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.

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!

Cognition

The BOSS has arrived. More specifically, the British Occult Secret Service has arrived. In this supernatural – buddy cop – steampunk detective tale a very unlikely duo protects Britain from all sorts of monsters. Of course, the dynamic duo of this story aren’t exactly your run of the mill heroes. A steam powered robot with a human soul drive and a demonically possessed mouse combat dangerous spirits that look to rip everything about our world to shreds.

This book is a delightful look into a very complex time in history (though a completely fictional tale). Victorian England saw rapid industrial growth and experimentation while its people still held very strong spiritual and supernatural beliefs. The time frame allows for a natural suspension of reality that brings our detectives that much more to life. This was an excellent way to add an extra layer of life to the two main characters. The oft sarcastic demonic mouse is allowed to explore a dynamic within himself and outwardly with CAL (the cut little steampunk robot that is the helm of the story). CAL himself is an exploration of person as well as the experimentation of the industrial revolution that was happening during Victorian England. The long standing rivalry of scientific factination (yup, made that word up) vs spirituality gets a brilliant exposition by NOT being the focus of the tale.

The heart of the book is the dynamism that exists between our little robot friend and mouse. Through their back and forth a Holmes-esque-capade unravels while the sordid underbelly of society is laid bare through a string of horrific murders. It isn’t just CAL and Sigma (our demonic mouse) though as Hattie (CAL’s creator), Silas (the head of BOSS), and Schuck (our ghostly pup) all of plenty of story to themselves. As much of a tale of CAL and Sigma that Cognition is, there’s plenty set out for much more in depth storytelling for these other characters. This is the beauty of the world that has been laid out in COGNITION. We’re given an excellent detective story with dark tones but also an expansive world that leaves plenty to be explored.

The excellence of COGNITION sits in the step by step approach that allows the larger picture to come into its own. Each issue of the book serves of itself but also builds framework of a larger narrative. While there are passes given to our two heroes themselves (the steampunk tin man detective and his demon mouse are a given in the world all of this takes place) the concept and integration of the entirety of the premise is woven together in such a way that it allows the characters and the story to develop on their own. I guess you could say it is over itself but I don’t want to make it sound pretentious because it is anything but. Rather, it grabs hold of the fantastical elements it contains and uses them to enhance the underlying genius of the storytelling.

The book looks phenomenal as well. It’s black and white and the lack of color gives it a charm all its own. The talent is beyond evident and honestly I feel the black and white interiors allow for the artwork to do more story telling given the approach of our heroes. Occult and detective stories provide their own shades of grey and the stylistic choices go hand in hand in creating a whole package.

ONE WEEK LEFT ON THE CAMPAIGN!  Funding closes August 11th 2019 9:30 AM EDT

Quick Hits – July 2019

SOVIET GHOSTS
Written by – Brentt Harshman / Art by – Emilio Utrera / Letters by – LetterSquids

A self published, one-shot short, Soviet Ghosts does in just a few short pages what the majority of comics fail to do in much larger page counts.  This team has put together a complete book.  The look, feel, and read is ALL there.  Huge props for delivering a complete tale in a short space.

It isn’t just that this is a whole piece.  It’s very well done.  Better folks than I can speak to design and implementation of structural elements about the visual portion of the book.  I can however state that everything about what the art conveyed fit the theme and the story being told.  This is a spy-noir type of book and what I expected and wanted to see is what I was presented.  For a short piece that’s critical.  No distraction or anything to keep me from what I’m suppose to be paying attention to. While some may not enjoy black and white interiors they don’t bother me one bit.  For this type of story I actually think it accentuates the tone and attitude of what’s going on.  Crime, noir, and spy time books are about a gritty underbelly or culture to begin with.  Black and white interiors only help drive that home.

I love that is serves not just as a brief contained story, but a prelude to a much bigger story.  Replacing the German/Nazi threat of seeking out dark magic and other worldly powers is the Soviet Union with a cold war espionage backdrop.  It’s a spy story, but it’s lifted bits and pieces from the genre and put them together with bits and pieces from the supernatural and found a way to package it all that is fresh.  


