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  • The Few But Proud

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    Tales of humanity clinging to life and hope while the world as we know it is in absolute ruin will always be part of our popular culture. These stories speak to an optimism that readers can take solace in regardless of how bleak things may seem.

    The Few, a new series from Image Comics, is looking to become a quintessential entry in this post-apocalyptic sub genre. It follows the journey of Edan Hale, a young woman from a totalitarian portion of North America called The Republic. She’s on a secret mission to infiltrate The Remainder States of America.

    Mad Max Meets Station Eleven Sensibility

    It’s immediately clear how dangerous the world has become. Edan is assaulted by Mad-Maxian marauders taking orders from a would-be warlord named Herrod. Barely escaping the slaughter of a small town, Edan finds herself on the run from Herrod’s minions. She manages to save one of the townsfolk babies in the process and is forced to bring the infant along for the ride.

    After being left unconscious in the woods after fighting off her first wave of attackers, Edan wakes up to find herself in the care of a pair of survivalist brothers. These two marvel at both her escape as well as  the infant she has in tow. With their help she and the baby make their escape from Herrod’s forward troops, fleeing.

    She heads towards The Remainder States. We’re not told much about The States, only that it stands against the dictatorial ways of The Republic. Edan herself is unsure of just how much of a threat they pose.

    A Post-Apocalyptic World

    Sean Lewis’ writing is crisp and to the point, allowing much of the story to be told by Hayden Sherman’s superb art. There are bleak and barren landscapes of what was once Montana counterpointed by detailed character art. Sherman captures a broken future reminiscent of Steve Lieber’s work on Whiteout or Christopher Mitten’s Wasteland. Sherman’s scarce use of color, mostly red, highlights action and violence.

    One of the best aspects about The Few is that it’s creators do not feel hold the readers hand when it comes to world building. Often these types of stories get too wrapped up in the foundations of why these newly-created world’s are so messed up. The Few parses out bits of information, but does so in sync with main character’s discovery. We learn more about the world and Edan’s place in it while frantically following her quest to survive.

    PRE-ORDER THE FEW #1 AND THE FEW #2

    Like many of her best post-apocalyptic contemporaries Edan is competent without being an over-the-top badass. She is vulnerable without being a weak-kneed maiden in need of a rescue. She is driven, with enough humanity in her to question what she has set out to do.

    There is a great character emerging in Edan Hale that will leave readers wanting to see more of The Few.

    The Few #1, Image Comics, Release Due January 18, 2017, Written by Sean Lewis, Art by Hayden Sherman, $3.99.

    The Few #2, Image Comics, Release Due February 22, 2017, Written by Sean Lewis, Art by Hayden Sherman, #3.99.

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  • Life After Death

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    Two of the top names in comics today are Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire, so a collaboration between these much-acclaimed creators is one of the year’s most anticipated comics. And it does not disappoint.

    AD: After Death pushes the comics medium in a new direction. This is a wholly original work and is not to be missed.

    Planned as a three-book (as opposed to issue) story, AD uses a mixture of prose and comics writing/art to tell the story of a future where death has been cured. Like a lot of great works in science fiction though, this concept serves a backdrop for a very human story.

    A Totally Unique Work

    The story plays around with some subtle world building, but is primarily interested in placing us in the head of its central character Jonah Cooke. Jonah is the narrator and recounts the vital role he played in the elimination of death. But that’s all the information we’re given about that in this first book.

    There is a pervasive sense of loss and regret throughout the story. Yet the languid pace of Snyder’s story washes over you and pulls you into this very somber, but engaging story.

    Image Comics is a publisher that has encouraged creators to experiment and push forward creative and original projects. I’ve never read anything like AD. Discussing plot details is almost impossible as so much of the book’s strength comes from its tone and style.

    Lemire, who many may know as a writer, brings to the book the same stunningly unique art that made Sweet Tooth and The Underwater Welder such incredible works of art.

    CATCH UP ON SCOTT SNYDER’S AMERICAN VAMPIRE SERIES.

    This book demands your attention. It’s rooted in such deep emotion and clearly has a lot of ambition moving forward. It’s tough to determine whether something will be a classic or not upon its initial release, but I’d be surprised if people aren’t talking about this as an important work for years to come.

    AD After Death, Image Comics, Released November 23, 2016, Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Jeff Lemire, $5.99.

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  • Remember, Remember

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    Few names are more recognizable in comic books than Alan Moore. He has created some of the most iconic and inspiring works in the entire industry. His memorable works include The Killing Joke, From Hell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But unlike most other comic writers, Moore has used his comics as a means to criticize injustices.

    alan-mooreThe man behind the comics was often maligned and criticized for alternative worldviews in the early days of his work, Much of his career has been spent fighting against inequality. An anarchist and outspoken supporter of minority sexualities and religion, Moore explored these themes in his decades-long career.

     

    JUMP INTO ALAN MOORE’S NEWEST PROJECTPROVIDENCE

    Many other writers of his time were afraid to include such themes. Moore was not. He included LGBT characters regularly in his writing. He often focused on grappling with social inequality, distributions of power and even touching on the ephemera of consciousness. Even when challenged by the mainstream, Moore held steadfast to his convictions. The result–some of the most powerful comic series ever created.

    The Struggle Against Tyranny

    Perhaps best known for his work in the Image comics title V for Vendetta, Alan Moore used this work as a vehicle for his political views. When he was writing it, an extremely right of center government was in power in his English homeland. Moore used the party as creative fodder, exaggerating their policies to extreme proportions. He took it further by installing the resulting tyrannical government as the leaders of a near future London.

    vendettaV for Vendetta chronicles the struggle against this tyranny. It follows the enigmatic title character V as he drives to inspire a resistance in a country exhausted by their leaders’ brutality. V’s efforts have were inspired by true events and V, has, in turn, inspired others to action.

    V was modeled (highlighted by the mask that he wears) after the infamous rebel Guy Fawkes. He played a key role in the Gunpowder Plot that took place on November 5, 1605, where he was arrested for guarding explosives intended for blowing up the British parliament. Dressed in black and donning a Guy Fawkes mask, V represents the fight for British freedom from a government oppresser.

    V Adopted by Other Groups Fighting Oppression

    Even after the initial fame of the series, V took on an entirely new kind of notoriety. It became something of a totem for activists on several different platforms. Probably most notable, the Guy Fawkes mask made famous by the character has been used by the hacker group Anonymous to conceal its identity as they work to right cyber wrongs. The mask has also become a mantle of sorts for Occupy Wall Street, the Bahraini protesters during Arab Spring, and many others.

    In response to the use of his characters real life manifestation in the political discourse, Moore said in a 2008 Entertainment Weekly interview:

    “I was also quite heartened the other day when watching the news to see that there were demonstrations outside the Scientology headquarters over here, and that they suddenly flashed to a clip showing all these demonstrators wearing V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks. That pleased me. That gave me a warm little glow.” – Alan Moore

    That same year, he defended his belief in anarchy in a short video, dispelling any doubt that he was in line with the movement that was taking up his imagery.

    Swamp Thing: Saga Of The Swamp Thing Book 02 HC
    Order Alan Moore’s Epic Swamp Thing Run

    But V does not stand alone in Alan Moore’s arsenal of activist comic book characters. During his run with The Saga of the Swamp Thing, Moore transforms the character into what we know him as now–an eco hero. Swamp Thing went from a has-been monster man to a deeply internalized comic hero. He could critically examine the relationship between man and nature in the way only a sentient plant could. Through him, Moore found a way to challenge such topics as pollution, climate change and the usurpation of natural resources. His position has been so notable that several serious literary critics have discussed Swamp Thing and his role as an insurgent ecological force for change.

