(IDW Publishing, 2013)   -   Reviewed by Ravingnerd

GIJoe-Number1-cover1A while back I was asked what I was most looking forward too about the 2013 comic industry. While I couldn’t pin just one down, I knew for sure that the relaunch of the entire G.I. Joe franchise was up there. The team of Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth delivered a nice start to one of America’s most iconic franchises. The art is definitely the best aspect of this book, vivid, vibrant, and alive, it captures piece by piece the drama and immense action this book delivers. I don’t think I can express just how fabulous the art is. While the art was fantastic, the story was much less dynamic. While it served as a fantastic introduction to the characters involved, the plot was set up poorly. The Joe’s were sent into a mission that was poorly explained. Thus the reveal that Cobra was in control of the town they visited ended up not being a big deal. There was plenty of humor involved with the issue, which was refreshing and nice, but the overall set up was poorly set up. That being said, it is still one of the best war comics to come out of comics in the past few years. The characters are dynamic, and the direction is clear. The comic simply stumbled upon execution of its first major hurtle.

Overall a solid read, and of surprising quality. While many have laughed, the relaunch of G.I. Joe seems to be just what the franchise needs. If you have ever been interested in the title or are just looking for a good read, then this is your comic.

WRITING:  6 /10  - Nice direction, but stumbled with the execution.

ARTWORK:  8.5 /10  - Surprisingly solid and well done.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE:  7/10  - Surprisingly successful and quite fun.



REVIEW: “Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman” #2

(Brewhouse Comics, 2013)   -   Reviewed by Feral Fang

bigfoot_sword_of_the_earthman_issue_two--2After loving the launch of this title, I was very excited to pop open Issue #2, and I was not disappointed in the least.  Following the awesome first issue, this 2nd one picks up with the greatest monologue in the title to date - basically Castor explaining how he sees Bigfoot (or from here on out ‘the Earthman’) as “a warrior, a poet, protector, and lover…”, things he wishes the Earthman could say for himself, were he able to talk.  At this point, the Earthman has been bumming around, eating and sleeping on repeat, like an even hairier version of Conan.  Castor is anxious to get things moving, and his frustration seems to be near boiling.  Eventually, a beaten and bloodied woman finds them and their new crew, giving a warning concerning “the Heart of the Sun”, a long lost jewel with seemingly unlimited power and reach.  “The Jewel That Shaped a World”, while also bringing with it death, destruction, and countless wars - all in an attempt to get a hold on the jewel.  This sends our main characters and their crew through the hazardous environments and on a ‘sandy’ adventure, riding across the ocean of sand in a craft that excitedly reminded me of the skiffs used in ‘Return of the Jedi’.  I was very happy with this issue.  I really feel that, where the first issue was an action packed introduction to the world and main characters, this second issue focused a bit more on telling deeper aspects of the story and what’s to come.  It was also great to see other characters take the main stage here and there, giving the reader a look into the other types of beings that inhabit Mars.  What struck me the most was how much Joshua Henaman’s script and Andy Taylor’s line art has improved since we last saw them.  Henaman’s writing is spot on here, with dialogue that flows more conversationally than before and a story that is more complex but also easier to follow.  Andy Taylor’s work is as great as before and, while I still see the old school independent comic charm in his work - and I still find it just as loveable as I already had - there is still an awkward panel or two that I felt could have been rendered better, especially having seen what Taylor is capable of.  And he’s capable of a lot, from a long list of varied aliens and creatures, to solid action and some really great reaction shots and emotional weight where needed.  The coloring by Thomas Bonvillain is much more in the forefront than previously, as his work calls for shades and moods that weren’t found in the first issue, letting Thomas take his colors to new heights.  This issue featured more humor and wit - on the same hilarity level as it was in the first issue, but with much more use of it here.  The lettering, which is one of the main things I felt suffered the most in the opening issue is better and easier to read in this, but still feels a bit cramped, with some oddly shaped ‘word balloons’ giving one a need to re-read a line or two.  None of this hampers the enjoyment of the comic, though, as I think this second issue is a much stronger, tighter comic, and a wonderful new leg for this story to continue to grow on.  I think this comic is getting better each issue, which makes me even more excited to read the continuing story.  This is definitely a title you’ll want to check out, as the whole package is something I think most comic fans - old and new - would have trouble putting down.  Great things are ahead for Brewhouse Comics.

WRITING:  8.5 / 10

ARTWORK:  8 / 10




INTERVIEW: Tom S. Johnson of ‘Peace Sign’

Tory by Sarah Menzel

Tory by Sarah Menzel

“Peace Sign” is an upcoming comic from creators Tom S. Johnson and Jane Shepard, and focuses on a team made up of LGBT Superheroes.  I feel this project is not only a much needed shake of the comic book world status quo, but also something that can and will inspire many LGBT creators and fans alike.  Co-creator Tom S. Johnson was able to answer some questions for us at Bag & Bored.

- Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

When I’m not writing, I enjoy hiking, bikeriding and practicing yoga.  I’m also a vegetarian, and I’ve recently become interested in gardening.

- You started a comic company as a child with a close friend.  What did that experience teach you, as far as the creation of comics go?  Did you ever get anything published?  Out of the paths you could have taken, how did you find yourself eventually creating comics again?

