Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Heroes of the Public Domain.

Today we’re going to talk about a Kickstarter comic called Heroes of the Public Domain.

Regular Edition Cover

This project is seeking funding to create a catalog of superheroes that are in the public domain.  This means most of them are from the Golden Age of Comics, a time period that many historians place between 1938-1952 where comic books exploded onto the pop culture scene and superheroes became incredibly popular.

The project is being led by a Canadian group called Temporal Comics and is seeking $1,776 USD in funding.  At the time of writing the project has reached $1,432 with 23 days left in the campaign.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1973136011/heroes-of-the-public-domain-golden-age-guide-issue?ref=discovery

Why I like it

If you’re a fan of this site than you know that we at Cambrian Comics love writing about Golden Age superheroes.

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For anyone who doesn’t know, over the past three years we’ve been running a blog series entitled “Golden Age Showcase”, where we talk about old school heroes from a time when comic books were new and superheroes were somehow even more popular than they are now.

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While it’s fun to study the absolutely ridiculous characters from the Golden Age of Comics,

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it’s also important.

The Golden Age gave us many of comics’ most important and recognizable heroes.  Characters like Batman,

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Wonder Woman,

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Namor the Submariner,

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and the one who started it all, the one who inspired every modern superhero in existence, and the one who just turned 80 years old this year: Superman.

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But it wasn’t just a time where every superhero became a pop culture icon.  After the success of Action Comics #1 it seemed that every two bit publisher and pulp magazine auteur thought they could make it big by creating a superhero of their own.

The results were ridiculous and hilarious with heroes such as Dynamite Thor,

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Lady Satan,

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and The Fin.

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Sure, many of these heroes were silly, poorly written, or even blatant clones of Superman,  But there is not denying that the Golden Age of Comics was a time of exploration, experimentation, and glorious cheese that built the industry we know and love today.  A lot of people worked very hard to bring us these characters and their legacy is worth remembering and studying.

Also, full disclosure: We’re probably going to use the list provided in the Kickstarter description as a resource for more names.  It really is amazing that we’ve been doing this for over three years and still haven’t run out of heroes to talk about.

Why you should donate

Because the culture of the past informs the culture of the future, mostly by ripping off stories from the past and using our familiarity to open our wallets and giving artists our money.

At some point, I’m sure many of you have expressed your frustration at the endless sequels, reboots, and adaptations that make their way into our movie theaters and Netflix queues every year.

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I know because I am one of those people, but I also understand that one of the most prominent and important aspects of art is the ability to emulate and expand upon past works.

We may complain that Hollywood lacks originality when it comes to making movies, but it’s not a modern issue.  Over half of the movies that Hollywood has ever made are adaptations of some sort.  And let’s not forget that the most successful movie of all time,

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was adapted from a book.

In a way it makes sense, movies cost a lot of money so producers would want something that already has enough mass appeal to get people into the theaters.

What’s funny is that this isn’t even a modern thing, artists have been doing this for centuries.  The Renaissance artists were avid lovers of Classical art and blatantly ripped off the style and practices of the ancients.

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Michelangelo once tried to scam the Catholic Church by carving a statue and trying to sell it off as an antique.

Even the great William Shakespeare ripped off the work of his contemporaries.

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It’s true, Romeo and Juliet was inspired by the works of Italian author. Masuccio Salernitano and his two doomed lovers Mariotto and Giannoza.

Yeah, copyright laws didn’t really exist back then.

While we can moan and complain about how originality in art is dead the simple fact of the matter is that it works.  The unfortunate truth is that, at the end of the day, most artists are looking for the kind of success that allows them to get paid, and borrowing from what is familiar can be an incredibly lucrative option.

Don’t believe me?  Just look at Disney, the current owners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the empire they built with stories and characters from the past.

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Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Alice and Wonderland, Robin Hood…the list goes on.  All of are well known, all of them were borrowed and revamped by the Disney company, and I’m willing to bet that most of these stories made up a healthy portion of your childhood.

Even though comic books are a relatively new medium, it hasn’t stopped companies like Marvel from taking one of their earliest characters.

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and giving him a modern update.

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So if giant corporations and famous artists can do it, why can’t we?

There are thousands of fantastic superheroes out there who are free to use and have so much potential.  This Kickstarter gives us a head start by giving us a list of some of the best.

 

All-Art Variant Edition

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1973136011/heroes-of-the-public-domain-golden-age-guide-issue?ref=discovery

 

 

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Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Dulce: The New Guy

Today we’re looking at a comic book Kickstarter project entitled “Dulce: The New Guy”.

