wednesday


Musings of a Blerd-Indie Artist Spotlight: Sarah Neila Elkins

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In honor of it being New Comic Book Day, I’m introducing a new feature to my column titled Indie Artist Spotlight which focuses on independent artists who are doing their thing in the comics community who you ought to pay attention to. Today the spotlight shines on artist Sarah “Neila” Elkins.

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Tali Adina: How did you get into comics?

Sarah Elkins: I’ve always loved comics since I was a kid and my older brothers and I would go down to the comic shop. When I was in Middle and Highschool I wanted to become a film director. I used to write movie scripts, staring my friends and I, then draw storyboards for the stories. In Highschool I got to researching the Director’s Guild and found how much the dues were. It broke my heart. I realized I had a lot of fun drawing the storyboards and they were similar to comics. At the time Indy films were new and that thought didn’t cross my mind so I refocused on Comics where I could have full creative control and make things without paying dues to someone else.

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I lucked out getting my first comic Flatting Job (colorist assistant, sort of) because a friend who was in art school passed my name on to a former employer of his. Since then I’ve gotten to work on all sorts of books for so many different people I lost track.

TA: What inspired you to become an artist and when did you begin to draw?

SE: I’ve always drawn. We have old doodles of Horses and Alicorns on our freezer I drew as a kid. I think it was probably just my desire to share the movies in my head that made me want to become an artist.

TA: Which tools do you use to create comics and what makes them the “right tools” for you?

SE: I like to use red pencil, either a Ticonderoga marking pencil or the Color Eno mech pencil my friend Lor got me (that pencils rocks!) Then use a regular cheap 2HB pencil for tighter lines over the red pencil. I’ll either ink by hand Kellwoodpg3Inks2PREVIEWwith whatever is handy, usually some drafting pens or sharpie writing pens, or I’ll ink digitally with Manga Studio EX 5.  I love Manga Studio 5 for coloring too, it has all the photoshop tools and then some, really really nice.

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TA: What is your art style?

SE: I refer to my art style as “Guns” and I’m sticking to my Guns. :P

It’s been called “too manga” and “not manga enough” by the same people so I just refer to it as my Guns.

TA: What inspires you to create comics?

SE: I want to tell stories. I want to entertain people. I want to share my characters and their worlds. I’m a bit of a chronic day dreamer so I’m always, always, always thinking of new stories while working, driving (which can be scary, gotta keep my eyes on the road), or talking with people. Music is really great to get the imagination gears going in overdrive though! Getting paid helps too, without being paid I’d starve. :S

 TA: What do you do when you’re drained and need to  recharge creatively?

SE: I work on something else. I’m really bad about not stopping. I get a bit manic when I’m about to crash and when I crash I become a snail. I really need to play video games more, but I do manage to read at night, which helps. At the moment I’m reading Stephen King and studying how he writes.

TA: What advice can you give aspiring artists?

SE: Stay positive. Keep your eye on the horizon. Keep moving forward. Don’t view others in your field as rivals. We’re all co-workers and friends. Don’t be afraid to contact artists or writers you like, be courteous though. A positive attitude and good contacts go a LONG LONG way.

TA: Can you tell us about any of the projects you’re working on?

SE: I’m flatting for Dan Jackson on a book and also flatting a comic called Hero Cats.

I’m penciling and inking a comic called “Here There Be Monsters” with Amelius http://heretherebemonsters.us/

It’s a tie in to her series Charby the Vampirate and follows a group of Monster Hunters.

I just finished a short comic called “Ride a Cloud” for Devin Leigh Michaels in her last Kickstarter Anthology “Capitalism and Other Stories”RideCloudPg1webLogo

Also just released “Sharkpony and the Glitter Riders” a one shot parody comic I ran an IndieGoGo for last fall http://paragonketch.storenvy.com/collections/160253-all-products/products/6472642-sharkpony-and-the-glitter-riders-1

I’ve also got some prose short stories I’m shopping around to publishers and a couple novels I’m writing on in my ‘spare’ time. My ‘Spare Time’ is usually from about 10pm to 2am.

TA: What’s an important lesson that you’ve learned so far from working in comics?

SE: Never work for free. Network. Network. Network. The more people you know the more likely you are to succeed. People don’t always read the descriptions of what’s in books or who you are.

