Showing posts with label comic books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comic books. Show all posts

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Who are the new superwomen of the universe?" - the morning after

Thanks to the courtesy of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, I was invited to attend this panel last night.

The Museum described it as:

FRESH TALK: Who are the new superwomen of the universe?


Join us for FRESH TALK on the superwomen changing the universe of comics and beyond.
For much of comics history, women characters were introduced as plot devices for the leading male characters. Join us for a conversation about the new wave of superheroines entering the comic universe, leading the fight for justice and dispelling traditional stereotypes in fiction and beyond. 
Followed by Catalyst, a cocktail hour with a topic and a twist.

SPEAKERS:

Moderated by Emily Whitten, ComicMix.com writer and moderator of Awesome Con. Emily is based in Washington, D.C.

DC Zine Fest reps, including my neighbor Anna Tecson, set up in the lobby before and after the show. The main event, in the Museum's 5th floor auditorium appeared to be sold-out. The crowed was probably 90% women. After a two introductions by museum staff, the panel began, slightly late due to Metro delays.

Carolyn Cocca gave an academic overview of the problems with women in superhero comics over a fifty-year period, including helplessness, cheesecake, under-representation, and 'fridging' or abuse to highlight a male superhero's feelings. While she spoke in a very academic fashion, she got her point across especially with her visuals, and I'll be looking for her book.

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Ariell Johnson gave a very entertaining account of her decision to open a 'safe-space' comic book and coffee shop in Philadelphia.

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Gabby Rivera had one young adult novel published when Marvel Comics sought her out to write a Puerto Rican, lesbian hero named America. Rivera was irrepressible during her talk, and I plan on following her career.

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Ashley Woods talked about growing up in Chicago and discovering comics via a convention that she attended with her mother, and then self-publishing a comic through college, until finally landing the Niobe title. Her art is anime/manga-influenced and now done digitally, but she talked briefly about not being able to afford computer tools earlier in her career.

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The talks ran a bit long, so the panel session was short and mostly taken up with the panelist's impressions of the Wonder Woman movie (which were generally positive). Everyone agreed that there should be more non-white-male work and representation in comic books. After the panel, there was a cocktail party in the main lobby, but unfortunately I had to leave at that point.

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The panel was recorded and should appear online soon.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Comics and Craft Beer: A Chat with Kate Hoke of Heroic Aleworks


by Mike Rhode and Chris Ingram

Heroic Aleworks, a brewery with comic book-themed beers, opened in Woodbridge, VA this past January. We recently met Kate Hoke, co-founder and co-owner of the brewery, and interviewed her on comics, cosplay and beer making.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

I wrote the first issue of our comic, which tells the Solasta origin story, and will be doing the bulk of the writing going forward.  Fortunately, we have professional artists to handle the drawing part!  For each one of the beers my husband, Tim Hoke, and I create all the characters in terms of deciding who’s a bad guy and who’s a good guy, what are their powers, where to they fit in our comic universe, their name, and basically what they look like.  Then I put together a Pinterest board for the artist to give them examples for hairstyles, armor, weapons, poses, backgrounds, etc., that get turned into the final work.  Although we have only one issue right now, each and every one of our beer characters fits into the larger universe we’re creating and will all play some role in the ongoing stories.

I also do all of the graphic design work and web design for Heroic.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Haha.  I pay people!  But the artists we work with use a combination of traditional pen and ink, along with digital rendering.  The artists who created the characters for Sid Fist and Murdock the Merciless (Raymond Francis and Robert Spencer), for example, start with traditional pencil and paper and once the sketch is complete they do a high resolution scan and finish the piece digitally.  Our first comic was done entirely digitally.  My impression, however, is that most of our art is created through a combination of the two.

How did you find your artist's stable? Who are the people in it?