That was quite a long time ago.  He and I did everything by hand with pencils; I don’t even think we used a copying machine.  I was pretty entrepreneurial at that time, and we sold the comic books at school.  I think it taught me how to tell stories with a specific market in mind, and I guess it worked because I think we sold out.  It also taught me that trying to reproduce comic books with only a pencil isn’t the best idea.  I’ve been a lifelong comic book and superhero fan, and a few years ago I had this idea for a series about LGBTs who discover that they have superpowers.

- ‘Peace Sign’ not only looks to be an awesome upcoming comic, but is also a rare find - an LGBT Superhero Team.  The premise is brilliant, and greatly needed in the comic book ‘business’, which - with a few exceptions here and there are still a bit ‘behind’ on LGBT issues.  What would you like to see different in mainstream comics?  Any comic titles you’d like to see changes in, or ones you think are heading in a positive direction?  Recent things come to mind, like Alan Scott/Green Lantern in DC’s ‘Earth 2’, and the wedding of Northstar and his boyfriend Kyle in ‘Astonishing X-Men’?  I remember Northstar’s coming out in the early 90’s very inspiring for me at the time.

First of all, thank you for the compliments.  I think it’s fantastic that you found Northstar so inspiring.  I have to say I was disappointed that it was deemed necessary to remove Obsidian from the DC universe in order to revamp Alan Scott’s character, as I’ve been of fan of Obsidian since his first appearance, but it sounds like that factored into the decision to have the first openly gay Green Lantern.  So maybe it’s all for the greater gay good.

- On the comic’s website, you mention some awesome characters such as Batman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and Cyborg, among others.  How did the diversity present in some comics of the time speak to you, and how much of this led yourself to co-creating ‘Peace Sign’ with Jane Shepard?

I was watching Super Friends when it originally aired and they added more diverse characters, and I’ve always been a fan of the Global Guardians.  One of my favorite eras of the Justice League was when it was called Justice League International and there was the Justice League Europe spinoff.  And then there was New Guardians, which was groundbreaking in a lot of ways, especially Extrano’s journey.  Today, in addition to even more ethnic diversity, I would like to see more variations of and more realistic gays and lesbians, i.e. characters with the issues we experience in real life, and most definitely more transgender characters in comic books and in the media in general.

- While creating the comic, its characters, and the overall ‘universe’ it would exist in, how did you and co-creator Jane Shepard collaborate?  When did you finally feel you two had such a hold on the ideas that you knew this was going to be something special?

Jane and I collaborated in a such a wide variety of capacities in the theatre in NYC that it wasn’t a difficult transition into collaborating in a different medium.  Jane has had success in comic strips, painting, television, film and music composition.  I was and continue to be flattered that she agreed to co-create Peace Sign with me.

- The artwork for the book reminds me (in a very good way) of the character designs used in most DC Animated TV series and Animated Features.  I love the style, and all of the artwork I’ve seen for this title, but I was wondering - did any of these animated shows/films inspire part of the character design?  In all, what kind of ‘feel’ or style were you going for?

I want to start by giving props to Sarah Menzel.  I agree that her work on the first issue is brilliant.  From my perspective, there was absolutely no conscious or purposeful intention of being similar in style to DC Animation.  However, anyone who’s shared a dwelling with me can attest to the fact that I am quite a fan of DC Animation, especially Justice League Unlimited.  I guess you can’t watch anything that much and it not get into your subconscious fairly significantly.  What I was consciously going for was a traditional contemporary superhero comic book style with an LGBT sensibility.  I also wanted a layer of noir specific to the first issue, and Sarah Menzel depicted all of these elements exceptionally well.

- Can you tell us a bit about the main characters, their motivation, and maybe how they work together, both relationship and team-wise?  What is the reason this team is originally formed, and how will this shape the arc of the book?

The main characters in the first issue are Tory, Saj and Aren.  Aren is Tory’s troubled brother.  Eli and Mira, who are principal characters in the series but are only seen briefly in the first issue, have sent Tory to London to retrieve Aren and Saj.  So that’s Tory’s motivation, and Saj and Aren’s motivations are certainly clear at the beginning of the issue.  The title of the first issue is Nexus, and a lot of the story is about the way Tory, Saj and Aren connect as LGBTs and simply as human beings who share a discovery.  By the end of the first issue, the motivations of Tory, Saj and Aren have changed as their lives become more intertwined and they start to become a team.  The full team will form because, as their discovery unfolds, they learn that they are vital to a clandestine intergalactic conflict.

- The synopsis you have for the first issue makes me even more interested.  In this you mention the character Tory, and his work and relationship troubles.  Can you give us some details on these?

Tory’s relationship and career are only referred to in the first issue in order to streamline the story.  These elements will be increasingly focused on as the series progresses, which will include some compelling and unique supporting characters.

- It looks like you have a number of future storylines worked out already, which makes me curious - how long have you been in the planning stages?  Can you tell us (spoiler free, of course!) a tiny bit about what we might be in store for down the line?

The plan is for all of the principal characters to be gradually introduced in the first three issues.  The second issue focuses on Leo, Jimmy and Sergio, and the third issue focuses on Cameron and Vita.  In the fourth issue, Eli and Mira will explain the full truth about who they are and how they’re connected.

- Some of the main themes I read in your writings about yourself and your work seem to be mostly themes of diversity, equality, and an awesome view of how the world (in comics and elsewhere) could rise to the occasion themselves with the model of your title.  How do you think major comic publishers would react to such an idea, if it were proposed to them as a series?  (Good and/or bad, and no need to mention specific companies).