TA: Where can people find your art?

SE: I have a DA page I need to clean up and post new stuff on but I’m usually too busy working on the above mentioned stuff to remember to do that http://neilak20.deviantart.com/

I’m usually haunting Twitter all day and bothering people https://twitter.com/NeilaK20

I have a couple Tumblr pages I need to post more of my art on instead of just reblogging my friends XD http://neilak20.tumblr.com/

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Wednesday’s Webcomic: Terminally Illin’

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I make a rare case for an incomplete comic that needs funding today: Terminally Illin’ is one young woman’s fight against cancer, documented in an irreverent, surreal, and psychedelic story described as “Alice in Wonderland on Chemo.” The  completed first issue is available for free if you submit your email address, and I highly recommend donating to support the comic; as your donations contribute to cancer research and the free copies of the comic for patients. I backed the second round of funding on Kickstarter for the full color graphic novel eighteen months ago and I couldn’t be more pleased with the first part of the comic I received; on page three there is a chemo-merkin joke. Our heroine, the writer’s avatar, pokes fun at every moment of the process: the day an old lady yelled at her for laughing before her treatment, her insincere doctor who disapproves of her chemo-mohawk, and the massive quantities of drugs she was consuming at the time make a song and dance about their skills. The actual blog posts the author made at the time are spaced through out the book. The comic also aims to educate about the biology involved and tries to be factually correct about all of the scientific matters, even if you can’t actually fight tumor-Hitlers with your sewing scissors and pet cat. The vivid and expressive art accentuates the often grotesque subject matter in the style of R. Crumb or Gabby Schulz, and while the subject and illustrations are dark and close to tragic, there is a palpable sense of hope and vigor that comes through in the writing and in the playful and bright eyes of our heroine as she journeys through her own body.

Terminally Illin' Subway

If your world is a body with cancer, the end really is nigh!

The writer, Kaylin Andres was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, and was both troubled and inspired by the lack of cancer resources available for young adults during her treatment. She documents her experiences, battle and victories and recurrences in her overwhelmingly popular blog Cancer Is Hilarious. While producing the comic, she unfortunately experienced a Cancer recurrence and has started agressive treatment for it, but somehow managed to finish the first book of the comic as well as begin her fashion design career! She and her story were featured on the MTV documentary Series World of Jenks. She is now a three-time cancer survivor. The artist, Jon Solo, is a long time friend and experienced graphic designer and comic artist.

Please enjoy this adorable video of the birth of the Chemo-Hawk and the heroine learning to fire and AK-47.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Steve Rogers’ American Captain

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Thanks to the most recent installment of Thor, I have the Marvel films on the brain. Since I know  we’ll all be waiting anxiously now for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I am sharing the excellent Steve Rogers’ American Captain to help scratch that itch. Steve Rogers’ American Captain takes place between the end of The Avengers and the upcoming film. As Steve tries to work out his confusion with the new world around him and grief for his friends from the 40’s, he begins to sketch himself interacting with others, all the confusing things that happen throughout the day, and his thought process as he wrestles with the PTSD that comes from going to war, being trapped in ice for 60 years, and being resuscitated and then save the world from an alien invasion. Cameos from his colleagues in the Avengers as they work, hang out and try to relate to him or help work  out his problems are frequent and often hilarious and touching.

A lot of the praise for American Captain has been for the honest and touching ways it portrays mental illness. Captain America, the true All-American, sharing his very relatable struggles with depression and anxiety help shows how very real the struggles can be for such a huge portion of our society.  The comic is all told from Steve’s perspective, in a sketchy pen-and-ink style. They are all hand drawn and scanned, which helps preserve the personal diary feel. It’s also fun to see the characterizations of the Marvel heroes in their casual mode, including Thor on a lunch date, Black Widow talking politics, and Tony Stark bonding with Steve over his father issues in his own roundabout and with-maximum-frustration way. The author, Robyn, is a doctoral candidate from New Zealand. American Captain is currently her only comic.

America Library

I hope book libraries never change, especially not the smell.

