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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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GCPride: Larry Trainor

By Gabrielle Cazeaux 

Larry Trainor was a pilot for the US air force during the 50s. He had a wife, two children, and a reputation that would proceed him for decades. He was the type of person that could appear in a commercial for a real estate company and wouldn’t even need a script. Except, he always had a script of his own making, right under his sleeve. When he went to sleep with his wife, at a bar with his colleagues, or even when he looked in the mirror. And if anyone ever knew that, it would be the end of the world for him. And that’s because Larry Trainor was never that person. As much as he loved his wife and his children, he didn’t love her the same way he loved John Bowers, his mechanic in the Air Force. And even when the two of them were together, hiding in the back of a truck at the side of a railroad, a part of him was somewhere else, never where he really wanted to be. 

But both the life he manufactured and the life he hid were taken away from him. Beyond the stratosphere, where his problems almost couldn’t reach him, he made contact with a being of pure energy that was permanently fused with his body. The airplane stopped working, and Larry fell unconscious. He woke up already on the ground, completely burned, but somewhat alive. He never aged a day thanks to the radiation from the negative spirit that lived inside him, but the world around him kept spinning. His wife knew he didn’t love her and couldn’t be with him anymore, his children grew up and Larry realized that he couldn’t give John the life he wanted, no matter how much he also wanted it. Eventually, he found a new home, and people that went through similar things as him. He was given shelter by Niles Caulder, and he lived in his mansion with Rita, Cliff, and Jane. But he never let himself get close to them enough, in fear of what might happen to them if he did. 

So, what more to life than pain is there? When you’re constantly hurting because of past mistakes and things you had no control over? When you think your mere existence is wrong, and living is so hard that you don’t know what to do anymore?

In the case of Larry, he blamed himself for everything that happened to the people close to him even before the accident. John, his wife and children, always got the short end of the stick when being with him, and since he never got any kind of closure, he remained stuck. The position he was in was obviously understandable, after all, he was a gay man in the 50s who was exposed to homophobia since he was a kid. That’s all real and valid, but the pain of those he hurt was also real, and he could barely live with that baggage. And it was only worse after the accident. He couldn’t go to sleep without being afraid, because he dreamed of his loved ones burning in flames because of him. He couldn’t even be near other persons without the bandages that Niles made for him because of the radiation in his body. He was cut off from the world in every sense of it. 

But slowly, he was able to heal at least some parts of him. He bonded with the rest of the people that lived with him. With Rita, he found another person that understood, at least partially, what he went through after the accident, and consequently, before it. With time, he didn’t feel so abnormal anymore. Contrary to what he believed before, there was a place to exist for the people that didn’t fit. 

That only became more obvious when he met Danny the Street. A sentient, genderqueer, teleporting street, that serves as a refuge for the people that society rejected, and are kept alive by their happiness. At a cabaret on Danny, Larry is asked to sing, but he obviously declines. It would be easy to think he did it just because he tends to be negative and pessimistic, but knowing Larry, when he says that he doesn’t sing, there’s fear in his voice. Fear of exposing himself, fear of getting better because in his own mind, he doesn’t deserve it. But because it was needed to help Danny, he goes up to the stage. The spotlight is on him, blinding him for a second. The song starts, with him a little disoriented still. After a brief intro where he adjusts his brain into what he’s doing, he starts singing, and the music moves loudly to the forefront, slowly wrapping everyone around in the same feeling Larry starts feeling; freedom. He calls Maura Lee Karupt, the lead drag queen, to the stage, and the solo becomes a duet, expanding the happiness and pride even more. As the camera turns and this time we are blinded by the spotlight, Larry is no longer in bandages, or burned, but as he was before the accident. Maybe it’s something Danny can do, maybe it’s just a representation of how Larry sees himself at the moment. Now, that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that moment. The people start leaving their seats and dancing all around them until the cabaret is full of the most colourful and cheerful crowd you could imagine. Confetti starts falling, and Larry is immersed in his own freedom, and in happiness for the freedom of others, probably for the first time in his life. 

That is, until everything cuts like the world suddenly stopped. And we’re again with Larry saying he doesn’t sing, but instead of going up to the stage, he leaves the cabaret. While this is a painfully sad scene, it shows us that inside of him there is an urgency for breaking free, getting out of the cage he fell in more than 80 years ago. And he keeps trying to get better.

Thanks to the negative spirit and their developing relationship, he discovers his lover, John, is in his last days of life. So he goes to him, and they meet for the first time since Larry’s accident. John can’t even walk by himself now, and he’s under the care of a nurse that’s also the only relevant person in his life. But he’s not sad, he had a good life, and he’s just glad Larry could go. So they reminisce together, and talk about what happened to them. John says that even though it was hard, he moved on from Larry, and is shocked that after so much time he couldn’t. So Larry, after some thinking, tells him about the negative spirit. How for so much time he didn’t understand them, but he thinks he finally does, and it might be a good thing. As he says that, he finally can really clear his mind of everything, and see the sunset with John, the way they wanted to so many years before. Sadly, when he turned his head, John had already passed away while they were talking. So he gives him a hug, and can finally say a proper goodbye to the love of his life.

While most of what happens to Larry during the show wouldn’t be particularly classified as ‘’Happy’’, we do see him make progress, and I think it’s evidenced more than ever during two conversations with Rita. During the first one, not long after they first met in the 60s, they realize that they may not be so alone anymore, and promise to ‘’Be lost causes together’’. But in the present day, after so much tragedy, when he seems to have finally given up on trying, Rita tells him that same as he did back then with her, she believes in him, and that no cause is totally lost if there’s someone willing to fight for them. Larry just delivers a quiet and weak ‘’Thanks’’ that sounds almost out of courtesy and nothing else, so he leaves while Rita enters her room. But in the midst of walking away, he abruptly turns around and approaches his friend rapidly, wrapping her with a hug that without any words said, gets the message across: After all the pain, there is hope. 

