Tag Archives: comics

Con Magic

It’s been four days since Supanova Sydney packed up, and I’m sufficiently recovered to write a little somethin’-somethin’ on why conventions are not just fun but necessary. When I was a kid, there was no real gathering place to get your geek on. Sure, there were comic book stores a-plenty, but most didn’t want you hanging around all day after you’d spent your meagre pocket-money on the latest edition of Wonder Woman, Batman or The Tomb of Dracula and the like.

Relegated to the back carpark of the local council while we read and traded and talked all things comics as we skateboarded, it was the closest thing to a ‘con’ we had. And we revelled in it. Halloween wasn’t a thing when I was kid, so the opportunity to ‘cosplay’ was rare to non-existent.

Fast forward more years than I care to admit, and the culture is celebrated in all its glory – it’s a wondrous thing, filled with joy and excitement and acceptance. Yes, there are still issues with misogyny and inclusion and consent, but overall my con experiences have been positive (I’m aware this is not the case for all).

While the last few years I’ve been herding cats… sorry, my kids and their mates through conventions such as Supanova and ComicCon, this year I was on the other side of the Supanova table helping kick-arse author Devin Madson hawk her book-wares, and specifically her new book We Ride the Storm. As you can see by the table display below, the artwork is amazing (book covers matter, kids!), and the stories within are just brilliant.

devin table

The great thing about being on the other side of the table – apart from being surrounded by amazing artists (which we were) – is chatting with people about their love of books, of stories, of the art of writing and how much the tales they read and the characters they discover are very much a part of them. As someone who has a passion for both writing and editing, seeing that same passion in readers, of those who want to be writers, is an incredible thing to be a part of. No back carparks for these folks, they are out and proud in the geekdom, and it lifts the soul.

Cons allow writers to indulge in our love of all things books, to reunite with ‘our people’, and I even managed to scarper over to Alan Baxter’s table and pick up the promised books (The Book Club, Manifest Recall, and Hidden City), all signed, of course. And got to side-eye Raymond E Feist who was sitting next to Al – the line for Feist’s signature is definitely something to aspire to!

I also picked up issue #1 of Melbournian artist and writer, Mark Sheard’s, new comic The Flower of Rhode, plus a set of six funky coasters he’d made – of course I need funky coasters to rest my coffee mugs on. And I watched on as he created new characters for the next issue of his comic. The man has talent to spare.

Yet it’s the fans, those who love everything about books and comics and gaming and movies, of art and artists and the incredible creations found in Artists Alley that make the cons what they are – they’re the heart of fandom, who make creators keep creating.

We met kids scouring local author tables looking for their next read, we spoke to book lovers and voracious readers, and chatted to an ex-MMA fighter who proudly showed the dress he’d sewn for his daughter (in two days!) and was specifically looking to buy from Australian indie writers as a way of support – he was an awesome human.

We saw Deadpools and Doctors, Wonder Women and Wonder Men, Jedis and Stormtroopers and all manner of Darths. There was anime and My Little Pony, Aliens and Ripleys and Lara Crofts, superheroes and villains and a horde of Vikings that truly took it to another level. Everywhere you looked was another amazing outfit, another intricate piece painstakingly hand-made. Not once did I see a kid turned away from wanting their photo taken with a character, not once did I see someone mocked for their attire – it was a delight.

But I think it was best summed up by a grandmother I was chatting to while we both waited on our caffeine fix, and who was attending her first con with her grandchildren. Her eyes sparkled as she looked around at everything, her lips spreading wider in smile as her gaze lit upon the elaborately hand-made cosplay of ‘Big Daddy’ from Bioshock.

“It’s magic,” she said, her whisper filled with wonder. “In a world sorely lacking it.”

She’s not wrong.

Festivus Book Pimping – Jason Franks

Ah, the decision to choose which book to pimp first for your festive-season consideration was far more difficult than I thought it would be. So many great books, and I’m the worst decision-maker when it comes to selecting which book to read next, let alone which book to pimp next. So, as an Aussie, I’m going to start with an Australian author. You really should be reading Aussie authors – we’re awesome.