Thank you again for complimenting both the series and me personally.  I honestly don’t know how major comic book companies would react to Peace Sign.  I think it’s amazing that they’ve embraced gay and lesbian characters in a way that wasn’t possible in the era of the Comics Code Authority, and I hope that will continue to grow and that Peace Sign will contribute to that expansion.  One of the coolest examples I can think of is that Batwoman was originally created so people wouldn’t think Batman’s gay, and now she’s an out lesbian.  That’s the kind of spinning that I hope will continue.

- Any future plans for another title, or any other creative works?  I see you’ve written plays in the past.  Any future plays down the line?

I’ve been pretty focused on Peace Sign and its entrance into the comic book industry, but I do have ideas for Peace Sign spinoff series.  I was fortunate to have some of my plays produced in NYC, but I have no intention for any of them to be produced again.





Peace Sign: Nexus Copyright © 2012 Tom S. Johnson and Jane Shepard.
All characters, their likenesses and related elements featured in Peace Sign are trademarks and the property of Tom S. Johnson and Jane Shepard.


Interview by Feral Fang

INTERVIEW: Kevin Rau of H.E.R.O.

BAG-AND-BORED--HEROzCoverCollage-iiWe got to ask writer Kevin Rau some questions about his awesome Superhero eBook series “H.E.R.O.”.  There are many things I could say about how amazing this project is, but why don’t we hear it right from Kevin himself:

H.E.R.O. is an ongoing series of novels (including a few short stories, and an illustrated guide).  They are chronological in order, commonly beginning immediately after the last novel, so at this point, 12 books cover about 3 weeks in time in my world.  Each book has its own plot lines, but also continue some plots that extend across numerous novels.  Think of them like a television series, where each week something gets wrapped up, but other plots are merely advanced a little.

At this time, I’ve got the first full novel (123,000 words long) free on just about all major e-retailers, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.  (If you are wondering why it’s free, I’ve got 12 works out.  I initially made it free for a kids program overseas, and realized that I might as well make it free for everyone to try out my work.  My style of writing is slightly different, using a shifting first-person perspective, and it may seem odd to some people.  However, it can help “get into the head” of various characters more than traditional writing, I think.  Try it out and see if it’s for you.  If it is, there’s a long series to enjoy.  If not, then I hope the reader enjoys that novel and that they find something more to their liking.)”

We were able to get Kevin to do the favor of answering some questions for us, so lets get to the interview!

- We’d like to hear a bit about yourself, personally.  How do you keep your days busy when not working on H.E.R.O. related work?

I work a full-time job as a Manager of Information Technology, so I stay pretty busy.  Then, I go home, and work a full-time job writing, designing characters and covers, and handle promotion.  (My kryptonite…)  I do fit in some TV and getting together with friends, or shall we say future minions for my evil plan to take over the world!

- What brought you to this idea?

I’ve been a huge superhero fan since I was a teen in the 80’s.  I enjoy comics, but I burn through a comic book in about 15 minutes.  For the price, that’s not good “entertainment return” for the cost.  Part of me has wanted to do a more extensive superhero storyline for a long time.  What really drove me to it was all the reading I did in 2008, and I got tired of all the novels ending after a book or three.  I wanted more stories with the characters I had invested my time in, and that didn’t happen.  I knew that if I really wanted ongoing stories, I’d have to do it myself.

- How do you think the eBook approach is different than comics, in ways other than the fact that your project is a book, of course.  Are there things that might be easier or harder, coming from the book approach?

Well, I’m fairly certain that comic books require more teamwork between the writer, penciller, inker, and colorist.  I’m assuming those are all the people involved, too!  I do everything with my novels, from the writing to the covers, etc.  I do offload copy editing and beta-reading, though.  You just can’t properly edit your own work.  From the novel side, there’s a lot more detail that becomes involved.  Full conversations are made between characters, and time has to be taken to describe scenes and actions.  That differs a lot from what a good artist can do with pictures.  Both have their strengths, I think.  I wouldn’t want comics to go away, in favor of just superhero novels, for example - both have their place.  I think people can get into the head of a character better with a novel.  Comics, specifically the pictures, have something special in begin able to make characters look cool (or sexy, etc.).

Some else that might be harder with the novel are the plotlines.  A comic book typically has about 2,000 - 2,500 words.  My average novel is about 105,000 words.  That’s a lot of detail, and requires interleaving plot points that would take most comics a year or more to get through.

- Have you, or do you have plans on working on comics in the future?

I don’t have any plans to do it.  I’ve been asked if I’ll make a H.E.R.O. comic, and while I could pose some of the 35-ish characters I’ve designed 3D graphics for, and then render them in scenes, my backgrounds would be horrid.  I prefer to stick with full novels.

- Can you tell us a little about some of the main characters, and a bit about the first book?

The first book is a primer, and focuses on three of the main characters as they change and learn about their powers.  Granted, they deal with a psychotic mutant during that time as well, but the gist of the story is focused on them.  The first character is Lance, e.g. Spartan, a “brick” who gains nigh invulnerable skin, muscles that harden to become steel-like and capable of lifting about 50 tons, and who has super-jumping.  That power includes the ability to absorb the shock of landing so as to not cause harm to things he is carrying.  He also becomes much stronger when his adrenaline really kicks up, or when he is superheated (such as a building fire).  He’s a boy scout, focused on being a true hero, and is a friendly, overall nice guy.