    Moore’s Watchmen Takes on Power Imbalance

    And of course, no conversation about Alan Moore would be complete without discussing Watchmen. Considered by some to be the greatest comic book of all time, Watchmen is Moore’s masterwork. Much like he did with V for Vendetta, Moore built a new history for the world of Watchmen that shares deep roots with our own world, but varies in some key ways.

    PRE-ORDER THE WATCHMEN COLLECTORS EDITION BOX SET

    Watchmen takes place in an alternate universe where superheroes were introduced much earlier than most modern comics (with a few notable exceptions like Captain America and the X-Men), with the “golden age” of heroes taking place between the 1940s and 60s. The plot takes place in a mirror world that echoes the Reagan administration’s run in the US. This is intended to illustrate the catastrophic power imbalances that have lead the United States to the brink of a third World War.

    Watchmen Noir Hardcover
    Order Watchmen Noir HC

    Moore admitted that much of his motivation for Watchmen was to be a criticism for the Reagan administration’s. In a 1987 conversation with Neil Gaiman and Dave Gibbons for The Comics Journal, Moore said, “This is not anti-Americanism, it’s anti-Reaganism…”and “…at the moment a certain part of Reagan’s America isn’t scared. They think they’re invulnerable…”

    The series brings humanity terrifyingly close to complete destruction. This echoes Swamp Thing’s continual assertions of the fragility of human life. it also places the power to end everything into a disturbingly small number of hands, striking harshly against this feeling of invulnerability.


    FIND OUT WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN

    Although other comics writers have used their art to further conversations about political and social issues, few have done so as prolifically and expertly as Moore. In so doing, he has also helped to build a comic book legacy that includes political criticism and social change. So, this November, remember, remember that comic books can have much deeper meaning than what meets the eye. Brilliant creators like Alan Moore prove it.

    WANT MORE FROM MOORE? PRE-ORDER A COLLECTION OF 10 SHORT STORIES: BRIGHTER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE

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  • Heroes From Another World

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    In the canon of comic book characters there are classic heroes like Superman and Batman, but there are also some off-center heroes that are not exactly the typical tights-wearing dogooders.

    These characters not of this world and ones who have more in common with classic monsters than masked vigilantes. However, their outsider status frequently grants them the ability to comment on humanity differently than their more conventionally human counterparts.

    Let’s start with the tragedy of Dr. Alec Holland, or as he’s better known to readers–Swamp Thing. Holland is a brilliant biologist working on a top-secret bio-restorative formula in the swamps of Louisiana. When a bomb planted in his lab goes off, Holland is splashed with burning chemicals and he runs into the swamp. The muck of the swamp merges with the chemicals and turns Holland into the moss-covered hero he has been ever since.

    Man or Monster?

    swamp-thingOriginally created by comic book legends Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, the original Swamp Thing stories deal in traditional monster tropes. We see Swamp Thing do battle with the mad scientist Arcane and his mutated UnMen, there are angry villagers, giant robots, and even a werewolf. Wein does manage to weave in a story about Holland trying to reclaim his humanity as an undercurrent in the fairly pulpy horror stories.

    Writer Alan Moore brought this undercurrent of humanity to the surface when he took over the book in 1984. Moore reconceived the character as a part monster that had been imbued with memories of Dr. Alec Holland. By inverting the story of a man made into a monster to monster made into a man, Moore created a metaphysical tale of character dichotomy. This change in creative direction brought a whole new audience to DC’s horror tale.

    Swamp Thing has changed creative hands a number of times in his four decades of history. The likes of Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughn, Grant Morrison, and Scott Snyder have all added to his character development. With the ongoing struggle between man and monster and the trippy mythology gifted to him by Moore, Swamp Thing presents different creators with the chance to tell deeply human and emotional stories in the world of the macabre and the supernatural.

    Defining Deadman and Redemption

    deadmanSwamp Thing is not DC’s only undead superhero. Five years before Alec Holland fell into that swamp, readers were introduced to the aptly named Deadman. Created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, Deadman is the ghost of acrobat Boston Brand who was murdered during one of his acts. The Hindu god Rama Kushna gives Brand’s spirit the power to possess any living being. With this power and his new superhero identity as Deadman, he sets out to track down the man who killed him, a mysterious figure known only as “The Hook.”

    Much like Swamp Thing, it would be another comic book luminary not involved with the initial creation of the character who would come to define Deadman. Writer/Artist Neal Adams took over creative duties in the second issue and not only brought his legendary high detail art, but a new depth to Boston Brand’s story. In Swamp Thing, Alec Holland is an altruistic scientist trying to better humanity with his experiment. For all intents and purposes, Holland is a straight ahead good guy. Boston Brand on the other hand is not exactly a bad guy but he has cold streak of selfishness. He’s ruthlessly focused on keeping the circus business alive often at the expense of the feelings of his fellow performers.

    By creating a character that in life was not the greatest person, Deadman became a story of redemption. Brand was always seeking revenge on his killer, but he couldn’t resist using his newfound abilities to help people as well. This aspect of the character was made explicitly clear when he was rebooted for DC’s New 52. The creative team of Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang added a new wrinkle to Deadman’s mythology. He must use his powers to help people in order to atone for his selfish life or be forced to spend eternity forever in limbo between life and death. The core of Deadman’s character becomes clear, this is a guy who has been given a second chance. The human urge to rectify one’s past behavior is a palpable and very emotional undercurrent to a story about a superhero who can possess people’s bodies.

    Hellboy Seeks Humanity

    Another otherworldly hero with a slightly different streak of humanity thahellboyn those mentioned before is Dark Horse’s Hellboy. The brainchild of writer/artist Mike Mignola, Hellboy is a half demon, half human who was born in hell. Unlike Swamp Thing or Deadman, Hellboy comes from another world and is brought into ours. As opposed to Alec Holland or Boston Brand trying to reclaim their humanity, Hellboy seeks a humanity that he was not born with. Hellboy though monstrous in appearance combats monsters and other supernatural evil for an organization called the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (or BPRD).

    Hellboy presents a character that rebels against his supposed destiny. He was created by evil to enact evil. His right hand is meant to bring about the end of the world. Hellboy chooses to ignore his destiny and instead lives a blue-collar lifestyle of a cop or a plumber, albeit one who combats demons and monsters for a living.

    Almost everyone has at one point or another in their life wondered about their place in the world or grappled with other people’s intentions for them. Most people probably don’t have apocalyptic prophecies connected to them, but Hellboy is a comic book after all.

    Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They also come in varying degrees of being alive. However, humanity is at the core of all these stories. Whether it’s the struggle to regain humanity or a quest to understand humanity, it becomes clear that being human is not related to physical features. In fact, the most physically monstrous can often have the most emotionally complex and human of stories.

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  • Show Your Skills in TFAW’s BAIT Contest

    Chuck Palahniuk's BAIT Coloring Contest

    BAIT Contest at TFAW.comNew York Times bestselling novelist Chuck Palahniuk collaborated with incredible comic book artists to create BAIT: Off-Color Stories for You to Color, a coloring book unlike any that you’ve ever seen.

    Palahniuk invites readers to collaborate on this unprecedented hardcover edition: “Maybe between your colors, the artists’ designs, and my stories we can create something that endures. Something worth keeping. Let’s create a well-bound book that can sit on any shelf and be available for a new generation to discover and enjoy.”

    To celebrate the release of this ambitious book, we’ve partnered with Palahniuk for a special BAIT Coloring Contest that runs through December 12, 2016.