We work with artists literally from all over the world, many of whom I met through artist commission websites.  We also have a few local artists that we met at comic conventions, and I’m hoping that number will increase over time.  Here’s a breakdown of everyone so far, their website or Facebook page, and what characters they’ve done for us:

Ian Richardson (Great Britain)
o   http://pencilsandstrings.deviantart.com/
o   Solasta, Max Nix, Doctor Enigma, Mind Trappe, Death Blossom, the 63 Scottish Fold Oracle, and our logos
 


They Did This! - Illustration and Design (South Africa)
o   Primary artists are Karl Mostert and Andrew Cramer
o   https://www.facebook.com/TheyDidThisStudio/
o   Mistress of War, Master Heist, Oda the Huntress, Krystal Palast, Goldfang (coming soon), Confounded IPA (Moray Rhoda, artist)

Keith Hinman (Michigan)
o   http://kwh-illustration.deviantart.com/
o   The Dark Enemy, Baron von Blackbrane

Raymond Francis (local)
o   https://www.facebook.com/C3Comics/
o   Sid Fist

Robert Spencer (local)
o   https://www.facebook.com/C3Comics/
o   Murdock the Merciless

Zachary Davis Bradley (New Mexico)
o   http://zachdb.deviantart.com/
o   Heroic Aleworks Presents Issue #1 sequential art


Tim Hoke
When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

Tim and I were both born in the 1970s.  I was born in Philadelphia and he’s from Southern Illinois.  We met during our first year of law school in Northern Illinois and soon thereafter the army brought us to Virginia.

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I went to law school at William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, but came up here after graduation because this is where most of the good jobs are.  We currently live in Woodbridge, which is why we opened the brewery in Woodbridge.  But Tim & I still have to commute to our day jobs in Washington, DC at least 3 days a week.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

Zero.  I just read a lot.  When I’m reading more, I find that I have better ideas for writing the comics.

Even for the graphic and web design, I’m entirely self-taught.  Mostly a whole lot of online tutorials and YouTube videos.

Who are your influences?

One of my biggest influences is Neil Gaiman.  As we start publishing our books, you’ll see a lot of Gaiman-esque magical realms hidden within our own, but not visible or accessible to most folks.  We will also be having a whole “Old Gods” line of beers, which is obviously a Gaiman influence.  I love the way he tells stories such that the reader shifts seamlessly between fantasy and reality and is left wondering if there’s even a difference.

In terms of comic book authors, Kelly Sue DeConnick has had a huge influence on me due to her masterful handling of strong female characters that retain their humanity and even femininity.  We’ve been quite deliberate about how we conceptualize and portray our female characters, and I aspire to bring some Kelly Sue sensibility to our stories.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I often like to believe that I would have preferred to pursue a career in the arts at an early age.  But honestly I can’t say that there’s much I’d actually like to change since that would mean I wouldn’t be here doing this right now.  That said, there are probably a million small things we would have done differently in how we approached opening a brewery!  Lots and lots of lessons learned there!  The good news is that we’ll take all of that knowledge into the next phase when we’re ready to expand.


Kate Hoke at Baltimore Comic Con 2016
What work are you best-known for?

So to spin off in a completely different direction…  I’m probably best known in the local cosplay scene for my Winter Soldier costume.  I was doing it before it became super popular AND when I decided to do a female version of him, I wanted to honor the essence of character and not just slut it up like lots of ladies do with their gender bending cosplays.  I’ve been told that keeping Bucky a total badass is part of what makes it sexy, more so than when people just expose as much skin as possible with their costumes.

What work are you most proud of?

That’s a tough one, so I’ll answer it in a couple of ways.  I’m immensely proud that we actually pulled off the whole brewery in the way that we did.  In particular, I’m proud of the taproom.  I did all the painting, made the restroom doors (the Tardis door and the entrance to the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings, a.k.a. the Doors of Durin), did all of the decoupage work for the bar, and did all the decorating.  I even made one of the pieces of art that hangs on the wall!  Suffice it to say it was a very busy December last year!  The taproom d├ęcor sets the tone and makes our place unique among craft breweries, so it’s been a very significant accomplishment for me.



On a solely personal level, I’m quite proud of the leatherwork I did for my latest cosplay.  I’m completely self-taught and I recently created a Viking warrior version of the traditional Slave Leia costume that required intricate weaving and carving like I’ve never done before.  And not only does it look amazing, but it’s actually comfortable to wear, which definitely isn’t always the case with cosplay!  This one laid the foundation for some crazy stuff I have planned for next year for Tim & me.  Next level stuff, for sure.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

First and foremost I’d like the brewery to be successful enough that Tim & I can quit our day jobs and run the brewery full time.  In my case, that would mean a lot more comic writing, more time for planning and promoting events, and a whole lot more time for making costumes.
 




