Jackket Knightmare Review/Interview

I admire anyone who pursues their dream with reckless abandon. During July’s Comic-Con I was impressed by the multitude of creators in the small press section who just have a go. Especially in artistic endeavours, that kind of leap of faith is a very open one and a degree of humility and vulnerability are required. Your work is out there for the world to see, and that can be a scary place for anyone.

Cassandra Reyes decided that she too could be one of those brave creative minds. Jackket Knightmare is her debut comic book series. The first issue is out now, with hopefully more on the way. Cassandra has spent the last four years teaching herself to draw. That dedication shows in the first issue. Of course, it’s not as polished as other work on the stands, but for a newbie to the comics publishing world, it’s very impressive. It’s also heartfelt. With a story concerning the titular character as a trenchcoat clad defender of child abuse victims, Jacket appears to be a cross between X-Man Gambit and The Crow, but with a metrosexual vibe reminiscent of David Beckham. A scary combination, to be sure, but Jackket is the best looking piece of art in these few pages.

Not much happens here, so for those expecting kung-fu action, prepare to be disappointed. The dialogue is also sparse, but lays enough of a foundation that I can only assume will be built upon in future issues. The story is not as direct as it needs to be, with further facts from the Jackket web-site necessary to clear it up. But for a short story, and some interesting manga-inspired art my hat goes off to Cassandra. There is also a more Japanese influenced tale on the flip side of the ish, (and a page written entirley in Japanese) for manga fans that highlights the mirth that can happen with voices in your head. Basically the premise of both tales centres on young pastor Tomas Caballero as he deals not only with the death of his father, but also the emergence of the new Jackket personality within him.
Cassandra can only get better from here, as both a writer and artist. There is definite potential here, with the interesting black and white art, coupled with grey tones for certain sequences, well designed layouts and unusual subject matter . All this means that Jackket may just carve a niche for itself yet.

Did you grow up reading comics and fall in love with them straight away?

No, I’m pretty new to comics. I did watch all the comic related 90’s X-Men, and Spider-Man cartoons if that counts. But my first official comic book was the movie adaptation of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and it was my brother who gave them to me.

What particular creators and characters are you a fan of?

To say that I love Gambit is a slight understatement! But yeah he’s my favorite aside from Rogue, so thank you Chris Claremont! As for artists that influenced me, Tetsuya Nomura (FinalFantasy7) is my favorite, along with Mark Bagley of Ultimate Spider-Man, and Salvador Larroca from Xtreme X-Men. People also assume James O’Barr because we get our characters compared a lot even though I never saw his work prior to JK. A little over a year I did get to meet him and show him my character, but once I did see his artwork I have come to really like his style too.

What made you dedicate yourself to creating comics over the last four years, rather than say music, or novel writing?

Actually, I pursued music for half my life at first. I really felt that God had called me into Christian music, but as I got older and I wasn’t recording albums or touring, I got discouraged and quit. For three years I brooded, feeling like I had failed God, but I also started writing stories and drawing too. Then I heard about Christian comics, and decided to try it. At first I just wanted to find an artist while I wrote the story but when I couldn’t find anyone I decided to do it myself.

Do you have any particular family members or friends that acted as your mentors and guided you through the process?

I come from an artistic family, so my mom, sister, and brother (all art majors) give me tips now and then, but a lot of my help also came from “how-to” books, and of course tons of comics!

Your Japanese influence is obvious in your art, and I know you’re also studying the language. What is it about the culture and art that comes from that country that appeals to you so much?

At first I decided to do a manga because the style is pretty simple compared to an American style comic, but that was more of a decision based on my artistic limitations at the time. But now there is a huge part of me that has grown to respect the Japanese people, and now I want to somehow use media to let them know that there is a God who loves, and died for, them. I know in my heart one day I’ll go there, but in the meantime God wants me to do something here first, and I think that’s Jackket.

The choice of child abuse as a central topic was an unusual one. Why did you choose
to focus on that issue?

