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Scales and Scoundrels: A Chat with Girner and Galaad

GateCrashers had the pleasure to talk to writer Sebastian Girner and artist Galaad of TKO’s comic series ‘’Scales and Scoundrels’’, in celebration of the Definitive Edition of the book. 

TKO’s ‘Scales and Scoundrels’, co-created by writer Sebastian Girner and artist Galaad, depicts the colorful journey of Luvander, an adventurous and fierce girl, wandering through a medieval fantasy setting, trying to make sense of who she is and her place in the world as she meets with all kinds of unforgettable characters that would impact her life forever.

Written and edited by Girner, drawn and colored by Galaad and designed and lettered by Jeff Powell, Scales and Scoundrels tells a story that feels fresh in its tone and storytelling, that doesn’t limit itself by common boundaries of the genre, while enjoying everything it does, creating a lovely journey to those who decide to wander in its world. In this interview with GateCrashers, they examine the creative process used for the creation of the book and the possible ideas for the future.

What’s your favorite sandwich?

SG: This is clearly an impossible interview question designed to rattle me, but I’d have to say either a good turkey sandwich or a grilled cheese. 

G: Tuna, of course, as any fan of Calvin & Hobbes would tell you.

Which culture was the most visually exciting for you to bring to life? And did you have a particular process for it, like researching real-life cultures? 

G: I researched old European fashion, Mediterranean cultures, and African fashion. I love the sense of color. It’s bold, beautiful, and full of life. So much of our modern fantasy was inspired by Northern European myths and cultures. Sebastian and I wanted this fantasy series to be a big splash of joy and colors in a genre that has become quite monochromatic over the years.

Which side character would you do a one-shot for?

SG: I’d love to check in on the Mermaid at some point and see what she’s been up to. But really the Houndmaster is the character I’d love to dig into deeper. He’s always been on the periphery of the story so far but clearly, there’s more to him than meets the eye.

G: I agree with Sebastian. We need to do the Houndmaster’s origin story at some point. Readers might be surprised.

Do you feel more comfortable drawing an action sequence or landscapes for a splash page? 

G: I love drawing action, due to my background in animation, and I wanted to draw adventure comics to draw those big action scenes. Drawing backgrounds in comics can be frustrating because the background is rarely the focal point. More often than not it’s filling up space in a panel and ends up covered in speech bubbles. So, for a big splash, I think a big, lush landscape is my favorite thing to draw. You finally have the time and space to make the world come alive.

Which character felt the most rewarding and fun after creating them?

SG: I feel like all things Scales revolve around Lu. She was the first design Galaad did, and her look and personality are what drove the whole creation of the world. But I’m also quite pleased with our core cast of characters, Aki, Koro, and Dorma. All of whom came together mainly to help define Lu by contrasting her at first, but all of whom went on to have stories of their own, and could now easily star in their own adventures (and maybe they will!)

What type of character would you be if you were inside the world of S&S?

SG: Maybe a shopkeeper who sells items and gear scavenged from a nearby cave to eager Level 1 heroes, and then explain my strict no-refund policy when they complain that the healing potions they bought from me just gave them an allergic reaction. 

G: I would probably be a wandering bard or an artist of some sort. I will sing you a ballad if you buy me a pint.

With which character of the presented cast would you have a tavern fight?

SG: Maybe Aki’s twin brothers Tanto and Tonta because they seem like it’d be all in good fun, and we’d have a beer afterwards and laugh it off. 

G: My mom told me never to get into a tavern fight.

Which character felt more complicated to write in terms of their arcs, layers, etc?

SG: Without spoiling anything, I think Koro’s journey from when we first meet her to where we leave her at the end of Book 2 really surprised me. With Lu, I always kind of knew where she’d be going and how she’d get there, but Koro came into her own in front of our eyes, and her struggles and hardships and how she had to change both inside and out to meet them surprised even me. It was definitely one of the most challenging characters for me to write. I think she’s come the furthest in many ways of all our characters.

With S&S being a blend of comedy, drama and adventure, which other genre would you like to experiment with inside this world?

SG: So many! We already have plans for a heist story and some romance, and I’ve had some ideas for a bit of a spooky ghost story as well. There’s really no limit to what is possible in this world and these characters, and I think part of the fun we’re having with the book is melding fantasy with other genres. But comedy, drama, and adventure will always be the core ingredients of every Scales & Scoundrels story, those are the three suns that light up our comic’s sky. 

G: I love heist stories and romance, and this is something we already have plans for, so I have to say ghost story too. I know that’s what Sebastian just said, but that’s one of the reasons we make such a good team. We always agree on the destination!

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Comics

Fun-Size Roundtable: The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1

Thank you everyone for coming here on such short notice. We are gathered here today to— Hey, you in the back with the headband, quiet down! Damnit, where was I….? Right. We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of Trigger Keaton, a man loved by— HEY! Stop throwing tomatoes at me! The casket’s over there!

You know what, I’m skipping the rest of this script. You know why we’re here. The first issue of The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton, written by Kyle Starks and illustrated by Chris Schweizer, is out today. I’d like to thank the five panelists gathered here today for actually responding to the invitation, even if one of you scoundrels keyed my car. But I digress, let’s hear what each of you have to say about a man we all tolerated at best, and loathed on average.

Jimmy Gaspero

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton is about an extremely unlikable action star whose former TV sidekicks team up to investigate his murder. Starks never misses an opportunity to showcase Keaton’s terrible behavior, but the character never feels too exaggerated or over the top. This isn’t a caricature, so when the TV sidekicks are introduced it’s understandable that they have complicated feelings about the death of Trigger Keaton as they attend his memorial service. The sidekick introductions are smartly done with names and sidekick number, along with panel inserts giving a glimpse of an article or TV Guide entry for the TV show they were in with Keaton. They are all very different and the characterization work is strong, but also Schweizer’s design for each character makes them stand out in their own way.