What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

Have another glass of wine!  Just kidding.  Sort of.  More helpful, though, is switching back and forth between my various creative endeavors.  If I get stuck for words, I’ll turn to doing something visual and vice versa.  Beyond that, if I get in a slump doing graphic art on the computer, I find that making physical art, such as my leatherwork, can give me the space to recharge my brain.  Sometimes I simply talk it out with my husband and he’ll see an angle I hadn’t previously considered that gets me back on track.


What do you think will be the future of your field?

Geek culture is certainly experiencing a golden age right now with the proliferation of comic-based movies and television shows and surging popularity of comic/pop culture conventions.  Even if this moment passes, I believe good storytelling will always find an audience.  Creating a narrative and having a story behind each of our beers gives our customers a little something extra to relate to and I think that will hold true even if comics fall out of mainstream culture.

And even if the growth of craft beer levels off, the market for great beers and solid brands isn’t going anywhere.

The fact that Heroic is an intersection of the two gives us some very unique opportunities so I think we have a lot of exciting things ahead of us.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?


We have traditionally attended Awesome Con and Baltimore Comic Con, both of which are great for cosplay and for networking, but less so for actually collecting comics these days.  We’ve noticed prices going up significantly, with vendors asking way more for books at the show than they sell for on eBay.  For serious comic collecting, I tend to prefer smaller affairs where there’s more opportunity to browse and have conversations with the vendors.  This year will be special because it’s the first time Heroic will have booths at both Awesome Con and the new NOVA CON.  We’ll still be attending Baltimore, but as civilians.  I’ve promised Tim that we’ll have at least half a day at each where I’m not in costume so we can enjoy our time together instead of getting continuously interrupted for photos.


How do I get the first issue of Heroic Aleworks Presents: Solasta? I can't see any way to buy it on your website.

We'll have them for sale at Awesome Con

What's your favorite thing about DC?

With the Kennedy Center and so many other theaters around, there’s never a lack of live entertainment options.

Least favorite?

It’s a close tie between the traffic and how politics seeps its way into everything.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

Who has time for that sort of thing?  We used to enjoy the National Zoo a lot and wish we could get there more.  I’ve also always wanted to do a tour of the Masonic Temple in Alexandria.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

Cock and Bowl in Occoquan has been a go-to of ours for a long time.  Their croque monsieur is amazing and they an extensive and interesting beer selection.  The brunch at FireFlies in Del Ray is also at the top of the list.

Do you have a website or blog?

The brewery’s website is www.heroicaleworks.com.  We’re also on Facebook (@HeroicAle) and Instagram (@HeroicAleworks).  I also have a separate Instagram page for my cosplay work @kateskostumes, which I have been shamefully neglecting as of late.


You currently have 9 or so beers on tap - which are your flagship brews and which are your seasonal brews?

Our flagship brews are the 5 we started with, the Doctor Enigma IPA, the Max Nix English Porter, the Solasta Kolsch, the Death Blossom Red Rye Ale, and the Mind Trappe Belgian Dubbel.  Together these 5 characters form our core team of heroes named “The Superhuman Syndicate.”  The rest of our beers are seasonals or special releases.

Is there any particular style of beer that you would consider to be your most outstanding?

Our Max Nix just took a gold medal at the Virginia Craft Brewer’s Guild Beer Cup, so we’re feeling kind of partial to that one right now!  But the award bears out the feedback we’ve received, not only from our customers but also from other professional brewers, regarding the quality of this beer. 


Brewmaster Leon Harris
Which of your beers are you proudest of (whether in terms of challenge to brew, originality, or some other criteria)?

Our Head Brewer, Leon Harris, is most proud of his Maibock.  This recipe was the first one of his beers to get produced commercially.  Back when he originated the recipe at Capitol City Brewing Company, the beer was named “Murdock’s Maibock.”  Murdock is Leon’s son.  So when we did the recipe at our place, we wanted to keep “Murdock,” but to put the Heroic spin on it, Leon and I worked together to create the “Murdock the Merciless” character.

Which beer is your most popular (or top seller, if that's the correct way to think of it)?

We’ve been tracking this pretty closely and all of our flagship beers sell pretty evenly across the board.  Murdock has been one of our top selling seasonal beers so far.  But nothing has rivaled the popularity of our 63 Scottish Fold Oracle Scottish Wee Heavy (a.k.a. the cat beer), which we did as a limited release beer back in March.  It’s cats in tin foil hats!  Plus it’s pretty high alcohol, which could explain some of the enthusiasm!


You have a broad range of styles that you have brewed so far, is there a style that you have not tried brewing that you would like to take on?

