The Plague and Dr Caim

 G.E. Gallas

G.E. Gallas is currently funding a 100 page hardcover graphic novel at Unbound entitled “The Plage and Dr Caim.”  Using the Black Plague as its historical roots, the book focuses on a plague doctor and the adventures encountered by treating (and learning to treat) the apocalyptic issue at hand. 

First and foremost this book is wonderful on the eyes. On the project site at Unbound it states “With the aesthetic of a medieval illuminated manuscript” and that is spot on.  Each page looks as though it is on parchment and the styling of the art also fits the period piece look.  The vibrant colors are a great juxtaposition against the grim nature of the backdrop.  The dark humor of the book is helped along in both subtle and obvious nods from the art.    

While many of us know, or are at least familiar with the plague, it isn’t an often ventured topic in terms of the reality of the situation that faced the people afflicted and those trying to help.  A doctor faces a mix of exact and inexact sciences on a daily basis.  The plague presented what is perhaps the hardest road for a doctor to travel.  People are dying in droves, there’s an obvious disease causing the deaths, the disease is contagious (or is it), it travels quickly, and the symptoms are terrible.  Yet, the only way to figure it out is to get close to those infected.  Overall it’s a pretty dire and morbidly humorous situation.  This take is where this book shines.  

Thanks to the horror and supernatural genres many folks know the image of the plague doctor quite well.  The mysterious figure with beak and hat has been turned into all sorts of striking characters.  Usually they’re nothing resembling the truth of the matter.  Within the confines of the beak the doctors actually had fashioned a rudimentary gas mask.  The belief at the time you see, was that it was “bad air” that spread the disease.  The doctors meant to cure the sick certainly couldn’t be taking in that bad air now. 

Rooting the book in the historical and factual aspects of the plague gives the project a depth beyond being a mere darkly humorous look into a terrible time in human history.  The research done by Gallas is very clear.  Reading through the book I found myself going to the ‘ol googlemachine and checking some things out for myself.  I learned by reading this graphic novel.  How often do you get to say that?  

The mix of history, facts, humor, and reality of the plague period has blended into a book that works on all levels.  It looks and feels like it should given the premise.  Despite never being out of his cowl we get Dr Caim’s personality coming through as the trials and tribulations of treating the plague are navigated.  I quite enjoyed this historical fiction graphic novel.  

Check out the project on UNBOUND!
Visit G.E. Gallas’ website and see more projects!
Follow GE Gallas on Twitter!

Paladins #1

Zillia 1: Awakened by Destiny
Story – James Kinesely
Art – House of Imagi
Self Published

Lately there’s been what I’d call a NEW surge in Anime/Manga love as opposed to a resurgence in the genre.  I think the clear identity within mainstream visual storytelling mediums is what has really happened in all honesty.  I’m hitting the crest of the age hill and I can remember growing up and reading/watching what are now classic and seminal Anime/Manga pieces.  Paladins is a book that is very clearly inspired by many of these books and shows.  Even the black and white interior draws from the very identifiable stylistic choices of the genres.  While it does borrow, Paladins creates a new entry all its own.

As the first in a series (and a whopper too, 80 pages), Awakened by Destiny has plenty of work to do in order to get things going.  We know nothing about anything and for me, the choice of housing our main characters in high school was smart.  There’s already built in understanding, placement, and even some attachment as the overwhelming majority of readers can already relate on one level at minimum.  The book also does a very good job of building upon that by also showing us glimpses of the characters as children.  This helps with engaging these characters as well as getting a sense of their interactions and feelings for one another.  There is history between them already and it was a smart choice to allow that to help the readers out.  

One of the driving factors in the book is a structural element of the writing.  There are hints and nuggets dropped that pay off after you’ve continued to turn the page.  Of course, the narrative itself does this as well.  Who the heck are the actual Paladins?  After our main duo have become two of the ten the search is on.  Is it possible they already know one of the others?  The evil the face comes from a world that is much like ours but is powerful to the point that the brothers will need the help of the others.  The villains though, they feel like more than just your run of the mill baddies set up for our good guys to overcome.  Especially in this style it is very refreshing to be given full on characters across the board.  The Anime/Manga arena is rife with generic bad/evil cardboard cutouts that pose threats.  There is substance to the villains here.