The biggest takeaways from The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton are its sense of humor and action scenes. Terry Komodo is brash, obnoxious and probably the only former sidekick with anything nice to say about Keaton, so there’s plenty of comedy to be mined there, but Paul Hernandez has a subtler, dryer wit and this comes across too in the panels. The opening panels provide some action for Schweizer to show off a little (the “SPIN KICK!” and “LEG SWEEP” SFX are great too), but the end fight scene is tremendous both in how dynamic Komodo looks fighting, but also the movement and anxiety in Hernandez attempting to avoid the fight.        

Overall, this was a fun first issue that was funny, with great action and a compelling mystery at its center that fans of Rock Candy Mountain and Assassin Nation are sure to enjoy.


Bobby Varghese Vinu

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

While this is an interesting premise, the first issue seems to move at a rather fast pace to the detriment of the story that’s being told. It can be rather jarring with certain scenes, and it disrupts the story’s flow at times. However, not all is imperfect.

The supplementary material for this comic is fascinating as while it is a recounting of an incident involving the man, it adds to this issue’s depiction of who Trigger Keaton is, which is all too relevant when considering the behaviour of certain people in Hollywood towards those they deem “lesser.” There’s also potential here for character exploration with his former “sidekicks:” the actors who he burnt bridges with thanks to his attitude. Even as a posthumous character, he still lives through the protagonists

And the art is excellent. There’s a sort of vintage pop culture aesthetic with the colours used by Schweizer, which is very cool and fitting for the story being told. It blends well with the cartoony linework used by Schweizer, giving me the impression of a late night cartoon on Adult Swim.


Elle Worthy

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

Trigger Keaton was Bonafide Pictures’ cash cow, having had a contract with them for an unheard-of twenty-five years. This security gave Keaton the freedom to act without regard to others or even his own wellbeing. In a not so surprising turn of events, Keaton, “the world’s most unlikable action star”, is found dead in his trailer. With the police uninterested in looking deeper into what they have prematurely deemed a suicide, it’s up to those he’s scorned the most to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton finds a ragtag group of Keaton’s former and most current onscreen sidekicks gathered at a publicity event after the discovery of his body. They will need to set aside their personal biases and issues to work together.

This was a visually pleasing story to get into. It had a lot going on without being too busy. I really enjoyed the title cards introducing the Six, as well as the panels highlighting their Hollywood connection to Keaton along with the fallout attached to their projects. I was especially entertained by Sidekick No. 6, Miles Nguyen, Keaton’s most recent on-screen partner. I got big Phoenix Wright, over-the-top, wannabe detective vibes from him and it just worked so well with the rest of the crew. 

This was a great first issue that definitely reeled me in for the rest of the series. 


Bethani Lynda

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

There’s something about comics that makes the medium a prime breeding ground for legendary asshole characters, and Trigger Keaton is determined to sucker-punch and leg-sweep his way into that pantheon. It helps that he’s doing it in a book that’s incredibly warm, funny, and fully committed to its nutty premise.

There’s a lot to love here, from the clear personalities of each sidekick to the wonderful character acting. I was able to read this issue on my phone without having to zoom in to parse what was happening (though I still did anyway, the art’s just too delightful). Schweizer’s style won’t be for everyone, but he deserves the attention of anyone who cares about cartooning. Lovely colors, too!

Starks has a great ear for dialogue and which writing style is appropriate for which situation. Whether it’s a tawdry celeb profile, a TV guide listing, or a canned speech to the press, everything sounded right to me. It’s that kind of attention to detail that makes for a great crime farce, and I am definitely along for the ride.


Logan Dalton

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1. Credit: Kyle Starks, Chris Schweizer.

The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1 is a joke-dense action comedy ride from writer Kyle Starks and artist Chris Schweizer. Using press clippings and flashbacks, they construct one of the most unlikable characters, period, kill him off, and then set up a stone-cold whodunit. Keaton is a lot like how I imagine Chuck Norris to be like when the cameras are off. However, Six Sidekicks isn’t just a mystery, but a multi-genre feast drawing on Trigger Keaton’s long career on television shows you’re more likely to see on some random local channel at 3 AM than getting big reunion specials on HBO Max.

This is a comic that can go from a heartfelt anti-suicide PSA to a no-holds-barred street brawl, with Starks and Schweizer playfully blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Each of the six sidekicks have a distinct personality that draws on different Hollywood archetypes from the failed, recast child star to the child star with a career in another field, the professional athlete who’s crossed over into acting, and more. They’re introduced in a funeral scene that feels more like reading through the guest list of a flyover state comic con, but it’s an effective way to introduce a large ensemble cast and get to the fun ass kicking bits.

The upcoming Stuntman War teased at the end of the issue does seem like a distraction rather than a compelling plot point, but I really wanna get to know this motley crew a bit more. On a craft level, I also want to continue to bask in the comedic alchemy of Kyle Starks and Chris Schweizer because a well-placed beat panel or reaction shot can make a funny line a laugh-out-loud one.

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Comics

Scales and Scoundrels Review

The first book of Scales and Scoundrels invites you to experience it with a beautifully designed cover that describes perfectly the content that can be found inside; a fun, colourful, and imaginative adventure that also allows itself to be introspective when it needs to. It achieves the feeling of one of the most enjoyable and lovable Dungeons and Dragons campaigns you can find. It presents and paces itself with a unique and entertaining cleverness, by putting the reader into a familiar situation of the genre, like opening the book with a tavern fight, but slowly unfolding everything into a lore and style of its own. 