The second is Rael, e.g. Black Tiger, who becomes a mutant.  These are a class of super who have physical mutations that are odd in some respect, but who aren’t bricks.  In Rael’s case, his fingertips can change into 2″ long black talons that can cut through steel, his canine teeth can elongate and do the same, and he heals unbelievably fast.  Later, he mutates further and can grow tentacles from his trapezius muscles on either side of his neck when desired.  He’s on the strong side of mutants, lifting about 5 tons, and is very agile.  He runs upwards of 60 mph at a full sprint.

The third is Stephanie, e.g. Psystar, who becomes a psychic (there’s more to it, but since that’s involved in a storyline that takes upwards of 10 books, I won’t ruin it).  She is a high-end “receiver,” and “hears” all thoughts within about 30 feet, and sees a TV screen of each person’s vision who is within 15 feet.  These can’t be turned off, so she can easily be overwhelmed by too many people being nearby (the screens don’t overlap, and cover her visual space).  She also has flight (upwards of Mach 2 eventually), and pheromones that can force others to do her bidding within about 30 feet.  Both of those are always on as well.

There’s a lot of time spent on the changes when they mutate into supers, as well as some general superhero type events they choose to become involved in.  Last, they go after Shrinker, as she’s been kidnapping people, and is an anarchist.

- Any future plans for this or any other project you’d like to share?

I just finished my first fantasy novel, called Necromancer’s Ascent.  It’s at the copy editor right now, and should be out in a week or so.  That’s the first novel in a fantasy world that I hope to make a full series, much like H.E.R.O.  While waiting for that, I’ve returned to H.E.R.O., and have begun the writing of the next novel in that series.  I expect to continue putting out H.E.R.O. novels for quite some time to come, barring something odd occurring.

I design 3D images of most of the major characters - primarily for use on the covers of the novels, but I found that I couldn’t stop making them, and have a bunch of extras on my website and Facebook page.  Each character has 12-16 “renders” of them in different poses on the two sites.  My website also includes a basic bio of each character in addition to the images.






Comic Shop Spotlight: COMICS FTW - Santa Rosa, California

COMICS-FTW--LOGOFor our first edition of our Spotlight on awesome comic book shops, we talk with Kris Bartolome, main operator at Santa Rosa, California’s Comics FTW.  This is an awesome and incredibly friendly guy with an amazing store, and we are very happy to have had this chance to question him a bit.  So, here we go…!


- As an introduction - Name, Rank, and Serial Number?

Kris Bartolome. Owner, manager, and janitor of Comics FTW. I’m pretty much the only one here.

- Quick question - who came up with the shop name?  I love it.

Oh man, I seriously spent about a month going back and forth on a long list of names. A lot of really terrible names: The Comic Spot, The Comic Shop of DOOM (yeah, all caps on “DOOM”), 2 Guys 1 Shop (I had a business partner in the early stages), On Comic Ground (Already taken, and in hindsight I really don’t dig the name), and a bunch of other really shitty ones. One day, I was talking to my cousin and asked him if anything really caught his attention and he randomly joked “You should just call it Comics FTW.”

- Comics FTW is a relatively recent addition to Northern California’s shifting collection of comic shops.  I’m curious as to how the current world-wide financial situation, as well as any personal hurdles, might have made opening Comics FTW difficult?  More to the point, how did you come to doing what every comic fan dreams of - opening your own shop?

I’ve been a comic fan since 3rd grade and like so many others, I’ve always dreamed of doing this. I worked for a little while at another shop owned by a good friend of mine, and became very familiar with the processes that go on in running a comic book store. I also did the retail grind after that for seven years, and studied Business and Economics in college. At some point, I decided that I didn’t like being so directionless and wanted to pursue this comic shop thing while I was young and still able to get back on my feet in case things flopped.

The biggest hurdle in opening a new comic shop is having the start-up capital. People like to have this idea that they can walk into a bank and just get a loan like it’s nothing, but the truth is that no bank or credit union wants to fund a risky venture like comic book retail. Opening the shop meant saving a LOT of my own income and draining a lot of my own credit cards.

- Though I first visited Comics FTW after you had been open for a bit already, I’ve been able to watch the shop grow and change for the better, and in many ways.  Having being lead to your shop by your awesome subscription/pull list service, it makes me wonder what changes might be your favorite since you’ve opened?  Also, what kind of ideas do you see for the near (or far) future?

Initially, my plan was to have a tiered discount system, with bigger discounts for longer pull lists. I immediately decided to make the 20% discount across the board when I saw that it was a big draw. Also, the decision to bag and board all comics on the wall was made the day before opening. I had always planned to offer free bags and boards for purchased comics, but I initially thought I’d be bagging and boarding at the counter as I sold the issues. After seeing the difference in visual presentation, it seemed like a no-brainer. It’s a lot of little stuff like that. How things are presented and displayed is important to me, and I think it’s made a difference in first impressions with the shop. Most of my changes revolve around making the shop look better, or making processes more efficient. That’s why people often comment that it feels like the shop is always changing. I just always find things to improve. I’ll never have a “perfect” shop.

