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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Golden Age Showcase: Scarab

You know what’s awesome?  Ancient Egypt.

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As one of the world’s oldest civilizations Egypt has held a special place in the hearts of historians and pop culture geeks everywhere.  From the great Nile river,

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to the Pharaoh’s of old,

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to the priceless historical artifacts that have been…”liberated” from their homes and placed in museums around the world.

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Egypt has been a place that has captured the imaginations of generations.

It turns out that comic book creators have a healthy interest in ancient Egypt too.  A lot of superheroes are either from Egypt or use ancient Egyptian magic and imagery.

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Today we’re going to look at one of the earliest heroes from the Golden Age of comics who used ancient Egyptian magic, and another uncomfortable case of 1940’s casual racism and stereotypes.

Today we’re talking about the Scarab.

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Origin and Career:

The Scarab first appeared in Startling Comics #34 in July of 1945.  While the writer is unkown the artist was a man named Ken Battefield…who didn’t go on to do very much or become well known.

In the comic the Scarab was actually a well respected archaeologist named Peter Ward who was visiting his uncle in London for a vacation.

Comic Book Cover For Startling Comics #34

Suddenly, a wounded man stumbles onto his front step and tells Peter to find a scroll in the British Museum that links back to the ancient Egyptian cat god, making this one of the rare occasions where British imperialism was actually helpful.

Comic Book Cover For Startling Comics #34

Unfortunately, the men who stabbed the messenger are on Peter’s trail, looking for the fantastic treasure that is supposedly buried in the cat’s tomb.

Peter travels to Egypt, reinforcing every uncomfortable stereotype the West had about people from the Middle East.

Comic Book Cover For Startling Comics #34

and after being stranded in the desert he is fortunate enough to be aided by a mysterious cat who guides him to the tomb’s entrance.

Comic Book Cover For Startling Comics #34

In the tomb Peter finds a magic ring and POOF!, he’s instantly transformed into our hero.

Comic Book Cover For Startling Comics #34

The ring gives him a whole host of powers, including the ability to fly and enhanced durability.  This is fortunate because the men who were after him and the treasure catch up to him and try to kill him, only to be foiled by the Scarab.

Comic Book Cover For Startling Comics #34

This ring apparently gives Peter a soul as well, because he demands that the robbers put everything they stole back and refuses to take any of the treasure for himself.

The Scarab would go on to a fairly long stint as a back up character in another Standard Comics title Exciting Comics and spent the rest of his run solving various archaeology related crimes.  There is one particular instance where Ramon Royale, the man who Peter stopped in his first adventure, was employed by the German government in an attempt to destabilize Egypt and turn it against the United Nations.

Comic Book Cover For Exciting Comics #43

However, Peter was able to convince the Egyptians that siding with the Unite Nations was a good thing.

Comic Book Cover For Exciting Comics #43

The rest of his adventures would follow a pretty straight formula of the Scarab stopping some threat that was looking to steal archaeological treasure that didn’t belong to them.  This would continue into his last story which appeared in The Black Terror #20 in 1947 where he stopped a gang of four Arab thieves bent on robbing a grave for wealth.

In an interesting twist the Arabs were actually immortals who uncovered an immortality serum in a tomb they had discovered by accident.

Comic Book Cover For The Black Terror #20

The Scarab was able to identify a counter to the potion and the four Arabs killed themselves when they realized they were no longer immortal and were unable to fit in with the real world.

Comic Book Cover For The Black Terror #20

So what happened?

The man never got past back up story material and disappeared in 1947.  It makes sense considering that he just wasn’t that well written and superheroes were going out of style in post war America.

He would disappear off of pop culture radar for a while until Alan Moore picked up a lot of Standard’s superheroes for his Tom Strong series.

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The Scarab would be a bit player for most of Alan Moore’s story until a spin off series to Tom Strong called Terra Obscura.

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The Scarab actually played an important part in the story when he bonded with the ancient Egyptian god Thoth in order to stop the villain Mystico, who had bonded with the god Set and threatened to take over the world.