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Male Friendship in Gurren Lagann

Gurren Lagann (aka Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann or TTGL) is an anime series from 2007 about a boy named Simon, his friend Kamina, and their mechs respectively named Lagann and Gurren. It may be relatively short, at one season of 27 episodes, but it has a story that’s constantly moving and delving into new ideas and themes.

It’s a series about willpower, about growing from loss, and about rap-opera fusion. But a particular aspect of the series that I want to focus on is how it treats the relationship between its male leads, Simon and Kamina, one that forms the backbone of the series’ narrative.

The series takes place in a world where most human settlements have moved underground, to the point where most people don’t even believe a surface exists. Simon has one of the most menial jobs in this society; he’s a digger, digging tunnels to locate resources and expand the small settlement where he and Kamina live.

Kamina is, quite honestly, not a great person. He doesn’t listen to authority, he’s misogynistic, and he’s egotistical. He dreams of going to the surface, to see his dad who left him when he was young.

He knows that Simon will surpass him, as a person, as a leader, and as a hero. He’s the first person to see Simon’s true potential, as for the first chunk of the series nobody else really believes in Simon besides Kamina himself.

He also tells Simon that Simon’s drill will pierce the heavens. The drill is a major symbol within the show, as it’s Lagann’s main weapon, and it’s also used as a symbol for Simon’s growth; he will succeed, he will reach for the surface with his drill, and he will bust through it, no matter what stands in his way.

Simon doesn’t really see Kamina’s flaws because of how he idolizes the older boy, and the narrative of TTGL is designed in a way that these flaws never need to be challenged. This is because it’s Simon’s narrative, and Kamina doesn’t really need to develop or grow in order for that narrative to stay intact.

While TTGL is my favourite anime, I think this is one of its major flaws. By interrogating Kamina’s character, it stands to reason that Simon would be shaken to his core. He would have to reconcile the man whom Simon has always trusted with someone who can and has made mistakes and who has hurt those around him.

Maybe, in the face of that pain, Simon would have to define who he wishes to be outside of Kamina’s influence.

The path that the anime does eventually go down allows Simon to define himself separately from Kamina, as he grows and is influenced by others around him besides Kamina. But that core aspect of Kamina that Simon bases himself upon stays constant throughout pretty much the entire series, and Simon continues to style himself to look like Kamina as well.

Not only does the series not question Kamina, it actually valorizes him, in a way. At one point, we see an alternate version of Kamina who’s been beaten down and who submits when put under any pressure. This is shown as a complete defeat, as a failure, and it’s legitimately one of the most emotional moments in the series. By contrast, the Kamina that we’ve grown used to seems like the greatest person in the world.

It’s the moment where Simon realizes what he’s fighting for, and why it’s so important; resistance, willpower, and the desire for change. What’s always surprised me with this segment is that it is the villains of the series who show Simon this alternate version of Kamina and therefore, again, this would be a perfect time to challenge Simon’s assumption of Kamina’s righteousness. Instead, this vision ends up provoking Simon into trying to resist even farther, having the opposite of the intended effect.

Maybe there wasn’t enough time to explore it all, or the writers just weren’t interested. But by leaving these parts of Kamina’s personality unchallenged throughout the run of the show, making Kamina seem like a flawless role model. Therefore, even if unintentional, the anime helps to perpetuate toxic masculinity.

Credit: Gianax

While I wouldn’t quite call myself a huge fan of shonen, I’ve seen a few and know people who watch and read a ton of the genre. For those not familiar with the term, shonen refers to a genre of manga aimed towards teenage boys that usually features action and fighting of some sort, usually in some sort of fantastical setting.

Shonen is a genre from which TTGL draws heavily, and it is one that’s tended to struggle with toxic masculinity. After all, in a genre that tends to be about being physically strong, that can become all that the characters focus on, and the centre of all the conflicts. And in a genre aimed towards teenage boys, it’s often teenage and young adult male characters who take the starring roles, to the detriment of shonen’s female characters.

With regards to TTGL, an escapist anime about being the best person that one can be and striving to accomplish one’s goals ends up being dragged down by this association with these misogynist concepts. This also ties into another major critique of the series, its gratuitous fanservice. One of the two female leads is Yoko, a fourteen-year-old girl, and well…

Credit: Gianax

You see the problem.

I love TTGL; its characters, its themes, and its mech fights. But by missing the mark on acknowledging the harmful aspects of Kamina’s character, it really makes it hard to recommend without a disclaimer. TTGL was really formative to me, and it helped me believe that I could really make a difference during my teenage years when I most needed that message. In many ways, the show mirrors Kamina himself.

It has big dreams, it pushes itself to always surpass expectations, and it can serve as an inspiration to those who need it. But, at the same time, it isn’t for everyone. Even as it tries to acknowledge its message as universal, it has its flaws that need to be addressed too.

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Doctor Who: A Beginner’s Guide to Time Travel Pt. 3

We’re back! For you, it’s been 7 days, for Ethan and Justin, a mere few seconds. That’s the beauty of time travel. We hope you enjoyed last week’s recommendations. This week we’ll be closing out our beginner’s guide to Doctor Who by giving you a look at adventures from Doctors 9 through 13. These stories will encompass what is considered the modern era of the show. After a hiatus of 16 years, barring one exception as mentioned last week, the show returned in 2005 and has since taken the world by storm.

