Comic Corner: Respect for the Indies

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There was a time when all I read was main-universe superhero stories from Marvel and DC. The first independent comic that I can remember reading was a Concrete comic book that I found at my local library, and, let’s be honest–I didn’t like it very much. It lacked the superheroes, rich (or, what I thought to be rich at the time) story lines, and–most importantly to my young mind–the Marvel or DC logo. It wasn’t until I started reading J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars that I truly started to appreciate independent comics. Over the years independent comics–those not under the DC or Marvel main banner–have become my favorite reads. The Boys, Witchblade, Rising Stars, Global Frequency, and A Man Called Kev, just to name a few. But even those are under imprints that can still have quite the impact across the comics world. Where you are really going to find the best indie comics is with the little guys, imprints that only have a few titles, or, even better, self-published titles. Here are a few indie comics that I enjoy and I think you should check out.

The Unauthorized Biography of Winston Churchill: A Documentary

Writer: Erica Schultz Art: Claire Connelly

You can tell from the name that this isn’t your grandpa’s Churchill. Time travel, English dinosaurs, H.G. Wells–yeah, this is something new. In the comic we find Churchill embroiled in the middle of World War Two, looking for anything that can help him to overcome the impending Nazi doom. And his lead scientist has something that may just be able to help him fight back against the impending blitzkrieg title wave.

The main stand-out from this comic is the art from Connelly. The black and white, straight line, comic strip style illustrations help add to the craziness of a time traveling Winston Churchill. If you are looking for a comic book which is short and fun, look no further than this book.

The RISE

Writer: Matt Wahlquist Art: Ryan Winn

The RISE, published by Tartar Sauce Comics, does one thing right: action. The comic moves in pace and tone incredibly smoothly from one frame to the next. There is no question that Wahlquist and Winn know how to create incredibly well done action-themed pacing. The first issue of the series is light on dialogue, relying instead on multiple fast moving frames to help tell the story. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I think that adding in more dialogue would hurt the overall pacing of the story.

Issue one leaves the reader with plenty of questions. Who are the characters? Where are they? What are their motivations for what they are doing? All of these questions are left out in the open. However, the issue doesn’t leave you feeling like you have been robbed. It’s more like the action-introduction of a thriller movie. Sure, there are plenty of questions, but the action keeps you tied into the story, and you know that somewhere down the line all these questions will be answered. I for one look forward to getting those answers in future issues.

Good Guys

Writer/Artist: Neil Alexander

It took me a little bit to figure out why I enjoyed Good Guys so much. There are some things it does that I immediately loved: It makes a clever play on the superhero genre–It’s set in a world where 98 percent of people have super powers (also called Su-po) and the other 2 percent (the No-po) spend their time clamoring over the super powered celebrities who fill their TV screens. The premise alone is great. And that great premise is followed up by writing and art that makes the comic enjoyable, readable, and reread-able.

I think the reason that I enjoyed the comic so much is because of how much it reminded me of other comics of its same ilk that I love to read so much. Good Guys reminds me a great deal of comics like The Boys and Promethea. The comic does not shy away form the ridiculous, and it does not shy away from subject matter and images that some may find inappropriate. It is definitely a comic that you should pick up if you enjoy stories that take the super hero genre and shake it up.

 

Fall for the Indie Book Challenge

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Just a quick update this Sunday to let everyone know Andrew and I will be participating in the Fall for the Indie Book Challenge. You know us, always up for a challenge*.

This challenge is all about highlighting Indie authors and books, which is great, especially since that’s what Andrew and I are. Over the next fifteen weeks, participants will be selecting fifteen indie books, reading them, and reviewing them. For my part, I’ll post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, and from the blog perspective, we’ll be posting reviews here on the blog.

I should note that I may not complete the challenge, but I’ll do my best around a busy writing schedule (see the link above for exactly why it is going to get busy). If you’d like to join in, visit the Goodreads page for the group and sign up, there’s a lot of indie authors in there already with suggestions in a bunch of genres. And if you’re participating, might I humbly suggest my newest book, Absent Hero, available wherever there is the internets.

Good luck to those involved, I look forward to reading lots of books and reviews.

*Not sure we mentioned it, but there’s been an additional challenge between Andrew and myself over this writing deadline. If one of us does not finish a first draft by Oct. 1st, then that person must sing the entire score for HMS Pinafore, and release it for the world to hear via podcast. If neither of us finishes in time, you’ll get to hear us both. I’m counting on hearing Andrew belt out “I’m Called Little Buttercup”.

