Free Comic Book-Less Day

fcbdFree Comic Book Day was today, and like many of us, I got excited and headed out to my friendly neighborhood comic shop to score some loot. The line at Heroes and Fantasies was crazy long and stretched all the way to the back of the building that houses the store.  I stood in line for a while and jawed with some fellow readers.  After about fifteen minutes, a woman came around to announce that the line was for the free comics only and if we wanted to shop we could just go inside.

At that point, I figured that I didn’t really need the freebies and headed inside to do a little shopping and see Zip Alegria and Eric Matos, two friends that have recently signed on with Guardian Knight Comics, a new publisher that recently sprung up in San Antonio.  I wanted to see just what they were up to and to wish them good luck in their new venture.  Along the way, I ran into some other friends, including comic artists Alfredo “Freddy” Lopez and David Hutchison.  I hadn’t seen a few of those folks in quite some time, and it was good to see what they were up to and shoot the breeze for a bit.  There were also lots of cool cosplayers dressed up as various characters and I had a lot of fun talking shop and seeing everyone have a good time.

While I suppose I could have snuck around and snagged a few books, I decided not to.  I already read comics, so Free Comic Book Day is ‘preaching to the choir’ as far as I’m concerned; those books are better off going to potential new readers.  While I went home empty-handed in terms of comics, I had a fun time, and isn’t fun what its all about?

The Laws of the Furry Webcomic Jungle

furryOne of the awesome things about the Internet is that you can find a webcomic that deals with pretty much any subject you can think of.  As many furries are artistically inclined, there are naturally a number of furry comics out there on the tubes.  Since ‘anything goes’ on the Web, there are a few that allow the predator/prey relationship to exist even though they otherwise take place in a ‘civilized world.’  I’ll be talking about two in particular that take contrasting approaches to their ‘dog eat dog’ worlds.

“Kevin and Kell” by Bill Holbrook is a comedy strip that takes place in a furry world and focuses on the mixed marriage of the title characters (a rabbit and wolf) and their family.  “Doc Rat” by Jenner is a furry humor strip about a rat physician who has a clinic in what could be called furry Australia.  If the two strips were movies, Kevin and Kell would be given a ‘G’ rating compared to Doc Rat’s ‘PG.’

Both comics take place in worlds that are similar to our present-day one, but for the fact that the “civilized world” is populated by anthropomorphic animals instead of humans.  While on the surface that is nothing new, the fact that predators can devour prey makes for some interesting reading.  Holbrook and Jenner handle the relationship in different ways, which makes sense given that the different tones that their respective strips possess.

April 23, 1997
“Kevin and Kell” April 23, 1997

Kevin and Kell is a comedy strip which takes place in a world where social classes are defined by whether a person is a carnivore, herbivore, nocturnal, avian and so on and so forth.  Despite this, many, if not all of the lead characters in the strip defy their roles.  Kevin is a rabbit.  While lurking in a carnivore forum, he meets Kell and falls in love with her.  Unbeknownst to him, Kell is a wolf.  Of course, love conquers all, and so they are married despite the fact that their relationship is not the norm in their world.  Even more iconoclasts are introduced into the cast as it progresses, and one would be hard-pressed to find many ‘normal’ characters.

In Kevin and Kell, the predator/prey relationship is mostly played for laughs.  Indeed, many of the jokes in the strip involve animals.  An early running gag involved Kell’s brother Ralph (and Kevin’s brother-in-law) constantly trying to eat Kevin.  As Kevin is an usually large rabbit, he is able to easily repulse Ralph’s attempts.  While one-off characters are constantly eaten for laughs, members of the main cast that are prey species have occasionally come under attack from predators.  Like any good sitcom, though, everything ends up being okay in the end, and life goes on.  Thus, in the grand scheme of things, predation really isn’t that a big of a deal.

"Doc Rat" March 8, 2011
“Doc Rat” March 8, 2011

Doc Rat is also a humor strip, but it has a more serious tone than Kevin and Kell, and so its treatment of the predator/prey relationship is also more serious.  In the world of Doc Rat, predators can eat prey, but there are limits.  In instances where this has happened, the characters will often speak about the kill ‘being legal’ and in one instance the eating of prey species is referred to as ‘cultural tradition.’  Incidentally, a wolf and a rabbit are also married in Doc Rat (curiously enough, the roles are reversed in that strip) but the topic of the predator having to eat meat is treated in a more sober manner.

