The Perfect Monster

In my time as a comic book fan, I have read my fair share of books that deserve to still be in print. One of these books, and one of my all time favorite series, is:

Doc Frankenstein (2004)
Burleyman Entertainment
Creators: Geof Darrow & Steve Skroce
Writers: Andy & Lana Wachowski
Artist: Steve Skroce
Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: Comicraft

Doc Frankenstein tells the story of Frankenstein's monster who has adopted the doctor's name and embarked on a journey of self discovery since the events of Mary Shelley's classic tale. Frankenstein is immortal, being of already dead tissue, and lives through multiple eras in US history, always regarded by some as a saint and by others, a monster. Through his travelling years, he slowly starts to understand how important life is, and makes it his goal to preserve it. His main antagonist has always been the Vatican, constantly hunting him down for being an abomination and affront to the Lord. Through their persistence as well as the numerous people he has protected, monsters he's fought, etc. he is now a master of close and ranged combat as well as a great tactician... and a total BADASS. 

Alright now I'm going to talk about the plot of the first issue, and I may sprinkle some info from other issues in this article, but I won't go too much into plot because people should buy this book and read it. In fact, read it twice.

(Caution... this is SPOILER country...)
After a few montage pages of Frankenstein's adventures throughout the years and becoming more and more like Clint Eastwood, the present is revealed. Frankenstein now works for a peacekeeping organization that fights monsters that plague the world. He has a girlfriend named Monica, an immortal cowboy buddy named Tex, and a little scientist pal named Vickie (who has a Frankenstein'd dodo bird as a pet/assistant). All in all he has a pretty alright life, protecting people and being mostly human... until the Pope orders an air strike on the organization's base and everything [ironically goes to Hell.
(Now leaving SPOILER country)

The characters in this series are all entertaining, especially the development that they go through issue to issue. Characters make decisions that make you consider morality and loyalty. The factions of the characters are pretty clear, with people either being on the side of the Vatican or... not. Don't get me wrong, all of the characters are fun to read about but Doc Frankenstein is who will pull your attention the most (and rightfully so).

The art is just as masterful as the storytelling, especially in the faces that are drawn. Every single character shows the atmosphere of the situation. Frankenstein's face is drawn in a way that shows how much he has seen throughout the years. Even the characters in the background help show the severity of the situations portrayed. Each issue (and hopefully/probably the trade) has concept sketches and unused panels in the back as an added bonus. My only complaint (which isn't even really a complaint) is that the action scenes themselves make the issues end too quickly with how much they pump you up!

HOW COULD YOU GET THIS AWESOME BOOK?! I'll tell you! You can shop for the individual issues, of which there are 6 (I found all of mine in quarter bins) at local comic shops or online (it will probably be easier to find them online) OR you can buy the new trade that came out which is worth the value at $16.99 (or less at many websites). Both ways have benefits, the issues all have really cool cardstock covers, however they don't represent the complete series. The first graphic novel that was released VERY recently has issues 1-4 but volume 2 will have issues 5-8 (both 7 and 8 were never published). If enough people buy the volumes, there is a good chance the story will continue, which I am ALLLLL for.

This story is clever, smart, and a truly fun read. It is interesting to see just how people (and religious figures) react to the monsters of the world and reinvents some creatures which we have all read about before. If you are a fan of classic monsters, action movies and excellently written plots then this is completely for you.

Not to mention it is a VERY rare opportunity to save an incredible book that was previously cancelled.

Sifting for Gold #3

How can you tell a comic will be just grand? When it is supporting soda products!

Racewarrior #3 (2000)
Custom Comics of America

This book has a cover! Let's talk about it. We have a car exploding in the background with two goblins watching on the hill above. Meanwhile, a boy who loves checkered patterns rides his Proffesor X wheel chair and mushroom cut into the darkness. What I gathered from this is that it was going to be a real tortoise and the hare story. I don't trust that dog... he knows something.

Tell me your secrets...

I would like to note that this is issue 3 of what was supposed to be 38 issues, however if you Google the Racewarrior comic series, you will find a total of 8 were published. 

I'd really like to touch on the douchy cast of villains, because they are all listed in the front/back cover with headshots. We've got Andwar "Andy" Gosolow, who has a doctoral in "Street Smarts" with some studies in "Meanies of Moscow". Next is Lube Jobb, who is an accomplished nurse/martial artist/mountain climber/cybertechnologist. Tyler "Ty Rod" Rodney Roberts is known for surviving the most wrecks in IRF history, and is "Driven to win!" We have Skippy Skidmark and Bubba Pothole, "first cousins born on the same day to two sisters married to two brothers," professional yes-men. Then rounding out the villainous cast is Reggie "Thrasher" Jones, who simply dislikes the world.