From the first panel in which we see our protagonist, Luvander, we get a glimpse of her personality by a small and confident laugh while gambling. And the more she wanders through the world, meeting exciting new people, discovering all kinds of places, and living extraordinary stories, the more we learn about this character that is at both times mysterious and open-hearted, brought to its maximum by the interactions she has with the rest of the cast, that are equally interesting and human in their motivations. The writing from Girner shines bright both in its world-building, that same as the adventure, goes deeper than it could seem from the starting point, and in its characters, with protagonists that are fun and varied but permitted to be flawed and complicated, without turning them into villains, antagonists that have small moments of humanity without taking away their evilness, and brief but charming side characters like a lonely mermaid, morally ambiguous fish-people or a nice goblin fisherman. 

Source: Scale and Scoundrels Definitive Edition Vol 1

The writing of Girner is only amplified and greatly complemented by the art of Galaad, who does wonders at translating the personality of the characters through their designs; like the outfit of Luvander looking like clothing from a jester and a thief put together, combined with messy and distinctive hair. Also excelling at the design of the world, that instead of satisfying itself with limited space and characters, takes us through a lot of different cultures with their own characteristic look, unexplored places that feel full of life by the never-ending colour palette used all throughout the comic, and rich landscapes that make excellent use of splash pages that demonstrate the density and deep history of every surrounding, and most of all, the infinite possibilities that lie within them. 

Source: Scales and Scoundrels Definitive Edition Vol 1

And the art from both of them blends masterfully with Jeff Powell’s lettering and design, which achieves to never feel out of place when going through the pages, being completely versatile and functioning in every scene, making it an essential part of the adventure. 

The work done in this book is one that not only impresses by the superficial aspect of it but also by how it feels intrinsically filled with love and passion to explore everything it wants to show. It makes sure to be as emotional as possible without a single badly executed tonal shift, telling a story about the roots that bind us, and the journey through which we are able to release ourselves from them, and discover who we are and who we want to be beyond that which we thought defined us. 

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Comics

Re-Re-Rebirth of The Cool: Static, Icon, and Rocket Bring Milestone Into the Modern Era

When Milestone Comics debuted in 1993, it felt like the entirety of comics up until that point had just been the opening act. Sure, the predecessors, your Claremonts, Simonsons, hell, even Kirbys, were great in their own rights, but Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate, and Static were a four-note chord that was unlike anything that had come before. Their diversity, both on and off-panel, and authentic storylines and characters, set a bar that even now, almost thirty years later, mainstream comics struggle to reach. Far from the public perception of Milestone as just “the Black comics,” the books, often referred to as the Dakotaverse, were largely intersectional in nature with honest portrayals of topics from gang violence, to disability, to class privilege, to trans rights, all with some of the industry’s best and brightest behind them. 

While the comics themselves didn’t last long, with gradual cancellations from 1995 to 1997, Milestone lived on with the much-loved Static Shock cartoon, before having the comic characters brought into the DC Universe proper in 2008. Previously, with the exception of a brief crossover, the relationship between Milestone and DC had been more about licensing – DC handled distribution, but Milestone owned the rights, able to publish whatever they wished as long as DC didn’t object. For the most part, everything went smoothly in that regard – while Milestone touched on topics that made DC uncomfortable, they recognized the need for most of the stories to be told. Unfortunately, much like the initial run of the imprint that created them, Milestone’s characters vanished from DC far too soon, with little more than occasional cameos in the Young Justice cartoon, and a best-forgotten Static Shock run at the beginning of the New 52.

While there were yearly announcements that hinted we’d be seeing more Milestone “soon,” nothing concrete took form until the surprise, limited-time digital release of the 17-page Milestone Returns #0 during last September’s DC FanDome: Hall of Heroes event, after legal issues with the rights were resolved. The book served as an introduction to the new “Earth-M,” reintroducing classic characters such as Rocket, Static, and Icon, along with the characters who comprise the new hero, Duo. This Re-re-rebirth of the Cool, bringing back some of the creatives who made the original Milestone so iconic, was supposed to usher in a new era of digital-first comics in the universe, bringing the characters and the world into the modern day. However, in what I can’t help but think of as a truly amazing instance of C.P.T., the digital comics were all delayed by months, so that physical releases could come out the same day, with the exception of the expanded Milestone Returns: Infinite Edition #0. This “extended cut” was released digitally on 2/26/21, with a physical release on 5/26, and adds an additional 24 pages teasing the stories yet to come. 

The biggest change here is the updated take on the Big Bang, the source of most of the universe’s superheroes. In the original Milestone, the Big Bang happened when the police used experimental chemical weaponry in the middle of a gang war  – here, perhaps to be more topical, the chemicals were unleashed during the meeting of a Black Lives Matter protest and counterprotest. The exact circumstances of the Big Bang were an important point of nuance in the original Static stories – the fact that at his worst, Virgil found himself strapped up in the middle of a gang war played a big part in his desire to do the right thing, and stop Bang Babies who threatened the peace. Without that, we’re either going to lose that shade of grey, and that motivation for him, or, and hopefully this isn’t the case, BLM is going to be equated to the gang war. At best, it seems that Static will be overly sanitized. At worst, it’ll portray a peaceful protest for the right to be treated like people as something to be looked down on, a sin that warrants police escalation. While police brutality is clearly a part of both incarnations of the universe, I can’t help but worry, especially in today’s climate, whether it will be portrayed with the honesty it needs.

