Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #207: Cross Face

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #207 by Drew Barth

Cross Face

One of the major questions in comics over the past forty years has typically centered on how they would work in the real world. How could Batman function in a place like New York? Could Spawn just walk down the street? Are those comics set in the “real world” meaningfully based in the real world? It’s the kind of thought exercise that gets listicled to hell and back. The better question is what would happen if these characters, as characters, were brought into our actual world? This is a portion of the foundation of Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Dee Cunniffe, and John J. Hill’s Crossover.

The main question asked by Crossover is “what would happen if Comics as a whole were dropped onto Denver?” The answer to that is, of course, mayhem. Our world, as it is, isn’t ready for the characters from every comic to suddenly burst through a hole and into our world. But we react the only way we know how: cordoning them all off, creating a militarized zone around that hole, and rounding up any and all characters that have escaped. Also a religious fervor surrounding comics on par with the publication of Seduction of the Innocent. However, when a small girl named Ava, a refugee from the comics world, appears in Ellie and Otto’s classic comic shop, they need to bring her back home.

Crossover also asks, “what would happen if these characters met their creators? Would their writers survive?” And the answer is “nothing good” and “no” in that order. Creators like Brian K. Vaughn, Chip Zdarsky, Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming appear in the pages of Crossover, as does series writer Donny Cates, and are confronted by their creations. Most of these sections are written by those creators, with Zdarsky getting an issue for himself with art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks, and it’s incredibly interesting to see how they contend with their work. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also the kind of inward-looking honesty that feels genuine while it’s telling a joke. How do you, as a creator, look one of your characters in the eye and tell them that you’ve made their life miserable because it’s entertaining?

Crossover is a lot. The first thirteen issues of the series wrapped up a couple months ago with a new arc coming, hopefully, this year. But it’s also the kind of series that needs to be read in full to wrap around everything that’s happening. It’s a comic story about helping comics survive in this world and get back to their own, but also about creating stories and how they can get away from you. Some of those stories come back to kill you. 

Get excited. Get cross.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 558: Jennifer Worley!

Episode 558 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

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This week I speak with the prose writer, Jennifer Worley, the fall 2022 resident of The Kerouac Project of Orlando.

TEXT DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


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.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

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Episode 558 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #403: Bloody New Year

The Curator of Schlock #403 by Jeff Shuster

Bloody New Year

Not so happy. 

After wading through ten miles of disgusting sewer water, the Revenging Manta and I opened a manhole to the surface. I was anxious to see the secret hideout of the ninja vigilante of downtown Orlando. I was in dire need of a shower with all the crap and blood stuck to me. I followed the ninja to an old apartment building where we climbed the fire escape. The Revenging Manta opened a window on the fourth floor and we climbed through.

I knocked over a fern on the way in.

“Where’s the secret hideout?” I asked, wondering why we had just waded through miles of rancid water. 

“This is my apartment,” he said, setting his sword down on a coffee table. “I don’t have a secret hideout.” — To be continued.

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Happy New Year! So long, 2022. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. This week’s movie is 1987’s Bloody New Year from director Norman J. Warren. The movie begins in 1959 with a New Year’s Eve bash at the Grand Island Hotel. No, this movie does not take place in Grand Island, New York or Grand Island, Nebraska, but on a mysterious island called Grand island. One of the guests from the New Year’s dance walks into the dance hall to find it completely empty. While cleaning herself up in a mirror, a hand reaches through the mirror and pulls her into the mirror.

That should be a spooky scene, but the movie cuts to modern times so quickly that you don’t really have time to register what happened. We’re introduced to some vacationing British tourists enjoying a seaside amusement park. Some malcontents are terrorizing an American tourist named Carol (Catherine Roman) on a spinning teacups ride. Our British tourists come to the rescue, shutting down the ride and fighting the hooligans off to rescue the girl from her spinning nightmare.

One of the Brits, a guy named Tom (Julian Ronnie), removes the battery from the ride. The owner of the ride and the malcontents chase him through the park to get it back. Pandemonium ensues as our British tourists try to escape the park. Tom and his friend, Rick (Mark Powley), hide in the funhouse, but the hooligans follow them inside. They’re rescued when their friend Lesley (Suzy Aitchison), crashes her car through the funhouse with a boat in tow. The kids escape the park and head out toward the sea in an effort to flee their pursuers.

