Dreamers of the Day

by Beth Barnett

Making its debut at Small Press Expo is Beth Barnett’s InfoGraphic Novel Dreamers of the Day. History lesson, travel log, diary, and comic are all rolled into one as Beth takes us on a journey of discovery about TE Lawrence.

It is a common theme among creators that they care about the subject they are taking on. So often they are labors of love. This is clearly another entry along those lines, but, it is so much more. How so? Well, Dreamers of the Day is actually the base upon which Beth will be building her planned three part bio-graphical take on TE Lawrence. The labor of love is evident as this is a take on the journey Beth took in order to research and truly find the story that lay within the life of TE Lawrence. It is her story of discovery about her subject and a bit about herself. The deep dive of a pilgrimage to Oxford uncovers riches of history that are almost exclusively ignored or glanced over as afterthoughts in the many pieces of media about Lawrence of Arabia.

Perhaps my favorite part of this piece is the absolute personal reflection and unabashedly candid peek into Beth’s feelings and the emotional journey she’s taken. What were surely the feelings she was having at the time of the various depicted events, we can see drawn all over the representative Beth on page. While documentative in nature and biographical in scope Beth presents this journey in a story type fashion that her artwork lends very well too. The book is about her search and discovery of TE Lawrence but the entirety is truly about TE. The scenes of running late for appointments or getting lost are related with candor.

The connection with not just herself, but with the importance of the endeavor she’s undertaken allows so much more to come across from the page. Even though there are more installments coming there is already very large pieces of learning for anyone that picks up this book. Most folks only know the Hollywood given bylines but the story of TE Lawrence is so much richer and deeper than most are aware of. The history involved with the man and his involvement in history is a lesson that will enrich your understanding of the world and educate you in ways you’re not expecting. The zest with which the journey is undertaken jumps off the page and brings you along for the ride.

Beth will be at SPX on SEP 14-15th! Dreamers of the Day makes its print debut at the Expo!

HELL, Inc.

Jeff Martin’s web strip is coming to print. That’s the aim anyway as his KICKSTARTER launches on AUG 19, 2019 and will be a 30 day campaign. The KS aim is to get the 84 strips published into print and out to the masses. There will be two books, each with a 42 strip story arc. Published weekly since FEB 2018, the project already shows staying power and has been coming around to more and more eyes lately. So what exactly is Hell, Inc? It’s satire that plays on one of the most well known tropes out there. What’s more of a hell than an office job …?

The timeless reality that is hell on Earth has been used to high success many times over. Martin has added to the ranks of hilarious takes on the horrors and torture of the cubicle world. Humor that recalls the likes of Office Space is sprinkled about but the strip is entirely its own entity. We follow Doug, a hopeless everyman (demon) working for the big corp in literal Hell, Hell Incorporated. The premise itself (the office trope) is ripe with relatable instances and the humor in agony that many people go through day in and day out. While horribly human with his existence, Doug also finds that Hell itself is a multilayered storm. It has got to be exponentially more dire of an existence to be just a cog in the corporate machine when you compound that with the corporate machine being, again, literal Hell.

Keeping the humor relatable is what makes the strip overly funny. Despite being a demon Doug lives through every day human hells. Perhaps he was a corporate cog before the afterlife and is now living out his own personal hell by being condemned to run the cubicle rat race for eternity? That would just add that much more humor to the goings on over at Hell, Inc. The art delivers exaggerated depictions of the every day torture of the office life. From dreaming of doing the unthinkable to your co-workers, running and hiding from the boss, and attempting to feign importance we see Doug navigate his horrifyingly mundane afterlife with the same hopeless indifference many of us have experienced.

It isn’t that Doug doesn’t have an important job. He processes souls for Hell, Inc. Given that that is what Hell is all about one would think there would be a bit more shine to things. Not so much. There always seems to be something that keeps the experience from being what it could or adding to the misery of being just another office worker. The “adventures” have even gone so far as to give Doug an intern [a human one at that] that simply just has to be the secret 10th circle of hell.

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter LIVE NOW! Hell, Inc is a wonderfully done satire. The play on the situation makes it that much more humorous. You’ll thoroughly enjoy your time with Hell, Inc.

Going to the Chapel #1

W- David Pepose
A- Gavin Guidry
C- Liz Kramer
L- Ariana Maher w/Colin Bell

Big thank you to David Pepose for the Q&A leading into the release of GTtC #1.

