Beat JENeration #012: Damn Glam (Bag Plus)

Beat JENeration #012: Damn Glam (Bag Plus)

I love a subscription box. I do.

No, really, there isn’t a “but” coming this time, kids. I honestly love the concept with every fiber of my being. No matter the product, services like this work for me because while I don’t usually like surprises, I very much do enjoy opening a mystery package.

Even when the curation leaves a little be desired, I was raised to always be grateful. And I am truly grateful—because getting mail that’s not a bill or a catalog is freaking awesome.

I realize that eagerness in checking the mail every day says a lot about my age. But, you have to understand, I was the kind of girl who had a lot of pen pals (many of them from Star Hits, let that take you back — and can we talk about the OG FB — friendship books!). The mailbox was my gateway to the world and an escape from my boring suburban existence (though to be fair, most of my pen pals were from places just as suburban and boring, but with crappy weather). And then years and years went by and as an adult suddenly the post was far less exciting (and often actually terrifying.) Until… Birchbox.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #012: Damn Glam (Bag Plus)”

With Further Ado #013: Moonshine Volume 2

With Further Ado #013: Moonshine Volume 2

Let your soul shine
It’s better than sunshine
It’s better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain

                         -Greg Allman  

Tweaking what Greg Allman sang, Moonshine is damn sure better than I expected. This Image series, by the longtime team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, just completed its sophomore story arc.  This story is collected in the trade paperback, Moonshine Vol 2 The Misery Train, in comic shops today.

When viewed through a simple lens, it makes sense that this “werewolf story” is released on Halloween. In reality, Moonshine offers readers more than a traditional wolfman yarn.  This drama, set during the time of Prohibition in the South, touches on everything from cultural family dynamics, male/female roles and the cyclical nature of lawbreakers. There’s also plenty of horror, suspense, deceit, sex and surprises.

At the outset, I (foolishly) expected Moonshine to be a mash-up of Bonnie and Clyde, O Brother  Where Art Thou? and a vicious werewolf movie, like An American Werewolf in London.  I wasn’t wrong, but this nuanced horror chiller is so much more.

It’s a scary story that’s a period piece, with clever characters providing glimpses into several cultural and economic groups. That sounds stuffy and boring, so let me add that it’s all a deliciously tasty scare too.

Azzarello’s Bags of Tricks

They story’s full of twists and turns in clever settings with unusual conflicts. But one of Azzarello’s strengths continues to be his incredible skill at developing intriguing characters.

Tempest is one of the main characters in this volume. She’s so far beyond the sexy “farmer’s daughter” character that readers might have initially assumed she was.   As rendered by Risso, she all about that seductive look, but in this story arc she’s steps up to become more clever and plotting.  There are points in the story where Tempest may think she’s a victim, but she’s reminded that others have it so much worse.  Her machinations might not have turned out the way she had hoped.  We can empathize with her frustrations while still not liking her. Or not trusting her.  Azzarello reveals that she’s not as mature as she’d like us all to believe.  He makes the reader need to know more about this character.

Italian Americans have a long history of being the bad guys in American storytelling, and they fulfill that role there too. Azzarello sprinkles a little bit of The Godfather mafia types on top of a conniving Game of Thrones struggle and the result is as tasty as your Grandma’s Sunday gravy.

Azzarello has this trick with characters too. On first glance, you don’t think there are that many characters, when you are reading the story. But upon reflection, you realize that it’s jam-packed with a plethora of characters. These characters all come alive in a short time, and you can’t help but wonder about them after you’ve flipped the page.

It’s Time to Appreciate Eduardo Risso

The artist, Eduardo Risso, is Azzarello’s longtime creative partner.  Past series like 100 Bullets and Spaceman each have their own unique vibe.  That’s the way it is with Moonshine.  Risso takes the reader deep into the black woods and black hearts of the characters, with his solid renderings and elaborate page layouts.  One could almost imagine Will Eisner looking down from comic creator heaven with arms crossed but approvingly nodding, muttering things like “hey, that page really is something different” or “this guy is innovative”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a few rants along the lines of “Sonuvagun! I wish I had done that!”

Each issue is a mix of Risso slowing it all down and then slamming his foot hard on the gas. At the same time, Risso takes the reader on a roller coaster POV with high shots, ground level shots and in-the-middle-of-the-action shots. And he, Risso never sacrifices clarity and solid storytelling either.