 


Wedneday’s Webcomic: Nimona

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Just in time for Halloween, I bring you Nimona, the tale of an evil genius and his minion. Ballister Blackheart was going it alone as a supervillain until teenage Nimona showed up on his doorstep with a can-do attitude, penchant for violence, and shapeshifting powers. Blackheart’s villainy isn’t black and white however, as his own strict code of honor from his days working for the Institution for Law Enforcement and Heroics before his terrible betrayal tends to keep him from achieving the heights of villainy. Cheerfully violent Nimona has her own mysterious reasons for wanting to take the Institute down, which she sulkily avoids whenever the subject comes up. Over the course of their villainous schemes they discover the Institute is hiding something truly horrendous, and must use all of their villainous wiles to expose their foes to the unsuspecting populace.

Nimona takes place is a fascinating, Magitech medieval universe. While all the characters wear armor and joust and talk of magic, there are televisions, ray guns, and giant robots to enjoy as well! The art is in full color, with a sketchy and expressive children’s-book style of drawing. What will really astonish you is the incredibly-drawn monsters Nimona can turn into throughout the comic! While mainly a comedy, the comic cleverly holds a mirror, darkly,  up to our notions of good and evil, heroes and villains, and what it means to stand on your own moral platform rather than one given to you.

The author, Noelle Stevenson, both writes and draws this comic. Nimona updates bi-weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and should be published by HarperCollins in 2015. It has been nominated for a Harvey award for Best Online Comics Work and has been awarded the Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Webcomic of 2012 by Slate Magazine and the Center for Cartoon Studies. Stevenson is a full time writer and artist and is also known for the fanart comedic strips, the Broship of the Rings.

Nimona Cover

He’s so heroic! Just look at that codpiece!


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Servants of the Imperium

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Things take a personal turn today, as I bring to you the webcomic Servants of the ImperiumThe comic, I believe, is heavily reminiscent in humor and art to the epic The Order of the Stick, but distinguishes itself by being set in the Warhammer 40K universe created by Games Workshop. I will confess right here, to not originally having little love of the 40K universe. I had always found it a depressing, heinously violent, and overly testosterone-driven setting with overpriced miniatures and an antisocial, unpleasant fandom. Not very open-minded of me, I realize, but nothing about the single minded Space Marines of the miniature game really caught my interest. Then I fell in love with a man who was not only obsessed with tabletop gaming of all kinds but had many boxes of  lovingly assembled Space Marines, volumes of the “Black Library,” played the RPGs with his friends, and thanked/blamed-it-on the Pestilence God Nurgle when he got sick.  Since this man also tried knitting, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and Jane Austen for me I made an effort to see the good side of life in the 41st Millenium. This story really helped me get there.

I will stress I wasn’t  a complete novice in 40K terminology when I started reading the comic, but I feel a novice with familiarity of science fiction can enjoy and embrace the setting. It starts out with a few one-shot gags in black-and-white but quickly becomes a longer story in full color. The art style is in simple but expressive stick figures. The story follows Lord Severus Hunt, an Inquisitor devoted to hunting down the heretics against the God-Emperor in the Imperium of Mankind 39 millenia into the future.  His (mis)adventures protecting the galaxy from the forces of evil are accompanied by a growing roster of acolytes, including the trigger happy, oddly chipper bounty hunter Krin, the socially backward and deadly assassin Brianna, and a sarcastic Psyker with a penchant for exploding heads named Lyle. As the plot develops, it is not only darkly humorous, but takes a few nods from the grand adventure stories such as Treasure Island. There’s action, treasure, treachery, intrigue, monsters, romance, and lots of comedy! The comic really showed me what is human about the grim and dark setting that is the 40K universe.

The author, Rob Leigh, pulls a lot from his experience as a GM from the 40K series of Roleplaying books from Fantasy Flight,  especially the Dark Heresy series. There was a longer hiatus earlier this year while he was a bit burned out by his surprising success, but I am happy to say that the comic is once again in full swing. He also reviews 40K roleplaying books in the website’s blog section, but does not seem to have any other projects online.

Stumbling on this comic really showed me coolness and charm of the 40K universe; the hard scrabble for survival, the strangeness and similarities of the culture, and the glimmers of humanity in the vast, cold horrors of space. I was able to go from here to the Roleplaying books, then to fluff of the actual miniatures game. I can finally wrap my head around the motivations of the Space Marines, and even recently latched onto a chapter to call my own, the Blood Ravens. Maybe my sweetheart will even talk me into painting some miniatures….

