Scar, and The Art of War Interviews

Now at Broken Frontier are two recent interviews of mine.

I spoke to writer Edmund Shern on his work on the Scar webcomic, which is part of the new ShiftyLook site that re-imagines classic arcade games as webcomics.

I also interviewed the pair behind the thrilling OGN, The Art of War to be released in July that’s inspired by Sun Tzu’s ancient treatise of the same name.

Section Zero Webcomic

I don’t remember Section Zero when it first came out 11 years ago, but I am a fan of the creators so it’s good to see it return as a web comic.

3… 2… 1… ZERO!
Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett Re-launch SECTION ZERO as Web Comic

Lost civilizations! Alien beings! Strange creatures from beyond time and space! Tom Grummett and Karl Kesel’s creator-owned comic SECTION ZERO returns on January 2, 2012 at www.madgeniuscomics.com, once again Protecting Mankind From Everything That Doesn’t Exist!

SECTION ZERO was originally part of Image’s Gorilla Comics imprint back in 2000, alongside Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen’s Shockrockets, Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s Empire, George Perez’s Crimson Plague, and Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo’s Tellos. But personal problems— “My fault,” says Kesel, “I got divorced.”— forced SECTION ZERO to go on indefinite hiatus after only three issues.

“I never had more fun than when Tom and I were working on Section Zero,” Kesel states. Grummett agrees. “Section Zero had this energy and excitement, and a weird little garage-band kinda feel that just crackles off the page. I’d argue it’s the strongest stuff we ever did together.” Whenever either appeared at a con or store signing, they’d be asked “Are you ever going to finish Section Zero?” Both felt it was a matter of when, not if. “I always wanted to find some way to get back to Zero,” Kesel emphasizes, “but life kept getting in the way.”

And life often zigs when you think it will zag. “I remarried, and my wife and I decided to adopt a baby. Suddenly I became very aware of my legacy— of having something to leave behind for my kid— and for me that meant finding some way to do creator-owned comics again. The easiest way to do that nowadays is on the web.” Kesel launchedwww.madgeniuscomics.com on Halloween 2011 with “Johnny Zombie Christmas— a Heartwarming Tale of Yuletide Terror.” But he knew that story would end by Christmas. He wondered what to follow it up with, and instantly thought of Section Zero.

“There Is No Section Zero” was the comic’s original tag-line, and as far as Kesel is concerned “There is no Section Zero… without Karl and Tom.” Kesel contacted Grummett, who didn’t need to be asked twice. Kesel smiles, “We’ll be squeezing it in around our day jobs”— Kesel is currently inking Spider-Man Season One, and Grummett is penciling Avengers Academy— “but we will finally finish what we started.”

Kesel assures new readers “the web comic starts at the beginning. We launch with a 5-page Prologue on Monday, January 2nd, then we’ll post the first 3 issues of Section Zero, 3 pages every Thursday. Once that’s done, it’ll be all new material. And that gives us the time we need to make that new material!” Fans who have read the original comics will still want to check out the postings. “I’m tweaking the dialogue a bit here and there— partly to make it read better, partly because my idea of what the story’s about has changed slightly over the years. Plus, Richard Starkings at Comicraft— who is insane in the best possible way— insisted on ‘freshening” the lettering— so we’ve got a new font and new placements and the book has a slightly different look.”

Kesel points out: “if not for Richard, Tom and I may not be bringing back Section Zero right now. In my various moves I had lost track of the book’s original coloring and lettering files— which killed me, since Ben Dimagmaliw had done such an amazing job coloring it— but Saint Starkings dug through his archives and found copies of everything! Gotta say, Christmas came a little early for me when I heard that.”

What can readers expect in Section Zero? “Oh, prehistoric creatures that won’t stay extinct, albino alligators in the New York City sewers, the usual,” Kesel says. “I just wrote a pretty intense scene with a troll, and we’ve got something coming up set in the most chaotic, out-of-control place on earth— a kid’s daycare center! But the thing I’m most excited about is— well, when we started Section Zero I made a big deal that it took place in real time, that the characters aged. And I’m sticking to that. So after we post those first three issues there’ll be a solid black splash page with just the words ’12 Years Later…’ And I know it sounds strange, but that gap has only made our comic stronger and better. It made very clear to me what the story is really about.”