Risso also maintains control over his color palette. To the reader, the finished pages are like symphonies and Risso is the orchestra leader – he brings each beat of the story together with mindful layouts and clever colors that reinforce the narrative and linger on the reader’s mind long after she or he puts down the book.

The Collected Edition

Azzarello is the type of writer who makes you feel comfortable, and then, out of nowhere, grabs you in a headlock and chokes the familiarity right out of you. You’re gasping for breath, but at the same time, you just want more. I prefer reading a series like Moonshine each month in the traditional comic format, but the collected TPB is perfect when you find yourself as ravenous as the protagonist.

Kudos to this team, and editor Will Dennis for a job well done.  And, to finish this up, let’s get all those Halloween puns out of our system once and for all:

Don’t howl at the moon, give yourself a treat and sink your teeth into a copy of Moonshine Vol. 2!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015:  The first W in WWE stands for… What?

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015: The first W in WWE stands for… What?

This past weekend marked the first, historic, monumental, astounding, amazing, never-happened-before* pay-per-view of all female­ talent in the world of professional wrestling sports entertainment. WWE Evolution was a rather enjoyable event that shined a positive light on one of the strongest brands in American television producing content today. The evening was chock full of messaging that spoke directly to little girls straight through to women to tell them that anything they want can be achieved. And in between these self-aggrandizing promos, there were some damn fine wrestling matches to enjoy.

But somewhere after the fourth or fifth of these interstitial talking heads, wherein the performer would choke up (rightfully so mind you) over the very notion that the ladies of the WWE would be given this time to shine… I began to sour. Again to be clear: not because the event wasn’t deserving of praise — but because WWE Evolution was not erected to right a wrong… it was a consolation prize for the WWE selling its soul.

For those who don’t religiously follow the ins and outs of the World Wrestling Entertainment company, allow me to spoil the surprise. WWE Evolution was created first and foremost as a PR move to appease the noisy internet smart-marks (think gatekeepers, only slightly less awful) who would rightfully (for once!) denote that the women of the WWE would not be allowed to perform with the company at the next pay-per-view event. One week after Evolution comes WWE Crown Jewel. Coming to you live this Friday from the King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And in case you didn’t know? Women are not allowed to wrestle or perform in that particular country.

I won’t dive into the recent history here, if only to sum it up succinctly:

Vince McMahon accepted a ten year multi-million dollar contract with the Saudis to bring to them his oiled-up carnival several times a year. And not only would he deliver a standard show from his cavalcade of Cro-Magnon cohorts, no! Vincent Kennedy McMahon would succumb to any whim that the Crown Prince so desires.  Dust off the Undertaker? Sure! Unretire Shawn Michaels? Here’s a dump truck of money! Give the Rock the championship back? Well, it’s been reported by several outlets it’s been under consideration. And as a fan? It makes me sick.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015: The first W in WWE stands for… What?”

Working Title #006: The Uncivil War

Working Title #006: The Uncivil War

“Fuck civility!”

Chuck Wendig, an author of (among other things) Star Wars novels and comics, was working on a Darth Vader miniseries for Marvel when his editor informed him he was fired. Wendig said it was “because of the negativity and vulgarity that my tweets bring… It was too much politics, too much vulgarity, too much negativity on my part.”

It should be noted this is Wendig’s characterization. Marvel has not commented beyond confirming Wendig had been removed.

On October 6, Wendig tweeted: “There will be renewed calls for civility. Ignore them. They ask for civility as a way for you to grant them complicity in what they do…Civility is for normalcy. When things are normal and working as intended, civility is part of maintaining balance. But when that balance is gone, civility does not help return it but rather, destabilize it further. Because your civility gives them cover for evil. . . Note: this isn’t the same as calling for violence. But it is suggesting that you should not be shamed for using vigorous, vulgar language. Or for standing up in disobedience. Or for demanding acknowledgement and action in whatever way you must. . . Fuck Trump. But he’s just the ugly fake-gold mask they’ve put on this thing. Fuck all the GOP, fuck that blubbering, bristling frat boy judge, fuck McConnell, Ryan, Grassley, Collins, every last one of them. Fuck them for how they’ve shamed victims and helped dismantle democracy. . . They will tell you to smile, that we need to get back to business, that we gotta heal the rift and blah blah blah — but that’s the desire of a savvy bully, who wants you to stop crying after he hit you, who wants you not to fight back. But you can cry. And you can fight back. “

Basically, as some put it: ”Fuck civility.”  Continue reading “Working Title #006: The Uncivil War”

Everything We Read This Week – 10/24/2018

Everything We Read This Week – 10/24/2018

Welcome back as we make our weekly trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

As we keep saying, there are plenty of good comics out there, a lot of Spider books for sure. Make sure you go find some. Hopefully, you might find what we say interesting enough to try some of these comics. This is a big list this week as we are finally starting to catch up on our unwieldy pull-list.