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The comic takes place in Dulce, New Mexico, a place that is allegedly home to a joint U.S military and alien base.

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The story follows the adventures of Marcus as he begins his first day working at the base and promises that Marcus will come face to face with “reptilians, fear deities, chimera, monsters, and a variety of races of aliens…”

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The comic itself was created by Eric J. Cockrell and Gene Hoyle with artwork by Greg Woronchak, colors by Avery Ferdinand, lettering by Michael Waggoner, and editing by Chuck Pineau.

At the time of writing the project has raised $1,150 of its $3,300 goal with 22 days left in the campaign.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1410875579/dulce-the-new-guy-comic-book/description

Why I like it

I’m a sucker for comedies that take big, grand, and potentially Earth shattering revelations and treat them as ordinary mundane things.

Marcus is an ordinary human, thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and forced to deal with things that no human has probably ever had to deal with.

For God’s sake, his co workers are a lizard man and a human sized fly.

they’re dealing with time travel like it’s no big deal,

the comic has GIANT KILLER BUNNIES!

Isn’t that awesome!?

For me, the best comedy takes place when you have the extraordinary happening in a mundane and boring way.  The more indifferent people are to the crazy things happening around them, the funnier it gets.

Come to think of it, wasn’t there a movie that was released a little over a decade ago that treated cosmic, earth shattering events with casual interest?

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Also, come to think of it, wasn’t there an incredibly popular television comedy in an office setting that dealt with the everyday lives of office drones?

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Huh, neat.

I bring this up because this comic makes me think of The Office with a healthy dose of Men in Black thrown in.  Now, Men in Black is one of my favorite films of all time, and while I’m not the biggest fan of The Office (I know it’s sacrilege, but let’s just say that I’ve had too many people compare me to Dwight to get into the show) I understand its appeal and believe it deserves the praise it gets.

Now, I admit I could be wrong in this comparison,  but it is my honest to God opinion that a comic that combines some of the best elements of a very good movie like Men in Black  and a very good TV show like The Office deserves my attention and respect.

Why you should donate

For starters, the rewards that these guys are offering are fantastic.

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This is not the first tango these guys have had with Kickstarter created comics, and they certainly know how to take care of the people who give them money.

But there’s another, deeper reason why this comic is worth your time, and dare I say…important.

We can always use a good laugh at the expense of those in power.

Let’s face it, for the longest time places like Area 51,

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occupied a lighthearted and almost jovial place in American pop culture.

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I think it’s pretty cool that that United States government has taken the reputation of one of their testing grounds for top secret aircraft and embraced it.

Unfortunately, while places like Area 51 have given “Top Secret” a lighthearted spin, there have been times when secret government programs have taken on a much more sinister meaning.

Over the past decade the United States government, which is supposed to be accountable to the people, has tried to keep the following things secret from the public:

kidnapping and torturing people suspected of terrorism against the United States,

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launched mass surveillance programs on the American citizens,

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and we’re currently trying to figure out if our current President has been the willing/unwilling participant in election rigging conducted by a foreign power.

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It’s all really scary stuff, but you know what really helps in times of trouble?

Laughter…and fantastic stories about crazy monsters and strange science.

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Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1410875579/dulce-the-new-guy-comic-book/description

 

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Olive and the Underworld Vol. 2

Today we’re talking about a comic book Kickstarter project entitled Olive and the Underworld Vol. 2 Part 1.

This is the second book in a series about a girl named Olive.

Olive is an orphan and finds herself bouncing around foster homes due to her…unique views on life and death.

Naturally, her school and social life isn’t much better.

However, her self imposed hellscape is turned on its head when she and several of he classmates die in a bus crash and are sent to Purgatory.  While her classmates are desperate to move on to the afterlife, Olive discovers that she loves Purgatory.

The second volume picks up where the first book left off and follows Olive’s quest to stay in Purgatory, despite the powers that be insisting that it’s supposed to be temporary.

At the time of writing the project has reached $1,833 of its $2,995 goal and has fifteen days left in its campaign.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1058532910/olive-and-the-underworld-volume-2-part-1

Full disclosure: I actually wrote about the Kickstarter for the first volume of the series a few years ago.  I received no money for that article or this one, but the creators were unbelievably nice and decided to use a quote from my article on the front page of the book’s website and on the back of the first book’s cover.  Also, I got to read the first volume and I can assure you that it’s awesome and well worth your time and money.

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You can read the quote, and buy the first volume, here.

Why I like it.

I like this book for the same reason I liked the first book, it takes a very old and well established story and turns it on its head.