- One of my favorite aspects of your shop has been the way you handle the “Variant” versions of certain issues that you get from publishers.  Most stores mark them up and sell them for double digit prices, yet the way FTW goes about it is very different.  Could you explain first how shops get these, and maybe some of the thinking behind the way FTW handles them?

Variant covers are usually incentives for retailers for ordering more copies of an issue. A shop can order one copy for every target amount of issues they order. It usually varies in how much a shop has to order, and can be anywhere from 10 to 1000. These variant covers almost always sell well above retail price, but the cost is the same as one regular issue (provided you order the target amount of regular issues). It wouldn’t be unusual for a store to set these issues aside and mark them up and sell them at these higher prices. Stores have been doing this forever. I actually raffle off any variants for free. In order to be qualified, you just have to be subscribed to a series that gets a raffle. After a couple weeks, I randomly grab a name and drop the variant into that subscriber’s box.

Generally speaking, I prefer to think long-term with most aspects of my business. Raffling rare covers in this way foregoes any profit I would’ve made on those items, but is a very attractive feature to subscribers. Folks have more incentive with asking me to pull their books for the next few months or years. I’m sure other owners and even customers think my decision to do this is crazy, but I know my current subscribers are happy about it and I know that new, prospective subscribers find it interesting.

- You also run a good number of ‘special nights’ like your HeroClix Tournaments, group artwork sessions, midnight comic releases and more!  What’s your favorite among these, and what plans do you have for future ‘special’ things like these?

The game nights are fun, but the midnight releases and Free Comic Day are great business days, but my favorite is our Chill N’ Sketch nights where artists of all ages and skill levels hang out at the shop and just draw. It’s awesome because it fosters this really fun community of cool people with shared interests, and more and more people become interested in being involved in it. I’m always looking for things to set this shop apart from the others, especially in ways that make the business feel closer to the community. Things like Chill N’ Sketch make the shop less “the place where we buy comics” and more “that place we love going to and want to support.”

- Speaking from your own sales at Comics FTW, rather than the overall sale numbers world or nation-wide, what has been the most successful ongoing title for you, so far?  On that same note, which of the major crossover events have made the biggest splash?  Are there any that you’re looking forward to, in either a personal or business sense?  How about any that you’re not too excited about?

People don’t know this, but DC’s New 52 launch pretty much tripled my subscriptions. The first year was a real struggle, then this amazing (and controversial) thing happened and, for me, DC accomplished what they set out to do. It just made business a lot easier for me, and attracted so many new comic readers.

Event-wise, we did a midnight launch for Avengers vs. X-Men and it ended up being this huge party and drew a lot of attention to the crossover. I’ve had more subscribers for that main series than any other book. The events do well for me because of all the extra tie-ins that people want to buy, regardless of how good the story turns out to be. As a fan, I’m not too fond, but as a businessman, I keep my mouth shut. That’s not to say all of them are bad, but I’ve learned to be neutral about my tastes.

- You have an incredible amount of independent titles, from new issues to collections.  Have any favorites?  On the ‘business’ side’, which title/collection seems to be the most popular?

I’m not sure if Image Comics count as indy anymore, but a lot of their titles are doing extremely well lately. I do sell a decent amount of smaller press books, but the majority of them are through subscriptions as opposed to selling off of the comic wall.

- The DC and Marvel competitiveness seems to be reaching a new level, what with DC’s “New 52” and the recently launched “Marvel NOW!”.  Knowing that “Marvel NOW!” is still in its initial launch phase, while DC’s “New 52” has already entered its 2nd year, what do you feel have been the strengths and weaknesses with the two?

The strength of New 52 is it’s across the board revamp. Anyone can jump into a book without any previous knowledge of the character’s history. I had new subscribers that were much more open-minded because they didn’t have to worry about going back too far. At the same time, a lot of the creative direction for most of the characters didn’t change too much. A few books did have some drastic changes, and some of the books were just very good in general, but it didn’t feel like the majority of it was “new”. Alternatively, it feels like Marvel NOW has taken a lot of key books in very different creative directions, bringing a fresh perspective on old characters. At the same time, a lot of these aren’t as well-received as the New 52 books were, and some are just downright horrible.

- Running a comic store usually means little to no time to actually read and experience some of your product, but I wonder - any individual title, trade collection, or graphic novel that has been important and/or cool enough that you’ve been unable to resist keeping up with or sitting down to read (in the case of trades and graphic novels)?

The truth is, my personal monthly read list is pretty small. But I always stop everything I’m doing when I pull one of the titles out of the box and read it then and there. I actually read a little of everything (good or bad) to keep up with what’s going on, but currently the only things I really wait for are: Saga, Walking Dead, Batman, and Avengers. The list rotates often though. Scalped was easily my favorite book, but it ended last year. I also really dug Wolverine and the X-Men but I just haven’t been feeling it lately. I always keep an eye out for new crime/noir and horror stuff that generally comes out more sporadically.

- You have a very wide variety of non-print comic memorabilia, as well as items from other mediums such as film and television.  I must say, every time I visit I get lost in all of the figures, collector sets, etc.  What are some of the Top Sellers in this area, as far as character, film, TV show, etc.?  What would you say was the overall favorite?  Any come to mind that have been difficult to move?

For toys, I move a LOT of older Marvel figures. It’s hard to compete against big box retailers with new action figure lines, so I tend to focus on secondary market items. Marvel figures, particularly Marvel Legends, are always popular. Superhero figures in general sell a lot better for me than Star Trek, GI Joe, or Star Wars stuff. I also stopped carrying a big selection of busts and statues as those don’t seem to move very well either, regardless of who the character is.