Upon reading the solicit for this book you’re going to immediately have your mind jump to a certain movie scene. It happened to me. Seeing the cover of Going to the Chapel #1 (Lisa Sterle art) only reinforced that vision. Using the juxtaposition of attitudes and approaches from the bride and groom in the hours leading up to the wedding lures the reader into a false sense of security. While many are chuckling in recollection of their own wedding day (or memories of weddings of family members/that they’ve been involved in) this book is slowly stalking us in the tall grass. Without even realizing it you get a reveal before the hook on the last page. You’ll go back and go ‘well shit’ for not noticing because you’re flowing right along with the all to real emotions of the prevailing situation.

The RomCom genre capitalizes on several feelings to create an entertaining and fulfilling experience that runs up and down the emotional spectrum. They work because there’s something that tugs at or speaks to just about everyone. Even in the sappiest there’s either humor or a dark truth that plays to the most cynical among us. That’s just the thing with these ventures, it’s all about the hope and love winning out. Sometimes though that hope and love is fighting against the conventional “feel good” outcome. Hope and love doesn’t always line up with what would be considered as correct or how people on the outside looking in think things should go. And there in lies the humor, dark truth, and sometimes a little something else. Going to the Chapel has sown the seeds for that other route.

Yes, we get a wise cracking and delightfully crude grandma. The normal and expected jitters are present along with some typical “overly sure” feelings. The tropes of the hours leading up to the fateful moment of “I do” are all given face time and used expertly to paint a picture that’s just about by the numbers. Until it isn’t. All throughout the issue there’s something that eats at you as you read through the panels. There’s an itch that slowly grows but no matter how much you scratch at it, the damn thing won’t go away. In fairness to we, the readers, the book distracts from that itch as much as it causes it. Issue one is a great debut that does its job extremely well. It piques your interest and then hooks you with the last page. That itch goes full blown but it isn’t irritating. I mean unless an Elvis impersonating gang of robbers crashing a wedding irks you … but that’s just the primer for the hook. See, “love is the ultimate hostage situation” isn’t just a tag line. It’s an absolute truth.

Enough of what I think, let’s hear from the writer himself:

-Let’s start with, the start, of this book.  The inception of the idea. You’ve stated it was from Greek Tragedy-esque level shenanigans when you were a best man?  Can you elaborate or change names/modify events to protect the innocent?

Have you ever been to a wedding that’s felt more like a hostage situation? We just made that literal in GOING TO THE CHAPEL. (Laughs) But yes, the initial spark of the idea came from my disastrous turn as best man for my oldest friend’s wedding — the bachelor party I planned was like the Hindenburg of bachelor parties, culminating in me actually missing the whole thing because I sent myself to the hospital. 

While I was recuperating on painkillers, I thought to myself, “At least this didn’t happen during the wedding…” But then I thought to myself, “But what if it did?” That made me think of a lot of worst-case scenarios — at first, I thought it would be what if the father of the bride hired some leg-breakers to persuade the groom to call it off, but then I realized… what if the bride just got cold feet? That idea of commitment and choosing who to love felt like a really dramatic arc to explore — although I’ll admit, the Elvis-themed bank robbers didn’t hurt, either!

-Coming off of Spencer & Locke 2 (which again, absolutely brilliant) and the focus on trauma, this book is quite a different tale.  Is this an intentional change of pace or just what happened to be next in the queue?

GOING TO THE CHAPEL, in a lot of ways, was written in response to SPENCER & LOCKE — I think the two books do share certain themes and sensibilities, but I think the tone and execution to get there are definitely different. The first volume of SPENCER & LOCKE, for example, was written with a really small cast in mind, so the first thing I wanted to do with my next book was to essentially write a team book full of diversity and representation — we’ve got 15 characters in the mix with this series, and confining them to a single location was an even greater challenge.

That said, I do think GOING TO THE CHAPEL has a lot in common with my previous books — we bring that same mixture of action and comedy to every page, and I also think they both tackle the general themes of having to face the heartache of your past before you can hope to move forward into the future. But most importantly, GOING TO THE CHAPEL brings that same sense of risk-taking as SPENCER & LOCKE — while my first books were about skewering one of the most sacred cows in comics, GOING TO THE CHAPEL gets to put a new spin on the romcom narrative, a genre that often has a lot of preconceived notions in the Direct Market. I’m hoping after reading our series, people will realize that everyone can enjoy romcoms — they’re just as flexible of a genre as crime, sci-fi or even superheroes.

-With some of the visuals and a little of the look in GTtC’s first issue I can’t help but get a feeling of a mash up of some cult favorite movies, and it’s great … when putting the pen down to write this, did you purposefully use some tie lines for familiarity or did the actual true accounts this comes from bare enough resemblance on their own?

