Review: The Magician

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Writer: David M. Brown
Artist: D.N.S.
Letters: Philip Nolte

Earlier today, while on my break from selling tickets, I received an email from the writer of this book and co-founder of Fifth Dimension Comics, David Brown. Attached to the email was this comic. The Magician is a short six-page comic that I believe is planned to be part of a larger anthology collection. Fifth Dimension Comics will be launching a Kickstarter project in September sometime for this anthology.

Eugene Roberts is the titular Magician whose big trick is making people’s problems disappear. This short story follows Eugene on what, for him, is an average day. I don’t want to say too much about the story as it would take away from the reading experience, I feel. However, I will say: The Magician is a dark, haunting tale and well worth a read.

While there’s not a great deal of dialogue or even monologue over these six compelling pages there is, evidently, a great deal of narrative. Brown clearly understands that this is an instance where less really is more. He has you wondering if The Magician is good or bad. In just six pages Brown has created and developed a complex character, that’s pretty impressive really. Sometimes, short comics can feel rushed or you can feel unfulfilled after reading them. This wasn’t the case with The Magician, it did, however, leave me wanting more of this character.

The artwork in this comic set’s the tone wonderful. It’s dark and moody but subtly beautiful. I know that “art” is often seen as something that expresses emotion and is best achieved by “creative types”, but behind this artwork I can see a calculating mind, someone extremely intelligent. Everything that is done is done for good reason and that only aids the invoking of emotion from the reader. D.N.S. has shown me some of the best artwork I have seen in an independent comic book.

I really enjoyed reading The Magician, no matter how short of an experience it was, and I certainly look forward to the upcoming anthology from these guys. Watch out for a Q&A from the creators of The Magician here in the next few days and in the meantime check out the Fifth Dimension Comics website.

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Artist Spotlight: Michael Sudduth

Michael Sudduth is the next artist to be featured in That Comic Blog’s weekly Artist Spotlight. You can check out more of his work here.

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“I’ve been drawing since I was about 4 years old. I’m pretty sure some of my first comics were based on Sonic the Hedgehog and Street fighter 2. I was pretty much into just general illustration with a big influence from anime and manga through middle and high school.”

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“I was a huge fan of Akira Toriyama, Hiroaki Samura, and Hayao Miyazaki. I ended up going to college for illustration since it was the only thing I could do with remotely any competency, and graduated in 2008 with a BFA in Illustration from Winthrop University.”

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“I really got into comics about halfway through my time there. A friend introduced me to Bendis’ New Avengers, and I was hooked. I started grabbing whatever spoke to me, which ended up being a ton of Brian Wood work. I tailored all of my projects to incorporate some sort of sequential storytelling.”

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“I’ve never been patient enough to keep a super tight, highly-rendered style.  I love that stuff, and used to do it, but I’d always lose my patience or just get distracted by moving on to something else on the page.  Because of this, I gravitated to the more stylized stuff during college.”

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“I’d say my biggest influence during that time was Ashley Wood. I loved his paintings, and his comics were so explosive with energy. He’s so good at using frenetic mark-making to just make the mind finish what you are supposed to see. Since I’ve been out of school and drawing for 5 years, my influences have really expanded.  Lately, I’ve been going back to older guys like Alex Toth, Milton Caniff, Frank Robbins, John Buscema, and Joe Kubert because of how solid their storytelling ability was.”

 

Artist Spotlight: Rusty Shackles

Artist Spotlight is a new feature on That Comic Blog, a new one will be posted each Saturday. I want to showcase the work of talented artists from the comic book industry and beyond. If you are interested in having your artwork featured here email thatcomicblog@outlook.com.

The first featured artist is Rusty Shackles.

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Rusty Shackles is an illustrator living in Dayton OH who specializes in gaming art and artwork for various musical projects. He hosts and contributes to PaletteSwap where artists repackage video-games. Insert Quarter Bin is a new project, merging comics and video games.

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His main site is TableTopFetus which contains his past works including the Great Comics That Never Happened which he co-created with Chris Sims for ComicsAlliance, as well as a listing of all projects he has done so far.

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“My admiration for Frank Cho, Adam Hughes, Terry Dodson and Michael Golden is pretty well documented, but with the game stuff Shinkiro, Akiman and CRMK (Bengus) are definite influences.”