That should have been the movie: young British tourists causing mayhem in an amusement park. Instead, our group of vacationers gets in the boat only to get shipwrecked when the boat crashes into some coral. They swim to the closest shore which happens to be Grand Island. And this island is haunted. They make their way to the hotel and weird shenanigans ensue like a bannister that comes to life and bites your arm or tables that come to life and try to suck you into them.

Eh. This one was kind of a chore to get through. Also, the majority of the movie takes place in July so there’s not really a New Year’s theme going on here. And there’s not much blood as it’s a British production from the Video Nasty era. So it’s not really a Bloody New Year after all.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477episode 491episode 492, episode 493episode 495episode 496episode 545episode 546episode 547episode 548, and episode 549) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #206

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #206 by Drew Barth

Another One of These Years

It’s a new year and it’s time again to look forward to the multitude of work coming out that runs the gambit of short story collections, the minutia of history, and the good old weird shit that you and I come back to week after week.

 

Winter 2023

  • Black Cloak: A new Image series from Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren that combines elements of noir and science-fiction to give us a story about a murder investigation where our heroes need to find an answer before a city teeters into a full-blown war.
  • Tatsuki Fujimoto Before Chainsaw Man: 17-21: One of the two volumes of early short stories by Chainsaw Man mangaka, Tatsuki Fujimoto. This volume explores his earliest work and shows some of the seeds that would come to germinate further in his most famous work. 
  • Spy Superb: Matt Kindt returns with a short miniseries about a spy that doesn’t even know he’s a spy. It’s the perfect cover for espionage work—who would ever suspect someone who doesn’t even know they’re spying? 
  • Last On His Feet: A look at the 1910 “Battle of the Century” in which Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion, pummeled “great white hope” Jim Jeffries and the history that created, both inside and outside the ring. 

Spring 2023

  • Ephemera: A Memoir: Guiding us through a garden, a forest, and a greenhouse, Briana Loewinsohn offers us a look at her life as a woman and as the daughter of a parent with a mental illness. A graphic memoir told in dreamy paints, Ephemera might become one of the strongest autobiography in the medium. 
  • Phantom Road: Another new Image series coming this year, Jeff Lemire and Gabriel H. Walta give us the story of Dom, a long-haul trucker, and Birdie, someone Dom has picked up after a car crash, and their world after uncovering an artifact from the wreckage of said crash. 
  • The Neighbors: A new and horrific twist on moving to a new neighborhood, Jude Ellison S. Doyle, Letizia Cadonici, and Alessandro Santoro bring us a series about family, , neighbors, and the world outside your door being something much more gruesome than you may have anticipated. 
  • Tombs: Continuing the horror, Junji Ito has another story collection coming out this year that promises to keep us shitting our pants with stories that will warp mundane objects like windows and tongues into something just a grotesque as any of his previous work. 
  • Indigo Children: Curt Pires, Alex Diotto, Dee Cunniffe, and Rockwell White bring us a new sci-fi series centered on the mysterious reappearance of the Indigo Children after fifteen years and the journalist who tries to track them down after all this time. 
  • Unstoppable Doom Patrol: I’m a simple person. I see Chris Burnham’s art attached a Doom Patrol series written by Dennis Culver and open up my wallet. While there hasn’t been much announced about the series just yet outside of it spinning out of the DC’s upcoming Lazarus Planet event, it still promises the weird we’ve come to expect from this group of heroes. 
  • Nejishiki: Another volume from Drawn & Quarterly of Yoshiharu Tsugue’s influential manga. Tsugue was one of the leading figures in the counter-cultural manga of the 60s and this collection brings together some of his more iconic work from that period of his career. 
  • Dementia 21: The re-release of Shintaro Kago’s absurdist manga that centers on Yukie Sakai and her life after being hired as a home aide. What follows is a surreal satire featuring anything from superheroes, zombies, Santa, and mind-controlling dentures. 

