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

 

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Comic book showcase: Truth: Red, White, and Black

Today is Martin Luther King day.

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Now, we’ve been writing this blog series for a long time and when an important holiday happens to fall on a Monday, we like to find some sort of superhero and/or comic book that fits within the theme for that holiday.

When it’s the 4th of July we like to do a patriotic superhero,

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when it’s Halloween we like to do a horror themed blog post,

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and for holidays such as Martin Luther King day, we like to talk about black superheroes.

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We’ve briefly talked about the history of black men and women in comic books before, but today I thought we could break tradition and talk about an actual comic book series that was published in 2003 and uses one of the worst events in American history to tell a damn good story.

Today we’re going to talk about Truth: Red, White, and Black.

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Origin and history

WARNING: We are about to discuss a historical event that involves some very questionable ethics, upsetting imagery, and a rather frank discussion of race relations in America.  It may cause some people discomfort but talking about this is necessary in order to make sure something like this never happens again.

Between 1932 and 1972 the United States Public Health Service conducted a long running experiment known as “The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment” where they purposely infected 600 black men in rural Alabama with syphilis in order to study the long term effects of the disease.

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As if that wasn’t bad enough, the people running the study never told these men what was going on.  Instead, all the test subjects were informed that they were simply receiving free healthcare and medical treatment.

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This vile experiment continued until the program was shut down in 1972 after the project was discovered and public outcry grew too strong.

Although the study was shut down and $10 million dollars were paid out in reparations after a class action lawsuit in 1974 it remains one of the darkest chapters in American history.

The Comic

In January of 2003 comic book writer Robert Morales pitched an idea to Marvel’s editor in chief Joe Quesada that told an alternate story behind the serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America.

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As many of us know, the true recipe for the super soldier serum was destroyed after creating Captain America, but that didn’t stop the Allies and the Nazis from trying to replicate it and making more super soldiers.

What followed was as series of experiments to see if the formula could be replicated.  In the case of the Allies, they forced a regiment of African Amerian soldiers to act as human guinea pigs for the serum, because people are awful and mid 20th century America didn’t really care about black people.

The results were catastrophic and disturbing.

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...and the horror that ensued, graphic illustration of a moral low-point in human and US history.

However, five test subjects did survive to be sent off to the war and one manged to come home.  His name was Isaiah Bradley and he was the first black Captain America.

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Despite having every right to be pissed off at the people giving him orders, Isaiah did his job and did it well.  He managed to swipe one of Captain America’s spare shields and uniforms and kick a lot of Nazi butt.

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He was even captured by the Nazis but was rescued before he could be dissected and studied.

His country decided to reward his bravery and accomplishments by court marshaling him and throwing him into prison in 1943 because sometimes life just takes a steaming dump on you and there is nothing you can do about it.

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He was later pardoned by President Eisenhower in 1960.

At the end of the series, Steve Rogers managed to find out about the program that created Isaiah and tried to make things better.  Unfortunately, the serum had a debilitating effect on Isaiah’s mind and he suffered Alzheimer’s like symptoms until he had the mental capacity of a child.

The last panel of the series is one of the most heartbreaking and sweetest panels I’ve ever seen.

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Impact of the comic

Within the Marvel Universe, Isaiah Bradley became a symbol and a living legend within the black community.

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Also, he served as a grandfather like figure and inspiration to many of Marvel’s black superheroes.  Even Black Panther gives him a massive amount of respect.

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While he was immensely popular with other black heroes he remained unknown by many white superheroes

Sadly, even after he did his time and served his country the United States government tried to use him and duplicate the experiment.  They wound up creating a clone that was born from a surrogate mother.  The child managed to escape and named himself Josiah X.

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Isaiah also had a grandson named Elijah Bradly who would go on to become the superhero Patriot.

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I’ve talked about race relations in comic books before.  When the industry really started taking off it was not kind to men and women of color.  While I do think things have gotten  better there is still a wide discrepancy between black creators and superheroes and white creators and superheroes in terms of audience and exposure.  But, thankfully things are getting even better and I believe only good things are in store for the future.

Truth: Red, White, and Black is one of the most brutal and uncompromising comic books out there and it is well worth your time and money.  It takes one of the ugliest events in American history and manages to turn it into something that is not only educational but one of the sweetest and most important comic book stories in the past twenty years.

Thank you for reading this article!  Besides weekly blog posts about comic books and superheroes Cambrian Comics also publishes a bi weekly web comic called “The Secret Lives of Villains” and the first volume is up for sale on Amazon here!  If you enjoyed this article please feel free to support us by picking up a copy.  Thanks again!

Golden Age Showcase #2: 711

Today we’re going to talk about one of the more interesting characters that didn’t survive the Golden Age of Comics, not because he was a template for a future superhero like the Blue Beetle or because he was too weird like the Vagabond but because he probably has one of the most interesting origin stories and motivations in all of comics

#711

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Origin and career:

#711 debuted in Police Comics #1 in 1941 and was published by a company named Quality Comics.  He was never given his own series and spent his short career appearing in comics like the one below.

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He was originally known as District Attorney Daniel Dyce.  Now Dyce, in a coincidence that is the kind that could only be found in media like Golden Age Comics, had a friend who looked like an exact duplicate named Jacob Horn who just happened to be in prison.

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Jacob had a wife who was just about to give birth and, desperate to see his newborn child, Jacob convinces Daniel to take his place in prison so he can go be with his family, because that is how the justice system works apparently.  Unfortunately this happens.

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Jacob is killed and Daniel is now stuck in prison.  Desperate to clear his name Daniel forsakes all sane methods he could use to prove his innocence and manages to tunnel out of prison.  Instead of hightailing to Mexico or Canada Dyce decides to go back into prison and use his tunnel to become a costumed crime fighter by night.  He decides to call himself 711 in reference to his prisoner number and adopts a costume that has more similarities to the older pulp characters rather than modern superheroes.

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While he had no special abilities other than being very good at fighting he did have an impressive calling card, a mirrored surface with black bars across it so the recipient could see himself behind bars.

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So what happened?

Prisoner #711 appeared in 15 issues with Quality Comics.  In his final appearance he was killed by a mobster named Oscar Jones.  It’s worth noting that, unlike the Vagabond I talked about last week, he was deemed a decent enough character to be given a definite end and a rather touching send off

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and he was replaced by a nearly identical hero called Destiny

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Business wise Prisoner 711 would never see another issue because his publisher, Quality Comics, was bought by DC comics in 1956.  While some of Quality’s most notable heroes like Plastic Man

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Would become relatively well known superheroes DC comics didn’t have the time for Prisoner 711.  He did make an appearance during a DC Millennium reprint although it was created to showcase Plastic Man’s first appearance.

 Before I go I’d just like to say that while #711’s origin and short lived career may seem a bit odd and fantastical I personally think the idea is a good one.  The idea that a hero has to break out of prison to go fight crime, and can use the prison grapevine for information, is something that I think could make a very intriguing story.  What’s more, if there is anyone out there who is likewise inspired, you could make a very strong case that the #711 concept and story is in the public domain so anyone could potentially use it.