I’m a big fan of ancient history.  More specifically, I’m a big fan of ancient Greek and Norse mythology.

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Now, all three of these cultures may be from different locations, different time periods, and have different cultural norms but their mythologies have certain things in common.  For example, they all have a deity who presides over the after life.  The Norse have Hel,

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The Greeks have Hades.

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Now, this is to be expected.  Death is one of humanity’s universal constants and it would make sense for cultures to develop their own ideas of what happens after we die.  However, the similarities can get a bit spooky.  More specifically both cultures have stories about heroes to travel to the afterlife while they are still alive.

The Greeks have heroes such as Orpheus, who charmed Hades into returning the soul of his wife with his music.

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The Norse have Hermod, a son of Odin who traveled to Hel to beg for the life of Baldur after he had been killed by Loki.

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So Olive’s journey to the afterlife puts her in pretty unique and interesting company,

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but there is one major difference.  In every other story about travelling to the afterlife, the heroes come back.  The land of the dead is a place you’re supposed to be uncomfortable around and a place where you don’t want to stay.  Olive doesn’t just want to stay in Purgatory, she’s genuinely happy to be there.

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I can’ think of a single instance where the hero of a story wants to stay dead, so that makes Olive and the Underworld one of the most unique and interesting stories I’ve ever seen…and I love it.

Why you should donate

Because if our ancestors could create eternal stories about death and the afterlife, why can’t we?

Myths and legends aren’t just stories, they were a way to process emotions and events that human beings could have never understood otherwise.

Stories like the Illiad weren’t just stories about people fighting each other, they were peppered with morals and lessons on how to act and what is proper way to behave in certain situations.  Heroes like Achilles weren’t just bloodthirsty maniacs, they were scholars and noble warriors who embodied traits and emotions that the ancient Greeks thought were important.

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We may think we have grown out of our understanding of the world has progressed, but we still have fantastic beings who embody certain virtues and use their actions to demonstrate proper behavior.

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Myths and legends are still talk about important stuff, they’ve just changed their appearance and what’s important to adapt over the past several thousand years.

We’re in the process of creating a new mythology and Olive and the Underworld is a story that brings a new and different approach to how we view death to this new understanding.  It’s a fun, friendly, and important book and well worth your time and money.

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Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1058532910/olive-and-the-underworld-volume-2-part-1

Crowdfunded comics that deserve more attention: The Arcane Cocktail Enthusiast

Today we’re talking about a Kickstarter comic called The Arcane Cocktail Enthusiast.

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The comic is written and created by Jeff Rider and drawn by Dave Puppo.

The story is about a bar owner named Lark Leraar.

Lark Leraar, the Arcane Cocktail Enthusiast herself!

She owns an establishment called The Archanist, which she also uses as a base and secret lair to practice magic.

Sample pages for ARCANE COCKTAIL ENTHUSIAST #1

The comic is seeking funding for its first issue and at the time of writing has raised $1,883 out of $3,500 with fifteen days left to donate.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cloudwrangler/the-arcane-cocktail-enthusiast-print-edition-comic?ref=av0qnc

Why I like it

I don’t drink very much.

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Sure I’ll indulge a bit in social settings, but when it comes to the consumption of alcohol I am a complete lightweight and too poor and too busy to explore the subtle differences between types of scotch.

But while the idea of a magical bartender serving magical drinks doesn’t excite me personally, I do find it incredibly interesting from a historical point of view, and and if you ask anyone who knows me in the slightest they will tell you that I do loooove me some history.

Let me explain.  Since the beginning of human history we have spent a lot of time trying to figure out new and exciting ways to get drunk.

The Egyptians invented one of the earliest recipes for beer and even paid laborers with booze.

The Babylonians took their beer so seriously that if they caught a brewer tampering with his or her product, they killed him by drowning the offender in it.

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And during the Middle Ages most of the brewing, distribution, and sale of booze was done by women.  You could always tell who was a brewer with their trademark pointed cap, a broom like whisk for filtering out lumps of material from their cauldron brew, and a cat to help keep away rats and mice from the grain.

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If the above image looks like a stereotypical witch you’re not wrong.  There are some who would say that our modern interpretation of witchcraft was a widespread propaganda campaign to get women out of brewing beer.

The point is that the creation of alcohol has had an important, almost magical, place in human history.  Makes sense really, booze made you feel good and anyone who could get you drunk better than anyone else must have seemed like a wizard.

The Arcane Cocktail Enthusiast takes this idea and gives it a modern update and I think that is really cool.