Leon is anxious to get into some sour beers, but also extremely nervous because there’s just so much that can go wrong – like contaminating the entire brewery with the lactobacillus bacteria!  From what I understand, there are some pretty specific procedures to follow to prevent infections, and it’s helpful to work with a fellow brewer who has a few sours under his belt to get the technique down.  Which leads into the next question…


One of the beers we tried at your DC Conspiracy event was a collaboration with Lost Rhino (Nova Confounded) - do you have plans for more collaboration brews?

We’ve been discussing a sour collaboration but haven’t been able to coordinate brew schedules yet.  I’m hesitant to go into much detail before any plans are finalized, but we’re having conversations with a few different breweries both up here in the DC region and also down in Richmond about collaborations.  Although it’s not a collaboration with another brewery, we are in the planning stages of partnering with the Museum of Science Fiction to create an exclusive beer for them like we did with Nova Con.  We’ll be doing a release party and sci fi celebration party here in August, and hope to be part of their convention, Escape Velocity, in 2018.

Any plans for future expansion of the brewery or taproom?

That’s certainly the goal!!  In the near term, we have enough space to significantly expand our brewing capacity at this location by adding equipment and staff.  It’s still a little too soon to figure out what the next move will be, but the plan is to become a regional distribution brewery. 


Do you have plans to package in cans or bottles?

We hope to start canning by the end of the summer.

Do you find that the folks who visit your brewery & taproom are mostly local (ie Woodbridge and surrounding areas) or from farther afield?

Right now we have a lot of regulars that are local, but we get a good mix of people from all over the metro DC area.

What are your most popular recurring events?

Karaoke has been extremely popular.  So much so that we’re starting to do it twice a month. And we generally fill the house every Wednesday for trivia night.  And although I they aren’t regular events in the same way as karaoke and trivia, people have responded really favorably to cosplay events.  So we try to put something on the schedule every month or so where we invite people to dress up and offer drink specials for folks in costume.  Lastly, people love steal the pint nights!  I’m working on a new design for some Game of Thrones themed glasses for a July event, and then we really, really want to do an Oktoberfest ‘Steal the Boot’ night – like with those silly boot-shaped mugs!

Finally, a more open-ended question about your origin story: how did you decide on the comic / superhero theme for your brewery and beers? 

 
We really just wanted to do something new.  We’ve seen some breweries do one-off comic book character beers, but never anything quite to the scale we’re doing it.  And given the growing competition in the craft beer scene, we wanted our brand to be something that stands out from the crowd.  Tim came up with the concept originally and, given our long-time passion for comics and sci-fi, it just seemed a natural fit.  Honestly, I think in the beginning the idea was more specifically “superhero,” but it’s evolved a lot since then.  Now I’m not super crazy about when people describe us as a “superhero” themed brewery because the comic universe we’re creating is so much broader than that.  For example, like I mentioned above, we have a lot of fantasy-based characters that would fall outside the scope of the traditional superhero sub-genre of comics.  In addition, we’re heavily influenced by, and do a lot event planning around, more general pop-culture stuff like Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, etc., which don’t involve “superheroes” at all. 

Which comes first, the beer or the name/superhero? Do you try to match the hero's characteristics to the beer?

We generally plan the brew schedule months in advance to allow time for character creation and art development.  Once we know what beers we’ll be releasing, we try to find some way to reflect the spirit of that beer in the character.  For example, the Kolsh is a very light style of beer that makes you think of summer and hot sunny days.  So for Solasta we had her powers come from a freak encounter with a solar flare, but also made her personality very “sunny” and cheerful.  One that’s less obvious, but kind of a cool connection, is our Baron von Blackbrane Schwarzbier.  Because “schwarz” is German for “black” we wanted to incorporate the idea of black some way.  A black brane is actually a series of equations that describes black holes, so Blackbrane is the character’s name and he’s a mad scientist type who uses black hole technology to build weapons.  Max Nix is similar – it’s a dark beer and Max Nix was transformed during an accident in his laboratory while studying dark matter.  His personality is also dark and brooding.  So stuff like that.  Or we use Scottish Fold cats for a Scottish Wee Heavy.  So sometimes it’s serious and science-y and sometimes it’s a bit silly.

 
But we try to avoid being too literal about it.  Like we would never name an IPA “Captain Hops” or something like that.  We also avoid using beer puns in any of the names because our goal is to make these legitimate comic book characters and not just gimmicks.