- Just about every fan has that one comic, that one character, or that one graphic novel that changed the way they saw the medium.  For some it can be something that simply just opens their eye to the fact that comics are *awesome*, while others it’s something that took their already comic-loving mind and blew it open with new possibilities of what comics are capable of.  What would yours be?

I first started reading comics in elementary school with those old Marvel Team-Ups, and continued from there into a LOT of 80’s and 90’s X-Men. I’d say my view of the medium in general changed after I read The Dark Knight Returns. I’d never really been exposed to the darker, grittier side until that book, and I read Watchmen not too long after.

Sometime in high school, I was doing a research paper on comics in the 60’s and found a bunch of books on more underground stuff by creators like Robert Crumb. That led me into reading things from Harvey Pekar, Daniel Clowes, Peter Bagge, Adrian Tomine, the Hernandez brothers and a bunch others. I’d say high school was when my comic tastes expanded the most, as I was looking for new reading in every genre and I came to be more open-minded about indy books.

- Care to talk a bit about some of your favorite people in comics?  I mean in regards to writers, artists, etc.?  Any new ones you’ve gotten into?  Any old favorites who have kept their work strong all this time?

I’ve got a soft spot for Sergio Aragones. My dad took me to my first Comic Con when we lived in San Diego, and as an elementary school kid, I was lost. Then one day, this guy calls out to me to come over to his table and asked if I knew about Groo. He showed me a bunch of his work, drew a sketch of Groo for me, and gave me a signed copy of a first issue. I didn’t realize until way later who he was.

When I first started reading comics, I was all about Spider-Man, and Todd McFarlane was the guy. Him, Erik Larsen, and Jim Lee were my favorites. As I came to appreciate writers more in my older years, I tended to like Chris Claremont at first, then Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, and a few others.

Nowadays, I’m a huge fan of Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman, and Brian K. Vaughan. My favorite artists are Olivier Coipel and John Romita Jr. I try not to exclusively follow certain creators though, and I’m always checking out new stuff.

- Final question, and a common and cheap one, at that!  Who’s your favorite comic book character, superhero or otherwise?

I started with Spider-Man, and I’m pretty sure it’ll always be Spider-Man. He’s the underdog, but he’s got heart and the true essence of his character isn’t his powers, but his sense of responsibility. Plus he’s fun to read, and that’s the most important thing to me about comics.








INTERVIEW: Matt Miner, writer of “Liberator”

matt-dara1Matt Miner is the writer of “Liberator”, a 4-issue mini-series starring masked heroes who save, protect, and avenge abused animals.  Matt and artist Joel Gomez (Wetworks, Nightmare on Elm Street, Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs, Flashpoint: Reverse Flash and Detective Comics) are working hard to fund this mini-series using Kickstarter (see link below), and have some surprising and amazing ‘gifts’ for backers.  The Kickstarter page has a collection of highly positive quotes from such people as Scott Snyder, Steve Niles, Neko Case, Justin Gray and more.  Most importantly, this is a comic based on horrific things that happen every day and go mostly unnoticed or are ignored - the plight of abused animals.  These poor animals have no real voice with which to better their lives.  These characters, and their writer himself, are their voices.

Matt was able to take some time to answer some questions for us, where you will learn why this mini-series is so important, and why it deserves the support it needs to be successful.


- First, can you tell us a little about yourself, maybe a bit of what a normal day-in-the-life of Matt Miner might be like?

Well I’m a New Yorker, an animal rescuer and animal rights and social justice activist.  I’m also a comic book writer and a dad to several rescued animals.  A day in my life includes a lot of dog walks, dog poop, writing, chatting with folks on Twitter, trying to find homes for animals and pushing my Kickstarter for Liberator.

- For your new title - the mini-series “Liberator” - you are attempting to get funding from the Kickstarter program, with the idea of funding the whole mini-series in one swoop.  What kind of gifts do you have up that might entice someone to back your project - other than helping a destined to be amazing series get printed, of course?  Also, how did you get bands like Bad Religion to help you in this?  There’s also some amazing artwork being offered.

Well we have all the offerings – the books, rad prints, variant covers, Kickstarter exclusives, limited editions, original art, etc.  The thing that makes the Liberator Kickstarter a little different is that, well,  good projects with a good message tend to attract other good people who want to help.

So we started inviting folks to contribute to the project – articles, interviews, stuff of that nature.  An issue of Liberator is 24 pages of comic adventure story and several pages of these extras.  The reward packages from bands and organizations are things they’ve bundled up specifically for us, to further help Liberator succeed.

So that’s why we have those cool swag bundles from Bad Religion and Propagandhi and the Descendents and filmmakers and activist organizations and the like.  It’s because they give a damn and they’re good people who wanted to help.

Other folks are jumping onboard daily and we’ll be announcing them throughout the campaign.

- It seems every comic fan and creator has that one special title, or that one special character, or issue, etc. that got them into comics on more of a ‘serious’ level – from spectator to collector.  Any comics stick out in your mind as being major influences on your life or your comic work?