When I started Jackket I wasn’t sure why he transformed, but around that time I heard the story of a child who had been starved to death while most of his family did nothing. He’s buried not too far from where I live. I pass by there still sometimes. That soon became the basis to Tom’s story, and I decided to show physical abuse rather than neglect because you can see the damage it does, and in a comic it’s important to show what’s happening.
It also was a scary decision because I didn’t know how people would take it, and it’s hard because you know what you’re drawing is really happening. So yeah I’ve broken down several times while drawing panels, but God helps me through.

How has the process of writing, drawing, printing and promoting been for you? Has it all been quite different from what you expected?

Yes, it’s crazy! I thought making a comic would be easy 5 or 6 year ago. Boy was I wrong! Coming from where I’m coming from, I had to start at the very bottom and work my way up. Jackket’s first issue today is actually the third version of it before I felt it was decent enough, and of course I’m going to keep pushing myself with each issue. The printing kind of fell into place, and God provided a great guy like Joey and the website christiancomics.net to help me out. Promoting and selling issues hasn’t been too hard either. I really feel like God has given this project supernatural favor.

How has becoming a self-publisher changed you as a person?

I haven’t felt any different, then again I haven’t really thought about it. I guess if I did I’d probably get overwhelmed because there is a lot more to go.

You’re working on issue 2 of Jackket now. Is your dream to create comics for a living one day?

I’m not sure about being a comic book artist. All I know is that I have to finish this comic series. After that I just have to trust that God has everything else worked out for me, because I still have a lot of other story ideas too.

To purchase Jackket Knightmare, visit Cassandra’s official site here.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3-D #1 Review

Final Crisis is DC’s mega-event for 2008. After the original maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths two decades ago that effectively wiped the slate clean from convoluted continuity, we were given the far more restrained, but hard hitting Identity Crisis by novelist Brad Meltzer in 2004. This time the Crisis is Final. Apparently, but no-one will be surprised if another series with the familiar title shows up somewhere down the line.

Just like with any big event, tie-in issues are strewn throughout the company’s books (see Marvel’s current Secret Invasion for example, which does a far better job of creating a unified story than FC does) Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D picks up on a story thread glimpsed for two pages in Final Crisis #3; after a bomb detonated at the Daily Planet, Lois Lane is in hospital, with her husband Clark sitting vigilantly by her side keeping her heart pumping with his continual heat vision. He can barely keep Lois alive, but it means he can’t leave her and help the world as Superman either. When Jimmy Olsen departs the hospital on a quest to find the Man of Steel, an alien woman appears revealing two things to Clark, namely she knows who he is and that she can save his wife.

This is the point at which Superman Beyond begins. It’s a two issue series, written by Grant Morrison, otherwise known as G-Mozz to his many fans, and drawn by Doug Mahnke. The cover is certainly eye grabbing, with it’s pulsating heat vision coming straight for the hapless nerd perusing the racks. Like films using 3-D technology, comics using the same method are few and far between these days. The master of such technology, Ray Zone does the honours here. The whole issue isn’t rendered in the effective imaging tech, only 13 from a total of 30 story pages, but it certainly works and has been creatively incorporated into the tale itself. What made me pick up this ish is primarily penciller Doug Mahnke. DC must give him more work. There is no-one else like him on the stands today. His rugged pencils (especially on the classic Action Comics #775 and the Justice League Elite series) render superheroics with a harsh realism. He doesn’t present a world of majesty and muscular posing, but raw power and emotion. He’s one of my favourite artists today, and the 3-D feature only helps make his work seem even more visceral.

