Saturday, July 26, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con Weekend

I'll admit it - I am super-duper jealous of everyone at SDCC this weekend. While I have nothing to complain about - being that I just started a new job and have a week to prep for some upcoming projects - I can't help but wonder what it's like to actually be at the epicenter of everything geeky right now.

As a contributor for Bleeding Cool, I have the opportunity to write stories about the goings-ons at the biggest event of the year. The team in place is awesome so as wonderful a writer as I am they don't need me. Plus there's always that little part of me that feels inadequate in merely engaging with the culture he loves as opposed to contributing to it with his own content.

So I'm making a declaration on all my social media soapboxes platforms that come what may I will be in attendance at SDCC 2015 both as a fan and as an artist. That means one year from today I will be in California covering the madness and contributing to it with my own creative output whether that's my own comics, films or what have you - I don't know I can't tell the future just declare my intentions for it.

So if you're up for it and have some spare time to divulge in the exploits and introspective meanderings of a not-so-mild-mannered emotionally-subnormal geek with a burning passion for storytelling then get ready for one wild ride over the next year folks!

With some Luck, Will, Hope and God I will achieve some major dreams in 2014-2015


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Random Thoughts

Had some story ideas recently...thought if I start putting these out into the world - or at least on this blog - it might make them feel more real and motivate me to see them through.

But more importantly I just know that I would appreciate hearing the creative ideas of others shared openly so maybe I'll meet a kindred spirit.  Let me know your thoughts people, whoever you are...

 Seven Story Ideas

1-    Fat kid gets super-speed and saves his families delivery service. He gets the powers from who cares and helps them make faster service. He loses weight and gets cocky. Ends up becoming a man but only by accepting responsibility for his powers and overcoming his desire to be gratified – once by food, now by fair-weather friends and fun – replacing it with a peaceful integrity that will endear him to his one true love. 

2-    Lonely guy gets off unemployment and gets his life together with self-help books. He fantasizes about being a superhero. The juxtaposition could be fun and he has an adorable disposition. The cute girl thing. Eh…pandering.

3-    A T-Rex goes on a boxing world tour. He fights a black mamba. Named Kobe.

4-    Kid moves to New York City to become a super-villain. He doesn’t care about any laws he’s just devious and messes things up for people. Reflects a sad personality but there’s a humor to him for dressing up and doing this…I guess he thinks it’s a sort of a super-sanity. Where does he live? Night-to-Night. What does he do to survive. He steals to survive. What does he live for…to laugh. Obviously he is following the joker… this is a surrealist comedy.

5-    A guy gets out of town for the weekend. He smokes pot. Does nothing. Thinks to himself. Eats food. Watches television. Hates / loves / hates self rinse repeat. Then wakes up and learns nothing other than he probably shouldn't smoke pot but...he likes it. This could be a fun look at a loners addiction and the funny/sad ways it can fill up your days with everything and nothing.

6-    A reality show about working at a restaurant. Naaaah, I mean it’s a great idea but I don’t want to be the one writing it I’m too close to it. Plus its been sorta done to death you would need something else. It’s the backdrop for a comedy but its not my joke. I’m not sure of myself and the only thing I would want for the protagonist is to LEAVE – get over his desire TO LEAVE – find LOVE  - or pursue his PASSION while using the place EFFECTIVELY. Think its time to move on from this story. 

7-    Comic Book Show about people at the shop. What happens when a shop is run by hot girls who are secretly superheroes with mythological origins like Wonder Women except less busy? Awesome things. 

Well that's a few ideas. I took a couple cracks at the overweight speedster recently but haven't gotten to where I can't stop. Started a book about unemployment too but it felt too talk-ey and needs a hook.

While I prefer making my own stories just like I prefer living my own life - I have to say that journalism is a welcome way to explore my creative sensibilities because there is an inherent structure to my understanding of the external. Limited possibilities can have their uses too when brevity ain't your thing...

Shawn Perry - 7.20.14

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: Strange Desires by Bleachers

Sup ya'll - been a while since I did a review but just listened to Strange Desires by Bleachers and had to talk about it.

This sort of upbeat pop is my bread and butter so its no surprise that I say "great album" as its very much my style this summer. It has the free-wheeling pop sensibility of The Killers mixed with the visceral style of Youngblood Hawke and Foster the People. Did I mention it also reminds me of Fun which is much appreciated seeing as its been quite a long time since Some Nights and its good to see Jack Antonoff is keeping busy.

The album has tracks for all types of moods and mixes which makes it a fun one to enjoy all the way through despite some slow spots. As I said, the man behind the magic is Antonoff, better known as one third of Fun. My favorite tracks are the rev-up track "Shadows," the 'you probably have already heard it' radio hit "I Wanna Get Better" along with the jumpy summertime sweetner "Roller Coaster." Another one of the key tracks to listen to here is "Wake Me" which is another notch in the belt for my Pet Sounds-as-a-genre argument. The Yoko-infused "I'm Ready to Move On/Wild Heart Reprise" is questionable but possibly good after a few listens I'm not sure yet.

Strange Desire is not perfect by any means with a few tracks that left me scratching my head and/or bored like "Reckless Love" and "Like a River Runs," however,  in the vein of Antonoff's eternally optimistic sensibilities I will go so far as to say that they will get better in the context of the album over repeat listening.  If you dig the style, you'll dig the album - if you don't, then you won't - there are no bad tracks but there are some better ones and that's my story. But bottom line - this is an extremely talented artist proving that he has what it takes to go it alone when he is not rocking out with Nate Ruess or writing tunes for pop staples like Tegan & Sara or Taylor Swift. In my opinion, he deserves his time to shine.

For more on the record check out Josh Terry's (harsh but honest) review on Consequence of Sound.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Being Drawn Away - Interview with Local Author Luke Foster

Being Drawn Away – An Interview with Artist Luke Foster

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with local artist Luke Foster at our local comic shop, A Hero’s Legacy. In recent years, Foster has produced an impressive body of work, both with web comics and self-published graphic novels. He has also become quite the journeyman, but as he explains, it took Foster a long time to harness his passion and get out into the world – both literally and creatively.