All that being said, it feels good to pick up a comic with the Milestone logo again, and I’m certainly hoping that my misgivings will prove unwarranted! Milestone is an imprint with a lot of potential, and I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the talented creators that have been brought on will leave their mark on the industry. With how widespread the superhero genre is today, Milestone’s return has the opportunity to bring a spotlight to diverse creators and characters that might otherwise fall by the wayside, and tell stories that are screaming out to be told. And hey, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the early nineties, it might get people to check out those older comics! Either way, one thing’s for certain: it’s gonna put a shock to your system.

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Comics

GCPride: Midnighter

By Rook

The first time I read a book with Midnighter in it, he wasn’t even the star. It didn’t matter. He stole the show (repeatedly) in the DC superspy series Grayson, a tough feat considering Dick Grayson is flat-out one of my favorite characters.

At a glance, he looks and sounds exactly like Batman without the ears or the “no killing” code. The resemblance was intentional; originally part of the separate WildStorm comics universe, Midnighter and his husband Apollo were created to parallel Batman and Superman as part of their world’s premier superteam, the Authority. 

Despite being created in the late 1990s, their relationship and identities are never trivialized, and the fact that Midnighter and Apollo are openly gay and the most unstoppable superheroes in the world still feels incredibly refreshing. While superhero comics at large were heavily influenced by The Authority’s visual style, tone, and approach to storytelling, direct descendants of its approach like Ultimate Marvel and the MCU largely failed to carry the torch of groundbreaking queer characters.

A while after DC acquired WildStorm and folded its characters into the mainline universe, Midnighter resurfaced in Grayson as the ex-superhero’s rival / foil / frenemy / ”nemesister.” His manic joy in combat, his relentless swagger, and his unique moral compass all come together to make him one of the best characters in a book full of all-timer characterizations. 

Also, it would be a crime not to mention that Midnighter and Apollo begins with the couple fighting an evil god of subway trains. 

Midnighter is fantastic for a dozen other reasons, but the one that still really gets me is that he gets to be the unstoppable badass in a way that’s almost always reserved for cis dudes, and he’s living for it. It doesn’t hurt that he’s better written and more nuanced than most hyper-violent action icons, easily earning his place among the best of the best.

 “Gay Batman” is a hell of an elevator pitch, but that’s selling him short, because Batman isn’t having half as much fun. Midnighter never feels constrained by the limits of what straight people think gay characters should or could be. He just revels in being violence incarnate, and goddamn, it feels good to be along for the ride.

RECOMMENDED READING

  • Midnighter (2015-2016) – By Steve Orlando and ACO
  • Midnighter and Apollo (2016-2017) – By Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco
  • The Authority (1999-2002) – By Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary
  • Grayson (2014-2016) – By Tim Seeley and Mikel Janin
  • The Wild Storm (2017-2019) – By Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt

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Comics

GC52 News (DC Comics Releases for 06/01/2021)

If you missed last week’s news report, check it out here.

(Spoilers for DC Comics released 06/01/2021)

(Words in italics signal actions)

The GC52 Logo appears on televisions, computers, and all other types of viewing devices at its normally scheduled time. Lead Anchor Dan McMahon sits at the center of the newsroom behind his desk. This week he’s wearing the same outfit as last week… his clothes look singed and battered as if he’d been through something quite difficult.The Daily Planet globe is visible behind him as he stares off blankly into space, face turned away from direct eye contact with the camera. The GC52 theme music begins to dim as the actual program begins. Dan barely moves until the audience can hear Jerry snap.

Jerry: Uh, Dan, you’re live. Are you okay boss?

The snap to attention isn’t quick but rather a slow turn towards Jerry and the camera.

Dan: I’m sorry, I just got back from the other Earth after being invited to that Lake House by an old friend, Walter. I barely made it out of there alive, Jerry. I was so scared that I’d never make it back to our Earth. I was given a label of “News Anchor” and a symbol. I cannot describe just how dehumanizing that is to have your identity boiled down into a simple phrase as you fight for your life against an apocalypse that you were hand-picked to survive against like a prized pig.

Jerry: Jesus Christ, why don’t you go home? That sounds like you need a day off. We are live…

Dan’s eyes widen and he takes a deep breath as it clicks just where he is before that familiar voice and charm return like someone opened the floodgates.

Dan: Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening to all our wonderful viewers from the docks of Coast City to the furthest reaches of Oa, you are watching the multiverse’s best news show that brings you the news that you need to know! As always, I’m your host, Dan McMahon, doing my part to bring you up to the minute updates on the worlds you live in!

Dan: As usual, a lot of stuff is going down in Gotham City. Batman seems to have it covered… but does he really? The Mayor signed off on Simon Saint’s Peacemaker Program. I have some weird itch in the back of my mind that it isn’t going to be good for the state of the future in Gotham. There has been footage of a large explosion in Gotham… the fires… just like at the Lake House…

Jerry: CUT TO GREEN LANTERN COVERAGE!

An image of static clears up and Thomas is shown listening to a pair of earbuds, which he quickly removes from his ears. Superimposed behind him is an image of some Green Lanterns at… school?

Thomas: Oh hey, sorry about that. Another broadcast just dropped from Lantern Mullein. Even in their dismantled state, the Green Lanterns are a memo-based organization. Her latest message is a reassurance that the Lanterns across the universe will be recovered and accounted for. At the moment, though? The Corps consists of her, a recovering Lantern Baz with a medicinal arm enhancement, and Teen Lantern Quintela. Fortunately, the United Planets have their back, led by an alien race that is always baring their teeth, either smiling or modeling for a part in the next Doom videogame…

Thomas holds a finger up to his earpiece.

