Packs of the Lowcountry HC

Packs

Packs of the Lowcountry is a 200 page full color hardcover written by former ComicSpectrum reviewer John Dudley with art by Don Cardenas.  John bowed out as a reviewer to spend time writing this lengthy tale of monsters, heroes, and survival in a post-invasion world set 16 years after nightmare beasts have invaded the world.

Our hero, Bastion Conroy, lives in a safe city, but he is tapped for a mission to a rumored second city…in the Lowcountry, a large wilderness section of South Carolina.  The story combines action, horror, and super-powers as we join a team of would-be saviors on a journey of exploration and discovery.

I’ve read a preliminary version of the book in PDF form; Dudley does a good job on the pacing and dialogue. I particularly enjoyed the typed ‘reports’ from Agent T, who has preceded the team we’re following into the Lowcountry.  They provide both insight and flavor to the story happening “in the moment”.  The art by Cardenas is clearly the work of a journeyman, but it was nice to see the work evolving over the course of the ~180 story pages, particularly in panel composition.  Cardenas needs some more work on faces and hands, but he’ll get there as he produces more pages.  His work is similar to early work from several artists I’ve followed over the years who became very solid and popular creators after putting out 1000 or so pages.

If you’re a fan of superpowers combined with monsters and like trying out and supporting work from new creators, give this project a look.  The HC is reasonably priced for what they are delivering and looks like it’s going to be a nice package.  I’m looking forward to getting mine and having a look at the story again on the printed page… (I’m old school that way, I’ll read PDFs but love the experience of holding a book and reading it on paper!)

Personally Backed & Endorsed by Bob Bretall: bob@comicspectrum.com
http://comicspectrum.com/ – By Fans who Love Comics for Fans who Love Comics

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Die Kitty Die!

Die Kitty Die Kickstarter

It’s a tactic that has made its way into some of the most popular comics of all time. A comic book needs a boost in sales or press, so the publisher decides to kill off the main character. Superman, Captain America, and Wolverine are just a few of the comic characters that have perished over the years, with Superman garnering so much press that for a time “The Death of Superman” was the hottest comic book on the market (but that was before the “He’s dead…for now” genre became so prevalent as it is today).

Although comic fans have seemingly become wary of such ploys, it’s something the invariably still works to boost sales! Enter Kitty Ravencraft, star of the popular comic book that bears her name, and a real life witch. When her publisher decides the comic book needs a sales spike, it decides to kill off the titular character. But what happens when the publisher decides that killing the real Kitty would be even better for sales?

The result is a story that creators Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz boast as a “funny, exciting, and often sexy story about a girl caught in both the supernatural world of witches, and the super-crazy world of comics!” The underlying narrative appears to be a meta look at the comics industry and how beloved characters are killed off, reborn, and rebooted all in an attempt to drive sales. But the art and sample pages included with the Kickstarter simply show a well-produced product with great character designs and stunning artwork. The Kickstarter had me at Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz alone. These two are the modern day quintessential Archie artists (they’re also quite proficient writers) and anything they’re involved in, I’m involved in. Add to the roster such talent as Gisèle Lagacé, Phil Jimenez, Glen Hanson, and Darwyn Cooke, and it’s hard to deny Kitty is brewing up something special.

The plan is to release the mini-series digitally, one issue at a time, and to collect all four issues into a trade paperback that will ship at the end of its run. The basic tiers allow you to either collect the digital issues alone or along with the trade paperback. At $25 for the trade paperback, the price point is not bad considering it is an independent effort. I know from experience with Parent and Ruiz that they will jam pack it with as much content and extras as they can. For my money, I went in at a higher tier level that will get me a bunch of cool extra art and even some original treasures. I’ve become quite the collector of their original work and this is just another outlet to feed that monster.

With Archie’s recent relaunch and their expansion of new artists and creative teams, many traditional fans have experienced a “classic Archie” hole in their hearts. For some, the classic Archie stories continuing in their digests by regulars like Parent and Ruiz are not enough. To them, I say that this may very well be the project that fills that particular need. These two may be paving the road for the next big step in their careers and I will happily follow along.