    We want you to take some time to unplug, express your creativity, and share your talents with the world. Visit our contest page to view contest details and learn how to enter.

    Extraordinary Prizes Await BAIT Contest Winners

    • Third Place Prize (Six Winners): Fight Club 2 Poster signed by Chuck Palahniuk.
    • Second Place (Ten Winners): Severed arm collectible signed by Chuck Palahniuk.
    • First Place (Three Winners): One of the following (to be determined at random)
      • Fight Club Signed Collector’s Edition HC
      • Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread Signed Collector’s Edition HC
      • Survivor Signed Collector’s Edition HC
    Severed Arm Collectible
    Fight Club 2 Poster
    Signed Collector’s Edition Hardcovers

    These are some amazing prizes, and the folks at TFAW are really jealous of the folks who will end up winning the contest. You all rock, and we can’t wait to see your art!

    Bonus for People Who Purchase BAIT at TFAW.com

    Hand-signed BAIT Bookplates will be included with copies of BAIT for a limited timeYou don’t need to win the contest to get something signed by Chuck Palahniuk! For a limited time while supplies last, we will be including special gilded bookplates that are handsigned by Palahniuk! Order your copy of BAIT as soon as possible to increase the chances that you’ll get one of these special copies.

    TAKE A PEEK INSIDE BAIT: OFF-COLOR STORIES FOR YOU TO COLOR
    ORDER YOUR COPY OF CHUCK PALAHNIUK’S BAIT
    SEE BAIT CONTEST RULES AND DETAILS

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  • Between the Occult and the Detective

    Between the Occult and the Detective

    There are two comic themes that when combined can make for enthralling reading — detectives/private eyes and magic. This coupling of sleuthing and the supernatural (including religion, the occult, sorcery and more) is pervasive in comics and the noir characteristics just heighten the thrills.

    hellblazerAnd no one fits that bill better than the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine. Created originally in Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing in 1985, it wasn’t until 1988 when Hellblazer #1 hit the stands. Ever since, John has been working his magic in comics, on film in the Constantine movie, and in the short-lived and underrated Constantine television show. He’s  also part of pop culture in general (the Supernatural TV series borrows heavily from John Constantine for Castiel’s character).

    With 30-plus years of this character’s history, it can be daunting to know where to start. A good entry point is a graphic novel. Surprisingly, it’s not the  first volume — John Constantine, Hellblazer: Original Sins, but the fifth volume: Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits. Written by longtime Hellblazer writer Garth Ennis, this volume actually inspired parts of the 2005 Constantine movie.

    The story is pretty simple — John’s dying. All those cigarettes have caused an advanced terminal lung cancer. Knowing that his soul is damned and Hell is ready for him, John moves to cure his disease and save himself. What happens after he sets down this course is truly amazing.

    Another must read Hellblazer arc was created by celebrated crime novelist, Ian Rankin, for Vertigo’s crime imprint called Dark Entries in 2009. This was the first Original Graphic Novel (also called an OGN), meaning it was never released as single issues. The plot involves John trying to figure out why a house on a reality TV program is haunted. Of course, he can’t stop production, so he joins the series and starts to unravel the mystery.

    One of the big draws is the inclusion of religion within the series. It’s not just focused on Christianity. Voodoo magic is used regularly not only by Constantine, but his frenemy Papa Midnight. Although Catholicism is most prominent, the series never ignores the idea of other religions in the world.

    Look Overseas for Great Horror Comics

    Hellblazer isn’t the only series to blend magic and religion. Around the same time, Italian writer Tiziano Sclavi was introducing the world to Dylan Dog. A self-proclaimed Nightmare Investigator, Dylan, unlike John Constantine, was likeable. By 2011, Dylan Dog reached 300 issues, but only a handful made it to the United States.

    Dylan’s occult interactions mainly revolve around the classic monsters like vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Although, demons have crossed paths with him a few times.

    Many were first introduced to this character in the Dylan Dog Case Files from Dark Horse Comics. This graphic novel featured selected stories that were translated and released just prior to the Dylan Dog: Dead of Night film that starred Brandon Routh. The Dylan Dog Case Files is a great compilation of stories from the Italian series, but up until September 2016 it was the only source of Dylan Dog stories available in the U.S. Now, new stories are starting to come out from Epicenter Comics. Reportedly, there will also be reprints of past stories.

    How to Steal a Ghost

    ghostedAnother series that blends crime and the occult is Joshua Williamson’s Ghosted. Williamson is currently heading up The Flash series in DC’s Rebirth, and it’s been great.

    Ghosted, published by Image Comics, is further evidence that Williamson is the real deal. The series follows one of the world’s greatest thieves as he’s pulled into the world of the occult. He’s broken out of prison and offered the chance to steal something no one else has — a ghost.

    Think equal parts Ocean’s 11 and The Shining. Things are never as they seem, and our hero has to rely on more than his wits to get out of this situation. Pulling together a team of experts to help him steal this ghost, he assembles a psychic, an occult historian, a tech guy to record the ghost, and a skeptic. Overall, if you want to add a little heist into your horror, Ghosted is for you.

    Don’t Fear, The Slayer is Here

    buffyWho could really forget about the hit television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Buffy hunts vampires, but her adventures go WAY further than that including her best friend going into full-witch mode on her!

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Buffy Summers, the chosen one in a long line of young women destined to battle evil forces. She becomes “The Slayer” giving her increased physical strength, endurance, agility, accelerated healing, intuition, and a limited degree of clairvoyance. Buffy receives guidance from her Watcher, Giles, whose job is to train and assist the Slayers. Then it gets more complicated.

    But when the TV show ended, the fun didn’t. After the official comic book continuation of the series in Buffy Season 8, 9, and 10, we’re poised to jump into Buffy Season 11 in November 2016. Unencumbered by network television show budgets, this comic has gone to some great heights in recent years.

    The World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator

    hellboyHellboy is one of the longest running, most widely celebrated horror series. With hundreds of issues and dozens of spinoffs, Mike Mignola has done something really amazing with this series by creating a new universe.

    Aside from DC and Marvel, there really aren’t a lot of big universes in comics, especially ones that walk that horror/mystery line so well. Hellboy or the “Mignola-verse” is a rich tapestry that features a variety of complex characters set a world that draws on centuries of folk-tales, yarns, and fables.

    Hellboy remains one of the few series that begs you to re-read the stories regularly. It’s great for curling up with during inclement weather or when you find yourself with an extended weekend.

    There are plenty of other occult and horror comics that split their genre with detective and noir storytelling. What are some of your favorites? Let us know below.

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  • Things That Go Bump in the Night

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    Let’s face it, people love to be scared. There is a catharsis in scary stories — they allow us to face our fears but in a safe setting. It’s one of the reasons horror movies are popular and profitable.

    So, it’s no surprise that comics have a long tradition of horror stories. Going back to classic anthology series like Creepy or Eerie, comics readers have always had a fascination with macabre and the terrifying.

    Every medium has its own strengths and weaknesses in regards to telling stories in specific genres. Films tell horror stories use the unique combination of picture and sound to create atmosphere and build scares. Comics obviously lack the ability to create terror aurally or with rapid editing. This in no way makes horror comics less terrifying, it simply means they must rely on a different bag of tools to scare the pants off of readers.

    Comics are a medium built on turning two-dimensional drawings on a page into fully realized characters and worlds. In reading comics we as readers are asked to bring a lot to a story. We dictate the pace of the panels, the speed of the dialogue, and how long we linger on certain images. Our emotional investment must be extremely high to create a willingness to engage with the comic. To be scared we have to give ourselves over to the horror crafted by the creative team of book.

