You know the drill here folks. Pepose/Santiago Jr/Smith/Bell teamed up to bring you a stupid amazing sequel to a ridiculously amazing first volume of Spencer & Locke. The skinny is this: Heavily traumatized Locke has grown up and now hangs on to the one comfort he has in Spencer [the imaginary visage/embodiment of his stuffed animal from childhood] as he faces the adult world. In the second volume we see Locke face off against Roach, who is in many ways a mirror image of himself. Writer David Pepose was gracious enough to give us a fistful of answers in regards to to the overall S&L story and some of the thought process in bringing them to the page.
Our thoughts on the individual issues: #1#2#3#4 – and now some insight from the scripter himself:
For you, as a writer, what was the biggest challenge in following up the first volume of S&L? When you create an end product that is about as creatively perfect as you can get, it has to be daunting to go back and continue …
Well, first off, thank you for saying that! To be honest, with SPENCER & LOCKE 2, it was actually a comfort to go back and not just reexamine these characters that I had grown to love, but to reunite with a creative team as brilliant as Jorge Santiago, Jr., Jasen Smith and Colin Bell. Every series is always rolling the dice as you get to feel out your team and the themes of the book, so being able to build upon the foundation and team dynamics that we had established in our first volume was such an incredible gift for me as a writer. And I think that helped me overcome my biggest challenge with the series, which was just to keep building on Spencer and Locke’s unique partnership and history together — when you’re working with a team as stacked as Jorge, Jasen and Colin, it really inspires you to bring your A-game to every page and to just take as many big and crazy swings as possible.
How much of Roach was a reflection of Locke? The parallels for Roach with the militant angle/PTSD are given, but it really felt like more than that.
Roach is definitely the dark side of Locke’s unique pathology — while Locke developed his imaginary friend Spencer to cope with a lifetime of trauma and abuse, I always felt that Roach had sustained just as much pain and suffering but in a much more accelerated time frame. Roach is what Locke would become without a sense of hope — but because of that hopelessness, I think that means Roach has leaned into his violent streak, utilizing his military training and advanced weaponry to evangelize a darker sort of gospel. At the end of the day, Roach does think he’s doing us a favor — because to him, once you’ve had the worst day of your life, nothing else can touch you.
When you were forming this second arc, what was the bridge between the two stories? The connective tissues can be felt but what was the interlocking piece for you as you wrote it?
I remember when the first SPENCER & LOCKE came out, and there were a few people who said that there was no way that someone as fundamentally broken as Locke would ever be allowed to become a cop — and so with Volume 2, I really wanted to explore the real-world implications of how society might respond to someone who bent and broke the rules as much as he does. I think the overarching ethos of SPENCER & LOCKE has been that nothing happens in a vacuum — we’re not beholden to bringing things back to any sort of equilibrium, so Spencer and Locke can keep evolving and changing with each new case. These things should always be personal, and even in victory, we always want there to be some sort of cost. And I also just think that the conceit of using the entire funny pages was a really natural way to keep our strip going — there are so many archetypical comic strip characters to parody, and each one lends themselves to a different kind of story.
This second volume really started to build up the supporting cast outside of Spencer. How much is out there to be explored with them?
That’s the best part of expanding our series the way we have — there’s so much room for new characters, and expanding on the characters that already exist in our series. Star reporter Melinda Mercury was a really fun character to explore in this series, as our riff on Dale Messick’s Brenda Starr, and Hal and Lana, our take on Mort Walker’s Hi and Lois, really provided some nice background for the whole series. I’d also say for sure keep an eye out on Locke’s daughter Hero — she’s our secret weapon in this book, and I think she’s just as much depth to explore as her troubled dad.
Seeing it all wrapped up, how do you view the series? Did you accomplish what you wanted, and did maybe something else evolve along the way as well? … and of course, VOL 3, eh?
We set out to make SPENCER & LOCKE 2 our Dark Knight, our Empire Strikes Back, and I really think we stuck the landing on it. I’m so proud of how this series has progressed, and seeing how well Spencer and Locke’s struggles paralleled other comic strip legends only gives me hope for how our series might progress down the road. While I cannot confirm or deny a SPENCER & LOCKE 3 just yet, rest assured Jorge and I have been talking about exactly where our story should go from here, with some icons that are even more legendary than even Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey. But either way, SPENCER & LOCKE fans should definitely keep an ear to the ground, because we might have some very exciting news to share with them sooner rather than later…
There we have it folks. Again, a huge thank you to David Pepose for taking the time to entertain a fistful of questions about the hit series Spencer and Locke. If you’re new to this creative team you’ve got an absolute perfect chance to jump on board with the second volume hitting shelves all nice and collected for you. While you can read vol 2 in isolation I strongly urge you to seek out vol 1 and read them together. It is self-contained yes, but there is so much more [as you can see from the Q/A] that you’ll get out of the experience if you take in the entirety of it. Grab the vol 2 trade out this coming Wednesday. Search out the vol 1 trade. This is a comic you need to read.