Much of Fosters’ work is based on personal experience. For example; one of his first web comics, The Gang From The Store was based on his humorous experiences as an employee at the store.  He has since packaged that series into a graphic novel, along with his insightful travelogue Drawn Away which follows his journey across America. As he explains, in regards to exploring and producing, the last few years are a trek he does not regret.

SP –So Luke – I know you’ve got books to ink so I will cut to the chase - how did you get started in comics?

LF- I started out in 2008 with the web comic called Moon Freight 3 - a science fiction comedy strip about being twenty-something with a job that you hate. I thought there were too many stories about the galaxy’s greatest starship captain and I wanted to produce something different. That strip ran for about four years and during that time I did one called The Gang From The Store and, as the name implies, that was all true stories of things that happened while I was working here at the shop.

SP: So I really enjoyed Drawn Away  – can you tell me how you came up with the idea to do a travelogue about your cross-country adventures?

LF: One day in November 2012 I was with my parents and in a bit of a rut with my job and my personal life. I felt like I was treading water and was considering a move to Portland, Oregon just so see something different for a while. My mom said ‘don’t move somewhere without visiting you should travel for a while’ and I said “OK - I think I will’ and to justify quitting my job I had to do my comic book travelogue so that was the genesis of Drawn Away. So I packed my bags, set up some stops with friends and spent four months on the road. There were times when I got anywhere from 1-3 weeks behind because I was driving a lot and found it difficult to find service or a place to plug my computer in the desert. When I got home I finished it and since then reception has been extraordinarily positive. A couple of stores that carry it have almost sold out which shocks me! It’s very flattering and humbling. 

SP – It sounds like a lot of your work comes from your own experience, do you find that you have a natural inclination towards personal storytelling?

LF: Sort of. It is kind of an indirect thing where I find the more exciting things I am experiencing at the time. the more interesting my stories become. Personal storytelling is kind of my thing, as opposed to some giant epic fantasy story where the fate of three thousand kingdoms is up for grabs. Stories that follow smaller sets of characters where interesting things happen but a lot of focus is on their personal journey.

SP: You have been getting out there on the comic book convention scene recently can you talk about what it has been like to get more attention for your work?

LF: It is always fun to meet new people with the same passions like kids in costumes who are experiencing all this for the first time and adults who are finding a way to have fun with friends they might not see much outside of cons. I love introducing people to my books and I love drawing for them. When I am at conventions I tell people that I will draw anything they want as long as I can see a picture so I know what it looks like. Even if it doesn’t exist as long as they give me a good idea of what it should like I’ll take care of it. Thanks to smart phones it’s easy to do that sort of thing.

SP: What do you think about comic book culture and how it has developed since you first started reading?

LF: I think in terms of mainstream acceptance it is fantastic with respect to their maturity and potential. I don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a fan – not since the seduction of innocence back in the forties – I also think the industry internally is developing with campaigns to make comics better reflect diversity. At conventions I see so many young kids in costume and as many girls as boys now. It’s just so matter-of-fact now that girls are welcome and it doesn’t occur to them there might be people there that think that they shouldn’t have things that cater to them. Comics are for everyone and I don’t want anyone to ever have to feel unaccepted reading comics and anyone.

SP: Can you tell me more about your experience as a self-published comic creator, which is something that you dedicated the time to make happen and not many people today can say that as there are so many closet writers and artists out there who give up because they’re afraid to fail or just can’t find the time. What motivated you to go for it and get over the proverbial hump of second-guessing?

LF: I’ve wanted to do comics my whole life but for a time there I had let myself get convinced that I could never do it because a) I could never make money at it and b) because I just wasn’t a good enough artist. Then right around when web comics started to become a thing I said ‘I really want to do this - I know I’ll just write something and find someone to draw it for me.’ I tried to do that a couple times and initial meetings would happen but things would sort of just fizzle out. So then I thought ‘the heck with it I’ll draw it myself.’  My first attempts were very rough but I kept at it and like to think I have gotten better. I have learned a lot I’ve learned anatomy, movement, color and how to make characters look less stiff.

SP: What’s it like now that you have a few books under your belt - have people come asking you to draw their work?

LF: Not yet but I am open to it!  My art style is very cartooney, similar to what you see in a newspaper and I think people sort of see me as doing my own thing right now…but my dream is to do comics full-time with a mainstream publisher or one of the larger indie publishers. I’d love to not be self-published but for now I have my day job and I get a lot out of being on the convention circuit.

SP: Speaking of conventions, what’s on-tap for you in the coming months?

LF: I am going to be at Insta-Con in Kennett Square in PA later this month and I will be at Baltimore Comic-Con in September. I will also be doing a Drawn Away signing right here at A Hero’s Legacy on Saturday, July 19th.

It is always exciting to meet people who have taken something they love and found a way to engage with it in a personal way.  We live in a society where personal consumption is everywhere and it can be easy to get caught in the trap of feeling lived by society. While it might be hard to invest the time I believe that these stories and people like Foster prove we can’t afford to ignore our calls to adventure in life because, like a comic book, our lives are vessels for incredible experience and if we don’t fill them up - who will? 

I challenge you to get Drawn Away.


One of my favorite lines in Watchmen - and also, any story ever - is when the craziest of the outlawed vigilantes shares what drives them to go out into the night and risk their lives. In this line he perfectly captures the feelings I have about writing, dressing up and sharing my pure soul with the world.

 There is no logic to it other than:



The thing in my life I can't ignore is this burning need to be create and engage with my imagination. It's the part of my brain that is too far-gone to turn off. In much the same way that a bodybuilder has to lift, lovers have to love and fish gotta's ineffable and it cannot be denied.

Challenge: Ask yourself - what is your compulsion? Then ask what have you been doing to let it free and, if the answer isn't easy or acceptable to you, find a systematic solution to give let it out.

Starting this week I am going to be writing/creating a lot more and a lot of is going up here.