We’ll give you two stories from each Doctor’s era. One chosen by Ethan, one by Justin. These will be a look at the kind of stories that encompass the era they’re from. We want to give you a distilled experience of what each Doctor is like so you can decide what best fits your tastes. So here we go. Let’s take a trip into the Vortex!

The 9th Doctor – Christopher Eccelston (2005)

“Well, you can stay there if you want. But right now, there’s this plasma storm brewing in the Horsehead Nebula. Fires are burning ten million miles wide. I could fly the TARDIS right into the heart of it, then ride the shock wave all the way out, hurtle right across the sky and end up… anywhere. Your choice.” – The 9th Doctor (World War Three)

  • Dalek (Ethan’s Pick) – When Doctor Who returned in 2005, showrunner Russel T. Davies spent the first 5 episodes establishing the characters, both Christopher Eccelston’s war-ravaged Doctor, and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. But then, in the sixth episode, Davies, and scriptwriter Robert Shearman, introduced a whole new generation to the Doctor’s greatest enemies, the Daleks. What makes this episode so effective in bringing the terror of the Daleks to the screen is that there’s just one, just one Dalek, in an underground bunker, rampaging through dozens of helpless people. We also get an incredible scene between the Doctor and this lone Dalek in which he unleashes a diatribe of built-up rage that shows just how well-cast Eccelston was as the Lonely God.
  • The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (Justin’s Pick) – When people tell you that Steven Moffat is a big deal, this episode is usually the reason why. Tracking a mysterious object through the vacuum of space, the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler are transported to London at the height of the Blitz. But the city is under siege by more than just bombs as a creepy “gas mask plague” has swept through the war wards and bombed-out neighborhoods, freezing the populace in terror. While plenty creepy and packed with scares, this two-parter also displays Moffat’s cunning wordplay, dynamic characters (like Captain Jack Harkness, making his debut here), and tremendous episode hooks positioning it as the first real “standout” episode of the reborn franchise. Just this once, dear readers, everybody lived and it’s just as powerful today as it was then.

The 10th Doctor – David Tennant (2005-2010)

“I’m the Doctor. I’m a Time Lord. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I’m 903 years old, and I’m the man who’s gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below.” – The 10th Doctor (Voyage of the Damned)

  • The Girl in the Fireplace (Ethan’s Pick) – Possibly the most emotional episode in the show’s history. We see David Tennant’s 10th Doctor at his most romantic, before being utterly devastated come episode’s end. A ship in the 51st Century lies deserted, only its robotic attendants remain. They believe that to repair the ship, a brain must be acquired. To achieve this, they open a window into the past, specifically the life of one Madame de Pompadour. The Doctor must save her. From here, the episode only gets better. To get the full effect of the episode’s magic, it must be experienced. Prepare to cry.
  • Human Nature/The Family of Blood (Justin’s Pick) – Though the Doctor loves humans, he rarely gets a chance to live as one. That was until Paul Cornell’s seminal Seventh Doctor novel Human Nature, which he later adapted into one of the best episodes of David Tennant’s tenure. Doggedly pursued by an interstellar blood cult, the Doctor and Martha Jones (a tremendously underrated modern companion) are forced to go “undercover” in pre-WWI England, moonlighting as staff of a boy’s school. For Martha, that means just getting a new job, but for the Doctor, that means changing everything about himself. Down to his very DNA. What follows is an emotionally charged, immensely creepy, and thunderously sad exploration of the Doctor as a heroic archetype and the chaos that touches the towns and peoples he comes into contact with. Basically, you come for the bloodthirsty scarecrows, but you stay for the bravura performances of Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and guest star Jessica Hynes (she of Spaced fame).

The 11th Doctor – Matt Smith (2010-2013)

“There’s something you better understand about me, ‘cause it’s important and one day your life may depend on it. I am definitely a madman in a box.” – The 11th Doctor (The Eleventh Hour)

  • The Doctor’s Wife (Justin’s Pick) – The Doctor has often claimed that the TARDIS was alive, but what happens when that becomes explicit? One of the best episodes of the Matt Smith era that’s what. Scripted by British Invasion icon Neil Gaiman and containing one of the most skin-crawling performances from Micheal Sheen, The Doctor’s Wife just feels instantly special. A message from a long-assumed-dead Time Lord brings the Eleventh Doctor, Amy, and Rory outside of normal space to a junk planet called House, filled to bursting with the wreckage of ships past. But House carries with it the power to steal the TARDIS’ soul, transporting it from its shell into the patchwork body of a woman who lives on the planet, Astrid (an angelic Suranne Jones). From there the Doctor and his companions must learn to trust this woman while learning the true meaning of “being bigger on the inside”. A towering achievement for the show as it starts to hit its peak of popularity, on both sides of the ocean.
  • The God Complex (Ethan’s Pick) – A seemingly endless 80’s hotel. Groups of people plucked from space and time. Every room is filled with a person’s fear. One of those rooms is yours. If you find it, you will praise Him. if you praise Him, you will die. This is what the Doctor, Amy, and Rory find when the TARDIS brings them to the hotel. Throughout the history of the show, there have been many so-called “almost-companions”, those characters who the Doctor takes a shine to, who he offers the chance to travel with him, but for one reason or another, they don’t. This episode contains the best of these “almost-companions” in Rita. She’s delightful and you’ll love her. Oh, and the episode also contains perhaps the best examination of faith the show has ever done.