SINK: BLOOD & RAIN – Closes funding August 6th 2019 11:59 PM EDT The second volume of the award winning crime-horror series from Comixtribe. It’s got murderous clowns for goodness sake. Sinkhill is a place where anything can happen but does have two constants. Blood and Rain. Date night from hell, a gang member having a crisis of conscience, and being in grave danger after moving into a luxury high-rise are all just part of the fun.
FALLEN – Closes funding August 8th 2019 6:57 AM EDT 22 pages of full color from Matt Ringel and Henry Ponciano delving into the synth-pop filled era of 1980’s New York. A mythological detective story, Fallen is the story of the mythological gods using humans as wards to influence the mortal world. As it stands, Zeus has been murdered and his ward must now find the answers. Who killed Zeus, and how? There’s a treacherous underworld to navigate but the Olympian family will be in support.
Digital and physical copy tiers.
BROTHERS BOND – Closes funding August 8th 2019 3:23 PM EDT Ryan Benjamin, and Kevin Grevioux bring the Eisner nominated webcomic to print. Demonic forces have taken over the kingdom and it is up to the exiled prince and his two blind samurai protectors to reclaim it. There’s action, adventure, coming of age, and a little comedy in this tale of fixing past mistakes to restore what once was.
Digital and print copy tiers. Con Preview exclusive and slipcase box set available.
LAD: THE HOMECOMING – Closes funding August 9th 2019 3:00 AM EDT Umar Ditta, Carlos Pedro, Hugo Boylan, Kerrie Smith, and Dearbhla Kelly bring us a neo-noir inspired story about The Family. Running the town, the Family operates out of the Beacon Lodge. One rule only really, and that is “leave the Forest, and the Hermit alone” and all is well. Except it isn’t because the family’s father was found savagely beaten clinging to life just outside the forest.
Great digital and print tier price points. Retailer and t-shirt rewards available.
STELLAR ODYSSEY – Closes funding August 9th 2019 2:00 PM EDT A team of NINE creators has come together to bring a sci-fi anthology of four – six page stories all taking place in the same universe. Serving as an intro to characters with the Stellar Odyssey universe, the stories will be a glimpse into what’s coming. Aliens, shootouts, and escape await! Each story will have its own “cover art” as well.
Sketch card and pin up rewards. T-shirt and custom art available.
COGNITION – Closes funding August 11th 2019 9:30 AM EDT A steam powered automaton with a human soul is spiritually linked with a demonically possessed mouse. They serve the British Occult Secret Service during the height of the Golden Age of the Victorian Era. Ken Reynolds dives into British folklore and riffs on a will o’the wisp, black schuck, and the legend of Bran the Blessed.
Single issue and trade reward tiers. Metal bookmark, collector’s box available.
>>>>>MORE THAN 10 DAYS REMAINING<<<<<
TRIGGER MORTIS – Closes funding August 13th 2019 4:00 PM EDT Derec Donovan combines the Spaghetti Western and Zombie genres in this 64 page hardcover. Devil’s Lantern, CO is under siege from a zombie plague that’s spreading like wildfire. Instead of focusing on CO gaining statehood, the cattle rustlers, or the love triange she’s involved in Sarah Mc’Clintock has to help band the living together to stave off the walking dead.
Signed art Remarque and enamel pin tiers. Alternate cover by Dan Panosian available.
TRANSDIMENSIONAL – Closes funding August 15th 3:42 AM EDT TPub Comics is getting the final issue of the mini-series and the collected edition funded here. Project is done so straight to printing when the campaign ends. The story is about an emotionally broken underwater archaeologist that hides his true motivation for chartering an expedition to a sunken Russian submarine that’s been missing for decades. The deeper the crew goes the darker and more horrifying the story gets.
Digital and print copy tiers. T-shirt and commissions available.
BUN & TEA – Closes funding August 15th 2019 2:52 PM EDT Claire Napier is editing a serial comics magazine. Each issue will be approximately sixty five pages (50 pages of graphic narrative content and the rest will be the magazine type trimmings). While each monthly segment will be fun all its own there will be a bigger, whole story being told. There are six creative teams in the first installment from all over the world.
Digital and print tiers.
THE ARCANE COCKTAIL ENTHUSIAST – Closes funding August 19th 2019 2:59 AM EDT Jeff Rider, Davide Puppo, and Anthony Lee come back for issue 2 of the story of Lark Leraar. A powerful sorcerer and the owner of the Arcanist Bar, Lark has discovered that dark magic has crept into the drinks as well as the new guy, Bill. Now it’s up to Lark and her friend Naomi to undertake a dangerous mission and save him. Magical worlds and mystical people are explored alongside flora and fauna that are used to make the most unique libations known!