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The Scarab was an unimportant hero who had an uneventful career and did uneventful things.  Still, despite all the old timey racism and stereotyping, I kind of like him.  He wasn’t the first hero to gain his powers through the mysterious and ancient gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, but he embraced his gimmick with gusto and devoted his life to making sure that the artifacts and treasures of history were safe from thieves.

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Eh, close enough.

4th of July Special: My top 5 Superman stories

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

and what better way to celebrate American independence than to look at the greatest American superhero ever created.

Is there anyone in modern fiction that embodies the ideals of truth, justice, and the American way?

Well, technically that last part isn’t exactly honest.  The “American Way” part of the motto wasn’t added until the 1950’s in an attempt to make Superman more politically friendly and “safe” for kids.  The original Superman had no problem threatening politicians and destroying homes in the name of justice and fair treatment.

Still, all things aside, Superman’s commitment to fighting for the little guy does make him an important figure in American pop culture.  He’s been dissected, discussed, and re interpreted countless time throughout the decades and today I would like to talk about five of the most important and/or interesting Superman stories ever told.

I believe that these five stories focus on a major aspect of Superman’s character and attempt to explain who the Man of Steel is and why he is, and must remain, the way he is.  This list is not designed to be an extensive description of the plots of each of these stories and I highly encourage you to check them out on your own.

Note: This list is my opinion and my opinion only.  If I left out your favorite Superman story please feel free to let me know in the comments.

5. Superman: Red Son

Writer: Mark Millar

Artists: Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett

Date published: 2003

A huge part of Superman’s personality and character stems from the fact that he grew up on a small farm in the middle of Kanses, the heartland of America.

His parents raised him the best way they could and gave their adopted son Clark the values and moral compass that made him the hero he became.

“Red Son” asks the question: what if Superman hadn’t landed in Kansas?  What if he had landed in America’s ideological opponent: the Soviet Union?

Without going into too much detail it’s safe to say it doesn’t end very well for America and instead of being instilled with values that promote freedom and individual liberty the new Soviet Superman becomes something akin to a Big Brother figure, watching over the people of the world as an authority figure rather than a benevolent guardian.

4. What’s so funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way?

Writer: Joe Kelly

Artists: Doug Mahnke and Lee Bermejo

Date published: 2001

Unlike most titles on the list this is not a stand alone story, rather it’s an arc in the Action Comics title, which is the long running Superman series that started in 1938 and only ended in 2011 (we’ll get to that).

This story is a discussion on one of the biggest questions a lot of readers have about Superman: why doesn’t he just kill his enemies?

Now, some superheroes do kill,

and some superheroes used to kill

but had that part of their character changed due to editorial mandate and the need to keep a running stable of villains.

While Superman has had his fair share of violent streaks, he has remained pretty committed to not killing his enemies for a very long time.  Even though he has the power to wipe out entire solar systems

and many people have pointed out that, by letting the bad guys he captures live, they have gone on to cause even more death and destruction.

Seriously, in order for a villain to present a threat to Superman they either have to have enough power to rack up a body count in the billions or wield enough intelligence and influence to control countless numbers of people.

“What’s so Funny about Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” answered that question and gave a pretty good reason as to why Superman doesn’t just kill his enemies, no matter how much they may deserve it.

The story starts with Superman coming face to face with a group of heroes known as “The Elite”

They are a group of erstwhile heroes who have no qualms about killing the villains they capture, much to the delight of the people of Earth and the dismay of Superman.

Things come to a head and the Elite and Superman wind up fighting each other.

It is very much an ideological battle that asks a whole lot of questions.  What is the purpose of a hero?  What is the proper use of power?  How far should a hero go in order to keep the peace?

All of these questions are answered in a fight that I believe is one of the best fights in comics.  Granted, the story can be a little heavy handed and self serving at times, but the story shows why Superman must remain the way he his, why he is still relevant it today’s society, and gives us a glimpse into the terrifying vision of a Superman who has no problem killing people.

