Gung Ho for Equality

An article by, Aaron Burton

Perception is everything. There are two sides to every story. Everyone who is susceptible to skeptical and rational thought have heard this advice many times. Our bias toward the world we live in causes us to make presuppositions in our logic and arguments. No matter how objective you try to be, these assumptions are always persistent in our thinking and communication.

I can't think of a single time I have asked someone if they like pizza. I've asked people what type of topping they like. I've had what feels like endless discussions about crusts, shapes and sauces. Pizza is one of the most popular foods in American culture, and I make the assumption that every person I meet likes it. This is a small bias that I have and it has affected my behavior. Add this bias to every other possible opinion and it is easy how important perception really is.

Gung Ho is written by Mike Loniewski with art by Mihajlo Dimitrievski and lettering by Marco Della Verde. It is published by Red Fox Comics. There is currently one issue of the comic available which was released in November of 2017.

Oliver is an ape who lives in a world where anthropomorphized animals live among st humans. The animals make up the lower class in the societal structure. Oliver is known to the world as Gung Ho, and is known for his involvement in a militant group of animals. After betraying his leader, Gung Ho attempts to promote equality in his own heroic way. 

Gung Ho is a story of perceptions, and does an excellent job of layering them all together. The plot contains multiple facets of oppression. The militant animals can been seen as freedom fighters or terrorists. The super heroes might be protecting the world, or they could be oppressing the animals in the name of humans.  Are the humans bigots? Or are they correct about the dirty, uncivilized animals?

This book excels at building a world where its inhabitants embody a variety of opinions and biases. Each group in Gung Ho has their own ideology on how to fix the world. Some characters want to fight oppression with violence. Others want to see a peaceful resolution. There are open-minded characters who are willing to change their perception while others are stuck in their ways.

Gung Ho is as fun as is it thought-provoking. The animals are drawn in humanoid form and have blended into American culture. Readers are treated to hoodie-wearing iguanas, a ape in a monkey suit, and a buff tattoo-covered rhinoceros. There are even fantasy-style characters such as dwarves and elves.

The art in Gung Ho is colorful and detailed. This lends itself well to the book's over-the-top combat and sarcastic sense of humor. Gung Ho finds a way to discuss serious ideas without holding back on humor and action.

I will admit, when I saw the cover art and summary of Gung Ho my biases kicked in. I assumed this book was going to be gritty and serious. I was surprised and delighted at how well the story was able to blend multiple tones and elements. The writing and artwork compliment each other perfectly. This really helps bring the book to life. I hope there are many more issues of Gung Ho in the future.

Gung Ho is available on Comixology.

FTLI #45- Cats, INTERVIEWS, Erotica

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Written & drawn by, Niki Smith
Originally published on, Filthy Figments
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Written & drawn by, Marc Jackson
Published by, Weirdo Comics

Written & drawn by, Junji Ito
Published by, Kodansha Comics 
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Written & drawn by, Tia Guts
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Written & drawn by, Sabrina Elliott
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Written by, Andrew Wheeler
Drawn by, Paulina Ganucheau
Published by, Oni Press

Written & drawn by, Hazel Newlevant
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Releases on December 13th, 2017

Post-Apocalyptic Grief

Grief is one of the most difficult processes a human can go through. I recently lost a family member. It wasn't the first time, but it always feels like it. It is hard not having that person to talk to anymore. This is a tragedy because after they are gone is when you would like to talk to them the most. 

Literature has a unique way of capturing the imagination. The books provide the art and story, but much of the adventure takes place in the mind. The pages give the story but it is being told through the speaker that is your internal monologue. This offers a way for the reader to emotionally connect with the writing. This is part of what makes reading comic books so great. This is especially true on occasions where the content of the book aligns with the way you are currently feeling. I was lucky to find one of these books this week.

Lifeformed: Cleo Makes Contact is a post-apocalypse science fiction graphic novel written by Matt Mair Lowery with art by Cassie Anderson revolving around the survivors of an alien invasion.The book came out on September 19th of 2017.

Cleo is young girl who finds herself in a battle against intergalactic forces. This is where she teams up with a rebellious alien who has shape-shifted into Cleo's father. Together the two wage war against the invading alien threat. They form a friendship with allows the alien to learn about humanity. It also gives Cleo an outlet to process her father's death.

