I went to Motor City Comic Con a few weeks ago and boy what a ride! That place was packed to the hilt with people! I hadn't been to the show since 2010, and so much has changed. When I went eight years ago, the floor was nearly barren of people. Now? It was difficult moving. Don't get me wrong, I am ecstatic to see the rise in popularity of comics culture over the year. I would like to see Motor City moved into a larger venue, if at all possible. Artist alley was filled to the brim with incredible talent, and I had a chance to catch up with some of my favorite indie creators that I hadn't seen in over two years! I got an an excellent haul of books and am going to be going through each one in this article. But first, I have to start with my personal favorite moment of the show: meeting Rob Guillory.
This was a big deal for me. Chew is the comic that got me into comics. The reason why I wanted to check out indie creators. The reason I am writing this right now. I was so struck with excitement that I forgot to take a photo. I brought along my copy of the first Chew omnibus for him to sign, and he was cool enough to do a quick sketch for me! How awesome is that?! In addition to that, I picked up a collected artwork book from him that is limited to 400 copies. In it, are snippets from Chew and plenty of other cool works from Rob. I also picked up a preview of issue one of Farmhand- a new series from Rob that is written and illustrated by him that will be released in July from Image Comics. The preview was the first half of issue one, and in spectacular Rob fashion- it is filled with all kinds of weirdness and fun art. One of the things that I love most about Rob's work, is the little things he sneaks into the backgrounds- signs on walls, weird coffee mugs, newspaper headlines, billboards- you name it. You have to pay close attention to every panel, you never know what you're going to find! This comic promises to be amazing. It's about trees that grow human limbs that are being cut off and used for stem cell research at an advanced lab on a farm. Bitchin, right? Hell, I was going to pick it up anyway but once Rob said, "if you love Chew, you will love this." I was sold. Chew always has been, and will always be my #1 comic of all time. It holds a special place that I cannot possible describe. Needless to say, meeting Rob and getting to pick up books from him personally, was bucket list level and completely rocked my world.
Next on my list is a group of people I never knew would come together on a comic, and I am so damn glad they did: Dan Dougherty, Seth Damoose, Jay Fosgitt, and Milena Deneno. I was elated to see these three. I've known all of them for a few years now and really, you couldn't ask for better people to know. Kind, funny, always willing to take a moment to stop and talk, each offering bits of wisdom and sharing experiences, each of these fellas has a lot to offer in comics and teaching them. I consider myself fortunate to be in their company and experience their books. These three came together to create something delightfully funny: Floppy Cop. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from this book. Very little was given on it, but of course, because it is written by Dan, illustrated by Seth, colors and cover by Jay, and more colors done by one of Dan's students, Milena Deneno- I had to have it. It's just a really fun comic all the way around. It starts out with a chase in a mall, two cops going after a jewel bandit by the name of The Slink. He literally slinks through the crowd. The whole thing is ridiculous. Of the two cops chasing him, one is an overweight lackey still snacking on his FOURTH soft pretzel of the morning and can't keep up, and the other is a rookie- first day on the job. It's Christmas time, and it seems like Slink is going to get away and enter Floppy Cop- his grand entrance is driving his patrol car through the main window at the mall, firing his gun through the crowd- narrowly missing Santa, and causing him to piss himself as the bullet just catches Slink- creating the opportunity to apprehend him. Floppy Cop is so wild because he is literally floppy. It's only the first issue, and we don't know why he is like this- but he's partially boneless maybe? Elastic? I have no idea- he just bends in impossible ways. But what is cooler, is he isn't the only one with strange abilities- and Slink certainly isn't the only 'super villain.' There are others housed in the jail, and a new case is underway as an officer is beaten and left for dead. This comic is action packed and full of humor. I am really looking forward to seeing how it is developed as Dan creates new issues!!!