So, today I’m going to reintroduce you to Melbourne-based author, Jason Franks. Jason is a novelist and comic book/graphic novel author and illustrator, and this year I read his novel Bloody Waters (reviewed here), and the first in the comic series, Left Hand Path (reviewed here).

Bloody Waters

Bloody Waters is an action-packed, supernatural black-comedy that follows the life and times of guitar virtuoso Clarice Marnier. Clarice is a singularly-focused, no-nonsense, quick-witted protagonist you can’t help but love – she does what needs to be done to achieve her goals. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who has a bent for supernatural horror with more than a sprinkling of dark comedy, witty repartee, and a hell of a twist at the end. I read well into the wee-morning hours to finish this book.

Left Hand Path is also quite a dark comic – we’re talking horror here. I picked up my signed copy at Melbourne ComicCon this year, and this is one seriously cool comic, with fantastic (and explicit – yay!) artwork. In book one (the only issue out at the moment) we’re introduced to the Unconventional Incidents Unit (UIU), who are called to a bloody massacre perpetrated by a demon that’s now loose on the streets of Los Angeles. Very much looking forward to the next issue.

Left Hand Path

While those are the two books of Franks I’ve read, there’s so much more on offer at his website, including the comic series McBlack (think Noir) and The Sixsmiths ­– a family of suburban Satanists who’ve fallen prey to the recession.

What I’ve found with Franks’ work is a delightfully dark satire that makes him stand out from the wonderfully diverse range of books, comics and graphic novels on the market. If you haven’t given his stories a read, then it’s something you really must change. Go. Now. And fill a Christmas stocking with some deliciously dark work. Dare ya.

Recommended for horror lovers, comic connoisseurs, adult audience.

bloody bauble

Review: Left Hand Path by Jason Franks, Paul Abstruse & Eddy Swan

You bet I’m on a roll with posting, but as tomorrow I’m heading away to the country for a week, I thought I’d get this review done. That’s right; it’s review time again!  Today I’m looking at a one of the horror comics from the super-talented Jason FranksLeft Hand Path. I picked this copy up at ComicCon Melbourne – and the last copy at that! Both Jason and artist, Paul Abstruse happily signed it for me, and there really isn’t a lot better than having signed comics and books, I gotta say.

For those who have even a passing association with anything horror-related will have an understanding that the ‘left hand path’ refers to dark magic and Satanism – the path toward evil (yes, that’s a rather simplistic explanation, but I’m not writing a dissertation here). And from page one, we’re thrown right into the mix with a summoning of the Horned One himself.

Left Hand Path

As with any first book in a series, there’s a lot of setting up and introduction of characters (no introduction really needed for Satan, but I can see the same black humour and wit Franks used in his novel Bloody Waters, come through here), and the beginning of plots and sub-plots between said characters.

You can probably guess that Satan gets his kicks on right from the get-go, which pulls in other characters ­– cops Livia and Danik – who have a snarky, gritty dynamic that fits perfectly with the almost noir feel of this side of the comic.

Like I said, this is comic #1 in the series, so here we’re exploring the building of plot and characters, but Franks doesn’t over-dwell on backstory – you can’t with a comic; it has to come through via dialogue and captions, and Left Hand Path shows us Franks is a master at what he does. It’s little wonder this comic was an Aurealis Award finalist.

aurealis

Artwork… ah, artwork, how I love thee! Here, both Paul Abstruse (pencils & inks) and Eddy Swan (colours) really bring this comic to life. The illustrations are beautifully detailed from background to foreground, and Swan has used a perfect dichotomy between muted and vivid colour to really draw the eye. This is especially good when it comes to the gruesome scenes – very visceral in their display, which always makes me smile (hey, each to their own, right?).

Published by Winter City Productions, this is going to be a very cool series to get into, and I’m itching to see what Satan gets up now he’s been unleashed upon the unsuspecting citizens of the city. And more snark from the cops and intolerant (and totally cool) ‘specialist’ sent to stop the big guy tells me this is going to be a lot of fun!

I’ll also make a note here for language and gruesome horror – some of my favourite things, but for others… mebbe not. J

On a Goodreads scale (even though it’s not up on Goodreads – get on that Jason!), I’m giving it 4 stars.

