Issue #2 of Unbreakable Valor, which I helped create for Panasonic, is now available online for free. A sequel to last year’s debut, issue #2 is written by me, with pencils by Lee Moder, inks by Mark Pennington, color by Mike Atiyeh, letters by Troy Peteri, edits by Phil Smith, and additional art by Bart Sears.
Once again, it’s a fun superhero yarn highlighting Panasonic’s Toughpad products, featuring the heroes of the League of Valor. This time, they take on their nemesis Doctor Analog, as well as a collection of escaped super-villains with names like Electricindy, Tall Tail and Killa Gorilla. The entire issue can be read for free online, at Panasonic’s site:
Previously, the only place to get a copy of The Protectors #0, the debut offering from Athleta Comics, by me, artist Bart Sears and NFL player Israel Idonije, was at a convention appearance. Now, however, the Athleta Comics web store is up and running here:
You can find both cover versions of The Protectors #0 in signed and unsigned versions, as well as a 13 X 17 lithograph of the issue #1 cover (limited to 100 pieces), by Bart Sears, Mark Pennington and Neeraj Menon.
Other items available include the first posters in the Athleta Heroes poster series, featuring Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Brian Urlacher. Bart Sears provided art for all three posters. Athleta Comics T-shirts are also available, in both a three-quarter sleeve model, and a gray athletic model.
Hope you find something you like, as we gear up for the debut of The Protectors series later this year.
I’ll be appearing at the Albany Comic Con on Sunday, Nov. 11, in Albany, NY. The show is once again being held at the Holiday Inn on Wolf Road in Albany; the show has filled all the available space and continues to grow. Show hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and admission is only $5.
Albany Comic Con is my “hometown” show, and easily one of my favorite events. It’s an entirely comic-oriented affair, put on for the purpose of growing the hobby and attracting new readers (especially kids) to our medium. As always, the guest list is long and impressive, including legendary inker Joe Sinnott, writers J.M. DeMatteis, Ben McCool, Charles Soule, David Rodriguez, artists Lee Moder, Tom Raney, Matthew Dow Smith, Fred Hembeck, Richard Clark, Mark McKenna and many more.
I’ll be doing a panel discussion in the afternoon with J.M. DeMatteis about writing fantasy in comics. It’s one I’m looking forward to, as I’m a real admirer of J.M.’s work, especially the fully-realized fantasy worlds he constructs.
I’m also happy to announce that Lee Moder and I will have copies of the Shinku Volume 1 trade paperback available at the show, prior to its release in comic stores on Nov. 14. The collection includes the first five issues of our creator-owned series, plus more than 35 pages of extras, including sketchbook pages, pin-ups and the original black-white-and-red ashcan, all for $15. I’m very proud of what we’ve put together.
I’ll be bringing other items for the table, so if you’re looking for something in particular, please let me know in the comments section. I’ll also have free promotional posters for Blackburn Burrow (the Amazon Studios series by me and Matthew Dow Smith), and free cards for The Protectors, the 2013 series by me, Bart Sears and Israel Idonije of the Chicago Bears.
Lastly, Albany Comic Con will also be conducting a silent auction of numerous pieces of original art to benefit Ronald McDonald House. Many of the artists attending the show contributed new Superman-themed pieces, including Joe Sinnott, Lee Moder, Matthew Dow Smith, Paul Harding, Richard Clark and others. How often do you get a chance to see Joe Sinnott draw Superman?
Issue #2 of Blackburn Burrow, the first comic project from Amazon Studios, has gone live in a variety of venues. Based on a screenplay by Jay Levy, the book is written by me, with art by Matthew Dow Smith, color by Jordie Bellaire, and a cover by Brian Stelfreeze.
As with the first issue, the full issue #2 is being offered up for free as a Kindle download, on Facebook, and on Graphicly. Yes, another 20 pages of comics, completely free. The full details on the formats can be found on the Amazon Studios blog, Hollywonk (I’ll also have a post there in the near future):
The mystery in titular town deepens with issue #2, as supernatural hunter Mister and his new companion, Merrin, descend into the depths of the mine. Deadly danger awaits them, as well as revelations neither of them is prepared for. Amazon Studios is very interested in reader feedback for the series, so please take a few minutes to complete the survey that follows the issue.
12 Gauge Comics put together Blackburn Burrow for Amazon Studios, pairing me with and my pal Matt Smith, and bringing in the great Jordie Bellaire for colors. Collaborating with an artistic team like that isn’t work, it’s a privilege. We’re all having a great time, and I hope that comes through in the pages.