If you want to follow along with me, check out the full Kickstarter page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/14732987/die-kitty-die-by-fernando-ruiz-and-dan-parent

Personally backed & endorsed by Adam Alamo: adam@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Delivered Kickstarter: A Hero’s Death

AHerosDeath

CREDIT: Mark Texeira

What It Is
Twenty years ago, a hero – The Hero – died in a building fire as she attempted to save a family trapped within it. A young reporter believes the Hero may have faked her death, and wonders if there isn’t a way to convince her to return to help humanity once again. Based on a short story by Ricardo Sanchez, what drew me in was Mark Texeira’s gorgeous painted artwork on every page. It was nigh-impossible to ignore as I scrolled through the offerings on Kickstarter.

What I Backed
For $20 I backed the book itself. In addition I got my name in back as a thank you for participating.

What I Got
The book did well enough to get funded, and the creative team threw in a button and small (postcard-sized) print of the titular Hero character.

Was It Worth It?
As mentioned, it was Texeira’s artwork that drew me in, but Sanchez’ writing kept me around. This is a well-written and well-paced story that plays to Texeira’s strengths as an artist. A Sanchez short story (non-illustrated) “Kill Your Heroes” is also included in the book.

Would I Back Again?
This is a nice self-contained story so I don’t know that there really will be anything more to back. That said, if Sanchez and Texeira are willing to team up again on a new project, I’d definitely be interested in seeing what they come up with.

Personally backed & endorsed by Al Sparrow: al@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Delivered Kickstarter: Star Power and the 9th Wormhole

Starpower

What It Is
Danica Maris works as an assistant astronomer on Space Station Sanctuary Six, dreaming of a life of exploration and discovering what lies beyond the stars she studies daily. When one of those stars seemingly goes nova while she’s watching it through her personal telescope, she’s granted the amazing abilities of a Star Powered Sentinel – flying in space, energy swords, that sort of thing – and becomes embroiled in an ongoing conflict against the evil armies of the Void. Can one person, albeit one amazingly powered person, hope to stand against an entire Starfleet?

What I Backed
The $25 tier covered a print copy of the book plus shipping. Stretch goals seemed focused on throwing more and more pages into the book, which I liked to see. There’s only so many extra prints a person can stand, but when you’re talking about extra content in the book? Count me in.

What I Got
A really nice, professional-looking book with 16 extra pages of content thanks to some of those aforementioned stretch goals being met.

Was It Worth It?
Bottom line: Remember the names Michael Terracciano and Garth Graham, if you don’t already know them. Star Power and the 9th Wormhole belongs in the Image Comics stable. The artwork and writing is that good…no, it’s better…than a large chunk of what’s available to you right now from more traditional publishers. You can tell a lot of thought and hard work went into building the universe where this story is set, and it all paid off in a beautiful book that you’ll be glad you picked up if you see these guys at a convention (or you can read it online at www.starpowercomic.com).

Would I Back Again?
If Terracciano and Graham can keep the quality and artwork looking to the level it does in this first volume, I’ll be putting my pledge in on opening day. I back a large number of crowdsourced projects, and while I’ve never been completely let down by one, there are certainly some projects that deliver a final product that outshines most of the rest of the pack. Star Power is certainly one of those projects. Take a minute and kick yourself for not backing it this first time, and make a note to back it when they gear up for volume 2.

Personally backed & endorsed by Al Sparrow: al@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Delivered Kickstarter: Gangs of Camelot (Lawdog Comics)

GoCKckstrr

What It Is
Camelot is in trouble. A young Arthur can’t draw much but laughter when he tries to draw the fabled sword from the stone. Frustrated, Merlin moves forward (or in Merlin’s case it might be backward) in time to 1930s-era Chicago to pick up four of the toughest mobsters the city can offer. Whisking them back in time to help Arthur out, Merlin hopes their toughness and Tommyguns can help the youth overcome his previous failures to become the once and future king.

What I Backed
For $20, it seemed a no-brainer to pick up a hardcover graphic novel with artwork as nice as what the previews on the Kickstarter page showed me. Vincente Cifuente did a great job handling pencils while Imaginary Friends Studio delivered jaw-dropping color that had me putting my pledge in without delving too much into the subject itself. Mobsters in Camelot? Sure, I’m in.

What I Got
The book itself, which is everything I was hoping it would be. A really nice looking hardcover with the aforementioned dazzling color and solid pencilwork. Plenty of humor from writer James Heffron (who also did the breakdown art chores). My name appears in the back of the book and I wish I’d had presence of mind to give myself a mobster name (when your name is “Al” it pretty much comes with the territory). That I bear a somewhat passing resemblance to the mobster named “Al” in the book was not lost on me.