“Section Zero is about to step out into the unknown once again,” Grummett adds, “this time as a web comic. I’m expecting the same kind of steep learning curve I faced our first time out, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m also looking forward to playing with these characters again, and trying to field the curve-balls Karl will be pitching at me. We’ve thrown out the old maps… and we’re making new ones as we go.”

Makeshift Miracle Chapter 2 Review

The second chapter of Jim Zubkavich’s (Image’s great Skullkickers) Makeshift Miracle has now concluded, and just like the first one, which I reviewed here, is also available for free download in order to spread the word about how good this webcomic is. Thankfully, it is actually good.

Our spiky haired, loner protagonist Colby began his adventure at the end of the debut chapter, after discovering a beautiful, naked girl falling at his feet like a comet. Here he talks to himself and does what he can to keep her alive.

Zubkavich is building the pieces at a glacial pace, which those weened on hectic superheroics may find annoying, but I find charming. It helps that the narration, like the story (at least so far) is simple and very understandable. It’s an all-ages comic really.

We learn nothing new in this second chapter, as the overwhelmed teenager quickly jumps into action realising no other help is at hand, bundles his new friend up to keep her warm and soon discovers that she has a handy ability.

I’d imagine in the following chapter, we’ll get to the bottom of who this girl is, which will drive the story to some unexpected places. At this point, it needs it. However, it seems to me that Zubkavich has a grand plan in mind and is obviously playing coy for now, making deliberate pacing choices and ending each chapter on a cliffhanger. What this story needs now though is more understanding of our two main characters, the introduction of some key supporting players and the inevitable threat that comes calling for the girl from the sky. The rather intriguing foundation has been laid. Now it’s time for the solid gripping narrative to take centre stage.

Shun Hong Chan’s art is simply delicious. It’s crystal clear, dynamic with a manga flair that makes even these pages, in which not a lot actually happens, seem alive and bristling with a restrained energy. The deft colouring builds a great environment and snow covered claustrophobia and uses black and white when needed to great effect, not as flashbacks as seen in the previous chapter, but with more subtlety when the characters’ isolation needs to come to the fore.

It appears luscious on the computer screen and will look even more so when Makeshift Miracle comes to print as a collection from Udon next year.

Follow Makeshift Miracle right here and download Chapter 2 as a PDF or CBR file here.

Makeshift Miracle Review

This is another one of those comics that I’ve been impressed by and have been meaning to give it its due. Makeshift Miracle began as a webcomic in 2003 and is now back, thanks to MM writer Jim Zubkavich (of the equally entertaining, though different entirely, Skullkickers from Image) has been promoting it by asking, well…anyone to read and distribute it as a PDF or CBZ. It seems to be working, as new readers are doing just that, me included. I don’t read any webcomics regularly, so having the entire chapter in one place is, like the art here, very attractive. This revisitation has seen Zubkavich enrich the story, with the addition of new art by Shun Hong Chan.

Zubkavich touts this as a publishing experiment, hoping to build an audience online before it hits print from UDON (publisher of Zubkavich’s great Street Fighter comics) mid next year. Webcomics such as Axe Cop and Dr McNinja have found a paper home at Dark Horse and with the impressive work on display here, this deserves just as much success as those two series.

This isn’t a comedy however. Zubkavich has proven he knows how to do that with the aforementioned fantasy Skullkickers, so with Makeshift Miracle he focuses on drama and mystery. Titled Impact (a term which will surely have more than one meaning in future instalments) this debut focuses on high schooler Colby Reynolds. He’s sick of the selfishness of those around him and has started a private blog to let his frustration out. It’s this diary which acts as the narrative device for the loner and gives us a glimpse in to who Colby is. Before things become too introspective, Colby follows something guiding him from within to a valley-set town, which he declares to be, “calm and beautiful,” and that is an apt description for Shun Hong Chan’s art.

Zubkavich wisely pares down the text on each page, giving the visuals the focus. Chan’s art is as light and delicate as a soufflé, and the fact that it’s not realistic or flamboyant makes it even more dazzling. The delicate, watercolour-like approach and restrained manga flair make this fit snugly into the fantasy/drama feel it’s striving for. If you like Dustin Nguyen’s art, you’ll love this.

