For The Love of Indie #28

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Writer: Chuck Paschall
Artist: Vince Riley
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Writer/Artist: Eric Colossal
Publisher: Amulet Books
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Writer/Artist: Sam Spina
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Writer: John Lees
Artist/Colorist: Alex Cormack
Letters: Shawn Lee
Publisher: Comixtribe

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Comic Releases for May 31st, 2017

A Hero In The Cycle of Addiction

An article by, Aaron Burton

In my time growing up in the United States psychoactive chemical substances have been broken up into two categories: regulated and illegal. They also include pharmaceuticals prescribed by doctors. Under the law, many of these chemicals are regulated in terms of access and abuse. I think we are all familiar with the variety of illegal drugs. In most cases, these substances are prohibited outright. Regulations and prohibitions are only as powerful as the people applying them. These parties can be seen in every aspect of the United States government. This includes both federal agencies and local police departments.

You can't spell enforcement without force. The laws and regulations surrounding drugs, both legal and illegal, are upheld through our legal system. Enforcement comes in many flavors including property loss, incarceration, and violence. People can be fined, locked up, and even suffer physical harm in the face of breaking drug laws. When you add these elements together you are left with what our society refers to as The War on Drugs.

Drugs aside, when any product is prohibited it gains its place in what is called the black market. These products are typically more expensive and dangerous to acquire than their legal and regulated counterparts. Sellers of illegal products cannot call upon law enforcement to protect their property rights. This forces the seller to take matters into their own hands. This is where we see much of the violence connected to The War on Drugs. The mere fact that certain items are illegal causes people to commit brutish acts to keep themselves safe and in business.

What happens when an individual plays both sides of the fence? This creates quite the conundrum in the face of legal morality and is a motif seen in the 2015 revamping of The Black Hood. This character was first introduced to comic book readers in the 1940s. This character is a property of MLJ Comics, now known as Archie Comics. The 2015 retcon is published under Dark Circle Comics, an imprint of Archie Comics.

The classic character of The Black Hood is a police officer who moonlights as a costumed hero. He is known for both his detective skills and fighting prowess. The 2015 version, created by Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos, adds a unique twist to the character. It is still about a cop who decides to become a vigilante. The difference comes in when officer Greg Hettinger becomes addicted to painkillers after being injured on the job. During his recovery, he decides to don a black mask and enact his own brand of vigilante justice on the drug dealers in his hometown of Philadelphia. This shift in perspective pushes the character into antihero territory as opposed to being the model “White Knight” hero.

As you could have guessed, the subject matter in this book is dark. Swierczynski’s writing gives readers insight into the bleak outlook held by the main character. These feelings are enhanced by Gaydo’s art style. The visuals are just as dark and gritty as the story. The use of shading and darkness gives the book a vibe similar to pulp comics of the past. These creators hit the nail on the head in terms of building a harmonious relation between the art and writing. It is a truly immersive reading experience.

No one is perfect, but reconciling imperfections is what develops a person’s character. This book does a great job of showing the duality between someone who believes in upholding the law and someone addicted to drugs. Though these two ideas are not mutually exclusive, the blending of them offers up interesting questions in morality. Can you break the law and still be a good person? Is it hypocritical to enforce the laws you yourself are breaking?

Swierczynski and Gaydos excel at creating a character that walks this line. Throughout the issues you can see how Hettinger's addiction affects the people in his life, especially those trying to help him during this traumatic time. At the same time, you get to see the effects of a vigilante locking up criminals, a concept near and dear to the hearts of comic book lovers. Readers will get to see the characters struggle with their own personal philosophies on almost every page. 

The Black Hood offers a unique look at the antihero genre while providing readers with an insightful look into the effects of drug laws and regulations. Greg Hettinger may not be the cleanest hero in comic book history. He is, however, a prime example of what a hero could look like in a time where drug enforcement is at the forefront of the legal system. He is a victim of The War on Drugs while simultaneously being a proponent of the same ideology. This classic character has been reinvented for the modern era, and the gritty pulp-noir style serves as the perfect medium for the themes held within.   