Also, Don’t forget to check our hotlist of new books debuting this month over here. You will see books that we were looking forward to with the designation Hot #1 by them.

DISCLAIMER: 

There is a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously as everyone gets their own impressions of art. These ratings are just to give our readers an idea of what we thought of the book, and they will be on the generous side normally. So don’t expect to see a lot of 1 Stars. After all, its not often that you have a bad book on your pull-list.

The rating system is as follows:

Great

 Good

 OK

 Not Good

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 10/24/2018”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2!

Back in August, I lamented about the giant gamble of crowd-funding your way into comics. But as of late — with a deluge of projects bombarding my social media feeds these days — I’ve felt the urge to revisit the topic and dive a bit deeper into the nooks and crannies of shameless self-promotion. Get your pat of butter and jam ready, kiddos. Let’s make breakfast.

The truth of the matter is that being an indie publisher/creator/distributor of original content means having to navigate the choppy waters of branding, marketing, and relating to your public… all in order to keep your doors open and the money flowing to keep the drawings a’comin’. Simply put: you’re not going to be able to draw without also becoming a draw to would-be patrons. Especially if you opt to crowdfund your way into building the capital necessary to produce a product. Because of the nature of the beast, that often necessitates having to promote yourself early and often to the masses.

The how, of course, is the hard part. Because of the advent of social media, it’s easy (to a point) to build up a solid network of friends, fans, and family. But once you’ve amassed your following… stoking the fire becomes a balancing act between pride in your work, and desperation to see it pay off.

Shameless Self-Promotion to me is that balancing act of shilling for your passion projects without fear of sounding desperate. And there’s no greater time to act shameless, when you’re crowdfunding. Why? Because Kickstarters are built on the principle of all or nothing. With that in mind, setting the bar high and then needing to clear it or else will mean having to ask every family member, friend, and fan to support you. A lot. Repeatedly. And in doing it, maintaining a tone that comes with the confidence that your product is high quality, while you’re literally begging them to back you for a few dollars… comes with its own set of problems.

And the million dollar question is… When do you cross the line from acceptable hustle to annoying shill?

Truth be told: I don’t believe there’s an easy answer here. Every independent promoter I know is inherently tied to their brand. As such, one fella’s hourly update of his funding numbers may incite a truly positive groundswell as his fans rally to his aid… and another’s once a week crying vlog of happiness may get the job done just as well. So, what follows here is wholly my personal opinion, and nothing more.

As a friend/fan/contributor to a project, I don’t want more than a single touch a day from a given campaign (and to be clear: if a campaign is broadcast to multiple pages I’m receiving? No biggie!). The fact is, any more than that — save wholly for significant milestones or other worthy interruptions — triggers my “I’m caring less and less about your success” feelings. Having been on the other side of the equation, the data supports my leanings. No spikes in backer-dollars-in came due to incessant needling by way of over-posting.

More often than not, backers come in very few flavors. Those who know you and know they will back you — where their decision really relies on “how much can I afford to help you this time” really is the deciding factor. Those who stumble upon you by way of someone specifically sharing the project with them, or searching for something in the space your product is sitting. They are sold perhaps by your video, write up, rewards, or most likely some combination of all of the above. And the only elusive group we’re talking about here… those who know you but have no need to support you.

My last Kickstarter saw about 150 people back the project. I have 1,100 friends on Facebook. Unshaven Comics is liked by about 3,000. So, you can tell a considerable chuck of either subset represents that untapped potential customer group.

And I certainly tried every guerrilla marketing technique in the book to sell to them (such as it was, in the long-long-ago). Posting morning, noon, and night (being sure to self-deprecate about my frequency of shilling whilst still being positive and excited about the project). Making up daily contests. Begging people to share the project even if they couldn’t afford to assist. Posting to groups. Posting literally in any corner of the internet where people might stumble upon us. Asking all backers to “just increase your bid by X and we’ll make it!”

