giant lobster in the past to an image of a regular lobster in the here and now being skewered and inspected by the robot. In a nice touch R 13 brings the monsters eye on board and the ships captain says he could make some money showing it off to people. 

 



No worries -R 13 is monster and rust resistant

Issue #2 provides a fight with a phoenix, and more clues to R 13's past and purpose. Whenever you have a unnatural creature fighting it out with monsters there will be a Mike Mignola/Hellboy comparison. The art does show a Mike Mignola influence along with old school newspaper adventure comic strip feel. It's important to remember everybody has influences (including Mignola), and it all probably traces back to a creative arts troglodyte who drew mammoths on cave walls better than anyone else. Everyone wants to take what has gone before, build on it, and go off in there own direction. The art here does just that with a number of standout pages which are perfect in conveying the story. The letters are well done, and the colors fit the story so well -it's just another reason to read it. Once you can see the art is there, the next question is what about the story? What makes Robot 13 stand out is all of the back story and future hinted at in issue #2. R 13 is a monster magnet, this issue it's a phoenix and ends up konked out in a snow bank found by a man and his dog. The dialogue between R 13 and a sailor serve to give a good insight into what the robot is thinking and foreshadowing of the upcoming conflict. It also serves to avoid text box thought balloons which I love. The issue opens with a memory that reveals the possible origin of R 13's creation, and closes with the reveal of its ultimate foe.The comics opens in the ancient world in Crete as the greatest minds in there world plan the creation of a 'man of bronze' champion to defend the people from dark threats. The comics ends with Echidna 'the mother of all monsters' wanting to know where the murder of her children are. A oracle and her teacher are trying to tell her, but in typical oracle fashion the pronouncements are murky. Echidna gets angered and the results are predictably gruesome. Issue 1 was the set up, issue 2 reveals enough you think you know what's going on, but you're not sure, and you still want to read the details. Long ago all the Daedalus types got together to invent a mechanical man to face off against the various man eating monsters in this world. That's  just enough of a hint at what's going on, and a peak at the future to make readers want to pick up the next issue to see how it goes. How did we end up with version 13.0 of the metal man? How was this robot created? Ancients embracing technology to protect them from the monsters of their myths can touch are kinds of areas dealing with humanity, or the lack of it. When you have a concept timing is also important.  lately there has been a number of special on the History channel and elsewhere, about ancient peoples being more technological advanced then modern people had wanted to give them credit for. Ancient computers, mechanical weapons, clock-work inventions created by people so far ahead of there time it's not even funny. Some of the stories about statues of gods 'coming to life were true', but what the people then didn't know was it wasn't supernatural forces, but engineering smarts that lead them to move. It is rather cool to see a comic making use of these concepts. In Robot 13 the monsters are real, and the technology is even more advanced. Magical vs. science -with belief on both sides- in a showdown  makes for a amazing story here. The dialogue and art work together to tell a very entertaining story, which I'm sure is only going to get better as more issues are released. It's a title you should differently check out

















Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Zuda review Fly Me From The Moon/ As Alien was really a horror film, this is really a hardboiled crime story


Fly Me From The Moon was a October Zuda comic done by Gabriel Bautista it finished with a final rank of 9th. Fly Me got a favorite from me, here is the synopsis: Titus Simirica is a dead man! What else can be said for a man who is being chased by one of Chicago’s premier mob bosses and a group of mysteriously strong men in black?
The year is 2157, and lunar property is a hot commodity! Moon cheese is no longer a cute children’s phrase, but an incredible raw material found deep within the surface of the Moon. It is refined to produce copious amounts of pure energy, and you better believe it’s pricey!
But what happens when there are threats of civil war on the moon colonies? What if you owned a piece of that highly sought after land? Would you get rid of it, or sit on it?
Follow Titus as he does his best to ditch his lunar property on businessman/crime lord Kevin Harrell, and steer clear from the mystery super men that want their land back!
May lady luck be on his side! GOD SPEED TITUS!

