Indie Comic Review: Kingdom/Order part one

A few months ago I reviewed the preview of Reid Psaltis’ Kingdom/Order.  It left me with a haunted feeling which I could not shake.  It was moody.  It was disturbing.  It left me with more questions than answers.  In short, I wanted more.

Thankfully, Psaltis is back with a complete first part of the book!  While there are more pages, and things are a bit clearer, everything that I loved about the preview is still in place!

Kindgom/Order wordlessly follows a man as he searches for some sort of meaning in his life.  Through symbols and sounds it is clear that he is a part of the greater Natural world, and a bit divorced from the Modern world which surrounds him.  The nameless protagonist finds himself noticing and following the sounds of the animals around him.  But, how much of it is real, and how much of it is in his head?

As much Psaltis’ art is on display in Kingdom/Order, the real gem of the book is in the design work which went into the sounds each creature makes.  Each creature is given their own “voice” via a distinct visual representation.  Even the vehicle which is driven by the protagonist makes its own sound which is unique, but somehow connected to the others.

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An attempt at communication is demonstrated through the final shape in the above image. Part Enso, part “O” the creatures and the man try to communicate and find understanding through it. Psaltis masterfully shows that the animals are working to communicate, and the man is attempting a foreign language.

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Notice how the colors are inverted and the edges of the shape are different?

I am reminded of this quote from The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen: “The sun is round. I ring with life, and the mountains ring, and when I can hear it, there is a ringing that we share. I understand all this, not in my mind, but in my heart, knowing how meaningless it is to try to capture what cannot be expressed…”  It is as if both the main character, and Psaltis himself, are struggling to capture that shared existence between Man and Nature.

While it may seem like the stuff of kids’ books and Disney movies to have a plot that revolves around a man talking to animals, Psaltis keeps the mood dark throughout the book.  No one will mistake this for another Dr. Doolitle story.  After reading the book I was questioning my own sanity almost as much as I was questioning that of the main character.  There is no sense of what is real, what is in the protagonist’s head, and what is being filled in by the reader.  In that sense, the book demands that you pay attention, look for clues, and come back for part two!

You can read the entire first volume on line right here.  Do yourself a favor and check it out!

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If Coffee Were Like Comic Con

One of the best parts of any comic convention is the creative energy which permeates everything.  Everywhere one wanders there is a sense of excitement as new ideas are explored and new concepts are brought to fruition.  One cannot help but get swept up in it all!  That is exactly what happened with Keri and I as we wandered the aisles of last week’s Emerald City Comicon.

So, in addition to all the other projects we have on our plates, let me introduce you to our newest comic: If Coffee Were Like Comic Con!

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The comics are updated daily over on our sister site, Kilted Comics.  Go check them out!

 

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Put This On Your Calendar: An Evening with Molly Crabapple and Warren Ellis

If you are in New York City I can think of no better thing to do than go hang out with Molly Crabapple and Warren Ellis.  Does anyone have an airline voucher the can spare?  I would love to see this!!!!

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Things I learned Moderating My First Panel

ECCCThe phrase, “This seemed like a good idea at the time” echoed through my head as I stood in front of the crowd at Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon.  Next to me on the stage were some of the biggest names in comics.  This was everything I had hoped for.  So why was I quaking?

Rewind several months to a dark morning in Portland.  I was out for my morning jog, and my mind was desperately trying to find something to distract myself from the fact that my lungs felt like they were going to burst.  Comics seemed like the natural place to distract myself.  I started thinking about Kelly Sue Deconnick’s experience as “Smurfette” on a comic panel at New York Comic Con.  It got me thinking about what kind of panel I would put together if I were to organize one for a comic convention.  By the end of my five mile run I had it planned out.

A couple days later I saw the call for panel proposals from Emerald City Comicon.  My mind flashed back to my morning run and I thought, “What the heck?”  I shot off an email to the organizers and included all my ideas.  The panel would focus on self-publishing and would feature some of the biggest names in comics.  The panel would be a balance of male and female creators and would be about why they self-publish instead of how to self-publish.  And, as an afterthought, I tossed in the fact that I would be “happy” to moderate the panel if asked.

Months went by.  I was surprised when I received an email from ECCC informing me that my pane had been approved!  All that needed to happen was for me to contact all my proposed participants, secure their participation, and come up with questions for moderating the panel!  Piece of cake?

I had only ever had contact with one of the panelists (Jeff Smith) so most of my emails to these creators were going to be cold calls.  Luckily every one of them was more than happy to be a part of the panel!  I emailed the organizers again with the news that the panel was good to go.