Thomas: I would like to apologize to the United Planets for resorting to a stereotyped description like that. It’s just, who can Oa turn to in its hour of need? Hal Jordan can’t charge in and punch Sinestro this time. As for Lantern Stewart and his starship of a thousand Lanterns, there’s still no communication. Lots of superheroes tend to phase into some kind of altered state at the edge of the universe-

Thomas pauses again.

Thomas: Yes, our fact-checkers can confirm that has been the case often enough to be a safe assumption. The question remains, will the lost Lanterns return as the heroes we once knew, or will they bear scars and transformations from unknown cosmic forces and beings? Stewart is no stranger to a cosmic odyssey here and there, but who knows how he might power up in this unprecedented leadership role? Our computerized AI scenario artist has a most-likely rendering to share of the state of affairs out there:

The image seen behind Thomas now comes to take over the whole screen.

Oh no. We’re boned. Back to you, Dan.

Dan sits with an ice pack on his forehead and an iced coffee on his desk. His wardrobe has changed to what looks to be a hand-knit sweater they keep for breakdowns like this. It has the GC52 Logo on the center.

Dan: Sorry about all that before, I know Batman has this covered. I was just letting the terrible Memorial Day Weekend get me down. I saw reports that former Teen Titan, Crush, was having some romantic troubles. She went to her girlfriend’s birthday party and sort of let out an alien spore of some sort. I do feel for her. Crush is the daughter of intergalactic criminal, Lobo so things can’t be easy for her but it seems like she is headed off planet to work things out. Sending her our best! Let’s check in with Katie! 

When the camera cuts over, Katie is dusting off her shirt and sneezing.

Katie: Ugh, my allergies are atrocious today. All these plant spores and — Oh hi! Welcome. I didn’t know we were filming already ha…ha…

She sneezes again violently.

Katie: Whew! I’m standing here in front of Prescot Headquarters to give you an official update on the missing individuals inside the lab. Unbeknownst to my allegedly reliable witness, Ms. Jennifer Reece and her male companion were only missing for a few moments. It was the end of the day, and we all know how our minds can play tricks on us after long hours in this hell-hole rat race.

Oh — wait. I mean, not this job of course! I always feel like doing yard work and pulling weeds when I get home from reporting all day . . . Ahem.

Anyway, you should disregard any false reports of people disappearing in the technician lab that night. My real quick-footed confidante provided me with details on Ms. Reece’s friend. Mr. Levi Kamei had recently traveled back here to New York from his New Delhi trip. I am to understand that Levi and Jennifer exited Prescot Headquarters that same evening, unharmed and certainly not after vanishing in plain sight. 

Katie’s trusty black cat leaps from the ground onto her shoulder. The cat holds a small piece of paper in its mouth and tries to thrust it into Katie’s own mouth. She turns her head away and snatches the note.

Katie: Felicia, we’re not that close! Cats, right! Who knows where their mouths have been . . .

She shakes her head in awe of the cat’s delivery.

Katie: Apparently, collecting the DEETS — that’s where! Forget everything I said earlier! Those two were definitely up to something! Less than an hour ago, a cleanup crew in yellow hazmat suits and a man with a ventilator swept the room in the Prescot Headquarters building. The team found a peculiar piece of flora left behind and extracted data from Jennifer’s tests on Levi. Not to waterlog the story further, but Amanda Waller of Belle Reve has been contacted in regards to this investigation? Don’t tell me the Suicide Squad is going to make this phenomenon more swampy? Do we need a crossover? 

I’m signing off tonight and warning you all to stay away from flowers these days! They could give you more than just a–a–allerg–ACHOO! Ugh. Over to you, Dan.

Before the camera cuts back to Dan, Katie can be heard assuring her black cat, Felicia, that she definitely isn’t the cause of Katie’s sneezing. 

Dan: Thanks for that Katie! Well, looks like that’s all we have for you, so as always… be it the Bat Symbol in Gotham, a red streak through Central City, or a golden lasso on Themyscira… GC52 has you covered with the news you need to know. Till next week, I’m your host Dan McMahon. Be strong in all your convictions. I’m gonna go sleep for a week.

As Dan finishes the outro and the music starts to play, the credits roll and a burst of static takes over the screen. When the picture returns to normal, the GC52 studio has vanished, and instead, security camera footage of an office is being played. At his desk, Mr. Bones, a cigarette in his mouth, is listening to an audiotape. We’ve seen this room before.

On the audiotape a voice is speaking, one of Bones’ agents in the field, delivering a report of an incident involving the Justice League Dark. It’s difficult to make out every word but what can be heard makes for tense listening.

The voice on tape: — Merlin… more power — Zatanna… controlled — Backup requested…

Mr. Bones: That’s gonna get out of hand. Agent 17, can you come in here?

Agent 17, Ethan, the GC52 reporter-revealed-spy, enters the room wearing a black suit and tie. The type all secret agents wear.

Mr. Bones: Good, good, Agent. Assign two more people to 14’s JL Dark investigation. It sounds like it’s about to kick into high gear.

Ethan: Very well sir, but there’s actually something you need to hear. We’ve had reports from our sources in the Hall of Justice. It sounds like the League has jumped over to another universe, tracking down that Brutus guy who was rampaging around here the other day.

Mr. Bones: They… went… to… another… universe… and didn’t tell anyone? I’m gonna wreck their whole world when they get back. It’s not like the whole purpose of the DEO is to be informed when something like this is happening, right, Agent?

Ethan: Yes, sir. Should I assign anyone to actively monitor the situation?

Mr. Bones: No, no, just have our contact inform us the MOMENT they’re back.

Bones takes a drag on his cigarette and static overtakes the screen again, before cutting to black, the broadcast ended.