The let down here is the writing. I know it’s a Grant Morrison book, so I should like it. I want to like it, but my love of the G-Mozz has waned somewhat in the last year or so (and Batman: R.I.P isn’t helping either) Don’t get me wrong – he’s certainly a visionary writer, and like his arch nemesis, Brian Michael Bendis, can craft a tale years in the making with ease. However, it’s that complexity which could also be his downfall. It seems forced here, with an abundance of characters, concepts and hard to pronounce alien names that aren’t really necessary. Only true DC die-hards are capable of navigating the murky waters. I would say Morrison need stricter editorial control. His far out ideas are getting further and further out. He can do tight adventure epics extremely well, and has, particularly with his JLA launch over a decade ago, but now he seems dangerously close to becoming a mad genius stewing in his own bubbling creative juices.

Back to the story at hand – the apparent saviour of Lois freezes time, and guides Superman through the multi-verse, complete with a 4-D vision upgrade which allows him to see between the 52 different universes. The evil Superman counterpart from the anti-matter universe, Ultraman, attacks the Ultima Thule, the woman’s ship, which is also carrying other heroes she’s gathered from different worlds, including Superman variants such as Overman (from Earth-10, world where Hitler won WWII) and Captain Adam (Earth-4’s Quantum Superman from a world where the laws of physics differ from ours) Supes saves it from drifting uncontrollably between universes by forcing a crash landing on Earth-51, a planet seemingly devoid of all life. Superman quickly learns that the offer presented to him has also been made to his counterparts. It’s a clever twist and her motivations for such manipulation will surely be revealed in the last issue.

After leaving the crashed ship, Supes and co. are surprised to find a group of forgotten heroes, in a limbo of sorts, where nothing happens and memories gradually fade. They investigate a mysterious library on the strange planet, and find a book with an infinite number of pages, from which Ultraman happily skips to the ending and announces that “Evil wins in the end!”

If you’re not a reader of the current slate of DC books, don’t expect this to make any sense at all. If you’re a fan of great looking art though, grab it, put on your cardboard 3-D glasses included and gawk with glee.

Broken Trinity Lithograph

Top Cow Productions, Inc. announced today it will make available a limited number of lithographs of Jeffrey Spokes’ triptych image created for the company’s Broken Trinity summer event. The image features the Trinity of the Top Cow Universe – Witchblade, The Darkness and The Angelus.

The image was broken into three parts and initially appeared as alternate covers for the Broken Trinity tie-in issues published by Top Cow. Broken Trinity is a three-part mini-series with three tie-in books in which at least one established character dies and new characters with permanent ramifications for the Top Cow Universe are introduced. The three main books are by the Witchblade team of Ron Marz and Stjepan Sejic with Phil Hester providing layouts, while the three tie-in books include work by writers Marz and Phil Hester (The Darkness), and artists Jorge Lucas (The Darkness), Brian Stelfreeze (Batman: Black and White) and Nelson Blake II (Black Vault).

Jeffrey Spokes’ comics work outside of Broken Trinity includes covers for Virgin Comics’ Sahdu: The Silent Ones and Devi. He has also done commissions for Star Wars, X-Men and Hellboy, and his original works have appeared in The New York Times, all showcasing his highly sought-after work. More examples of Spokes’ fantastic artwork can be found at his website.

“We were introduced to Jeffrey Spokes’ work by Broken Trinity writer Ron Marz and I was immediately taken by his incredible sense of design and artistry,” says Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik. “We’re incredibly proud to offer Jeffrey’s three covers for Broken Trinity as the unbroken, beautifully iconic piece he originally envisioned.”

The 11″ x 17″ lithograph is available in October and comes in a protective sleeve with a certificate of authenticity. The lithograph retails for $29.99. Fans who wish to pre-order the item should provide their comic shop retailers with Diamond Item number AUG082283.

Pretty Pics

Here’s a look at some snazzy artwork from Marvel. First up is a text-free gander at the cover and the first 3 pages of Mighty Avengers #18, a look back at the disappearance of the eye-patch wearer himself, Nick Fury, as he begins training his Secret Warriors for the Skrull Invasion. This tie-in to the colossal Secret Invasion storyline is written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Stefan Caselli, with a cover by Marko Djurdjevic. Mighty Avengers #18 goes on sale on September 17.