The 12th Doctor – Peter Capaldi (2013-2017)

“Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone – or because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone… I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent! And above all it’s kind! It’s just that. Just kind.” – The 12th Doctor (The Doctor Falls)

  • Listen (Justin’s Pick) – Arguably the Rosetta Stone of Peter Capaldi’s tersely entertaining Twelfth Doctor. Newly regenerated and left to his own devices in the TARDIS, the Doctor has a theory. That a set of creatures can be so silent, so imperceptible by other creatures, that they can evolve to have flawless camouflage, blending into the background of a thousand worlds. And what would they do with their evolutionary superiority? LISTEN, naturally. Pulling the thread from 80s Leeds to ancient Gallifrey, the Doctor and Clara discover that “fear is a superpower” and set up one of this era’s most affecting leitmotifs. One that stretches all the way into both Clara Oswald’s and the 12th Doctor’s final moments.
  • Under the Lake / Before the Flood (Ethan’s Pick) – The Doctor and Clara arrive at a deserted base. There they discover strange goings-on and a terrified crew. This is the premise for numerous “Base Under Siege” episodes of Doctor Who. A lot of the episodes we’ve recommended fit into this sub-genre, but they all had other qualities that made them perfect starting points. But what makes this two-parter incredible is it is the perfect distillation of the “Base Under Siege” story. The scares are high. The supporting cast is delightful. It does something unique with the structure of the show. And you get wonderful performances from both Peter Capaldi’s very Scottish Doctor and the ever incredible Jenna Coleman’s Clara. My personal favorite TARDIS team, and one of my favorite episodes ever.

The 13th Doctor – Jodie Whittaker (2017-Present)

“You want the whole universe. Someone who has seen it all, and that’s me. I’ve lived longer, seen more, loved more, and lost more. I can share it all with you, anything you want to know about what you never had.” – The 13th Doctor (It Takes You Away)

  • The Woman Who Fell to Earth (Ethan’s Pick) – We’ve strived throughout these beginner’s guides to avoid regeneration stories as best as possible, but this is, on top of being an excellent story, the cleanest fresh start the show has had since it was brought back in 2005. Jodie Whittaker takes over the role of the Doctor, becoming the first woman to play the part, and she is incredible right out of the gate, nailing everything the Doctor should be, no matter what you may hear from idiots on the internet. We’re also introduced to the Doc’s new companions. Ryan and Yaz are fun and well-rounded characters, but you will fall in love with Bradley Walsh’s Graham, the fourth person in this TARDIS quartet. Just wonderful stuff.
  • Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror (Justin’s Pick) – Though it doesn’t have quite the personal resonance of Jodie Whittaker’s first “historical” episode Rosa, the Fam’s later dip into history is still one for the record books. Materializing in 1903, the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions connect with the great inventor (played with an understated grace by Goran Višnjić) after rescuing him from stranded alien spider-monsters looking to return to their home planet. Ya know, that old chestnut. My attempt at levity aside, this episode really makes wonderful use of both it’s time period and historical guest star, providing yet another high class drama that only Doctor Who could really provide.

And that’s that! We hope you’ve enjoyed our three-part beginner’s guide to the greatest show on TV. We’ll back in the future with more recommendations from the world of Doctor Who. Or maybe we’ve already given those recommendations. Time travel, it;s a tricky business to get right…

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RefleXions On The New ColleXion

Every once in a while, there is something wonderful you see on twitter. Sounds crazy I know, but hear me out. There is this neat society of (at least moderately) like-minded individuals, known as X-twitter. What makes you a part of X-twitter, you may wonder. Tweet about the X-Men even one time and you’re already there, that’s all it takes. There are so many critics, artists, and creatives of all sorts throughout this place. Sometimes, parts of the community even come together and make something that is truly special. This is one of those times.

Scott Modrzynski organized this behemoth, gathering over thirty different artists from the community, to illustrate double-sided X-Men cards, showcasing the duality of the characters. It’s a huge undertaking and really highlights how talented this community is. Scott was kind enough to share some of his time and answer some questions about the process.

So, how does such a thing come about? I know you did the first ColleXion, but how did you broach the idea of a follow-up to the artists?

Honestly, the follow-up was way easier. Most of the artists from Series 1 were more than willing to jump back in a second time, and with proof of concept backing me up, it was a lot easier to snag new talent. No longer was this a pie in the sky, shady deal. It was real with tangible results.

The results do certainly speak for themselves. As far as new artists go, were there any that you had in mind already whose work you wanted to see in the Collexion? Or did you let artists approach you?

A little bit of both. Some artists came to me after seeing the first series. Some, I accidentally found through my usual travels on the internet. In both cases, I jotted down their contact information, so if and when the time came, I’d have them ready. 

In a few cases, I specifically wanted to find an art style – Monika Norcross-Cerminara’s beautiful jazz age children’s book illustrations come to mind – and found the artist through that reverse search.

You ended up with an incredible slew of artists with varied styles, so clearly your methods worked out. How were the characters chosen for each artist? Did everyone get their choice?

I told Dave Shevlin – editor of https://comfortfoodcomics.com/ and all-around good dude – my idea for reversible cards featuring light and dark aspects of the characters, and together, we came up with an initial list of about 40-50 for artists to choose from, with the caveat that each artist had to render both versions. (So in the end, this set has 158 illustrations!) Some artists, like Kevin Newburn and Quinn Hesters, ran their own ideas by me, and in most cases, I loved them. It’s great when other people get what you’re trying to do, and can be additive to the process.

Dave(Editor’s note: famously of Comfort Food Comics, whom we love at GC) is a great guy so I love to hear that. Could you see a similar sort of project happening with another IP? Or do you think the attachment to X-Men is the only thing strong enough to pull everyone together?

