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Currently Reading: SAGA

6 Jun

A recommendation by Orion Tippens

Saga 1 cover

The cover to Saga #1 (1st printing)

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan

Pencils: Fiona Staples

Published by: Image Comics

Notes: 3 single issues out so far (#1: 5 printings, #2: 2 printings, #3: 2 printings)

Saga is an epic sci-fi fantasy adventure drama unlike no other.

What this comic series is about:

Marko and Alana, alien lovers from opposing sides of a galactic war, give life to a newborn baby girl (who is also the narrator of the story, reflecting back). The three are threatened by warring armies, deadly hunters, and otherworldly creatures. Their journey in search of a safe haven takes them through strange landscapes, surviving on little. Meanwhile, there are interludes and other subplots involving other interesting players…

This ongoing story has much adult, mature-heavy content. I mean, there are robots having sex, an armless spider-woman with exposed boobs, surprise gore, and much expletives. So, not intended for children or others sensitive to such. For the rest of us, cool.

Why I enjoy this:

Saga is the perfect example of why I continue to explore new realms of science fiction, fantasy, and imaginative works in general. Nothing in Saga is too familiar to our contemporary times, except for our modern language and some camp additives. The rest is an escape to another universe with fantastic habitation meshed with galactic drama involving robots, beasts, wizards, and other weirdness – all wrapped in a captivating story, reminiscent of other epics including Dune, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones in which personal struggles balance with a grander conflict.

Saga excerpt 1Saga is written by Brian K. Vaughan – best known for his last critically acclaimed comics series, Y: the Last Man. The art is wonderfully drawn by Fiona Staples, an underrated artist who in time will be more widely appreciated for her work here. The two work perfectly together on Saga.

For me, the heart of Saga is the drama of its protagonists. We have this incredible love story: The find each other at opposite ends where Marko was a prisoner of war, Alana the jailer. They escape together and eventually bear a child. To continue this wonderful new family, they must still leave the conflict and start their own life (not easy). It’s a simple, beautiful premise.

The characters are interesting thanks to their unusual and ironic traits. Marko has this peaceful, gentle nature; unexpected for a alien with ram horns. Alana is tough and foul mouthed; unexpected for a woman with fairy wings. And the narrator (the baby) has wisdom gained from the experience.

There are forces both natural and unnatural that will affect their journey in some way – we just know it, because the other characters are that interesting, with names like “The Will,” “The Stalk,” the “Horrors.” They Continue reading

Today’s All Day Comic: the genius Transformers parody, Incredible Change-Bots!

25 May

by Orion Tippens

Incredible Change-Bots

Writer/Artist: Jeffrey Brown

Top Shelf Comics

Vol. 1 – Sept. 2007, 146 pages

Vol. 2 – March. 2011, 146 pages

Incredible Change-Bots cover

More than just machines!

Finally, a story about fighting robots with all of the emotional depth and drama that comes with the consequences of personal change…into vehicles.

And within that tale, questions arise. Did the Incredible Change-Bots evolve from word processors? Can Shootertron handle a sudden existential crisis? Can a robot police car and a robot truck explore their forbidden love? Can Big Rig become a credible leader to his gang of Awesomebots? Can’t we all just get along? Answers to those and more happen in this epic two-part graphic novel.

change-bots banter

YES. THIS. This x 1 million.

Incredible Change-Bots is the underrated work of Jeffrey Brown, better known for his self-reflecting autobiographical works including Clumsy and Unlikely and the recent hit Darth Vader and Son. Brown carries a unique sense of dry wit often focused on the observed irony and melodrama of the mundane. For the visuals, he keeps it simple and fun with everything crudely hand-drawn, sticking to the basics of a bored child stuck in after-school detention.  For Incredible Change-Bots, Brown adds all of that to this colossal parody of the Transformers.

The story is simple: the Awesomebots (led by Big Rig) fight against the Fantasticons (led by Shootertron). The Change-Bots engage in their lengthy conflict carried over from their war-ravaged planet of Electrotronocybercircuitron over the usual reasons: Continue reading

ADC Comic of the Day(s): HEART OF A CORPSE

23 Mar

by Orion Tippens

(Mike here – this is one of my favorite things about comics: finding a cool gem that I’ve never heard of before. Orion’s review here has convinced me to check this out – you’re going to want to, too! But there’s one thing I’m wondering: is creator Justin Sane the same guy from the band Anti-Flag, or is there more than one walking the earth?! – UPDATE: See comment from Mr. Sane below for the answer!)