Summer 2023

  • The Man in the McIntosh Suit: Rina Ayuyang’s tale of Bobot and his struggles in rural California in 1929—a manual laborer despite his law degree from the Philippines. But when circumstance brings him to San Francisco, we’re left with a noir tale that rivals cinema’s classics. 
  • Goes Like This: After so many years, we can finally have Jordan Crane’s short works in a single volume. The multi-genre spanning collection brings together his take on anything from weird westerns, science fiction, relationship drama, and the ephemeral nature of childhood, he shows why his stories needed to be collected for everyone to read. 
  • Shazam: Mark Waid and Dan Mora continue to define the DC Universe with their take on Billy Batson and what a magical adventure comic can look like. As with Doom Patrol, not much is known about this series, but it has the pedigree to be one of the strongest cape books of the year. 
  • Okinawa: A history of the island to the far south of Japan, Susumu Higa shows us the graphic history of war that has defined Okinawa—from its annexation by the Japanese Empire to it suffering the bulk of land battles in the Pacific War to its current hosting of the majority of US military bases currently. Higa explores all of this along with the people who remain there as their only home. 

Fall and Winter 2023

  • Roaming: The first graphic novel Jillian and Mariko Tamaki since 2014’s This One Summer, the duo bring us the story of three friends on a trip to New York in 2009. Their unexpected romance drives the story as the three explore as much of the city as they can before their spring break comes to a close. 
  • Green Lantern: Little is known about Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s new take on John Stewart outside of Johnson looking back to Stewart’s architect roots. While this story isn’t slated to release until near the end of 2023, this could become our best look at John Stewart in years. 

There are more than likely other series that are going to come out between print and just a couple months from now that should be on this list, but I’m still working in 2022. Times change. Some of these comics could be delayed or brought forward. Either way, there’s still some good stuff coming out this year and I hope it’s enough to distract from whatever else may happen this time. 

Get excited. Get living in boring times. 

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 557: Jason Roeder!

Episode 557 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

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This week I speak with my friend Jason about the creative joys of grieving and the power of earnestness and other matters of interest.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


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.

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Episode 557 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #402: Don’t Open Till Christmas

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The Curator of Schlock #402 by Jeff Shuster

Don’t Open Till [sic] Christmas

Don’t Open Until Christmas

There I was, wading through crapwaters of the Orlando sewer system.  The sewer water went up to my knees and then to my waist and then to my chest. I was on my way to the secret hideout of the Revenging Manta, the famous ninja vigilante. He led the way, waves of rancid water crashing against him as he made great strides toward our destination. Eventually, we came to a ladder that went straight up to a manhole. 

“You first,” he said. — To be continued.

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This week’s movie is 1984’s Don’t Open Till Christmas from director Edmund Perdum. This entry in a long line of Christmas slasher movies has a twist: the victims are your run-of-the-mill department store Santas. Yeah, it would seem that some creeper has a vendetta against jolly St. Nick. Who wants to murder Kris Kringle? Honestly, all the guy does is give you free presents once a year and you don’t have to declare them come tax season. I guess the director was going for something different this time around, trading horny teenagers for middle-aged, sad-sack Santas.

The movie begins with a guy dressed as Santa getting hot and heavy with his girlfriend in the backseat of his car. Then, naturally, we get the point of view of a heavy-breather stalker. The guy and his girlfriend get stabbed to death by the killer. We’re then treated to a nasty credit sequence with a distorted take on Jingle Bells playing in the background as we watch a wax Santa Claus melt into goo. Was there an audience for this sort of thing? Were people fed up with Christmas back in 1984?

Our next scene takes place at a costume party where a Santa Claus is about to perform some gags for an adult audience. Unfortunately, he gets speared through the head by one of the guests dressed up like a shrunken head. His daughter, Kate Brisk (Belinda Mayne), cradles her dad’s body while her boyfriend, Cliff (Gerry Sundquist), goes after the killer only to find an abandoned costume. It’s up to the New Scotland Yard to solve the case.

What happened to the old Scotland Yard?

Naturally, this new Scotland Yard is just as baffled by these Christmas slayings as the old Scotland Yard would be. A Chief Inspector Harris (Edmund Purdom) is on the case. A couple of police officers go undercover as Santas at a local carnival in an effort to lure the killer out of hiding. It works a little too well as the killer emerges to slaughter them both. Too bad.