Books covered this week:

  • The Nice House on the Lake #1 by James Tynion IV, Álvaro Martínez Bueno, Jordie Bellaire, and AndWorld Design.
  • Batman #109 by James Tynion IV, Jorge Jimenez, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles.
  • Green Lantern #3 by Geoffrey Thorne, Tom Raney, Marco Santucci, Michael Atiyeh, and Rob Leigh.
  • Crush & Lobo #1 by Mariko Tamaki, Amancay Nahuelpn, Tamra Bonvillain, and Ariana Maher.
  • The Swamp Thing #4 by Ram V, Mike Perkins, Mike Spicer, and Aditya Bidikar.
  • Justice League Dark: The Trouble with Books by Ram V, Xermanico, Romulo Fajardo Jr, and Rob Leigh.
  • Justice League #62 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez, Ivan Plascencia, and Josh Reed.
Categories
Comics

GateCrashing The Comrade Himbo Anthology With POMEmag

By Bree King (@agreeablepossum)

The Kickstarter for the anthology may be over, but keep your chin up fellow himbo enthusiast- GCers is here to provide you with some additional insight from the lovely Editors of Comrade Himbo! Whether you missed the campaign or are waiting for your pledge rewards, Ashley Gallagher and Jenny Mott have very interesting things to say about comics as a medium, the makeup of a Himbo, and the power of community organizing;

1) The mission statement for POMEpress highlights the importance of “comics and feelings,” can you touch on why the connection between the two is important to the type of stories POME sets out to tell?

Jenny: I mean, besides my personally having a lot of Feelings about Comics as media, comics and feelings go together pretty well beyond that. In most circumstances, visual media is going to be more accessible than written media, because there is no universal written language, because literacy isn’t a given; but, I think there’s something about the way comics sit between the visual and the written that lends itself well both to leading the reader through the emotions of a story with its images and to allowing for a deeper experience of those emotions by engaging the reader’s imagination. Like filmmaking, comics have a way of guiding the reader’s feelings through directorial choices—decisions made around perspectives, points of view, framing; but, for me at least, the process of reading a comic feels more inviting—more collaborative and more personal—than watching a movie because of the way comics rely on the reader to bring something of themselves to the experience. Comics ask you to look at a still frame of a person with a speech bubble and to imagine the lips moving, the body shifting, the eyes darting. Comics invite you to bring yourself and your experiences and your feelings to the process of reading, but in a way that is still visual and accessible, in a way that feels intuitive. So, when we’re sitting down to think about the kinds of stories we want to tell, just by starting from the point of “comics” we’re already thinking about accessibility and inclusivity, and about tapping into people’s feelings and the shared human experience. It’s not too much of a leap, then, to the projects we’ve done in the past—Group Chat, which is all about found family and the power of friendship; or Going Steady, which is about loving and supportive partnerships—or to something like Comrade Himbo, which is all about being earnest and well intentioned on behalf of your community. Having Big Feelings in Comics, for us, means celebrating the things that connect us to other people.

2) Comrade Himbo was an incredibly wholesome and uplifting read. Was capturing those feelings an intentional curation choice from the beginning, or something that emerged piece by piece?

Jenny: When we opened the call for submissions to Comrade Himbo back in September 2020, we were explicitly looking for uplifting and inspiring content that celebrated earnest and sincere hunks fighting for the good of their communities. Historically, POMEpress has always sought to celebrate the earnest and sincere. But especially coming out of Summer 2020, that was the kind of content we were craving—a reason to keep fighting or just to keep going, a hope or a vision for what a future could look like if all of us were earnest and sincere hunks who care about our communities—and I think it’s content we’re all collectively still craving! So, I’d say the wholesome and uplifting vibes were very much an intentional choice.

3) Did the process for creating Comrade Himbo differ greatly from POME’s past projects?

Jenny: Ah—yes and no. This is our fourth large-ish anthology project. And we’ve always worked on these remotely because a good chunk of our contributors are international or otherwise just don’t live in the same town as us. So, we’ve got a pretty solid system in place, production-wise. But, this was our first time trying to work on a project in the midst of a global pandemic. So, besides the inclusion of color illustrations, the main difference was a significantly more relaxed timeline. Usually, production runs October/November-February (with a chunk of time off for the holidays), and then we do the Kickstarters in March, get the books printed in April, and sell them at cons in May and June. But with so many cons still virtual this year, we didn’t have our usual hard deadline. The past year and a half has obviously been rough all around, so we were really happy to be able to build in more flexibility for our artists’ schedules in these Unprecedented Times.

4) As a fellow subscriber to leftist ideas, I’ve often felt that the material can forget how to have fun. The success of the Kickstarter also indicates that a more lighthearted approach to leftist ideas was an untapped market. Was that something the editorial team had predicted as well?

Jenny: I’m not sure if I’d say we predicted anything in a market-analysis kind of way, but we’re very much a team of goofball nerds with Big Feelings, who think that being kind and helping each other is just common sense. I think we’re always craving content that reflects this view, so it didn’t feel unreasonable to think that other people might be craving it too. That said, while we maintain that himbos can absolutely be smart, I think that part of the appeal of juxtaposing the Comrade with the Himbo is that leftist politics—despite the sometimes unfun/inaccessible literature—are generally pretty natural and intuitive once you accept empathy as a guiding principle. They don’t take a rocket scientist or a doctor of philosophy to figure out. So, this framing of Comrade-rie as something that is accessible to a Himbo kind of everyman felt like the perfect way to present that “empathy as a guiding principle” to other people. But also, the idea itself very much just started out as a joke in one of our recurring bits on the POMEmag site, Romance Roundtable, where the four of us read a Harlequin Romance Manga and goof about it for an hour. Tapping into the current respective Comrade and Himbo zeitgeists was mostly luck, honestly—I think we were just in the right place at the right time.