The time it takes is acceptable. It's permitted. Because it will fill me up.  Because I am compelled.

Because to break the laws of your soul is to break yourself against your dreams... and that is the only thing that can break you.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Writer's block

Sorry for the sporadic posts - I have been super-busy lately with work and kind of having a hard time getting motivated. I love writing editorials and reviews but I got a burning kick to create my own story...and the fact that my most recent work has been all about celebrating indie creators for doing just that is to blame.

Review of Indie Series on BC 

Interview with local artist on BC

Spotlight in Indie Comics on BC

Darn them inspirational artists...always inspiring with their artistic achievements.

The hardest part of writing is when you don't know if anyone will read it.

I'm going to give my own work another draft for kicks. 


Monday, June 23, 2014

Evolution of a Comic Shop – An Interview with Aaron Haaland Owner of The Geek Easy

The growth of Central Florida’s A Comic Shop has been covered in the recent past so I will forgo a lengthy introduction and just explain that what makes the award-winning shop special is that it holds weekly social events and operates a bar called The Geek Easy. Due to popular demand the bar is expanding thanks in part to generous support from backers on indiegogo that have raised over a third of its $30,000 campaign goal as of this writing. What fascinated me about this story is that it’s not just about another high-concept capitalistic endeavor earning success, but rather, it is a spotlight on the amazing power of fandom to create a home that fulfills what is lacking in comic book culture. But perhaps more importantly, it’s a place where beer and comic books go together like Batman & Robin and holy crap is that a long time coming.

In my opinion, the nature of fandom stems from the inherent compulsion to celebrate shared experience.  This compulsion is like a fire that burns inside fans around the world and anyone that has ever attended a major sporting event or convention knows what a joy it is to celebrate their passion among thousands of like-minded people. That feeling can be particularly potent when it has been a long-time coming…

Personally, I was a card-carrying comic book geek for almost a decade before I attended my first convention and experiencing that environment for the first time (and twenty-first time, for that matter) is something that leaves you desperately wanting more.  Owner and life-long comic book fan Aaron Haaland sought to recreate that experience with A Comic Shop by adding social events and eventually with The Geek Easy.  Recently, I spoke with Haaland about a number of topics, such as; how his experience growing up a comic book fan informed his decisions as an owner, how his customers have embraced social events and what he sees in the future for comic book culture and shops everywhere.

Shawn: What is it about comic book culture that make fans so passionate about events and what motivated you to push for more social engagement in your store?

Aaron: Comics are an experience that you do alone. You read between the covers and you’re there by yourself as opposed to music or a movie that can be enjoyed as a group. Comics are such an intimate experience and if you engage a comic its always a one-on-one thing…I just saw that there as an opportunity to make comics into a social thing for fans in a ways that conventions were already doing but shops weren’t necessarily doing. We have creator signings here and there but in terms of having something social as part of the store’s DNA that encourages customers to bring their friends to engage in this thing they are passionate about it was all just under the surface and needed very little prodding. It was more just being responsive to what people wanted and what I always wanted as a comic book fan.

Growing up I would always look forward to picking up comics all month and then I would have to read them in my car and I was like ‘why do I have to give my whole paycheck to this store and then read my comics in my car?’ I realize I could have driven home but I just needed to read it right then and from then on I was adamant that when I opened a comic book store it was going to have a lounge where people could get a drink and read their comics because that’s what I always wanted to do!

Shawn: What is the Origin Story behind The Geek Easy?

Aaron: Well the comic store had been running for a while when I suggested, as a joke, that we add a speak-easy and call it a geek-easy. Then the joke didn’t die everyone and thought I was serious so basically I had to do it because I’m very prone to peer pressure. [laughs] It was just a natural outgrowth of what our store was already doing and what we were putting energy towards with social events and the feedback we got from our customers was that they wanted more. I also think it was the right time for it as the scene had just exploded and there was this undercurrent of people that wanted to share it and I understood that because I have tattoos of favorite characters and a closet full of comics and T-shirts.

Shawn: Sounds like you were right man for the job!  Have many relationships blossomed at the store based on shared passion? Do you often see people come in on their own to buy comics and end up making new friends at the bar?

Aaron: Yes, we have facilitated plenty of friendships, plenty of relationships, a few marriages…. it’s hard to meet new people as an adult but at a bar with how the tables are set up everything is geared towards making connections and it happens.  When you see someone reading the same thing that you love you want to engage and those barriers of awkwardness or anxiety melt away. The other thing about our clientele is that they are primarily college age people and they move here and don’t necessarily have many friends so this place facilitates them meeting new friends and finding a place to belong.

Shawn: Has the store helped facilitate many creative connections happen among patrons?

Aaron. We are located across the street from Full Sail University, which is a film and animation type school, so we have a lot of creative people coming in and they start collaborating. We have had patrons film here and do photography in here. We have also published four comics of local artists that met here and also have a stage for the bar so people have come in and suggested different ideas like cherokee, improv, trivia, stand-up comedy and we have encouraged them because its fun! It’s great when people can turn something their passion into something that they can use to entertain others. There is so much stuff about obsessive nerds who just constantly consume this culture but young people, creative people, they want to create themselves and take this culture that they are so into and do something with it. It’s been amazing to see that happen just because we encouraged it and now its something pretty incredible. 

Shawn: Speaking of youth culture, do you see a lot of hipsters come into The Geek Easy? Concept bars like Brooklyn’s Videology and Philadelphia’s Chickie’s and Pete’s known to attract a lot of hip young artistic types in clever t-shirts so is that something you see crossing over into the world of comics at the Geek Easy?

Aaron: Well, we sell plenty of PBR [laughs] but yes we totally cater to that it’s awesome who doesn’t love hip? Cynical old grouchy people, I guess, but not me! Hipster culture has definitely been a boone to comics, most recently with Image because they have what’s small, what’s hot, what’s creator-owned and authentic…look at Rat Queens becoming a cartoon show with just the first volume - that's just amazing!