Secondly, there’;s the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #569, the second part of the New Ways To Die storyline, and the first appearance of the Anti-Venom. It’s written by Dan Slott and pencilled by John Romita Jr. The Adi Granov villain close-up is the variant cover and is on sale now.

Captain Kung-Fu

This is what has kept me busy over the last few weeks. Made for a church anniversary, it screened last weekend. Because of YouTube’s 10 minute limit, I had to cut off the stuff at the end which made it make sense in a church context. (It was basically mentioning that Jesus is the ultimate superhero – even though he doesn’t have a costume)

It was a blast to make, and I have a lot of extra footage, which will become the basis for an extended edition, but that’s a few months away yet. For now, enjoy this short mockumentary and behold the dodgy wigs, razor sharp wit and nonsensical ramblings of Captain Kung-Fu.

Coming Your Way

Here’s a bunch of words from various companies espousing some of their upcoming releases, namely some Vlad action from Top Cow, a creepy art book from artist Ben Templesmith and IDW, and finally, the unusual I Hate Galaxy Girl from the fine folks at Image.

Top Cow Productions, Inc. announced it will publish the first, complete story arc of William Harms’ Impaler in a new trade paperback that will debut this October, and then will launch a new series for the property in December.

The first three issues of the series were initially published by Top Cow parent company Image Comics in 2006-2007, but was never completed. The Impaler Vol. 1 trade paperback collects those three issues plus the final, three never-before-seen issues of the initial story arc. Top Cow was so excited by this series that it also greenlighted a new ongoing to follow the collection.

In Impaler, a derelict cargo ship is found adrift offshore during a terrible blizzard in New York City. When New York’s Finest is sent to investigate the missing crew, an unspeakable horror is unleashed that quickly spreads all over the snow-covered borough, as a vampire plague quickly moves through the city’s population. The people’s only hope lies in Vlad Tepes, the real-life historical inspiration for the vampire legend, Dracula. Vlad the Impaler arrives to defend the city from the ever-growing vampire horde, but how much can one man do against an army of thousands?

Impaler Vol. 1 boasts a stunning cover by John Paul Leon (Earth X) and features artwork by Nick Marinkovich (Nightwolf), Nick Postic (Underworld) and Francis Tsai (Marvel Comics Presents). The introduction is written by noted science fiction and horror writer F. Paul Wilson, who is responsible for the popular Repairman Jack series of novels and such horror books as The Keep, Midnight Mass and The Touch. Extras in the collection include script pages from unused scenes and bonus artwork.

In December, Top Cow will launch Impaler as an ongoing series, featuring art by British newcomer Matt Timson (Popgun).

“One of the nice things about having the break between the Image series and the new series is that it really gave me time to nail down where the story is headed,” revealed Harms. “I have the next couple arcs already plotted, and I think fans of the book will really dig where things are going.”

“William Harms has managed to put a truly unique spin on ‘the vampire story’ by taking Vlad the Impaler and making him a vampire hunter,” said Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik. “This trade collection gives birth to this original idea but the upcoming ongoing series from Harms and Matt Timson will really keep you up at night!”

IDW Publishing will release Ben Templesmith’s Art of Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse on August 27.  The book collects all the notable art plus a large amount of sketches, unpublished ideas and never-before-seen paintings from his semi-regular, off-beat serial Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse. It includes an original Wormwood short story.

Templesmith’s visual approach, which has been described as “daring, horrific, and sometimes just plain perverse” has gained a cult following for his work in graphic novels including 30 Days of Night, Fell,  Wormwood,Gentleman Corpse and more recently Welcome to Hoxford.  He has said he is influenced by the science-fantasy cosmos of H.P. Lovecraft’s Old Ones and the work of H.R. Giger.  Templesmith’s black sense of humor, his delicate yet vigorous style, his nuanced but bold use of color, and knack for finding just the right detail to make a panel or page come to life have given Wormwood a huge fan base.