    Horror as the Backdrop for Morality

    walking-dead There’s no way to talk about modern horror comics without bringing up The Walking Dead, written by Robert Kirkman and drawn in its first six issues by Tony Moore and subsequently by Charlie Adlard. The Walking Dead is unquestionably one of the most popular and successful comics of the modern era. While being a horror story, this is a book with mass appeal. Just look at the monster success of the television adaptation. One of the big keys to the book’s success is that the zombie apocalypse is a backdrop for a moving and deeply tragic morality tale. The Walking Dead is about struggling to survive through hopelessness.

    In issue 24 of the comic, our protagonist Rick Grimes ends an epic speech with the line: “We are the Walking Dead.” It’s true, the characters of this book are doomed their only fate appears to be death or becoming part of the mass of flesh eating zombies. While this may seem incredibly grim, it actually allows Kirkman the opportunity to write a book examining the qualities of humanity that individuals and society hold most dear. While there is certainly dread in the frequent death or zombification of beloved characters, the book’s main focus is on the cost of survival. The moral debate at the center of the story is about what’s the point of surviving if we lose our humanity in the process.

    VISIT OUR SPECIAL WALKING DEAD SECTION

    Real Villains and the Potential for a Happy Ending

    The Strain Comics at TFAW.comThe struggle for humanity takes on a much more literal meaning in The Strain. Based on the series of popular novels, writer David Lapham and artist Mike Huddleston bring the story to comics. The Strain is about the apocalyptic spread of a virus that turns people into vampires.

    Unlike the faceless cause of zombies in The Walking Dead, The Strain has a tangible villain at the core of its story. The Master is a centuries-old creature of evil with a plot to take over the world. Our heroes are not doomed. The Strain instead takes on more of a war story vibe. This is about humanity’s struggle against an oppressor and conceivably this battle can be won. There is a potential happy ending possible in this world.

    It’s that hope that can actually be terrifying in The Strain. Instead of a world that’s already ended for all intents and purposes we see our world slipping into darkness and desperately root for our heroes to return things to normal.

    DISCOVER A NEW KIND OF VAMPIRE IN THE STRAIN COMICS

    The Setting Amps up the Fear

    harrowWhile The Walking Dead and The Strain are urban nightmares about the dissolution of society, there is also room for more gothic horror in comics. Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook is a creepy and wonderfully unsettling piece of Southern Gothic storytelling. Focusing on a small town’s fears of a young girl becoming a witch, there is a streak of paranoia that runs throughout the book. Of course, there’s the classic (and historical) image of a mob of frightened townsfolk trying to burn a witch. But there’s also the paranoia of one’s own destiny. If you’re told you’re going to be evil and do wicked things, does that mean your fate is sealed?

    Playing on the classic horror trope of the fear of the matured woman and the power she can wield, Bunn and Crook also bring in plenty of eerie imagery. Images of a skinless boy and of course, his now sentient skin crossed with fiery ghosts and mulit-eyed monsters will stick with readers long after they put the book down. Especially, when they are presented in Crook’s dreamy hauntingly beautiful watercolor panels.

    PLAN YOUR TRIP TO HARROW COUNTY

    Delving into Madness

    Pixu graphic novel at TFAW.comPlaying into it’s own disturbing imagery though in a much more stark manner is Pixu from the Eisner winning team of Gabriel Bá, Becky Cloonan, Fábio Moon, and Vasilis Lolos. Pixu delves deep into a Lovecraftian tale of madness and ever-encroaching darkness. The book bounces around a collection of tenants in an apartment complex. The disparate stories start to intertwine as the madness of the characters grows. This book plays on one’s fear of losing one’s sanity, a potent and always horrific concept especially in the hands of such masters of the medium.

    TAKE A PEEK INSIDE PIXU

    Humans Aren’t the Only Heroes

    Beasts of Burden at TFAW.comFor those looking for something a little more off the beaten path, there is Beasts of Burden from Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. It’s your classic paranormal investigation team story, except all the investigators are dogs and cats. While this may sound like a cute and cuddly kids book, it’s straight up horror (with a bit of a wink). These household pets battle with a cannibalistic frog, cat witches, and even team up with Hellboy in one story. For those looking to balance their monsters and supernatural entities with adorable animals here is a book for you.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT BEASTS OF BURDEN

    So, it’s clear horror is alive and well in the comics world. There are plenty of stories out there to give you creeps, but hopefully now you might have a greater understanding of why they scare you. Monsters and creepy imagery are a hugely necessary part of a horror story, but the sign of a great one is an emotional resonance that sticks with you long after the story is finished.

    VISIT OUR HORROR SECTION

    What’s your favorite horror comic? Join the conversation by posting your comments below!

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  • Six Reasons The Wicked And Divine Is Better Than Any Other Comic Book

    Wicked and Divine #23 comic book review at TFAW.com

    Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as teenagers. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead.

    The team behind critically acclaimed Young Avengers and Phonogram have taken us on a hell of a ride for the past two years in The Wicked and The Divine, and the series just keeps getting better. We were able to get our hands on a copy of the WicDiv #23, and I’m here to give you the skinny on the issue and lay out the case for why this is the best series on the shelves.

    Keiron Gillen’s Writing

    Wicked & Divine #23 Cover B by Kevin Wada at TFAW.comThe Wicked and The Divine #23 is unique in that it is set up not as a traditional comic, but a one-off issue that reads as an issue of “Pantheon Monthly,” a magazine that has exclusive interviews with some of the series’ principal characters.

    I couldn’t think of a better case study to attest to Gillen’s talents as a writer. I’ve been a fan of The Wicked and The Divine from day one, but this issue has really amplified my love of the series. I was reminded of Marvel’s Front Line series of the past decade in that this issue gives us a different perspective of characters like The Morrigan, Baal, Amaterasu, Lucifer, and Woden. I like that the team is experimenting with these one-off issues because they make the reading experience unique.

    Diverse Set of Characters

    It’s clear that Gillen has put in a lot of effort in charting a course for the series and its characters. With a principal cast of 12 gods and several supporting characters, there’s a lot going on in this series, which has been why WicDiv has been at the top of my reading list for the past two years.

    We’re learning more about the characters each month, and The Wicked and The Divine #23 is no exception. One thing that’s struck me for awhile is that the series features one of the most diverse set of characters we’ve seen for awhile. This isn’t a reboot series where a woman or person of color steps into the titular character’s role–LGBTQ and people of color have been represented from the get-go. It’s refreshing that the WicDiv team is actively trying to create a story for everyone.

    McKelvie x Wilson = Art That is Out of This World

    Writing is only one part of the equation. With comics being a visual storytelling medium, I would argue that art is even more integral to a book’s success. To borrow a baseball term, Jamie McKelvie continues to knock the cover off of the ball–meaning that he isn’t hitting home runs, he’s hitting the art with such ferocity that you can’t help but fall in love in each panel.

    As Gillen has a firm grasp of where these characters’ stories are going, McKelvie’s character designs have been fleshed out. Each character has a unique style and attitude. That’s not to say that things are static–the art has continued to evolve with the characters as they have grown in the series, particularly in the case of Persephone. If you haven’t been reading along, I seriously suggest picking up the Wicked and Divine graphic novels so you can immerse yourself in this art.

    I’ve also been on board with Matthew Wilson’s colors from day one. Collaboration between artists and colorists (also artists, but differentiated as such for sake of clarity) happen every day. This kind of partnership, however, isn’t the norm–McKelvie’s linework and Wilson’s colors go together like fire and heat, milk and Oreos, or conjoined twins. They belong together.