Free comics are good, right? Good free comics are even better. Available right now from Amazon Studios is Blackburn Burrow #1, by me, artist Matthew Dow Smith, colorist Jordie Bellaire, letterer Troy Peteri and cover artist Brian Stelfreeze. The package was put together by 12 Gauge Comics. Blackburn Burrow is a four-issue adaptation of an Amazon Studios screenplay, and the issues are being offered free.
Set during the waning days of the Civil War, Blackburn Burrow is the story of a man known only as Mister, who is engaged in an ongoing battle with the supernatural. In a remote Georgia mining town, Misters finds terrors beyond any he has ever faced, as well as shocking secrets to his own past. There’s adventure, there’s horror, there’s even a little romance.
At Baltimore Comic Con, Matt Smith and were on hand along with the Amazon Studios team to give away special print editions of issue #1, as well as posters featuring the great Stelfreeze cover. For anyone who wasn’t at Baltimore, issue #1 is available free in a number of digital formats. You can download the issue for Kindle here:
To make it even more enticing, Amazon wants your feedback on the story, and is offering $5 gift cards for completing a brief survey after reading the issue. That’s right, you get $5 for reading a free comic. Pretty great, right? The survey can be found here:
I discovered this Oscar-nominated short film, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” via my friend, author and illustrator Jim Gurney, on his Gurney Journey blog (which you all should be following anyway). It’s a delight that will likely have you in tears by the end (that’s what it did to me). Created by Moonbot Studios, its obvious influences include “The Wizard of Oz,” Buster Keaton and, of course, the love of books. It certainly (and silently) captures the way I feel about books, and I wanted to share it.
The film was co-directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, with terrific music by John Hunter. Joyce is one of my favorite children’s book illustrators and authors, and his influence is obvious if you’re at all familiar with his work. Delightful.
Both stores will have a limited number of copies of the FCBD offering I wrote this year, which is Silver Scorpion from Liquid Comics. The concept for Silver Scorpion was jointly created by handicapped school children from the United States and Syria, as part of a project sponsored by the Open Hands Initiative. I wrote the script, and the incredible Mukesh Singh provided the art. I have to admit, it’s pretty cool to have written a comic with a quote on the back by President Bill Clinton. A preview of Silver Scorpion can be seen here:
I grew up on Conan. I devoured the Ace paperbacks that gathered the original Robert E. Howard prose tales with pastiches by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. I’m sure the initial attraction there was the Frazetta cover imagery; what boy could resist those? In fairly short order, I discovered Conan in the comics, drawn to the black-and-white magazine Savage Sword of Conan more than the color Conan the Barbarian monthly (both from Marvel). Presumably this had more to do with the higher quotient of violence and nudity in Savage Sword. I kept up with a few comics at the time, like Avengers and Uncanny X-Men, they were a distant second to bloody swords and heaving bosoms.
Conan was always a “checklist” character for me – one of those characters I wanted to write at least once in my career. I’ve been able to put a mark next to a lot of the character on my personal list: Tarzan, the Phantom, Batman and a number of others. But an opportunity to write Conan hadn’t presented itself until now. My editor at Dark Horse, Dave Land, offered up the chance during the San Diego con, asking if I might like to do an eight-page story that would see print in USA Today. He didn’t have to ask twice, especially with my friend Bart Sears in place to draw it. The result can be seen here:
Obviously eight pages is not a huge amount of space for a one-and-done story, especially one that needs to introduce the main character to an audience that might not be familiar with him. Thus, the use of the familiar Nemedian Chronicles passage on page 1. The rest shows off Conan as he’s meant to be, complete with the trappings of a lovely maiden and some horrific opponents who need killing.
I can’t think of an artist whose sensibilities mesh better with Conan and his world than Bart. He and I have talked about doing a Conan story numerous times through the years, but it never came to fruition until now. Here’s a pretty fascinating blog piece from a Bart fan site, showing off the process of putting together the story’s art, with lots of previously unseen images:
When I flew into San Diego last year for the annual ordeal known as Comic Con, a friend of mine (who lives in San Diego) picked me up at the airport so I’d be spared the line at the taxi stand. Arriving at roughly the same time were artist Kenneth Rocafort and his sister Jessica, who were in San Diego for the first time ever, and had been routed from their native Puerto Rico to Philadelphia and finally to San Diego. So I’d arranged to pick them up as well, and give them a ride to our hotel.