SPOILER ALERT

In a recent story arc (that begins with this strip) a venomous snake bites someone with the intent of eating them, but the victim gets away to the hospital.  The victim has a sixty-hour window to (I presume) ‘get away’ before the predator comes to claim the ‘wild meat’ as he is now referred to.  The legalese is little tricky for me, because the author’s experience is with the Australian legal system as opposed to the USA’s.  As near as I can figure out, once a predator decides to hunt, they file paperwork of some sort and can then begin to hunt their intended prey.  Children are also not protected either, as happened in this arc.

END SPOILER

For all the talk of legality, the ‘law of the jungle’ is a part of life in the world of Doc Rat, prey characters refer to victims of predators as ‘being taken’ or ‘becoming meat.’  The titular character’s role as a doctor also exposes him to aspects of predation that most members of their society probably don’t have to deal with.  In one strip, the lead character and a fellow doctor muse over having to prepare a patient to be eaten: “Not the most fun part of being a doctor, mate.”  Unlike Kevin and Kell, predation in Doc Rat is a very serious matter and has impacted the lives of some of the characters.

Kevin and Kell and Doc Rat take markedly different approaches to predation in their furry worlds, and they both work because they match the tone used in their respective strips: Kevin and Kell plays it up for laughs whereas Doc Rat treats it in a more serious manner.  Indeed, both comics are highly enjoyable reads whether you are looking for sitcom-esque laughs or the story of a doctor and his patients…who just happen to be animals.

Short Steampunk Subjects

Positively steamy!

I like things that are short.  Quite a few of my favorite types of media are short: theatrical cartoons, Three Stooges shorts, Aesop’s fables, and Isaac Asimov’s short stories, to name a few.  Curiously enough, my own writing consists mainly of short stories.

I initially kept my short stories to just one side of a page out of sheer habit, but as I write more I am finding myself becoming more comfortable with going beyond that self-imposed arbitrary limit.  Curiously enough, my very first short story came in at 12 pages, which I felt was way too long, so there’s that, too.

There’s just something about quickly getting to the point.  Sure, a one-page story doesn’t leave much room for character development, but it also means that a message can be delivered effectively without getting lost in the rest of the story.  It also leaves armchair psychologists with little room to to find deeper meaning in between the lines.

It may also explain why I enjoy comic books.  In addition to enjoying the exploits of Superman, the Green Lantern Corps and Mega Man each month, I have also taken a liking to the various Steampunk titles currently being printed by Antarctic Press.  In addition to artwork relating to the book’s theme featuring comely lasses, each one has also featured two or three short comic stories featuring the works of Rod Espinosa, Fred Perry, and other creators.

I really enjoy those short comics.  I read them, have a quick laugh or smile, and move on to other things.  But unlike the one-issue comic stories I discussed previously, which are ‘fire and forget,’ those short comics (especially Perry’s) have me wondering about just what happened before and after the story.  How did that Bad Guy end up as a pony?  Who ended up winning the Fairyland Steampocalypse? Just why did Dr. Frankensteam create her Monster?

I also wonder if I am being given glimpses of a bigger tale that has been untold, or are these the scattered pages of a work that is not yet done even in the creator’s mind?  Or perhaps, like myself, all they want to do is make a quick joke or point and move on without having to write a whole book.  I can certainly relate to that!

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A Name On Paper

I do put BBQ sauce on my burgers…it’s like HE KNEW

I am old enough to remember when seeing your name in the newspaper was kind of a big deal.  I think it has something to do with the idea that lots of people are seeing your name, even if it is alongside a bunch of other kids’ names on the honor roll or the perfect attendance list of your small-town newspaper.  Or it could just be a small-town thing, who knows?

I still get a kick out of seeing my name in the newspaper and it has happened a few times since then.  I submitted an idea to the “Pluggers” newspaper comic that was used (at right), and made a ‘guest appearance’ in the “My Cage” newspaper comic strip after winning a writing contest on MySpace (remember them?) and was mentioned in an article about First Storm Manga that appeared in the San Antonio Express-News.