Perhaps not consciously, but I think artist Gavin Guidry and I brought a lot of influences to the table with this book, from old-school Tarantino and Breaking Bad to Hell or High Water and Baby Driver. For me, I wanted to write this book without the crutch of narrative captions, and so I wanted to play around with the pacing and the storytelling in order to keep things dynamic and to keep readers on their toes. The idea of starting the book out with the song lyrics of “Chapel of Love,” for example, felt like a great way to set the tone of this series — a little bit stylish, a little bit dangerous — but using the least amount of dialogue possible.

My biggest influences on the book, though, were probably the films Dog Day Afternoon and Death at a Funeral — the idea of having a lot of people trapped in close proximity with one another has a lot of room for comedy, in my mind. I think we often wear masks of respectability when we’re with our extended families or at our jobs, but the longer you’re stuck in an uncomfortable situation, the more I think those masks tend to slip — we start getting a little more real, a little more honest, whether we like it or not. So the longer we go in GOING TO THE CHAPEL, we’re not just going to see Emily and her family start to slide deeper into dysfunction, but we’re going to see the line between the Bad Elvis Gang and their hostages start to blur.

-So, we’ve got some issues going on already.  There’s clearly LOTS of background to the bride, head of our gang of robbers, and some other mess stewing about.  How expansive is the background that these characters share and how much of it are going to get (IE – could there be a GTtC 2)?

A lot of the fun of a book like GOING TO THE CHAPEL is taking these very strong personalities and seeing how they interact with one another over the course of this increasingly complicated hostage situation. Emily, our bride with cold feet, will be driving the story, and we’ll see how her past informs the situation she and her family are in today — but we’re also going to see how her fiance Jesse fits into the situation, as does Tom, the ringleader of the Bad Elvis Gang.

But the best part of having such a big, sprawling cast is that every character gets to leave their mark on this story — a hostage situation only goes as smoothly as your actual hostages will let it, and the Anderson family is so rich, so entitled, and so clueless that they’re not going to take captivity lying down. Imagine if the Bluth family from Arrested Development were caught in a bank robbery, and you’ll get the idea of where we’re headed — but rest assured, every character gets an arc in this series, and we’ll see some very interesting connections develop.

-The solicits give us details of course, but what is the central theme you’d hope comes across in GTtC? I ask because that last page is saying to me that this story is about those crazy feelings that the fist size muscle in our chest causes us to deal with.

I’d say the biggest milestones in our lives are the ones that often require the biggest leaps of faith — so if there’s any one theme in GOING TO THE CHAPEL, it’s about the ways we grapple with those fears of change and of commitment, and how we eventually have to confront these anxieties to move forward. You’re right that love is a big, crazy feeling, but it’s also a complicated one, informed by our wants and our aspirations and our upbringings and our heartbreaks. And we’re going to get to explore a lot of that in this wedding heist from hell!

-I couldn’t help but notice that the scenes in this first issue were very tight, in close.  The characters were the focal point throughout and the actuality of where they were at any given time was nothing more than bare minimum.  A church, a bar, a room. Is this a tool in the bigger telling of the story?  

Yeah! A lot of that is based on artist Gavin Guidry’s personal style — he gives his characters so much expressiveness, so I think he really relishes getting to zoom in and show these wedding guests’ larger-than-life personalities. But at the same time, as this series progresses and we have our characters established, we’ll start to play more and more into the various elements of the chapel as a setting — in fact, I actually choreographed the whole story beat by beat, almost like a football play, so Gavin could then use that to construct a fully-rendered, three-dimensional chapel on SketchUp. This series is very much about trying to fit a ton of characters in an enclosed space, though, so Emily and her extended cast will definitely be our main focus. 

-This is going to be a four-issue series.  S&L was 4 issues in each of its two volumes.  Is there something about four issues that allows you to do things that a “traditional” six-issue limited series doesn’t?  Is the four-issue format something you prefer?  

I like to keep my stories as tight and lean as possible — both because I don’t want to keep readers and retailers on the hook any longer than necessary, but also for my own sanity and wallet! (Laughs) But in all seriousness, I think a common misconception people have is that oftentimes many comics publishers will even consider a six-issue limited series to be a big investment — so keeping it at four- and five-issue arcs is a good way not just to make sure the storytelling is economical, but also minimizing a publisher’s risk of picking up the project.

-With S&L and now GTtC are we seeing a relationship brewing with you and Action Lab or are these books the product of an existing one? 

Action Lab’s been a great home for my work, dating back to the first volume of SPENCER & LOCKE. I think there’s a lot of publishers who are very risk-averse, or who get very self-conscious about their brand and have a very narrow definition of what they’ll publish within those confines — I had a lot of publishers that told me they didn’t know how to sell a romantic comedy! But Action Lab immediately was excited about GOING TO THE CHAPEL, and unanimously wanted to go ahead with it. So I give them a lot of credit for taking risks with their publishing lineup, and trusting creators to tell their stories without micromanaging them to death. It’s a great relationship, and I’m excited to publish more books through Action Lab in the future. 