Definitely room for any number of things. The Ninja Turtles are probably the one thing IP that rivals my love and general knowledge of X-Men, but I’d throw any “boy property” that was big in the 80s (He-Man, GI Joe, Transformers, ThunderCats) into the mix. 

Dave and I joked about a series that focused exclusively on C-list Spider-Man villains. 

I love the idea of keeping this going, maybe once a year, and getting to contribute a little to society by donating the proceeds to charity. But I also want to find a way to do this to get the artists paid and be free and clear of any entanglements fan art presents. I have a couple ideas on that front, too. Right now I’m focused on cutting, scoring, and folding boxes to ship out the cards in my home office.

I think you and Dave might be onto something there. I know I would love to see this sort of project revisited annually with different ideas mixed in. I wish you the best of luck with figuring out how to get everyone paid, they surely deserve it. Are there any final thoughts you’d like readers to know about the new ColleXion?

This was always about art and different art styles. I really want people to check out the work of these awesome creators. Some of them (Adam Reck, Leigh Wortley and Marcelo Biott come to mind) have webcomics you can check out for the low cost of NOTHING. 

A number of the crew have terrific online shops with tees (Beefcake Boss), or cool swag like patches, stickers and buttons (Valentine Smith, Elisa Barety), and most post their incredible work all over the web. I’ve tried to make it easier to find them by linking to their social channels in the free, downloadable, interactive PDF.

We would like to thank Scott for his time and insight into the process behind this project. You can check out the PDF that was mentioned right here. It’s incredibly handy and brings you right to the accounts of all the artists involved.

Consider throwing some money at these folks, whose social media accounts are also all linked below, as well as a select portion of their cards(mostly because I think the PDF is awesome and you should really look at that whole thing).

Contributors to The ColleXion: RefleXions are: Brendan Albetski, Elisa Barety, Ryan Barr, BeefcakeBoss, Marcelo Biott, Emma Burges, Karen Charm, Bradley Clayton, Josh Cornillon, Brandon Deichler, Elliot Dickson, Andrew Drilon, Roberto Duque, Chris Enterline, Quinn Hesters, B Hughes, Dave Hulteen Jr, Kenneth Laster, Scott Modrzynski, Joshua Nelson, Kevin Newburn, Monika Norcross-Cerminara, Lee Nycz, Michael O’Shields, Michael Pope, David Powell, Adam Reck, Mike Segawa, Dave Shevlin, Heri Shinato, Jean Sinclair, Valentine Smith, Jeff Somogyi, Matt Speroni, Amanda Stewart, Taylor, Jeremy Thew, Erle Tompkins, Sergio Torres, Leigh Wortley

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Webtoons: Why They’re Worth Reading

Introduction

While direct market comics, such as those that release from the Big Two publishers DC and Marvel, are dear to my heart, I can’t deny that they tend to be quite limited in scope and readership. As a whole, a large chunk of that market is composed of superhero series. Even for other series, most of their readership will be composed of superhero fans due to the simple fact that those are the ones who pay attention to direct market books.

One of the main alternatives to direct market series is webcomics. Over the past few years, Webtoon (https://www.webtoons.com/en/) has been a platform that has cultivated a large slate of books of diverse genres and geared towards diverse interests. While I had read the odd series off of Webtoon previously, in the past couple of months I’ve really made an effort to get to know many of the most popular series and the platform as a whole.

Here’s what I found.

How does Webtoon work?

Series on Webtoon tend to release once a week, though some series, especially those that have been translated from other languages (usually Korean), can release more often. The most frequently-releasing series is Denma, releasing five times a week.

While the majority of the series being discussed in this article are Webtoon Originals, which are series edited by Webtoon itself whose creators are directly paid by the company, there is also a self-publishing section of the site called Webtoon Canvas. These series are not paid for or endorsed by Webtoon itself; however, many Originals started out as Canvas series which were then licensed by Webtoon due to their popularity.

Webtoon series can be read on either an app, available on both iOS and Android, or in a web browser. Individual episodes take around half as long as the average standard comic issue to read, and are released at approximately 9PM Eastern every night. While series have specific dates listed on which they release, the episodes actually release the night before. So, for example, if a series is listed as releasing on Sunday it will release on Saturday night in North America.

Most Webtoon series are released in seasons, between which the creator will go on hiatus. These seasons can last as long as the creator wishes them to, with some lasting only a dozen episodes while others can be hundreds of episodes long.

All Webtoon series are free to read. However, there are paid options. For the currently releasing series, you can pay using Coins (an in-app currency) to use a Fast Pass. This lets you read three to seven episodes beyond what is posted for free. Some completed series also use a system called Daily Pass, in which only one episode can be unlocked to be read every 24 hours unless you, again, pay using Coins. It’s worth noting that neither Fast Pass nor Daily Pass works on browser; in order to even read the daily episodes for Daily Pass, you must be using the app.

Instead of using the standard proportions of a physical page, a Webtoon episode uses an infinite canvas; it extends for as long as the creator requires vertically, with no breaks in the artwork. This format is optimized for scrolling on a smartphone and allows episodes to be quite short or long, with no real standard size.

Most Webtoon series also have thriving communities throughout their comment sections. The more popular series get thousands of comments per episode and the top three comments as rated by users gain a Top Comment marker. These comments are listed first no matter how the comments section is sorted.

As of April 2020, Webtoon had 15 million global daily readers. Of this audience, 75% is under the age of 24 and 64% of it is female. This demographic split is quite different from that of the direct market, which skews older and towards male readers. This shows in the type of series that are most popular; as of this writing, four out of the ten most popular Webtoons are romance series, a genre that for the most part died out in the Western comics tradition back in the Silver Age, over fifty years ago.