Catch up tier and enamel pin rewards. Art print available.
DESTINY, NY: STORIES – Closes funding August 23rd 2019 8:00 PM EDT A perfect jumping on point for the Destiny, NY world. Pat Shand continues the world building with this collection of short stories that explores the characters much deeper and closer than ever before. All in all it’s 100+ pages collecting ten shorts that range from slice-of-life to holiday special to magical drama. They’re stand alone and provide a more intimate understanding of the characters of Destiny, NY.
Variant cover, bookplate, art prints. Catch up tier for entirety of Destiny, NY available.
HEART OF STEAL – Closes funding August 25th 2019 3:56 AM EDT This brand new action/crime caper comes from Fraser Campbell. The man behind hits such as Alex Automatic and The Edge Off is bringing the tale of three estranged friends that find themselves on a collision course following an audacious robbery. Loyalty, friendship and ambition are at the core of the story. Did I mention it’s set in Alpha City, on the moon? It is.
Digital bundle, print, commission tiers. Likeness in issue 2 available.
THE SEVEN SAGAS OF SILVERBEARD – Closes funding August 28th 11:31 AM EDT A gorilla warrior battles over seven lifetimes to overthrow the uncaring Gods that betrayed him and would turn his world into a wasteland. Earth is dying and the Gods simply don’t care. Cures, Silverbeard has battled demons, monsters, and the blighted land itself to try and overcome the deities that care not for the plight of the land. Pete Taylor brings the silver age inspired saga to oversized life.
Digital and physical, bookplate, art print. Ink sketch available.
*First and foremost I must give a very large and sincere thank you to Damian Wassel (CEO/Publisher) for taking the time to answer questions and provide insight. Throughout this piece are questions I submitted and Damian’s responses*
Three years. In our first three years of life we’re considered to be where we should be if we can walk in a straight line. A simple alternating of feet one after the other in succession along a straight line places us in the 95+ percentile of all in the three year old milestone category. Vault Comics is three years old in 2019 and their line is certainly straight, but the last thing they’re doing is walking. While we struggle moving from gross to fine motor skills at three, Vault has blown through developmental milestones and is already setting new standards while creating new expectations of what comic books and creative properties can be. The tag line “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics” is bold yet truthful. From its inception the publisher was clear with what it was about. Comic book fans and readers deserved bigger, broader, and better books. Comic creators deserved the same. Vault would be that platform for those that dared to create them and the outlet for those that dared to read them. Today, during just their third year of being exactly what they stated they’d be, Vault Comics is a leader in producing books that take on the conventions of the medium, dare creators and fans to push the bar higher, and beg the conventions of the past to try and stop them. The line of projects from Vault is nothing short of spectacular, and it grows exponentially with each new release. I couldn’t help but feel this was all organic in nature so I asked about it:
> As I’ve gone back and traced some of the steps, creatively, there seems to have been an organic kind of gravitation that came to a head with Vault. The collaborations beforehand show roots, so to speak, of what we’ve now seen over the last two years under Vault. Would that be accurate? Is Vault a sort of culmination of sorts, of a natural coming together?
With respect to the company itself, Vault came together after Adrian, Nathan, and I learned many lessons publisher a different kind of book in the preceding years. Our plans were tempered by wisdom Tim Daniel added when he joined the organization shortly thereafter.
With respect to our catalog, I like to think that our first few titles formed something of a nucleation site around with our future catalog could crystallize. But to lean into some sort of force-of-nature metaphor is to overlook the massive, nearly geological efforts, that Adrian—Vault’s editor-in-chief, has put into shaping our catalog.
> The approach from Vault is rather point blank. The genres of focus where chosen very specifically and the titles that have been published clearly represent that chosen direction. The diversity and inclusive nature of the properties is beyond reproach. What, do you feel, has been the driving force in being able to fit your stated goal while also fielding top shelf quality titles?
Science fiction and fantasy are genres that, perhaps more so than any other, reward creative risk-taking. When you raise a call for the best science fiction and fantasy stories, when you explicitly invite bold, visionary, and distinct storytelling, the pitches you receive turn out to be of surprising quality. The stated goal in effect generates its own momentum. But, again, I can’t overstate the massive amount of work Adrian has put into this catalog.
> The launch titles very clearly expressed the depth of not only the talent that is in the industry, but also that lies in the sci-fi/fantasy realm. As more titles have come out we’ve seen broadened takes on familiar settings within these realms. Has the library that Vault has published been aimed at highlighting the diversity in the genres as well?
We’re constantly looking for sub-genres of fantasy and science fiction that are underrepresented in comics. Sometimes there are strong formal reasons those genres don’t work well as comics, but often, it’s just a question of finding the right pitch with the right team.
