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

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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

 

Golden Age Showcase: Stuntman

We all know who Jack Kirby is right?

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Okay, so for anyone who doesn’t know the name all you need to know is that Kirby was the main artist and one of the biggest creative voices behind many of Marvel’s greatest superheroes.  The man had one of the most prolific art careers in comic book history (there are stories out there that said he could draw five to six pages a day) but  was sadly, and unfairly, overshadowed by his more famous counterpart: Stan Lee.

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With such a legendary career you would think that Kirby created nothing but legendary stories.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case as evidenced by today’s hero: Stuntman.

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Origin and Career

Our hero made his first appearance in the self titled Stuntman #1, which was published in April of 1946.

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A couple of things to note here.  First, the cover claims that it’s not a comic book.  Instead, it’s a comic novelette which makes me think the comic’s creators were trying to create something a bit classier than the throwaway pulp that made up most of the comic book scene of the 1940’s.  Second, you’ll notice that the book was created by Jack Kirby AND Joe Simon, the creator of Captain America.

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So we have not one, but two of the greatest comic book creators of all time working on single project.  This ought to be good.

The story starts off with a criminal gang trying to shake down a travelling circus, implying that there will be several accidents if management doesn’t pay up.

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Sadly, the criminals succeed in killing the circus’ greatest act: a group of high flying acrobats known as “The Flying Apollos”

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The only survivor is their young ward Fred who vows revenge and accidentally runs into a movie star/amateur detective named Don Daring.

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What?  Is the origin of an acrobatic superhero who used to work for a circus before his parents were murdered starting to sound a bit familiar to you?  Shut up and focus on the excellent artwork!

Anyway, Fred takes a job as Don’s stuntman in his pictures with the purpose of getting a new job and working with Don in order to solve the case by acting as bait for the killer.  Fred is eventually attacked and decides to don a costume to go after the killer

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Hmmm, could use more black.

Don discovers that it was a circus manager who was behind the crime all along, but before he can carry out his dastardly deed he is ambushed by the Stuntman and the day is saved.

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The rest of Stuntman’s adventures would have a similar theme to them.  Don would do all of the detective work while Fred would swoop in as the Stuntman to do the fighting.  The two men were a duo, dynamic even, and their adventures all centered around the entertainment industry and the various people looking to fleece audiences and entertainers alike.

For a Golden Age comic the writing and artwork were fantastic.  But then again, that’s what you expect from the minds and talents of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.  Surely the Stuntman would go on to become one of the greatest superheroes of all time.

So what happened?

The Stuntman Comic only lasted three issues and the character would only make nine appearances for a single year.

Honestly, considering the talent behind the character and quality of the artwork and writing, I’m really surprised it only lasted that long.  Maybe it was the post war backlash against superheroes, or maybe it was Harvey Comics’ decision to focus on licensed characters instead of original content.

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but sadly we were deprived of more excellent stories.

However, it’s safe to say that the legacy of the Stuntman superhero lives on in another circus performer who watched his family get murdered before his eyes and eventually wind up fighting crime under the guidance of a rich amateur detective.

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Okay, so maybe Stuntman bears too much of a resemblance to Robin for comfort and maybe if the title had kept going Harvey would have found themselves on the receiving end of a DC lawsuit, but I honestly think that comic book fans and readers missed out on something fantastic with this Golden Age hero created by two of the greatest comic book creators of all time.

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Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Drawing Blood

Normally this blog is reserved for obscure, small time artists and creators looking to fund a project that would have a very difficult time getting attention from a major publisher.  That’s the spirit in which sites like Kickstarter were created and it’s a spirit that we appreciate and aspire to.

However, today is the day where we attempt to sell out in a blatant attempt to gain more views and popularity.

Today we’re looking at a project called Drawing Blood.  It’s a biographical graphic novel detailing the rise and fall of a humble comic book creator named Shane Bookman.  The project is headed by Kevin Eastman, David Avallone, and Ben Bishop.

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As of the time of writing the project has already reached over $40,000 of it’s $75,000 goal and ends in 24 days.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2073065927/kevin-eastmans-drawing-blood-vol-1-a-graphic-novel/description

Why I like it

I like it because it’s a biography about indie comic book legend Shane Bookman and his journey from the highest highs of success to the lowest lows of fame and fortune.

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What, you’re telling me that you’ve never heard of Shane Bookman?  The creator of the 1992 hit comic “Radically Rearranged Ronin Ragdolls”?

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You know, the comic that started off as a darkly humorous parody of the grim and gritty comic books of the time and was spun off into a merchandise and tv empire that remains a pop culture phenomenon to this day?  In fact, it was so successful that there are rumors there will be a big budget action movie produced by some super Hollywood director named Daniel Flay, who really likes explosions and movie series with a seemingly infinite number of sequels.

Ok, so you probably know that Shane Bookman doesn’t exist.  In fact, those of you in the know probably recognized what this project actually is when you saw who was creating it.

For those of you who don’t know, Kevin Eastman is one of the co creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,

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You know, the comic that started off as a darkly humorous parody of the grim and gritty comic books of the time and was spun off into a merchandise and tv empire that remains a pop culture phenomenon to this day and has been turned into another Michael Bay reboot that will probably churn out sequels until the day we die.

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Drawing Blood was created to be a fictitious, semi autobiographical, darkly comedic look at the creation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the rise and fall of a great artist.  It looks like it’s going to be grim, dark, violent, and promises to go behind the scenes of the creation of one of the most famous and popular comics of recent memory.

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I love this sort of stuff.  Call me weird but there are few things more satisfying than watching a success story pan out with all the trials, tribulations, thrills, chills, and potential for violence.