Then I began to panic.

I get up in front of groups every day.  I ask questions and guide conversations.  It is what I do.  I’m a teacher.  I have even interviewed dozens of comic pros over the years. So why was I so nervous about moderating this panel?  Simply put, I was in over my head.  There is a big difference between planning out a panel and actually pulling one off.

The day of the panel arrived and, after a minor hiccup or two, we were ready to go.  I started to read from my prepared opening, and immediately flubbed the words.  Not a great start.  I really should have spent some time practicing in front of a mirror and printed the script out in a larger font so it would have been easier to read.  But I managed to recover and made it through the introductions without too many other missteps.

Then came the questions.   The best panels are the ones where the moderator asks a question and the panelists just go from there, building their conversation on the comments of the person who spoke before them.  That was not this panel.

I asked a question.  It got answered.  Then silence.  I asked another question.  It got answered.  Then silence.  Within the first ten minutes of the panel I had blown through almost all of my prepared questions.  It was then that I realized the second mistake I had made.  In my desire to create the ultimate panel, I had linked these creators together in my mind.  However, none of these creators knew each other personally nor had they had any interaction with each other.  This meant that there was no built-in chemistry on the panel and no natural links and connections.  The flow of conversation was going to be forced, not naturally flowing.

Luckily people in the audience had questions and were more than happy to ask them.

And that is when I realized the third major mistake I had made. I had failed to properly frame the context of the conversation.  I had assumed that everyone in attendance had read the panel description and were prepared to ask in-depth questions about the philosophies of the panelists.  I was wrong.

The first questions focused on manga and anime.  The next person asked for a “brief, four bullet point guide” to getting his daughter’s original graphic novel published and distributed.  This was not going according to plan.

Luckily the panelists were good sports and plowed through.  We made it to the end of the panel, there was applause, and everyone left to enjoy the rest of the con.

So now I sit and reflect.  I love the idea of organizing another panel.  But, before I do I need to make sure that I have learned from the mistakes I made on this panel and build on the successes.  I have already started thinking about the next panel I want to put together.  Rose City Comic Con is in the fall, giving me plenty of time to iron out the kinks.  Seems like a good idea to me!

Want to see the panel for yourself?  Click here.

 

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Emerald City Comicon Day 3

ECCCDay three was a half-day for us.  We rolled in around eleven-thirty after checking out of the hotel and gorging ourselves on crumpets (a Seattle tradition).  With the stress of moderating the panel behind me, I found the final day to be one of the most enjoyable.  The crowds were comparable to Friday, and most creators had a tired but satisfied look on their face.  It had been a good show for everyone.

I caught up with Devon Devereaux whose Jack Kirby tribute piece was featured in the LTD. Gallery Mint Condition show over the weekend.  As always, fans were attracted to

Had to take this one twice.  He blinked the first time!

Had to take this one twice. He blinked the first time!

his take on classic monsters and horror.  I also managed to chat briefly with Joe Keatinge who was having a busy convention and catch up with Pete and Rebecca Woods.  I was going to stop by Greg Rucka’s booth, but it was always busy, and I am going to see him this weekend when I pick up my Kickstarter book.

One of the last things we did was catch the Adam Warren and Brandon Graham panel.  As much a meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society as it was a glimpse into their creative processes, the real takeaway was their shared love of Masamune Shirow and Appleseed.  Listening to them breakdown pages which were shown on the projector was a fascinating look at how artists look to other other artists for inspiration and improvement.

Pretty, pretty princess (who will knock you out with his guns!)

Pretty, pretty princess (who will knock you out with his guns!)

We cruised out of the con in the early afternoon.  We hit the LTD. Gallery to check out the Mint Condition show before pointing the bus south and heading for home.  We left the show recharged, excited about comics, and already making plans for a return trip in 2015!

Final thoughts:
ECCC is definitely a destination show. It should be on everyone’s radar and their to-do list. Start planning now, as the date has already been set for next year (March 27 – 29). With a bit of forethought and planning, there is no reason why ECCC cannot be the best show of your year.

The coordinators of Emerald City worked hard to

Martian menace!

Martian menace!

address many of the concerns raised by con-goers last year.  The traffic flow was greatly improved (there was one major pinch point near the Image Booth, but that was pretty much it) making movement between the rooms a much more pleasant experience.  There was also clearer signage for panels making finding the rooms much easier.