    Mystery & Onions

    Wicked & Divine #23 Cover A by Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson at TFAW.comFrom the beginning, we’ve known the score: within two years’ time, these characters will die. The premise almost dares you not to read the series. The stakes are high and we never really know who’s going to go next. I was surprised at who was killed first as I really liked that character, which kind of makes Gillen the George R.R. Martin of comics.

    We’re always peeling away layers of these characters to find out more details of their motivations, past lives, or the story’s bigger picture. WicDiv represents a type of storytelling that is much more than punch this foe, foil that bad guy’s master plan.

    They’re Effing Gods

    The other thing that really resonates with me is the idea that The Wicked and The Divine expertly deals with themes of fandom, devotion, and religion–these are, after all, gods. Some people love them, others loathe them. It was really fun to read the “interview” with Woden because he is in the latter camp. He’s a racist mysogonist with an inferiority complex.

    I dig the “god” angle of the series a lot.

    It’s a Bold Series

    Like I said before, this is a bold series with a complex set of characters who are brash, powerful, and coming to terms with their fates. Each issue of The Wicked and The Divine is an opportunity for Gillen and McKelvie to yank the rug out from under us. This has happened several times so far, and WicDiv #23 provides a little perspective on the fallout of those moments.

    The team is willing to take this book and its characters to a place where other books from the big two wouldn’t be able to tackle, an that makes this one of the best books on the shelves today.

    ORDER YOUR COPY OF WICKED & DIVINE #23 NOW
    SEE WICKED & DIVINE BOOKS AT TFAW

    Have you been reading WicDiv from the beginning? What’s your favorite moment from the series so far? Are you thinking of trying out for the series for the first time? Join the conversation below.

    The Wicked and The Divine #23, Image Comics, Releases November 2, 2016, Written by Kieron Gillen, Art by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson; $3.50

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  • Meet Chris Roberson at TFAW’s No Power in the Verse Comic Book Signing

    No Power in the Verse Comic Book Signing at TFAW

    We’re excited to announce that we are hosting writer Chris Roberson for a special Serenity: No Power in the Verse comic book signing from 6-8PM on October 26th at our Portland Things From Another World comic book shop. We’ve also partnered with the PDX Browncoats and the Oregon Food Bank, and are inviting the community to help us support a great cause.

    Food Drive Supports Oregon Food Bank + Gives You a Chance to Win

    Serenity Malcolm Reynolds 1:6 Scale Statue at TFAW.comBeginning October 12, and running through October 26, we’ll be collecting nonperishable food items that will go toward supporting the Oregon Food Bank and the Oregonians who depend on its ongoing efforts.

    Beyond the great feeling you’ll get by donating to an awesome cause, we’ll also give you a raffle ticket for each item you bring in from October 12-26. TFAW will be giving away a Serenity Malcolm Reynolds 1:6 Scale Statue (pictured here) valued at $249.99–it’s sure to become the centerpiece for your Firefly/Serenity collection.

    Oregon Food Bank’s Most Wanted Foods:

    • Shelf-stable milk
    • Foods high in proteincanned meats like tuna, chicken, or salmon, canned or dried beans
    • Foods high in nutrientscanned fruits and vegetables (preferably with reduced sodium and reduced sugar)
    • Whole-grain foodsbrown rice, whole grain cereal and whole-wheat pasta
    • Soups, chilies and stews (preferably with reduced sodium and reduced fat)
    • 100 percent fruit juice (canned, plastic or boxed)
    • Unsaturated cooking oils
    • Other nutritious foods (preferably with reduced fat, sodium and sugar)

    Chris Roberson will be picking a raffle winner at the Serenity: No Power in the Verse signing on 10/26. Winner does not need to be present to win (though it would be more exciting for everyone if they are).

    No Power in the Verse Comic Book Signing

    Serenity No Power in the Verse comics at TFAW.comWe invite you to join us at the Portland TFAW on Wednesday October 26 as we celebrate the launch of the newest serenity series, Serenity: No Power in the Verse, written by iZombie co-creator and all-around awesome guy, Chris Roberson.

    We’ll be kicking off the event with a Q&A with Roberson, followed by the raffle winner announcement and a comic book signing.

    About Serenity: No Power in the Verse

    The Verse is a complicated and dangerous place, and Mal Reynolds and his outlaw crew aboard the Serenity are experiencing tough times. When tensions rise among the crew, a call for help becomes a welcome interruption: they must track down a missing friend and the answers to the mystery surrounding her disappearance.

    The six-issue comic book miniseries is published by Dark Horse comics and written by Chris Roberson (iZombie, Hellboy) with art by Georges Jeanty (Buffy Season Eight), Karl Story (Nightwing, Tom Strong), and Wes Dzioba (Aliens, Star Wars Invasion).

    Can’t make it to the signing at our Portland, Oregon store? Order your Serenity: No Power in the Verse comics and get them shipped to your door.

    ORDER SERENITY NO POWER IN THE VERSE COMICS
    DISCOVER A UNIVERSE FULL OF GREAT SERENITY/FIREFLY PRODUCTS
    RSVP TO THIS SIGNING VIA FACEBOOK

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  • Welcome to Lovecraft Country

    Locke & Key vol 1 and Harrow County a love letter to HP Lovecraft

    H.P. Lovecraft’s name is indelibly linked to the horror genre. A true master of spinning the mundanely macabre into cerebral terror that pesters the mind long after you’ve finished reading his works. Lovecraft’s voice reaches out of his grave and aims to scare us into our own. The Lovecraftian horror stories are his legacy, and some of today’s top creators are carrying the torch.

    He’s introduced the psychological and the existential to our fears, invented incredible monsters to feed upon us, and shone new (albeit flickering) light on the oblique things that have always quickened our pulses. It’s no surprise his influence has exerted itself all things horror, including comic books.

    In many ways, Lovecraft has found his true successors in a couple of notable comic book series: Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook, and Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Harrow County is an exhilarating ongoing series produced by Dark Horse comics and is a lead feature for the company, with a TV series currently under development with the Syfy channel. Locke & Key is arguably one of the most talked about horror comics ever written.

    Locke & Key is something of a comic phenomenon. It’s been re-released in several reprints including a master edition and a holiday set. It’s also been turned into a coloring book, a card game, adapted into an audioplay, and there was even an infamous TV pilot.

    Both the Harrow County and Locke & Key series share a legacy of Lovecraftian horror that helps to define them as something beyond mere scary stories. While there are countless comics that have been influenced by Lovecraft’s work, these two series stand apart when looking at the elements that truly make Lovecraft’s work singular.

    What makes a Lovecraftian story truly different than your average tale is its execution. Lovecraft tales are an intricate combination of a gothic story of inherited guilt, a monster story about a powerful otherworldly being, and part psychological trauma. These stories offer more than just your typical jump and scare horror. Lovecraft’s stories are dark and threatening, pushing readers beyond their boundaries of belief.

    Harrow County is Ripe with Lovecraftian Horror Touches

    Harrow Couty Volume 1Slow burning, lingering terror is what you expect when imagining Lovecraft’s work and it’s absolutely what you get in Harrow County. It’s a visceral new take on the tradition of small town witch stories. It builds a sense of dread, slowly unveiling the truth of the dark magic that haunts the eponymous county. The heroine, Emmy, finds that she is intimately tied to the terrible legacy that has mired Harrow County in fear for generations, leading to revelations that stain the rest of the unfolding story. Harrow County takes this classic structure of a witch story and broadens it with Lovecraftian themes of inheritance, the resurgence of eldritch powers, and toxic superstition.

