Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods 9/5/2014

(Sung to the tune of Sisquo’s “Thong Song”)

skipping ahead a bit in the song…

You want to know all the hip new books?
And choose to peruse ones worth your looks
Somethin’ that will deep set in its hooks
’Cause Southern Bastards is kinda loca

There’s a man with a stick, whump, whump
Corrupt chumps, chump, chump
Plant a headbutt, butt, butt
I think I’ll read it again

Next was born in a swamp, swamp, swamp
Fightin’ the Rot, Rot, Rot
All night long
Let us read Swamp Thing

Baby…Swamp ThingThingThingThingThing
I like where this story goes
Baby make your booty go
Down to your LCS to show
Swamp ThingThingThingThing, Thing

Ooooookay…wow. That song is pretty dang offensive, so let’s not over-think it. All I know is that I decided to set the iTunes on random and of the 18,000+ songs in my collection — I worked at a music store for six years many moons ago — that is what popped up. Hey, it could have been the David Hasselhoff album, Milli Vanilli (don’t ask), or who knows what else. Annnnnddddd…Hello! Welcome back to Donist World. I’m joined as ever by CFO Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier) and by marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / pumpkin-flavored-food specialist Tulip (my dog, Obie’s sister). Dang, it looks like we only had two comics in our pull this week on account of still missing the latest Lazarus and somehow missing out on the new God Hates Astronauts, which really bums all of us out here in the corporate office (my mom’s basement). Obie is still on his MBDM kick (management by dungeon mastering) and is claiming that we essentially rolled a one for our savings throw, and are to remain at the office (basement) all weekend as if we had been hit with the paralysis of a ghast. It’s a bummer. What we should do is drive down to Ventura to the awesome Hypno Comics to correct the situation, but I don’t think we have time to do that. Oh well, I should have some credit from showing up any day now, so I will order them then. The good news is that the two book we did pick up were incredible.

Friday Slice of Heaven

***Possible Spoilers Below***

Southern Bastards #1
Southern Bastards #4 - Written by Jason Aaron, art and color by Jason Latour, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher, edited by Sebastian Girner, published by Image Comics. I’m not going to spoil this issue, denizens. Nope. Not gonna do it. You’re just going to need to read this issue to see what happens. I will say that I was not at all expecting what went down, or how it went down, or how this issue ends; as a reader this is great. If you are not picking up this fantastic series — and seeing as how there are three printings of issue one, and two printings of issues two and three, you should have little problem finding them — just know that you cannot just pick up this month’s installment and start reading. You MUST start at the beginning and get to know Earl as you peer into the darkness of Craw County, Alabama, and see the wicked grip Coach Boss has upon its citizenry. Only then will this issue provide the brutal gut punch of an ending, followed by the eye-opening epilogue that made me mutter “”

Esaw and his boys sure took care of the Ledbetter kid. In fact, the boy now lies barely breathing in a hospital with multiple broken bones. Truth be told, he’ll never be the same again, and Earl Tubb is partially to blame. With great anger in his heart, and a need to set things right, Earl heads into town itching for a fight and to end the rampant corruption plaguing Craw County. He never counted on what awaits him…

I’m kind of at a loss for feelings on this one, denizens. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I know I desperately need to have the next issue. I know the main story left me feeling all sorts of beat up. I also know the epilogue I keep mentioning took me completely by surprise and got my heart racing for what the revelation means for the remainder of the series. *Excuse me a moment...ARRRRGHH. Okay. I feel better.* Anyhow, I had certain assumptions about Southern Bastards, many in fact, and it looks like nearly all of them are out the window. Is this first arc a prequel? Is the next arc, which Aaron states centers on Coach Boss, a glimpse into the corrupt man’s past, or is it a glimpse of this coldblooded-bastard’s present? I have no idea, but I’m sooooo ready to see how it all goes down.

Latour’s art on the previous three issues was already stellar, but something clicked in him with this issue. The stark drama of every scene leaves the reader reeling as they feel the emotionally-wrecked Earl’s pain after seeing the destruction his involvement in Craw County matters has wrought. Yet, you can’t help but stand by this character as he strives to set things right, even though he his faith in justice is overshadowed by the reality of the situation. Latour captures it all: the pain, the sadness, the horror, the anger, the resolution, the pleading for everyone to do what’s right. He couples the drama with an intense adherence to the smooth flow of storytelling, as can be seen in the brutal fight scenes, which are beautiful in spite of the violence being depicted We also see this on the intense 24-panel, double-page layout — which contains a single panel hinting at the epilogue, btw. Furthering his tremendous line work is Latour’s colors, which cool the sad scenes and steadily warm to an inferno of oranges and reds during the violence. So, yeah, I liked the art quite a bit.