My Cage by Melissa DeJesus and Ed Power
We’re the ‘cool’ office

Every time it happened, I would buy a copy of the newspaper and cut out the article or comic in which my name appeared.  I even have the My Cage strip hanging in my living room.  I admit that it is a bit odd and probably the kind of thing that future generations won’t care much about as newspapers become less relevant in our increasingly connected world, but doggone it, its special to me.

I wrote a story named “San Japanic!” that became First Storm Manga’s first self-printed comic book.  I remember smiling when I opened up a copy for the first time and saw “Lead Writer/Editor: Eduardo Soliz” at the bottom of the inside cover.  While they weren’t my pictures, and not even many of my words, it was my story.

Furry Fiesta 2012 Conbook Cover
Art by Mary Mouse of micecomics.com

These days, as I try to get exposure as a writer, I have decided to send stories out to furry conventions in order to get my name out there.  I think its a good deal: they want the content for their conbooks, I like writing short stories, and unlike my usual lackadaisical writing schedule of finishing stuff whenever I feel like it, I have a set topic or theme and a deadline to work around.

The first one I wrote was “Bedtime” for SonicCon 2010, but I never heard back from them, so to this day I have no idea if it ever made it into the book…or if there even was a book for that matter.  The first one that I know was published was “All’s Well That Ends Well,” a short I wrote for Furry Fiesta that featured their mascot jackalopes. 

I remember being at Furry Fiesta and eagerly opening my copy of the conbook after receiving it.  I got that warm fuzzy feeling again as I saw my name near the top of page 28 in glorious black and white ink.  More recently, “The Hunter” made its way into the AnthroCon conbook, and I once again smiled as I saw my story in print.

It is impossible for me to know exactly how many of the folks that received those books actually opened them up and read my story, but knowing that thousands of folks have it in their possession feels much more real to me than anything I’ve ever put on a computer screen.

There’s just something about seeing your name on paper.

I AM EDUARDO, DESTROYER OF COMICS!

Magnus Robot FIghter cover art
We barely knew you...AGAIN

Archie Comics is going to give a go at resurrecting their superhero characters again, but instead of handing the reins over to DC Comics again (as they did in the 90’s with !mpact Comics as well as more recently) they are going it alone this time under the also resurrected Red Circle Comics imprint.  The New Crusaders is going to feature a group of teen superheroes that pick up the mantle from their famous forebearers under the tutelage of The Shield.  Sounds like it could be a nice ‘light read’ to add to my virtual pull-box over at Comic Break.com, but I won’t be reading it.

I won’t be reading  it because I want Archie Comics to stay in business.  Seriously.

I have developed a knack for reading comics that just don’t last for very long and have even had entire companies go out from under me.  Here’s the hit list so far.

  • Tekno Comix
  • Malibu Comics/Ultraverse
  • Valiant Comics
  • Impact Comics
  • Dreamwave Productions

And the books:

  • ExoSquad (only one issue!)
  • Buck Rogers XXVc by TSR Comics
  • William Shatner’s TekWar (twice!  Once at Epic and another at Blue Water)
  • The Tick New Series
  • DC’s recent reboot of the Red Circle characters
  • Dark Horse’s reboot of Magnus Robot Fighter and Solar Man of the Atom

Those are just the ones I can name off the top of my head, I’m sure if I go through my comic boxes I can find the remains of other promising books that I had liked but in doing so also gave them the  kiss of death.

If I didn’t know any better, I think I just might be a supervillain.  But yeah, I actually like Archie Comics and I’m already pressing their luck by reading their current Mega Man comic, so I don’t want to tempt fate even more.  Just sayin’.

Arc-Less

Godzilla Legends #1 Cover
RAWR!

I added Godzilla Legends to my pull box (or whatever Comic Break calls it) mainly out of curiosity.  The series was supposed to feature some of the other giant stars of the Godzilla universe.  I had never read a Godzilla comic before and except for watching “Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla” at the first Fanboy Flix a few months ago, I haven’t seen a movie starring Japan’s mean green machine in years.  Thus, I am hardly an expert in regards to the care and feeding of giant monsters, or ‘kaiju’ to use the proper term.  Despite that, I thought I’d give it a shot.