Was It Worth It?
It’s a cute story, and if I had any real criticism it’s that it’s over too quickly. The pacing is fast and frenetic so you barely have enough time to get familiar with any one character. I wasn’t aware one character was Lancelot until he’s mentioned as such toward the end of the book. The mobsters themselves have a fairly easy time of it, never running out of bullets in medieval England, and never really coming up against an adversary they can’t easily overcome. I think this book could have moved from “Good” to “Great” if it had been granted about double the page count to really flesh out some of the characters and action to make it more than just the fun and sadly forgettable read that it is.

Would I Back Again?
As mentioned, this is a good book, and for the price I paid, it’s well worth the money. That it showed the promise to be so much more is the only stumbling block. Along the spine of the book there is a “1” hinting that there may be more adventures to come in this realm from Lawdog Comics. I hope so, but I hope those adventures won’t happen at such breakneck speed I’m unable to really enjoy them.

Personally backed & endorsed by Al Sparrow: al@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Delivered Kickstarter: Hopeful Spring #1 (Joe Pekar)

Hopeful Spring

What It Is
Hopeful Spring is the genesis of a new creator-owned character by Joe Pekar, who has done work for Zenescope, BOOM! and a number of video-game companies. He draws cute girls and draws them well, using a variety of media to do so, from pencils to paintbrushes. It’s the artwork that drew me in to check out the Kickstarter page in the first place, as it’s a blend of Disney meets Heavy Metal. The story, co-written by Jeff Outlaw, tells of a young medieval actress who hopes to hit the big time if she can just avoid the orcs, evil wizards, and lascivious talent agents who stand in her way.
You can check out this issue on Comixology for $1.99

What I Backed
I put in on the $12 tier, which would get me the book. Normally that’s about $2 more than I’m willing to pay for a single issue of a book, and I didn’t jump right in with blinders on in this case. That’s part of the beauty of crowd-funding projects: You don’t have to commit right off the bat unless there’s an early bird special that’s too good to resist. I was able to sit back and watch this project grow and really think about whether that extra $2 was going to tip the scales one way or another. Sounds silly, I know. It’s only two bucks, but part of the fun of backing projects like this is figuring out if you’re going to get a decent return on investment. Did I? Read on.

What I Got
I got the book, signed by Mr. Pekar, and a smaller companion book called the Explorer’s Guide that showed a lot of the process he used to create the book, from sketches to final pages. In addition, I got a number of cute prints of Spring herself and other characters. These were the results of numerous stretch goals being met. I think after the third one I jumped onboard. I figured at a convention if I were to pick all this up from Joe’s table I’d be spending at least what I spent on the campaign if not more.

Was It Worth It?
The old salt is that “A cynic knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” Although I’ve talked about things like getting my money’s worth and whether the campaign was worth pursuing or not, none of that matters…none of it…if the book isn’t any good. Fortunately I can give this book a one-word review: Gorgeous. I haven’t seen color this lush and beautiful in a long, long time. Every panel on every page is a visual feast for your eyes. In addition, Pekar and co-writer Jeff Outlaw’s writing shines as brilliantly as the art. It seems his title character has a bit of a southern twang in her notes back home to “Mama” which frame the overall story. I really enjoyed that aspect, in addition to the well-written dialogue Outlaw and Pekar bring to the book.

Would I Back Again?
I’m all-in on this series. Next time around I may even splurge on a sketch tier, as Pekar was happy to bombard his update board with some of the ones he’d done for backers on this project. If you see Joe or this book at a convention, pick it up. As you can no doubt figure out there’s some mature content to it (mainly nudity), but don’t let that prevent you from enjoying a well-written book with some of the best artwork I’ve seen in a good long while.

Personally backed & endorsed by Al Sparrow: al@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Delivered Kickstarter: 3Corps #1+2

3Corps

CREDIT: Top Secret Press

What It Is
Question: What’s better than getting two new comics for $8? Getting three comics for $8, that’s what! Top Secret Press originally offered the first volume of their book 3Corps for anyone backing the first. After a stretch goal was met, a third book – The Strange – was thrown in for good measure. 3Corps tells the story of a government organization bent on dealing with the growing super-human menace and the quest for a mystical item of power called the Daedalus Spear. The bonus comic, The Strange, covers a young man’s efforts to survive in a future society where he attempts to solve the mystery of the murder of his parents.