Now that our comic universe is getting more established, though, we have characters that are looking for beers.  Like we have an evil organization called the Pentaverate, but only 2 Pentaverate members so far (the Baron and Murdock).  We know who the other members are generally, so it’s about pairing them with the right beer at the right time.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Drawing Comics Episodes by Sean Hill

Our interview with Sean Hill ran earlier today, and while researching it, we ran across his Youtube channel where he's posted these process videos about drawing comic books electronically.

Drawing Comics Episode1: Page Process for Zenescopes Evil Heroes issue 4
Sean Hill
Sean Hill
Dec 12, 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3htAgQdPTw

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Zenescope Entertainments DeathForce issue 2 cover process
Sean Hill
Apr 11, 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuvbgyAF8iA

cover process for the cover of Deathforce issue 2,

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Zenescope Entertainments DeathForce issue 1 cover process
Sean Hill
Apr 8, 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_DqeSUWJW4

its rare i get to do covers, but this was a great opportunity. this is the cover to Deathforce issue 1 due out May 18th next month. the tools used for this work are Manga Studio 5EX

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Zenescope Entertainment Tales of Terror issue 8 The Monkeys Paw process vid
Sean Hill
Apr 9, 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5if6lD5RM6k

Process for Page 1 of Zenescope Entertainments Tales of Terror Issue 8, done in Manga Studio 5EX

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Sean Hill

Nazir Studiosby Mike Rhode


Sean Hill is a local comic book artist, born and raised in DC proper, who seems poised for a breakout via his work for Zenescope. He was recently interviewed by another blog and I realized we hadn't submitted our usual questions to him.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Well some of the very first jobs I got hired for were horror based short stories, the most recent works for those are for Zenescope Entertainment's Dark Shaman mini series. It was about  long dead Native Shaman that returns from the dead to try and exact revenge/justice for the death of his tribe. Not to long afterwords I got a chance to draw Grimm Tales of Terror: The Monkeys Paw, I was really happy for that gig because it was a horror story I already knew of. I have also worked on some action/adventure for Jaycen Wise: Secret of the Rose, Route 3 for Terminus Media, and most recently issues 4 through 6 of Zenescope's E.V.I.L Heroes which was more superhero action. 
Zenescope Entertainments: Dark Shaman trade paper back

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

It's a combination of traditional and digital, I work out my thumbnails traditionally in my sketchbook. I own an 11x17 moleskine sketchbook that I draw up 2x3 inch rectangles, then I work out all my thumbs in those. After that, I open a story file in Manga Studio 5EX (a story file is a file created by the program that has as many pages as you determine you need to draw), I scan and copy/paste all my thumbnails onto the subsequent pages and work over them.



When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in Washington DC waaaayyyyy back when in 1981.

Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I grew up in the Georgia Avenue/Perworth area in DC. That area has gone through so many changes but is the nature of the city, anything can change within 15 years or so. Right now I live in Hybla Valley in Alexandria, VA.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

My grandfather, Otis Hill, used to to show me a lot of stuff when I was 6 years old, after that I was introduced to my mento Kofi Tyus, Kofi has been working as an artist in D.C. His whole life so most of my training comes from him. I also went to and arts high school, Duke Ellington School of the Arts and a short stint at Maryland college of art and design. I mostly had a lot of fine art training most of my life.

Who are your influences?

Too many to name but from a kid I was inspired by Bernie Wrightson, Jim Lee -- that kind of stuff -- also artists like Mshindo Kuumba, Ivan Reis -- the list goes on.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change? 

It's kinda funny, but whenever I get asked for advice by a artist wanting to do comics, I typically advise they first start making there own books, it's more fulfilling working on your own thing and telling your own stories. But when I was trying to break in I thought I needed to start working for a publisher, any publisher. I think if I could do it over I would take my own advice.

What work are you best-known for?

I'm not really sure, I guess it would be between Route 3 or E.V.I.L Heroes right now.



Zenescope Entertainments: Grimm tales of Terror: Monkeys Paw
What work are you most proud of?