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Not only does it put a modern twist on this idea, it uses it to tell a story about an awesome lady who goes out and fights a manticore with nothing but her magically enhanced hands.

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That’s pretty awesome.

Why you should donate

Of course, these days we’re not big fans of magic and coffee has become the dominant brain altering drink of choice.

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But while we may be men and women of science and rational thought, we still have our own brand of sorcery that we use to turn certain people who make our food into insanely rich gods.

I am, of course, talking about celebrity chefs.

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Sure, these guys aren’t witches or warlocks, but you have to admit that there’s something magical about watching food being prepared.

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Hell, we love this so much that we have entire channel on the television where we just watch people cook and eat food.

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But if we have dedicated all this time and effort into praising the accomplishments of the people that make our food, what about the people who prepare our drinks?

Where are our celebrity brewers and bartenders?

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As I stated in the previous section, our ancestors practically worshiped the creation and consumption of alcohol.  Today?  Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, we still hold a place of reverence for things like microbreweries and bartenders who can but a bit of flair into their job,

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but I think it’s safe to say that the bartender and brewer has been greatly overshadowed by the chef in today’s culture.

Don’t you think it’s time that bartenders got the same respect and attention that we give celebrity chefs?  Don’t you think it’s time that we elevated the people who serve us alcohol to the place of respect that they once held?  Don’t you think it’s time to put the magic back into a beverage that has been so important to human history?

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I sure as heck think so.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cloudwrangler/the-arcane-cocktail-enthusiast-print-edition-comic?ref=av0qnc

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Prison Witch

Today we are going to talk about a comic book project seeking funding on Kickstarter called Prison Witch.

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The project is a seventy page graphic novel about a woman who works to control her latent magical abilities in prison with the help of a secret coven of witches.

At the time of writing the project as already hit its funding goal with $8,651 out of $8,500 raised and has 14 days left in the campaign.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/248241887/prison-witch-a-graphic-novel-about-magic-love-and?ref=category&ref=discovery

Why I like it

For starters the artwork is fantastic.

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The comic is created by husband and wife team Pat and Amy Shand, with Erica D’Urso providing the artwork.  Her ability to convey tiny little moments of great emotion is awe inspiring and you can tell the book is going to be an emotional roller coaster without any words.

But what really intrigues me about this book is the possibility of combining the subject matter with the setting.

I like to dabble in storytelling from time to time and for me, magic is a way to build a character without having to rely on boring exposition.

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A wizard who controls fire will probably have a different personality than a wizard who can raise the dead.  Magic is an extension of its user and can be used as a sort of visual shorthand for their personality and beliefs.

Prisons are supposed to be a place where people who have done something wrong go to reflect on their deeds and work towards reforming themselves.

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In some countries the intention is to turn criminals into functioning members of society, in others it’s a place where dissidents and critics of the status quo are sent to…change their mind.  Here in America it clearly isn’t the case because if it was, we would be the most introspective and thoughtful nations on the planet.

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Yes, the land of the free does put way to many people in prison.

So what happens when you have a collection of people who have their personalities displayed through spells and witch craft stuck in a place that is designed to change and mold a person into something different?

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I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out.

Why you should donate

I don’t know if anybody reading this post knows this, but during the 1970’s there was a very specific and popular genre of films specifically about women in prison.

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With a poster like that it’s quite apparent that these movies were somber, thoughtful affairs that talked about the harsh realities of prison life and gave a voice to some of the most vulnerable people in modern society and…

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nope.  The movies were porn with a bit more attention on the plot and slightly higher production values.

Now to be fair, it wasn’t like all the films were total trash.  Johnathen Demme, the man who made Silence of the Lambs,

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got his big break after directing a Roger Corman prison film called Caged Heat.

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The film was actually pretty well reviewed and it did delve into some actual social commentary, but it was still a bunch of pretty women with no hope, no way out, and almost no clothing.

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Rather thankfully, times and tastes change and I say it’s time for the women in prison genre to get a modern update that treats its characters like actual human beings and uses its subject matter to talk about important and socially relevant issues.

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Okay, so there’s that but I bet there isn’t a comic that does…

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dammit.

Okay, so revising the women in prison genre for modern tastes is well trodden ground, but Prison Witch takes the genre and does something different with it.

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By combining the wonder and mystery of magic with the drama and emotional pain of prison life, Prison Witch is set to create a story filled with wonder, mystery, introspection, and one hell of an emotional gut punch.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/248241887/prison-witch-a-graphic-novel-about-magic-love-and?ref=category&ref=discovery

 

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: The Kugali Anthology

So I thought the Black Panther movie was awesome,

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and if the box office numbers have anything to say, everyone reading this is probably thinking the same thing.