Are You Not Entertained? Entertainment In a 21st Century World

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Amazon used to run a commercial for the Kindle. In that commercial they advertised the greatness of the Kindle. How it can hold a million books, how you can read anywhere you want, how it won’t spontaneously catch on fire like a regular book does (I may have made that last one up). Basically, the commercial was pro-Kindle and anti-Book.

Around the same time, Barnes and Noble ran a commercial that ended with a phrase like “just read.” The commercial was far more pro-reading than it’s Amazon equivalent.

Now, I can understand the motivations for why the commercials would be formatted this way. Amazon wants to reduce the amount of people who are buying paper-backed books. They would like more people to buy ebooks. The mark up on ebooks is much higher than paper books and the warehouse space needed for ebooks is, well, zero.

Barnes and Noble wants people to buy both books and ebooks. They already have their brick and mortar bookstores, and they also have the nook. They would like people to buy books and read in whatever way will make them money (which is both).

What this makes me think about is how we take in our entertainment. That is, how we read, watch, listen. Is there any one, pure, way to enjoy entertainment? I know that a great deal of people swear by seeing movies only in the theater, only listening to music on a record player, and only reading a book in paper form.

But is there really a pure way? Or are there just preferred ways?

I think it’s much more what we prefer to do rather than what we think is pure. We may believe that our preferred method is pure, but it probably just seems that way because that’s how we enjoy taking in our entertainment the most.

There are dozens of ways to enjoy our entertainment now. We can watch TV on a television, a computer, our phones. We can watch movies in a movie theater, on a TV, or in the palm of our hands. We can read a paper book, or we can read on a phone, on a kindle, on a nook, or on an iPad. We can listen to music on a record, a CD, a tape, an iPod, a radio, or live and in person. The point is, we have dozens of ways to take in our entertainment these days. But, really, is there one way that is better than all the rest?

In my mind, no, there isn’t. Sure, there are ways that I prefer to take in my entertainment. I prefer a paper book, a TV for movies and television shows, and an iPod for music. But these are just preferences. It’s not that I have found the one pure way to take in my entertainment, the one way that presents them in their best possible light, because I haven’t.

I think the idea that there is one pure way to take in entertainment is ridiculous. We here at the Bearded Bards will be publishing exclusively in ebook form, to start out. Does that mean that we think that ebooks are the best possible way to read books? No. They are one way to read books. You could also listen to an audiobook, or pick up a faded old paper back (maybe a hard cover if you want to be a fancy pants).

It’s confusing, really, that the idea of high and low culture has to extend to how people enjoy their entertainment. I say, if someone wants to read on a kindle, let them. If someone wants to watch a movie on their phone, let them. If someone wants to listen to music on a tape deck, let them.

How we interpret and enjoy any art form is an incredibly personal act. And as such, how we take in that entertainment should be just as personal a choice.

 

YA Lit, Not Just For Kids Anymore

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There is a whole lot of discrimination in people’s reading tastes. Those who enjoy a good space opera, a fantasy series, or some young adult literature are usually put into a secondary class compared to those who would rather read Joyce or Steinbeck.

Now, I’ll read some Joyce, too, but I’m a huge fan of genre fiction, and I don’t want to be judged for it. That’s why it’s refreshing to read an article like the one Alyssa Rosenberg wrote for the Washington Post. Especially after Slate’s disparaging view on the topic.

With The Fault in Our Stars releasing this weekend, and other YA Lit and genre fiction properties catching near everyone’s attention, it appears that a piece like this is well timed and well worth the read.<

Find Your Books For Free

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Like I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of clearing out my stuff. Trying to stay clutter-free. I recently found an App that helps me do just that. Yerdle is a place where I can do just that. Recently, I’ve posted a ton of my books so that I can clear out my bookshelf a little bit. In a day I’ve posted about 20 books and about five have “sold.”

The great thing about Yerdle is that the only money that trades hands is the money for shipping. It’s like the free section of Craigslist, only you can give your stuff to people half way across the country. Each item is bid on with points. And you can get more points when people bid on your stuff.

It’s a great way to get new books and get rid of your old books. If you are looking at getting more than just books, items such as electronics, movies, and even clothing are all up on Yerdle.

Download the app and check it out. And while you’re at it, take a look at the books that I’ve posted. Maybe you’ll find one you like!