Okay. Stop. I just got done reading this masterpiece. Hope from Dirk Manning, K. Lynn Smith, and edited by Leah Lederman. Honestly- I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I am not a huge superhero fan to begin with. I read a lot, and I do mean A LOT of indie comics. Sometimes I get fatigued when I see old ideas regurgitated numerous times. I was a little apprehensive with Hope for that reason. I should have known better. I have never seen Dirk use tired tropes or recycle from someone else's ideas- his work is always fresh. While I am just now getting to experience K. Lynn Smith's work- I must say that I am thoroughly impressed with this book. As usual, Dirk knows how to give great story, his team up with K. Lynn Smith was perfect. This pair took an idea and ran with it. This is a story about struggle and what happens when a hero's identity is revealed. Everything this woman knows is being stripped away from her in a matter of one evening that goes terribly, terribly wrong. I can tell Leah had a hand in this as well. That woman can edit like nothing I have ever seen. She knows how to bring a team of people together and really make a story work, and flow perfectly. K. Lynn did a BEAUTIFUL job on the illustrations. I cannot stress enough how impressed I am by her work. Colors, lines, lettering- she does it all. This comic is not yet available for digital release; however, I am told it will be in the near future. For now, check with your local comic shop or hit Dirk or K. Lynn up in person at a show!
I picked up a second book from Dirk called The Adventures of Cthulhu Jr. and Dastardly Dirk. Colored by Sean Burres, and illustrated, and lettered by the super awesome Scott (Scoot) McMahon. This was a super cute comic. First off, it's a kids comic- I love kids books and comics because for a few moments I get to read something that isn't super serious. Sometimes I need a bit of silliness to wash down the macabre. The story follows Dirk as he is trying so desperately to gain the friendship of some local villains. He is followed around by a strange ghost head named Aloysius, who is some sort of extension of Dirk's conscious, or at least appears to only be visible to Dirk. He longs for companionship and evil doings- or at least he thinks he does. The villains of the comic who are trying to capture Cthulhu's strength for their own, kick Dirk around and use him only for the gifts he brings. He sulks back to his home only to find the great old one and his storm are brewing....
In the four years I've known Dirk Manning, he has never once disappointed me in his writing. There is always a deeper message in his scripts, and he has never done anything superficial. I had a really fun time reading this comic partly because it captures some of his persona. While that is the character you see, there's a lot more happening than what's on the surface. Scott (Scoot) McMahon did a marvelous job on the illustrations. I love how he took the time to really fill every panel and put in extra things in the background. Having things in the background such as signs, books, coffee mugs, etc... is a great way to entice a reader. I look at things like that and get excited about what all I can find. Scott did a great job at making the character very animated in their movements and expressions- honestly it was almost like watching a cartoon with how well he kept things flowing! His color work is bright, bold, and beautiful. These two made a fantastic team and I cannot wait to see what comes next in this series!!
I also picked up a comic from Emily Zelasko called Old Man, Dog, and the Ocean. A splendid comic about adventure, a guiding dead fish, mermaids, one of the great old ones, loss, and finding a new path. Some of it has speaking parts while other areas do not. Some things are just better left said in pictures- and Emily does a great job of capturing feeling without words. The entire book is written and illustrated by her. I just started following Emily recently on Facebook, and enjoy her artwork very much. I'm hoping to pick up more comics from her soon, and also a print of this, because it is way too awesome not to!
I decided to pick up two comics from Kasey Pierce: Norah #4 and Mexica. Norah is an interesting series. It follows a woman named Norah who has the ability to enter other people's conscious. She uses that ability to pull people out of comas. However, the events leading up to her receiving this ability were not nearly as innocuous. Her and her husband were developing biological weapons for the military. Weapons that would alter the body in ways where severe pain would be felt from even the wind brushing up against the skin. They were attempting an experimental project on themselves to gain the ability to expand their minds. In doing so, Norah gained this ability, but it came with a great cost the loss of her husband. I've been following this series since issue 1 and it's a slow burn. Kasey presents the story in a way that it flips back and forth between present and the past. You get flashes of what happened in the past to help build the story and understanding of why Norah is the way that she is and how she got to this current point in her life. But we don't get the story quickly. Which in a sense is kind of great, it keeps you coming back for more. There are a lot of complex layers that are happening in this story. Yeah she's saving a lot of lives by doing what she's doing- bringing people back from an unreachable place. But she was someone else before and that is the part that is very slowly unraveling. Sean Seal is the letterer and the artist on this series. His work is just magnificent. He digitally paints the entire thing and there's some spots where it's blurred and smudged and you just see silhouettes. There are areas where his color palette choice creates a superior sense of horror and suspense. I think Sean did an excellent job of capturing that mood, which is crucial to this story and of course to comics in general. Lighting and color choices can change the mood completely, and Sean knows exactly how to manipulate that. This title is available through Source Point Press, you can get it through your local retailer as it is now available through Diamond, or by going through Comixology as well. In fact, the first issue of Norah was recently listed as a featured item!