I'm honestly really proud of my work on Route 3 and some upcoming work I did on a book called the Guilded Age (issue 3). I put a lot work in trying to make sure that story had the vibe of taking place in its own multi-layered world.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I have two personal projects I would like to have done. One is Nazireth, a fantasy retelling of the Christ story, drawing from the historical social and political issues that influenced the narrative of those events. The other is Yasuke: Lineage a story of a former slave turned Samurai, based on the historical figure Yasuke whom served under Oda Nabunaga.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I think all visual story-telling is a form of problem solving, so when I'm in a rut, I honestly look at as many artists as I can to open up my mind to the possibilities of solving a story-telling issue.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Comics is a slow changing river: it flows, the current changes but not to dynamically. I hope the Indy Comics market will grow in the sight of the consumers. Much of the diversity that's being called for in mainstream comics is already available in Indy Comics. In Japan, Manga is marketed towards almost every youngster's walk of life, but here it's dominated by adult male audiences. I'm fine with those male audiences holding the share of consumerism they have, but if the  medium were marketed to even wider audiences, it could only grow stronger.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

Not too many Cons. I'm typically at Awesome Con and I have attended Baltimore and New York Comic Con pretty recently. I hope to expand on that in the near future.

Terminus Media: Route 3 trade paperback

What's your favorite thing about DC?

Honestly, it's because we're so small, you could grow up here with you childhood friends and make something of yourself, without loosing contact, because we still have some of the opportunities of a metropolitan city.

Least favorite?

Sometimes DC seems like it's trying to be a mini New York, in how it advertises to business and resources outside the city, while not making as much use of its resources in the city. Not to get too political, but so much of the growth in DC for the last 20 years have been stimulated from outside the city. I sometimes think "Come on, we don't have to be New York, we're D.C. -- we got this" but I digress.

Zenescope Entertainments E.V.I.L Heroes #5

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?

Oh man, the National Gallery of Art, The Portrait Gallery is a definite favorite, I love the African American museum, and most definitely the American Indian Museum.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

The Good Stuff Eatery -- no question.

Do you have a website or blog?

Yup, it is www.nazirstudios.blogspot.com

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Beth Varni


by Mike Rhode

Beth Varni is new to the comic book world, and has agreed to answer our usual questions about her work and life.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do? 

I do inking, pencils, and colors.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination? 

Computers, traditional, and combination.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born? 

1989.

What neighborhood or area do you live in? 

I live in Woodbridge Va

What is your training and/or education in cartooning? 

I have a BFA in Communication Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University

Who are your influences? 

Adam Hughes, Tomm Cooker, Mike Mignola, Paul Azaceta, and far too many others to name. I am actually pretty shitty at names.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change? 

Early on I had an internship comic job with a company near George Mason. I'm not going to name them, and it was all around not a great experience. I was used to make logos as an unpaid intern as the ONLY logo designer they had and they advertised it. I was stolen from the company by my art director who more than likely cut my convo with the owner and took me, and then threw fits when I wanted to be paid for my colors. All around terrible.


The Witch art by Paul Moore, colors by Varni
What work are you best-known for? 

Um, I am actually very very new to comics only a year in and I think for The Last Hunt with Amigo Comics I am getting the most inquiries about. I did the colors; Paul Moore did the gorgeous pencils and inks. I also work on colors for The Shepard by Calibur comics which I've gotten positive feedback from.

What work are you most proud of? 

I think it's my non-comic works involving my niece and nephew. I do regular art, paintings, sculptures- I think what I love the most are the paintings of my family. They mean something to me. A birth, a quiet moment with a nana, a smiling baby for the first time. Those I love.

What would you like to do or work on in the future? 

Varni colors over Paul Moore art
Character design and colors are what I love in the realm of comics and games. I really want to work with my co-artist Paul Moore on some more stuff. I'd like to do colors for an Image series and of course for Marvel. A big dream of mine is doing concept art for a Bioware game. (Mass Effect lover here).

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block? 

Play video games. Go out with my friends. Cuddle with my dogs.

What do you think will be the future of your field? 

It looks like it's headed into big growth right now. My generation's moving into the creation and profit fields- they like comics and games and movies. Of course we have different opinions than the old school creators so the art styles, panels, covers, even methods of story telling are being tested and changed. I hate when people say "this is the way we do this" well yeah, it's YOUR way to do it. Not the only way. It's fun to see what new paths comics and art in general will take in the future.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?
McKinnon Chronicles art by Matt Trinh, colors by Varni

Haha. I've actually NEVER gone to a con as an artist. I went to Otakon a long time ago with my friends... Tiki and the Revolution? Took home the best sketch trophy. Martial artists and Streetfighter work well together.

What's your favorite thing about DC? 

