Life in the Skies

Diesel #1

Written/Drawn by, Tyson Hesse
Letters by, Jim Campbell

How could this happen?! An incredible comic came out and I was TOTALLY caught off guard by it! Diesel #1 came out on September 9th and it is incredible. This four issue mini is released under Boom! Studios' Boom! Box imprint which seems to pump out nothing but hits such as Lumberjanes, Giant Days, Power Up, basically all stuff that I fall in love with. This series is written AND drawn by Tyson Hesse, who has previously worked on a bunch of commercial properties such as Bravest Warriors, Sonic, and The Amazing World of Gumball. He also has a great webcomic called Boxer Hockey which YOU can check out here!

This story takes place in the floating, mobile city of Peacetowne, where a young woman named Dee Diesel is working in a mechanical shop and whiling away the hours until she can become captain of the city. Dee clearly has a lot of ambition and passion about the air-based land mass, but all of the characters find her to be too juvenile to hold so many peoples' lives in her hands. Regardless, her tenacity gives her the confidence to believe that she was born for this, and in a way she was. You see, the Diesel family was largely responsible for the creation of Peacetowne and made it the flying metropolis it is today. Dee, being the last of the family's bloodline, gives her a sense of entitlement. She is joined in her endeavors by her constant robotic companion, Rickets, who participates and encourages her... rambunctious behavior. Will she prove everyone wrong and provide more prosperity to Peacetowne? Can't say, but a shocking turn of events may give her the chance!

Hesse has spun a yarn that, for me, felt sort of like a whimsical mixture of a Miyazaki movie and the Dark Crystal, the former more than the latter. As some of the community is introduced to the reader we see a variety of human and humanoid characters, each with their own tone and disposition. Though we are introduced to numerous characters in the tale, Hesse makes it very clear that this is Diesel's story, essentially working as a chronicle of this strange day in her life. The real writing success of this story is the enjoyable dynamics between the characters. Dee is often times treated as sort of a pesky younger sister but how the other characters deal with that is comedic, character defining gold. Specifically her relationship with the current captain, Cap Wells, who feels that Dee's impetuousness could turn out to be a serious problem. There's a lot of story going on in this first issue, and a ton more is sure to come in the next three.

Hesse's art style is gorgeous. The character models, human or not, have a unique charm that aids to the fantasy elements of the story while making the ready more curious about what everyone's role is. Every outfit adorned by the characters is jaw dropping and mostly ranges between colorful seafaring attire and grease monkey wear. As a location, Peacetowne is "bigger on the inside" as we are shown the island from further away and it does look like a small city, but as we see characters interact within it becomes full of life and constantly growing. Aw man and this robot is great! Look, I'm not one to compliment artificial intelligence, as I am nervous of the consequences, but Rickets is one cute robot. With human-like body language, this mostly silent character gets a personality of his own and a tangible friendship between him... she... it and Dee. Actions, particularly electrically involved actions, (you'll have to read it to understand what THAT means) are treated with an explosion of color giving a sense of power behind certain sequences. Finally, I would like to mention the design. The book uses simple grid layouts and grid over image layouts to give just the right amount of importance to certain scenes and a wonderful indication of where your eye should go next.

Normally, I mention "if you like this, this, and this, then try this book out" but honestly, I think this is for everyone. There is a fair amount of action amidst an ocean of charm with no lack of well written, appropriate dialogue which will not hesitate to give numerous comedic, smile inducing moments. Hesse has a huge hit on his hands, and people really need to know about it. This is an example of a story that you shouldn't trade wait on. By that I mean, let this writer/artist know that you are interested so we can see more of this exceptional work! As I mentioned earlier, this comic came out on September 9th and costs $3.99. You can probably still find it out there and it is worth every penny. 

A Poet, You Know It!