Opposed to the common dark themes of the works that have come before it, Paladins appears to be a much more light filled universe overall.  The world itself has a an air of liveliness and all around hopeful nature but that doesn’t distract from the mysterious nature of the evil that is facing the new Paladins.  This book has done a good job of doing some of the hardest part of world building.  It’s both given and hinted at larger elements that will be forthcoming as this tale unfolds.  There’s got to be a hook (and we’ve got it in the form of both who the other Paladins are, and the full reveal of the evil they face) to continue to drive forward.  We’ve got them and they work.  Neither the action nor the character developing in this first entry overshadowed the other.  There was enough of both to properly move things towards the ultimate journey but also make me want to go along for the ride.  Add to that that we’ve got more to uncover about everything (the naming of the Paladins certainly has more to it, for example).

All in all this is an enjoyable entry into a new world and story for the genre.  It differentiates itself enough to warrant further exploration as the next chapters come out.    


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John The Swamp Dude: Who Killed Mobie Graye?

Story and Art by Josh Shockley with Letters and Edits by James Dufendach.

PLB Comics (based in Maryland) is bringing fan favorite character John the Swamp Dude out of the pages of their Halloween Specials into his own 48 page black and white one shot comic! Along with his best friend Zhub Zhub, JTSD is on the tail of the murderer of their mentor Mobie Graye. If you’re new to these characters the PLB crew has included a link to the first three parts of the JTSD saga FOR FREE on the front inside cover of this issue (and there’s a swanky sketch cover available too)!

***Disclaimer – I read this one-shot on its own without the context of JTSD in the Halloween Specials***

Non-Spoiler review:

The book gets right to the gory details and horrific manner in which Mobie Graye has been murdered.  The described scene ends with the knowledge that his head was jammed on fence post.  That’s the first full on caption in the book.  The book was prefaced as having graphic violence, strong language, and being intended for mature audiences.  Kicking off the book with narration detailing a grisly murder and ending it with a shot of the main character crucified while said decapitated head on a stick is in the foreground of the shot certainly sets an adult tone.  It’s actually a nice juxtaposition that’s created between the content and the art displaying it.    

There’s a quick change of pace as, in a very comic book moment of luck, Zhub happens to be fishing in The Swamp of the Dead where JTSD had been strung up on the cross.  Having pulled himself off the cross JTSD quickly found himself face to face with another threat in the dregs of the swamp water.  Managing to get away he still needed some help.  On cue, the buddy enters the scene and snags him with the hook on the end of pole.  Pulling him out of the swamp we run into what, to me, felt like some forced lines from Zhub (this could  be his character though as this is my first instance with him) that kind of pull away from the first few pages of set up.  It is only a page but does its own job of setting up Zhub a bit.  The book quickly moves to some exposition on Mobie Graye and the who, what, and why of this character’s importance to JTSD.  In one page the book does a very good job of creating substance for Graye while also attaching him to our main character.  Excellent page all around too as the narration overlays panels that have our murderer mirroring the description of Graye himself.  After being helped and having his wounds treated JTSD and his best bud get back on the case. However, the funeral pyre for Mobie raises some questions.  With an active investigation into the murder going on, even with the best of intentions why would one act so quickly to get rid of evidence?  A curious case indeed as our would be heroes have trekked in search of a friend to try and decipher strange symbols found at the crime scene.  While they find some help in the form of their drunken old friend sitting outside of a bar, the answers only beg more questions.    

I will leave the tale here as the rest of the story involves some twists and turns with the reveal of our murderer.  There’s more history to those involved that is given and the bigger picture surrounding JTSD is given even more color.  Overall I enjoyed the story.  I didn’t NEED the parts of JTSD’s story that came before in order to take this one-shot for what it is though it is clear that they would be helpful.  There’s enough done to know and feel the relationship of the characters and the world they’re in.  For me it does seem as though there’s more of this world planned and hopefully PLB will be able to do just that, explore this world more.  There are some instances where panels jump, sequences could have used just a little stretching to capture the full intent, and continuity skips (like say blood from wounds not being in a panel or two but dripping quite clearly in others).  None of this takes away from the book so much that I didn’t get out of it, a nice little tale from a character that has clearly been developed much more off page.  I think though, that is the biggest draw back of the book.  There are several occasions where past places, events, people are alluded too/mentioned that you either have to have past experience with the characters OR it’s part of the ‘there must be much more planned for this’ territory.

Take a look for yourself folks.  You can follow PLBCOMICS on Twitter or head on over to the store and pick up the book for yourself at

Thank you to Josh Shockley for the chance to check this book out!

Kickstarter Korner 2

From time to time the Indie Engine likes to spotlight Kickstarter projects in the effort in helping
    in #DrivingCreators and getting the world out!

Lost Kids: Seeking Samarkand Pt 2 (APR 25th)
Described as a love letter to the Goonies, the Dungeons&Dragons 80’s cartoon, and Final Fantasy this one is right up our alley.  Five teenagers find themselves mysteriously transported to a world filled with magic and airships.  They’ve got only one clue for returning home: find the mythical lost city of Samarkand.  Vol 1 took the group (and some traveling companions in the form of a thief, knight, and young mage apprentice) to Mitani, the City of Mages.  They’re on the hunt for the Rogue Princess Evelet.