Webtoon is also well-known for its LGBTQ+ content. While most series translated from Korean will not feature much LGBTQ+ representation, those originally written in English will usually feature at least one or two LGBTQ+ characters. There are also a few series that go above and beyond with their representation, showing thoughtful portrayals of characters of all sexualities and genders. It’s a good platform if you want to seek out LGBTQ+ series.

Which Webtoons do you recommend?

Mage & Demon Queen

Creator: Color_LES

Genre: Comedy

Number of Episodes: 127

Current Status: Hiatus

Summary: A young mage named Malori growing up in a fantasy setting is in love with the Demon Queen Velverosa and wants to marry her instead of killing her, as she has been trained to do.

Why You Should Read It: It’s legitimately both funny and heartfelt. As Velverosa learns to overcome her prejudices and Malori tries to protect her from the humans trying to kill her, they both constantly grow and change in realistic and interesting ways. It may exaggerate its characters for comedic purposes, but when it does it’s always grounded in the characters’ very real emotions.

Lavender Jack

Creator: Dan Schkade

Genre: Superhero

Number of Episodes: 92

Current Status: Hiatus

Summary: In the early 1900s, Gallery City is faced with a vigilante dressed all in purple who targets the upper class of the city. Two detectives must team up to attempt to bring Lavender Jack to justice, regardless of their own feelings about the vigilante.

Why You Should Read It: It has a great cast of characters who each feel like natural fits into the world of Gallery City. As this fictional city has no discrimination based upon gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender orientation, there’s a ton of LGBTQ+ representation of all types, too. The status quo shifts multiple times a season, creating a story that always feels like it has a sense of momentum.

Star Children

Creator: Ro-taniah

Genre: Sci-fi

Number of Episodes: 96

Current Status: Ongoing

Summary: Stars are sentient, humanoid creatures living inside of the balls of gas we see in space. One of them, Txeru, crashes on Earth and is found by a young woman named Maria. The series chronicles the adventures of these two and their friends.

Why You Should Read It: Alright, I’m just going to say it: I’m a sucker for this art. It uses colour and line in such a unique fashion that I can’t stop looking at it. It’s gorgeous, and it’s unbelievable that this Canvas series hasn’t been brought over to Originals yet. This series isn’t afraid to go small, either. That may be unexpected for a series about sentient stars, but most of the series takes place within one house and the town around it, allowing for the series to spend the required time to develop its characters’ relationships.

Spirit Fingers

Creator: han kyoung chal

Genre: Drama

Number of Episodes: 167

Current Status: Complete

Summary: A shy and insecure girl named Amy Song ends up joining a drawing club called Spirit Fingers, in which she finds love, friendship, and confidence.

Why You Should Read It: It has a ton of style and confidence in its craft. Its creator clearly loves to draw just as much as their characters, and it shows. It’s also unapologetically earnest, and it genuinely feels great to see Amy grow and come to terms with herself over the course of the series. Plus the other members of Spirit Fingers could each have easily carried their own series; each has their own well-realized lives.

Freaking Romance

Creator: Snailords

Genre: Romance

Number of Episodes: 83

Current Status: Complete

Summary: Zylith moves into an apartment that seems to have an apparition of a young man that only she can see and interact with. As she and her best friend start to investigate, she starts to fall for the man.

Why You Should Read It: Each of its three leads are grounded enough that even when this series leaps into the supernatural, it’s easy to follow. From a creator who has admitted to disliking romance as a genre, this is a master class in building investment into the relationships between its main characters.

Cursed Princess Club

Creator: LambCat

Genre: Comedy

Number of Episodes: 104

Current Status: Ongoing

Summary: The three princes of the Plaid Kingdom are set to marry the three princesses of the Pastel Kingdom. However, the youngest princess of the Pastel Kingdom, Gwen, is rejected by her prince due to her appearance. Devastated, she runs into the forest where she meets a group of princesses who help her regain her confidence.

Why You Should Read It: It walks a delicate line by making even the worst characters have understandable motivations behind their actions. It isn’t afraid to delve into difficult topics and knows when to pull back on its comedy in order to treat them with the severity they deserve. That being said, this is a funny series that plays on misunderstandings between characters to mine jokes to their fullest potential. That one series can do both is a great accomplishment.

Conclusion

I’ve really enjoyed my time reading Webtoon series, and there are many more series that I wish I could cover in this article. No matter your preferences, there will be a Webtoon series for you. I almost never see Webtoon discussion in comics spaces, and I think that’s a shame because, despite the differences between the two, there’s a lot of overlap between what makes a great comic series and what makes a great Webtoon series.

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GC52: The News on Future State Week 6

With so much going on in the world today, only one broadcast network can bring YOU the news that YOU want. Coming to you LIVE from the Gotham City GC52 recording studio, The GC52 Week 6 Future State Report!

Words in italics signify actions or descriptions.

(Spoilers for Week 6 of DC Comics Future State)

Lights up on another week of Earth-Prime’s favorite News Broadcast GC52. When the lights come on, the lead anchor Dan McMahon is on the phone.

Yeah, Cole, I’m not mad you didn’t ask me to get a beer with you. I’m just disappointed that you didn’t even call. Wait, you helped Huntress do… what? And there was a submarine? Okay, I’ll call you back but just make sure that thing gets deliev-

With a bright smile, the audience sees the phone slip from Dan’s face and into his pocket as he opens his arms as if welcoming the audience.