As always, the “minions’ were the real stars of the show.  While many conventions position their volunteers around the perimeter of the con to keep people without tickets out and guide people to  various entrances, ECCC floods the con floor with helpful volunteers.  From line management to general

The family that cosplays together...

The family that cosplays together…

information, at every turn there was a smiling green-shirted “minion” there to help.  For as large as ECCC has become, the volunteers keep it running smoothly!

The cosplay at the con was fantastic this year.  Maybe it was the lack of any single dominant group of cosplayers (very few zombies, homestucks, or Stormtroopers).

We know who wears the pants in this relationship

We know who wears the pants in this relationship

Maybe it was a desire to do something truly unique.  Either way, this year’s crop of cosplayers was the most unique and diverse I have seen!  I have not enjoyed people watching this much in quite some time!

Emerald City kicks off the con season and sets the bar for all other conventions.  I can’t wait to come back next year!

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Emerald City Comicon Day 2

ECCCIt is safe to say that, as amazing as Friday was, Saturday at Emerald City Comic Comicon was even more spectacular. The aisles were crowded and booths were doing brisk business. By the end of the day, many of the booths were reporting sellouts of much of their inventory. It is safe to say that the con was at capacity from the moment the doors opened until late in the evening.

Cosplayers were in full effect, with many I had not seen before at a show including a female Silver Surfer, Daredevil, Jubliee (complete with fireworks coming from her palms), all iterations of the female Captain Marvel, and a Spider-Man from his time in the Future Foundation. With an Andrew Hussie signing at 2pm, there were many more Homestuck cosplayers than on Friday, but still not as many as the year before. After speaking with a few cosplayers, it seems that the extended hiatus of the strip, coupled with the emergence of new fandoms has eroded the cosplay base. The emergence of Attack on Titan as a cosplay group was definitely on display.

It was not all about cosplay, however. On Saturday we took in the Why Eisner Matters panel. Peter David, Matt Fraction, Michael Avon Oeming, and Jeff Smith riffed on the concepts Eisner brought forth in his work and the legacy of his writing and art style. It was a fun panel which ran the gamut from talking about Gene Luen Yang and John Byrne to the legacy of Ebony White, the Spirit’s sidekick. If anyone took anything from the panel, it is that much of the great storytelling of the past 50 years is built on the shoulders of Will Eisner. Young creators would do well to read the Spirit as well as Comics and Sequential Art.

Saturday was also the Self-Publish or Perish panel hosted by your’s truly. I will give a write-up later of all the things I learned from my first time moderating a panel (and there was plenty to learn!!!) but I will say for now that the panel was a success in covering the important role that self-publishing has for creators and the industry as a whole.  Each creator spoke about their experiences with self-publishing and the role it has played in shaping their careers.  Since the panel covered over 35 years of self-publishing, it was fascinating to hear how much not only the publishing industry has changed, but how the prospects have improved in some ways and decreased in others for self-publishers.  People interested in seeing the panel for themselves can do so right here.

Keri and I booked a couple of commissions, and it was a good thing we did.  Many of the creators’ commission lists were filled by noon Saturday (some were even filled by Friday).  It pays more than ever to hit a con with a plan.  Five years ago you could go to ECCC and wander the hall for a day and then find someone to do a commission.  Now, with the con spanning multiple floors and rooms within the floors, priorities need to be made, a plan mapped out, and backup plans created before ever hitting the floor.  While it may cause a bit of stress at the start of the con as you rush from place to place, it will save many headaches and disappointments over the long run.  I was able to get the commission I wanted and the books signed early on friday and then spend the entire remainder of the convention perusing and people watching.

With sketchbooks dropped off, Saturday was mostly spent wandering the aisles and looking at art and perusing books.  While superheroes and fan art still ruled the con, there were plenty of small press and self-published books to be found.  Because ECCC has become such a destination con, many creators were sure to have new work ready for the masses.  I spoke with several creators who had books and prints that just came back from the printers as late as the day before.  As much of a pain as that may seem, it was clear that there was a high demand for new product and nobody wanted to be left without!

Saturday was a fantastic day at the con.  We left physically exhausted but creatively invigorated.  There was such an abundance of talent on display, we could not wait to come back for day three!

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ECCC ’14 Self-Publish or Perish Panel

This is the Self- Publish or Perish panel which our very own Brian Gardes moderated at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con.  The panel represented over 35 years of self-publishing history and featured Richard and Wendy Pini (ElfQuest), Chris Roberson (Monkeybrain), Becky Cloonan (The Mire) and Jeff Smith (Bone).  Give it a look!

Camera work by Keri Grassl.

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