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“Lifelong thrash metal guy, Anthrax and Megadeth are really formative to my thought patterns in a bizarre way, but considering my tendency to lead with a spoof and have originals on the back end, Weird “Al” is probably my business model sherpa.”

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“I currently own roughly 286 Hong Kong/Korean action movies so while it’s not a direct part of my art often, I find a lot of inspiration in the works of Chang Cheh, Lar Kar Leung, Johnnie To, Park Chan Wook and Sammo Hung.”

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Let me know what you think of this new feature!

Q&A With Michael Kennedy

Michael Kennedy is an artist/illustrator and a self confessed pop culture and art junkie. While he is currently on a gap year he has an impressive portfolio of work, some of which can be seen on his website 100percentmkia.com. He can also be followed on Twitter @100percentMKIA. Enjoy!

How long have you been making comics?

Since I was about 9 or 10 I’d be drawing at home and me and a couple of mates would spend lunchtimes at school working on ‘the wasp’ this weird man-wasp hybrid. We had a good production line. I’d write and draw, one friend would ink with fine liners and felt-tips and the other would colour and letter. It was a simpler time. But on a more serious level I started when I finished my exams, so this time last year.

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What made you want to make comics?

It was a natural progression. I’ve been drawing since the cradle and growing up on the Spider-Man, Batman and most of all, X-Men animated series, the notion of drawing my favourite characters for a living was an achievable goal. also one that can sit alongside a career in illustration and design which I am working towards when I start uni.

What do you enjoy most about making comics?

Take away the sweat shop ethics of the thirties and it is pure illustration. It also allows me to fully create my own stories and put it out there, something that would be a lot tougher in other storytelling mediums. That said, the most enjoyable aspect is how easy it is to get published. If it was this simple to get work on a film poster or even direct then that’s where I’d mainly be working.

What is the hardest part of making comics?

Wanting to work on something but having no gas in the tank to do anything about it. That usually results in taking a couple of days off to recharge and watch movies, do some painting or spending a lot of time on iTunes.

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Where do you get your inspiration from?

Everything that I’ve absorbed in the 19 years I’ve been around on this planet. I’ve been fortunate to know what I’ve wanted to do since around the age of 9/10. So most things I’ve studied and even possessed have been mutually beneficial to me creatively and academically.

What was your first comic book?

CAGE #1. It was my most prized thing at the time as it had a cool nineties colour scheme of light purple and sky blue with Luke Cage in the middle ripping up his power man uniform. I managed to get a couple of other issues especially one where the punisher gets facial reconstruction to look like an African American male. It was full of weird blaxploitation and had this cult cinema vibe which can never be a bad thing.

Is there anyone that you admire in the comic book industry?

There are loads of creators i have love for but that would be a long list. Although off the top of my head, kudos has to be given to Frank Miller for his works. I wouldn’t want to be a part of comics if everything was all happy and sunny. That’s not how I think.

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What’s your favourite comic book right now?

Probably All New X-Men. Bendis is the king of Marvel and I’ll happily read anything if I like the art (which is fantastic!). Staying with mutants I’m currently loving Wood and Coipel’s X-men. Watching the cartoon as a kid means I’m used to strong female characters in a sometimes literal sense so to see a whole team is great and Coipel is a God anyway. Saga is pretty fantastic also.

Creepy Scarlett: Book One

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Writer: Graeme Buchan
Artist: Felipe Sanhueza Marambio
Colours: Jessica Jimerson
Inks: Arifin Samsul

Creepy Scarlett lives in a graveyard just outside the small town of Sunnyville, her only companion, a one eyed teddy bear named Mr Ted. We find out that Scarlett is trapped in the graveyard as she is bound to protect the church attached to it. This book sees Scarlett team up with a Samurai to defend the Emerald of Lucifer, we see her face off with The Order of the Red Sun and we learn of her ever mysterious origin.

The character of Scarlett is extremely likeable. She seems ditzy and frivolous but she is in fact a well trained swords-woman and extremely passionate. It’s this bipolar-esque nature that draws me to the character and her curious story. In issue #1 we don’t know much about Scarlett and that is one of the reasons I was so anxious to continue reading. I’ve mentioned my love for origin stories in previous posts and this was one of the most interesting ones I have ever read. Buchan only reveals small pieces of information at a time, allowing the reader to take everything in rather than drowning them with unnecessary wordiness. A great story is developed in the two issues that this book contains and has me wanting to read more. Buchan is a talented storyteller and Creepy Scarlett is an intriguing tale.