Soti page 3

This is a comedy set in the grimmest setting western literature has ever created. I don’t know how he pulls it off.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: 2D Goggles

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Tuesday, October 15, was Ada Lovelace Day! It’s a day to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the technology fields.  As such, it is only fitting I share with you the comic 2d Goggles, or, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage! The origin story of this comic was conceived for Ada Lovelace day, as a humorous way to tell the story of the first computer programmer. In our own history, the first computer was designed by a man named Charles Babbage. He called it the Difference Engine, which was never completed, and the programs Ada Byron Lovelace wrote were never used before her death at the age of 36. The ending of the first comic where the two of them succeed and continue on to fight crime was originally supposed to be a one off joke, but by popular demand it was spun into a small pocket universe where Babbage’s Difference Engine was completed and the digital era was begun over a hundred and fifty years early. A chain reaction of adventures, super villains and hijinks follow as a result. Scientific and technological heroes of nineteenth century England appear through out the comic, as well as Queen Victoria, who sees the Difference Engine’s application as an instrument for her plans of World Domination.

The comic is done in animation-type-style, with thick brushstrokes of black ink and impressibly researched anatomy and machinery. Indeed, one of the joys of the comic is the volumes of research, primary sources, and the reference and practice images. The comic is presented in a succession of short and long issues as well as a collection of shorter one shots, with a long book currently in production! Professional delays, referred to as giant monsters, have occurred when the author is overloaded by her day job as an animator, frequently of giant monsters in CGI action movies. One creature you may know of that she animated was the Kracken Liam Neeson was always shouting about releasing. You can check out her impressive recipe, including her work on The Iron Giant,  here at imdb.

Page one of the Origin

This is completely historically accurate. Don’t believe me? Check the sources!


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Strong Female Protagonist

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I’ve been wanting to share Strong Female Protagonist for awhile now, but I wanted to wait until the current story arc was resolved since it was such a nail-biter. Strong Female Protagonist can be an incredibly emotionally intense story; best be prepared to sometimes have a powerful cry at your monitor. The comic tells the story of Allison Green, a New York City college student. She’s a pretty average girl who studies for exams, lives in a dorm, and clashes with her professors with one notable exception: she’s a former teen superhero. Super strong and completely invulnerable to harm, Allison publicly unmasked herself and denounced the superhero way of life when she realized she wasn’t really doing anything to actually save the world. She wants to draw attention to fighting poverty, disease, and war, but that’s difficult when everyone’s afraid you will squish them like a bug, old friends are nagging you to get back in the crime-fighting game, and super villains bust into your life to settle old scores. There’s also the question if some mysterious power or shadowy organization has a vested interest in preserving the status quo, and if they are quietly assassinating heroes who are trying to actually make a difference.

Cleaver

We have to worry about suddenly running into our exes. Alison has to worry about guys like this.

The comic is black and white with gray-scale washes for shading. The characters and art style are more cartoonish than the average mainstream comic book. The anatomical rendering is excellent, with clear actions sequences and intense facial expressions. And I do mean intense. While not a depressing comic by any means, the emotional anguish of the characters at certain points in the story really reaches into your chest and starts pumping your heart for you. The comic has updated biweekly with regularity, and three complete “chapters” have been published.

The Authors and their Other Works:

The duo behind Strong Female Protagonist are writer Brennan Lee Mulligan and artist Molly Ostertag. Mulligan is a filmmaker in addition to being a writer, with some short films available for streaming on his website. Ostertag has created some other comics in print, including a retelling of the true story of Khutulun, the Wresteler Princess, a Mongolian folk hero.

FANS OF WEDNESDAY’S WEBCOMIC: I need your help! I am running out of comics I know of to read. If you are writing or reading a webcomic that you love, please let me know about it so I can read it and maybe recommend it in the GonnaGeek’s new forum! 


