Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #25: Triple Threat

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #25 by Drew Barth

Triple Threat

A little over a decade ago, Top Cow Productions created a comic competition known as Pilot Season. Pilot Season began with a simple premise: get six creative teams to each produce the first issue of a longer-running series and pitch that story not to the editors, but to the readers. Each of the first issues were produced, sold as physical comics in stores, and from there readers would go to Top Cow’s MySpace page to vote on which series they loved the most.

I remember logging onto MySpace daily to vote for my favorite, Twilight Guardian, during the second installment of Pilot Season. The competition got me incredibly invested in comics—not just as a fan, but as someone watching how fans and industry interact. There were online screaming matches as to which series should have won or how certain creators shouldn’t have been in the competition since they were already established. I wish I kept screenshots of the MySpace comment threads.

Although Pilot Season hasn’t run since 2011, another publisher, Ahoy Comics, has stepped into the vacuum with their own series: Steel Cage.

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Steel Cage excites me: one issue, three short features, three new characters, three new worlds. Each story gets twelve pages, and we as readers vote. As a single issue, Steel Cage reminds me more of some recent anthology comics like Island or Amazing Forest in that each featured story feels like a piece of a larger whole.

As an introduction to three different series and three different creative teams, Steel Cage excels. At no point does a single page from any of the three stories feel wasted or cluttered. And each story constitutes its own genre and graphical form: formalist superhero story, genius-as-jerk thriller, and adorable sci-fi adventure. There’s a story in this issue for almost every kind of reader.

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And that’s what makes Steel Cage so promising and frustrating. As a reader and someone who follows comics, I want each of these three stories to excel. Each of these stories, to me, deserves at least a four issue mini series to see how much further the creators can push their worlds. Yet I know that can’t happen.

But I want it to.

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This tension is fantastic for readers and the publisher. An audience comes in invested and wanting more, so the publisher can know what kinds of stories to move forward with in a broader sense, in a similar way to reader polls in many manga. Building a relationship with readers this early in a publisher’s career is crucial to their survival—and fun.

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Monthly comics need series like Steel Cage. When there are three strong stories presented and only one of them can survive to a full series, our minds start working a bit more on what makes each story strong. Was it the plot? The characters? Did a particular colorist make the art pop more? These are some of the same questions that came up during the heyday of Pilot Season and the yelling on MySpace. Comics need a light-hearted, fun gimmick that isn’t asking which characters are going to die or else live through some horrendous trauma. Ahoy wants to have fun showing their audience what kinds of stories they want to produce and giving that audience a chance to choose. Why not have fun with it?

Get excited. Let them fight.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Your Next Beach Read: Christopher David Rosales, author of “Word Is Bone”

Another entry from Erik Deckers’ “Your Next Beach Read,”

Your Next Beach Read

#YourNextBeachRead is continuing into July as a way to introduce you to a new author and their works in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.

Today’s featured author is Christopher David Rosales, author of Word Is Bone.

What’s your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My name is Christopher David Rosales, and I’m from Paramount, California. Paramount is a small city sharing the L.A. river with Compton, and is the setting for several of my books though I call it Clearwater.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

7-1 - Chris Rosales author photoI’ve been writing fiction since I was in elementary school, but I would say I began writing in earnest pursuing my BA at Cal State University, Long Beach. I had worked several jobs, worked as a musician…

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Episode 373: Erica Jong!

Episode 373 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s show, I talk with the great Erica Jong about writing in one’s voice, being in love with language, the discipline of literature, revision, 18th century fiction, living healthy, and sonnets and other poetry,

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plus Vanessa Blakeslee and I discuss Erica Jong’s book on writing, Seducing the Demon: Writing for my Life.

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TEXTS DISCUSSED

The World Began with YesSeducing the DemonFear of Flying cover

NOTES

This episode is sponsored by Scribophile.

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TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out my debut novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover


Episode 373 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Your Next Beach Read: Dave K., author of “The Bong-Ripping Brides of Count Drogado”

Another entry from Erik Deckers’ “Your Next Beach Read.”

Your Next Beach Read

In Your Next Beach Read, we want to introduce you to a new author every day in June in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.

Today’s author is Dave K., author of The Bong-Ripping Brides of Count Drogado.

What’s your name and where are you from?

I’m Dave K, and I live in Baltimore.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

28 - Dave K author photoI’ve been writing since I was little; I was an early reader and wanted to replicate the stuff I was reading, so lots of Tolkien and Robert Louis Stevenson and John Bellairs. It felt good to write, and the positive attention I got for it satisfied the goblin brain desire for compliments and recognition that most writers have (and deny).

Who are some of your influences?

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The Curator of Schlock #279: The Boss

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The Curator of Schlock #279 by Jeff Shuster

The Boss

You’re not the boss of me!