A rare Zuda comic where the writing is fantastic and the art -isn't

The reason this comic got a favorite from me is because I enjoyed the story (pace and dialogue) so much. The colors are great, and all the letters are completely legible. What brought this comic down is less than impressive art. It's not horrible but it didn't rise to the level of the story, if this was a first time entrant I wouldn't be typing this at all. However, this is Gabriel Bautista's 4th Zuda comic and I expect to see a progression in the art,  not a regression. You expect to see a creator continue to get better, not have his previous art efforts  look so much better. The concept and characterization has improved in Fly Me, so why would the art be left behind? Frank Miller seems out to see how 'cartoony' his style can go in a rebellion against photo-realism, and the work in this comic seems along the 'how loose can it be and still tell a story' variety as well. This doesn't grab me as a reader when a well known artist does it, or someone who is making a name for themselves. Talk your time to do the best comic you can. It's a marathon not a sprint. Don't just send something in you think is good enough to get in, spend the time on it to go for a win. MPD57 has had posts to that effect about various Zuda contestants and that's how I feel about this title. After the first panel overhead shot with the ceiling fan it's the dialogue that draws you in. It's instantly just sounds right and has a ring of truth about it. With only one end of a phone conversation being heard it builds suspense as to what they're talking about. As a reader you can guess it sounds a lot like a phone call that might have been overheard in some real world corporation that was headed for a Madoff style melt down. Light coming through the shutters and the coloring job done on this part saved the lead character from just being a slightly defined glob with good lines to say. It was a nice touch to have the secretary peaking in the room on the last panel of screen 1. Once Titus gets outside on screen 2 in come the reds and greens in the color scheme, which again look fantastic. Titus calls to tell his wife get the hell out of there house, then sets up a meeting with that crime lord mentioned in the synopsis. Harrell the crime lord takes the bait on screen 3 and from the dialogue Titus reveals himself as a smooth operator. On screen 4 we see more of Titus's secretary, and some mysterious men silhouettes in fedora's and overcoats trying to see Titus. Using science fiction for a weirder, more memorable, MacGuffin as well as better technology helps the story avoid having a too stereotypical setting or feel.

In a story like this guys showing up in trench coats is always a bad sign

Screen 5 is the first big action screen. The three guys in trench coats punch there way through a door, and leave a message with the secretary they want there land back. It is a good start to the story with more than one opponent for Titus. Screen 6 Titus is eating a hot dog, drinking a soda, and talking on the phone to his brother. He finds out the coup he had been earlier warned about has already happened and one ship had left a hour earlier carrying those men in trench coats that are trying to track him down. Along his way Titus drops his food and reveals his plans to get the hell out of dodge by taking his wife from the moon. He says this in the last panel where we see a close up of his feet and the food he had ealier dropped. I'd say this was a impressive screen layout except for the fact the cup of soda was drawn so -abstract- it can barely pass for a cup. Titus comes back to his wrecked office and his secretary Charlie fills him in on what has happened. It's all leading up to the big reveal on screen 8 and I enjoyed how every screen lead you to click to find out what happens next. There was a coup on a lunar base, the Earth President is destroyed, and Harrell wants to even the score for losing his money by taking Titus's wife. The dialogue on this screen from Harrell was very pulpy, wondering why Titus would want to go to a death trap like the moon, then finding out his wife is still there says: "Titus. You are one sick and demented individual." There is still a mystery as to how this happened readers want to have answered, as well as the classic question: what happens next? The script is tight, the art is too loose, and I think Gabriel Bautista should set his sights on doing a better comic than he has ever done before to go for a instant win.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zuda review Evil Ain't Easy/ Either I'm dreaming or I've lived through this before...


Evil Ain't Easy was a October Zuda comic done by Seth Wolfshorndl that finished up ranked number 4. Here is the synopsis: He may have a Destructo Ray that can level small cities, but that doesn’t help this evil genius deal with the mundane annoyances of everyday life. The diminutive Dr. Nimbus must wade through taxes, rent, gas prices, and even poor customer service in his quest to eventually rule the world. Along for the ride is his newly created henchman (which may or may not be a good thing).