Growing up in the 1980s for me it was all about those quintessential game changer Batman stories – you know: Death in the Family, Year One, Dark Knight Returns and Killing Joke.  On the Marvel side I was all in with Punisher, Punisher War Journal and some of the Wolverine stories – really grim and gritty stuff compared to the bulk of superhero titles at the time.  But that grim realism and heavy narrative, that dark and brooding internal dialogue, spoke to me and I really connected with those stories.  In my opinion they’re still some of the best comics ever written.

- The premise for “Liberator” is pure genius, in my opinion.  I’m curious as to what brought you to writing this mini-series, and how much of your own personal activism experience went into it?

That’s very kind of you to say, but the premise is heavily inspired by real life true events.  There are people who actually do this type of direct action for animals and when I learned of them I thought to myself that they were kind of like superheroes but for animals.  They’re masked, they do all this black ops shit, they save animals – I thought it was brilliant stuff.  My own personal activism never ventured into this illegal arena – I was more on the aboveground front line with signs and bullhorns – but I’ve always been and always will be a vocal supporter of the underground.  Lately I’ve been focused on  rescue of abused cats and dogs and death row animals in our city shelters.

- Your efforts in saving troubled animals, ranging from outright activism to the BSL News blog, is truly amazing and inspiring.  What do you think made this so important in your life, to the point of having the passion and drive needed to devote so much of your life to Animal Rights?

It’s pretty common with folks like me to have had some sort of personal trauma in their early lives where they feel alone, helpless, scared, and voiceless.  Having had experiences like this, it makes it easy to empathize with abused and neglected animals.

- Can you tell us about your work with your BSL News blog, and what it’s like to be on the ‘frontlines’, so to speak?  You seem to be doing some great things on there.

BSL News is a site run by my wife and me – its mission is to help combat breed specific legislation (laws targeting specific breeds of dogs for their genetics) and give us a hand in our rescue efforts.  I don’t know that it counts as the frontlines, but it’s certainly been a good resource for helping open eyes to the harm that breed stereotypes can cause and call people to action to fight when breed bans or BSL is proposed.

- In the video for the Kickstarter page you can see you not only in full action, but also in an appearance on television.  I also read that you were interviewed by the BBC in regards to Hurricane Sandy.  I assume the BBC interview was in light of your dedicated work with helping displaced animals from the aftermath of Sandy?

I was interviewed twice by the BBC regarding Sandy, but both times it was in regards to the piss poor job LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) was doing in regards to restoring power to the poorer areas of the Rockaways.  It’s really shameful how LIPA was hard at work restoring the rich Long Island neighborhoods and left the poor in Rockaway to freeze to death.  They actually asked why I didn’t evacuate before the storm and I said “well, I’m not going to leave my animals” and they kind of scoffed.  It was uncomfortable.

- Back to the comic, how did you get Joel Gomez in on this project?  His artwork is amazing!  Really sets the tone, from what I’ve seen.

Joel’s very talented and he’s really helped bring a new level to the project.  I was referred to him through Freddie Williams II and Joel, even though he’s not an animal rights person, thought the story was intriguing and worth telling.  He’s been great and his art is going to blow you away.

- In the press for the Kickstarter page, you mention that fans of things like ‘Batman’ and ‘Dexter’ would enjoy this book.  What edge does the book ride on, in so far as vigilantism goes?  It’s obvious there is some direct action going on, but how far is it taken in the mini-series?

The two heroes within the book stick to a nonviolent code of conduct, with “nonviolent” being defined as violence toward a living being.  I don’t believe you can be violent to a nonliving inanimate object – therefore I consider smashing a window or flattening a tire to be a nonviolent action as long as you take all necessary precautions to avoid harming any life.

The heroes of Liberator are anally meticulous to make sure no human or animal is hurt in the course of any of their actions, which is also true for the real life animal activists that inspire the story.

- I think one of the most inspiring things about this title is that you have dedicated some of the proceeds from it to fund more of your work in dog rescue.  What brought you to this idea, and what area do you feel will benefit directly from the proceeds?

My wife and I do independent dog rescue, meaning we’re not with a group or organization and work on our own.  So the cost of everything from leashes to food to neutering to shots normally comes out of our pocket – for large vet bills we run fundraisers which helps a bit, but it’s still a lot of money for us.  If Liberator’s successful we could afford to help more dogs and cats and out here in Rockaway, and since Sandy hit, there are a LOT of displaced animals who need the help.

- Can you tell us about the main characters in ‘Liberator’, and maybe a bit about why they took the path they’re on?

Well, we’ve got Damon Guerrero, who’s an Hispanic mid 20s slacker barista who really found his calling working in the animal liberation underground.   His equal and eventual partner is Jeanette Francis, a strong and wicked smart mid 20s college student who saw what was going on in her university’s labs and it rocked her world view.  They’re both fueled by separate but equally disturbing pasts and a burning drive to help those who can’t help themselves.

- You have rescued animals in your home, both cats and dogs.  I wonder what might have brought them into your family?  Do they have stories to tell, as well?

All our animals are rescues and all of them have stories.  Our pit bull girl Dara is who got me rescuing; she was my first rescue – she had a day to live at the kill shelter and I saw her photo on Facebook and she was so scared and skinny and I fell in love with her deep soulful eyes.   I got her off death row but couldn’t bring myself to adopt her out and insisted on keeping her.  Our pit bull boy Joey was a neglect case in a housing project.  The sweetest little boy you’ll ever meet, all he wants to do is snuggle and sleep and these “people” who had him couldn’t even bother to walk him or give him water.