I love all the restaurants and the shows at the Verizon center. Initial reaction was I love the Cherry Blossom Festival - and the Beer festivals nearby at the Washington Harbor are very fun as well.

Least favorite? 

Traffic. I travel a TOOON so I can say we have some of the worst traffic in the world sometimes. Istanbul has us beat from what I've experienced but still DC traffic sucks.

What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to? 

I love to take them to the Mall and show them all the museums. Native American, Art, Natural History, Space! All so fun and fantastic.

How about a favorite local restaurant? 

In DC it's Zaytinya over by the Verizon Center. Took my dad there for his 60th bday- he loved it and so did my whole family. Great place; I cannot recommend it enough. 

Cunning Folk by Varni
Do you have a website or blog?

I have a website, it's my online portfolio. It has comic art, video game art, and just regular art for the sake of art- www.bethvarni.com

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Will Eisner Week exhibit at the Library of Congress

20170306_113219Last week, the departments of Serials (ie comic books) and Prints & Photographs (ie original art and posters) put on small exhibit for a couple of hours in recognition of Will Eisner's 100th birthday. In addition to Spirit comic books, there was original art by Eisner, as well as other comics and comic book pages.



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 Spirited snarf at Library of Congress 

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More pictures are on Flickr.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with J.C. Thomas

by Mike Rhode

J.C. Thomas is appearing at Big Planet Comics Washington on Saturday February 18 (2-4 pm) to sign his two books. From his press release: "J.C. Thomas is a writer, artist and public elementary school teacher from Northern Virginia. His first children’s book, Ninja Mouse: Haiku, earned acclaim from both Publishers’ Weekly and The Midwest Book Review, and won a Gold Benjamin Franklin Digital Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association. He will be signing copies of Ninja Mouse: Haiku and The Gates of Dawn, an original graphic novel by Philadelphia-based writer Benjamin Finkel. Ninja Mouse: Haiku is a collection of haiku poetry with themes of martial arts philosophy and nature and includes Japanese translations. In The Gates of Dawn, a young girl with special powers and a nomadic veteran flee across a barren stretch of Utah as they’re pursued by a dark terror. Finding themselves cornered and desperate, they’re forced to make a final stand."

What type of cartooning or comic work do you do?

For now, I mostly work on one-shot, short graphic novels as opposed to serialized comics work. It’s partly a preference, partly circumstantial, and partly a product of the collaborations I’ve built in the last year or so.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

I create all of my work on a custom-built PC. I use a lot of 3D models as the basis for my artwork. My main software applications are DAZ Studio, Photoshop, Octane Render, and Manga Studio. I use a Wacom Intuos for touching up line work.

I’m hoping to venture into paper and ink for some projects in the future, but for now my workflow is pretty set.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in Northern Virginia in the early 1980s.

Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?

I’m in the Washington area now because I’ve stayed here. I’m in Sterling, VA, which is about thirty minutes west of Washington. I’ve been all over, but I keep coming back to home.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

My “training” in cartooning is all informal. As a kid, I gobbled up every how-to book I could, from How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way to Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics was also a big part of my comics “education.” I took art throughout high school but was always frustrated with the lack of respect comics art tended to be treated with.

Who are your influences?

I probably have too many subconscious influences to count, but there are some I’m more aware of. Visually, I’d have to say Alex Maleev, Jae Lee and Michael Lark are influences. I really dig their use of heavy blacks. Pacing wise, I’ve always loved the dynamic between Garth Ennis and three of his common artists: Leandro Fernandez, Steve Dillon, and John McCrea. I’d also cite Sam Esmail, the creator and director of Mr. Robot, as an influence, especially on The Gates of Dawn. The cinematography in that show had a big influence on the framing in The Gates of Dawn. Jeff Lemire is also an influence. He’s a master of knowing exactly what to draw and when to draw it, really maximizes the impact of every panel. Essex County, Lost Dogs, and The Underwater Wielder are some of my favorites of his work.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I’d either choose to have studied something creative in undergrad, rather than International Relations, or to have studied education in undergrad. Being involved in education can really spark your creativity, and a lot of my ideas have their origins in something education-related. I wouldn’t have minded if some of those sparks were to have come earlier.