    Harrow County is the kind of story that sits on your chest, making it subtly harder and harder to breath as the panels pass. It’s makes you feel anxiety about putting your feet near that unthought of gap between your bed and your floor, and reminds you that you really should run up the basement stairs.

    It’s not just a New England Witch story. It’s a story about the things we see in the dark and the what they could become if only given the right injection of magic. It’s not just a ghost story. It’s the story of the primordial things that made us first image them away as ghosts.

    Locke & Key Echoes Lovecraft’s Love of the Forbidden

    Locke & Key vol 2Much like Harrow County, Locke & Key is filled to the brim with its share of monsters. The Locke family is faced with ghosts, a manipulative echo that lives at the bottom of of their well, living shadows, giants ,and demons that threaten to rip apart the very fabric of their world. The story reminds us, however, that the most dangerous monsters can be the people that have been right next to us all along.

    From the very beginning, it is evident that Locke & Key draws on Lovecraft for inspiration. References to his work are made throughout, but most importantly, the very first issue finds the Locke family relocating to the New England town named Lovecraft after the murder of their patriarch. The true significance of this is because Lovecraft’s settings are so iconic, with many of his works taking place in pastoral villages or small towns in New England. In fact, this type of setting is so deeply associated with the late writer that it’s gained the nickname “Lovecraft Country.” This setting is used with purpose, as these places resist modernity and foster an eerie isolation that glances at the modern world, but shies away from it.

    In Locke & Key, you see echoes of Lovecraft’s fascination for the forbidden, especially when it comes to the idea of hidden knowledge. Several of his stories touch on the subject of the erasure or obscurement of memory, and the discovery of secret things hidden from the minds of others.

    These stories find their answer in the magic of the Keyhouse as it blurs the lines between memory, fantasy and reality. To Lovecraft, knowledge was a primeval power that upon looking into its depths could drive a person to madness. This destructive quality is threaded throughout Locke & Key, with the blooming knowledge of the Keyhouse becoming poisonous to the people tied to it and reaching beyond the pages to disturb the minds of the people who read about it.

    Harrow County and Locke & Key are those rare series that will linger in your bones for long after you’ve finished reading them. Both  share a similar heritage that makes them something more than just your run of the mill scary comic both as they are heavily influenced by the master of horror craft, H. P.  Lovecraft. Both embrace the themes he used to terrify his audience while translating them into a new medium, all the while haunting an entirely new genre with them.

    CHECK OUT LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR AT TFAW
    VISIT OUR SPECIAL HORROR SECTION

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  • Violent Love Mixes Romance and Crime

    Interview with Violent Love creators Frank J Barbiere and Victor Santos

    Daisy Jane and Rock Bradley were two of the most notorious bank robbers in the American Southwest. And then they fell in love. Sometimes you read a description of a new comic book and know a book is going to be something special. In less than 25 words, I was immediately hooked on the premise behind Violent Love, the newest pulp-infused criminal romance series by Frank J. Barbiere (Five Ghosts, The Revisionist) and Victor Santos (The Mice Templar, Polar).

    We had the chance to chat with the Barbiere and Santos in an exclusive interview, and we think that you’ll fall in love with this series too — both creators are throwing their all at Violent Love and their passion comes through in the preview pages that are included below.

    TFAW: Victor, what’s it like going from a series you wrote and drew in Polar to just drawing this series?

    Victor Santos: Even though my career in Spain and France was as a complete author, I’ve worked mainly as artist in the USA. Polar books (and a little collaboration in the Boom! Regular Show series) have been my chance to write again, but they feel a little restricted because my native language is Spanish. I don’t think working with writers is an imposition, it’s a marvelous school for me. I’ve learned from Azzarello, Glass, Oeming, Van Lente, and all the people I’ve collaborated with. There isn’t a rulebook for this, so every writer has their method. I enjoy it. And most important: having another writer forces you to surpass your safe place and improve.

    And there’s something more readers don’t notice. Working with Frank is easy, the story is great and this is important, of course. But the world is full of talented writers, and in the day-by-day you mostly need an effective and generous collaborator. Frank’s vision of the story is so clear and direct, he really quickly evokes great images in my mind…I usually forget I’m reading in another language and believe me: this is an unusual talent!

    Violent Love Comics by Frank J. Barbiere & Victor SantosTFAW: People have likened this series to a Bonnie & Clyde or True Romace comic, would you say that’s a good comparison?

    Frank J. Barbiere: Both of those stories are extremely influential, but while this certainly is a “criminal romance” our story focuses a lot more on our female lead, Daisy Jane. There’s also a pretty unique frame story in play — the story of Daisy and Rock is being told to a young girl many years after it happened — and I think it gives the story a bit of a American folk tale vibe. It also leans into our “inspired by true events” tag line — we know we’re not going to see anything totally out of genre like aliens, monsters, etc., so the whole thing feels very authentic and like the reader is part of something bigger.

    Santos: Of course, this is a noir tradition! I could name Gun Crazy (1950) and Badlands (1973). Romance and crime have been linked often. We love to match the highest and the lowest feelings: true love vs. violence, generosity vs. greed. I’ve read a lot of good noir in comics in the latest years, the genre has been revitalized, but I always missed more romantic elements on it. Maybe all the characters were too amoral, darkly moody (in my own books too, even in the last Polar there is a romance subplot). So I really felt we need to recover these tales of “we’re together against the world, babe.”

    Violent Love is meant to really evoke a feeling of nostalgia and Americana.

    TFAW: You mentioned the tagline. Can you elaborate a bit on this story being inspired by true events?

    Santos: Well, I think I used the “Criminal Romance” title in some “concept art image” because I loved how it sounds…I’ll leave this mystery of true events to Frank (ha, ha).

    Barbiere: When Victor and I began developing Violent Love we both decided we’d love for it to have a “true crime” feel to it — to be a story that you could imagine happening in the real world, despite having exciting genre elements. By telling our readers upfront the story is inspired by true events we offer them an idea that the story has a feel of authenticity and that everything you’re seeing is being recalled — it gives it a very unique and fresh feel that also works in tandem with our frame story. Violent Love is meant to really evoke a feeling of nostalgia and Americana, and our “inspired by true events” tagline is another tool to help. In terms of the specifics…our readers will just have to do some thinking on their own to figure that out.

    Violent Love Preview Page 1TFAW: Can you tell us a little more about the inspiration for Violent Love?

    Santos: The movies we’ve discussed, pulp novels…I love the ambiance of Jim Thompson’s stuff, the spirit of the Wild West. Some ’60 and ’70s comics — I love the ’70s Marvel comics, with people like Gene Colan or Paul Gulacy, with more noir, blaxploitation and kung-fu. And classic romance magazines, with people like Alex Toth or Dan DeCarlo charming the female readers. There is something maybe is not so apparent: I love classic comics but at the same time, I belong to the manga and anime generation, so they have a big influence on my work. I find the expression of the emotions crucial, I put a big part of my efforts on it, and Japanese books play this game terrifically.

    Barbiere: Victor is one of my favorite artists working and I knew I wanted to dive into something with him when we wrapped Black Market at BOOM! Studios. Violent Love is the culmination of all of our interests and genre loves — it really is a dream project, and a very pure vision from us. We wanted to challenge ourselves to tell a love story within the genre as well, to grow and do something new. This book is a labor of love on our end and we’re extremely proud of it — we hope to keep readers on board for a very long time and constantly surprise them.

    Violent Love Preview Page 1TFAW: Victor, I loved the style you put into your Polar series, but it was different than your work on Mice Templar. Violent Love seems to be somehwere between, can you speak a little on that decision?