I’m willing to bet that the creators of today’s Kickstarter comic looked at the release of the movie and thought that now would probably be the best time to try and raise money for their project: The Kugali Anthology.

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The Kugali Anthology is a collection of comic stories and characters written and drawn by black creators, with an emphasis on creators from Africa.

The comic is being funded out of Britain, so any funding information is converted into American dollars.  At the time of writing this comic has currently raised $5,922 out of $13,782 and has 26 days left in its campaign.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kugalimedia/the-kugali-anthology?ref=discovery

Why I like it

Before we start I should make one thing incredibly clear, I am not an expert on Africa and I have no ancestral or familial ties to Africa.  Outside of a few close family friends and an extremely brief section of my school’s history curriculum, my knowledge of African history and culture is very limited.  I am simply writing as a very curious, and very white, comic book fan and tourist.

From the looks of it, this particular anthology is focusing on fantasy stories and folk tales.

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I will admit that I could be wrong, but even if I am, the very idea of having a magazine that brings more attention to creators and artists from Africa telling stories that are based in African culture and history is incredibly exciting and makes me very happy.

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What little I do know has been enough to pique my interest in Africa for a while and I find its history absolutely fascinating.  Africa is a vast,

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and incredibly diverse continent filled with larger than life places and people.  Stories about great kings such as Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire,

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the East African spice ports,

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and the life and exploits of Shaka Zulu,

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have captured my imagination and I have been trying to learn more ever since.

Heck, Africa is home to one of the first and greatest civilizations in Western history, a civilization that some historians devote their entire lives to studying.

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Again, I will admit that I am writing this from a place of relative ignorance but let me ask you this:  If my limited knowledge of Africa can demonstrate that the continent is more than a collection of unfortunate stereotypes, that there is more to it than poverty, disease, and violence, what do you think we could learn from people who actually live there?

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This leads me directly into my next point…

Why you should donate

Because the world is getting smaller and introducing people to entertainment influenced by different cultures just makes sense.  Plus, it can provide creators with a much needed infusion of new ideas and aesthetics.

I’m going to explain by picking on the fantasy genre for a minute.  To be clear, I love a good fantasy story but let’s be honest, the second you read the word “fantasy” your mind probably brought up images like this:

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or this,

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or maybe this if you’re a Japanophile:

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Sure, some creators have helped audiences branch out by introducing fantasy worlds that aren’t influenced by Medieval Europe or Japan.

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but European and pan Asian cultures are not the only places that have stories worth telling and interesting aesthetics.

Africa has so many stories, characters, and themes to offer the world and it’s high time that African creators took their rightful place on the cultural stage and shared their voices with the world.

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The Black Panther movie showed us that audiences are ready for stories that uphold the idea of a strong and confident Africa and that African themes and aesthetics can be a viable source of entertainment.

 

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Let’s take the next step and introduce audiences to the wonderful world of African comic books.

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Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kugalimedia/the-kugali-anthology?ref=discovery

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Kaiju Gods

Full disclosure: this project contains work by Frankie B. Washington, an artist who has done work for this site.  No money or special favors were exchanged for the writing of this article.

Today we’re talking about a Kickstarter project entitled Kaiju Gods.  

 

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This is an anthology book featuring stories about the Japanese giant monster genre of movies known as “kaiju” movies.  At the time of writing this project has 20 days left and has raised $4,960 of it’s $16,000 goal.  Funding ends on March 16th.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/208514895/kaiju-gods?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=kaiju

Why I like it

GIANT MONSTERS AND ROBOTS PUNCHING THINGS!

Raiderman by Jay Piscopo

UNBELIEVABLE DESTRUCTION!

Sloan by Daniel Warner and Chris Enterline

MONSTROUS ROMANCE!

Story by Garrett Gunn and Nicolas Touris

HUMAN ANTS TREMBLING AT IN THE PRESENCE OF A VENGEFUL GOD!!!  ALSO…BANANAS!

Banana Katana by Kevin Roditeli and Rottsteak

Sorry…got a little carried away there.

I am a sucker for stories about big things punching other big things and yes, Pacific Rim was a great movie and I am eagerly awaiting the release of Pacific Rim Uprising.

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As you can tell from the artwork posted above, there is a huge amount of creativity and passion on display here.  In fact, if you got to the campaign page and read it through, you’ll find that the guy putting the anthology together had no trouble finding people willing to participate.