Heart of a Corpse #1, #2

Writer, Artist: Justin Sane

Slave Labor Graphics 2011, complete story in two acts

#1 – 58 pages, #2 – 83 pages

Heart of a Corpse cover

Looking for something new, something wonderful in the sequential art format? Do you also desire creativity, an extended display of shapes and colors that tell the story more than words could? How about a romantic story with a spooktacular vibe?   Then do check out Heart of a Corpse.

What is this wonder? Heart of a Corpse is a simple story in a Victorian style setting about a hearse driver named “The Gentleman,” and his courting of the mortician’s daughter, Annabel. This leading to a proposal in marriage. But trouble happens, as another man, “the Brute,” wants Annabel to himself, and proceeds in nefarious acts against our romantic protagonist. Supernatural and abstract elements develop, adding to the entertaining twists that guide us to a thoughtful, beautiful ending.

Heart of a Corpse art 1

The execution of the story is beautiful, classic. Like a silent movie, we as readers must rely on basic visuals, with a few necessary placards for the entire story. The Continue reading

Going Digital: Five Crazy Ideas in Re-revolutionizing Digital Comics!

16 Mar

by Orion Tippens, ADC

Weapon X (story arc)

It's like I'm INSIDE THE COMICS! (Image of the future via Wikipedia)

Digital Comics, where are you going?

Recently, the leading digital comics multi-platform app, Comixology, achieved over 50 million downloads in single-issue comics and graphic novels. That is the good news for the comics industry, at least in knowing that many people are now exposed to the sequential-art storytelling format.

Of course, not all comics fanpeople will accept the new medium. Digital comics are all bits and bytes, with no real chance for resale of purchase and the fear that all purchases could disappear of the service permanently dies out. Those who favor the digital format will relish in the higher definition color, availability selection, and “light” reading. There have been breakthroughs to further the revolution of digital-comics reading, including the single-panel “Guided View” option, cross-platform account access with cheap digital exclusives, and free samples. Is that enough?

No, but the publishing industry is improving. As digital piracy will continue, innovation is needed to usher in this potential new digital golden era.

Marvel Comics, meanwhile, has announced its new “Marvel Infinite” imprint. Within are a few curious ideas to enhance traditional narratives including the “control the caption boxes and how they’re delivered to the reader.” Marvel also announced its new Augmented Reality system for mobile devices, where the scanning of strategically placed QR codes adds to its comics content.

However, a well-sequenced art narrative is all one needs to enjoy a comics story to its fullest. That being said, the industry should focus on innovative ways to get the readers better involved with published content. This can be done by enhancing not just the experience of reading the comic, but also getting involved with other aspects including the setting, the technology, and the invitation to new, innovative ideas.

Here, below, are my crazy ideas to ponder in the new and revolutionizing expanse of the comics-publishing biz. Interested companies, feel free to take note and steal (through credit would be nice). Ponder the possibilities. If such ideas are in the works, please point them out in the comments below. Or even better, add a few of your own.

Annotative tagging – Red Lanterns, Secret Invasions, Renegade Clonetroopers, obscure Grant Morrison characters got your head in a spin? Backtracking on such elaborate mythologies may procure in difficulty for those with empty wallets, or lacking in free time. A simple solution, especially for the new readers, would be genius. How about, for those fancy touch screens, a simple tagging system with access to some sort of large information collective on repeat characters, past events, and relevant back issues? Perhaps holding down on some returning character can pop up some information on background, abilities, favorite pie, whatever.  Does this take away or distract from the story? As long as it is optional, then no. Also, think of the other possibilities Continue reading

More Ways to Improve Collected Editions

2 Feb

by Mike Hansen

One or two comics...