    Santos: I try to transform myself into the artist that every unique project I work on requires. Maybe it’s not the best decision for my career, maybe I should have a line/style totally unique and never change it…but it’s so boring! I love to change and experiment. Polar is pure styling, high contrasts of black and white, a world where almost superhuman hitmen live. Its storytelling is a exciting artifice and every page is like a jigsaw. Violent Love is more “on the ground,” it’s not completely realistic, but it plays in real places, real starting points, a real age. It needs more texture and a different color approach, with grain and sand.

    TFAW: Anything new on the horzion that we should be keeping an eye out for?

    This book is a labor of love on our end and we’re extremely proud of it.

    Barbiere: Violent Love is going to be a long haul for us so we’ll be promoting it for many months to come! It’s really become my focus — we’re both committed to telling the absolute best story we can, and I’m glad I’ve been able to hunker down and focus on it. I’m also working on a book called The Revisionist at Aftershock Comics that I’d love more people to check out — it’s the story of a time traveling assassin and does a lot of fun stuff with the genre.

    Santos: I just finished the third Polar: No Mercy for Sister Maria, and my plan is to close the trilogy there. Right now I’m also working with Dark Horse on the US edition of one of my Spanish noir graphic novels, Rashomon: A Case of Heigo Kobayashi. As you easily deduce, it’s a noir story set in the Feudal Japan, and it’s inspired by the tales of classical writer Ryonosuke Akutagawa (with a touch of James Ellroy). It will be published next year.

    Violent Love Preview Page 1TFAW: What are you most excited about with Violent Love?

    Barbiere: The chance to tell a story with Victor that we are both extremely passionate about with Image Comics. Image gives us 100% control of the material down to the type of paper we print it on, so this is a completely authentic vision from Victor and I. We really hope readers connect with it and care for these characters — this book encompasses everything we love about comics and genre, so we hope people follow us for many issues to come.

    Santos: I think this is a kind of story you would love if you are a classic noir fan, but at the same time a new reader will enjoy a lot. We have been working on a daring storytelling but accessible. That’s the kind of comics I love because even with the movie references I told you, it has that artisan and care level a movie never will have. This story is told with the resources, technique and heart make comics so fun.

    TFAW: What comics are you enjoying right now?

    Barbiere: I try to keep extremely current with the comic book industry, as well as always diving back and checking out things I’ve missed. I’m really enjoying Steve Orlando’s new Supergirl title and on the creator owned front I’ve been absolutely floored by Kill or be Killed and Black Monday Murders. In terms of prose, I’ve been reading The Fireman by Joe Hill.

    Santos: I love all the stuff from writers like Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Warren Ellis. A lot of creator-owned from publishers like Dark Horse, Image, and Boom.

    I’m not totally connected with what all the big publishers are doing, but I buy all the stuff that artists like Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Javier Rodriguez, Declan Shalvey, Chris Samnee or David Aja are doing in the US mainstream books. I’m superfan of the Panel Syndicate online, too. Outside the U.S., I’m reading books by Osamu Tezuka, Koike/Kojima reprints, or the French hit Lastman — they are some of my favorite books right now, too.

    We want to thank Frank and Victor for taking the time out of their busy schedules to chat with us about this exciting new series!

    ORDER VIOLENT LOVE COMICS NOW

    Have you checked out other books by Barbiere or Santos? Are you as excited about this new series as we are? Join the conversation by posting your thoughts below and use the buttons below to share this article.

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  • Pathfinder Worldscape: A Who’s Who of Fantasy Characters

    Exclusive Intervie With Pathfinder Worldscape Writer Erik Mona

    Pathfinder fans, you’re in for a real treat in Dynamite’s upcoming six-issue Pathfinder Worldscape miniseries written by Erik Mona (Pathfinder: Hollow Mountain) and art by Jonathan Lau (Red Sonja and Cub, Miss Fury).

    We had the chance to chat with series writer Erik Mona about his favorite part of writing this series and where he hopes to the story. Read on for insights into the series and see how you can win a copy of Pathfinder Worldscape #1 signed by Mona and series artist Jonathan Lau!

    TFAW: You have plenty of awesome Pathfinder comics under your belt–dozens of adventures. Each one leads us on a new journey. What is different about this one?

    Erik Mona: Pathfinder comics to date have taken us into dark and deadly dungeons, into the winding streets of treacherous cities, and even into the unknown corners of our heroes’ pasts, but things really jump to the next level with Pathfinder Worldscape, which transports our heroes to an entirely different dimension — the Worldscape. The Worldscape is an ancient trap created by a long-dead wizard to gather the greatest warriors from three worlds — Pathfinder’s Golarion, John Carter’s Barsoom, and Earth, including its remote history during Red Sonja’s Hyborian Age.

    In the course of the 6-issue series, the Pathfinder heroes cross swords with the likes of Red Sonja, John Carter of Mars, Tars Tarkas, Tarzan, and the jungle heroes Thun’da and Fantomah, among many others. The character interactions are a huge highlight for me.

    Crossing over Pathfinder characters with heroes created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Frazetta — artists who inspired the fantasy roleplaying hobby that ultimately inspired Pathfinder itself — definitely counts as new and different!

    “I’ve been tinkering with the Pathfinder Worldscape idea for years…”

    Pathfinder Worldscape Preview Page 1TFAW: With this huge cast of characters, did you find this story more difficult to manage or does it just come at ease at this point?

    Mona: The enormous cast of Pathfinder Worldscape presents some challenges, to be sure. You want to give everybody a chance to shine and do their thing while still having pages left over to tell an actual story. When you’re mashing together multiple properties in a dimension informed by the cultures of three different worlds (and at any time during the history of those worlds), there’s a strong temptation to over-indulge in world-building and wheel spinning about how this or that minor detail works into the overall character of the Worldscape dimension itself.

    My background in writing for tabletop RPGs has me thinking about all kinds of details that will never really play into the story. I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about the role of bullets in the Worldscape, as an example. While most of the Worldscape’s inhabitants come from eras or lands that fit well with traditional sword & sorcery themes, it’s perfectly likely someone trapped in the Worldscape will encounter a World War II soldier, a pistol-toting hero of America’s high plains, or a musket-wielding, fanatical street-fighter of Revolutionary France. Assuming they appear in the Worldscape with only the ammunition they bring with them, that makes their bullets a very rare and valuable commodity.

    I imagined a whole barter economy based around warriors seeking out the appropriate bullets for their chosen weapons, but after spending a considerable amount of time thinking about this, I snapped back to reality and realized that details like this — while perhaps quite interesting, useful, and even necessary to support a Pathfinder RPG campaign set in the Worldscape, probably weren’t going to enter into the comic book story too much.

    Happily, I’m fairly certain all that world-building will come into play in Worldscape-oriented Pathfinder RPG products down the line, but right now I’m putting my full effort into the comic book.

    TFAW: What exciting lands/places might we see on this adventure?

    Mona: The Worldscape itself is as exciting as you can get, with elements literally ripped out of the worlds in conjunction with it.

    Frank Frazetta’s jungle hero Thun’da, for example, lives in a place called the “Dawn Land,” a sort of time-lost valley filled with cave men, dinosaurs, amazons, and weird monsters. I always thought it strange that the subtitle of Thun’da’s comic was “King of the Congo,” when so many of his adventures took place in a much more interesting (and, from today’s standards, a much less politically fraught) location.

    I’m far more interested in struggles against pterosaurs and shaggy cave men than I am in fights against stereotypically primitive African witch doctors, and during a thorough review of fantasy-oriented stories and characters from the jungle comics of the ’40s and ’50s, Thun’da’s stories stood out as exceptional because of the weird monsters and lost cities.