For the Love of Indie #27

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This episode we are joined by J.T. Yost!
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See some comic characters that have struggled with addiction here

Artist: Logan Faerber
Letters: Warren Montgomery
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Writer/Artist: KC Green
Publisher: Oni Press
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Artist: Lo Baker
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Writer/Artist: Junji Ito
Publisher: Vertical Comics
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 Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Tyler Jenkins
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Writer/Artist: Luke Healy 
Publisher: Nobrow Press
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Writer/Artist: Jim Mahfood
Colorist: Justin Stewart
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Writer/Artist: David Rubin
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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Comic Releases on May 24th, 2017

Watch What You Reboot

An article by, Aaron Burton

Did you hear that they are rebooting American Idol? And Twin Peaks? And The X-Files? And Stephen King's IT? We live in a time where reboots and remakes are one of the most common forms of movie and television property. Some attribute this to a lack of creative and original ideas. Others will make the ever-popular "the original is better"-style false dichotomy argument. Outside of these naysayers one fact still remains. Nothing hits the spot like nostalgia.

The human brain remembers hits more than misses. The average person does not have vivid memory of every mundane work day. We have all heard someone we know mutter the idiom "I can't even remember what I had for breakfast". On the contrary, humans save space for the special moments in life. Both tragic and joyful moments are burned into our long-term memory.

This concept is what creates our lust for nostalgia.  A person's favorite movie reminds them of the way the felt during their first viewing. Hearing an old song can bring a person back powerful visions of times past. These are moments in one's personal history that hold special value. Many will say that nostalgia reminds them of "better times" in their life. However, that moment is most likely surrounded by days and weeks of humdrum existence filled with trials and tribulations current to what they are currently experiencing.

This predisposition for special moments in the past is what makes us lust for the perfect reboot. After countless viewings of the source material we are ready to see our favorite characters re-imagined and back into action. These restarts come in many flavors. There are books that are remade as movies. Our favorite comic books come to life as animated series. Stories and characters can be revamped in the same medium, or transcend into a completely different format.

While we love to see stories rebooted and re-imagined, we tend to overlook the true victims of this approach. We never consider how the characters themselves feel about their universe being turned upside down. How would you feel if you woke up every few years in a similar yet vastly different life? Take Evey Hammond, the heroine from Alan Moore's V for Vendetta, for example. She found herself being rescued by the vaudevillian vigilante V while she was a struggling teenager. All of the sudden she finds herself in the same situation as a twenty-something working for a television network. She didn't ask for this. Her life was drastically altered for our entertainment.

Those of you who are nostalgic about 1990s indie superheroes may be familiar with Supreme. For the uninitiated, Supreme was a character created by Rob Liefeld in 1992. The character eventually received his own series published by Image comics. This hero was eventually reinvented by the famous Alan Moore. Many compare Supreme to DC's Superman, and that comparison seems to hold a bit of truth. Supreme was later recreated by Warren Ellis and Tula Lotay in 2015. This reboot was in the form of a seven issue mini-series entitled Supreme: Blue Rose. On top of being a gritty and psychedelic noir drama, Supreme: Blue Rose serves as a commentary on comic books which reboot their fictional universes.

We always think of universe reboots as happening smoothly. Campy wisecracking Batman transitioned into the Gothic noir Dark Knight without a hitch. We won't even talk about the many destructive events involving The Joker's facial tissue. In Supreme: Blue Rose Ellis and Lotay tell the story of characters who do not have a fluid experience with a reinvented universe. The story truly embodies the colloquial "glitch in The Matrix" scenario. This is what makes the story so compelling. The veil has been lifted on the true effects of restarting timelines.