(Photo credit: fengschwing)

I just came across this today:

A couple weeks ago, before I wrote about various publishers’ collected editions, The Weekly Crisis posted “10 Ways to Improve Collected Editions” – some highlights:

1 – Keep your Readers Informed
Let’s start off with one of the simplest and easiest way to improve the way companies approach collections. As much information as possible must be easily available when making a purchase, and that includes all creators and collected issues. For best effect, these must be placed in an easily readable part of the back cover and (perhaps more importantly) in the product description of the item.
Yes! There have been a number of times when publishers, especially Marvel and DC, post incomplete or inaccurate info about book contents in Previews. Sometimes this is a good thing (additional pages in the X-Men by Claremont & Lee Vol. 2 Omnibus for more extras), sometimes not (Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers dropping solicited content). With collected editions SO dependent on preorders, these books need to be figured out ahead of time as much as possible.
2 – Extra-er Material

4 – People Must Sample

It’s the traditional drug dealer tactic: the first one is free, the second one isn’t. If you get people hooked on your series, they are more likely to come back for more. … It’s not just putting this first chapter for free, but also making sure that the people reading this know that the collection is out and available for purchase/pre-order, with in-house ads placed in the digital comic.
I wholeheartedly support this – as far as I’m concerned, this is the only way for new stuff to find a bigger audience.
Free Comic Book Day does an okay job, but I think it’s better at getting regular comic-shop purveyors to check out new material than at bringing in brand-new readers. Still, every bit helps.
I’ve been a big supporter of Continue reading

Dear Marvel: Stop Supporting SOPA

4 Jan
Dear Marvel logo

No es bueno.

Today, Thwipster linked to an online petition to ask Marvel to end its support of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a really really bad piece of legislation that if passed would cripple the internet and take away our rights.


Some of the worst legislation ever seen is currently before Congress. Three pieces of legislation, H.R. 3261 in the House of Representatives and S.968 and S.978 in the Senate, would cripple the internet by stripping your due process rights and making everyday users wary that the next thing you post might get you sued or thrown in jail.

And unfortunately, Marvel Entertainment is supporting it.

Thwipster made it clear where it stands on SOPA and piracy a few days ago, with this great blog post:

We at Thwipster wholeheartedly oppose SOPA as it currently stands and as we understand it. We believe in due process and not a Patriot Act for media companies to take down parts of the internet. You can find out more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

If you know anyone downloading illegal things off the internet, take a moment and tell them to stop being a dick. We don’t need the government and media companies to tell us not to steal…

Media Companies
You’ve got it hard, right? You make all this stuff that people are so ravenous over that they steal it, remix it and share it with everyone they (don’t)know. But hey, you gotta get paid! Guess what? Don’t be a dick. Cut out the DRM, cut out practices like making things unavailable for 30 days on Netflix or iTunes, and cut out going after people celebrating your products…

(more in link)


(Image by ToobyDoo via Flickr)

It doesn’t surprise me that Marvel supports anything that prevents digital piracy, but this legislation spells trouble for anyone who uses the internet in any way.

(And, really, does digital piracy really do that much damage? It’s not cool, but there’s a strong correlation between the most illegally downloaded work and the bestselling material. I’d argue that a huge number of those downloaders would never have been paying customers in the first place.)

Thanks to a wave a bad publicity, a lot of companies are pulling their support of SOPA, including GoDaddy, Nintendo, and EA (see the links below).

If you have a problem with Marvel’s stance, check out the petition at DearMarvel.com, and share how this will effect your support of Marvel’s product.

Personally, I love a lot of Marvel’s comics, and a lot of its creators’ work, but I have trouble with the idea of my money going to support taking away our freedoms. The best solution I can think of is to buy the Marvel books I want secondhand, so I can read the stuff I want without putting my money towards a bad cause.

I’m interested to see Marvel’s reaction (or lack thereof) – Marvel tends to be like Teflon with a lot of its controversial policies, but tends to make changes when it gets hit in the pocketbook.

What do you think?


3 Nov

by Orion Tippens

This Haunted World 1 coverThis Haunted World #1

Writer: Mark Powers

Artist: Chris Lie, Rahmat Handoko

Sea Lion Books, Oct. 2011, 29 pages

A fresh new book just in time before our crazy, 2012 end of days.