The Poet and The Flea

Writer/Artist: G.E. Gallas

You know what's nice? When people like to share there work. G.E. Gallas presented me with a sample of her comic which will soon be available for backing on Kickstarter and it gave me a lot of thinking to do. William Blake was an extreme, sexually ambiguous, religiously rejecting poet/painter... suffice it to say, an interesting fellow. This here title gave you the chance to take a look at a unique experience in his life, and in my case provided me with some research to do. I found myself educated by looking up this gentleman! But this isn't about me, let's took about this book.

Blake lives a life that revolves around his wife and his art, the latter moreso than the former. He is also tortured, feeling that there is something approaching, though he isn't entirely sure what that something is. In the world outside of his home, an evil is washing over the area, and when it finds him it forces him to confront what he, as a person, always wished to avoid... personal corruption.

This story takes the form, when broken down, of a historical fiction. Gallas has a fundamental understanding of Blake and his poems, choosing to insert them into the story in ways that link him to the approaching evil but also helping the reader understand him as a person. Stressing the importance of personality but also the struggle between being an artist and reality, Blake is shown as a man of extreme talent and intense vision as he confronts the villain known as "the Flea". Gallas has an intriguing approach to having a true literary icon face the darkness of corruption and self doubt, with dialogue that gives a certain elegance to the interactions.

Gallas's art is home grown and exhibits a confidence, as she puts her spin on a real life character in his younger days. Introducing us to the ideas and dreams of this character shows an ability to illustrate cosmos and fantasy, as well as producing a worthy adversary of the artistic mind which is flamboyantly intimidating but nonetheless sinister. As the included images show, this comic is a greyscale sketch style, with lavishly drawn human figures and a sensitivity to fashion and culture of the times (1790). The backgrounds all use shading in a sparing yet effectual way, while the gothic architecture meshes well with the character models.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, Victorian fiction, and the late great poet/artist William Blake, then check this bad boy out. The Poet and the Flea is a close, cerebral look at an intriguing character through the pen of a creator who clearly knows what she's talking about. This graphic novel comes out... when it's funded! The Kickstarter goes live on October 1st, throw a couple bucks it's way and help bring this vision to life!

Life in the Woods

Tales of Woodsman Pete

Completely by Lilli Carre

You know what publisher is just great? Top Shelf Productions. There has been quite a few classics from the company such as Box Office Poison, Essex County, March, Chester 5000 (see last entry for details), a new Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas adaptation, the hits are obvious and numerous. Way back in the year of 2006, a quiet classic emerged known only as, Tales of Woodsman Pete. This book was written, drawn, lettered, etc etc by Lilli Carre, whose art is distinct and ranges from sculpture to illustration to film and beyond! Check out her works here!

Tales of Woodsman Pete is exactly how it sounds... tales of a little old woodsman! We see every facet of Pete's life as he lives alone in the woods and enjoys chopping down trees, hunting, taxidermy, and just enjoying nature. His best friend in the story is his bearskin rug, Phillipe, but he also enjoys speaking with his mounted animal heads as well as the local woodland creatures. We also see a sort of origin story to Pete's surroundings, as tales are told of Paul Bunyan and his travels in the area. This may sounds crazy, but this is an extremely intriguing character study into an unlikely character.

 Primarily, Carre chronicles Pete's life and shows his current activities. However, through the taxidermied creatures he speaks with we see that he is more than just a crazy old hermit, but also a man who has some pain in his life. The character definitely has a few screws loose, but all the same we see that his life of seclusion is in many ways due to the death of a loved one, leaving him to age alone in the forest. That being said, the character of Pete has a pretty constant optimism and in the stories he tells lies wisdom that is honestly pretty profound. That being said, don't feel the need to look too deep into it, because more than anything else this is just a fun little set of tales. Behind Pete are the tales of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Ox, each of which shows the difficulties Bunyan constantly has and his hope for a romance that can never be due to his size. These short segments serve as journeys into the mythology of the woods in which Pete resides.