    Naturally, when I started constructing the Worldscape plan, I drew in not just Thun’da and his savage girlfriend Pha, but also the entirety of his Dawn Land refuge, ruined cities and all. The central location of the Worldscape series, the brutal city of Shareen, is in fact drawn from Thun’da’s early adventures.

    Beyond that we’ve got misty valleys stuffed with Barsoomian white apes and a cadre of trained killers, another ruined city inhabited by the simian scum of three worlds, and the jungle itself, nominally ruled by the Council of Jungle Kings and their enigmatic and elusive First King, Tarzan of the Apes. Whether traveling by foot, by thoat, or by airship, the lands of the Worldscape promise death and danger at nearly every turn.

    “The character I’m enjoying the most and the one who has become weirdly central to the plot of the whole thing is Fantomah.”

    Pathfinder Worldscape Preview Page 2TFAW: Was this an idea that you had brewing for a while? How did this all come together?

    Mona: I’ve been tinkering with the Pathfinder Worldscape idea for years, since shortly after signing on to Dynamite and becoming more familiar with their roster of amazing licensed characters.

    So many of their heroes are based on the same fiction and characters that inspired tabletop gaming back in the early ’70s, and in particular Pathfinder has always been a gaming brand firmly in touch with its “pulp” roots.

    Working with characters created by Burroughs, Howard, and Frazetta…it’s just too tempting to try to put it all together and do something cool. Add to that that each issue of Pathfinder Worldscape contains a Pathfinder RPG rules appendix that provides official RPG statistics for these legendary heroes — in some cases heroes people have wanted game adaptations of literally for decades — and I had to try to put something together.

    At the time Dynamite had already teamed up many of their modern-day pulp heroes in their Masks comic, and Bill Willingham had just mashed a bunch of them together in a steampunk-inspired series called Legenderry. It seemed obvious to me that crossing over their awesome fantasy characters was the next logical step. In the meantime, Dynamite also launched the Swords of Sorrow series, which teamed up nearly all of their female characters, and Worldscape is the next logical progression.

    At a certain point I’d put so much work and thought into how to make it all happen that Dynamite offered me the chance to write the series myself, which is a huge, humbling opportunity!

    “Jonathan [Lau] has a fantastic attention to detail and an inventive spirit…”

    Pathfinder Worldscape Preview Page 4TFAW: How did the artist, Jonathan Lau, become involved with this epic adventure?

    Mona: Jonathan was my favorite of several artists Dynamite suggested for the project. I was familiar with his work on former Pathfinder writer Jim Zub’s Red Sonja and Cub from a few years back, so I was already familiar with his visual sensibility and his strong action compositions.

    What I didn’t know at the time was that Jonathan has a fantastic attention to detail and an inventive spirit that fills every nook and cranny of the book with interesting things to look at.

    His Tars Tarkas is probably my favorite version of the character I’ve seen in comics to date, and it’s fascinating to see him adapt characters like Thun’da, Fantomah, and the immortal empress Camilla, who haven’t really been in active production since the ’40s or ’50s (barring a limited series or guest appearance here and there).

    I’m thrilled to be working with him on the series, and each page I get from him on the earlier issues inspires me to put even crazier characters and scenes into the later issues I’m writing now.

    TFAW: With such a large roster of characters, have you found that you favor one more than others?

    Mona: I’m honored to work on all of them, especially Red Sonja and John Carter, two titans of fantasy publishing.

    Oddly, the character I’m enjoying the most and the one who has become weirdly central to the plot of the whole thing is Fantomah, the beautiful, nigh-omnipotent skull-faced woman introduced by literal madman Fletcher Hanks way back in ’40’s Jungle Comics #2. I’ve been mystified by this character (and by Fletcher Hanks) ever since reading about her in the incomparable “I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets” collection/biography by Paul Karasik from a few years back.

    When Dynamite challenged me to add some public domain fantasy heroes to their already impressive roster, I immediately leapt to Fantomah, and I’ve never really looked back. Hanks portrayed Fantomah as this unstoppable force of nature capable of just about anything. Unlike staid jungle heroes of the era, it was never really clear whether Fantomah was a hero or a villain, just that you never wanted to cross her, lest she rip the skin from your flesh, turn you into some crazy plant creature, or dispatch you in whatever weird way Fletcher Hanks could concoct between bottles of whiskey. In Pathfinder RPG terms, she’s basically a god, which opened up another interesting element of philosophy for the series.

    Each of the three worlds involved — Earth, Barsoom, and Golarion — have very different relationships with religion, and what it means to be a god. For most of the people of Earth — certainly the more or less modern ones like Thun’da and John Carter, “God” is something to be inferred as a matter of faith.

    Pathfinder Worldscape Preview Page 3On Barsoom, religion is a fraud designed to deliver the dying to a valley where they are drained of blood by bizarre plant creatures so that their bloodless corpses can be eaten by a cannibal priesthood of Holy Therns (also, by the way, in Worldscape). Burroughs’ “The Gods of Mars,” the second of his John Carter books, is largely about that religion.

    Then you’ve got the Pathfinder world of Golarion, where gods are literally, indisputably present and real and divine. It’s not so much a matter of belief as it is acknowledgement of existing supernatural forces, and that gives me a lot to play with in terms of how my characters interact with the world and their predicament as captives of the Worldscape.

    John Carter and the cleric Kyra get a nice juicy conversation about this, but Fantomah plays an important role in this aspect of the story as well, and I’m thrilled to be able to use her!

    “I’m still hard at work crafting cool Pathfinder RPG rules appendices for each issue…”

    TFAW: Do you have any other projects coming up that we should know about?

    Mona: In addition to running Paizo’s day-to-day publishing operations, managing the creative staff, and making diabolical plans for the future of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, most of my focus these days is soundly on Pathfinder Worldscape.

    Most of the scripting is out of the way at this point, but I’m still hard at work crafting cool Pathfinder RPG rules appendices for each issue. I just finished official game statistics for Red Sonja, for example, and now I’m noodling around with Tars Tarkas, who will appear in the second issue. After that we’ve got Tarzan, Thun’da, and a whole host of others. How much damage does a radium pistol do? What’s the Strength bonus for a green Martian? I dunno, but I will know soon, and it’s really exciting to map the game designer part of my brain over the story I’ve been composing using my comics writing circuits.

    You can keep up with my projects and get some insight into the Pathfinder RPG adaptation process behind Worldscape by checking out my blog at erikmona.com or following me on Twitter @erikmona.

    TFAW: What comics are you enjoying right now?

    Mona: Oh, man, there are so many! I went in way deep on DC’s New 52 a few years back and am working my way through a longbox of backissues of Snyder’s Batman, which has been fantastic, of course. I’m always keen to follow former Pathfinder comics writer Jim Zub on whatever he’s doing, and I really like what he’s been rolling out with Wayward, as well as his new title Glitterbomb, from Image. I’m highly intrigued by DC’s Young Animal imprint. The first issue of the new Doom Patrol was fantastic, and I can’t wait to break out a copy of Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye. As far as comic titles go, that’s probably the best I’ve heard in a long time!

    We want to thank Erik for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us! Make sure to order your copies of Pathfinder Worldscape.

    ORDER PATHFINDER WORLDSCAPE ISSUES

    Are you looking forward to Pathfinder Worldscape? Tell us which character you’re looking forward to seeing in the Worldscape in the comments below and you’ll be in the running to get a copy of Pathfinder Worldscape #1 signed by Erik Mona and Jonathan Lau!

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