Shawn: You have gained a lot from adding social events and a few kegs of beer to your store - do you feel like you are blazing a trail that others can follow? It doesn’t sound like it took an exorbitant amount of effort to take A Comic Shop to the next level that it was like lighting a fire and all the wood was just lying there. What would you say to all the owners out there that are interested in adapting your model to their stores?
Aaron: If you’re a store that is going to add some kind of social event the first thing you need to do is just hold an open forum with your current customers. Email them talk to them face-to-face have an open forum give them free snacks and food for it and ask them what they would like to see and if they would be willing to bring friends to it. Make it something where they are getting what they want out of the store and are willing to bring their friends to it. Don’t just have an event and invite your current customers and expect to sell more because of that you have to target new people because that’s what marketing is and when you have a product that you know people enjoy it’s not such a crapshoot.

People don’t have to go ‘all in’ and get a liquor license they can partner up with a bar or buy an amp and have events in their store. It’s not that hard to get started and I feel like this model can be easily emulated. We always want to get people into the store…there is paid advertising and social media but things get much easier when you promote something that is actually social on social media. It’s like saying ‘hey come here and interact with people’ because you are interrupting people on social media who are socializing.

It’s so much different than saying ‘hey I have a comic book store, it’s this big, we have this many products, here is a new product’ all that is fine but it gets so much easier when you put some effort into an authentic substance by saying ‘here is an event we’re doing that is about something that you like and you can be part of this with your friends, meet new people and engage in this culture in a way that isn’t just consuming and, by the way, it is also store where you can consume because obviously you do and so does everyone here because we love this stuff.’ I just think that’s the missing piece to the whole puzzle of comic book retailing. Owners are already investing their livelihoods in this so I would say get feedback from your current customers and do things that they say they want to start with and then go from there.

Shawn: You state in your videos that you are open to consulting with other owners – has there been much interest?

Aaron: I’ve had some bites in terms of consulting. I’m not saying that I know how to sell comics any better than other stores but I am an expert on connecting social events to a retail comic book establishment and that is what I want to consult on and that is what I want to catch fire in the industry. I think when retailers hear the word ‘consulting’ they think ‘what’s this guy whose been doing this for ten years want to teach me when I’ve been doing this for thirty years?’ Well, in terms of cycle sheets and inventory, probably not much but when it comes to events and how to schedule I can absolutely help you with that and that’s what I want to consult on.

Shawn: What is your dream for the future of comic shops, the evolution of a comic shop if you will, not just for college-age kids that are looking for a watering hole to begin with but fans everywhere that are seeking a place to express themselves and identify with both personally and socially?

Aaron: What I would like to see comic book stores become is more of a place for social interaction that is not just for gaming. Gaming is fine but I would like to see them start to incorporate some of the things that happen at conventions.  It is just so easy to do an open mic or cherokee at a store and events like that make the store more than just retail and I understand that stores have long-time customers who consider it way more than just retail but in some ways that can become kind of like a club house with there being an in-crowd of people that have been there forever who are like family and how intimidating or off-putting can that be to new people? Social events are a great way to incorporate new people into your community. The community already exists but this is a way to help people become part of that and when you do something as simple as trivia night its a simple formula that people can plug into and any store can do it I don’t care how small.

Shawn: Okay, so this is going to be the hardest question I ask and I am sure you’ve heard it before but what do you say to all the owners who have been doing in the business for years and have tried events before that did not provide any monetary value to their business? How can owners expect to make money with social events and aside from beer profits how has your business benefited from being more than just a store where people come in and buy books and merchandise?

Aaron: Well we didn’t explode in making money as a side-venture until we got our restaurant and beer license but we were doing events on an almost nightly basis before then and were making money because, to be real, there are just only so many great comics and essential graphic novels and by doing social stuff based on entertainment we went against the grain and stigma that comic books are just for collectors. I’m not saying collect-ability is bad because you can re-stock Watchmen every week and bringing in new people can and does sell the same old stuff that you might have already sold to all of your current customers. You can sell the stuff that you know how to sell, that your employees know how to sell, because people already somewhat know about them from television and movies and the people that your customers bring in for a social event are going to help you sell it. I have seen people that have brought their friends to events selling comics to them not because they want to make me money but because they love this stuff and really just want their friends to read Invincible because at the end of the second volume it just goes insane and its their favorite book and they want to share it.

If you do an event like a Walking Dead premiere that just goes directly to selling more Walking Dead as well as selling Invincible and more Image titles. These events can help target all of these things that are amazing that people would love if they just gave them a chance but they don’t know about it or just don’t see themselves as a comic book reader because they don’t identify with the culture but if you get one of your customers to bring them in they are so much more susceptible. It’s kind of like inviting someone to church - you are going to have a much better opportunity to sell someone on whatever religion you have if you get this person there in-person rather than just by talking to them one-on-one here and there. You get someone into the comic book store and it’s a much easier sell to get someone to try something new and hopefully they’ll enjoy it and come back.

In my personal opinion, the popularity of comics and the desire to engage in its culture has never been stronger and Haaland’s successful enterprise is a testament to that as well to its unlimited potential for growth. Mark my words: this culture is evolving, there is a revolution coming and those who open the doors are on the right side.  Haaland will go down as a visionary for blazing this new path and a hero for providing this example of how brightly this culture can shine with the right encouragement. Or in other words, to quote the opening line of the film that sparked the last evolution in comic book culture…

“Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

Indy Comic Spotlight: Return To Rander

The first thing you need to know about Indy creators is that they do not do this thing for the money, or the ink, they do it because they are compelled. 

They are passionate fans with unique visions and the drive to see them through to fruition. That is something I respect and admire as someone who believes in the power of dreams and understands the joy of finding a way to get your voice heard. 

Whatever you want to say, and in whatever medium, I admire people that share their visions because – as anyone who knows me can tell - nothing fills me up more than sharing mine.  Furthermore, as a life-long fan of the medium, I completely understand the allure of telling stories with comics because of the infinite creative possibilities.  In a comic book the difference between a procedural drama and a journey through space is just a few strokes of a pen. 