3. All Star Superman

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Frank Quietly

Publication date: 2011

This is the most modern Superman story to appear on the list and one that answers the OTHER big question about Superman: how can you make a man who is literally invulnerable interesting?

Morrison tackles this question by doing something brilliant: he kills Superman.

Basically, an accident near the sun saturates Superman’s cells with radiation and he only has a short while to live before he disintegrates into energy.

The story is about the last days of Superman on Earth as he says goodbye to Louis Lane.

manages to defeat Lex Luthor one last time,

and comes to grips with his own mortality and several of the stranger bits of the Superman mythos.

This is Superman at his most basic essence.  He’s not protecting a cause, he’s not working with any other hero, he’s a God among men and he is doing everything he can to help.

This series is also home to what I consider to be the greatest page in all of comics.

I tear up every time.

2. Action Comics #1

Not only is this the first appearance of the Superman we know and love, it’s the first American superhero comic ever published.

We owe so much to this comic it’s difficult to describe.  Everything from the costume,

to his secret identity,

To his strange origins define so much of what it means to be a modern day superhero.

Granted, there were other masked vigilantes around before Superman and yes, there are plenty of heroes who have gone on to eclipse the Man of Steel in popularity but I think it is important to remember that without this,

there would be none of this.

1. Superman and the Clan of the Fiery Cross

This isn’t a comic book, it’s a story that ran as a radio serial between June 16th, 1946 to July 1st, 1946 and I believe it is the single most important Superman story ever created.

Post war America had a problem with a group called the Ku Klux Klan.

For anyone who might not know, the Ku Klux Klan (or KKK for short) is a vile hate group that was formed by white men in the American South in order to protect American societ, just as long as that society was white and Protestant Christian.

Unfortunately they are still around and while they used to campaign against the inclusion of black people into American society

they continue to exist today as a force campaigning against immigration and what they perceive as an invasion of America by foreigners.

So why am I talking about this?  Well, in the 1940’s a human rights activist and investigative journalist from Jacksonville Florida named Stetson Kennedy decided to go undercover and investigate the Klan.

He uncovered a whole bunch of the Klan’s secrets from how they ran their meetings, to how they were organized, and even what their secret handshakes looked like.

He actually discovered that beneath the violence and horrific racism the Klan was pretty stupid and after a while he was ready to report his findings to the world.

Unfortunately this was going to be difficult since the Klan was big and Kennedy had no idea if the police of newspaper editors he could share his findings with were members.

So Stetson went to the writes of the popular Superman radio show and together they came up with a 16 part radio drama where Superman fought and defeated “The Clan of the Fiery Cross”.

I won’t talk about the story, you can read a synopsis here and listen to it here if want the original serial complete with ads for Kellog’s Pep, but what I do want to talk about is the real world impact that story had.

The story claimed to expose real Klan codes and practices and in 2005 a book called Freakonomics stated that this single radio serial was the biggest contributor to the decline in Klan membership in the 1940’s.

Whether it’s true or not the fact remains that Superman helped fight and bring down one of the worst and most vile hate groups in American history.

No other hero in popular culture has had that kind of impact on our society and way of life, and that is why this story is the greatest Superman story ever told.  It doesn’t matter how many people like Superman or if people thing he’s too powerful or boring.  What matters is that he is there for us as an example of pure, unadulterated good in the world and worthy of being the champion for the ideals of truth and justice that America was founded on and strives to live up to.

 

Happy July 4th everyone.

History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The Red God

WARNING: SPOILERS!

It’s Game of Thrones time!

Forgive my excitement but I’m something of a fan.

Last season I kicked off this entire website with a massive blog series on the history behind the show.  It was an in depth look at everything from the dragons to the Free Cities and how many parts of the show and books borrow so much influence from actual history.

For season 6 we’re going to take a more measured approach and release one article a week until the end of the season.  This will be more of a reactionary series talking about the historical parallels between things that show up in each episode.

So, without much ado, let’s talk about the Red God R’hllor.

