This book is, quite simply, amazing. I’ve been a fan of John Porcellino’s work for several years and when this book arrived in the mail, I got to reading it as soon as I could. John’s honest portrayal of working through his illness and the aftermath that followed struck a chord with me on several levels. In fact, I just sent an email to John going into those things more in depth.
On the cartooning front, John is a masterful cartoonist and storyteller. This book kept me gripped from beginning to end and the art within complimented the story John was telling.
This book is highly recommended. Do yourself a favor: read it.
After the passing of her grandmother, heartbroken Marni is having a hard time dealing with her loss. Her friends Sophie and Elora come to her side and try and comfort her. All Marni has to remember her grandmother by is a strange-looking artifact that looks more like an antique vacuum cleaner without the hose or cords than anything else.
In an effort to get back to a normal life, Marni and her friends have a campout in the backyard and Marni brings the artifact with them into the tent. After a brief tussle, the artifact transports them to a mysterious world, tent and all. The three girls now need to find a way home. The question is how? Perhaps the cute robot they discover can help them. He seems pretty handy, giving them food and all, but he better act quick because a foul beast lurks somewhere in the dark and Marni and her friends will be doomed if they don’t stop it first.
This is my first exposure to Von Allan’s work aside from what I’ve seen on his website (which I think I found while Googling Canadian cartoonists). I’m very pleased and Stargazer was better than I anticipated.
The writing: very solid. Allan’s pacing is spot on and his delivery of information is succinct and gets you from point A to B without any clutter. I was very impressed with how he was able to convey what are very detailed story points, characters and the world they inhabit without him over-explaining everything. His word choice and placement does the work for you and tells you what you need to know when you need to know it.
The art: Lately I’ve been falling in love with black-and-white comic books and Stargazer further convinced me that the black-and-white comic book medium is an arena that needs to be explored by comic book enthusiasts everywhere. Von Allan’s artwork is natural, shaded well, inked clearly and is detailed enough so you know what you’re looking at, without you getting lost in endless black lines. His proportions are bang on and regardless of the camera angle chosen, each scene unfolds smoothly and easily.
The book: Well put together and well bound. I particularly enjoyed the non-standard size of the book (I think it was around 6×9 thereabouts) which made for easy handling when reading.
Von Allan also included extras in the back: a character gallery (very cool posters here); plot outline; brainstorming sessions; and even a few pages of sample script. I’ve always been a fan of behind-the-scenes material for books and comics and Allan’s little package at the back of Stargazer was well put together.
I’m looking forward to what will no doubt be a dynamite Volume Two from a talented storyteller.
MegaMan NT Warrior, Vol. 1
by Ryo Takamisaki 5 out of 5
In the year 200X, the whole world is connected to the Cyber Network. People jack in to the Net using handheld PCs called PETs, and each person has their own artificially intelligent avatar called a NetNavi.
Lan Hikari’s is MegaMan, a truly sophisticated and powerful NetNavi programmed by his father.
Like any fifth grader in DenTech City, Lan passes the time by having NetBattles with his fellow classmates, pitting MegaMan up against any who would challenge him. The problem is, NetBattling is illegal unless you have a special license. But that’s only part of the Lan’s and MegaMan’s problem. An evil organization called World Three is infecting computers with sinister viruses with the hope of one day taking over the world.
Lan jacks in and sends MegaMan to stop these viruses before it’s too late.
This manga, which is similar to the anime of the same name, was a blast to read. Ryo Takamisaki’s storytelling is topnotch—quick, exciting and a whirlwind of adventure from beginning to end. His art is your classic manga but with a cartoon flare, and the dialogue is perfect, conveying to us everything we need to know about the story, without it coming off as long-winded explanations for “what’s happening.”
The banter between Lan and MegaMan is pricelss, even better than in the anime.
This volume also contains a very intriguing cliffhanger ending and fun bonus story.
Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story, Vol. 1
by Nobuhiro Watsuki 4 out of 5
A mysterious warrior named Hitokiri Battôsai arose in Kyoto 140 years ago. A fiercesome warrior, he slew countless men, his efforts helping bring to a close the Bakumatsu era and bringing in the age of the Meiji.
Then he disappeared.
In the 11th year of the Meiji, a rurouni—a vagabond—named Himura Kenshin surfaces in Tokyo and befriends the spunky Kaoru, the owner of a student-less dojo.
With the aid of young new friend Yahiko, a boy wanting to be a samurai himself, Kenshin and Kaoru must ward off those looking to kill them.
And so the story begins . . .
Despite its label being a “romantic comedy,” this is by far the most serious out of the manga I read. Nobuhiro Watsuki has crafted an incredible tale, an important story, one that had captured my full attention the second Kenshin showed up in Tokyo (which is pretty much the first page of the book).
His art is stellar. The detail is astounding (even after the first 22 pages when the art goes from ultra detailed to “just” super detailed). His rendering of Japan from 140 years ago is believable, each panel transporting you directly to the past.
The big deal about this book is the fight sequences, each chapter in this volume containing at least one battle. I’ve never seen action like this before—so huge, so intense, so detailed, so explosive, with speed-lines everywhere—AMAZING!
This volumes also includes a special bonus story that was originally published about a year before the now-complete-twenty-eight-volume series began.