I’m getting a bit tired of these Wikipedia entries that are three sentences long. You think I remember about half the things that occur in each movie I watch? Sigh. I’m not sure why the three films of Fernando di Leo’s Milieu Trilogy are given such little attention on the people’s encyclopedia. I suppose I could fill out those entries myself, but Wikipedia ain’t paying me, so forget about it.

Okay.

Time to wrap up Poliziottesco Month.

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1973’s The Boss from director Fernando di Leo is a movie about Henry Silva ruthlessly killing lots of people. The movie begins with a bunch of mafia guys sitting down in a porno theater, obviously, to watch a porno fresh from Copenhagen. Henry Silva plays Nick Lanzetta, an enforcer for Don Corrasco (Richard Conte) who has decreed death to this rival mob, something about them not being Sicilian. Lanzetta sneaks into the projection booth, knocks out the projectionist, and sends a bunch of grenades into the movie theater. The bodies of mobsters are charred and on fire. He kills the theater owner on his way out.

This is some cold shit.

Naturally, Don Corrasco is pleased. So is his associate, Don Giuseppe Daniello (Claudio Nicastro), until his daughter Rina (Antonia Santilli) is kidnapped by Cocchi (Pier Paolo Capponi), a surviving member of the rival mob. Don Corrasco will not negotiate with Cocchi. To do so would show weakness and leave his organization vulnerable to more attacks. Don Daniello pleads with Don Corrasco to get his daughter back, but Corrasco refuses his plea. Corrasco asks Lanzetta if he can rescue Daniello. Lanzetta says it will take time and that they should pretend to negotiate a price with Cocchi in order to gain time.

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Cocchi settles for 500 million lira? What’s the exchange rate on that? Five hundred US dollars? Anyway, Don Corrasco asks Lanzetta to keep an eye on Don Daniello because Don Daniello can’t quit blubbering about his daughter and about the flesh of his flesh and about how he’ll go against Don Corrasco’s wishes to get her back and how he raised Lanzetta as a son even though he was some nameless war orphan. Lanzetta tells Don Daniello he’ll go along with a new plan to get Rina back and then shoots and kills Don Daniello for going against Don Corrasco’s orders. Lanzetta then brings the corpse of Don Daniello to a little place I call the furnace to destroy the bodies. I wonder how much the guy that throws the dead bodies into the furnace gets paid.

Yeah, this is some cold shit.

Meanwhile, Cocchi’s men are having their way with Rina, but she doesn’t mind since she’s a nymphomaniac. Lanzetta busts in, kills Cocchi’s men, knocks Rina out, and carries her naked body back to his apartment.

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More violence ensues.

There are corrupt police officials. Don Corrasco eventually determines that Lanzetta is expendable. Lanzetta will not go quietly into that good night. We get a TO BE CONTINUED at the end of the movie, but I don’t think there was ever a sequel. Not that I’m going hunting for it as Poliziottesco Month is now officially over.


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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Your Next Beach Read: Arielle Haughee, author of “How I Met My Other”

One more from Erik Deckers’ “Your Next Beach Read.”

Your Next Beach Read

In Your Next Beach Read, we want to introduce you to a new author every day in June in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.

Today’s author is Arielle Haughee, author of How I Met My Other.

What’s your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

My name is Arielle Haughee and my last name is pronounced “hoy.” I used to teach and at one school they gave each teacher a name plaque for their door. They decided on first initial of the first name followed by the last name. I was A. Haughee…pirate jokes abounded that year.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

27 - Arielle Haughee author photoAfter having my first son, I started to go a bit crazy at home. How many times can you say…

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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #24: Farewell, Vertigo

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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #24 by Drew Barth

Farewell, Vertigo

The news broke early on Friday that DC would soon be shuttering its Vertigo imprint after nearly thirty years as the publisher works to consolidate all of its brands under three new banners: DC Kids, DC Comics, and DC Black Label. This news was met with an outpouring of sadness as writers, artists, and fans alike came to mourn what was the starting point for some of the biggest and greatest creators in the medium. Vertigo was, for many people, the exact location where independent and mainstream comics intersected—what could never be found in any mainline work by either of the major publishers would find its home at Vertigo and, as a result, a much wider audience due to DC’s own reach as a publisher.

Vertigo was how I started reading comics.

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I’m not alone. Whenever you look up any kind of list about where to start with reading comics, there’s going to be at least one Vertigo series. And that series is typically Neil Gaiman’s Sandman despite the fact that Sandman began before Vertigo existed. And that’s something true of many of the series that are typically associated with Vertigo: Sandman, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and V for Vendetta, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol. Vertigo didn’t exist until 1993, but many of the above series assumed the Vertigo label once they were collected and sold as trade paperbacks.

I bet that a majority of readers of my generation owe much of their early comic obsessions with those collected Vertigo books we’d skim through at the back of a Waldenbooks while the rest of our families were browsing other stores.