The second book I picked up from Kasey, Mexica- really knocked me off my socks. Awhile back she hinted around at doing this book with John Marroquin (a brilliant artist and close friend to Kasey). I've been hoping for it for awhile now. I think to tell you about this comic, it would be best to include Kasey's notes:
" I've had the honor of knowing John Marroquin for almost five years. Mexica, however, has been with him for the past twenty. This project, not just and idea- but a statement, is his brain child. John is a stoic-type man; a man of few words. Many artists rummage through the attic of their minds while letting their hands do the talking. I see it when I study their faces at comic-cons. For the past twenty years, John has rummaged his mental attic, looking for a way to express a time and place sensitive statement: We are Mexicas. There has been a recent movement fueled by the indigenous people of Mexico and the Americas. They are not "Aztec" as the Cortez camp would have you believe. The called themselves Mexica then, and the time is now. Here at C2E2, 2018, is the place.
I was briefly educated on the movement when I met with John about this project. We talked about the history, the cause, and I picked up a raw primeval feel of the Mexicah, I took a sip of whiskey before I asked quite simply, "So you want a Mexican Conan the Barbarian?"
I'll never forget that moment as long as I live. There was a powerful pause. A long one. (At least it felt that way.)
And then John simply said, "yes."
That simple yes allowed me to feel a lot more confident about being te writer. Though John and I came from very different backgrounds, I knew we both walked with characters carved out of stone. Believe me, I felt the pressure of being a woman of Welsh heritage representing an entire culture that was not my own- so much that I took the summer of 2016 to study up. While this story is a science-fiction, it contains significant historical elements, and I wanted to be sure of where I could bend, and where I could absolutely not. This is story of strength and unity; of family, and the ties that bind beyond bloodlines. I'm honored to have been chosen for this piece. Thank you, John."
Firstly, about this comic I would like to say that the coloring is just beautiful. Nestor Redulla provided the work on colors, and this is my first experience with his artistry. The earthy tones are warm, and fit the story well. The borders and page layouts were another thing that I noticed immediately. Visually- this is a masterpiece. I think everything came together exceptionally well. John's illustrations fit the story well, and it is clear that he has a strong passion for this story and it's characters. The whole thing flows nicely. Jason Westlake did an excellent job in lettering this as well. Lettering is something that is sometimes an afterthought and it really shouldn't be. If lettering is off, it can throw the entire comic from it's tracks. I felt that Kasey really channeled the era and the people in her writing, and I can tell that Leah Lederman was here editing. She has a way of pushing writers to really immerse themselves in their stories to bring them to a new level of life. She is hands down the best editor I have ever seen in my line of work, and I cannot recommend her services enough. I believe this is Kasey's strongest work yet, and feel that it will continue to grow and become a powerful piece.
Lastly but certainly not least- I saw my friend Erick Gutierrez and snatched up the latest issue of Max: The Inebriated Rabbit. This comic is NOT for the faint of heart. Erick took a rabbit, brought him and some other animals to life to make a raunchy, exploitation type comic. It's so much fun though. I mean really. I remember when I read the first issue of Max and thinking to myself, "jesus christ, Erick. You're a damn madman. But I love it." and I still think that with issue three. Max is garbage. He really is. He's constantly trashed, causing fights, or just getting into things he shouldn't be. But I think deep down he really has a heart. Erick works hard on this comic. I think one of the most interesting things about it aesthetically is the fact that he letters by hand using ames guide- AMES. If you don't know what that is, look it up and then marvel at how anyone could use it without going completely insane.
Issue number three follows Max and his pals as they check out an underground fight-until-you're-bloody operation run by former champ king Bucho- a rooster known for thumping some heads. His arm candy, Maribel, is sweet for Max- which just ends him in a world of trouble. The great thing about what happens- is for a change, Max is doing the right thing and just was in a bad place at a bad time. Erick really knows how to show the dirty side of things. Tackling relationship neglect, cheating, alcoholism, gun running, drugs, and more. None of it is glorified. To me, it's there to say, "this is how bad shit can get." He does it well. Max works because Erick does it right. It's a niche comic though, and it isn't for everyone- but for the people that do love it, they really love it. You can get Max from Erick directly by hitting him up onFacebook.
That wraps it up! Please consider supporting these wonderful creators. I cannot say enough good things about indie comics and the people that make them. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @Indiehuntress