5) To me, the intersection of queerness in stories about direct action and labor organizing felt like bringing Pride back to its roots as a protest. Can you touch on what queerness means to you, as an organizing power?

Ashley: slides in wearing my big-ass “Ask Me About the Lavender Scare” button That’s a great question! I feel like there are a few complementary angles from which to consider queer organizing power. On the one hand, you have the historical and still ongoing struggles for human rights and for an improvement in material conditions for specifically queer and trans people: struggles against policing, for medical care, and for the right to simply exist without the fear of being killed simply for who you are or how you look. Then you also have examples of queer people organizing together with cis/hetero workers, like the ever-inspiring Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners movement. I think both of these organizing strategies are vitally important and necessarily intertwined. Queer and trans people exist in every culture, in every race, and our own struggles to survive and thrive can help us to connect with other struggles for justice that are not thought of as inherently LGBTQIA+ issues. When we flex the power of having each other’s backs, whether that’s marching together under all the Pride banners as an ever-evolving coalition of queer and trans communities, or organizing in solidarity with people who aren’t yet engaged in the queer and trans struggle, we learn the skills we need to build a better world together, strengthened—instead of divided—by our differences. Ultimately, I think the history and future of queer and trans power should be envisioned as a movement that knows how to make and win demands not because they are popular or respectable, but because they will make even the most marginalized among us more free.

6) Who is THE Himbo blueprint for you?

Jenny: LOL I think we each have a different Peak Himbo, but generally we can agree on Kronk from The Emperor’s New Groove, Brendan Fraser’s George of the Jungle, and the cast of Magic Mike: XXL. Keanu, of course—King Himbo. The main thing, for me at least, is just having no capacity or desire for guile.

Find more of POMEmag’s past projects (Going Steady, Eternal Witchcraft, Group Chat) on their Gumroad. You can also support them on Patreon for; exclusive sneak peaks at upcoming projects, sketches, horoscopes and more!

Categories
Comics

GCPride: Harley Quinn

By Violet (@violetvexed)

Harley Quinn, created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, debuted in Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. She has been a favourite of mine since around 2010. What attracted me to her is how strong and resilient she is, despite everything she’s been through. While following her through the years, I found myself resonating with her as a Bisexual woman who struggled with boundaries in relationships and found comfort in how she didn’t know all the answers but remained true to herself regardless. She’s messy and unsure but she’ll figure out the answers with you along the way.

Her bisexuality could arguably be dated back to her days on BTAS and early comics. How her sexuality was handled in earlier iterations has often been criticized, due to a lack of development or “back tracking”. However, later years (and leading up to 2020 in particular) took her character development in more consistent directions and her Bisexuality was represented more explicitly. 

RECOMMENDED READING:

  • ‌Gotham City Sirens (2009-2011) – by Paul Dini, Gulliem March, Tony Bedard and Andres Guinaldo.
  • ‌ Injustice: Year Zero (2020-2021) – by Tom Taylor, Cian Tormey, Rain Beredo, and Wes Abbott. 
  • ‌Harleen (2019) – Stjepan Sejic.
  • Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey (2020-2021) – by Jimmy Palmoitti, Amanda Conner and Alex Sinclair 
  • ‌Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy (2019-2020) – by Jody Houser and Adriana Melo.

RECOMMENDED WATCHING:

  • ‌Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
  • ‌Harley Quinn: The Animated Series (2019)
  • ‌Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)
Categories
Comics

GCPride: Jess Chambers

by Rodrigo Arellano

Jess Chamber, a.k.a. The Flash of earth 11, is by all means a pretty new character. I still remember the announcement made by different comic book outlets that reported that DC was going to introduce a new non-binary character, who had their first appearance in DC’s Very Merry Multiverse, as Kid Quick. Around the same time Jess was introduced into the DC Multiverse, I myself was going through the process of figuring out my gender identity, and I was starting to realize I might be non-binary. This announcement finally gave me someone to relate to. 

Before Jess, I didn’t know of any non-binary character who wasn’t a shapeshifter, an alien, or a sort of celestial being. That combined with the fact that I didn’t know any non-binary in real life made it hard to understand my own identity, but then Flash came to save the day. The best part is that Jess’ personality isn’t based around them being non-binary, they are funny, quippy, relaxed, and a bit cocky. Their relationship with princess Andy reflects the sweet side of Jess, and shows how non-binary people can have healthy and happy relationships, an idea that I personally have struggled with. 

Even though they have been in the public consciousness for just a short time, Jess Chambers has quickly (pun intended) become a beloved character. They are a great symbol of how non-binary people really do exist and that we are human too. For non-binary folks like myself, Jess gives us an opportunity to see ourselves in the world of heroes. If you are non-binary and haven’t read any of Jess’ stories, I promise you will find a great character to relate to- and even if you’re not enby, you should check them out, I promise they won’t disappoint you.

Recommended reading: 

  • DC’s Very Merry Multiverse, “To Stop the Star-Conqueress” (2020) – By Ivan Cohen and Eleanora Carlini
  • Future State: Justice League (2021) – By Ram V, Joshua Williamson, Robson Rocha and Marcio Takara
  • DC Pride, “Clothes Makeup Gift” (2021) – By Danny Lore and Lisa Sterle
Categories
Comics

Fun-Size Roundtable: Everfrost #1

GateCrashers HQ:

       We’ve made an incredible find in the ice north of Ward Precinct close to where the Ennio’s skull is located. I was shocked at how well preserved it is considering the harsh conditions here. It’s an ancient form of serialized, visual story-telling called a comic. I hope you’re sitting down when you read this because it’s not on a datapad; it’s actual paper. Paper! How it wasn’t destroyed by all the Branq in the area remains a mystery.