Why you should donate

Because being a comic book creator is hard, and while a select few creators do get to enjoy the fruits of their labor and create characters and stories that are enjoyed by millions of people,

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there are hundreds, if not thousands more men and women who put their heart and soul into their work and got screwed out of their righteously deserved credit.

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Ok sure, Alan Moore isn’t the best example but when it comes to talking about creators getting nothing for their work (although while he has made a lot of money you could make a strong case for him getting shafted by watching Hollywood butcher some of his greatest work like V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) but the comic book world is a special case when it comes to the discussion of creator’s rights and credit.

In the very beginning comic book artists and writers didn’t own anything they created.  Their work belonged to the companies that employed them and the only money many o them would see from their creations would be the page rate they received on a work for hire basis.

This is why legends such as Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster,

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who created the iconic Superman had to sue Warner Brothers in the 1970’s for the credit and recognition they justly deserved, and why Shuster died in debt.

The struggle of the creator for the rights and recognition to their work is a long and often tragic tale and it’s problems are still being worked out and argued over today.

Some creators, such as the founders of of Image Comics,

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have made it possible for creators to have greater control over their work and how it’s used, but it’s still a sensitive and complex issue that’s still being talked about.

I bring all this up because I think that a project like Drawing Blood is important to this discussion.  Audiences see the end result of the hard work and sacrifice that goes into creating stories and characters, but not a lot of people pay attention to the stuff that really goes on behind the scenes.

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Sometimes the creation of a story is just as import as the actual story itself, and if a project like Drawing Blood can draw more attention to the world behind the story than it is a story worth reading.

Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2073065927/kevin-eastmans-drawing-blood-vol-1-a-graphic-novel/description

Crowdfunded Comics that deserve more attention: Olive and the Underworld

I normally do this every Wednesday but I was asked to take a look at this project and since I liked what I saw combined with the fact that the Kickstarter campaign only has seven days left, I decided to take a break from the normal schedule and do a write up on Saturday.

Kickstarter campaign link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1058532910/olive-and-the-underworld-volume-1-a-graphic-novel?ref=category_popular

Today we’re going to look at a Kickstarter campaign for a graphic novel called Olive and the Underworld.

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The comic follows an orphaned girl who has decided that the Goth identity suits her best as she struggles to fit in to her new home and school.

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It doesn’t go very well until one fateful day where she and several of her classmates perish in a bus accident and wind up in Purgatory.  The comic is about Olive as she attempts to navigate the underworld all well trying to discover who she really is and finding her purpose in life.  I should mention at this moment this is a story that’s meant for young adults.

Why I like it

Olive and the Underworld is a story about trying to be accepted for who you are while not fitting into the world around you very well.

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I like these kinds of stories.  Now I’m not going to sit here and complain about how the world doesn’t accept me for who I am (it’s actually quite the opposite, you’ll never find a more conforming soul than me) but I find that this kind of internal conflict usually provides the kind of drama that leads to great stories and interesting characters.

Speaking of characters, from what little I’ve seen of the comic book Olive is quickly shaping up to be one of the coolest protagonists ever.

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Granted, her absolute refusal to give in to societal norms in order to make a few friends does make her come off as a bit stubborn, but not wanting to change yourself in order to fit in is something we can all relate to and appreciate.  Plus, it seems that one of her foster families gave up on her after she tried sacrificing her foster brother’s teddy bears to Hades which is something I find absolutely hilarious.

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And then there’s the subject matter of the comic book itself.  The book is meant for a younger crowd but it isn’t afraid to deal with the really mature stuff.  Sure there’s the topic of identity and fitting in, but it also deals with death and the afterlife, something that a lot of people believe is “too mature” for anyone under the age of 21.

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To be fair, the comic isn’t nearly as serious about the subject matter as most media is with the afterlife.  Instead it opts for the “Heaven and Hell can be hilarious and people shouldn’t take it so seriously” route but any book that believes that young people can be responsible enough and smart enough to deal with something like this gets a gold star in my book.

Why you should donate

I am going to do something interesting here.  I am going to put before you that this book isn’t just an interesting take on the afterlife or a fun story about searching for your true identity, but it’s also one of the most subversive stories in literature.

Let me explain.  The idea that a protagonist in a story needs to journey to an otherworldly realm in order to perform a task or learn an important lesson is nothing new.  If fact, it’s as old as literature itself.  Gilgamesh journeyed to the Land of the Dead to rescue his friend Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was written almost 4000 years ago

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and Homer had his hero Odysseus travel to the Underworld in his epic The Odyssey in order to learn valuable information about how to get home.

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In more modern examples J.R.R Tolkien has Aragon journey to the ghostly White Mountains to recruit an army of the dead in order to assume his rightful place as High King.

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and in a less dark and depressing example, C.S Lewis has his four heroes and heroines travel to the other worldly realm of Narnia where they become kings and queens.

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However, all these stories have one thing in common, all the protagonists come back.  Their quest may take them to the land of the dead or some other place that isn’t our world, but they will always return to our reality.

Olive and the Underworld takes this idea of a journey to another world that has been around for thousands of years and turns it on its head.  See, when Olive and her classmates die and go to Purgatory they’re all justifiably freaked out.  The one exception is Olive.  She discovers that she actually likes Purgatory so much that she doesn’t want to leave.  By traveling to the Underworld, Olive discovers her true identity and spends the rest of story doing everything she can to stay there instead of returning.

That is what makes this story interesting and that is why it deserves your money.

Kickstarter campaign link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1058532910/olive-and-the-underworld-volume-1-a-graphic-novel?ref=category_popular