Appropriately the first wave of books encapsulated their vision and proved their point. Fissure, Heathen, Powerless, Failsafe, Karma Police, and Colossi dove head first into the chosen genres. Inviting readers to open their minds and find new stories and approaches within known storytelling tropes, this first wave of books did more than just mark or announce intent from Vault. The diversity in creators and freshness in recipes for their tales immediately put Vault both up on high and out on a limb. It was daring. It worked. The stories they presented right out of the gate gave everyone something to latch onto. We got a lesbian viking, some government/corporate intrigue, lovely sci-fi hearkening to the silver age, the Superhero genre turned on its head, and a suspenseful supernatural story with deeper meaning all rolled out together. With their first package of books Vault put forth a breadth of comic books that you’d be hard pressed to find with any publisher today. Even with their choice to focus on a couple of areas in sci-fi and fantasy the publisher managed to put books on the shelves that each had a unique vision and voice.
As more books started hitting the shelves it wasn’t just momentum that Vault was building. The breadth of creativity within the sci-fi and fantasy realms started to rear its head. That’s not to say that classic approaches were ignored, but rather it’s an illustration of the vision that Vault and the creators involved shared. Spiritus merged several sci-fi tropes with the real world issues of criminality, subjugation, freedom, and human rights. Zojaqan explored the boundless lengths at which we go to overcome and survive tragedy and grief while serving up fantasy derived exploration of the human spirit. Alien Bounty Hunter took conventional approaches from sci-fi and brought in the same from other genres like crime/noir to create a classic book that pushed against the traditional modes of delivery for these types of stories. Songs for the Dead presented in the vein of known fantasy realms to deliver a story about pre-conceived notions butts heads with how we act in terms of forming who we are. With Maxwell’s Demons we got a disturbingly real look at dealing with domestic violence through the fantasy world created by the target of the cruelty. We go on a wonky ride through who we are, what we do, and how we see and value others while getting an accurately absurd commentary of current society in Deuce of Hearts. Of course, we can’t forget about the kid led overgrown mech-suit warfare against vampires on an Earth marked for destruction in Reactor. The branches of Vault’s tree of books were clearly reaching out into new space and searching for new light. This was one of the biggest draws for me. It was very clear that they wanted to let these stories be told, but how?
> One of the major appeals of Vault is the individuality of the titles. How do you manage the individual expression of the creators (once a project/team is selected for publication) in regards to the mission statement of Vault as a publisher?
The short answer is, we think of ourselves as stewards of our creators’ work. Our goal isn’t to put our thumbprints on their books, but instead to clear all the obstacles that stand between them and the best realization of their ideas and effort. Actually carrying this out requires an incredible amount of editorial, design, and production work per book, but we love what we do, so we put in the hours.
Putting in those hours become more than evident as the continued expansion of the Vault titles produced projects that were very clearly results of putting in those hours. Both the staff at the publisher and the creators involved in the titles have poured their all into characters and projects that push boundaries and re-invent conventional thinking. The expansion or continuing of projects at Vault is undoubtedly a direct result of these efforts. The shared universe of Cult Classic that was introduced in Return to Whisper has recently been announced to be expanding (Creature Feature). Not only is Vagrant Queen being turned into a SyFy tv series but it is also has more issues coming. The space saga unfolding in Wasted Space received the green light as an ongiong series rather than a limited endeavor. Stalag-X was the first OGN from Vault and was a collaboration with NYT best selling author Kevin J Anderson and television writer/producer Stephen L Sears. The announcement of The Dark One OGN project includes a tv series and is being done in conjunction with Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn, Wheel of Time, Stormlight Archive).
As the publisher rounded into their second year they put the foot on the gas with the announcement of the partnership with British comic collective White Noise (Dan Watters, Ryan O’Sullivan, Alex Paknadel. Ram V). From this we received what might be the single most impressive assault on comic book shelves in the last decade if not two. The quartet of Deep Roots, Friendo, Fearscape, and These Savage Shores unleashed raw and unfiltered social commentary in the frame work of comic books that took the bar for creative success, MacGyver’d it into a rocket, and rode it into new stratospheres of comic book making. Stunning on both literary and visual fronts, these books didn’t pull any punches in reflecting on as well as presenting current day and historically systemic to human nature. They used nature to explore mankind’s propensity for destructive behaviors, the downfall in our society’s reliance and trust in capitalistic measures, the danger of man’s hubris, and the inner treachery of consumption and manifest destiny to weave painfully true narratives. Vault though, hasn’t just poured hours into new shiny trinkets for our shelves. They stayed true to their intentions and the projects they’d already published. Submerged typified that by bringing a terrifying story of personal truth by way of a figurative and literal hurricane uncovering what sits below the surface. There was also the announcement that Failsafe was acquired by NETFLIX. The title that introduced Vault to the majority of comic fans, Heathen, has been optioned for a movie. It’s fair to say that what Damian stated is beyond true. Vault is a steward for the creative process. This summer we were treated with the return of that awe inspiring introduction to the new voice in comic publishing as Heathen returned to shelves (and is bringing along a new artist). I needed to find out just a little more in regards to this book and its return.