Okay so the story starts out with Marv Pittman who is test driving his car with a new driving suit which monitors body functions and send them back to a computer. It also allows him to boost the engine in his Sunkist sponsored car because... science. Oh my mistake, it's DIET Sunkist. So he finishes up and takes his kid, Speedy (future Professor Xavier), fishing. As people do, they get hungry so Speedy goes to fetch lunch from the car only discover that some d-bag dog started eating it!

Lunch consisted of grey juice, Nickelodean green slime, a drumstick, a small brick of cheese, and sooooooo much cardboard.

So the doctor who made the driving suit calls and says that Team Up (the baddies) have tried to sabotage the suit and want all of their secrets. This informative call is interrupted by Gosolow, who somehow found out where they were (probably Twitter... in the year 2000?), wants to recruit Marv to Team Up. Marv shuts him down and takes Speedy back to the track for more practice without eating lunch or catching a single fish (failures). It turns out that Team Up DID sabotage the suit, and when practicing racing, Marv gets kicked off the side of the track by Ty Rod (and his 7-UP car). On his descent, Marv ends up hitting...

After that this chick named Olivia, who owns the track, doesn't want Marv to race, because people are clearly gunning for him. Luckily though, the main pit crew fellow always gives her fruitcake, so she decides to be cool with it. So the next day rolls around and it's time to race and Marv is all "Wait... if I don't wear the racing suit then it can't be sabotaged." Therefore he wins the race. Gosolow gets pissed and has a mystery driver swerve into Marv's truck while he's driving Speedy and the dog to go fishing. Speedy and the dog somehow fall out of the car which saves them, especially the dog who is ENTIRELY uninjured. Speedy starts yelling for his dad and it's implied he didn't make it.

Then the words "The Present" appear in a narrative box and Speedy is in a wheelchair. THE END! Oh yeah and after the main story there is a spotlight on professional "Racewarrior" Mark Martin and his son, Matt. This is getting heavy... hopefully this photo of a man clearly only eating hamburger buns will help.

Allllriiiiiight art! The art is a lot like the other comics that came out clearly to advertise for products and events. In other words, it's fine, and it gets the story across, but it feels a little cheap and rushed, character figures don't always match (see the villains), and colors are kind of goofed at time. 

I mean c'mon though! It's called Racewarrior! It's sponsored by 7-UP! 

If I were to pick one panel to sum up this issue, it'd have to be:

Nashville Comics: The Noggin of a Twenty-Something Year Old

Let's talk about the head of someone in their twenties. Not this guy writing this post, but someone else. Let's talk about:

Twenty Nothing is a brand new comic book written and drawn by Lauren R., a citizen here in my neck of the woods (represent). This indie book revolves around the writer, her thoughts, and her experiences. I would consider the book to be partially autobiographical, but in a very comedic way. The stories are all presented as 1 page vignettes, each showcasing how Lauren perceives situations and what she's thinking. Being in the same age group, I found myself able to relate to many of these thought processes. That being said, it shouldn't be hard for anyone to find this humorous. In many ways the style is akin to a more grown up Archie comic, by which I mean there is a central character who interacts with a supporting cast and ends every situation ends in a punchline.

The art style is similar to a lot of the up and coming artists in The Best American Comics anthologies and fits the stories very well. Lauren chose to use hatch marks for all of her shading which gives a great look to a lot of the panels. In many ways the art reminded me of a mixture of R. Crumb (as far as character detail) and Craig Thompson (in terms of human figures and reactions).

This is a very confident and humorous look at someone's life. This issue has 19 single page stories that you will get through pretty quick, but you will be left wanting to read more of Lauren's humorous thoughts. I'm not sure how long the series is going to go on for, and of course I suggest picking up this work to support the creator, but I would love to eventually see a collected edition or an online archive for these tales.

There is something about a brand new comic writer/artist's work that feels good. From the sketchy art style to the staples combining the pages to the continuous tampering/practicing with layout, you can really feel the hard work put in. Currently, this book is on it's second printing, otherwise known as the Drunk at Kinkos Special Edition. If you live in Nashville then you can pick this book up at the Brainfreeze Comics section at The Groove. If you DON'T live in Nashville then you can pick the book up at Lauren's Etsy:

Thanks for reading, and come back Wednesday for a special soda sponsored Sifting For Gold.