Now, while I am a big fan of big things being punched, I will admit that there is the possibility of it getting…boring.  Thankfully, this anthology has gathered a wide and diverse pool of talent utilizing different backgrounds, art styles, and story techniques to tell a wide range of stories that deal with the kaiju monsters.

There seems to be a story where a samurai fights a kaiju with nothing but a bow and arrow,

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I don’t know any of the specifics, all I know is that it looks awesome.

Why you should donate

Because kaiju are the perfect metaphor for our time.

We live in a massive, interconnected, and increasingly complicated world that is in the process of changing in ways that we can’t possible imagine.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather live here and now instead of anywhere else, but when times change the chaos can be incredibly destructive.

The internet and social media may have given the individual a greater voice and reach bigger and bigger audiences, but all that noise and activity and be so overwhelming that it drives us to become more and more isolated and withdrawn.

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Globalization has allowed millions of people to be lifted out of poverty, but has reduced millions more to jobs where they are nothing more than cogs in a very large machine that is nearly impossible to comprehend.

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To top it all off, the Earth’s climate is changing, creating an uncertain future where we are unable to sustain our current lifestyle and doom entire countries to ecological and environmental disaster.

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If it all seems a bit overwhelming it’s because it is.  Our brains are incapable of processing tragedies that affect so many people, so we simply shrug our shoulders and write off the suffering of millions as just “something that happens”.

That sort of dehumanization is terrifying, and it is that kind of horror that the Japanese knew all too well as they watched their cities being bombed into oblivion by the seemingly overwhelming and alien force that was the United States military.

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One man who understood that horror well was a little known director named Ishiro Honda,

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and in 1954 he gave that horror a name: Godzilla.

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We can look back at the past and admire how far we’ve come, we can look towards the future and eagerly await what’s to come, but it is important to look at where we are in the present and realize just how small and insignificant we really are.

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Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/208514895/kaiju-gods?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=kaiju

 

Crowd funded comics that deserve more attention: Mighty Mascots

It’s been a while, mostly because of holiday stress and a chaotic work situation, but we’re doing another one of these Kickstarter write ups this week!

Full disclosure: The author of this article does have a personal and professional friendship with the creator of this project and it does include artwork by Frankie B. Washington, the primary artist on a web comic published by this site.  The author has also donated to this project, but no money or favors were exchanged for the writing of this article.

Today we’re going to talk about a Kickstarter project called The Mighty Mascots

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The comic is a superhero story about a collection of food mascots (think the Planter’s Peanut or the Seakist tuna) who are brought to life through a freak 3-D printing accident and are brought together to fight various evil doers.  While the Kickstarter is funding the first creation of the first issue there are plans to turn it into an ongoing series.

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(this drawing was done by Frankie B. Washington)

The project was created by Keith Gleason and at the time of writing the project has $828 of its $1000 goal and has twelve days left to donate.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/914859599/the-mighty-mascots-comic-book-issue-1

Why I like it

As I mentioned at the top of the article, I know the creator of this project personally, and I can say without irony or coercion that Mr. Gleason knows his stuff.

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More specifically, Mr. Gleason is very good at writing lighthearted and humorous stories that feature interesting characters and incredibly unique set ups.

This project is no exception.  Where else are you going to find a bear with clawed boxing gloves,

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fighting next to an anthropomorphic glass of water, sugar, and blue food dye?

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The idea of using food brands as superheroes is an awesome idea.  Sure it’s been done before,

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but I will bet a considerable amount of money that this comic will be better than that abomination.

The art team is also worth mentioning.  As I said before, the comic features work from Frankie B. Washington and the principal artist is a man named Ian Waryanto,

Boxer Bear Unleashed!

who has done work for creators at Image and Marvel.

So it’s a cool idea, put together by a great creative team, and most importantly it’s a fun comic in an industry that has pushed fun and joy aside to focus on dark and brooding drama.

And then of course there’s the nostalgia factor which leads me into…

Why you should donate

If you’re a nostalgia fan, specifically a fan of 80’s and 90’s cartoons that were thinly veiled advertisements for action figures and sugary snacks and beverages, you owe it to yourself to back this project.  Let me explain why using two of the biggest nostalgic cash grabs in today’s market: Transformers and Stranger Things.

We all know that nostalgia is big business, which has led to everything from big budget versions of our favorite toy cartoons,

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to coming of age stories that reassure us that keeping our emotional attachment to the toys we grew up with isn’t just okay, it can actually save the world.

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What’s interesting is that while Hollywood is riding a massive cash wave of nostalgic fervor, it’s not Hollywood’s kind of nostalgia.