The art is primarily line work using dark blue inks (not present in my pictures as I am using black & white scans), with the occasional panel being shaded for extra detail. Where Carre really excels is in her textures, especially in hair. Whether it's Pete's beard or Paul's hair, Carre patterns it to have an understandable texture that is very enticing to look at and ads a whole new level of style to the book. She also adds extra details to certain background characteristics, the mounted heads in particular, making Pete's interactions with them feel a little bit more twisted. Finally I would like to discuss the environments. Most of the backgrounds are relatively empty or completely filled with trees. This characteristic of the story provides the reader with a sense that both Pete and Paul are truly alone in an endless sea of green, with the exception of Babe of course.

Sometimes a story comes out with no context and exists only to introduce a character into our world. That's what we have in Tales of Woodsman Pete. That being said, there is a serious charm to the story, as well as an intriguing sadness buried under Pete's optimism. Carre has written/drawn a obscurely whimsical character that you grow more interested in throughout the book. If she wanted to create another collection of these short stories about the old man who lives in the woods I would not be opposed, but for now this is enough. It's a somewhat difficult book to explain, but this book has a unique style and something to enjoy on every page. Tales of Woodsman Pete isn't a ton of money, your best bet for picking this book up is by going to Amazon.

Maybe Skynet's Not So Bad

 Note- There are no super inappropriate pictures in this discussion so it isn't super NSFW. If your fellow employees can read though... they might raise an eyebrow.

Chester 5000 XYV 

Totally by, Jess Fink
Published by, Top Shelf Productions

My my my! What a steamy tale! This summer in good 'ol upstate New York, there was a new convention held at a local library called Electric City Comic Con and it was fantastic! It was small, free to get into, lots of activities for kids, and a whole mess of creators (many of which were local which is neat). Among those creators was Jess Fink, who has previously worked on Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors, Smut Peddlers, We Can Fix It, and a bunch more including a story called Adventures Into Mindless Self Indulgence which I am quite intrigued by. YOU can check out some of her art and buy some stories right here!

The year is 1885 and love is in the air! This story begins with the young couple Pricilla and Robert, who are slightly at odds, as Robert must continue his inventor duties and Pricilla is very enthusiastic and sexually charged. To make sure his wife is getting what she wants, Robert invents the Chester 5000, a robot meant to satisfy his wife when he is not available. Switching the mechanical man on using a key hole on the crotch, Pricilla soon discovers that this might be a pretty darn cool arrangement. As time goes on, Pricilla and Chester begin to have feelings of more than just lust and function, while Robert wonders if he made the right decision.

Sounds pretty nuts right? Well it is! In a great way! Fink has created a totally silent tale which showcases the human condition in terms of desire, love, jealousy, happiness, and more expertly. There is clearly a glimmer of sci-fi and steam punk genres that seep into this tale, but honestly what you will find is more of a look at folks trying to make each other happy and the benefits/consequences of that. Now look, I'm usually not a huge fan of books with little to no dialogue, but when an illustrator knows exactly what they're doing it just resonates in every page and every panel, and that's what's happening here. We may not know what these characters are saying, but we don't need to as we can easily understand many of their feelings. The subjects of sexuality and desire can be very tough to tackle, but Fink clearly had a story in mind and the end product is pure (not so much innocent) fun.

If you are familiar with Jess Fink's art or clicked on that helpful link in the first paragraph then you have an idea what this may look like, but your idea is probably wrong. Using a style that is just as cartoonish as it is attractive, we see characters drawn with clear intent drawn in every face, and actions which can never be misconstrued. It's a style which seems slightly similar to her always enjoyable look, but put through a filter that is much different than what you've seen before. Essentially, there are four characters in the story, Chester, Robert, Pricilla, and another woman, each of which are largely unique among their fellow cast members. Fink's decision to stick with a smaller group has proved invaluable to this story, as we got to see much of what drives them and a good amount of their characterization in a way that gives each one importance in this story. Of course, you can't talk about an erotic Victorian robot story without mentioned the... intimacy. Right off the bat we see intercourse in the story and as the book goes on and the characters grow closer those acts get more and more crazy. Let's just say that Chester is one talented automaton! One of Fink's largest strengths in this book is her conveyance of emotions during these sexcapades, as between them there is always pleasure but also a sense of romance and joy. It's nice... in a dirty but also just nice way.