-Is Goint To The Chapel a one and done, or is there a possibility that this initial series is just the start?

While I initially wrote GOING TO THE CHAPEL as a standalone series, the themes of the book feel universal enough that I think there’s definitely some possibilities for some other stories with these characters if the demand was there. So never say never — if Father of the Bride could pull off a Part II, who’s to say we couldn’t, too?

OUT NCBD SEPTEMBER 4th!

The Naked Eye

Kickstarted successfully earlier this spring, the Naked Eye brings a tale of a morally challenged celebrity photographer that gains the power to become invisible. The catch is that the trick only works at night … if he’s naked. Los Angeles usually sees the bad guys in living color up on the big screen. The paparazzo of this story finds that they aren’t confined to the scripted playgrounds. Our protagonist must decide if he’s willing to seek out the secrets and hidden agendas crawling everywhere when friends from his past are threatened.

The concept behind The Naked Eye is solid. Being a paparazzo in Los Angeles is about as abrasive and intrusive as one can get. Having any kind of moral compass doesn’t seem possible for someone willing to do the job that the papo’s do. The fact that Bram (our main character) even entertains the thought, let alone acts, of using his newfound invisibility to do good as a papo shows that there is thought and care in his character. When he’s confronted by a figure from his past with a big angle to not only do right, but blow open an operation even more amoral than the paparazzo he’s a part of.

Our introduction to Bram and the types of dreck he deals with is rather abrupt. In the first interaction we get with the invisible papo doing his job there are references and some language that might not sit with everyone. The scene’s purpose though, is to set up Bram as being a good individual at heart regardless of his choice of jobs and usage of his ability. The rest of the introductory issue introduces several aspects of the larger narrative that the Naked Eye will explore. A literal crash course in how Bram fell from grace is shoved between the set up and the start of the bigger story. We get character introductions as well as an introduction to the element that will drive this story deep into mystery and intrigue. There is a nice transition that links Bram being a papo to the reveal at the end of the book.

It is very apparent that there is much more to the story here with the Naked Eye. The concept started out as a TV pilot so clearly world building has been done behind the scenes. Bram goes invisible when the night falls so the reveal at the end only furthers the larger elements that the story is set to encompass. There will also be more to come to light with the bigger players assuredly as so far the introductions have been harsh and quick serving. There is much more story here and The Naked Eye #1 has introduced an intriguing concept on which to build.

The book makes its public debut at FanEXPO Boston AUG 16-18th!

LENS

From Gary Maloney (the award winning writer/editor of MIXTAPE) and Raquel Kusiak Burgos this spy-thriller is one of the comics that is being serialized in Bun & Tea (highlighted in our What’s Kickin August preview). Described as a “what would happen if Lois Lane had a secret double life as John Wick,” LENS is a story that follows the award winning photographer Jane Danner. She just so happens to moonlight as one of the world’s deadliest assassins.

I love this “old school” approach that the B&T Magazine is taking with serializing comics. I can remember reading Dick Tracy, Spider-Man (both were reprinted in my local paper growing up), and several other strips when I was younger. There’s something about the serialized approach that adds a dimension to a story that you just can’t manage to get in other forms. The serialized format brings regular installments that have no bounds other than the creators (IE- no larger publishing(er) agendas or irregularities). LENS utilizes the form well and gives a great first impression.

For such a deep character Jane’s motivations seem pretty shallow. She loves creating an outcome. Whether or not those outcomes are for the better or worse is pretty immaterial to her. The outcome itself is the satisfying element. It’s a stark contrast to the clear understanding of power that she yields with the camera. How much a single photo can incite a rage or sympathy isn’t lost on Jane. She’s very aware of the tool that photography can be. To employ an almost ignorant (not stupid) approach with it provides an extra layer that will hopefully be explored as the chapters roll in. It isn’t just the photography though. The other lens through which she shoots is also treated just as flippantly. The attitude that both are treated with will certainly bring about some very difficult situations for Jane. While Danner may not want the answers to her actions (or to even ask the questions at all), I am very curious as to how her affection for being both the creator and capturer of chaos is going to play out. If not from her, then certainly from someone sending her out on assignment, there will likely be a clash of conscience coming.

I’m already wanting to read the second installment. LENS brings a great pulpy feel to it with a modern shine. It will be very interesting to see just how it all unfolds as the broader picture is developed.

LENS is being serialized in The Bun & Tea Kickstarter which closes funding August 15th 2019 @ 2:52 PM EDT. Head on over and get this mag funded!