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Kate Or Die

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Kate Or Die is the autobiographical and adorable slice-of-life comic written and drawn by Kate Leth.   Topics range from being female and working in a comic book store, tacos, bisexuality, enjoying porn, breaking the cycle of self-harm, overcoming trauma, and kittens. Kate’s sweet, emotive drawing style brings levity to often darks subjects and turns up the laughs on lighter ones. The skill of the artist really grows over time and this is an good example of what a joy an artist’s growth can be to see. Colors range from full color to a single color, to a small range of colors suited to the tone of the story or gag. This comic has been used by the artist to experiment with her skills as a writer quite a bit and I have really enjoyed the range of material in Kate or Die, as well as little comic-Kate’s evolving hairstyles. If the subject matter is particularly dark Leth will provide a trigger warning.

Biphobia

Respect the Taco.

The Author 

Kate Leth works in the noted comic store Strange Adventures, and has begun a professional organization for female comic shop employees called Beware the Valkyries. Her work has appeared in the Womanthology, Locke & Key, as well as the Adventure Time spinoff series Marceline and the Scream Queens and Fionna & Cake. Leth as recently been hinting at big projects behind the scene and I am excited to see more from her.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: The Order of the Stick

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Order of the Stick

This week’s recommendation is a big name, but I would like to reiterate that if at least someone hasn’t read a fantastic comic then it is worth my time to recommend it.  I am also hesitant to give any plot details whatsoever, as I believe it should all be experienced first hand. The Order of the Stick is a long running, fantasy parody comic with pithy gaming humor and complex, cerebral story lines worthy of the high fantasy pulp novels that inspire it. The art, while simplistic on the surface, will surprise you with it’s range of expression and flexibility. The story begins with one shot jokes that point out the practical failings of actually living in a Role-Playing Game as the characters discuss their levels, skill points, and passing their skill checks as if they were brushing their teeth or walking the dog. Very quickly and subtly an over-arching plot develops, and then another, and then another, and then they weave together deftly into one mind-boggling overarching storyline. The characters, which at first appear to be a fairly simple collection of fantasy trope characters, slowly reveal interesting depths and motivations. One character’s lack of explicit gender at first seems to be a simple joke, but over time becomes one of the most notable challengers of traditional gender roles I know of. The romances are also one of the most realistic and human parts of the story. Despite their cartoonish fantasy world they have all too familiar ambitions of a great romance, achieving mastery over their skills, building a family or a fortune, or simply finding some stability. The villains themselves are complex and challenge the black and white notion of good and evil in a fantasy universe. Thanks to one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time, The Order of the Stick is also available in its entirety in print.

The Author

Author Richard Burlew was formerly a professional graphic designer. A long time player and GM of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, Burlew has also contributed to the Dungeons and Dragons monster manual and other canonical publications. The comic has updated mostly consistently over the course of it’s nearly decade long publication, although a private chronic condition occasionally prevents updates. In September of 2012, a serious hand injury prevented publication for a long stretch, but after surgery and physical therapy updates are back up to full swing with Burlew reporting he has made nearly a complete recovery.

Order of the Stick Page 1

From this humble beginning has grown one of the greatest fantasy epics I have ever read. For real. Have I ever steered you wrong?


Wednesday’s Webcomic: The Horror Comics of Emily Carroll

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Today’s selection is actually a collection of brief short stories by artist Emily Carroll. At times haunting, at times terrifying, Emily Carroll’s comics are always vibrantly colored to great and disturbing effect. The writing has the feel of a old campfire story, a cautionary folk tale passed down from generation to generation. Carroll also makes use of her webpage’s “Infinite Canvas” potential by positioning her images onscreen outside of the traditional comic format, taking the reader on twists and turns across the page. Some stories also have additional programming in the images, with some panels changing as you hover your mouse over them and some with links to the next portion of the story subtly hidden among them. I highly recommend pouring over every image in the comics section of her portfolio to find all of the hidden secrets. Be warned, it’s not something to do in a room with the lights off. Or alone in the house. And for the love of your sanity, don’t read them during a thunderstorm! My three favorites are below, but be sure to check out the others on her site!

His Face All Red

Perhaps the most infamous of Carroll’s comics, His Face All Red is a chilling tale of guilt and betrayal.

The Prince & the Sea

A romance of two different worlds, a tale of treachery and misunderstanding.

Anu-Anulan & Yir's Daughter

Lest you think Emily Carroll’s talents are limited to scaring you witless, here is a beautiful and romantic original fairy tale.