On that note, I want to talk about an Indy Comic series, Return to Rander, by a talented young creator I met at Hartford Comic-Con named Tony Sedani

Return to Rander is the story of a heroes search for identity juxtaposed against another mans search for revenge. The characters exist in a plane that is subject to the brisk pace of the story and the dialogue is minimalist.  This all serves to give the series an old-school western feel ala-The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. In my opinion, while the art starts out strong it gets better with each issue as Sedani seems to grow more confident in his own style and story.

The unnamed protagonist spends the story seeking a return to the land of his last memory as a child: Randor.  Despite his amnesia he retains a sense of good humor and openness that endears him to a beautiful pregnant woman he encounters along the way. We never learn much about his past but throughout the first three issues the hero frequently has conversations with a talking skull – one that looks like a little like Ghost Rider but more fashionably conservative – about his density and such. Neither the hero nor the skull take this device too seriously so these interactions provide some of the stories welcome humor until taking on greater reverence after a nice twist I won’t spoil in issue three.

It comes as no surprise that the sword-carrying amiable hero is a skilled warrior with a strong moral code when he saves the woman from her abusive boss at the end of the first issue.  From then on he takes it upon himself to protect her while he continues on his path to Rander, which of course leads to a final showdown. Where the design of the hero is simple, the antagonist is far more complex and fierce-looking. At times, the Matador reminds me of V, the Shredder and a Predator.  For the most part the Matador spends the series going around killing people while searching for the hero.  The only person he does not kill is the abusive former boss of the pregnant woman whom he convinces to join his tour de revenge in a nice touch by Sedani. Along the way the Matador and his men do battle with an aging western hero named Blane, the type of character you’ve seen played by Clint Eastwood in films like Unforgiven and Gran Torino. 

Overall, Return to Rander is an engaging story that does not waste time. If the story were a weapon it would be a blunt sword but a strong one with sharp edges. The character designs are bursting with creative energy, especially the Matador, and the action comes swiftly and leaves an impression. The fact that this is all the product of Sedani’s singular vision gives it all an intangible element of purity and excitement. Issue four will be out later this year and I cannot wait to see how this turns out. So to all who dream of sharing their visions with the world, no matter how ambitious they might be, it is great to look to creative people like Tony Sedani for inspiration.   

While the task might be daunting at first, to quote the hero of Return to Rander: it is okay to be scared so long as you do not let it change your convictions.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Joy of Yellow Journalism

So over the past week I had the pleasure of having FOUR articles published on my favorite website for comics/movies/television

Part of the reason the site speaks to me personally is because the site encourages all of its authors to share their personal opinions in their work in the style of yellow journalism and - from the works of Chuck Klostermen and Hunter S. Thompson to my long-standing love for freewriting - this is my favorite form of writing.

Part of the reason for the surge of activity was because last week I attended Hartford Comic-Con and that's where I got my stories.  It was awesome to have so much content to work with and I also benefited from working with a talented group of young filmmakers I met through Craigslist: Victor De Leon, JC Cooley and Alex Collins. Below are three of the stories I wrote on the event, as well as one review, most of which include videos I co-edited with De Leon - Enjoy!

1-    The Joys of Yellow Journalism: Interview with Tim Sale
Published June 7th 2014 on

2-    More Than a Feeling – Indy Comic Creators at Hartford Comic-Con
Published June 4th 2014 on

3-    Hartford Comic Con’s First Outing Hits Home For Local Fans
Published June 3rd 2014 on

4-    Review of Nightwing #30 – Grayson Finally Becoming His Own Man
Published May 29th 2014 on

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Good Times at HFD Comic-Con

Enjoyed going to Hartford's first Comic-Con yesterday.  Had a lot of great interviews with a lot of great artists.  Lots of work ahead for articles and videos but I am looking forward to it.

McThor has the Power of Valhalla Macs

Friday, May 30, 2014

Video Blog

Just put out my first attempt at a video blog where I discuss all my thoughts about nerdy things I enjoy in film, television, comics and music.  Hope you like it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Right Team Wins on Kickstarter

“They’ve got the guns but we’ve got the numbers.” 

That refain, screamed Jim Morrison on the song “Five to One” by the Doors, to me, it is a battle cry for the inherent power of true society to win out against all forms of dogma and cultural imperialism. Back when this song was written in the late sixties Morrison could have been referring to any number of shifting opinions but today the lyrics could easily refer to the evolving state of media.  

It does not require a long memory to recall the last time a popular television show was cancelled for reasons that had nothing to do with quality and were beyond the control of its fanbase.  Whether it was hindered by a bad time slot, poor promotion or was simply on the wrong network the story of a good show failing for the wrong reasons is as old as pop culture itself. As I type this in 2014 that story is changing, and it brings me to the subject of this piece, that is; during the past month the power of numbers prevailed and fans helped give new life to the cancelled Spike TV Original Series: Blue Mountain State.

During its three-season run on Spike TV, Blue Mountain State brought a hilarity and a touch of surrealism to the timeless story of college football players drinking, getting laid and not going to class. The comedy featured an excellent cast and garnered a small but loyal following based on the merits of its smart writing, inspired storytelling and balls-to-the-walls debauchery.  Although BMS was not a critical darling like some other recently revived shows, as the New York Times and Variety can corroborate, it was cancelled despite having a loyal audience with an unfortunate preference for streaming the show on Netflix.

While the show experienced significant gains in ratings over its first two seasons on Spike TV, it dipped to about 900,000 in Season 3 and that was all she wrote for the Mountain Goats.  Alan Ritchson, who starred on the show as surrealist blonde jock caricature Thad Castle, shed some light on the show’s cancellation in a recent interview with Den of Geek.
“We were surprised as much as the fans were. We were told we were coming back for a fourth season and not only that but we were told [Lionsgate] was working on a deal to do two seasons back to back. All of a sudden the next phone call we got was it was going to be cancelled.”