Strange

CREDIT: Top Secret Press

What I Backed
The $8 tier already promised two issues of 3Corps. The bonus issue of The Strange after the stretch goal was reached was icing on the cake.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1582272995/3corps-2

What I Got
All three issues. Backers at higher levels were also able to get limited edition postcards and prints.

Was it Worth It?
Financially, yes. You’ll be hard pressed to pay $8 for three books and have them at this level of artistic quality. Some of the people who have worked on these books have pedigrees from IDW and Ape Entertainment, both known for producing quality work, and it shows in these books. They’re a cut above what you might expect from an indie-book. If they fail anywhere it’s in trying to accomplish too much at once. While these are captivating worlds and settings, the books are riddled with typos and moments of poor lettering that took me right out of an otherwise compelling read. They could really benefit from a solid editing staff.

Would I Back Again?

Surprisingly, I was more impressed with the bonus issue of The Strange than I was with 3Corps. All three issues have their high points – good artwork, storylines we’re not necessarily seeing from the mainstream – and it’s clear head writer J.D. Taylor IV knows how to build a universe that’s interesting and worth exploring. I just found the universe of The Strange more interesting than that of 3Corps. It’s pretty much a matter of personal preference. I’ve already backed Betty Wicked, another title from this company that was successfully funded. It will be interesting to see how that book holds up against these other titles.

Personally backed & endorsed by Al Sparrow: al@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Delivered Kickstarter: The Illustrated Girl #1

IllusGirl

What It Is
Remember that scene in Back to the Future where Marvin Berry calls his brother Chuck while Michael J. Fox is wailing on a guitar at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance? I wish I knew someone at Top Shelf Comics I could make that kind of call to, because this story, in terms of both writing and story, is one custom built for that company. Sandra is a young girl with a problem. She wakes up every morning with orange-hued drawings covering her body. While the drawings eventually fade each day, they’re a portent of something much darker, and more sinister, hiding beneath the surface of her skin.

What I Backed
$10 for the first issue with a Kickstarter limited edition cover. Creators Jackson Compton and Natasha Alterici went to great pains on the page to assure backers that the only way to get this oil-painted cover was via Kickstarter.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/223920479/illustrated-girl-1

What I Got
Not only did the campaign succeed, it succeeded well enough to fund prints, buttons and most importantly, the second issue of the book. Why is this last part the most important? Because once you read the first issue I can almost guarantee you’ll be hooked. Alterici’s art style is perfectly suited to this book that straddles the borderline between a childhood fantasy and a deep dark horror. Alice just met Cthulhu, everybody…how do you not want to get in on that action?

Was it Worth It?
Absolutely. It has me anxious to see what’s going to happen in the next issue. Part of me wants them to hurry and get that book done, but the sager side of me knows that this isn’t the kind of book you want to rush. The wait will be worth it.

Would I Back Again?
A second Kickstarter for issue #2 (with a different cover by artist Janet Lee) already successfully funded.   As a backer of the first project, I’ve already got a copy of the second issue coming my way (albeit with a different cover), so I was not as interested in backing this particular project. However, when it’s time to pony up the dough for issue #3? I’m ready to go. Unless, as I mentioned, someone clues in the guys at Top Shelf about this book. I think it truly would be a match made in heaven, and there are other publishers out there who could do far worse than snapping up this property and helping bring it to a wider audience.

Personally backed & endorsed by Al Sparrow: al@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Delivered Kickstarter: The Curse of Ragdoll

Ragdoll

What It Is
Mike Wolfer’s Ragdoll first appeared as a series of short stories in Avatar’s Raw Media Quarterly magazine. Due to the adult nature of the stories involved (an avenging spirit for female victims of male aggression appears wearing parts of their flesh – and little to nothing else – in a patchwork pattern) there was considerable difficulty getting the tales in trade paperback form, and as a result they languished in obscurity for about fifteen years. Fortunately, Kickstarter came along, allowing Wolfer the chance to collect what existed of the Ragdoll stories, along with a 17-page bonus tale, and set up what promises to be a really nice series of horror romps in the Warren Vampirella vein that fans of that genre will not want to miss.