4 stars

It’s live! Live, I tells ya!

The Road to Golgotha, the two-in-one graphic novel published through Cohesion Comics is now live! *does happy dance* … *apologises for happy dance* No one deserves to see that.

The Road to Golgotha

Now it is true that the launch was last weekend at ComicCon Melbourne (see my wrap-up here), but now the comic is unleashed upon the world. Mwhahahahahaha!

Ahem.

The Road to Golgotha consists of a story by GN Braun – His Own Personal Golgotha, and my supernatural horror story, The Road. (See how clever that combined title is? Yeah, I didn’t come up with it – all kudos to Geoff for that one). There’s a symmetry in the telling of both stories, a link of cause-and-effect that strikes deep at the main characters of each tale. This is also beautifully carried through by the illustrations of uber-talented artist, Monty Borror.

Golgotha

Here’s what it’s all about:

The Road to Golgotha holds two comics by Australian writers, set to the art of US illustrator Monty Borror. His Own Personal Golgotha by GN Braun follows the awakening of ‘the man’ into a nightmarish world of cemeteries and bones. To achieve anything, he must find out where and who he is. The Road by Amanda J Spedding shows us the changes wrought in Riley as she casts off her civilized veneer to allow the goddess within to emerge fully into her birthright. Redemption and personal growth are strong themes throughout both stories, and they each hold surprises as the protagonists struggle to come to terms with changes or growth they need to undertake. Travel with them as they go through their own personal golgotha along a road less-travelled.”

 Page17

The first-run, signed ComicCon editions of sleek black & white are available, but Cohesion is looking to have colour editions screaming their way into the world soon. And by colour I mean vivid splatters of red and wispy, fiery orange. I’m so incredibly in love with this graphic novel, and so incredibly proud to have it published and in readers’ hands.

This is the first graphic novel in the Cohesion Comics line, with some incredible storytellers lined up for the future. The Road to Golgotha is an amazing first edition to what will only be a kick-arse series from the Cohesion team. Go take a look. G’orn, you know you want to…

ComicCon Wrap-up

Where to start? Probably 5am Friday morning when I dragged myself out of bed then dragged an equally unwilling child from her bed to catch a too-damn-early flight to Melbourne. After copious amounts of coffee (for me, not my daughter), wakefulness hit then excitement – COMIC CON!!!

We were bunking down at a my friends Chris and Tracy’s place (read her work – read it!), so Saturday morning we were again up at sparrow-fart and off to Melbourne-proper. It’s a pretty city, Melbourne, and damn if they don’t make a great cup of java (yes, this is a vital part of me liking any place I visit). As my daughter and I strolled along Southbank, it wasn’t long before we were in the midst of cosplayers – excitement level-up.

Me and Cloe

While I’ve been to Supanovas, this was my first ComicCon, and what made this all the more special was that this was the launch of my comic ‘The Road’ – part of a two-in-one comic ‘The Road to Golgotha’ with GN Braun and brought to spectacular life by the artist, Monty Borror. And when I walked up to the Cohesion Press table, there she was, pride of place and absolutely beautiful. That I was sharing this with my daughter made this even more special.

Our table was beside that of IFWG Publishing, manned by the lovely Gerry Huntman, the effervescent Stephen McCracken, and one of my favourite people in the world, Robert Hood. We were in some mighty fine company.

Road

Now, I’m not a salesperson by any stretch of the imagination (kinda a design flaw in the whole being-a-writer thing), and pimping my work to strangers is hard, but the thing with ComicCon attendees is their desire to engage. There’s complete and utter acceptance of everything and everyone at cons such as these; it’s a celebration of the arts in all their mediums, and a celebration of those who love their movies, tv shows, authors, artists and all that goes with it.

The cosplayers were just brilliant – always happy and obliging for photos; and some of the costumes just blew my mind. It was happy, happy place that nurtures creativity, and you really can’t ask for more than that.