Another sunshiny day on Earth Prime, am I right? Sorry I have been distracted these past few weeks viewers. I promise that things will get better. Speaking of better, seems like Jake has made another speedy recovery. Let’s throw it over to him to start the broadcast.

The broadcast switches over to another camera, the camera focuses on a spinning cane only to pan up to the face of the audience’s favorite healthy handsome devil, with clear burn marks from the coffee incident. He plants the cane on the ground with his right hand while holding the microphone with his left.

Howdy folks! Superman was going to face off with Solaris and Wonder Woman with Kuat, the Sun God, but they did the ol’ switcheroo and took on the others opponents, and lemme tell ya, it never gets old!  Then we have word from the…

The audience can see him put his hand to his earpiece. A look of shock washes over his face but contiunes.

We have news from the ruins of Gotham City…

Jerry rushes to stop him from uttering that the Magistrate failed to defend Gotham, but is pushed back by Jake’s cane. 

The Teen Titans have sealed away the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and that’s with a “y” no New God shenanigans here. The once-great evil has been removed from the world at the site of the once-great Magistrate group…

As he is about to begin an anti-Magistrate speech, the Magistrate appointed GC52 Peacekeepers tackle the reporter before he can go rogue, as he is brought to the ground he tries to get in one last statement.

RED X IS… OOF!

The broadcast cuts to a commercial for Big Belly Burger’s Future State Cut Beef Tenderloin Burger. When the program returns, Jerry can be seen walking away from the main news desk as Dan speaks.

People sure do love those cuts, don’t they? Onto another story, it turns out the Justice League recently had been replaced by a group of White Martians. I will admit though that the gold Hall of Justice was cool even if it was some sort of death trap. But it seems like the League is closer than ever! We have even gotten reports that they have been seen having dinner together. Seems like a good sign of a brighter tomorrow! Now, let’s throw it over to Ethan to see what’s going on outside of the norm!

The camera cuts to Ethan, who is absent-mindedly taking a sip of something from his glass. Jerry the intern calls out that he’s on air. The reporter spits his drink, rushing to get his words out.

Oh hey folks, um, where was I? That’s right! The explosion on the moon. Don’t worry everyone, it’s all under control now, nothing to worry about. But a couple of days ago? We’d have been in trouble. Reports came in from every space agency across the planet, stating that all their systems had recorded a massive explosion on the surface of the moon, near to the encampment, city-place Superwoman built.

It appears this explosion was caused by some sort of lizard, snake, slithery-thing. I don’t know what exactly, all I know is it creeps the hell out of me. Whatever happened up there from the is unclear, though it seems Superwoman managed to beat them as communications have been received from those living on the Moon stating the crisis has passed, and rebuilding is underway.

The reporter, clearly spurred on, half from the drink, half from his not messing-up last week, is having a much better time than normal. Though no reporting on events within Gotham is sure to be helping out with that.

In other news, it seems we no longer have to worry about the threat of the wizard Merlin. Info received from on the ground sources states that a battle between multiple magic-wielding heroes, sorry, vigilantes, and the forces of Merlin, including the return of that rhyming bastard, Etrigan. The battle drew to a close and while our sources aren’t exactly sure what happened, it seems Merlin withdrew from the fight after taking Doctor Fate hostage.

All we know for sure is that the fighting is over and we don’t have to worry about being destroyed in a massive magical battle anymore, right Jerry? What do you mean it could still happen? Well, #!?@, I was looking forward to a trip to Vegas now this was all cleared out, but if that’s the case, nevermind.

Anyways, back to you Dan!

The reporter drains the last of their drink and saunters off-camera before it’s even cut away from him.

Now we bring you another…riveting…report from Reporter Iddy.

If the audience is watching Dan’s face, it’s clear that he could not be rolling his eyes harder. One Bartholemew T. Iddy enters the scene, running his fingers through his slicked-back hair, full of himself and seemingly maintaining his composure, recovered from last week’s debacle.

Hello there, Gotham! Back for more this week on the new Batman on the scene! Wait-I’m sorry? There…there are two of them, you say? So they’re not the same person…I see…

He sighs, not knowing what to make of ANY of this anymore. But he presses on with his report.

Let’s take a look at some footage of the scene in progress, and see what we can make of this bat-&%*$ nonsense.

Huh. Pretty cool-looking suit when you look at it like-uh, I mean, these damned masks are going to get people killed! Gotham is no longer a place for vigilantism and the Magistrate is surely on the path to catching the Batman. Or, one of them, at least. Probably.

Moving on! Speaking of the Bat, one of his brats thought to be dead resurfaced this week…I guess! What even are rules anymore? Honestly no, this isn’t even the first time this has happened with one of his boy wonders. How can I still be surprised at this point? Oh right, because he also has SUPER STRENGTH NOW?! Well, this I need to see for myself. Jerry! Do we have any footage? Roll it!

The footage rolls and shows Tim Drake decimating a group of robots from the Magistrate’s ranks. You can see how awestruck Barty is for but a moment when the camera lands back on his face, the audience can hear an audible gulp.

Anyway, yeah, this &$*# doesn’t seem to be relenting anytime soon, so hey check back next week, if we’ve all managed to still somehow survive!

He slaps his hands down on the desk and yells.

Back to you, Dan!

When the camera pans back to Dan, we see a smile unlike any before. It’s clear it’s one coming from a place of pure joy.

That brings us to the end of our report this week. Dear viewers, I want to remind you that the night is darkest right before the dawn. Tune in next week, it’s going to be a broadcast you will NEVER forget. Until then, stay safe and good luck.