I know I’m giving little away, and if you aren’t convinced to run out and scrounge up these four issues, it looks like a $9.99 trade will be released in October, which will make things easier on you, but that means you have a bit of a wait on your hands…if you’re like me, waiting ain’t your strong suit, so grab the issues. With Southern Bastards, you aren’t going to find capes and tights, werewolves or zombies, magic or super-science, but you are going to find a dang compelling, beautifully-illustrated story that will leave you scrambling for more more more. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Swamp Thing:
Futures End #1
Swamp Thing: Futures End #1 - Written by Charles Soule, illustrated by Jesus Saiz, lettered by Dezi Sienty and Taylor Esposito, colored by Matthew Wilson, published by DC Comics. Okay, here we go again with the “crossover” / “event” madness creeping into a book I have been enjoying greatly since the launch of the New 52. Now, I have ZERO idea what the whole “Futures End” storyline-event-thingamajiggy thing is about, I just know that I like Swamp Thing and that is what I want to read. Upon picking up the comic, I immediately balked at the gimmick cover, but after staring at it a moment, tilting it this way and that to see Swamp Thing morph into the avatar of metal, I have to admit I was kind of impressed. I was much less impressed with the $3.99 price tag, though, but the cost of a gimmick cover has to be passed on to someone, so why not the loyal reader, y'know? I also have to say that every time something rubs against this 3D cover it sets my teeth to rattling, but maybe that is just me. But, even with the gimmick cover, the increased price tag, and the storyline interruption of the “event,” I really dug this issue.

Because of the “Futures End” storyline, every single New 52 DC comic jumps ahead five years from where we last left off. Told in the manner of a fairytale we join the Swamp Thing as he embarks on a quest to rally the support of the avatars of the Grey, the Red, the Machine, and the Divided (bacteria) in Alec’s bid to put an end to the evil of Anton Arcane, restored as the avatar of the Rot. Unfortunately, Arcane has a trump card.

In spite of this issue being a complete break from the regularly scheduled programing, I enjoyed this “Futures End” story immensely. I loved seeing the Grey return and the story Soule has hinted at concerning its avatar is pretty cool. The addition of the new dominions of the Machine and the Divided are exceptionally clever, with each having its odd, yet fascinating, characters and worlds. I was also surprised and happy to see the return of Arcane and Abigail, as well as a return to the horror elements I loved so much in Swamp Thing #23.1 (on sale for $.99 at Comixology until 9/9/2014), which was a tremendous issue even though it was part of the “Forever Evil” money grab. For this “Futures End” book, though, I mostly LOVED everything about this jump forward in time book. Emphasis on the mostly.

What I did not like is the fact that we catch the tail end of a storyline I would have rather seen play out over the course of a year. We have already been introduced to the Grey, but the Divided and the Machine are completely new. We even get a hint that the Machine “…almost took it all,” but instead of blatantly being told that, I would have rather seen it occur. The introduction of these new kingdoms could have made for some great comics, but now we already know the end. I also gave a sigh of disappointment that one of the things that saves the day involves a certain artifact from a popular superhero title; I assume this ties the book into the main event, which is somewhat of a bummer — I still wish Swamp Thing was kept mostly apart from the superhero books, but whatchagonnado.

Even though I have some pretty big complaints about this issue, I still really enjoyed reading it. The strong story pulled me in immediately, but it was made even more impressive with Saiz’s absolutely incredible art. Saiz presents some highly inventive character designs on avatars both new and old, making the design of the Machine’s avatar, the Processor — a featureless robot until it suits up into its more intimidating form — so very groovy. The different worlds are equally impressive, especially when Wilson’s colors provide a relevant haunting, or sterile, or chaotic mood to the appropriate Kingdom.