In the show and books there is a god of fire named R’hllor.  He goes by several names such as “The Lord of Light”, “The Heart of Fire”, and “The God of Flame and Shadow”.

He’s a fairly popular god in the eastern continent of Essos and while he isn’t that popular in Westeros his servants have played a pretty big role in politics in that region.

The faith itself is monotheistic, worshiping only one singular divine being, and has a fascination with fire, which can be a good thing when dealing with something like the extreme cold but over the course of the show it’s been shown that the Red God is somewhat…demanding when it comes to sacrifice.

They also have a dualistic view of the world, believing in a single “good” god being opposed by a singe “evil” god, and believe that the world will be saved when a messianic figure named “Azor Ahai” will return to beat back the darkness and bring light to the world.

As for the servants of the Red God, they are known as Red Priests.  These servants of the Red God are often pledged to his service by They can be male or female and have been seen throughout the show preaching,

fighting,

and attempting to convert kings.

They also appear to wield some pretty potent magic

and are a faith that is slowly spreading its influence across the world.

With the blog last year we talked about the similarities between the religion of Westeros and religious history in early Europe.  The Old Gods of Westeros are similar to old Celtic pagan beliefs while the Faith of the Seven bears a striking resemblance to Christianity.

The religion of the Red God is a bit trickier than the other two.  On one hand their fascination with fire and belief in a single divine being bears a striking resemblance to Zoroastrianism, which is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions.

 

The Zoroastrians believe in the existence of a single god named Ahura Mazda, who is the sole creator of the world and the representation of all that is good.  It’s also worth mentioning that fire plays in important role in worship.

The thing is that while the faith of the Red God in Game of Thrones borrows things like monotheism and the fascination with fire from the Zoroastrians it’s place in the history of Game of Thrones and its rapid spread throughout Essos shares similarities with a more modern religion: Islam.

The first and biggest similarity between the two is doctrinal.  When Islam rose to prominence around 600 A.D it firmly believed that there was one God and one God only.  This was expressed in a Muslim belief known as Tawheed which confirmed that God ruled alone and was absolute.

This put Islam at odds with Christianity’s view of the Trinity, which stipulated that there was “One God in three parts”.  This bears a striking resemblance within the Game of Thrones universe to the Red God’s singular rule vs. the Faith of the Seven “one being divided into seven aspects”.

But doctrine isn’t the only thing that makes the faith of the Red God similar to Islam, it the religion’s place in history as well.

The Red God is something of a late comer to the religious scene and Islam was as well.  By the time the Prophet Mohammad received his visions from God, Christianity had been around in the ancient world for over 600 years.  Just like the Red Priests the prophet Mohammad and his followers spread the word of their visions throughout the Eastern Mediterranean through preaching,

fighting,

and engaging in political intrigue by converting kings and nobles.

Just like the Red Priests Islam followed a similar pattern by becoming very popular in the East, while experiencing resistance and outright hostility in the West.

It should be noted that in the show the Red Priests haven’t reached the point of controlling an empire of believers like the early Muslims did.

But I’m sure that if the faith of R’hllor is given enough time they will eventually reach a point where they become one of the most powerful religions in Westeros.

Crowd funded comics that deserve more attention #2: Devi and Modern Myths

Today, for our second post talking about crowdfunded comics that deserve more attention we are going to talk about a company that is bringing the massive, complex, and epic mythology of the Indian subcontinent to comic books and in order to help they have launched a Patreon campaign to bring one of their creations to life.

Link to the campaign: https://www.patreon.com/Devi?ty=h

What is it?

The company running the Patreon campaign is called Graphic India.  It is a new company dedicated to bringing the history and mythology of India into the mainstream.  To that end they are already well into production of a web series called “18 Days”, a retelling of the great epic the Mahabharata and it is written by none other than Grant Morrison (for those who don’t know Grant Morrison one of the best comic book writers alive today), you can find out about that here.