Gag-a-day strips are the Kudzu of online comics

There are so many comics online, more than a few on Zuda, you really have to do something different to stand out, and this strip didn't grab me. The art is cool, the story has some funny jokes, but the field is just too crowed. Humor comics are generally not my go to genre, being good wasn't enough for my vote -you got to be great. The artist is very good at making Dr. Nimbus's face very expressive, especially in the last panel on screen 1 with the sigh. A mad scientist who's having problems paying the bills in this economy should be low hanging comedic fruit. You have 2 kinds of comedians: story-tellers, and the ones who tell jokes. Considering the market you can't be Larry The Cable Guy, you have to channel Rodney Dangerfield. Joke, after joke, after joke, every panel you got to hit the readers with something. Better still hit the readers with 2, or 3, or more somethings every panel. Will there be more misses that way, sure but quantity counts, make up the laughs in volume like Wal-mart does sales. There is such a number of 'set up for the last panel punchline' comics out there, it ends up becoming one big haze where nothing stands out. Screen 2 is a good example of Gag-a-day. On the top of the screen we have a high price of gas joke, on the bottom half a fast food ordering joke. Besides throwing in the bits about being a mad scientist you could probably put any character in the same set-up. Screen exploits the mad scientist background for more than a Dr. Drakken style monologue. Dr. Nimbus is out to find himself a henchman with the job interviews not going well do to yuppie slacker monsters. We see part time monsters, benefit package seeking monsters, and disrespectful monsters, leading the Doctor to create his own henchmen. The sound effects and sight gags are very good in the last few panels of screen 4. The lights go out when Dr. Nimbus plugs things in, the coloring effects and sound effects were very well done. Comedy strips have it tougher on Zuda, and you have be able to bring more laughs with the dialogue.  

We don't meet the sidekick until screen 5, what's up with that?


Lothar is the green skinned Frankenstein stoner type Dr. Nimbus created to be his henchman. Buddy comedy is always funnier, the gasoline and pickle jokes could have been dropped for more of this. Lothar has no real respect for Dr. Nimbus, and his dim incompetence makes for a nice contrast with the mad scientist. Screen 6 had some nice exchanges between Lothar and Dr. Nimbus, and great choices in the layouts of the panels. I'd like to see Seth Wolfshorndl back in Zuda with a non-humor comic. Screen 7 feature the appearance of a recurring foil in Mrs. Brewster Dr. Nimbus's landlord. He tells her Lothar is his nephew, you know that's a prelude to comedy hi-jinks. All of these events, the buddy, the foil, should have happened earlier on in the story to increase mine and other readers interest. It still would have needed something else to really stand apart from the masses, but the strip would have been more on its way. Screen 8 ends with Mrs. Brewster telling Dr. Nimbus his rent was due last week, and his sad admission he must go out and find a job. Ending up in the top 4 is a good sign, but comedy is a the hardest way to go on Zuda. The art, colors, and letters are all there, but more funnies in the dialogue. The stuff with potential didn't happen until the end, screen 2 could have never been there and the comic would be better for it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dexter: Early Cuts/ Happy Halloween everybody!


Dexter on Showtime happens to be my favorite show on the air now. It's a serial killer who kills other serial killers and tries to keep his loved ones in the dark. I've also read all the Dexter novels by Jeff Lindsay and enjoyed them. Dexter: Early Cuts is a new animated (like an old Captain America/Spider-man cartoon from the 80s) web series written by Lauren Gussis, focusing on how he came to adopt his current methods. The artists for this 3 chapter, 12 episode series are names that will probably be familiar to you: Kyle Baker, Ty TempletonAndrés Vera Martínez. The first video is a behind the scenes, the other videos are part 1 and 2 of the current chapter. Dexter is in it's 4th season it comes on Showtime Sunday nights at 9:00 ET. Dexter: Early Cuts is also a Sunday night program on the Showtime website.
 





So far I'm really enjoying the story, so if you haven't already you should check it out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Zuda review Blitz/ Yeah I can see the Jeff Smith and Walt Kelly Influence...


Blitz is another October Zuda comic done by Ted Dawson. Here is the Synopsis: In the days of the Old West, a crippled alien transport made an emergency landing near Alamo, Nevada. Thousands of aliens were assimilated into the United States culture, starting life anew in a strange land. The 20th century would never be the same.
Not all Americans were happy with the integration of Alien-Americans. Some sought to profit by the potential influx of cheap labor and technological knowledge. Yet others had more sinister motives...