We’ve got three cats, two of them rehabilitated ferals from the Bronx and one a dumped housecat who we rescued from under the Rockaway Beach boardwalk a week before Hurricane Sandy.  They’re all amazing cats with huge personalities and my life is more complete from their presence.

Lastly we’ve got a foster Rottweiler in my home office.  Sweet guy, huge heart, super gentle – nothing like how he looks upon first sight!  He was tethered in the sun on a 3 foot chain and prong collar when we met him.  Slowly we convinced his wretched “family” to let us start taking care of him there, then finally to give him up.  Luckily we got him before the hurricane because he would have drowned in the shitty little shed they shoved him in when it was raining.

- You’ve done a lot of work with fighting dogs, it seems.  How much of a problem is such a thing as we’re heading into 2013?  Can you also talk about some of the actions you have been a part of in this area?

I’ve done some work with fighting dogs but not a lot.  It’s still a huge problem in a lot of areas, and out where we live is no exception.  Abandoned houses are even more common now post-Sandy and they’re regularly broken in to and used by dog fighters to store their canine victims.  It’s heinous.  The only good thing about this practice is that literally anyone else could also break in and remove those dogs.

- What other comic book work have you done previously?  Any experiences or lessons in these works that might have helped get ‘Liberator’ put together, in terms of writing it?

Liberator’s my first comic writing work but I took it very seriously so I didn’t rush anything and I made sure to have the money to bring onboard a professional art team.  I took classes under Scott Snyder to really polish the book and hone my craft.  I wanted to be sure this thing was as good as it possibly can be because I’ve wanted to do the book for nearly a decade and there’s no sense in doing it half assed and having the thing suck.

- I think the work you’re doing and have done is very important and I believe it is also needed on a broader scale.  Do things look to be going in the right direction, in terms of Animal Rights?  What major changes would you like to see?

As long as a person thinks they should be able to use and abuse an animal for their own gain I think there’s work to be done.  It’s a constant struggle and hard to gauge if things are going in the right direction.

Activism-wise we’re headed into a total loss of our first amendment rights - activists are rounded up as terrorists and nonviolent crimes are punished with decades in federal prison just due to the person’s political ideology.  Anarchists are targeted for thought crime: believing that we’d be better off without the government in our affairs and Occupy folks are beaten down and maced by cops for holding a sign.

Realistic changes I’d like to see?  Sure, I’d like to see felony charges be standard for animal abusers and animals not classified as “property.”   Animals are a “him” or a “her”, not an “it.”

- Do you have any future comic-related plans once ‘Liberator’ is released?

I’m working on two other projects at the moment.  I’m contributing a piece for the Occupy Comics anthology – I guess the publisher feels I have a unique enough view of the Occupy Sandy folks since I was here for the storm and the aftermath; I’m thrilled to be able to say “thank you” to them this way.  I’m also working on a piece for an anti-bullying anthology that should be great – I’m a huge supporter of efforts to end bullying and, again, thrilled to be able to help in this small way.

- Not a question, but I really wanted to thank you for putting so much of yourself and your life into helping animals in the many ways you do.  Creating/writing ‘Liberator’ while also using the sales to fund your work is seriously awe-inspiring.  As someone who grew up with Pit Bulls and the like, I wanted to take this chance to applaud your dedication, and to say I’m really looking forward to this mini-series!  Thank you for doing this interview with us.

Seriously, thank YOU.  Since starting work on Liberator I’m thrilled to find folks who also share my passions for animals alongside a love of comics.  Thanks so much for giving a damn!






- Interview by F. Fang / Edited by Jared Butler

REVIEW: “Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman” Issue #1

(BREWHOUSE COMICS, 2012)   -   Reviewed by Feral Fang

‘Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman’ is one of those rare titles that make me remember how much fun comics can be.  Much like titles such as ‘Madman’, ‘Hellboy’, or Evan Dorkin’s classic ‘Hectic Planet’, this book has it’s own unique take on small-print comics, and like those titles it has DIY charm and an excitement that can be felt from off the pages.  Brewhouse Comics is, by their own press, a DIY publisher, and that is one of this title’s main strengths - it just really reminds me of reading those black and white indies when I was a kid, stuff like ‘Fish Police’, ‘Adolescent Radioactive Black-Belt Hamsters’, and even some of the more serious stuff put out under the ‘Epic Comics’ banner.  The writing and art is good quality DIY, “home brewed” comics, and while this book has strengths in that area, it also has a few flaws.  A small bit of the writing can come off a bit stiff, and some of the artwork can be a little messy or awkward, but these are the bumps and scratches that make books like this so endearing - it’s not this slicked up, big budget title with big budget talent.  It’s people who obviously love not only reading comics but making them, as well.  It makes me want to get something published; it’s that kind of book, that type of company.  There is so much love put into this, it doesn’t need to even try to be flawless.  It radiates throughout.  All said, this is a well written and well drawn title that needs and deserves your support.  These guys seem to have big plans for not only this title but future ones, as well, and I’d really love to see where they go from here.  I’ll be grabbing the new issues as they come out, for sure!  A fun, inspiring read.  Get in on the ground floor of an upcoming indie publisher - you can buy #1 for $3.99, directly from the crew at their current website:

— 4 out of 5 Fekra-Infested Blowfruits!