The Patreon campaign is for Graphic India’s second major undertaking, a weekly motion comic web series called Devi.  Written by film director Shekhar Kapur the story follows the adventures of Devi, a mystical avatar of the Hindu gods as she does battle with an evil demon named Lord Bala.  Devi is set in a futuristic Indian city called Sitapur and looks like this.

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Aside from looking like she can rip any opponent the shreds the story itself looks incredibly promising.  Sitapur is a futuristic Asian city filled with high buildings, low morals, and a blend of magic and technology that creates something new and different.  Also, the trailer is awesome.

Why I like it:

Besides looking amazing and promising a story with the kind of blood and violence I like Devi, and Graphic India’s other projects, is bringing new ideas and new traditions to comic books that make all kinds of excited.

A little bit of history, comic books are known for adapting and reworking existing mythologies and stories into the present day.  Greek and Roman mythology was especially popular in the early days of comic books and DC is known primarily for utilizing it for some of it’s biggest stars.

While Marvel turned to Norse mythology for its mythical heroes and created this guy.

It seems to me that Graphic India is looking to give Indian mythology the same treatment, and when you have stories of monkey kings

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Multi headed demons being defeated by mythical arrows.

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And humans of immense strength battling giants with fallen trees.

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You have the makings of an amazing comic book universe with plenty of amazing and epic stories.

Why you should donate:

Devi is currently being developed as a weekly motion comic series and they’re already six episodes in.  The Patreon campaign was launched to help with the cost of creating the videos and you can contribute on a per creation basis, meaning you pledge for each video produced.  So if you want to expand your horizons with an epic story, awesome characters, and usher in a new mythology into the pantheon of comic book myth, consider donating today.

Devi

Campaign link: https://www.patreon.com/Devi?ty=h

Crowdfunded comics that deserve your attention #1: Amiculus

Welcome to the inaugural post of a new blogs series “Crowdfunded comics that deserve your attention”.  It’s a weekly blog post about…crowdfunded comics that deserve a lot more attention then they are getting.  Every week I will select one comic series or graphic novel currently on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Patreon, or any other crowdfunding site and write about what it is, what I like about it, and why I think it deserves to be funded.

A couple of things to clear up before we start:

1. I am not being paid for this and these posts reflect my opinion and my opinion alone.  If, for whatever reason, I receive any form of compensation for any article I write I will make it expressly clear who is paying and why.

2. This series is for comics and graphic novels only.  This blog and website is dedicated to comics and this rule is simply in place to keep it all consistent.

3.  If you are reading things and are currently running a crowdfunding campaign for a comic book or graphic novel of your own creation please let me know!  Leave a polite request and a link to your campaign on my Twitter account @CambrianComics and I will take a look.  Please only leave one request, anyone caught spamming tweets or acting in a rude or disrespectful manner will be ignored.

With that said let’s move on to our first candidate: Amiculus Volume II: Flagellum Dei

Author’s note: if you want to check out the campaign first feel free to click here to go directly to the Kickstarter page.  If you would like a little more convincing, read on.  The same link will be a the bottom of the page below.

What is it?

Amiculus Vol. II is the second Kickstarter campaign by creator Travis Horseman and artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo.  Fresh off the success of their successfully funded Volume 1: Roma Aeterna, which is now available on Amazon,

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this writer and artist take us to a war torn ancient Rome at the twilight of the Western Roman Empire and ask the question: did Rome fall…or was it pushed?

Why I like it:

Amiculus is ancient historical fiction at its finest.  I know this because I donated the Kickstarter campaign for Volume I and I was not disappointed.  Travis Horseman crafts a tale of blood, betrayal, and unimaginable violence at the twilight of one of the greatest empires the world has ever known.  The comic follows the quest of the ancient historian Procopius of Caesarea as he seeks the last words of the boy emperor Romulus Augustulus, the last truly Roman ruler of the Western Roman Empire.

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He finds a manuscript that takes him into the final days of the Roman Empire as the city that was once the jewel of the world is laid to siege by the barbarian general (and former Roman mercenary) Odoacer.