 Reminding me of Alien nation as a comedy in the old west is a good thing , but the alien looks like one of the Bone cousins -he just does

That's what your going to hear over and over again about the lead space alien, because it's so true. That doesn't mean Ted Dawson decided to just do a crib note version of Jeff Smith, but you can't live in a vacuum and not notice what's came before. The Bone resemblance isn't something that's going away, you just have to sell the story with the rest of the cast/plot. Jeff Smith got there first, so the alien's effectiveness as a character is going to be hampered by that. The creator talked about some confusion with the format which shows in the layout of the screens and pace. The alien shows up in a old west saloon (profiting off the technological knowledge leads to cars on the streets with horses and all kinds of humor possibilities) looking for his "Mudah". The locals at the watering  hole don't like his kind of people around here, and this results in the little alien getting thrown into a pile of dishes. The title character Blitz is the human dish washer who isn't happy with the alien busting up the dishes he was washing. Then his boss come along, see's what has happened, and fires him because it was Blitz's responsibility to take care of them. The art does a good job throughout this comic, and the slapstick jokes come across well. The alien has a few good lines throughout the comic: like saying "playing Frisbee with a gorilla" before going back for a second round with the bully that gave him a toss. The poor layout formatting was obvious on screen 3, a lot of blank black space on the page, which maybe could have been helped by making the panels bigger. On screen 4 we find out Shorty the alien's nemesis is named Bulldog, and he has a sister/love interest for Blitz named Sissie. The dialogue isn't bad, but nothing about it makes it stand out over all the similar comics that have came before. The aliens coming to the states and being treated as second-class citizens did remind me of the Alien Nation movie and dealing with immigration vs. America first'ers. Dealing with the reaction to aliens landing in a cartoon setting, instead of a dramatic film one does have possibilities. The comic didn't focus in on it's best aspect until it's last screen, which hurt it's ability to grab me as a reader. From the art along there are going to be Walt Kelly comparisons made. Pogo tackled real word issues using cartoons to give kids something to look at, adults something to read. Being written well enough to work on a number of levels without hitting people over the head. If Blitz is just a humor strip that's fine, but if you got the set-up to go into Pogo territory -take it.

Why in the world was this comic not in color?

This strip actually did have that coloring book look to it. Most -if not all- weekday newspaper scripts aren't black and white as a artistic choice. It's a financial cost savings decision along with the limits of a printing press. These days with all kinds of color programs making coloring your comics super easy to do, as well as the fact it's going to be a comic on the web -why go with black and white? It doesn't work that often for me on Zuda and it didn't come off well in this comic. Color -even an outrageously garish job of it- would have made this strip look better to me. On screen 5 Shorty the alien bits Bulldog's arm and gets him to drop the gun. Being the old west everyone starts pulling out their guns, and bullets start flying for a big shootout. In a funny repeat Shorty the alien again gets tossed across a room. Blitz pushes Sissie to safety in a nice prelude to a romance. Again the physical humor is done very well throughout this comic. Bulldog tries to 'rescue' his baby sister by holding Blitz upside down by his leg, and the alien saves him with a nice gag. On the way out the door Blitz tells Sissie he'll call her, as he and the alien make tracks.  It is a western comic of sorts, so I was happy to see the creator can draw horses well. I'm not kidding, that's a serious compliment considering some of the comics I've seen on the net. On screen 7 we finally get to the interesting part of the story. The alien is looking for his mother who has disappeared. Blitz informs him of a illegal alien slave trade going on, as Blitz rides off on a horse with the alien holding onto its tail. Bulldog and company let the lead fly while pursuing them in a car. The two escape but the alien finds a paper that says Bulldog is the suspected in the kidnapping of aliens to force them to go to a work camp in Bolivia. Meanwhile Blitz spends the last few panels trying to figure how much Shorty owes him for the broken dishes.No color, and nothing to stand out from so many comics that mine the same territory on the web. Aside from the layout formatting for Zuda issues the art is fine. I hope Ted Dawson gives Zuda another shot with a comic that would stand a better chance of grabbing more Zuda readers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Zuda review Doc Monster/ With the word 'Doc' in the title, you know it's going to be action packed!