Spooky Comics for All Hallows Eve

With Halloween right around the corner, I figured every should get into the spirit of the season with some stellar reads. These descriptions and books are all for volume 1 stories or stand alones. Annnnnnd begin:

Coffin Hill is an ongoing series published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint with a story by Caitlin Kittredge (Nocturne City) and pencils/ink by Inaki Miranda (Judge Dredd in 2000 A.D.). This creative duo works well to to give a disturbing and intricate story centered around Eve Coffin and the disastrous witchcraft she practiced with her friends as a teenager. Going back and forth between her teen years, where she was a selfish and indulgent girl, to her adult years, where she is a Boston cop who has a better understanding of the consequences of the dark arts and the evil that always accompany them, the character displays serious growth that continues throughout the whole story.

Eve returns to her hometown only to discover that the sinister forces in the local forest that took one of her friends and institutionalized another are once again at work. With the help of an ex-flame (of sorts) she tries to uncover why the evil has returned as well as how to stop it, while simultaneously spurning the contempt from the community, insisting she is a murderous witch (an accusation that is only half true). If you like eerie mysteries and twists on every turn of the page, then check this out. The first trade is only $9.99, so you have nothing to lose but a great story to gain.

Afterlife with Archie is a new twist on well known characters written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Dead of Night featuring Man-Thing)  with art by Francesco Francavilla (The Black Beetle, Zorro). Everyone knows of Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, and the gang, which makes this story cut even deeper. Familiar characters get put in terrifying situations and each issue (or the first volume which is currently out) leaves you wanting craving even more story. While having an infinitely more somber tone than the previous stories in the franchise, this story still gets the tone of the characters and their relationships. You don't need to know much more than the typical cast to understand the story. Even if you've never heard of the Archie gang before it's still a great zombie tale that brings some new concepts to the table.

I won't spoil this because one day I absolutely will podcast about it, but the gist what's going on: Jughead's dog was hit by a car, so he visits Sabrina the teenage witch (who some of you may not have known is an old Archie property) to see if she can help. That's all I'll say. For $17.99 you can get the first trade of this series. Also, if you like this story, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 was released this month. It is another dark retelling that will make you think twice about the character.

North 40 was put out by Widstorm, another DC imprint, with story by Aaron Williams (Diablo) and pincils/colors/ink by Fiona Staples (Done to Death, Saga). This story is basically a combination of Twin Peaks and an H.P. Lovecraft story. There is so much to look at and so much weight in every characters dialogue that it is hard not to read this in one go.

This is the story about two late teens/early twenties citizens of a small town who try to perform some dark magic. Soon, bizarre creatures are unleashed in the town and the citizens start to go through horrific changes. Though not the scariest of tales, this story definitely draws in readers with it's depictions of Lovecraftian creatures and the ways the townsfolk deal with them... or become them. There is only one volume of North 40, containing the 6 issues of the story that were printed, but I'm hopeful that one day more will happen with this intriguing tale.

The Nail was published by Dark Horse and written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Lot 13) and Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects) with art by Jay Fotos ('68). It is an original B-Movie gore fest transformed into a book, and should definitely be read as such. If you are looking for something incredibly deep then look away, but for those looking for a violent and fun story, check it out. 

Here's the deal, there is a wrestler who goes by the stage name The Nail (because he fights with nails between his fingers) who is touring with his family, a fellow wrestler, and his manager. They start to hear weird noises and see Satanic bikers (with badass masks) only to discover that they are traveling over a burial site for a Satanist who is rumored to want the lives of virgins! And anyone else who is around, but mostly virgins. They SHOULD leave, but the bridge is blown (surprise) so it's up to The Nail to fight for their safety.

The story is silly and bloody, as I have already said. It's available in trade, however if you can I would get the issues (there are only 4) because the cover art really unique.

There are lots of other great horror comics out there. All of the ones I have listed are original works. If you would like some familiar territory, you can check out some some serialized properties such as the Deadspace comics, Alien comics, Silent Hill: Sinner's Reward or Silent Hill: Past Life, Trick 'r Treat, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Strain, and many more.

For some more eerie original stories, you can check out Crossed (just a warning, this is reeeeeeally graphic), The Final Girl (for more of that goofy B-movie feel), Bedlam, Cut, the list goes on and on.

I'll post again before the 31st, but just for kicks I'll say Happy Halloween!