One of the best parts of Lifeformed's writing is the development of Cleo's relationship with her father. With her father gone, Cleo needs to find her own way of dealing with this loss. Cleo's alien companion lacks knowledge of humanity. This gives Cleo what is essentially a clean slate of her father. She can work through her feelings with a strong and compassionate alien friend who happens to look exactly like her dad. This is a very creative and entertaining way to develop a character. 

Anderson's art in Lifeformed is stellar. The use of black areas as well as muted colors adds an entire new layer to the book's shading. If the characters are in a dark area the panels have a solid black background. Scenes with low lighting often utilized muted versions of the original colors. Sometimes the panels contain both of these elements. This greatly helps immersion into the story. Danger can be around any corner. Suspense is built by only allowing the readers to see what the characters can see. 

The artwork is not the only factor creating suspense in Lifeformed: Cleo Makes Contact. Right from the start Cleo knows that the aliens can shape-shift to look like humans. This means that anyone they encounter can possibly be an alien in disguise. The lack of the ability to trust strangers is a staple in post-apocalyptic literature. Lowery and Anderson come together to tell a humorous and thrilling tale. 

I thought this book was fantastic. This book does a phenomenal job of balancing drama, action and humor. The art was colorful with aspects reminiscent of German Expressionism. It honestly never stopped being entertaining. It definitely what I needed this week. 

Lifeformed: Cleo Makes Contact can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is also available digitally on Comixology.

Deep Space Cuisine

An article by, Aaron Burton

During my breaks from college I worked as a television salesman at a dying local department store. The lack of customers turned the job into one of talking and watching TV all day. The only TV connected to cable had parental controls enabled. The password was long forgotten by the managers. The Food Network was one of the only channels we could leave on all day that would not hit the parental locks. Ever since then I have loved cooking.

There are many comic books that are centered around food, such as Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds and Brian Wood's Starve. As a I child I watched a four turtles binge-eat pizza. As an adult Layman and Guillory's Chew helped me rediscover my love of comic books. Needless to say I get a bit excited when I find a book with a food-driven plot.

Wonton Soup is written and drawn by James Stokoe, who is known for his work with IDW's Godzilla series as well as Image Comic's Orc Stain. Wonton Soup dates back as early as 2007 with the collected edition being published in July of 2014. The book is a space opera-comedy combining humor with epic science fiction.

Johnny Boyo is one of the most talented chefs on his home planet. After realizing his cooking school was killing his creativity, he drops out to travel the universe and sample all of the foods that other worlds have to offer. He funds this excursion by starting a career as a space trucker. This is where Johnny is paired up with a stoned and perverted sidekick named Deacon. Together the two go on an epic journey where they fight space ninjas, get high on ancient alien artifacts, and eat good food.

Stokoe does a brilliant job of weaving the classic slacker story into an epic space opera. For every dramatic turn in the plot there is also a series of jokes and humorous situations. There are even points where the fourth wall is broken. At one point Stokoe admits that he got too high to finish drawing the panels, and jokingly urges his readers to fill in the blanks by leaving them two blank pages.

One of the most impressive aspects of Wonton Soup is the world-building. Every planet Boyo visits is filled with unique creatures, foods and ingredients. Stokoe excels at normalizing extremely outlandish characters and concepts. Of course fish can be cooked by throwing grenades at the meat. I have no doubt that the flavor is enhanced by shooting the fillet with plasma bullets. Once you are committed to the universe of Wonton Soup everything makes perfect sense.

Wonton Soup is drawn in black and white. This leaves certain challenges artistically as the story calls for the darkness of outer space. Stokoe found creative ways to accomplish this task. In many of the outer space scenes where the background is mostly black, the characters are drawn with a while outline around their bodies. This keeps the characters from blending into the background and gives them an interesting look as if they were cut out of a separate sheet of paper. Scenes with lighter backgrounds are given extra depth with the use of Ben-Day dots.

I had a great time reading Wonton Soup. I read it over the course of a three hour flight. This book made time fly. Stokoe's art style is really great. He does a lot of creative choices in this book. His art at times reminds me of Jamie Hewlett. If you are a fan of cooking or just love silly humor then I would give this book a go.

The collected edition of Wonton Soup is available through both Comixology and Oni Press.