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Sadly, Rome is not prepared for this kind of fight.  The Emperor is a young boy, a weak leader who is controlled by his commanding and ambitious father Flavius Orestes,

Romulus

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And Odoacer seems to have help from a mysterious clocked figure that appears to know everything about the Roman defenses, a shrouded figure known only as…Amiculus.

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The reason I’m talking about this is because this is the kind of story I love to read.  I am a rabid fan of ancient history and I can personally attest that every name, every date, and every location within Rome is accurate.  With the exception of Amiculus (if we don’t take SOME liberty with the events that happened we wouldn’t have a work of historical fiction) all the major players are there.

Also, the art work is top notch.  Caracuzzo is a veteran artist who has been drawing for over thirty years, and his dedication and skill show in this comic.  Here the artist gets to showcase an impressive eye for action and some of the most effective emotional displays I have ever seen.

Why you should donate:

Amiculus is a work of historical fiction, a field that comic books don’t really explore too often.  Granted there are plenty of western and fantasy comics that take their inspiration from history but this is different.  This is a story filled with real people, in real locations, making real history and you don’t need that much embellishment to make it exciting.

Still, if that isn’t enough to make you want to donate there is the practical side to consider.  I’ll be the first to admit that one of the big problems with crowdfunded comics is that the creators of successful funding campaigns sometimes have a bit of trouble delivering promised rewards on promised shipping dates.  That is not a problem here, the creative team has already created a successful campaign that has delivered on its promises (like I said before, I donated to their first campaign) and will do so again.

This comic is a work of art and storytelling that allows an excellent storyteller and an excellent artist to tell an epic, complex, and incredibly violent story about an epic, complex, and incredibly violent period of human history.

If you liked what you read and want to either learn more or donate, please feel free to check out the Kickstarter page here.  Thank you.

History and Legends of Game of Thrones: Why I like the show so much

WARNING: SPOILERS.

So the fifth season of Game of Thrones has come to an end (yes I know it happened this Saturday bear with me) and this means we have reached the end of the blog series.  Oh, the series will still go on, there is still so much to talk about, it’s just that I want to save it for the next season and in the mean time I’d like to talk about something else.

I would like to close off this season of blog posts by talking about why I love the show so much.  I am a lover of history, I love reading about it, talking about it, and I was a History major in college.  One of my favorite books of all time is a epic work of historical nonfiction called “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century” by historian Barbara Tuchman.

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The book is Tuchman’s account of the 14th century where she talks about everything from the 100 Years War, to the spread of the Black Plague, to peasant uprisings, and political intrigue.  Besides having a badass cover, that’s the white horseman of war leading an army of dead against the living, Tuchman’s book helps her portray the 14th Century as a dark parallel to early 20th century Europe suffering from the aftermath of the First World War (I should note that Tuchman’s most well known work is August 1914 where she talks about the prelude to WW1).  This book is really good and I highly recommend it.

The reason I bring this up is because history and fantasy, especially really good and well written history and fantasy, can help us understand the world we live in by drawing parallels to our society and filtering them through the fantastic and the epic.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks showing the events, groups, and people that George R.R Martin has used as inspiration for his masterpiece but if we apply the same treatment to Game of Thrones that Tuchman applied to 14th century Europe a lot of interesting things start to appear.  For example:

One of the most powerful organizations in the Game of Thrones universe is the Iron Bank, able to change the fortunes of everyone from peasants to kings.  Does that seem so strange when our modern banks like Goldman Sachs and J.P Morgan have such a huge stake in our world today?  How many of us are tied to a bank because we wanted to buy a house or car or go to college?

Some of the most brutal and evil lords and rulers in Game of Thrones are currently, and formerly, some of the most effective and powerful rulers.

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It’s no secret that quite a few parts of our world are run by terrible people.

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But when you consider the situations that led to their rise to power and the ability of these monsters to keep and hold on to their power their continued existence, while not very justifiable, can certainly be explained.