Sifting for Gold #2

Now for the most sought after book in Marvel Comics' library:

Mort The Undead Teenager #2 (1994)
Marvel Comics

Let's take it from the cover! As it states, he is young and stiff. That's the big takeaway here. So we have a pale dude with a ginger mullet that is about to get his throat slit by an electric guitar being played by a skeleton that is getting his leg humped while he rides on a skateboard. If the knife guitar doesn't do him in... the sun with the ghost teeth will! It is important to mention that none of this has anything to do with the actual contents of the book.

Note that his watch is scared into oblivion!

Alright so the book starts with some folks watching a scary movie where some kids are using a ouija board (happy Ouija Awareness Month btw) in the middle of the night at a creepy summer camp when all of a sudden Mort (Ginger McMullet) bursts in with a chainsaw and starts hacking everyone up!

Then he rips out of the movie screen for more mayhem, but luckily, everyone just assumes it's super crappy 3-D so they don't worry and he just gets discouraged. At that point his undead mentor, Teen Death, the leather jacket clad skeleton, takes him to the Netherworld of Adolescent Demise and explains that they don't need more teens killed due to dismemberment, and to start scaring/killing/maiming people a different way or he is going to turn him into a Kalikak brother (I'll get to those misguided youths later).

Mort gets sent to his high school where only his friends Slick and Weirdo can see him, and in their next class the teacher brings up how sad it is that Mort died but most of the students didn't know who he was. However, that doesn't stop them from using the distress from his death to get out of doing homework (like you do).

After school there is an unnecessary scene with his family followed by band practice at Weirdo's house. Mort's crush Kimberley (the Pink Ranger probably) shows up and hits it off with the band, specifically with Slick, who is allll about it. Teenagers, right? Mort tries to sabotage this newfound love but only succeeds to make crazy electrical noises that make their band sound even better. 

If Supernatural has taught me anything, it's that when ghosts get mad they turn into poltergeists and KILL EVERYTHING. Now, this is only issue 2 of 4, but I really can't see this series ending any other way. We are talking about a sexually repressed teenager who wanted more out of life and is forced to watch his crush flirt with some other schmuck... Destruction is imminent!

Throughout the book they keep referring to the Kalikak brothers, Teen Death threatens to make Mort one, Slick accuses Mort of licking the Kalikak brothers' sister's ear (#1 screw grammar, #2 gross), and then at some point kids just see of them and calls him gross. Typical 90's bullying, really. Now you might be asking "Yo Drewsif, what does one of these mysterious Kalikaks look like?" to which I would respond "Feast your pupes on this!" (see below)

I guess Kalikak is code for "post midlife crisis high school student"...

In case you can't tell, the art in this book is similar to the art in other 90's pop culture mediums, such as Bevis and Butthead or Ren and Stimpy, etc etc. The story suffers what a lot of comics suffered (and still do occasionally) which is a writer trying to figure out how "kids these days" talk. That's how you get sayings like "Glom these", "Caramba", and a classic, "Totally boged out 3-D".

That being said, this book is attempting to bring humor to comics in the 90's which is an incredibly valiant effort. A lot of the comedy in 90's comics came from serial comics, Spider-man's one liners, and occasional rarities (Quantum and Woody, sometimes Deadpool, that sort of thing). Maybe we will get lucky and Mort will be in the next Avengers movie!

If I were to pick one panel to sum up this issue, it'd have to be: 

As always, thanks so much for reading!

The Darkest Show On Earth

Come one come all to the review of the brand new book by Black Mask Studios:

Pirouette #1 (2014)
Black Mask Studios

Writer/Creator: Mark L. Miller (@mark_l_miller)
Pencils/Ink: Carlos Granda
Colors: El Comic En Linea Foundation
Letters: Jim Campbell
Prod. Artist: Vincent Kukua
Producer: Matt Pizzolo

Man... I despise the circus... I don't like the treatment of the animals, clowns are obnoxious, and I don't trust the vendors...

THAT BEING SAID, Pirouette doesn't make me want to go to the circus (if anything, it makes my opinion of clowns worse), but it does make me curious about the lifestyles of the people who work at them. 

Pirouette is a young clown who travels with Samwell's Circus. She is very gifted, not only in clowning around (har har) but also in acrobatics, tom foolery, and pissing off her "dad," the main clown nicknamed The Duke (real name not included). Mark L. Miller writes her as a character able to receive an abnormal amount of abuse, while being constantly clever and upbeat with a strong personality that matches her large heart. Pirouette feels like there is more she should be doing with her life, and this first chapter in her saga proves that it will be a terrifying and fascinating journey.