Supreme: Blue Rose does a good job of making the reader feel just as confused and disoriented as the characters. Many of the pages are covered in blue scribbles, for example. The dialogue is often vague and cryptic. The story jumps around at an unpredictable pace. Multiple stories and timelines blend together. The reading experience is as chaotic as the story itself, and will have you questioning if you can really trust what you are seeing.

The moral of the story is: be very, very careful when rebooting your fictional universe. Your decisions can have a profound effect on the existence of your characters. Are the feelings of nostalgia worth it? Are you sure that you can responsibly make changes your story without having a negative impact on the people you feel in love with the first place? I am not saying don't go for it...just be careful.

For The Love of Indie #26

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Support the Kickstarter here
Writer: Scott Schmidt
Artist: Brian Atkins
Colors: Juan Ignacio Velez Gaitan

Writer/Artist: Penelope Bagieu
Publisher: First Second
Buy California Dreamin' here
Find info on The Mamas & The Papas here

Writer/Artist: Charles Forsman
Buy Slasher #1 here
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Writer: Kiwi Smith
Artist: Kurt Lustgarten
Publisher: Boom! Box
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Writer: Pierre Paquet
Artist: Tony Sandoval
Publisher: Magnetic Press
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Writer: James Venhaus
Artist: Pius Bak
Publisher: IDW
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Writers: Peter Mirani & Andrew Maxwell
Artist: Derek Dow
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Writer: Jeff Loveness
Artist: Juan Doe
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
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Writer: Buddy Beaudoin
Publisher: Gentleman Pickle
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Comic Releases on May 17th, 2017

Hip Hop and Comic Books: Doppelgangers in the Best Sense

An article by Aaron Burton

Can you name a hip hop artist who has not made a reference to comic books in their lyrics? I have tried, and I have failed. I remember having this very conversation with my girlfriend as we laid in bed listening to hip hop records. She challenged me by asking to find a comic book reference made by Eminem. I ran through many songs worth of lyrics in my head until we both had the "duh" moment. We had totally forgot about the song from 2003's The Eminem Show entitled "Superman".

Many indie hip hop fans are familiar with artists heavily influenced by comic books, such as MF Doom and Czarface. Old school lovers may be aware of when Ghostface Killah was sued by Marvel for all of the copy write-pushing Iron Man imagery. These accounts just scratch the surface. Hip hop and comic books have a longstanding relationship. What better way to honor this relationship than by creating a comic book that chronicles the history of hip hop? Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree does just that.

In addition to telling the complex story of the origin of hip hop, Piskor hides what I feel to be the most important part of the series in the back of the book. A short comic called "The Hip Hop/Comic Book Connection" beautifully describes the relationship between the two mediums. Both art forms, in their modern sense, started in New York. Some say New York City is the best city on Earth. Though that statement is conditional to subjective opinion, I am forever grateful to have been born in the state that developed two of my favorite types of media.

Hip hop artists embody many of the same qualities that comic book readers love about super heroes. Both pronounce their character through the use of alter egos. When Clark Kent suits up he becomes the nearly-invincible Man of Steel. When Trevor Smith steps onto the stage he becomes the maniacal wordsmith known as Busta Rhymes. Both characters personify the strength and courage a lot of us wish we had. That said, this demonstration of ego is merely a facade. It is the front made to show the best representation of the human spirit. As much as superheroes are at the mercy of the people they have vowed to protect, hip hop artists are at the mercy of the fans. Superheroes need to use their powers for good in order to make the world a better place. Rappers need to use their powers to entertain and inform.

The connection between hip hop artists and comic books goes much deeper than the aforementioned personality traits. The iconic formats in both hip hop and comic books seem to mimic each other in even the most minuscule of details. One of the most exciting aspects of listening to a new hip hop album is finding tracks where multiple artists collaborate. A prime example of this is Pusha T's 2011 hit "Trouble on My Mind". Pusha T features Tyler the Creator on this track, and the two blend their own distinct styles to make a truly unique hip hop song. This team-up is no more odd than when early nineties comic book readers were treated to Batman/Judge Dredd crossover comics.