The fact of the matter is that most of the people in charge of what kind of movies and shows get made are too old to wax nostalgic about the 1980’s and 90’s.  Let me put it to you this way, do you really think Michael Bay grew up on the Transformers cartoon?

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The answer is no, he was born in 1965 and would have been in his twenties by the time the Transformers cartoon rolled around.

To properly leverage nostalgia into a product that can be profitable and enjoyable to its target audience you have to understand why audiences loved the original product in the first place.  This is usually helped by being part of the generation that grew up on said product and being given the time and freedom to put that feeling into film.

I think that it’s the reason why Stranger Things works so well.  The Duffer Brothers have demonstrated that they understand why people who grew up in the 1980’s loved that time period so much and Netflix has been very generous in leaving creators alone to do their work.

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So what would you rather have: an army of ancient Hollywood executives approving movies based off of nostalgic properties that they have little to no interest in, or a small team of creatives who genuinely care about what they’re working on and who want to put their heart and soul into something that they care about?

If your answer was the second option than go ahead, donate to the comic about cereal and beverage mascots fighting crime and taking names.

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Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/914859599/the-mighty-mascots-comic-book-issue-1

Golden Age Showcase; Nelvana of the Northern Lights

Canada.  From what I’ve heard it’s a pretty nice place.

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As an American I may not know a whole lot about our neighbor to the north aside from hockey, poutine, curling, Celine Dion, hockey, maple syrup, universal healthcare, hockey, Justin Bieber, Molson, and hockey, but I do know that Canada has a respectable place in comic book history as the home of Marvel’s greatest cash cow…I mean greatest bad asses: Wolverine.

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and to all the people complaining about me not bringing up Alpha Flight,

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they came out after Wolverine.  But don’t worry, they factor into this article later.

But Wolverine wasn’t the first Canadian superhero.  Everyone’s favorite hairy man with foot long murder knives in his hands was first published in 1974 and it turns out that Canada had been in the comic book publishing business since the Golden Age.

Today we’re going to talk about Canada’s first true superhero: Nelvana of the Northern Lights.

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Origin and Career

Nelvana of the Northern Lights made her first appearance in Triumph Adventure Comics #1 which was published by Hillborough Studios in August of 1941.

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She was created by Canadian comic artist Adrian Dingle,

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who was inspired by stories told by Canadian painter Frank Johnston.

There are a couple of things to note about this comic.  For starters, the cover is in black and white and you’ve probably never heard of Hillsborough Studios.  That’s because the publisher was created by Dingle and two others to create something resembling what we would call an independent publisher today.  The reason why the comic is in black and white is to cut down on costs, partially because it was a small operation, partially due to the lack of resources thanks to the war effort, and partially due to the fact that the Canadian comic book market wasn’t very large at the time.

Nelvana would turn out to be Dingle’s greatest and most lasting success.

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For starters, she was one of the first comic book heroines ever published.  She wasn’t the first, but she beat out Wonder Woman by three months.  However, she was the first truly Canadian superhero and she was a member and protector of the Inuit people,

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and you could make the argument that this makes her one of the first Native American superheroes ever published (someone correct me in the comments if I’m wrong).

Nelvana is a demigoddess, the child of a human mother and a god named Koliak who was the king of the Northern Lights.

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Her powers were pretty fitting for a demi god.  She could fly, turn herself invisible, travel at the speed of light along the Norther Lights, and could summon a heat ray that could melt through almost anything.

Also, she had a brother named Tanero.

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What makes Tanero interesting is that he couldn’t be seen by white men, he had to turn into a dog whenever they were present.  Thankfully, her brother/household pet proved to be useful as a noble steed Nelvana could ride on.

That’s not weird at all.

In her first seven stories, Nelvana and her brother protected the Inuit people from all kinds of threats from slavers to Nazi agents, thus fulfilling the standard “Golden Age hero kicks Nazi butt” quota.

After seven issues, Dingle took his creation to a company called Bell Features, which allowed Nelvana to add some color to her adventures.

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Her stories took a left turn into crazy awesomeness after that.  Now instead of just Nazis and gangsters, Nelvana fought aliens and mad scientists with death rays.

While her enemies became crazier, Nelvana became a bit more grounded.  She adopted the civilian persona Alana North and gave up a good portion of her mystic origin to become the standard spy smasher super heroine that the real life war effort called for.

Fun side note: did you know that the Nazis actually landed on Canadian soil during the war?  They established a weather station on Newfoundland in 1943 and used it to determine weather patterns in Europe for the rest of the war.

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So it turns out that Alana North would have had an actual job on her hands and that threats of invasion weren’t that far off.