While the program did not deliver huge ratings for Spike TV, in all fairness, it is not as though the network is known for its rich satirical comedy.  Fans were much more likely to stumble across the program on Netflix than in-between episodes of Cops and Catch a Contractor. 

Speaking as a fan, I always felt that the show did not fit on Spike TV but was a perfect match for Netflix. Each episode requires little or no prior knowledge to enjoy and the show as a whole lends well to binge marathons but also holds up well to repeat viewings.

The humor and creative energy of the cast and crew is palpable throughout the entire run of the series, which can largely be attributed to the management of showrunners Eric Falconer and Chris ‘Romanski’ Romano. The collective unity and team spirit on-set is what made Blue Mountain State a special show to work on and is also a big part of why every one involved was ready to come back, as Ritchson explains:

"It was not hard getting these guys back together for the movie. We put the calls out there and everybody was overwhelmed so that was the easy part.It’s hard to put into words the chemistry we have. It’s truly a family. It started with Romanski and Falconer, the showrunners. These guys put in a lot of effort without it looking like effort into creating a family. It was such an open environment creatively. I’ve worked on sets where if you stray from the lines you’re getting pulled aside. It was the only set I’ve ever been on where nobody wanted to be in their trailer. It was like a frat it was so fun. It was totally a college experience and no one wanted it to end. Every night we’d go hang out and we’d be inseparable. I attribute that to [Romanski and Falconer] and I commend them for that because it’s something that nobody does and that chemistry was tangible it was almost like its own character.

That energy could not be extinguished by cancellation.  The producers requested and eventually received the rights to the show and then launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a film so that they could finish the story of Blue Mountain State in a way that will satisfy both themselves and the fans. 

As Falconer explains, the film will be a love letter for their fans.

"Making Blue Mountain State was one of the greatest experiences of my life. If you had fun watching it, believe me, we had just as much fun making it. When the show was canceled unexpectedly in 2012, after only three seasons on the air, I felt cheated. For you and for us. College is supposed to be four years. We needed four seasons to complete the show. Since the day of our cancellation, we’ve been trying to figure out a way to make a BMS movie. “We” being myself, my co-creator Romanski, and our amazing cast lead by Alan Ritchson, who played Thad Castle on the show. Our goal is, and has always been, to make a movie that will satisfy our fans. Our fan base is fiercely loyal, and we couldn’t imagine making a movie that wouldn’t honor that. I truly believe that with your support, we can make something special."

Since launching last month, the campaign has exceeded its goal and become just the third Kickstarter to gross over 1.5 million dollars.  Along with a number of hilarious videos to promote the campaign, the producers rewarded each of their backers with unique prizes, such as; custom beer pong accessories, autographed jerseys, a cookie race (if you don’t know watch the show) and tickets to the world premiere of the film along with access to a private after-party. 

The most unique reward was an on-campus party with the cast and crew for the college that raised the most money for the film.  The winning school was Arizona State who raised just under 18,000 for the film - which is about one year’s tuition but I highly doubt that any of the students on the guest list will be bothered with the irony.

Personally, it warms my sophomoric little bro-heart to see this movie getting made.  Not only that, but since the campaign reached its goal it was announced that the film will be directed by Jay Chandrasekhar (Beerfest, Supertroopers, Community) who is a great choice in my opinion because he has a brilliant mind for comedy and directed five of the series best episodes including my all-time favorite: “Marathon Monday.” We are fortunate to live in a time where fans and producers can work together to see a vision realized. The advent of the Netflix model is giving way to a new era of media where discovery happens at whatever time and place is convenient. While Kickstarter is creating an avenue through which fans can directly contribute to the production of the content they love and be recognized and rewarded for it.  While many will still scoff at the notion of crowd funding, arguing that it is an unfair position to place on fans, I argue that getting to party with the cast and crew of your favorite show in exchange for fundraising sounds a hell of a lot better than asking everyone you know to turn on their spare televisions so your show can get a ratings boost, as Ritchson explains:

"It’s exciting to be able to live in a world where we are in direct contact with the consumer and giving them what they want. We wanted to make a strong campaign and we’ve been overwhelmed by the support. With the heat that [the Kickstarter] has created, the conversation [about the future] is changing. If this campaign is any indication, there’s more here."

We live in a time where popular shows with so-called niche audiences no longer collect dust in flea market baskets and in the memories of crestfallen fans that cannot find a DVD collection without Japanese subtitles. The numbers have always been there, but companies like Netflix and Kickstarter now give them a place where they can be heard. Moreover, it is fitting that a show founded on the conviction that every member of a production has a voice worth hearing should have a fan base filled with voices of equal measure.  While only a few backers will have the honor of being included in the film’s credits, it is clear to me that this film will be the product of the fanbase as a whole.  Moreover, to borrow once again from Morrision’s immortal refrain, BMS: The Movie will stand as testament to the fact that while companies like Spike TV and Lionsgate may have the guns, thanks to Netflix and Kickstarter, the fans have the numbers and we are taking over.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Wet Hot American Summer Series Could be Headed for Netflix

Netflix is reportedly in talks to develop a series based in the world of Wet Hot American Summer. While you might think this project is about fifteen years too late, I believe the timing has never been better and that Nextflix is the perfect platform for this project. 

According to Variety, the streaming service, taking cues from its success with Arrested Development, wants to produce a 10-episode prequel series that will seek to reunite the original cast. Although that means the characters will still be teenagers while many of the actors are now in their forties, in my opinion, that suits the spirit of the original because those actors were ten years older than their characters back then.

While Wet Hot American Summer was critically-panned and performed poorly at the box office, thanks to word-of-mouth and the magic of home video, the film eventually found its audience and has enjoyed cult status ever since. Personally, I can scarcely recall ever laughing as hard or as often as I did the first time I saw the film and it absolutely has stood up to multiple viewings. The film is packed with great performances from an obscenely talented cast of stars including; Paul Rudd, Amy Poeher, Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofalo, Christopher Meloni, Michael Showalter, Molly Shannon, David Hyde Pierce, Ken Marino and Elizabeth Banks.