“Wormwood is really just me having fun and trying to throw in as many disgusting perversions of my old childhood influences.  I call it my riff on Doctor Who, if it were more demonologically oriented and written for very juvenile adults with a sick sense of humor”, says Templesmith.

Every underdog gets their day this November as newcomer Kat Cahill and BRAT-HALLA’s Seth Damoose take a stand in Shadowline’s newest three issue superhero mini-series, I HATE GALAXY GIRL!

“While I HATE GALAXY GIRL was originally Kat Cahill’s runner-up for our ‘Who Wants To Create a Super Heroine Contest’, Shadowline Editor Kris Simon and I loved the concept so much we had to put it on the fast track to becoming its own series,” Shadowline Publisher Jim Valentino said. “When Kat saw Seth’s upcoming work on BRAT-HALLA, she knew he was the perfect artist to capture the mood she was going for. We really can’t help but agree!”

Based on skill alone, Renee Tempete should be the new Galaxy Girl. Instead, a buxom blonde with no actual powers holds the title. As events unfold, Renee struggles not only against monsters, criminals and giant robots, but also a society that desperately wants to keep her in her place.

Cahill added, “The core of I HATE GALAXY GIRL is Renee finding the self-confidence to achieve her dreams despite constantly being told to give up. The experience is something I think just about anybody can relate to while the overall story is still a heck of a lot of fun!”

I HATE GALAXY GIRL #1, a 32-page full color mini-series for $3.50, will be available in-stores November 12th.

Rest & Mercy Sparx Reviews

I’m always up for a bargain. Lately, I’ve been spoilt. Devil’s Due Publishing is one of the latest indie companies (after Radical Publishing) to offer 99 cent first issues of new series. Both Rest and Mercy Sparx got my attention pretty much for this reason. Also, because I haven’t given DDP much of a chance, so here goes.

Rest is produced by Heroes and Rocky Balboa star Milo Ventimiglia. What the term, “produced” actually means in a comic book context is anybody’s guess. Well, mine would be that he’s just a name with a vague idea that came to a comic publisher, allowing both to take advantage of each other’s fans. Nicolas Cage, Hugh Jackman and director Richard Donner have all got in on this act, so Milo’s not necessarily paving the way for actor/comic inspiration projects.

Rest is the most interesting concept, compared to Mercy Sparx. Written by Mark Powers, with art by Shawn McManus and Lizzy John, Rest centres on John Barret, just an ordinary guy like the rest of us. It’s his mediocrity, and his settle-for-second-best attitude that has piqued his college mate Teddy’s interest. Teddy sees potential in John for his new wonder drug, and in this ish attempts to convince his superiors that John is the right man for this wonderful opportunity – to partake of a drug that makes sleep redundant. John is unaware of this focus on his mundane existence throughout most of the tale until Teddy shows up in the final pages, hoping to save his friend with the pharmaceutical, as he has been.

Mercy Sparx is a far less subtle tale. Heaven and hell, angels and demons have been fodder for comics for as long as they’ve existed. AS writer (and DDP President) Josh Blaylock explains in his afterword, he’s attempting to forego what’s been done before, while honestly admitting, that in regards to pop culture spirituality, it’s pretty much all been done before. Matt Merhoff draws this intro tale with an almost cartoon vibe and fills Sheol (a hell in City) with horned red devils (the titular character), bug-eyed creeps, and dingy bars. The art is simple, but it gets the story across. Scantily clad women, swearing and God bashing seem to be the quickest way to make something appear “bad” and unfortunately Blaylock doesn’t avoid the cliche here. It does have potential however, especially in the last few pages, where Mercy is transformed into a far more friendly looking human. Blaylock’s one page background of this title, some funky sketchbook pages and a preview of the upcoming issue #1 fill up the ish, as there are far fewer story pages here then in Rest.

Both titles have their own mini-series coming in October by the same creative teams that produced these introductory books. For only $2 for both, these titles are worth picking up, especially for newbies to sequential art. For penny pinchers, choose Rest as it is the more novel concept, and you can read a preview here.