Now, in Vol 2 the story picks right up as the teens try to find Samarkand and find their way home!

Dead Beats (MAY 9)
A Wave Blue World is back at it.  This time around they’ve got a project that hits right at the heart of this 80s/90s kid.  In the vein of a Creepshow or Crypt like anthology Dead Beats is a 160-page full-color anthology of music-themed horror comics centered around the curiosities for sale at one peculiar record store by its enigmatic Shoppe Keeper. Edited by Joseph Corallo (Oh S#!t, It’s Kim & Kim, Mine!) and Eric Palicki (This Nightmare Kills Fascists, All We Ever Wanted), Dead Beats features more than twenty comics stories and more than forty up-and-coming creators and industry veterans, as well as cover art and interstitial narrative illustrations by Lisa Sterle (Long Lost, Submerged).

This is the from the imprint that brought you the anthologies All We Ever Wanted and Broken Frontier.  Highlighting creators AWBW has another hit on their hands.

I Am Hexed #2 (MAY 15)
Witches have been a part of the political fabric of Washington DC since it was founded.  Since the 1960’s witches have taken a collective stand and have fought to take back the word “Hexed” in a movement ignited when they came out of the woodwork and showed off their broomsticks.  A junior staff member for a Senator now finds themselves smack dab in the murky and dangerous waters of political games between witches and their adversaries in an ongoing struggle for equality.  With the junior staff member being framed and the magical authorities closing in help is enlisted to try and figure it all out.

I Am Hexed is a supernatural political thriller with magic, mystery, and personal drama.

Dreadstar Omnibus (MAY 16)

Dreadstar is the comos-spanning tale of Vanth Dreadstar, a powerful warrior and the lone survivor of the Milky Way Galaxy. Joined by his crewmates Oedi, Syzygy Darklock, Willow, and Skeevo, the team finds themselves in the middle of an ancient stalemate war between two forces of evil: The Church of Instrumentality, led by the all-powerful and misguided Lord Papal, and The Monarchy.   Volume 1 is a 512-page collection of Dreadstar’s journey, from the original Metamorphosis Odyssey presented in Epic Illustrated magazine, to the Dreadstar Graphic Novel, The Price graphic novel, the Epic Illustrated short story, and the first eight issues of the original standalone Dreadstar comic series.

The three-volume hardcover Omnibus Collection will gather the complete Dreadstar stories by cosmic master Jim Starlin.

Miskatonic High #2 (MAY 16)
In the rustic hills of a small New England Berkshire town lies the prestigious Miskatonic High School. When the Community Service Club went on a field trip, they were launched back to ancient Egypt and were nearly killed by an evil wizard and his tentacle monster. They escaped back to our century, but things will never be the same.

In issue 2 we travel to the home of Sarah Clarke and find unearthed secrets that are better left unknown.

Image result for space copz origins

Over 40 creators hailing from more than 10 countries have tamed up to build over 100 pages of this all-ages comic book anthology.  Every story featured in the anthology tells the tale of a character in the Space Copz Universe and how they came to be the way they are now.  There are stories about Sgt. Alpha Omega and Beta Boy starting out, tales recanting details of Paxton the Pooch’s arrival at Mercury Plains, yarns spinning of how Zeta became evil and so many more. 

They’ll deal with monsters, bullies, and even things under the bed in this anthology that has laughs, twists, loops and swirls.

Image result for elk mountain kickstarter

Elk Mountain Part One (May 22)
This is a story about Valor, the world’s mightiest superhero and defender of the his very own small town of Elk Mountain.  He’s from a family a Panamanian family that escaped persecution in their native country in the 1980’s.  Having come to America to free themselves of the persecution Valor’s parents fled back to Central America, fearing government retribution, right after he was born.  They left Valor behind.  Though he has grown up to be their own personal defender in light of being the mightiest superhero in the world, irrational fears about immigrants start to turn the town sour.  Our hero is faced with a struggle and tough choices as immigrants are rounded up, separated, and detained.

Elks Mountain takes a hard look at the current climate of fear surrounding immigration and how it can break apart a community in an instant.  Fear of something ‘other’ or something ‘different’ can turn even the closest of neighbors against one another.  In the case of Elk Mountain, a small town on its own hero.  Can these rifts be healed?