I think also I wish I had explored getting representation a bit more when I first finished Ninja Mouse. I contacted a couple of literary agents, and when I didn’t hear back within a couple of weeks, I went ahead and published it on my own. I say that with some lack of certainty, because self-publishing is great fun and very rewarding in pretty much every way except financially. But once Publisher’s Weekly released their review, agents were contacting me, but I didn’t have anything else to show them at the time. I could have probably let that play out differently and have ended up with an agent right off the bat. But the freedom that goes with being on your own is a definite perk.

What work are you best-known for?

Probably Ninja Mouse: Haiku. It received praise from Publisher’s Weekly and The Midwest Book Review, which was a pretty big deal for me at the time. It’s also the first work on I got onto Comixology, which was validating.

What work are you most proud of?

I’d have to say Ninja Mouse: Haiku again. A lot of love and work went into that project, and I was really happy with the final product.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

Geez, what don’t I want to work on in the future? I’ve got a scifi anthology in the works that I’m anxious to finish. The second story in that project, Arcas, with writer Christopher Hutton, is almost finished and should be out in a couple weeks. I’ve also got a couple of screenplays that I plan on adapting into graphic novel format.

But the thing I’m looking forward to the most is the next Ninja Mouse project. The first book was a collection of haiku poetry about martial arts and nature, illustrated sequentially with a very loose story. The next project will be a more traditional graphic novel. I’m planning on three volumes for that one.

Other than a horde of my own projects that are in various stages of production, I’d love to do some mainstream work at some point. Batman, the Punisher, and Shang-Chi, of Master of Kung Fu Fame, are probably my favorite characters from the Big Two, and I’d jump at the chance to do work on any of them.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

When I’m in a rut or have writer’s block, I normally try to work on a different project. I ran into more than the average amount of ruts with Arcas, and each time I’d try to get some work done on something I’d put on the backburner. On one hand, that’s a positive of balancing a lot of different projects at once. On the other, obvious, hand, it can be distracting or can hinder my productivity to have a lot of projects going on at the same time. I also turn to music to get me out of a rut.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

That’s a good question…I don’t know, on the one hand, some trends in the industry make me think the future is looking a bit bleak. The sheer number of universe-redefining, multi-title events from Marvel and DC in the last decade or so has really turned me off from mainstream comics. I don’t really see that changing anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been some outliers here and there that I really enjoyed. Jeff LeMire’s Moon Knight comes to mind. But in general, the big two have left me with the feeling that nothing I read matters, because they’re just going to undo and redo it again in a year. I think those types of trends will continue to alienate all but the most hardcore of fans.

On the other hand, I feel like this is a rich time for the art form in general and there are a lot of trends that make me very hopeful about the field. It seems to me there’s been an explosion of talented indie-creators and small press labels in the last five years or so. And we’re lucky to be in an area where there are retailers willing to take risks on small press titles and unknown creators. I’m also very hopeful about the genre diversity we’re seeing now. It used to be that you really had to scrounge around if you wanted to read something without capes and masks, but that’s not the case anymore. I think part of that is due to digital platforms like Comixology. I think digital comics will continue to grow, but I don’t think they’ll ever replace physical comics. I hope that someone… publishers, online retailers, I don’t know who…but I hope that someone can find a way for brick and mortar retailers to get a piece of the digital pie. I think there’s a lot of potential in apps like Madefire as well, which basically adds simple motions, background music and sound effects. It hasn’t taken off yet, probably because there are additional costs to making them and the return isn’t much more than a typical digital comic. But I think the potential is exciting.

I’m also thrilled to see the increasing acceptance that graphic novels and comics are being met with in schools and libraries. Comics have a place in literacy instruction, and more and more educators are beginning to embrace them.

What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?

I’ll be attending the NovaCon this year, which will be my first. I’m planning on attending the Small Press Expo as well. I had a chance to do a signing at last year’s FBCD at Comic Logic in Ashburn, VA, and it was absolutely packed. Like, line-around-the-building packed. I imagine something like that, but on a much larger scale.

What's your favorite thing about DC?

Diversity.

Least favorite?

The soul-killing traffic.

What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?

I have to admit that I don’t really take advantage of the museums and monuments like I should. But I really like the Freer and Sackler galleries. I also had the chance to explore Hillwood Estate recently, and that’s definitely on my short list of favorites.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

I can’t say I know a lot of restaurants in DC proper, but I love Clarity in Vienna. Mokomandy in Sterling is also one of my go-to recommendations.

Do you have a website or blog?

Sure do! It’s www.jc-thomas.com. I’d love for your readers to stop by.