This is a great opening story to what is sure to be a fantastic saga this reviewer looks forward to finishing. (I’m also now eager to check out the anime for this.)
Rizzo: Year One
by Chris Riseley and Sean Simmans 5 out of 5
What do you get when you team up a struggling writer and an artist who wears a dinosaur costume all day long? You get Rizzo, a hilarious collection of the syndicated comic strip.
Rizzo, the character, writes. W. Bill Czolgosz, the character, draws, and these strips follow them on their adventure of trying to make their mark in a world that doesn’t appreciate them or their “art.”
The gags are brief, about 3-4 panels long, and you find yourself laughing out loud for most of them and laughing on the inside for all of them.
This humor, part simple silliness and part commentary, is smart, witty and, to a degree, “observational” ala Seinfeld.
Rizzo burst onto the scene a few years back and appears in many newspapers across the country.
This book is a “best of” collection, chosen from over 900 strips. (There are about 300 strips in the book.)
Mech Apocalypse has hit Kindle and in a few days will be popping up on-line in paperback form. The book is almost out and then I can start marketing it. Now, with that project out of the way, I’m free to focus on other things so this week I came up with a graphic novel concept I’m eager to delve into. I wrote up a treatment for it–basically a story overview sans any specific details–and am about to hunker down and outline the thing scene-by-scene. Once that’s done, I’ll go back over it and expand the scenes by adding in dialogue, captions, camera angles and all the rest. It’s going to be a big book, over a hundred comic pages when done. The plan is to draw it once it’s written. I’ve wanted to get back into comics for a while and this seems like a good opportunity to do so. Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean I’m abandoning prose. Just taking a break from it. The sequel to Mech Apocalypse is half-written so it won’t take long to finish that up and bring it to you guys in the New Year. I’ll follow up with the third volume in the trilogy later on in 2015.
Thing is, I want to do an “in-between” project, something to keep me busy while I let the Mech Apocalypse world of mech-bots and exo-suits percolate in the back of my head. Comics seems a good place to do so. I also plan on doing an in-between project between Mech Apocalypse 2 and Mech Apocalypse 3. I have a book that’s already 3/4 written. The problem is it’s horror and since I don’t do horror anymore, it’d be an awful shame to let so much of an already-written book go to waste. So I’m going to retool it into a sci-fi, which, given the story, would be quite easy to do. More details on that project when the time comes.
In the meantime, I’m going to make some comics.
I plan on giving more details about this graphic novel project, along with its title, once I script the thing. At that point, with the script locked down, it becomes official and I can then start talking it up to get you interested.
Besides, I’ve been itching to draw comics again for a good while now.
Comics and graphic novels are super important me, and they molded my storytelling and writing-style very early on in my career. There’s so much you can do with comics that you can’t do in any other medium.
Nowadays, the comic book industry in general is in a state of flux, with eComics and webcomics pushing the standard periodical comic book to the wayside. Graphic novels are a big thing now, with comic companies like DC and Marvel tailoring their story arcs to be collected later. To a point, they’re kind of shooting themselves in the foot in that if the reader knows the periodicals will be collected later for a cheaper price anyway, why buy the more expensive single issues and wait 30 days between each installment? At the same time, graphic novels are a fast-growing market last I checked so if they weren’t profitable, the comic companies wouldn’t do them and only provide one option.
In Europe, it’s mostly graphic novels in terms of publication, and I personally think this is where the overall comics industry is headed.
For me, as much as I enjoy the single issues–especially in the world of minicomics–creating book-length comics adds a level of prestige to the literature that their single-issue version can’t offer even though, technically, each single issue is, nowadays, a chapter in a book-length work. At the same time, these “collected editions of story arcs,” aren’t really graphic novels per se, but collections, and there’s a difference. That’s another discussion altogether so perhaps we’ll do it another time.
I usually have a graphic novel on the go reading-wise and add more to my collection when funds permit. Lately, I’ve been getting more and more into alternative comics as they carry more life, soul and authenticity than the current mainstream comics.
Anyway, here’s my collection. A couple of them are my wife’s, and some are not in these pics because they are by our bedside or elsewhere in the room (remember I said I usually have one on the go? So does the Mrs.).
I thought about taking them all out and arranging them for you, or clearing up the mess around them, but since I’ve always advocated writing should be about honesty, so should what I put on this blog so unlike my showcase pics of my own published books and comics, these are true bookshelf pics as per what Fridays on this blog is for.
Originally, way back when, I had wanted to be a comic book artist. As one thing led to another, I got involved with writing and eventually followed the career path of a novelist. However, over the years I’ve still had the chance to dabble in comics, whether it was just writing them or writing and drawing them.
Below is a picture of the comics I’ve produced through Coscom Entertainment.
They are: Axiom-man: Of Magic and Men, Axiom-man No. 1 and 2, Meet the Maximums, Canister X Comix No. 1, 2 and 3.
The bolded titles are the ones I did both the writing and art on.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the above comics, Axiom-man No. 1 and 2, and Canister X Comix No. 1-3 are $2 each, the others are $3. I’ll even bag and board them for you. Just let me know via email as per the contact page and we can arrange something. Postage is extra. Thanks.