> Heathen returned this summer. This was the title that, publicly, started it all. What led to this being the title to launch with?
In a word, love. Everyone on our team loved Heathen from the moment we encountered it. We couldn’t imagine running a company that said “no” to a book like that. So, we said, “yes.”
> What was the importance in, and how important was it, getting back to Heathen?
Heathen is a beautiful story that deserves an ending; there was nothing we wouldn’t do to see it finished. Aydis climbs mountains, comes through fire, and battles gods on her quest. The least we could do was navigate a few delays to continue her story.
> How did Ashley A Woods come into the fold to pick up the artwork for Heathen?
Natasha developed a medical condition that made it basically impossible for her to handle line art for a comic series. So, we found an artist who shared our love for the book and brought her in to work with Natasha to help see the series through. Ashley happens to be an old friend of our Director of PR & Sales, and so we were lucky to be able to work with her.
> The timing of the announcement doesn’t appear to be coincidental. Heathen is a landmark book and instantly supplied the bedrock on which Vault has rapidly built a stellar framework as a publisher. Everything that has come out of the ‘House of Vault’ (titles, announcements, projects, etc) appears to be well planned out and purposeful. With that, is there a hand in hand approach to pushing the endeavor as a whole while maintaining the individual personalities of the properties?
Yes. But I’m afraid we have to keep some secrets.
> With the film/tv productions in the works, you’ve partnered with industry names for projects, thre are original graphic novels coming, etc. How big of a basket does Vault envision carrying? Is there a specific idea or goal or is it open to become whatever it becomes?
Again, I’ll have to be a big cryptic. We have big plans, but they’ll have to be revealed in their own good time.
With so much happening so fast there have been plenty of doors opened and opportunities presented to the Vault team and creators involved. One of the aspects of being a fan (specifically of theirs) that I truly do look forward to is the continued growth and what doors and opportunities are presented for me as a reader. The latest wave of titles offer some clues while playing true to the heart of what Vault is trying to accomplish. Damien mentioned finding sub-genres that are underrepresented and the proper creative team to fit those projects. The titles in this newest batch back up his comments. Queen of Bad Dreams addresses the battle we face when we ‘wake up’ from the confines placed upon us. She Said Destroy delivers a sibling rivalry full of magic and fantasy. The cost of getting what we wish for and what we have to give up to get it is explored in Test (Issue 1 review). What horrors may come and the ones we breath life to are lay within the pages of Resonant (Issue 1 review). A fantastical tale of original mythology awaits us in Sera & The Royal Stars. These new titles are reaching into the sci-fi and fantasy genres and bringing forth new modes and mechanisms to tell their stories. Who we identify ourselves as on EVERY level of existence has seen a rapid evolution the last decade. We’ve long known, or at least had pretty good idea of how we are shaped. The acceptance and transcendence of ones’ self has never been at the level of mainstream consciousness as it is today. These new books find creative measures in using these newly opened doors to extract sincerity and beauty in the stories they are telling. It isn’t just about filling the weekly pull list.
> In the closing months of 2018 the YA/MG imprint MYRIAD was announced. This is a rapidly growing part of the comic/graphic novel (and overall reading) sector. The importance of this audience is paramount. For Vault, as a publisher, what is the guiding thought in this launch and how does it tie to the inclusion/diversity approach?
If I could get the world to believe just one thing about comics, it would be this: Comics are just books. If you like books, you have no reason not to read comics too. We want to participate in, and contribute to comics publishing’s efforts to grow up a whole new audience for the books we make. And once again, we think there’s an open niche in the market for a different kind of story then is currently being published by our soon-to-be competitors.
There’s more to Vault than just their main line of comic titles. As 2018 closed out they mad the announcement of their MYRIAD imprint. The line of books will be produced for the YA/MIDDLE GRADE readers out there (first Myriad titles announced). In the announcement of the first titles branding and design guru Tim Daniel stated “Young readers want to make their own heroes—so our heroes must be equally reflective of all of us, representing who we are broadly and as individuals.” Much like the genre choices and approach taken with their main comic line, Vault is purposefully curating options for ALL readers. The team is taking the challenge of engaging and captivating the new age of young readers head on. The announced launch titles will approach the readership with stories of finding ones’ self, facing emotional and spiritual understanding, and shared experiences that ties us all together. Furthering that thought Vault announced a way for the intended readers to get involved in literally bringing one of these new titles to life. The Bonding Promotion (submissions accepted through mid September) invites us all to create our own ‘slug’ and be as creative as we can. Anyone that creates and submits is in contention to have their slug incorporated into the actual series!