Alright so listen, in case you haven't figured it out by now, Chester 5000 is NOT "SFW". Don't let that deter you though. Not everyone may be into stories that could be considered erotica, but all the same there is some series heart and some enticing visuals that make this read intriguing, fun, sexy, and smart read that isn't afraid to push the boundaries. This hardcover costs $14.95, a steal for the amount of work put into it! Thanks for reading folks!

Nailed It!

Jem and the Holograms
IDW Publishing

Story: Kelly Thompson & Sophie Campbell
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Art: Sophie Campbell
Colors: M. Victoria Robado

What's this? Jem? Drew, you discussed this book on this very blog six months ago! You're right, I did, but now the series has completed it's first arc and I have to give credit where credit is due. The series is written by Kelly Thompson WHO has a new book coming out this month called Heart in a Box! Search for it, it sounds awesome. Sophie Campbell draws this first arc. She has previously worked on Shadoweyes, Wet Moon, Glory, and The Abandoned (check out the podcast feed for my episode discussing that fantastic story).

The story, essentially, focuses on a group of 4 young ladies (sisters) and their band. Thanks to an incredible piece of technology, the the stage fright riddled lead singer of the band, Jerrica, is able to produce a hologram that allows her to perform confidently. That hologram's alias, obviously, is Jem. Thus, Jem and the Holograms are born and the internet goes crazy! Their popularity (and talent, of course) gets them into a battle of the bands hosted by/against another musical group known as The Misfits. The 2 bands become pretty instant rivals, and as the end of the arc is approached that rivalry becomes a bit extreme. Look, there's a lot going on, but that's this arc in the smallest of nutshells.

Thompson has reformed these characters in a way that pays respectable homage to the source material and what the fans want while still bringing something truly extraordinary to the table. The first issue gave each member of JatH solid voices, as we got snapshots of the band members personalities. As the series goes on though we see this explosion of personality as the characters deal with not only the stress of the band, but also relationships, responsibilities, publicity, and keeping a strong friendship/sisterhood. Thompson makes sure every character has their strengths and never feels the need to hide what they are thinking. Creating a world that many of us strive for, with a confidence in gender, sexuality, body, and ability, we see a wonderful cast of characters that people of all ages can enjoy and (at least for the main characters) look up to. We also get an incredible cast of villains. The Misfits and their assistants provide opposition that clearly threatens the success of JatH, but never to the point where the nature of the story is disrupted. There is humor and fun that remains constant throughout this whole story, as well as an obvious dedication to producing unique characters with just a pinch of nostalgia.

Campbell's art here is something to behold. As soon as you see the whimsical shapes and defining character make up on the first page you are sucked in, but then as the issues add up you see a direct evolution of comfort in these characters. By the end of this arc the visuals become absolutely captivating. That is especially apparent in the lavish outfits that the ladies get throughout the series and the hair styles that accompany them. It is pretty rare to see this level of detail being put into character definition, but here we are and I'm damn thankful for it. The panel layouts are primarily classic and produce an episodic nature to each page, with almost a cinematic take on close ups of faces. For the most part, the characters take up about 90% of the panels but when the need arises, Campbell jumps at the opportunity to provide background detail. This is most apparent during the parts when music is actually being performed and the lyrics are written into visual effects that make it look like actual concert lighting emanating from the stage. Also, I won't say how or why these are in the story, but guitar motorcycles are really damn neat. Further adding to the neon, lively atmosphere of this series are Robado's colors. There is a clear level of detail in making sure that even when having characters of a different color scheme (The Misfits) they still match this vibrant world. The colors also succeed in further accentuating the concert feel of the music scenes. 