Books covered this week:

  • Justice League: Future State #2 by Joshua Williamson, Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, Romulo Fajardo Jr, and Tom Napolitano.
  • Superman/Wonder Woman: The Planet’s Finest #2 by Dan Watters, Leila del Duca, Nick Filardi, and Tom Napolitano.
  • Teen Titans: Future State #2 by Tim Sheridan, Rafa Sandoval, Júlio Ferreira, Alejandro Sánchez, and Rob Leigh.
  • Grifter: No Future Past #2 by Matthew Rosenberg, Carmine di Giandomenico, Antonio Fabela, and AndWorld Design.
  • Justice League Dark: Prophéties #2 by Ram V, Marcio Takara, Marcelo Maiolo, and Rob Leigh.
  • Kara Zor-El, Superwoman #2 by Marguerite Bennett, Marguerite Sauvage, and Wes Abbott.
  • Dark Detective: Future State #2 by Mariko Tamaki, Dan Mora, Jordie Bellaire, and Aditya Bidikar.
  • Robin Eternal #2 by Meghan Fitzmartin, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Adriano Lucas, and Pat Brosseau.
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On Resurrecting a God with Playwright Mark Griffiths

A classic Doctor Who baddie gains a whole new life in Cutaway Comics’ Omega: Vengeance.

Brought to you by the same “splinter universe” publisher that gave us the Lytton solo series and the critically acclaimed play We Apologize for the Inconvenience and armed with “showrunner” Eric Seward (The Visitation, Remembrance of the Daleks, and a bunch more), Omega: Vengeance looks to tell an “untold tale” about one the Doctor’s most deadly, and most powerful, enemies. 

The planet Minyos is in chaos. The population is in open revolt against their pantheon of alien rulers, a revolt further stoked by Omega even from behind the cosmic bars of his black hole prison. But when a rogue member of the Minyos royal family stands up to the revolt and the caged god, the planet is poised on a knife-edge between violence and reason. With nothing holding it together but the humanoid will to survive.

The GateCrashers recently got a chance to sit down with the writer of Omega: Vengeance, playwright Mark Griffiths, to talk about the genesis of the project and how this “side-story” fits into the overall tapestry of Doctor Who while standing on its own as a complete story. Join us as we wreak cosmic vengeance with one of the Doctor’s most formidable foes.

GateCrashers: How were you brought on to the project?

Mark Griffiths: Gareth Kavanagh the publisher of Cutaway Comics is also the producer of my stage play about Douglas Adams, WE APOLOGISE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE. With the onset of the pandemic, our theatrical plans were put on hold and it seemed a good opportunity to concentrate on print media.

GC: What was your experience with Doctor Who, and more specifically Omega beforehand?

MG: I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since I was very young. The earliest season I remember watching is Tom Baker’s first. Initially, to me, Omega was a terrifying image in The Doctor Who Monster Book (that mask!), and then a terrifying presence in the Target novelisation of The Three Doctors. With the repeat of that story in The Five Faces of Doctor Who in 1981, Omega became a slightly less terrifying presence, thanks to his spangly poncho, but he always remained to me, a first tier Doctor Who baddie.

CG: Were you only able to use story and character beats from The Three Doctors and Underworld? Or did you use any of the further development Omega has had since?

MG: The comic leads into (or at least points towards) both Underworld and The Three Doctors. They were, in very broad strokes, the background material I was working from. We knew that the Time Lords played at being gods to the ancient Minyans so it was nice to dramatise that moment at the start of the comic. 

GC: Do you have any plans for further work in the Doctor Who universe?

MG: Yes, Gareth and I have plans for further Doctor Who spin-off titles but they’re top secret at the moment. As the saying goes, stay tuned!

GC: What was it like collaborating with John Ridgway?

MG: An absolute delight. John’s stuff is just brilliant and to see his pages arriving each week has been a real highlight of an awful year. I’m extremely fortunate to have him illustrating my first comic book script.

GC: Since Omega primarily weaves in and out of the Jon Pertwee Era of Doctor Who, did you find yourself rewatching or retreading some Third Doctor Adventures for inspiration?

MG: Not especially. The Three Doctors is a favourite story so it was always at the back of my mind as I was writing. I was keener to create a new protagonist and take her on a journey leading to a final confrontation with Omega.

GC: Speaking of, that era has a reputation for being a more “grounded, realistic” take on Doctor Who, was it difficult trying to thread that needle between realistic and operatic? Specifically in and around such an “all-powerful” character like Omega?

MG: Yes, when you’re writing this kind of space opera story, language becomes a tricky business. On the one hand, if you have the characters using lots of modish slang, it feels out of place. But on the other, if everyone talks too formally the dialogue feels bloated and unnatural. Ditto for the action. You have to strike a balance between realism and the wilder, more psychedelic sequences.

GC: What was the design process like for this new incarnation of Omega?

MG: We knew we couldn’t use either of the BBC visual takes of the character and any design we came up for him had to be approved by Bob Baker (creator of Omega). 

As the comic opens, Omega is present only as a voice and occasionally as a dimly perceived humanoid figure. When we eventually see him in the flesh, as it were, I think people are going to be surprised by his appearance. I can’t say any more at this stage!

GC: Any chance of a Bessie cameo? Even just parked on the street somewhere maybe? 

MG: Hmmm…

GC: Oh, man, we love the sound of that. But finally, are there any other “unseen” areas or specific other locations of Doctor Who you feel itching to explore?

MG: Tons! Virtually every story broadcast creates new worlds and histories to explore. 

Doctor Who has one of the richest fictional universes of any sci-fi programme and it’s been a privilege to be allowed to add a few pebbles to its mountain of mythology.

Omega: Vengeance #1 (of 4) is available now through Cutaway Comics.