The efforts go even further with the Bound: Comics and Community Initiative. According to Damien Wassel “Vault celebrates and applauds comic shops who work to foster deep ties with their community, through events that engage fans, promote literacy and inclusion, and support local businesses.” This is at the heart of the initiative. In efforts to foster the entirety of the comic community the publisher has ear marked upwards of $25,000 in retail value of product for comic shops that engage in these community efforts and activities. It is clear that Vault is aiming to strengthen and broaden the entirety of comics. That effort and genuine belief of promoting every aspect of the community goes beyond the creators and business outlets involved. Behind it all, ultimately, are fans of comics. People that share the wonder, imagination, and love of creativity. Inclusion of other fans and engagement all the way up and down the community ladder opens all possible doors for everyone. That might just be the key to it all. The folks behind Vault, are just that … folks like you and me.
> Clearly your approach to inclusion isn’t resigned to the properties that you publish. Vault has been open and engaging since day one. You provide free firsts for download, allow creators to engage and promote their books individually, and actively encourage independent outlets regardless of size (such as myself). What do you see and hope for in this relationship outside of the obvious business/consumer aspect?
Good storytelling requires connection with your audience. We think being good at the storytelling business requires just the same thing. So, our hope is that by reaching out to our audience, they’ll take our hand and follow us down some crazy narrative roads.
> You’re in control of the radio for Vault HQ, so ______ is dominating the playlist.
We’re getting a lot of Bjork, Kate Bush, and The Knife.
> You lose a bet and have to buy lunch for the office, what’s for lunch?
We all agree that tacos are the best food. It might be a condition of employment at Vault that you share that article of faith.
Good news for me here. This South Texan already meets what just may be the ultimate pre-req to working at Vault. Tacos are simply, the best. This knowledge and insight that the Vault team is in agreement across the board on this cements the fact that the folks behind Vault are also simply, the best. So hey guys, maybe save me a spot for when my duty is over? While that may be some fun being had there (but really though it’s true), the hardest pat of making a splash like Vault has right out of the gate is keeping it up. Not resting on their already impressive laurels, Vault has announced the NIGHTFALL imprint with The Plot as the first title in the seasonal line. Going forward each year there will be select titles released between September and December that will fall under the imprint. Announced titles The Mall and The Necromancer’s Map will bring back creators and expand on stories in the Vault stable respectively. Relics of Youth will blend yesterday’s mysteries with today’s emerging generation.
But it isn’t just about tomorrow and the tomorrow after that. Vault genuinely appreciates and cares for the creative forces that paved the way for their efforts. It started out as a special way of saying thank you. As their titles began selling out of their original print runs, they instituted the ‘Vault Vintage’ line of covers for the second print runs. Now it is a common practice and the ‘B’ covers (and subsequent retailer incentive covers) are adorned with homage to classic images and creators from up and down the comic book time line. Gold, silver, bronze, copper, and modern age classics have been and will continue to have tributes paid.
I could continue. I could write line after line about how Vault has assaulted the comic book industry with positivity in every possible way. There’s more to tell sure, and at some point in the future I’ll probably write more on Vault Comics. For now though you need to go and explore them for yourself. Just as they have dug into both the figurative and literal creative minds of the creators whose stories they cultivate, we as fans need to do the same with their projects. It is a rewarding experience to do so. Beyond the enjoyment and fulfillment in consuming the stories within the pages, you’ll find an unprecedented community of sharing, inclusion, and involvement. Vault titles aren’t just making you think, but making you think in different ways. The folks behind Vault aren’t just promoting their products, but promoting the creative endeavor shared by the teams that tell the stories.
Over the last three years Vault has done, with enthusiasm what has made imprints of the past achieve ground breaking status. They’ve challenged themselves to be bigger, broader, and better. Because of this we are getting creative teams, stories, and an experience that is all three and so much more.
Below is a collection of our favorite INDIE/CREATOR OWNED books from 2018. Here at the INDIE ENGINE our sole purpose is to drive independent creators and small publishers and help with visibility, signal boosting and exposure. Along the way we get to discover works that we wouldn’t have otherwise had we not decided to go down this road. So this will be the first of (hopefully) an annual round up of our favorite works. A snapshot type of thing. Also, some works might be from earlier than 2018 but they were new to us in 2018 … so they qualify.