I got my first issue a few weeks later.  It was a fun read and Matt Frank’s art provided plenty of monster mashing action.  But there was something different waiting for me at the end of the comic.

It was the end of the story.  One and done.  That was it.  No cliffhanger or big reveal or plot twist to coax me into buying the next issue in 30 days.  Instead, there would be a completely new story with a new monster in the next issue.  I had no commitment to keep, I could stop where I was at and not spend the rest of my days wondering if Godzilla and Anguirus ever kissed and made up.

I kept the subscription and a month later, the second issue dropped.  I read it, enjoyed it, and eagerly waited for each new one to arrive.  There was something about reading a single issue of a comic book with a self-contained story that I had not experienced in years.  It took me back to when I read comics as a kid, before multi-issue story arcs and epic crossovers turned comics into big soap operas.  Seriously, even the new Mega Man comic I’m reading goes from one arc to the next, and that one is published by Archie Comics.

It is easy to write off the feeling as nostalgia, but what I really miss is the anticipation of not knowing what is coming in the next issue.  If I am reading a comic that ends with a cliffhanger, then I’m left spending the next month or so guessing just what is going to happen next.  If the story I’m reading comes to a complete end, though, I have no idea what is going to be in that next book.

I like that.  It’s sometimes fun to not know.

My 2012 Con Schedule!

Doing my thing at San Japan 4TW
Never forget your sanitizer!

Here is my con schedule for 2012.  Frankly, I’m surprised I never did this here before.  Unlike previous years, I won’t be ‘working’ at very many of these.

Ikkicon, Dec 30-Jan 1, Austin, Texas

Technically, this New Year’s Eve con is the first con of the year as well as the last one of last year, so there.  I’ve already done a writeup on it, so there isn’t much else.

Furry Fiesta, Feb 24-26, Dallas, Texas

Going to try something new this year.  Furry Fiesta will be my first-ever furry convention.  It will be interesting to see how similar and different this will be from all the other cons I’ve ever attended.

Mizuumi-con, March 31, San Antonio, Texas

Mizuumi con was one of the first anime cons I ever attended, and is a great place for newbies to dip their toes into the multicolored pool that is anime and manga.  At $15, its inexpensive to go to and the kids out at Our Lady of the Lake University make for a pretty enthusiastic crowd.

Aetherfest, May 4-6, San Antonio, Texas

Set in the beautiful St. Anthony hotel in downtown San Antonio and put together by the San Antonio Neo-Victorian Association, Aetherfest is a three-day steampunk convention that truly stands out with its costumes.  Steampunk attracts a slightly older crowd, so those looking for an alternative to the manic pace of other cons will find plenty to like here. Dress-up is encouraged, but not necessary, or to borrow the words of a certain Mr. Collins, there is ‘no jacket required.’

Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), June 5-7, Los Angeles, California

Of all the cons on this list, this will be one of the few that I will be ‘working’ at.  E3 is the Big One as far as videogame conventions are concerned, and I will be going there in my capacity as Editor of Original-Gamer.com to check out new games and talk to people and write.  It is an industry-only event, so not everyone can go.

Texas Comic Con, June 22-24, San Antonio, Texas

If anime isn’t quite your thing and you want to get your hero on, Texas Comic Con is the place to do it.  In addition to the loads of comic book, action figure and pop culture dealers there are a host of artists, independent publishers, and fan groups ranging from Whovians to Sith to Ghostbusters.  Guest of Honor Larry Hama and Lou Ferrigno are but a few of the names showing up to this one.

San Japan, August 10-12, San Antonio, Texas

Easily and consistently one of the best conventions I have been too, San Japan Mach 5 is upping the ante this year as they are moving into the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center this year.  The already-biggest fan con in San Antonio is about to get bigger, which should mean even MORE fun stuff to do.  Sadly, I may be ‘working’ at this one as well for Original-Gamer.com, but we shall see.

RealmsCon, Oct 12-14, Corpus Christi. Texas

RealmsCon is currently (as far as I know) Corpus Christi’s only anime and pop culture convention.  While it is a 3-day affair, my experience is that you can go and see everything in one day.  That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad convention, just a smaller one.

There may be a few other events I go to, but this is what I have planned for so far for the year.  ‘Working’ or not, this year should be fun on a bun!