After a few cell calls, we found Kenneth and Jessica at a neighboring terminal. But before even loading their luggage into the car, Kenneth handed me a large envelope. Inside was the original for the piece of art you see here, a pin-up for my Dragon Prince creator-owned project that Top Cow had published. I was stunned, to say the least, both by Kenneth’s generosity and the sheer awesomeness of the piece. Kenneth had offered to do a Dragon Prince piece at the Baltimore Con the previous year, but I figured it’d just be a quickie in my sketchbook at some point. I certainly didn’t expect … this.
When we publish the Dragon Prince collection, this will definitely be in it, along with unseen art by series artist Lee Moder (including an unpublished cover) and co-creator Jeff Johnson. Also, there will be some more Dragon Prince news announced within the next month or so.
As for Kenneth, he and I are of course collaborating on the Velocity mini-series right now. Issue #1 will be in stores on June 30, and if I do say so, Kenneth has drawn an amazing-looking issue. He’s an absolute joy to work with, and I sincerely hope our work on Velocity is just the first of many projects together. You can check out Kenneth’s blog here.
I love Indiana Jones. Probably even more than Star Wars. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is my favorite movie, ever. To this day, I remember the day that “Raiders” was released in theaters – June 12, 1981. It was the same day that the original “Clash of the Titans” was released. My friends and I wanted to see both, and there was great debate over which to see on opening night. The decision, ultimately, was “Clash” because we figured Ray Harryhausen monsters were a pretty safe bet, but this “Raiders” movie was an unknown, except for starring Han Solo.
(A brief aside: Harrison Ford has a home in the same town in which I live. He’s not seen here very often, but he’s been known to fly into the local airstrip, get a cup of coffee at the diner across the street, and then head for his place. So … pretty cool.)
Anyway, on Friday night, at the Mayfair Twin theater in Kingston, NY, we went to see “Clash” and enjoyed it well enough for a movie with Harry Hamlin in a skirt. Saturday night we lined up for the early show of “Raiders” … and I was transfixed. It was all familiar, but I had never seen anything like it. It was fantastic, with a dose of the supernatural, but it was all believable because the main character – Indy – bled and sweated and strove and even failed. The pace was so break-neck that I would’ve sworn the whole thing went by in mere minutes. It was as much of a transformative experience for me as seeing the original “Star Wars” four years before. The film ended, with the Ark essentially lost again in a vast warehouse, and my friends and I left the theater. We got right back in line, and saw it again immediately.
I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the Indiana Jones comics Marvel published. I wasn’t paying attention to comics in general at the time. A few movies later, the license passed to Dark Horse, by which time I was reading comics again. Eventually I was writing them, including some “Star Wars” comics, which led me to inquire about tackling some Indiana Jones stories. Still hasn’t happened, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
I bugged Dave Land, my editor at Dark Horse, on a regular basis about doing an Indiana Jones series, mini-series or even a one-shot. But with Indy seemingly in retirement, there was no traction to get something going, the theory being that if there wasn’t a movie to boost interest, there wouldn’t be enough of an audience for a comic to make financial sense.
Then the rumors of a fourth Indy film started to sound more real. So my Samurai: Heaven and Earth compatriot Luke Ross – also a big Indy fan – and I put together the pages you see here. I wrote this three-page sequence, and as you can plainly see, Luke did a truly amazing job on the art. The pages feature Indy in the Himalayas, relieving Nazis of a Tibetan treasure, with an Asian femme fatale as his sidekick. And, since the setting was Tibet, we simply had to include a yeti.
Page 3 (With snow fx)
The nugget of the story was inspired by something I’d seen on the National Geographic channel, detailing German expeditions into Tibet in 1938-1939, led by an SS officer and zoologist named Ernst Shafer. There’s some evidence that Shafer’s purpose, or at least one of them, was a search for the purported roots of the Aryan race. You can read more about the historical expedition here .
The sample pages were successful in that they landed Luke the gig of drawing the adaptation of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” There was an additional mini, “Indiana Jones and the Tomb of the Gods,” after the adaptation (my buddy Bart Sears ended up filling in on some of the art), as well as a few animated-style “Adventures” editions. But that’s been about it in terms of new Indy material. If nothing else, we got Omnibus editions reprinting the previous Dark Horse and Marvel comics.
I hope these pages aren’t the total of my dalliance with Indiana Jones in comics. But even if they are, I’m pretty pleased with them.