Long story short, I loved this issue, and if you are a fan of this incarnation of the Swamp Thing, then you should definitely seek this issue out. My biggest gripe with this book comes from the requisite last-second superhero interference that unfortunately tends to accompany these “event” books, and forces me to drop the “VERY” portion of my rating. Still, this comic comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

What I Have Been Up To - I'm close to being done with my kids / all-ages novel. The first draft was completed over a year ago, and has since gone through MANY drafts. I also hired a content editor — one of the best decisions I have ever made — and implemented those story changes into a big rewrite earlier this year. Then I did yet another draft / polish. Needless to say, I am getting tired of looking at this book…I’m ready to start the followup.

With the story finally “done” — at least until my English teacher wife goes through it once again (“Honey, I promise it is waaaaaaayyyy better than that complete mess you read last year”) — I spent the past couple weeks working on turning a Word DOCX file into the Kindle-ready format known as MOBI. This has not been easy and learning how to do all of this had a fairly steep learning curve with much failure, but I’m mostly certain I finally have it all down. Yes there are services that handle file conversions, but I do not want to give away any additional royalty percentages, or list anyone else under the copyright but me, and more than anything I really wanted to do it all myself.

*Warning: Techie Stuff* For the more techie individuals, here is what worked, but ultimately created a much too large a file and a Table of Contents (ToC) I did not like. I used Amazon’s Kindle plug-in for InDesign and placed my DOC file (converted from DOCX) into a page, where I then began setting up styles that could build a ToC). This took a while, but for some reason the exported MOBI file was 4MB+, which is ridiculous as there is only one low-res image (temp cover) and the book would be just over 200 pages if I printed the files out. Unacceptable. I then made some changes and something happened that popped out a 850KB file, which was better, but still too large and the ToC only had chapter headings and not the chapter titles. I couldn’t fix this, so I started over on a new technique.

*Warning: More Techie Stuff* What did work was I found help through a blogger’s immensely informative tutorial (I will point to this person’s blog once everything is done). I ended up adding HTML tags to my DOC file for paragraphs, for indents, smart quotes, accents, copyright symbols, ellipses, em dashes, etc, and then removed ALL page breaks. I saved this as a TXT file to strip out even more formatting, and then made a copy, which I then manually changed the file type to HTML. From there I downloaded the free Sigil (an EPUB editor) and began creating styles, applying headers, formatting, splitting chapters, creating both ToCs, and changing each ToC to what I wanted to see. It was pretty brutal, but once I got into the swing of things, it all went smoothly. A save to EPUB gave me a 300KB file...hooray. Unfortunately, when I loaded the EPUB into Amazon’s free Kindle Previewer (awesome app, btw), it created a MOBI file for me. When I reloaded this into Previewer, I saw that everything was looking very professional and each TOC worked flawlessly. Unfortunately, the MOBI file bloated up to 800KB for some reason. I then made a copy of the EPUB, and downloaded the free Calibre application and ran the EPUB through, which generated a 300KB MOBI file that worked like a dream on the Kindle Previewer. Next I will email it to my wife’s Kindle so she can take it for a test spin.

Aside from last minute changes resulting from Amy’s feedback, I will next design and create the actual cover (I know, I know, but there’s a reason I’ve gone through seven graphic design courses this year), buy a block of ISBNs, setup my KDP account with Amazon, and it’s ready to cut loose.

For this book, I have not attempted to go the agent and publisher route. My goal was to write a novel (my second) and take it from start to finish with only an incredibly valuable content editor and some test readers to help me along. I did this because: 1) I wanted to; 2) I love learning new things; 3) I did not want this book to bounce around ignored in a vast limbo for years on end; 4) I wanted to retain ALL rights to my property; 5) I intend to create comic book mini-series from the property in between novel releases, and I do not want anyone telling me who can or can’t help me with this (artists, guest writers, etc.).

For now, all I will say is that the book is about…you guessed it, Tulip and Obie, but in very different rolls than can be found in each weekly Donist World post. Like I said, this is a kids / all-ages book, and is upbeat, lighthearted, and hopefully tons of fun. More to come as things near completion.

Slice Into the Woods

Dang, I missed God Hates Astronauts #1 from Image Comics! - Crud…Oh well, looks like I have to order it or take a special trip down to Ventura to see if I can score a copy. I worship the Kickstarter hardcover version (I gush about it here), and you can check it out yourself — and you should — by picking up the trade. I definitely want to get my weird on with this crazy, wacky, fun series.


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