Not much happens, story-wise in the first 18 pages of this debut chapter. Essentially Colby travels, thinks about his family (with nice black and white flashbacks) about his family, goes to a quaint town in the middle of nowhere, and sees a beautiful naked woman fall like an asteroid at his feet. Zubkavich so far wisely puts the spotlight on Colby and the girl and it’s more than enough to be captivating.

The second chapter of Makeshift Miracle began in early November and is updated twice a week. You can download chapter 1 right here.

Makeshift Miracle

Fanboys love a good teaser, and most of the publishers love sending them out and watching speculation rise. Writer Jim Zubkavich, the man behind some of Udon’s Street Fighter mini-series, and Image’s fantasy romp Skullkickers has sent a teaser image out.

My first thought, since it has a date stamped on it was, “I don’t recall seeing this in any of July’s solicitations.” Thankfully Zubkavich is more forthcoming on the related website. It turns out that…

The Makeshift Miracle was a graphic novel serialized online from September 2001 through to March 2003. This month is the 10th anniversary of the first chapter and we’ve got big plans for celebrating that milestone. Keep your eyes on our site for more teasers and add our RSS feed to your favourite reader.

Get ready… because on September 26th, the Miracle is back.

I will do that indeed.

Extra Sequential Podcast #38-Body Image

67 mins. This week we talk about body image in superhero comics, plus the Spice Girls, the Royal Wedding and sagging shelves.

DOWNLOAD IT HERE, LISTEN TO IT BELOW OR ON ITUNES

2:45 NEWS

Dark Horse Comics’ Digital Store

Shannon Wheeler ‘s I Thought You Would Be Funnier can now be read for free online

Captain America and The Avengers film info

Free Comic Book Day on May 7

8: 28 WHAT WE’VE BEEN READING

Portal 2

Brightest Day #24 – John Constantine and Swamp Thing travel from Vertigo to the DC Universe

Avengers #12.1 – Spider-Woman gets captured by the evil smarty pants team, The Intelligencia. The Avengers rescue her and meet Ultron, who then vanishes. Not for newbies but great art by Bryan Hitch.

Action Comics #900 – The controversial landmark issue in which Superman renounces his American citizenship, plus some other cool tales.

The Complete Peanuts Vol. 1 1950-52 – Charles Schulz’s classic and funny work with Charlie Brown and co.

A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible – an experimental webcomic

34:15 FEATURE TOPIC – BODY IMAGE

We look at the sexy spandex brigade and how male and female characters are treated differently.

Extra Sequential Podcast #25-1986

69 mins. It’s our 25th podcast and we celebrate the occasion by looking at the 25th anniversary of the year 1986, and what a year it was. We talk about the comics of the time plus power ballads, being born, multiple Sheens, the popularity of the high-five, and the shock of seeing Transformers dying.

LISTEN TO IT BELOW, DOWNLOAD IT HERE, ON ITUNES OR MIXCLOUD

1:32 NEWS

Death of the Comics Code and the upcoming doco about it, death of the powerful comics magazine Wizard and Shaun Tan’s Oscar nomination.

11:22 WHAT WE’VE BEEN READING

Arrested Development, and the whacky shenanigans of Axe Cop Vol. 1 TPB.

21:30 1986-THE YEAR THAT WAS

We kick off with the year’s Top Ten grossing films, talk about dying Transformers, Steve Guttenberg, and then get to comics of the time.

John Byrne’s Superman: Man of Steel that revamped and streamlined Clark and co.

Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, that showed an aged Bruce Wayne putting on the cowl once more in a mad future that put Batman back into the darkness, where he belongs.

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

The British Invasion that saw English creators (such as Grant Morrison and Neil Gaiman) getting huge success in America, particularly DC Comics.

The rise of the independent publisher such as Dark Horse Comics and Slave Labor Graphics.

Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning Maus.

The formation of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

A few long running characters debuted including Booster Gold, Kilowog, Sodam Yat, Apocalypse and Eddie Brock (Venom).

For non-superheroes, 1986 saw the debut of Dylan Dog, Tintin and Alph-Art, Golgo 13, Area 88, Lone Wolf and Cub, Crying Freeman and Spirit of Wonder.

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