Doc Monster is another October Zuda comic done by David Flora that got a favorite from me. Here is the synopsis: In 1954, reports flood in of mysterious lights and strange airships that appear and disappear without a trace, sometimes taking animals or people with them! Suspecting some form of advanced, Russian spy initiative, the CIA’s “Counter Insurgency Unit” enlists the aid of super-scientist DOC MONSTER to help. A man of mystery, built like a linebacker with a genius IQ, Doc is tasked with uncovering and capturing the suspected communist vehicle behind the sightings. He is assigned an Agency “keeper” by the name of Carson Clay, whose job is to facilitate any needs Doc Monster may have during the investigation… and to keep an eye on him at all times. With his career as well as his marriage on the rocks, Clay grumblingly follows Doc Monster across the country until one terrifying night when all of Carson’s doubts and concerns are torn away, and the unbelievable truth of the UFO sightings come to surface. They are real. They are here. And their alien power comes to bear down on the free world. As their sinister goals are revealed, the nation cries out for Doc Monster to save them. The question is… will he?

Where Doc Savage style action and commie red scare style Sci-Fi comes together


The color scheme is what Warren magazines would have looked like with color added. A lot of text boxes to read through early, but the narrative is fairly interesting. The lettering is completely legible. The art does a great job of invoking the right mood for the comic, not a surprise if you've read his other work, and the story pace fits Zuda. The first screen starts out at a drive-in showing Creature from the Black Lagoon in Flemingsburg, Kentucky in 1954. The art is great at pulling off a pulp look, and meeting the titular character on screen 1 is a plus. I noticed the Rip Kirby look of Doc, having him smoking a pipe was a nice touch. There is a little problem some comics have when they have a text box announcing time/location, and you read the comic and from the art it could well be taking place in the here and now.  The drive-in opening, the classic cars, smoking a freaking pipe, all remind readers this isn't some hybrid of the present day. The searching for 'commies' and flaying saucer craze that really did happen make the point there is a reason the story was set in this time -besides just drawing cool stuff. The worrisome thing about Doc Monster is his red eyes, Clay even 'thinks' about it calling it to readers attention. I hope the red eyes has more to do with a X The Man with X-ray Eyes type of deal than some sort of Faustian bargain. Whatever the score I'm intrigued and wouldn't mind if it's one of those things never 'explained' and just left up to readers. When I write about a comic having a good Zuda pace, I mean the shit starts to GO DOWN in the initial 8 screens, and not the 'somewhat later on' ether should a comic win. On screen 2 we get a nice weird little sound effect that leads into a full screen shot of the shit GOING DOWN on screen 3 with a alien invasion -this IS good Zuda pace. You see alien space ships rising up, lifting cars along with them, and our two leads looking on stunned. It's a very impressive screen well layout with striking colors and art. Clay says: "Holy Shit!" and Doc Monster's comment: "Great Scott!". It made me wonder what kind of more true to life language those old Sci-Fi films might have used if the censors would have let them get away with it. Screen 4 reveals some alien insect type monsters that are attacking the kids at the drive-in. It also ends on another cool sound effect leading you to the next screen, which could become a bit of a signature if this comic continues on.

Destroy the Alien menace!  

Clay tries shooting the critter, while someone else runs for the exits behind him. The bullets don't work, but Doc Monster shows off his strength by cutting one of the creatures head off. Screen 6 is a nice action scene showing the Doc making a jump for one of the ships supremely confident in his abilities, why Clay wants to call in reinforcements. With all the alien lights shows on display the coloring job could have went horribly wrong -it didn't thanks to David Flora's talent. Screen 7 features a homage to Action Comics #1, and some nice action art as Doc Monster shows off his power. The text/dialogue tells you what you need to know, and the realistic features on the characters helps cut down on the need for all that many words. If anything there is too much background information given on Clay, I could have done with less of that even making allowances for the genre. I also have a general hatred of text box thought balloons, and preferring to let readers fill the blanks. One complaint: the last panel on screen 7 didn't show Clay looking surprised, or even mildly concerned, which didn't match the text. Screen 8 ends with a real cliff hanger worthy of any old time serial. The ship sinks back into the ground leaving a outline that looks a lot like your typical crop circle. To Clay's horror (the text and facial expressions were a perfect match here) Doc Monster hangs on to the ship and disappears below ground as well. Since the narration was a reminiscence of Clay's he reveals things were about to get much worse. This is a excellent Zuda comic I would follow if it won, but it seems to be stuck in the 3rd spot of this competition. I would like to see David Flora continue on with Doc Monster, and give Zuda another go.
If he doesn't manage to pull off the upset after all.