Chatting with people about the comic, explaining the idea behind the story and having people ask me questions then buy the comic was such a buzz – signing it for them as an author is a real joy. To have someone come up and buy your work because another con member recommended it? That’s the stuff of snoopy-dances.

snoopy

If all of this wasn’t enough, I got to finally meet some peeps I’d been waiting to for a long time, and my mate James O’Keefe (who was also working ComicCon) was first to the table. I’ve known James for… must be five or six years now, but with both of us living in different states… it was great to finally catch up in person.

I knew artist and writer Jason Franks would be at the con, and that was a meet I was looking forward to, especially after reading his amazing novel Bloody Waters (get on it – it’s a killer piece! Reviewed here). While I would have liked to have spent more time chatting and to sit in on his panel – time was a hungry beast for us both.

Same with Aaron Sterns – it was wonderful to finally meet and chat with the softly-spoken writer of the Wolf Creek fame. I missed his panel as well, but that’s the thing with being an exhibitor at cons, you’re there to engage with potential readers and you can’t do that effectively when visiting people you’ve been hanging to meet for a long while. But cons are also the places that allow you to have those meets with friends from other states; with the people who love what they do as much as you do.

up

Being amongst it all brings home how much this really is the best gig in the world, and how lucky I am to be doing something that feeds my soul. None of which could have happened without the likes of Geoff Brown of Cohesion Press who believed in me and how much ‘The Road’ would be a kick-arse comic. I can’t thank him enough.road page 29

I really wish Monty could have made the con, but living in the US makes it a tad more difficult to get here – he’s a very busy lad! But without him, ‘The Road to Golgotha’ wouldn’t be the stunning piece of art that it is. And to top it all off, there were two pieces of original artwork waiting for me. Two of my favourite pages from the comic that will soon be framed and up on my wall where I will love them and stroke them and love them.

It was all over far too soon. Exhausting though those days were, it really lit a fire under my bum to create bigger and better, and to make sure I attend more cons to not only connect with my mates but to readers as well, ‘cause there ain’t nothin’ better than seeing someone walk away holding your book with a smile on their face.

 signing 1

Nightmare Art

 The world is but a canvas to our imagination. ~Henry David Thoreau

Woo hoo! It’s art time again! Not mine, because no one needs to be subjected to that, but the art of one who knows his stuff. And by stuff, I mean the things that live in the shadows, the monster under your bed.

Greg Chapman is one of those artists who likes to play in the darkness where monsters live. I first came across Greg’s work a few years back when he illustrated a comic – Allure of the Ancients (Midnight Echo) – written by a friend of mine, Mark Farrugia. I’d seen the comic in its short-story form, but it was one of those tales I knew would transfer mediums beautifully.

The success of such an undertaking falls on the artist, and the writer choosing the right artist for their work. Mark chose right. Allure of the Ancients is the story of Rahkh, a vampire (not one of those sparkly pieces of crap) who has been around since biblical times, and follows his journey through the ages.

It’s a fantastic story, and Greg brought Rahkh to life in spectacular fashion, so much so one of his prints sits on my wall (above one of my bookcases, no less – high praise indeed!). Rahkh is a powerful, blood-thirsty vampire who goes through people like I do chocolate – ravenous and not at all apologetic. Just as a vampire should be.

Rahkh by Greg Chapman
Rahkh by Greg Chapman

 

Greg covers all spectrums of the horror genre, from his famous Halloween jack-o-lanterns, to Poe, Stephen King, Nosferatu, zombies, and all manner of ghosts and ghouls. Every nightmare you can imagine, he can bring to life on a canvas. So much so, he didn’t win a Bram Stoker. Let me explain…

Greg illustrated the highly-acclaimed, Bram-Stoker winning graphic novel, Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, by Lisa Morton and Rocky Wood. The man knows his stuff, but it’s unfortunate that while the writers of the graphic novel received Stoker awards, Greg did not. Which shows me how underrated illustrators are in a medium that relies so damn heavily on art.

witch hunts

Like writers, illustrators aren’t paid anywhere near enough for what they do. It’s been that way through the ages, but that doesn’t make it right. Go into any home and you’ll see artwork on the walls, sure, mine’s a little darker in nature, but barren walls don’t a home make. And I’ve Greg to thank for adding some colour and personality to my walls.