So what happened?

While Nelvana was able to hold her own and become a Canadian symbol during the war, she and her publisher could not survive the glut of American comics that flooded the Canadian market when trade restrictions were lifted after the war.  Nelvana had her last appearance in 1947 and Bell Features ceased publication in 1953.

Thankfully, despite her short history, Nelvana’s story actually gets a happy ending.  While she didn’t last very long, her impact on Canadian identity and culture lives on to this day.

The Canadian animation company Nelvana Limited is named after her.

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They bought the rights to the character in 1971 and currently share said rights with Library and Archives Canada.

And for those of you who are upset that I didn’t talk about the Canadian super team Alpha Flight don’t worry, it turns out that Nelvana is actually the mother of one of the team members: Snowbird.

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But the best part of the story is that reprints of her old stories are actually being published to this very day!  In 2013 comic book historian Hope Nicholson launched a Kickstarter campaign to reprint six of Nelvana’s old stories and bring them to a modern audience.

The campaign made its goal in five days and the project is currently being published through IDW.

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Nelvana of the Northern Lights deserves a special place in comic book history as one of the first, and most powerful super heroines in comic books.  While she got left by the wayside due to the limitations of the Canadian comic book industry, she proved that great superheroes don’t have to be American to be popular.

I like to think she was the Canadian version of Superman, a heroine who inspired thousands of other creatives to imagine and create superheroes of their own.

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Crowdfunded comics that deserve more attention: The Death Defying

I think it’s time we revived this blog series…again…probably for a few weeks before I get overwhelmed with other stuff or can’t find anything interesting to write about.

Anyway, since it’s close to Halloween here’s a write up of a comic with horror over tones called The Death Defying.

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The comic is a fictionalized account of real life friends turned enemies Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  According the the description:

“The Death Defying becomes a battle of wills, words, faith, science, fisticuffs, handguns and magic that stretches from the windswept menace of Stull, Kansas to the small apocalypse of Tungaska, Russia. Beliefs will be tested, lives will be threatened and the scariest specter of all is whether or not any of this is real.”

So it looks like we’re in for a twisted mystery thriller with two of the greatest figures of the early 20th century battling it out for the soul of mankind.

The campaign is seeking $8,000 to cover art and printing costs.  At the time of writing it is sitting at $1,580 with eighteen days left to donate.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/xtop/the-death-defying-1?ref=category_newest

Why I like it

I’m a sucker for historical stories, especially if it’s a story about two people as famous and as awesome as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini.  I’m pleased to say that the people behind the comic did their research well.  Houdini and Doyle were actually good friends in real life,

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and wound up drifting apart due to their disagreements over spiritualism and the existence of the supernatural.

For anyone who doesn’t know, after the First World War most of Europe and the United States became fascinated with the idea that magic was real and that people could communicate with spirits and the undead.

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This led to the explosion of seances and mystics who claimed they could summon spirits to appear as apparitions in photographs,

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or most famously knock on walls and levitate tables.

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the most famous supporters of this idea, even going as far as claiming that fairies existed based on photographic evidence.

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Houdini was the exact opposite and devoted a good portion of his life to disproving spiritualism and exposing many of the so called mystics who used parlor tricks to swindle people out of their money.

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Personally I’d have to side with Houdini on this one.  Sure people are allowed to believe what they want, but this was just after the First World War and the Spanish Flu killed millions of people and I think many of these mediums and spiritualists were scam artists who were able to cheat a large amount of desperate grieving people out of their money.

Anyway, that’s the time the comic sets its story in.  It’s a fascinating time period in human history and the story promises to deal with weighty themes such as science vs. belief and chaos vs. order.

It should be good.

Why you should donate

The creative team behind this story is top notch and professional.  Every one of the people involved in the comic has at least one professional credit to their name and they appear to be passionate about this story, so you know that they will deliver a quality product in a timely manner.

Speaking of quality, the art is fantastic and manages to balance the dark shadows of the occult with the practical and direct lighting of the provable very well.  

What I really like about this page in particular is how it manages to balance the two opposing points of view.  In the world of this story either man could be right in his beliefs and it’s well known that the best and most realistic kind of conflict is the kind where both sides believe they are right.

The first six pages of the comic are on the Kickstarter page for you to check out along with the rewards and bonus artwork.

The Death Defying is a historical occult drama that deals with weighty themes and stars some of the early 20th century’s greatest human beings in an adventure for the ages and a battle for the soul and future of humanity and is definitely worth your time and money.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/xtop/the-death-defying-1?ref=category_newest