What I Backed
I wasn’t familiar at all with the material, but what I saw caught enough of my interest (as a card-carrying Vampirella fan) that I felt it was worth a look. The $25 price for the trade seemed fair. The book itself seemed around the page count to warrant a $20 trade if I’d seen it in a store or at a convention, and as mentioned I’m a big fan of old-school horror tales in the Creepy or Eerie vein, and this looked like something that would be right at home alongside those books.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/149983649/the-curse-of-ragdoll

What I Got
As crowdsourcing projects go, this one gave a big return on investment. Not only did I get a copy of the book, but a second copy of the trade with a variant retro 70s cover came with it. In addition, a very cool three-print set (The Siren, The Vampiress, and the Wolf Woman) and a collection of limited edition cards from Wolfer’s Widow series (1997) were included as stretch goals.

Was It Worth It?
As mentioned, this project gave back way more than I put into it. Wolfer’s a double-threat as both a captivating writer and an artist who knows how to lead the reader on a panel-by-panel excursion through Ragdoll’s world and the mysteries that surround her. As a horror fan, I was not disappointed. The second trade was a nice touch. Certainly one to give to a friend and get them addicted to the series alongside you. The cards are fun to pore over, although I know nothing about Widow, and the prints are also very nice; it was definitely a bonus that Wolfer packed them in a hard plastic sleeve. Prints as Kickstarter bonuses don’t appeal to me usually, because they usually arrive creased, crinkled or damaged. So take note, people. Wolfer just set the bar higher for all of you.

Would I Back Again?
I’m definitely in if Wolfer decides to crowdsource funding for the continuation of this series. If you’re a fan of horror comics, this book will be a welcome addition to your reading stack. It’s a wonderful start – even if it was more than 15 years ago – to a series that demands a continuation.

Personally backed & endorsed by Al Sparrow: al@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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Delivered Kickstarter: Masters of Anatomy

Masters

What It Is
When I’m not living the freewheeling fast-dealing lifestyle of a ComicSpectrum reviewer, I’m one of those guys you see behind a table at your local convention, hawking my wares and trying to get anyone to take a gander at my books. Some people do, and some of those people bring their portfolios with them and after seeing my artwork ask if I could critique theirs. After I question their sanity for thinking I know anything worth knowing about art, I happily take a look. My fall back for commentary is always anatomy – it’s an area where no matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement, so it’s a safe topic to talk about with young and upcoming creators without totally breaking their spirits.  Either way, I wish I’d had this book around to show these up and comers when they stop by my table. I wish I’d had a book like this to go along with my Hogarth and Eisner tomes on how to craft that perfect story. I wish there was a collection of some of the best artists the industry has to offer, showcasing their takes on three basic structural poses for both a male and female figure. I need wish no more, because that book is here.

What I Backed
It’s not too surprising that when you collect the names that have gone into this book (Campbell, Madureira, Dodson, Ramos, Louw, Panosian, Guzman, Galloway, Stegman, Lau, etc.) the book is going to collect a hefty price tag. $90 for a hardcover book is tough to swallow (yes, there’s a softcover for about $60), but some art books are simply worth it, particularly if anatomy is a big deal to you as it is to me. Where many people – and believe me I get where they’re coming from – would scratch their heads over someone willing to spend time just looking at page after page of the same pose drawn by different artists, to anyone who has struggled with anatomy in their work a book like this is a godsend.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1302528630/masters-of-anatomy

What I Got
I got a massive tome that’s a beautiful book in hardcover. I sprung for the more expensive version because I feel like this is a book I’ll have spread out on my table. It’s bound to get a lot of wear and tear and I just felt the softcover wouldn’t have the same shelf life, with pages possible breaking free of the glue binding over time.

photo 3

Was It Worth It?
To me? Yes. I can definitely see others thinking $90 is an insane amount to spend on a book. But try and imagine your five favorite bands. They’re all going to co-headline a concert in your town. They promise to all play the songs you’ve always loved and associated with them, and there are no bad seats in the venue. Would you spend $90 for a ticket to that concert? What if there was the promise that if you paid attention, you might come away with a little more musical ability than you had going in? Now imagine a hundred equally talented bands just joined the bill. That concert – albeit with artists – is what I got with this book. Ninety bucks was a small price to pay.

Would I Back Again?
They are gearing up for a second book involving facial expressions. I need to start saving up my pesos, because if it’s as nice as this book, I’ll be buying it.

Personally backed & endorsed by Al Sparrow: al@comicspectrum.com
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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