And in the end, we succeeded, but in the wake of the campaign, I personally felt hollowed by the experience. While the goal was met, and my little studio’s graphic novel dreams would now come true… It was hard to step back and feel if the support was earned or pitied. On some days, I feel bulletproof, and proudly declare that a win is a win. But more often, I’m left questioning if the naked neediness of shameless self-promotion hasn’t cheapened my brand. And at the end of the day… isn’t the value of your brand the most important of all? In the wide breadth of those I know in the indie market, it’s hard for me to separate the shill from the salesman at times. We’re all hustling — and next week, I’ll explore our specific brand of shameless salesmanship at Unshaven Comics — but again: there’s a line between over-confidence and wild desperation. To know where it is, is to live in that lucrative sweet spot.

I don’t have the answers as to where it is, of course. But when I figure it out, I’ll be the first one to sell it to you.

WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover

WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover

During the Halloween season, I always think of the three witch sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They were very similar to the Three Fates of classic mythology, those sisters who wove the destinies of every individual. And even if you don’t know anything about either of those sets of sisters, you probably know about TV’s Charmed sisters.  They are in the midst of a reboot that has lead to a backlash.

In my own family, the “three sisters concept” is a big deal. We are blessed with the 3 girls. (We do have one great boy too!)  These girls thoroughly embrace being part of their little sorority of three. So much so that I am always cognizant of a set of three girls and especially dads with three girls.

And that brings us to Brian Bendis and some new comics.  Continue reading “WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover”

Everything We Read This Week – 10/17/2018

Everything We Read This Week – 10/17/2018

Welcome back as we make our weekly trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

There are plenty of good comics out there. Make sure you go find some. Hopefully, you might find what we say interesting enough to try some of these comics

Also, Don’t forget to check our hotlist of new books debuting this month over here. You will see books that we were looking forward to with the designation Hot #1 by them.

DISCLAIMER: 

There is a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously as everyone gets their own impressions of art. These ratings are just to give our readers an idea of what we thought of the book, and they will be on the generous side normally. So don’t expect to see a lot of 1 Stars. After all, its not often that you have a bad book on your pull-list.

The rating system is as follows:

Great

 Good

 OK

 Not Good

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 10/17/2018”

Beat JENeration #011: How Deleting My Facebook App Saved My Sanity and Proved I’m Self-Centered

Beat JENeration #011: How Deleting My Facebook App Saved My Sanity and Proved I’m Self-Centered

Just about five months ago, while scrolling through Facebook on my phone, I deleted the app in anger. And then, not only did the world not end, it felt like it improved.

The actual world, well, that has been getting progressively worse since June. I mean, of course, I still follow the news and cringe through each new embarrassment my national government heaps upon itself, but I cringe through it on my own terms. This came in really handy during the Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Shit Show. As a member of Gen X, I don’t readily believe in trigger warnings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get triggered. The fight or flight (or in my case really it’s more a freeze) response came on strong, so having some control of where I would encounter the newest travesty and my rage response was really important.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #011: How Deleting My Facebook App Saved My Sanity and Proved I’m Self-Centered”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #016: … and The Doobie Brothers Aren’t Really Brothers!

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #016: … and The Doobie Brothers Aren’t Really Brothers!

Good news, potheads! You no longer have to drive down to Uruguay to hang out in a nation where your recreational smoking predilections won’t get you thrown in prison.

Yesterday’s Toronto Star gave us the news. Recreational cannabis is now legal north of the border. “As Canada stops treating cannabis as a ‘social evil,’ police look to ‘culture change’ in enforcement.” Their coverage of the event went on to discuss expedited pardons for pot possessors, a province-by-province breakdown of the price of weed, and photos of normal, average everyday Canadians standing in long lines at their newly opened weed shops as though they enjoyed waiting for that first iPhone a decade ago.

And, from the looks of the crowd, I’m sure many did.

Yesterday, cartoonist/storyteller Erik Larsen scored one of the biggest (probably unintentional) public relations victories in comics. The 239th issue of Savage Dragon (full disclosure: it’s one of my absolute favorite comics, for reasons I’ll probably explain in an upcoming Brainiac On Banjo column) went on sale the same day Canadian weed went legal. The lead character, his wife and children, and some members of the supporting cast relocated to the Great White North last year. Toronto, to be exact, which happens to be my favorite city in North America. I identify with, and am jealous of, any Chicagoan who moves to Toronto. Will the Savage Dragon mellow out and become the Magic Dragon?  Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #016: … and The Doobie Brothers Aren’t Really Brothers!”