The artwork changes at the end of issue #1, however, the artist does not. This change allows the reader to see the full extent of Marambio and Jimerson’s talents. Issue #1 is mainly in colour but changes to grey tones near the end (similar to the colouring of The Walking Dead), with the exception of Mr Ted’s scarf and a few other red  objects. This is a really subtle yet powerful touch to the artwork. The artwork is also extremely professional and is just a delight to study. The team of artists on this book work together so well to translate Buchan’s words into stunning visuals. The artwork does nothing but intensify the story, it brings it all to life. While the use of colour was nice in issue #1, I must say that I preferred the grey tone colouring but that’s just a personal preference.

Creepy Scarlett is an excellent collaboration between some extremely talented creators. It’s a real joy to behold.

Rose Black: Book One

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Created by Edward Murphy & Tom Campbell

Writer: Tom Campbell
Penciller: Jaeson Finn
Inker: Colin Barr

Rose Black is the only one of her kind in the world. She is 6 centuries old and drinks human blood. She was once the best operative in the British Secret Service. In this, the first book of the series we learn a lot about Rose. We learn that she killed Hitler 3 times and that she is extremely religious. This book sees Rose get revenge on a group called the Rationalists. Let’s just say she has a lot of reasons to seek revenge.

This is not your average vampire tale, in fact it’s not even about vampires. It’s about Rose Black, a completely unique being and this is a unique story. An idea conceived by Edward Murphy and Tom Campbell and transferred excellently to the page. While I don’t speak either French or Italian, the inclusion of these languages in the book was great. It gives the book a very authentic feel. In a way Book One is an origin story, Rose’s history is revealed in flashbacks throughout the book and the characters are in the same position as the reader. Murphy and Campbell have created some great characters, some that you root for and others that you hate. Many themes are explored in Book One, religion being the heaviest of them all. It’s nice when creators can explore complex themes without shoving some kind of ideology down your throat. This book is a wonderful introduction to these characters and Campbell has certainly left me wanting more.

The interior artwork is black and white. While this would be usually be deemed a negative, it is used to excellent effect in Rose Black. The artwork looks extremely professional even without the use of colour. There is some beautiful and unusual panel layouts in the book. I said that Campbell has translated the idea into words excellently, Finn has done the same in bringing those words to life through his artwork. The entire look of the book, especially the cover, is just of such a high quality. It wouldn’t look out of place on a shelf with books from the Big Two.

This was one of the first physical review copies I was sent and I have to applaud the quality of the book. It looks and feels expensive and professional. Rough Cut Comics have certainly put a lot into this book and it has paid off.

Broken Part 1 of 3

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Writer: Mark Bertolini
Artist: Allen Byrns

Broken tells the story of Quinn Baker, a boy who witnesses the brutal murder of his parents at the age of 5. He’s orphaned, put into care. He has no-one. Until he runs away. He returns to the alley where his parents were killed. Here he meets Big Mike, a hardened criminal. Big Mike takes him in, looks after him, perhaps even loves him. Quinn is taught the family business, the business of the people who killed his parents, the Rossi Family.

Reading the first few pages of this comic, I literally had a lump in my throat. It’s an emotional opening, a boys parents are killed right in front of his eyes. It draws obvious comparisons with Batman’s origin, however, Quinn isn’t going to grow up to be Batman. Bertolini has created a brilliant character in Big Mike. Despite being a murderer and a criminal, he’s likeable. He takes in a child and raises him. He doesn’t have to do this but he does, he’s a hard man with a soft spot. Big Mike is just a brilliant character. Bertolini leaves this issue with an almost-cliffhanger. He’s made me want to read on, this is something that all writers should aim to achieve with their writing. Bertolini’s writing is a shining example of how comics should be written.

If there’s one thing that can further enhance this comic, aside from Bertolini’s fantastic writing, it’s the excellent artwork from Byrns. He has a beautiful style that isn’t found often in comics, at a first look it reminded me of Ben Templesmiths’ work but when you examine the artwork more closely you can see the individuality and distinction that Byrns has injected into his work. The artwork in Broken is truly a joy to behold. The words are translated beautifully into panels, Bertolini and Byrns clearly understand each other and make a great team. I would love to read anything else these two collaborated on.

My Q&A with Broken writer Mark Bertolini