       This comic is titled Everfrost #1 by Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, and Jim Campbell. It tells the story of Van, a scientist trying to use the offspring of the dead Ennio to find a way off-world, with the help of her companion, Eight. At the same time, there are tales of the troubles between the Warlords of Ward and the Bloom. There’s much more to it and I’m giddy with the possibilities of studying this ancient text.      

In order to ensure speedy results, it was necessary to recruit some members from Project Yeti. This is the team studying the mysterious Pragg and you can read all of the previously published reports here. I have also drafted two recruits from Astounding Tales, Jake and Ray, and you can pick up what they’ve been working on here and see a free preview here. Once assembled, my team was in a position to analyze Everfrost #1 and report back immediately. Below I leave you with my team’s findings.

Katie Liggera


Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Sci-fi genre comics require work. The writer’s work hinges on their responsibility to create a future/dystopia immersive for readers, also providing essential constituents to parse the lore wrapped up in these plots. Illustrators must work to manifest the writers’ script visually, adding layers of tangible details. Everfrost #1 does the work of a sci-fi comic in that the necessary rudimentary elements are present. But the comic overworks itself by stuffing an abundance of information into one single dense issue. As a reader, I felt I was working hard to understand Ryan K. Lindsay’s multi-latticed, in media res storylines. The enormity of ideas percolating, while innovative, felt overwhelming.

Van Louise and Eight’s story should have remained this first issue’s sole focus. Foul-mouthed primate companions always add levity to comics wavering tonally. I wanted to know more about Eight and loved his cheeky dynamic with Van. I primarily found myself invested in Van and her backstory. Masterful flashback sequences enhanced characterization. The close-up focus on only Van’s eyes tearing up immediately following the memory of her family’s deaths was poignant. Sami Kivelä and Lauren Affe’s artistry elevate moments like this grandly.

Lindsay’s prose-style writing is beautiful. The art, lettering, and design of Everfrost #1 all stunningly capture the story’s atmosphere. Hopefully, the scattered plot will find an even ground with further issues. And the more Eight in the comic, the better.

Jodi Odgers


Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

From the first page of Everfrost, the creative bond between artist Sami Kivelä and writer Ryan K. Lindsay is as evident as it has been throughout their numerous previous projects. While Kivelä’s gritty realisation of Lindsay’s intricate visions is a dynamic that I personally relish, it can be occasionally nebulous. There is a lot of information thrust upon the reader, and a host of ideas that will, no doubt, be explored in some way as the series goes on. This makes the issue a very good litmus test – either you will be intrigued by the prospects of escaping a planet by spawning eggs from a decaying dead god, clone children, class war, and crystal beings that have a deeper connection to the universe, or all of this coming at you at once will help you realise that Everfrost just isn’t your cup of branqblood soup.

Ray Griffith


Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Everfrost is a wild Sci-Fi ride with a lot of ideas.

Maybe too many of them.

We’re whisked from one splendid visual to the next with wicked abandon – characters are introduced at a breakneck speed, often with dialogue that strains the word balloons as it struggles to provide context. Flying dragon creatures and slow-witted ice giants provide wonderful flavor, but the plot has a lot of threads that don’t come together in this first issue – the initial conceit, that scientist Van Louise needs to use the corpse of an eldritch abomination to gestate a way off world, is put to the side as she and her primate companion investigate mysterious miniature clones – and that’s before the android spider woman. If the threads laid down in Issue one come together, it could be amazing, but I can’t lie, without further context it’s hard to say if this is the beginning of brilliance or just a mess.

Jake Cohen


Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

The art in Everfrost is fantastic. The last page of the comic is a gorgeous splash page. Everfrost has great character designs that are both creative and communicate information about the characters. I particularly enjoyed a creepy antagonist that becomes a cyborg due to a beheading. This may remind X-Men fans of The X-Tinction Agenda’s villain Cameron Hodge.

The art design and the textures of the technology are creative and interesting, yet familiar enough to let you know what genre the story is taking place in. The art is terrific and the dialogue and narration was serviceable, but unfortunately, I never felt that they were in service of each other. Jim Campbell did a nice job conveying the volume of speech with how bold or light the lettering was. 

Everfrost is a genre piece. It’s mostly sci-fi and space opera with some splashes of fantasy like a battle with dragons, axes, and robot drones. In the tradition of the space opera genre the protagonist of Everfrost has a cool animal/alien sidekick, a monkey with a very long prehensile tail.

The dialogue and narration are sometimes clunky and a lot of the world building is provided through exposition. The exposition dumps and world building don’t add much context to the story. The narrative felt a bit like when someone pitches a story, but they spend most of the time explaining lore and world building before telling you the plot or most importantly, what the story is about.

While having its flaws, Everfrost does transport the reader to an intriguing universe that I would be interested in visiting again.

Rob M. McDonald


Everfrost #1. Credit: Ryan K. Lindsay, Sami Kivelä, Lauren Affe, Jim Campbell

Everfrost is a very good looking puddle: it covers a lot but not in any amount of depth. It is what I imagine the inside of JJ Abrams’ brain looks like. Zingers! Dead Gods! Environmental catastrophe! Robots! Talking Monkey! Dragons?

There is a very contagious disease amongst indie comics at the minute: an inability to tell a story across a single issue. I can’t imagine this will tell a story over two or three issues, either. It wants you to buy in and trust the creators over the long term that you are jumping into an ocean and not about to break your ankles. It may well be the case. This issue just gave me a headache. The dialogue is clunky at best and the narrative jumps so far without telling us anything really. Just slow down.

Please.