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Vertigo was the beginning point of many legendary comics careers. Writers like Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, and Peter Milligan were still pillars of the publication that would go on to provide a foundation for others like Warren Ellis, G. Willow Wilson, Paul Pope, Brian K. Vaughn, and even Anthony Bourdain. Vertigo was the idea house that created iconography outside of the superhero genre in a way that hadn’t been seen since the explosion of Underground Comix in the late 1960s and early 70s. For years, Vertigo was where some of the most interesting and refreshing new comics came from, and they were easy to find.

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Vertigo was unique, but ownership of that niche wouldn’t last forever. The survivors of the 90s comic boom, like Dark Horse and Image, began to rise back up from the ashes of the implosion. With the success of series like The Walking Deadand Invincible, for example, Image soon found itself with stories with the verve and inventiveness of earlier Vertigo series. Vertigo was still creating fantastic stories. Fables and Y: The Last Man rank among some of Vertigo’s greatest series and the launching of a series of original black-and-white crime graphic novellas showed that Vertigo was still apt to innovate.

But those series ended. And Karen Berger left.

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By the time I really started seriously getting into comics around 2009, I knew Vertigo mostly by reputation. Transmetropolitangot me going into the shop I’ve been visiting regularly for a decade, but Vertigo series were still things I’d read in trade paperbacks and not monthly. Since then I’ve watched Vertigo go through re-launches and revitalizations in failed attempts at maintaining its original cool, weird spirit. They still had a few great stories, but other publishers were competing effectively.

Immutable fact: Vertigo is going away. But in Vertigo’s wake are all of the creators that grew up with it and grew up reading Sandman, The Invisibles, TransmetropolitanFables, The Unwritten, Sweet Tooth, and every other series that showed them what great new ideas could come out of comics. In nearly every independent publisher, I see some Vertigo DNA. That wanting to create stories that stick to the readers’ bones like comfort food; stories that light up their eyes with places they’ll never see again; stories that make readers want to go out and make their own comics. One of the most important things Vertigo left us with was that need and drive for innovation—to create something exciting or die trying. Vertigo game us some of the best comics in our lifetimes. Why not continue repay them with our own spirit and creativity in the comics we want to make?

Get excited. Nothing last forever but the great stories we leave behind.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Michelle Battiste, author of “Waiting For The Wreck To Burn”

One more entry from Erik Deckers’ “Your Next Beach Read.”

Your Next Beach Read

What’s your name and where are you from?

Michele Battiste originally from upstate New York and a current denizen of Colorado’s Front Range.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

25 - Michelle Battiste author photoSince 5th grade. I started with a class assignment to write a poem called “Box Marked Summer.” My poem was awful, but I didn’t realize it. So I wrote another awful poem. Then another. I wrote awful poems for years. It took me a while to figure poetry out.

Who are some of your influences?

I like to think of myself as the love child Getrude Stein and Ovid never had. When I was a baby poet, I read a lot of Samuel Ace, Maggie Estep, Sandra Cisneros, Linda Gregg, Langston Hughes, Albert Goldbarth, Anne Sexton, and Lyn Lifshin. Current poets blowing my mind are Camille Dungy, Katie Jean Shinkle, Layli Long Soldier, Camille Guthrie, Erika Meitner…

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Your Next Beach Read: Danny Caine, author of “Continental Breakfast”

Another post from Erik Deckers’ “Your Next Beach Read.”

Your Next Beach Read

What’s your name and where are you from?

I’m Danny Caine. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio but I live in Lawrence, Kansas now.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

24 - Danny Caine author headshotI started writing Continental Breakfast about six years ago. Before that I wrote some essays that I never did anything with, and before that I wrote truly awful poetry, so bad I’m surprised I kept going. I found a pile of those old poems last night. Yeesh.

Who are some of your influences?

The first smattering of writers that come to mind are Erika Meitner, Jennifer L. Knox, Patricia Lockwood, Ilya Kaminsky, Philip Metres, Hanif Abdurraqib, Morgan Parker, David Sedaris, Roddy Doyle, and Chris Bachelder. I also get inspired by photographers like Alec Soth, Nathaniel Grann, Phil Donohue, Brian Ulrich, and my collaborator Tara Wray, who made the beautiful image on the front of Continental…

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Your Next Beach Read: B.J. Hunter, author of “Return of the White Wolf”

Another post from Erik Deckers’ “Your Next Beach Read.”

Your Next Beach Read

In Your Next Beach Read, we want to introduce you to a new author every day in June in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.

Today’s author is B.J. Hunter, author of Return of the White Wolf.

What’s your name and where are you from?

My pen name is B. J. Hunter, and I have lived in Florida most of my life

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

23 - BJ Hunter author photoI have been writing off and on for about 10 years. I started writing when my daughter was in fourth grade, as I wanted to create a fantasy adventure that was fun to read, but without the bad language and adult themes that are in most fantasy adventure books.

Who are some of your influences?

I enjoy mystery…

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