One of the sadder killings in this movie is when a sweet, middle-aged man visits a peep show booth. He’s shy and awkward and doesn’t know how to talk to the girl. He lives at home with his mother and a mall Santa job was the best he could do. And then he gets slayed by the Santa serial killer right in front of the stripper. Question: why murder a guy right in front of a witness and then leave the scene? You know she’s going straight to the cops.

What else? The glamorous Caroline Munro (of Starcrash fame) stars as herself in this movie and even sings. Makes me wonder if she had a music career and made top of the pops. You can catch Don’t Open Till Christmas streaming for free on Tubi.

Maybe don’t pay money for this one.

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477episode 491episode 492, episode 493episode 495episode 496episode 545episode 546episode 547episode 548, and episode 549) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #205

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #205 by Drew Barth

Observation

I’ve never been able to work in a cafe. There’s always something about the noise and the continual threat of someone wanting to talk or look at whatever I’m working on. But then others can get something more from the feeling of being out in public and having their work out there, even if it’s something they subtly try to hide with one arm as they sketch the person sitting across the cafe from them. It’s the kind of technique Gabrielle Bell goes through in her short diary work, Career Shoplifter.

Career Shoplifter is a diary of a few months in spring of 2022 and a sketchbook of the people Bell has observed and interacted with in New York cafes. It’s a portrait of an accomplished artist going through some of the most harrowing aspects of creating anything: the idea that you’re running out of things to create and time to do it; that you’re not the successful person you’ve potentially convinced yourself you were for a brief moment and that everyone around you knows you’ve failed. The book reveals those daily struggles of coping with anxiety, the people you meet in cafes, and the restlessness that comes with not knowing if you’re doing enough. 

Critics and fans sometimes use the cliché of calling these kinds of comics “intimate.” Bell herself parodies that impulse in one of the final comics in this collection—the fact that her diary comics are edited, the fact that her personal diary is self-censored, the fact that her personal thoughts are lies. Even still, the book doesn’t quite feel like sitting in the cafe beside Bell, but rather being told by her about the people she’s seen and the anxieties she has been feeling along with the steps in meditation she’s taking to help with them. While it’s easy to talk candidly about impostor syndrome and social anxiety, it feels much more difficult to talk about the steps you’re taking when you’re looking to mitigate some of these issues you’ve been living with for so long. And it’s a process—one that’s long, slow, and feels like it’s not enough when you’re at your worst. And Bell shows us all of these: the small moments of being just a bit better as well as the depression and anxiety’s slow encroachment despite all of her efforts. Even if they’re edited diaries, they still show us this portrait of Bell as someone going through all of these parts of self-improvement.

As quick of a moment in time Career Shoplifter represents, The book shows us so much about both the author and how comics can really work as diary pieces. Even if it’s only some of the shorter aspects of Bell’s life—these snapshots of time spent in cafes—you still get a sense of the person behind the pen and everything they’re going through. It’s what these small moments captured in comic form can help to represent: we’re not just looking at her from the outside, we’re being shown in these small panels. 

Get excited. Get shoplifting.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 556: Lynn Melnick!

Episode 556 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

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The poet and memoirist Lynn Melnick talks with me about the cleverness and heart of Dolly Parton, who can serve as more than a cultural icon as we try to discover how to make our unique ways in the world.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


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.

_______

Episode 556 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature, is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #401: Christmas Evil

The Curator of Schlock #401 by Jeff Shuster

Christmas Evil

Do you want to feel more depressed during the holidays?

The Revenging Manta, the ninja vigilante of downtown Orlando, and I drove to his secret hideout. And his secret hideout was in the sewer. This is not the first place I would pick for a secret hideout with the rats and the feces floating about down there, but he insisted that it was something special. He handed me a flashlight and down the manhole I went. — To be continued.

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Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas from your humble curator. This week’s movie is 1980’s Christmas Evil from director Lewis Jackson.


This movie also went under the title of Terror in Toyland and You Better Watch Out. Christmas Evil got caught up in the Video Nasty hysteria plaguing Great Britain in the 1980s. Now you can treat yourself to this yuletide horror for free on Tubi. Times change.