Look, I don't look at sales numbers, so I don't actually know how this book is doing. What I do know is that those who aren't reading this are missing out! Granted, this title isn't for everyone, but it's absolutely worth a try, because there is a wealth of entertainment value in this series. Campbell and Thompson are clearly confident in their product, and that is apparent through their incredibly styled, well written characters and the general tone of the book. This series is all ages I'd say, as it maintains a fun but innocent story throughout. There is something in it for everyone whether it be good values, fun competition, or just a general love of music. Issue 6 came out on 9/4 but I'm sure that a trade can't be too far off, and check it out next month when #7 comes out with a new artist (at least until issue 11)!  Give it a shot, you have nothing to lose but a hell of a great series to gain. Oh, and one last thing. Check out some of the fan art, there's some cool stuff out there.


Cheer Up

Hic & Hoc

Completely by Noah Van Sciver

Good ol' Hic & Hoc! The little publisher that could. With each title from this dynamite new underground comc company I get more impressed. They have such a diverse wealth of talent and put out some really insane books (read my opinions on Fedor here). Amongst that talent pool is Noah Van Sciver. This gentleman has written and drawn an impressive amount of creator owned titles including Fante Bukowski, My Hot Date, Saint Cole (those 3 titles all came out just this year!) Blammo, and many many more. Check out his WordPress to find out what he's up to and buy the wares he's peddling.

This here zine shows various shorts spawned from Sciver's mind to cheer people up (more or less). Each dark comedic story has at least 5 good chuckles in it with subjects ranging from comic convention checklists to transdimensional party creatures to a pretty realistic depiction of book stores to everyone's favorite cartoon character, Sponge Chuck Thrift Store Pants! What more do you need! All in all, this zine has 12 vignette's and each is even more hilarious and outrageous than the last!

One thing that is very clear in these stories is that Sciver likes to give a humorously cynical albeit realistic depiction of events. This was most apparent to me two seperate times. When going over the comic con checklist, every panel gives a pretty accurate representation of things that you can (and often times will) find at a convention. It's hilarious seeing the "worst of the worst" scenarios all on one page. The second most honest is the segment "Scenes From a New & Used Bookstore" in which you see a variety of people that you can picture very well to actually exist. Sciver just gets these situations and occurences and jots them down in a way that doesn't disrespect them but rather gives the reader a sense of "Heh, I get it". Most importantly is the humility in this book's dialogue. It's clear that Sciver is by no means using cynicism to put down the things he is talking about, but rather bringing dark comedy to various different subject matter. I have to say though, there are a couple of stories where he really just goes all out, letting his imagination wander to tell these over the top stories and they are the best parts of the book.

Sciver has a very underground, sketchy style. This book is far from his first rodeo, and in his time in the comic scene he has definitely cemented a style of his own. Cheer Up uses a variety of hatch marks, lines and scribbles to give elaborate background detail without being too loud about it. His character models are similar throughout, with the main variances being in heads and facial expressions. Their are times when the faces are drawn in a more realistic fashion to force the reader to visualize what the character would look like in real life, and it's a very successful effect! The other facial expressions are comically over exaggerated to bring more humor when appropriate. Besides humans, he also includes some other interesting humanoid characters in this collection which are play off of characters we all know but gives them a new, far more adult look/voice. I would love to see a version of this colored by Sciver because his palettes are incredible, but that being said there is really nothing I can complain about, Cheer Up looks great!

Noah Van Sciver set out with this comic to cheer folks up, and if they (YOU) read it, they will! With adult humor and familiar situations as well as some outlandish stories, it is not hard to laugh yourself to tears with this title. Hic & Hoc has a great voice in the independent comic scene and it's super awesome that Sciver was able to contribute to that! This book is only $5 and your best bet to find it is to use Storenvy. Oh look, a link! Thanks for reading, friends!