I'll try to keep this as short and spoiler free as possible. The book opens up with Pirouette trying to remove the make-up from her face, and right off the bat sucks the readers in by showing her tear her own face off, which is tastefully showcased on a two page spread (tastefully in the sense that they didn't feel the need to show her whole skinless face, which I greatly appreciate). From those first 3 pages, some may be thrown off, thinking the story is just going to be another gore-porn story in the vain of some Avatar comic titles, however from the preceding pages that doesn't seem to be the case. After that unpleasantness, the story goes into an average day in the life of Pirouette, as she entertains children, pisses off some of the other performers by stealing the spotlight, and enrages The Duke to the point of physical abuse. Ending on a mystery 2 pages worth of text in the making, this first issue is stuffed full of soulful story and disturbing/intriguing characters.

You can't talk about this story without bringing up the main antagonist (although you can argue that most of the circus acts as one). The Duke is a truly disgusting character, expertly written by Miller. He has an ideology that "a clown is a clown," not a person who can simply take off an outfit and make-up, almost as if they are their own race. This ideology is embraced by the other clowns (minus Pirouette) to the point that any clown removing make-up or trying to be normal in any way will forcibly be shoved back into the role, how much force that takes relies on the clown. He has raised Pirouette for 15 years and it is clear that the abuse she receives is nothing new, almost to the point where it no longer phases her. This personally hits me in a hard place. Being a father I get so angry when I see other folks doing stuff like this to kids, real or fictional, it always makes me mad. As I get down from my sopabox, I'd also like to note that Granda does a great job of drawing this character, always with cross, squinted eyes and his hands on his belt... or his belt tightly gripped in his hand.

Granda as well as the El Comic En Linea Foundation work together to make each page look like a twisted work by Windsor McCay, not so much in composition, but in the controlled busy-ness in every panel. The colors create two worlds in the book: the crowd in the background that is enjoying everything that the circus has to offer (with an earthy hue) and the drama/pain happening with the main characters (which is more colorful than the bystanders to subtly drag the eye).

In case it's not clear, I really enjoyed Pirouette. It strikes some uncomfortable cords, but it is rare for a book to give you this much intimacy with the protagonist. The publishers website currently shows that at least four issues will be printed, though I'm not sure if it's a mini or supposed to continue on past that. 

It is definitely worth a read and aids Black Mask Studios, therefore aiding creators. Quit clowning around (wokka wokka?) and find it at your local comic shop or visit!

Thanks for reading!

The Latest Disclaimer

Short disclaimer that I'm sure doesn't actually need to be posted...

Music City Comics was a comic book publisher between 1989 and 1991 that released 2 series: Cat Kind, consisting of one issue, and Titan, consisting of four.

I have read neither... yet.

This website is in no way affiliated with that publisher or the books that they have produced.


Comic Book Publishers Embracing Creator Owned Works

Long titles like the one for this article suck, but lots of creator owned comics don't! Here are a couple of companies that largely support creator owned works in comics:

    Top Shelf Productions was founded in the late 90's and in my opinion is the main proprietor of indie works in the comics community. Obviously, lots of publishers and creators put out independent works, but TSP successfully collects and releases them most frequently. They are very versatile and have works ranging from Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Events to Craig Thomspon's Blankets to various childrens series. Most of these works are released exclusively as graphic novels, providing a complete story.

     Probably the most popular and well known publisher of creator owned works, Image Comics was brought into existence in the early 90's and has produced great titles such as Spawn, The Walking Dead, Saga, and my favorites, Sex Criminals (if you like when people do it and time freezes, check this out). Image is not afraid to take risks and put out stories that many publishers wouldn't dare. If you want to give them a shot then check out one of the books listed above, or take a chance and pick up one of the new number one issues that get released at least once a month! Oh and check out Scott Snyder's, Wytches (not pronounced 'wie-chiz'... I think) it's brand new and absolutely terrifying!

    Black Mask Studios is a BRAND NEW company that was founded in 2012! So yeah, squeaky clean. This publisher was specifically made to support new comic book creators and artists. There are 10 titles listed under this imprint so far, specifcally Last Born, Liberator, and Pirouette (which I will be reviewing soon), each with a unique style and intriguing storyline. With this company still new, it is the perfect time to jump on and give these books a chance and support the teams.

Yeah gang! Definitely check out these companies. Each has something different, creative, and necessary to making the comic book industry the unique hodge podge of writing and art that it is.

These companies all have titles available on their website for purchase if you'd like to peruse.

Thanks for reading!