ELLA UPGRADED #1
Written by – Dan Whitehead / Art by – P.R. Dedelis / Colors by – Abby Bulmer / Letters by – Jim Campbell

Ok, straight out of the box the synopsis has me loving the potential of this book.  The tragic accident not withstanding, what 11yr old wouldn’t want their gaming console in their brain?!!?  Hell, I’m substantially older than 11 and I’m kinda thinking I’d like to have the ‘ol Playtendobox in my noggin.  The possibilities are pretty endless really. Getting past the kid inside me (read: me because I’m a big kid) loving the concept of having a Playtendobox in my brain, this is an excellent book that provides something for readers both older and younger on the sage scale.  Older folks will have a nostalgia pull and some very familiar feelings with some of the sequences and situations that arise in this issue.  Younger folks can empathize and certainly identify with Ella and the focus of the book.

There’s a fog about why exactly Ella and her much older and adulty brother are in the living situation they are in.  The two are shown on their own and with Ella being taken care of by her brother.  There interaction is genuine and flows very nicely. This work has its own voice due to the excellent character work with Ella. She is very much the high spirited free will driven being that kids are. That comes with positives and negatives as the last panel shows.

Parents and kiddos both will enjoy this. It has elements that readers of all ages can relate to as well as laugh at. There’s also substance that will grab at anyone that flips through the pages.


DARK AGE: LONG SHADOWS
Writing and Art by – Torey Nelson

The story of Dark Age is about an alien demigod named Kildiir, who works with an intergalactic empire to stop a space cult.  Upon detecting a strange energy signal from deep space, the Legion sends Kildiir and the elite squadron First Strike to investigate the source of the signal.

This is a high scope sci-fi fantasy opera in the making.  There’s no shortage of action and the mixing of magic into the sci-fi setting makes for a nice wrinkle in the story.  This thing is a graphic novel folks.  121 pages of story that bleeds right out of the intergalactic sagas you grew up with awaits you.  One of the truly well done aspects of Dark Age is the grounded and believable yet fitting of sci-fi lore characters.  While the plot deals with the space cult trying to cross over something from another dimension, the story itself is driven by the characters.  

As it progresses Dark Age’s quality increases.  Both the story and art reflect Nelson’s growth since the literal start of creating this tale.  It’s got serious tones and feels kind of like it would be one of those Saturday morning cartoons I loved growing up.  It even sparked a little bit of the “bad guys really kind of won” feeling that the Transformers Animated Movie gives me.  Even with that though the story is straight forward and only asks that you go along for the ride. You should as it’s the perfect example of the fun you can find if you just bother to look.


 MASHBONE & GRIFTY
Written by – Oscar Garza, Rolando Esquivel / Art by – Oscar Garza

You’ve heard of Blaxploitation but have you heard of Latinoxploitation? That’s pretty much what M&G is, in a positive way. Taking their real life experiences with the language and stereotypes the duo of Garza and Esquivel have created an legitimate laugh out loud slapstick book full of insane laughs. Being from South Texas I “get” and “understand” the stereotypes and jokes in almost seamless fashion. For some, it could be too over the top or simply miss the mark. Hopefully people will read through though as the book really is done really well.

Sure it’s an insane romp but the book does touch on real issues [one story deals with homelessness]. That’s where this book shines. In the three stories I’ve read there’s a crude humor laden mystery, over the top play on sports to get rent money, and horror-ish detective caper dealing with Santa. All of them are crafted with satirical genius and spun with the “xploitation” humor. It works because it is clear they’re paying homage to the cartoons, shows, and storytellers that influenced them while injecting the tropes and experiences of who they are and where they grew up.

The balance in M&G is hard to pull off. Get past the pre-conceived notion and read the book as it is intended. You’ll find true belly shaking laughs as the duo’s adventures bring all the zany goodness you expect from comedy comic books. Raise your eyebrow in pleasant surprise at the well crafted bone structure that holds it all up, and then be glad you got over yourself and digested it all.