Speaking of leadership let’s talk about some of the “good” leaders.  While there are plenty of horrible people in power both in the show and in real life there are people in charge that are trying their best to do the right thing.

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Sometimes it all works out and the good guys win but what a lot of leaders who start out with good intentions eventually learn is that it’s always a bit more complicated than it originally seemed and things can go wrong very quickly.

This is just a small sample of some of the parallels between the Game of Thrones universe and our own world.  We could go on for hours on subjects like money, torture, ethics, proper leadership, terrorism, environmentalism, and slavery but to do that would require a book’s worth of time and research.

Thank you for reading this blog and sticking with me for the fifth season of Game of Thrones.  We produce a comic strip about a family of supervillains (something completely different from this) for your enjoyment and I hope you’ll stick around in the future where we have plenty of fun and interesting topics lined up for you.

Valar Morghulis…see you next season.

History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The White Walkers

WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS FROM THE MOST RECENT SEASON FINALE IN THIS ARTICLE.

So since we talked about the dragons and how they’re representations of man’s ability to find more efficient ways of killing his fellow man I thought today we would dedicate our second to last post of the season to the other extreme: the White Walkers.

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The White Walkers are a primal force of nature and right now they represent the greatest threat to ever confront the human race, a threat that humanity is woefully under equipped to handle at the moment, especially with the death of Jon Snow.

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Deadly, extremely capable, and above all…patient the White Walkers are not only extremely capable warriors but able to raise an army of the dead which gives them a huge advantage.  While the humans grow weaker the Walkers can only grow stronger.

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Winter is coming, and if nothing is done to halt the Walker’s advance winter will stay for a very long time.

In today’s day and age we are somewhat obsessed with the weather.  Whether you believe it or not there aren’t that many people out there who aren’t aware of global warming.  But despite the endless debates and inaction going on today we do know that climate change is a thing that has happened.  We know this because the Little Ice Age was a thing and it had a huge impact on world history…mostly for the worse.

The Little Ice Age was a period in history of intense global cooling, which is a thing.  Starting just before 1300 the Earth experienced a dramatic drop in temperatures (I should note here that a “dramatic drop” in environmental science is only a couple of degrees) resulting in longer winters and shorter growing seasons.

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The human race had been experiencing a period of remarkable growth during the time period Europeans call the High Middle Ages and while there was still quite a bit of violence and death in Europe, things were starting to calm down which led to increased economic and cultural growth under the rule of the Catholic Church.

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All of that would change with the Little Ice Age and the beginning of the 14th century.  Cooler temperatures led to shorter growing seasons and more frequent rain storms.  Shorter growing seasons meant less food to feed a large population and the results were devastating.  The world changed practically over night as humans devolved into violence and desperation, fighting over land and resources that could not support everyone.

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But all that pales in comparison to what came after the famine and warfare: a horrifying pestilence known as the Black Death.

The Black Death.  London was such a filty place at the time of the plague that nothing could be done to stop the disease.  The death cart seen in the background of the picture was in constant use.  Original artwork for illustration on p19 of Look and Learn issue no 763 (28 August 1976).

The Black Death was one of the most singular and deadly events to ever take place in human history.  We’ve all heard the stories about how the plague was brought to Europe from the East on trading ships and the combination of filthy streets and towns coupled with a lack of understanding of how disease worked allowed the plague to wipe out almost a third of Europe’s population.

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To a population that feared dropping dead in a heartbeat and watching as friends and family died all around them it must have seemed like the end of the world.  This led to some very fatalistic world views and gave birth to an artistic genre known as the Danse Macabre, the idea that death walks with everyone from the lowliest peasant to the most powerful lord.  You can see examples of the artwork everywhere, normal people going about their lives always accompanied by an emaciated waling skeleton that looks for all the world like some of the White Walkers and zombies from Game of Thrones.

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It was the cold that brought plague and death to Medieval Europe, a long winter that lasted for decades and destroyed most of Europe…just like what the White Walkers threaten to do to Westeros if nobody stops them.