This Haunted World is a digital exclusive (for now) series set in a familiar world troubled with our war, corrupted politics, and sinking economy. Yet, in a series of strangely unrelated events, certain characters experience terrible, unexplainable murders that hint towards something large, perhaps world threatening. Somehow connected are witnesses to the bizarre events around the world: an injured U.S. army corporal, a young parapsychologist, and a senator who lost his religious faith. Meanwhile, a shadowy, hooded character now walks the Earth, gathering dead spirits for something troubling, ominous.

The setup and style of storytelling are Continue reading

I Read SVK by Warren Ellis & D’Israeli

25 Oct

by Mike Hansen

Warren Ellis at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego

The hat protects the precious brain inside. (Image via Wikipedia)

Alright, stop what you’re doing, and GO BUY THIS COMIC BOOK NOW. Not later, now. I’ll know if you’re lying. Because SVK might be the very best comic book you read this year.

There is nothing like SVK. You will see things you have never seen before. And then you will see things you didn’t see the first time.

Because SVK is printed with an additional, invisible ink. And comes with a handy pocket flashlight to illuminate it (and no, you don’t need to be in the dark for it to work). For all I know, the light will cause blindness, cancer, and AIDS, but I don’t care, because this comic book is worth it.

You don’t need to believe me. Ask William Gibson; he wrote the introduction. And if the father of Cyberpunk, the man who sees the filthy future before the rest of us, digs this comic, that’s good enough for us humans.

Warren Ellis revisits the future Continue reading

ORION returns with this week’s GOING DIGITAL: Casualties of Price Wars!

14 Oct
Image representing Barnes & Noble as depicted ...

Not cool. (Image via CrunchBase)

Going Digital: Casualties of Price Wars and Other Ridiculousness

by Orion Tippens


The shot heard around the world?

In recent news, Books-a-Million – another book store chain, joined Barnes and Noble on its recent ban on DC Comics’ select 100 graphic novels made exclusive for 4 months for Amazon’s new Kindle Fire. Both chains combined total over 900 bookstores where Sandman, Watchmen, and Fables (among others) will remain invisible to consumers.

This revolting development is not really a revolution. In the end, it’s the consumers that suffer, especially those on the digital fronts. On print, such absence will help comic book stores and small business retailers not interested in such power games involving digital devices. On the digital front, this sends a terrible message to those who spent much money on their digital devices.

That by disagreement, a powerful company has proved they can easily ban books by the push of mere button. All this, over petty squabbles that involves their personal interest: mass profits. If you depend on your e-reader or tablet for comics, you can’t simply “visit another store.”  That is, unless you are rich and will just buy another expensive alternative (and possibly starting your digital comics collection over).

Or can you go back to print? The answer to that is best explored another day.

That being said, just bear this in mind when buying an e-reader or tablet. Consider the corporate entity that controls the gates on your applications, publishers, and access to your device. When out to make a profit, do they have your interests at heart? Or do we become the collateral damage?

Which brings me another subject that bothers me…

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man 1 variant cover

The existence of the $3.99 digital comic as a read that contains carries the average number of pages (around 24) vs. the normal $2.99. I see this with some of DC’s new 52, Marvel’s recent crossover, and other offers.

There was Continue reading

ORION posts an update to today’s column: B&N vs. DC & Amazon!!!

7 Oct
Cover of "Watchmen"

Watchmen is sad...

(NOTE: This is an update to today’s earlier column here)

Barnes and Noble pulls 100 DC graphic novels including Watchmen, Sandman off retail store shelves?

by Orion Tippens

Yes, you read that right. Corporate headmasters, Barnes and Noble retail stores will receive instructions to pull and stop sales on all 100 of the DC graphic novels that were made digital exclusives for the upcoming Kindle Fire. As reported in Publisher’s Weekly, B&N spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating confirmed:

“We pulled those 100 DC Comics graphic novels that we were not offered in digital format. Our policy is that unless we receive all formats of a title to make available to our customers, we will not sell those physical titles in our stores.”

Here is the original list of books offered for the Kindle Fire. That’s right: no Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, no V for Vendetta, or Fables on the shelves of our national retail bookstore chains. Censorship on a terrible, grand scale?

This is Continue reading

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