Guardians VOL 1 & 2 (Todd Black W – Chua Eng Chee A/I – Alex Garcia Colors/A VOL 2)
The best part of this book lies within the premise. The search for meaning is a very well traveled and very effective road for a journey to follow. With Guardians though, it is not US or ‘the people’ that are in search of purpose. Rather, in this tale it is the very Guardians themselves. Element and Chaos were sent to protect innocents, to be GUARDIANS of the people. Just as we and the people of Delta City have, Element and Chaos have two very opposite approaches. One of the heroes is curious. He wonders. He wants to seek and know the truth of things. The other? Purpose is irrelevant beyond that which he was created for. There’s no thought that needs sating or desire that needs fulfillment. This comic series flips the standard tale on it’s head by begging the questions that we always ask … but from those we always look to for answers.
Megatomic Battle Rabbit (Stu Perrins W – Isreal Huertas A)
Fair Sparks Books is a fantastic publisher putting out books for all ages. MBR can very easily be their poster title. This book is fun and presents the grander than us vision that so many have as a kid, and brings it to the page. Dexter looks to the stars and has that itch, that wonder about him. From the stars comes the MBR! He’s stranded though and is an alien on an alien world (to him). I love that the introduction to MBR gives us the very blunt and dry basics of who he is but leaves the rest to wonder. Wonder is the key here and we’ve got TWO main characters setting out to find answers about what is going on, and more importantly, themselves. While there’s much mystery and this book is just getting started, it is an absolute must pick up for the younger reader. It is aimed at such, but the quality is absolutely there for those watching over and reading along their young reader.
Ashes (Mario Candelaria W – Karl Slominski A)
Taking the ‘hero’ moniker and applying it to an everyday hero (the Firefighter) gets this story off on the right foot. Now, this one is from 2015, but it was this year that I discovered it. I’m glad I looked back through Mario’s work. Some people seem to have it all and for whatever reason they’re just ‘kissed’ by the golden goose. Bad things happen to good people though, and Ashes explores that world in a very REAL story about the all-american guy getting a hard dose of reality. The hook of setting the story within actual people makes it that much more visceral and connective. The story within Ashes resonates on several layers and relates to everyone. I love it because it is a prime example of what you can do within the medium of comics. Mario’s storytelling is on a very natural plane and this book is a prime example of it.
The Devil in Disguise (Matt Garvey W – Robert Ahmad A – John McCrea CA)
Getting hold of this book brought a few surprises we weren’t expecting. There’s Francavillian tones in the art work that really set this book apart from others. The look and feel of the book are very fitting considering we’re talking about the Devil working out a deal with a man to be a super hero. Yup, that’s right. Matt Garvey has a nice little spin on things with this book. What is right? Wrong? Yeah that pesky grey area … but we all know everything intersects so why is the question of right and wrong so hard to answer? Well, that question ends up giving us a very classic feeling superhero tale that is twisted by way of very old school horror visuals. The classic cult makes an appearance as well. All in all it is a fantastic read that blends several genres together without getting in the way of itself. See, the Devil WANTS to be a hero … sort of. Though, who really are the good guys and what really is bad? Take the familiar and dump it on its head with this book.
Operation Boom (Reckless Hero – Chris Jenkins W/Colors – Chris Imber – A/W – Brian Vander A)
The premise is easy enough. Top secret device stolen from military, mercenaries hired and fate of the world level impact. The standard set up gives way to a very entertaining and action packed set of books. I was able to hop on and catch up with #3’s kickstarter and I’m glad I did. The story is written in a very straightforward manner and that’s fine. It doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t, and quite frankly, a straightforward book is refreshing now and again. The art is absolutely brilliant. I’m usually not a fan of Manga-esque looking art but Imber’s style actually REALLY grabs me. He is damn good. Each character has their own style and flair while the style lends to keeping something familiar about each of them. Jenkins nails the presentation and delivers much more than you first realize upon turning the pages. I really like this book and glad I got the three issues together. Sit down and enjoy a blow’em up romp.
Gateway City (Russell Mark Olsen W/A – John Freeman/Edits – Emily Olson/Color asst)
This is classic noir with sci-fi at its finest. An absolute wonderful book. Hard boiled mobster drama with a tangle of extraterrestrial fun! An ‘innocent’ detective job during prohibition turns into an uncovering of a whole hell of a lot more than your typical 20’s shenanigans. See, Gateway City is aptly named on many fronts and Olsen brings us much more than underground activity from us pesky humans. There’s also a rather large alien racket being hubbed in St Louis as well. This story is actually two different tales expertly woven. We’ve got the classic noir as well as a very good intergalactic play out. BOTH work and both are, in of themselves, excellent. The marriage of the two makes Gateway City a very unique piece of work that I cannot praise enough.