Elk Mountain

Script: Jordan Clark
Art: Vince Underwood
Colors: Brittany Peer
Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Often times you’ll hear the expression “life imitating art” and, for good reason.  In the comic book medium though, we find an outlet that allows art to be a powerful tool for awareness.  Elk Mountain is just such a thing.  Using several readily identifiable and relatable tropes the power in the message of Elk Mountain is in its truth and sincerity.  We live in a world lit with gaslights.  Instead of attacking and blaming the story of Elk Mountain brings awareness and speaks to the truths of what we are all facing across the country here in the United States.  These issues are real and they are have gone beyond merely threatening people’s safety.  Lives are being affected and the fabrics on which the greatness of this nation’s ideals were built has been frayed to the point of tearing.

What we want to explore in the comic is the way communities are being divided by unfounded fears, how immigrants live in a world of uncertainty…”

The promise of the US is the “dream” and how everyone can come to pursue it.  The reality of today tells a tale in stark contrast to that of the open arms of Lady Liberty.

“Instead of focusing on the policy aspect of immigration, we want to look at what has happened to many communities where people are turning on their neighbors due to false information spread to stoke fears and hate. All the data shows that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes, more likely to pay taxes, and are steady contributors to our society and economy. Valor is almost the ultimate example of this. As a superhero and a protector of Elk Mountain, he fights to make the world a safer place and strives to be a positive role model. “

This though, isn’t the narrative being pushed or story being told by those that would have you believe. The very same people that you’ve known and perhaps even loved for all, most, or a good portion of your lives have been called into question unjustly. You have been called into question unjustly. Today, living in America harbors an unnecessary fear that goes against what the foundations were supposed to be. Acceptance.

“An immigrant in America is to live in a world where you never know what tomorrow may bring. People have awakened to find that they’ve lost their jobs, homes, and even their children. Some are sent back to countries they’ve never even been to. Those traveling to America to escape extreme poverty, war, or political corruption face incredible odds even entering the country, and yet they still come. Valor faces a similar experience as one day he is beloved, and then the next day feared. It’s one thing to fight giant robots, but how do you fight the fears that others have of you? How do you persevere in the face of hatred beyond your control?”

Fear is a dangerous weapon.  It is much easier to put fear into people than to ease it from them.  A scared populous will see things that aren’t there and find issues that don’t truly exist.  Sensationalism of the most extreme cases is fabricated as the majority truth and where hugs and handshakes once lived battle lines now resided.  It’s not to say that acceptance should be blind or that the natural human fear of something they don’t know and understand should be disregarded.  The point is one of understanding from both sides.  This is something that Elk Mountain specifically aims to address.

“Finally, we want to play on the Superman origin. As perhaps the most famous immigrant in all of popular culture, it’s an aspect of Superman’s backstory that doesn’t get as much play these days. Yes, he’s an alien, but him not being from this world seems to be less terrifying to some people than an undocumented person from Mexico. Valor represents a modern take on the outsider hero, one who has to fight to be accepted, even by the people he protects. Like Superman, he has accepted that some people will always fear him, but this doesn’t stop him from doing what’s right. Unlike Superman, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind and break the rules when he must. He represents a group of people who are being discriminated against unjustly and must and is willing to do whatever he can to help them.”  

As Jordan has stated Superman is the most famous immigrant in all of popular culture.  Taking a moment to sit back and look at everything the Superman tale brings to the table, for me, reveals so many points of discussion that are not only still relevant but at the forefront of society today.  Elk Mountain dives into the more personal aspects of this archetype and brings the story our front door.  While there is the ‘superhero’ element at play it is to enhance the true importance of what makes up the “Superman” tale.  This individual that is held up with such regard, seen and depended on as a protector, trusted with lives, and viewed as a symbol ‘truth, justice, and the American way’ both is and isn’t the “ideal” representation.

That’s the heart of Elk Mountain.  The fact that we’ve lost sight of what it is that made the US a beacon of light and turned from a helping hand to a closed fist is an issue that needs as much attention as possible.  With this book we get the chance to explore the complexity and sensitivity of all of this.  Through the manner of a comic book the extremely talented and intelligent team of Jordan Clark, Vince Underwood, Brittany Peer, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou shine a light on and address a plague that is systemic of an archaic way of thinking.

Elk Mountain is political without being preachy.  It tackles issues driving wedges between people across the globe.  The book delivers both relevant social commentary as well as a damn good superhero story.

The Indie Engine HIGHLY recommends ELK MOUNTAIN

Go check out the campaign for Elk Mountain on Kickstarter through MAY 22nd!

Written by @Jrsosa18 Art by @VinceUnderwood Colors by @br_peer Letters by @HassanOE

*Special thanks to Jordan Clark for the insight and commentary on the project*