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,

Image result for harry houdini and arthur conan doyle

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

 

 

 

President’s Day special: Uncle Sam

Happy President’s Day everyone!

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For our non American readers, President’s Day is an American holiday held on the third Monday of every month.  It was originally made a legal holiday in order to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,

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but depending on what state you live in it can either celebrate one of them, both, or every President who has been elected into office.

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Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the position of President of the United States of America is probably not the most popular position of leadership in the world right now,

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but let me make my position on the matter perfectly clear.

While it is important to realize that the position of President of the United States is a difficult one, and that we should honor the people who sacrifice their time and health to the job, the truth of the matter is that at the end of the day the President is an elected official who can, and should, only do so much.

At the end of the day the problems that we face as a society can only be solved when ordinary people come together to fix them and take action.  Solutions are almost never the work of one great individual, but rather a collection of ordinary people.

Sadly, the slow and tedious work of millions is difficult to comprehend.  So in order to make sense of it all we do two things.  We celebrate the lives and achievements of a few men and women and we craft symbols and signs that we can rally around.

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That is part of the reason why I like superheroes so much.  They’re colorful, larger than life, and an easy way for people to relate to things and events that are much bigger than themselves.

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In an increasingly complex and chaotic world, they are the walking solutions to many of our problems.

So let’s take a look at a Golden Age superhero who wasn’t just a superhero who represented the millions of men and women who fought in WW2, but a walking symbol of America as well: Uncle Sam.

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Origin and Career

Uncle Sam became the personification of the American people and government during the War of 1812, although you probably recognize him more from his World War 1 recruitment poster.

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According to legend, the character of Uncle Sam was based off of the real life Samuel Wilson, who was a meat packer from New York and a fervent American patriot.

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Uncle Sam is up there with the bald eagle, baseball, and the flag as great American symbols and since he has such a violent history and is often associated with war it only makes sense that when America decided to get involved during World War 2, they co opt the ever loving crap out of him.

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Naturally he found a home in comic books and in July of 1940, Quality Comics published National Comics #1 hit the stands with Uncle Sam leading the charge against the Axis.

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I don’t know what I like more, the fact that Uncle Sam’s hat hasn’t blown away in the wind, or that they have a LITTLE KID RUNNING ACROSS AN AIRPLANE WING ATTACKING A FULLY GROWN MAN ARMED WITH A PISTOL!

Boy, child safety laws were pretty lax back then.

Like every hero, Uncle Sam needed an origin story.  It turned out that the folks at National Comics were content to keep him as a vague symbol of American government and way of life, only this time he was going to get his hands dirty and join the fight against crime and injustice.  It turned out that Uncle Sam was the spirit of a fallen soldier from the American Revolution and continued to appear whenever his country needed him to fight.

With any other company or creator this probably would have turned into a silly little farce, but this version of Uncle Sam was written by Will Eisner.

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If you don’t know who Will Eisner is, all you need to understand is that the comic book industry’s version of the Oscars is named after him.

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Anyway, this version of Uncle Sam did his patriotic duty and fought off, what else, the forces of evil and tyranny that just so happened to look like the Nazis.

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His superpowers were whatever the story needed and he had a kid sidekick named Buddy Smith who accompanied Uncle Sam on his many dangerous adventures.

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So what happened?

He spent 45 issues beating the enemies of America, and freedom loving people everywhere, to a pulp.

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Then Quality Comics went belly up in 1956 and was bought out by DC.

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DC’s Uncle Sam would go on to be a pretty big supporting character in the DC universe.  He became the leader of the Freedom Fighters, a group of old Quality Comics characters that were brought together in a Justice League type of arrangement.

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His origin was retooled a bit.  Now he was a spiritual entity that was summoned by the Founding Fathers in an occult ritual that bound the “Spirit of America” to the body of a dying patriot.

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Image result for dc comics uncle sam origin

He’s had a steady presence in the DC universe ever since the 1970’s.

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In 1997 DC’s greatest imprint, Vertigo Comics, gave Uncle Sam a two issue mini series written by Steve Darnell and drawn by Alex Ross.

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My hat is off to Vertigo for taking a pretty goofy character and treating him with respect and giving him a meaningful story.

He appeared in the DC event comic Blackest Night.

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and was dramatically revamped as a mortal black man in the New 52 reboot.

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Uncle Sam is an interesting character.  On one hand he’s goofy, colorful, and the kind of un ironic display of patriotism that would make a lot of people cringe.  On the other hand he’s a symbol of a violent and destructive superpower that has a nasty habit of sticking its nose in business that it has no right to be in.

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Personally, I’m more inclined towards the first interpretation.  Whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying that the man is pure Americana and I can’t think of a better symbol of the effort and determination of the American people.

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Sure, you can call me corny and cheesy but you know what?  I’m okay with that.

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