Captain Cosmic (Andy W Clift)
You want good old fashioned super hero comics? You like Silver Age books? You like space adventures? Well, here you go. Captain Cosmic is every one of those things and every bit the best part of each. An overly grandiose issue (entire planets are disappearing) is warmly greeted by characters that you feel like you already know and hold dear to your heart. Captain (and Kid) Cosmic echo the warm feeling (and the art work/tones do so as well). Everything about this book is everything that is right with classic hero stories. Even the language invokes an Adam West type of 60’s goodness. It’s almost like a period piece except it doesn’t FEEL old, it just wraps everything up in a wholesome bow and reminds you of what comics used to be and still can be.
Ancient Noise #1-2 (David Crispino W – Tony Gregori A – Jasen Smith Color/#1 – Claudia Aguirre Color/#2 – Nic Shaw Letters/#1 – Lauren Norby Letters/#2)
Where to begin with this romp? I’ve grown very fond of the team of Crispino and Gregori and Ancient Noise typifies everything that is wonderful about their teaming up to make comics. This book is outrageous, funny, WELL WRITTEN and looks … just stunning! Issues 1 and 2 are the first half of the AN story and at the half way point we’re just getting ramped up. We’ve got time travel, space bending and a sentient gorilla named Silver. There’s something afoot with Silver and the larger understanding doesn’t appear to be visible to the ‘lil humans. I’m absolutely loving this book and it is an absolute blast. I can’t wait to continue the exploration of time, space and our own evolution as this series finishes up. There are unbelievable splash pages from Tony and the depth of the writing from Crispino will make you flip back to the first page and re-read it again immediately upon finishing.
The House (Phillip Sevy W – Drew Zucker A – Jen Hickman Colors – Frank Cvetkovic Letters)
I was supremely bummed to have missed the kickstarter for this collected edition of the absolute FIRE series, The House. This team has brought a thrilling, psychological hell ride to life in this book. WWII and we’ve got Soldiers on the run from German forces. There’s a storm brewing literally and figuratively, and the house in the forest appears to be the only hope of a way out. Sometimes it’s better to stay outside. This is one of those times. As I read through the book I got R-Point vibes, and just as the soldiers did I got sucked further and further in. The tension continues to mount and does not let you go. Yes, it’s horror … but not your gore-fest jump scare type of outing. This is horror on the psyche level and before it’s said and done you’re going to go WTF! for all the right reasons. There’s slow burn and mindful terror. High tension at it’s finest.
Taking inspiration from childhood fishing trips to the creek with his father. Despite the nice boat and top of the line rods and reels, Cullen’s father often took (and liked) the old fashioned cane poles to try and snag the catfish. For whatever reason Cullen took a stack of horror comics to read on the bank of the creek. From House of Mystery and House of Secrets to Creepy, Eerie, Ghosts, and Haunted Library it was only the horror tales that seemed like the right fit on those trips. Those trips and those time spent with countless horror tales helped shape the writer that Cullen would become.
Over the past couple of decades he’s written many short horror stories. Many of those stories were collected in the book A PASSAGE IN BLACK from Omaha Bound. That book contains some of his earliest work. Now Cullen is announcing that his love of horror comic anthologies and his love of horror short fiction is coming together like peanut butter and jelly! In just a couple of weeks, he will be launching a Kickstarter for CULLEN BUNN PRESENTS: A PASSAGE IN BLACK! This book will feature comic book adaptations of some of his short horror stories from the prose collection. He has brought together an amazing group of writers and artists to bring these stories to life:
Cindy Bunn and Baldemar Rivas – “Why Sing the Sirens”
Kevin Watkins and Adam McLaughlin – “School for the Dead”
Anton Kromoff and Bob Freeman – “Dance, Dance, Upon the Night of the Ball”
Heath Amodio and Daniele Sera – “Last Night of the Fair”
Josh Roberts and David Moscati – “Feast of Crows”
JimmyZ Johnston and Isaac Crawford – “Piasa Dreams”
Jeff Lawler and Fran Strukan – “Still Waters”
AE Steuve and Arjuna Susini – “For Her Love”
Sonica Ellis and Rowan MacColl – “Someday Dolls”
Tim Mayer – “A Passage in Black”
Cullen himself working with Marcos Marz on something new!
Special appearances by Blacky Shepherd!
A logo designed by the Kucharek Brothers!
A cover by Kyle Strahm!
Omaha Bound is once again helping with the design and printing of the project. The aim with this book is to represent amazing talent that readers might not be familiar with. According to Cullen they took the prose stories and ran with them. They made them their own and did something special with them. What’s even more exciting is that should the Kickstarter (launching around the first of October) be successful, the plan is to make this an annual project. The next volume, though, would feature all new stories by the various collaborators (and Cullen). This is a way that Cullen has found to contribute to the legacy of horror anthology comics. CULLEN BUNN PRESENTS A PASSAGE IN BLACK is Cullen’s Creepy/Eerie. All the stories are written. All the art should be complete by the end of September. Stay tuned for the official launch-day announcement!