The notion of a prequel to Wet Hot American Summer has been kicked around for over a decade now. Similar to Arrested Development, its style of humor was a bit too surrealist and dry for the digestive tracts of mainstream audiences during its initial run. That’s not a knock on moviegoers of the time; I just think that there wasn’t enough precedent for the sort of irreverent humor this movie delivers to reach its true audience by the conventional distribution methods of the time.  Fortunately, we now live in an era where every twelve-year-old has an Netflix account with everything from Family Guy to Undeclared on their queue.

The movies creators, David Wain and Michael Showalter, have been trying to bring new life to the franchise for years now.  But it has not been easy. Back in 2011, Wain revealed that he had been in talks to develop and had requested that Universal re-release a DVD of the film for the movies 10th anniversary, which would include special features as well as a teaser for the planned prequel, but the request was outright denied. In a Q&A Wain said, “I told them we would be willing to do a new prequel teaser short for it and new interviews and new material but they were like, ‘No, nobody buys it. Nobody cares.’”

Lets hope that the genius who decided not to splurge on an anniversary disc for this classic gets proven dead-wrong and this project turns out to be another big win for Netflix. Thank God we have arrived at such an evolved point in media distribution that projects like these can start becoming more common and 'cult classics' can stop feeling so cult-ish.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Working on a new script

The hardest thing to do is often doing what you are compelled to do...

I'm finishing an old script I started in college and it's taken me places I never thought I would return to...but every time I step away the urge to go deeper and flesh it out more gets stronger.

I hope I can see this made, but even more than that, I just want to finish it.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Album Review: 'Upside Down Mountain' is One Fine Way to Get Through the Day

Upside Down Mountain, Connor Obersts' third record under his own name, is in equal measures deeply thought provoking and blissfully light. While not a first-wave Bright Eyes fan (and therefore have no axe to grind with Oberst about the maladaptive effect of mainstream attention) I am knowledgeable enough about his history to know that he has always had a talent for deeply rich lyrics exploring the biggest questions of life. This outing is no different and houses more than enough revelations and memorable refrains to provide the soundtrack to any number of collegiate summer drives or serve as the soundtrack to any number of life’s internal conversations.

As a whole, the album is all about the hope you find in the face of life seemingly endless heartache.  The songs form a greater dialouge that, like all good records, builds upon itself to become greater than the sum of its parts.  In short, it is precisely the type of album I am drawn to the most at this point in my life because it has a lot to say but does so with well-composed restraint, intimacy and understanding. Personally, I was hooked after the first track, the powerful Time Forgot, where Oberst ends the song perfectly with: "someone told me that exact same thing once."

At risk of waxing too philosophical, the biggest reason I listen to music is because I am always seeking to understand myself through the pointed meanderings of another voice. That drive forms the foundation for my passion in all artistic mediums and, much like the myriad of messages and ideas brought up in Upside Down Mountain, is a universal truth. While holding onto our personal truths makes us who we are, I believe it is by recognizing and celebrating the things that make us the same that gives us the hope to get through the day.
Upside Down Mountain starts off with “Time Forgot" which infuses thundering drum fills with strum-heavy Americana while exploring the universal struggles of everyday life. “Hundreds Of Ways” is about resigning oneself to the strange cost of freedom and packs a blissful melody that rings with that magical sort of melancholy that only happily married 30-something rock stars seem to deliver.  There is a twinge of hopefulness amidst the melancholia as Oberst tells a friend or lover: “There are hundreds of ways to get through the day...just find one.”

“Desert Island Quesitonairre” explores the old  ‘what is reality’ chestnut with the endless hypotheticals of a philosophy club smoke-den layered against some great riffs and spirited vocals. During the reverb-heavy "Artifact #1" Oberst croons that “life can’t compete with memories – they never have to change.” Memories will always bring us up and break us back down which ties into the albums over-arching theme that willful acquiescence to life is the best route to holding onto your soul.

The album has no bad tracks, only a few cool downs among standouts like the minimalistic parental pep-talk “You are Your Mothers Child” and the lively “Kick” which delivers some of that good old fashioned new wave chaos while exploring personal recovery from a broadly familiar setting. The whimsical wah guitar tempers the tone of the beautiful waltz "Double Life," which features one of the catchiest refrains of the album: "There's an honest life on the other side."

All in all, Upside Down Mountain is about a lot of things, but mostly I see it as an album focused on universal hope. That might not everyone’s cup of tea but it is something that everyone needs to hear from time-to-time and that is what makes this album soar.  In the midst of Obersts’ active chorus and endless meandering there is the pointed suggestion that we are all one in the same and there is a fortress within each of us that we can call upon whenever the going gets tough.  As someone who finds himself inundated with his own relentless internal monologue on a daily basis, songs like “Hundreds of Ways” provide a great way to get through the day as well as the comforting thought that I am not alone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Favorite Character in Comics

In honor my recent run of comics-related articles on I want to talk about my favorite character and first experience meeting a writer.

Kyle Higgins wrote his last issue of Nightwing last month after almost three years on the comic. He has written every issue since the New 52 relaunch and has undoubtedly became my all-time favorite writer of the character.  The reason why I have always liked Nightwing is because he has a lot of the facets that I love about Batman - the realism of having no powers and the resolve to find strength in the face of great tragedy - but with an altogether healthier outlook on life.  Being Batman's sidekick allowed him to crack jokes and be a little less paranoid while growing up with him as a father figure helped him become a hero but never lose his smile.  An idealistic notion of a human being but aren't all those who wear capes and cowls? This was a hero I always found relatable and during my first big comic-con experience I got to share that passion with Higgins at the Javits Center in October 2011.

As the enormous late morning crowd had trapped me in a slow-moving line to nowhere in-between a video game demonstration and the abyss of fandom that was the autograph section, I began having idle conversation with a familiar-looking face. Suddenly it dawned on me who he was and my wholly-inappropriate response to discovering his identity was:

 "Wait...are you ****ing Kyle Higgins ?!"