Hip hop artists and superheroes also team up to form some of the most famous groups in all of media history. Some of the most famous hip hop groups include Run DMC, The Beastie Boys, NWA, and A Tribe Called Quest. The other side of the coin shows The Avengers, The Justice League, and the X-Men. They say there is power in numbers, and these two mediums are no exception.

Both superheroes and rappers are no stranger to in-group fighting. Way before Drake and Meek Mill, Batman had beef with Superman on the pages of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Nas and Jay-z's diss tracks are nothing compared to the idealistic struggles found in Mark Millar's Civil War. Conflict will always arise within groups, but hip hop artists and superheroes take it to the next level.

Whether or not you enjoy both hip hop and comic books it is hard to ignore how these two art forms fit together like two pieces of an urban sprawl puzzle. The similarities are so uncanny you would have thought Stan Lee was orchestrating the whole thing. I learned a lot of history from reading Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree. The most important concept I learned, however, was how two of my favorite kinds of art are in a relationship much deeper than I would have expected.

Saga's Multifaceted Use of Speech Bubbles

PREMIERE article by, Aaron Burton

My first memory of comics is from around age six. My stepfather made the wise decision to bestow upon me his large collection of Archie comics. Ever since then I have been intrigued with comic books as an art form. I am lucky to be old enough to remember comics before they were considered to be a specialty hobby item. I was greeted by the faces of my favorite characters every time I went grocery shopping with my mother, and every time we had to step into a convenience store.

Comic books, unlike music or movies, have the dual responsibility of telling a story through both graphic art and visual text. Every page is lined with with the artist's vision accompanied with text meant to both describe and narrate. Speech bubbles and narration boxes are the standard in driving forth the plot in our favorite stories.

The text in comic books can be, and often are, just as visually compelling as the images themselves. However, when the two blend together the readers are treated to the true potential of comic book storytelling. Fans of Ennis and Dillon's Preacher can remember the power evoked by Jesse Custer's red eyes accompanied by his violent crimson God voice. Gaiman buffs are all too familiar with the character-specific fonts found in The Sandman.

Saga, a space opera created by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, take this concept to a new level. For those unfamiliar with the popular Image comic, it is a science fiction tale that embodies romance and tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. We all know of the conflict of the Montagues and Capulets. Saga introduces readers to the struggles between the Landfallians and settlers of Wreath. These two societies are constantly at war, but two of their citizens miraculously find love and start a family.

The beings of Wreath have a native language with the fourth-wall meta name of "Blue". This language is used both for speech and using magic. Blue is presented in, you guessed it, blue text. What makes these language special is that it is written in an obscure real-world language known as Esperanto. This language was created in the late 1800s and was used to make international communication easier. To the common English reader, this language looks familiar to Romance languages such as Portuguese or Italian.

This is an incredibly creative approach to storytelling. Both the characters and the readers suffer from the race's language barrier. At the same time, the language is familiar enough for readers to pick up on the gist of the conversation. This element adds a new depth to the comic reading experience. Readers are further pulled into the story as they are immersed into the language and culture of the two warring races.

On top of the bilingual conversations of the two main species of characters, readers are also entertained with the dialogue of the Robot Kingdom. These humanoid creatures represent a royal family in the story and have televisions for heads. As one would expect, the robots speak in what we could consider a "digital" dialect. This is represented in their speech bubbles with a boxy, sharp cornered font. This adds another layer of depth to the story playing out in the readers imagination.

What makes comic books special as an art form is the combination of art and text. This sets comics apart from all other visual art forms. Skilled comic book artists and writers enhance this relationship by using the comic's text to further enhance the storytelling experience. Vaughan and Staples' Saga not only embodies this technique, but raises the bar for future comic book storytellers.