Our movie begins with a young boy named Harry having witnessed Santa Claus making sexual advances on his mother. He smashes a snow globe and slits his palm.

Fast forward thirty or so years and Harry (Brandon Maggart) is now a grown man who recently got an upper management position at a toy factory. Harry’s a schlub. The toys that the factory produces are cheap plastic crap. Everyone stands before an assembly line attaching riders to bikes, rifles to toy soldiers, etc. Harry was happier making toys on the floor than sitting in his fancy office.

Harry lives like a neighborhood spy, keeping tabs on all of the neighborhood children, seeing who’s naughty or nice. One boy takes out the trash on a regular basis so his name goes on the nice list. Another boy is obsessed with dirty magazines so he ends up on the naughty list. Harry doesn’t get along with his younger brother who thinks he’s a weirdo. We in the audience also think he’s a weirdo. After becoming mesmerized by Santa Claus at the Thanksgiving Day Parade, Harry becomes obsessed with becoming Santa Claus.

On Christmas Eve, Harry superglues a white beard to his face and dons a fur-lined red Santa suit. He drives around town in a white van with Santa’s reindeer painted on the side. He delivers presents to his brother Frank’s house and drops some more gifts off at a children’s hospital. And then he waits outside a church, waiting for the Midnight Mass to let out. A rich jerk saunters over to him. The rich jerk makes fun of Harry and his van so Harry gouges his eye out with the bayonet of a toy soldier and then proceeds to hatchet the rest of them with an axe. Then Harry speeds away in his van before the crowd of churchgoers can properly react.

It would seem that director John Waters does a commentary on the DVD as he’s a huge fan. He considers it the greatest Christmas movie ever made. I found the film depressing. What’s most depressing is how chintzy Christmas feels in this movie. It’s all cheap toys, tacky decorations, fake beards, and no Christmas cheer. No wonder Harry has a psychotic break.

People can be awful around the holidays.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477episode 491episode 492, episode 493episode 495episode 496episode 545episode 546episode 547episode 548, and episode 549) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #204: Long Road to Somewhere

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #204 by Drew Barth

Long Road to Somewhere

Most journey narratives end with our protagonists returning home with the splendors of treasure, knowledge, or both to an adoring hometown crowd that celebrates the transformation they’ve undergone in the time they’ve been away. That home is the root—the place the protagonist can tie themselves to and reflect their new world against as a source of familiarity and comfort. But what about when that home no longer exists? What about when the journey needs to happen, but there’s nothing to look back at except ruins? In the first issue of Wes Craig and Jason Wordie’s Kaya, we see the beginnings of a journey that has no return.

Kaya and her brother, Jin, a prince who no longer has a kingdom, are wandering. It’s been some time since they were able to escape the destruction of their village, but the wasteland they wander in is vast. They have to keep journeying northward to reach some kind of safety, despite Jin’s protests that his princely status imbues him with authority over where they travel. Kaya is, of course, doing her best, but when the pair are overrun by lizard riders in the husk of another destroyed village, she must reveal the magical arm that will keep them both safe from the wilds of their world. Luckily for them both, Kaya knows one of the riders and finds brief safety in their camp, but precious little food or comfort for the rest of their journey.

While the story of Kaya is just taking off, what’s immediately apparent in this first issue is the skills and interplay between Craig’s art and Wordie’s colors throughout. Craig, having just come off of the conclusion of Deadly Class earlier this year, is flexing a more fantastical muscle with this series, but his lines still remain as sharp as ever. Wordie’s colors, however, help to elevate the story even further as they provide this watercolor-esque feeling to expressions and backgrounds that help provide this new depth to the page. And it’s their usage of red and yellow throughout—colors that are present in almost every page, especially the impressionistic backgrounds—that helps to keep a thematic grounding to the story. It really helps to cement the idea that this is the dawn of Kaya and Jin’s journey and there’s still a scant hint of brightness to their characters despite everything that has happened.

This first issue of Kaya keeps that crucial balance between character, story, and worldbuilding that can only come from creators that have had to cut their teeth on many first issues in the past. As close as it plays its cards to the chest, you’re still able to peek at something larger happening in the future.

This is a story that makes you want to keep going and see just where this ever-forward journey can take our protagonists.

Get excited. Get going. 

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.