He was kind enough to let that slide - although looking back he did not exactly have an escape path at that moment - and for the next few minutes I was able to talk to the man who was writing my favorite character in comics. At the time of this meeting, only the first issue of his run had been released but had already given me high-hopes for the future therefore putting him at the top of my list for autographs. When I mentioned to him that Nightwing was my favorite comic book character, to my excitement, he revealed that was something we had in common. Even as the crowd slowly dissipated he stuck around and discussed his passion for the character with me before signing my book. After that conversation, I was certain that Nightwing was in good hands... and I was right. Fast-forward a couple years and my ever favorite run on the character, Higgins revealed that he was leaving the book on his Facebook page:

 So here’s something I’ve put off writing for a while. On Tuesday, DC solicits for April 2014 hit. They’ll introduce a new creative team on NIGHTWING which, sadly, I won’t be a part of.
It’s a weird feeling to leave the book after almost three years, and even though I would love nothing more than to write Dick Grayson for another fifty or sixty issues, it’s time to move on. (In that spirit, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention BATMAN BEYOND 2.0 and C.O.W.L…two of the books I am currently working on, which are also– both in their own way– helping to curb the Grayson withdrawal :-)
I’ve talked many times about my love for Nightwing. He was the hero I grew up with, the book that got me collecting, and the inspiration for my first film. For all those reasons, I had a lot of reservations about launching his New 52 series. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if DC wouldn’t let me tell the stories I wanted? What if people hated it? What if I hated it?
As much pressure as I felt about doing DG justice, the truth is there’s very little I ever could have done to break him. He’s an amazing character who’s been around for almost seventy five years and will still be around long after I’m gone. Instead of thinking about what I’ve been able to do for DG, I’ve found it much better to think about what DG has been able to do for me. In that regard, I’ll only ever be able to look at my time on Nightwing and smile. Why?
Because Dick Grayson made me a better writer.
All good things must come to an end and are a lot easier to swallow when paired with an earnest display of humility and gratitude. In response, let me just say "thank you" and I look forward to your continued success in whatever projects you choose to pursue in the future. Meanwhile, I will have to remind myself to add C.O.W.L to my pull list.
Like Higgins, Nightwing was the first series I started collecting when I became interested in comic books. Actually, it was Nightwing and Ultimate Spider-Man, but largely for the same reason. Unlike the vast majority of mainstream super-heroes the journey of these two characters is always about growth and transformation.
Sure, those themes present themselves from time-to-time in the tales of all super-heroes but with these two it is ingrained in their characters from their origins onward. Despite my love for Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man, including Miles Morales, I personally find Nightwing even more interesting than Spider-Man or Batman.

While Peter Parker became a hero after a freak accident gave him super-powers and tragic circumstances brought him face-to-face with the weight of his new-found responsibilities, Dick Grayson never had the benefit of super powers.  He was given the opportunity to help as Robin and then chose the life for himself. In my view, Batman's greatest victory is helping to form a better hero than himself because Nightwing is not driven by tragedy and inner demons but instead by genuine altruism and dedication...and yes, a lot of money for vehicles and grappling guns but hey its comics so I let that slide. Over the years he has opened up his shop of good works in Gotham, New York City, Titans Tower, Bludhaven and Chicago...which is a lot like real life in that he never completely outgrows the shadow of his past but simply grows into his own man by being a hero wherever and whenever one is needed.

In a departure from the obsessed approach of Batman, Dick sometimes takes a break to get laid or is the best friend he can be to his Teen Titans rather than always crime-fighting. Or at least before the New 52 ret-con.  Recently he took over the role of Batman for a temporarily dead (time-displaced is more accurate) Bruce Wayne and helped instill humanity in an impossibly competent but tragically immoral Robin in Damian Wayne. Just before Damian's death, in Grant Morrisons' epic series Batman Inc., his final words to Dick before sacrificing himself were: "So far you've been my favorite partner. We were the best, no matter what anybody says," which is telling.

Now it seems my favorite character is headed for another transformation as his central role in the New 52's first big event, coupled with the recent announcement that he will appear in the upcoming Batman-Superman film, makes me believe the future is bright for Dick Grayson. DC recently announced a new series, written by Tim Seely (Revival) and former CIA officer Tom King, where Grayson will dish out non-vigilante justice which I think sounds awesome and has endless creative possibilities.
As I have stated before, I personally find that reading most mainstream comic books often feels like you're ingesting the same stories ad nauseam. Oh Superman saves Metropolis from so-and-so but there is bigger threat looming and they have Kryptonite...uh-oh there's another psychotic band of super-criminals on the loose in Gotham City and Batman has to come face-to-face with his inner demons in order to stop them...damn Supergirl is hot and also punches bad guys and flies and stuff. The publishers bottom line relies on those stories to maintain a healthy bottom line. But, from my perspective, Nightwing has never fallen off the tight rope of semi-realism. This view is shared by many including the writer of Image Comics staple, Invincible, who named his main character Grayson in honor of Nightwing/Dick Grayson.

Like Spider-Man, Nightwing has always been a hero whose greatest strength was his ability to smile and enjoy a life of altruistic service to his community while maintaining strong relationships coupled with general badassery. But what really made me connect to him was that, unlike Spider-Man or any other character I can think of, Nightwing is a character who is in constant transition. From where he lives, what he does for a day job, who he associates with there have always been changes to his status quo. Now it appears that he is headed for another transformation, perhaps as a public hero or perhaps as an hipster chick, but I take solace in knowing that his legacy will always be that of a young man with no powers other than his ability to be an ass-kicking light of hope and justice in a world of crime-ridden darkness. If Batman became fear to overcome darkness, then as Robin he became hope to light his way. Then he went off on his own as Nightwing to do good works on his own while honoring his past. That's a life-long commitment that I, as an emotionally-subnormal adult, can rationalize a lot easier than most mainstream heroes.

Hopefully the bigger spotlight will show only serve to shine that light brighter. If the new creative team is anything like Kyle Higgins, I don't think I will be disappointed.