I’ve also had a piece of Greg’s art accompany my short story ‘The Road’ in Midnight Echo #9. It’s a small piece of inner art, but it’s beautiful, matched perfectly, and gave the story that little extra to show the power of the words. Words Greg understands very well.

Persephone by Greg Chapman
Persephone by Greg Chapman

 

You see, Greg’s not only an illustrator, he writes as well. He currently has his debut story collection out: Vaudeville and Other Nightmares (Black Beacon Books), which is another book I need to add to my ‘to read’ pile (which grows ever mountainous). The cover art is all Greg’s, so not only do you get a tonne of great stories, you get awesome art as well.

Greg’s artwork is available for purchase here (he does tees and hoodies as well), and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with some art that will look amazing on your wall. Go on, bring the nightmares home. I dare you.

vaudeville

Art My World

I’m a writer, a creative. And while it’s words I weave it’s also a very visual process – most writers will tell you the same. In our mind’s eye, we can see our characters manoeuvring through our created landscape, we envisage them interacting with each other and with their surrounds. Clear as day we see them walking down the street, being chased through the wilds by a monster, piloting a spaceship or riding a train.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve wanted my worlds brought to life, and while I love to draw, I don’t have anywhere near the talent of some of my contemporaries. Talent is a bit of an understatement, though, as you’ll soon see.

In my last post, I spoke about Montgomery Borror’s, art, and how much of a damn fine artist he is. As his Kickstarter is so close to being realised, I’m going to show you why the man’s work needs to be out in the world.

Lovecraft

First, a little background…

A few years ago, I wrote a steampunk horror short – Shovel-Man Joe – that won the Australian Shadows Award for short fiction. It was my first stab at steampunk, and I fell in love with the genre. The story is set on a train, but it’s a train like no other. I could see it clearly in all its sinister glory, but with a very limited word count I had to write tight. I’m not a poet, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I have a love of Coleridge and his words, so I took a chance to tell part of the backstory of the tale with… yep, you guessed it, a poem… of sorts.

The poem is regaled by one destined to tell and retell the story of the train and those who choose to ride it (think Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner). It’s told within the workings of the story, and while penning it, I saw the train screaming down the tracks toward the exiled depot, and I hoped the poem would work well enough to pass that visual on to the reader.

It wasn’t until last year that I saw ‘my train’ brought to life. Only it wasn’t for ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, but rather ‘Black Train Blues’ by James A Moore (I’m a huge fan – check out his stuff) for Midnight Echo Issue 9. The illustration is phenomenal, and perfectly captured both James’ train, and the vision I had of Shovel-Man Joe’s train. When I first saw it, I said: “That’s my train!”

This was my introduction to Monty, the master-illustrator and it wouldn’t be long until we were working together on a comic based on one of my stories. That project is a while away yet, and Monty being the workaholic he is, has another project on the go – one where he’s both writer and illustrator, and where he tackles two of the masters of horror: HP Lovecraft vs Aleister Crowley.

With just five days to go and just $140 to get to fund the project, he’s so close to getting his dream comic off the ground. So, for those who are a little unsure as to whether they’d like to kick in, just take a look at Monty’s work, and trust me when I say you won’t find a harder-working, more dedicated illustrator.

I now own a copy of ‘Train in Vain’, and though it was drawn for another’s story, take a look at it below and read the poem I’ve pulled from ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, and if you can, think of backing Monty so he can get his artwork out in the world.

train in vain 1

Crack! The whip struck Shovel-Man Joe!

Back slashed red, blood and sweat flowed.

Piled high at his feet were limbs and entrails.

The shovel scraped loudly; the fire inhaled!

 

The throttle released with a hiss and a groan;

The engine chugged forward on pistons of bone.

First class hurrah’d and raised glasses high;

The whore settled back, spread wide with a sigh.

 

All aboard! All aboard!

Fresh meat, the fire roared!

Ride the train it was writ; be the first to The Pit!

But who has returned and spoken of it?

 

He comes, can you hear?

Who’s the first to disappear?

Whispers in the halls; scratching in the walls.

One by one you will surely fall.

 

Beware the Shovel Man’s ire!

Feed the fire! Feed the fire!

Ride the train if you dare…

You must all pay the fare.