Part the two.

Also ran into longtime friend and cohort Graeme Macmillan on the show floor, got to catch up and chat for a bit, promised to see each other and talk more sometime that day, as we do every show we’re both at and then promptly manage not to cross each other’s path the rest of the day. Such is life. I guess he’s back writing for Newsarama now. I keep hoping for a restarted Fanboy Rampage, but the last time it nearly split the Internet in two, so maybe it’s for the best that giant is left sleeping.

Back to work. Artist hunting, mostly. The next STRANGEWAYS book, well story, since it’ll actually be a Webcomic before a book this time, is an anthology entitled THE LAND WILL KNOW. It’s kind of an updating of the campfire ghost story, one part western, one part EC-style horror, one part TWILIGHT ZONE. The great thing about it will be the range of art going in. This assumes that everything comes together. As of now, the lineup looks solid, and I think that I’ve got great matches for story content/tone and artist. But being a superstitious sort, I won’t be naming artists publicly until all the agreements are set.

Of course now if I mention an artist you’re gonna automagically assume that they’re someone I tried to recruit for this. That would be a mistake.

Spent a fair amount of time talking with Benjamin Marra, who came out all the way from New York City. His NIGHT BUSINESS and ADVENTURES OF MAUREEN DOWD are utterly off the rails, an unholy union of sleek sin and lurid grit that punches buttons you didn’t know you had. Or wanted to admit that you did. We talked horror movies, mostly of the 80s variety (HELLRAISER and POLTERGEIST playing right alongside CANDYMAN and RAWHEAD REX, which still has one of the single most transgressively outrageous scenes put to film.) He’s surprisingly affable and grounded, given the in-your-face nature of his work. And yeah, he’s the guy who drew the Pinhead sketch I posted just below this one. Check it out.

Also spent some time catching up with Tom Neely, he of THE BLOT and part of the group that gave us HENRY AND GLENN. Another surprisingly down-to-earth guy who might otherwise be mistaken for being, ah, intense and spooky. Just remember kids, the artist isn’t necessarily the art. And good news for fans of his: his follow on to THE BLOT, entitled THE WOLF is moving along nicely. That’ll be a book to look forward to. He was also displaying some gorgeous silkscreened posters which you can probably catch at his site Black metal fans take particular note. Well, death metal fans, too. And drone doom. And all the other million splinter genres.

Brandon Graham had brought with him many tall stacks of KING CITY books, which made my tracking down issues 5-12 much much easier than I thought it was going to be. Now I can finally read the darn thing. Really, KING CITY was one of the huge surprises of what, 2010 or whenever I actually started reading it. It’s such a simply beautiful book, but so much thought has gone into constructing the fictional reality of King City itself that you’re continually finding something you’d missed before. It’s some of the best science fiction out there because it isn’t simply about spaceships and rayguns and cyberpunk surface tropes (though ultimately it’s closer to what cyberpunk was really aiming at – the skin between humans and tech becoming permeable and not just making cyborgs but reshaping human behaviors). It’s one of my favorite books out there and Brandon is one of my favorite new artists. So yeah, excitement abounds.

We talked for a long while as I pawed through pages from the follow-up to MULTIPLE WARHEADS (which will be a color book, by the by), though I really didn’t want to ruin the surprise too much, so I forced myself to put ‘em down. But he sure knows how to do that cartooning thing, even though his work is not particularly complicated on the surface.

And yes, he said that there would be a KING CITY collection as well, which I’m very much looking forward to, even though I’ve bought all the singles. Maybe I’ll pass ‘em around to people who think they don’t like science fiction comics or something.

Brandon was tabled with Nate Simpson whose NONPLAYER from Image was something of a surprise. It’s an absolutely gorgeous fantasy/sci-fi comic which hits me very neatly in my weakness for Art Nouveau design/architecture (with a big ‘ol shout-out to Victor Horta about halfway in.) I was lucky enough to score in a (completely fair and unbiased) drawing a copy of the first printing of #1, which I guess is completely out of print. It’s beautiful work, reminiscent of the kind of thing that I used to see in Heavy Metal, but only, y’know, with a story and stuff. The first issue is getting reprinted, but it seems as if there’s going to be lots of time between them, since Nate’s doing it all himself. Hopefully readers and retailers will be patient with him. Me? I’m so buried in stuff to read right now that he’ll probably finish six issues before I plough through my reading pile, so let Nate take the time he needs.

Picked up an interesting self-published book called CHRONICLES OF VAN HELSING which is sort of an allegorical western rendered in a breathtaking black and white woodcut sort of style. Tom Morgan’s art is really a sight to behold here and is by far the star of the book. He’s another Portlander you should probably keep your eyes on. And yeah, I’m a sucker for a western, but you knew that already, right?

From Cellar Door publishing I grabbed a copy of THE MARVEL, which as is billed on the cover, is a biography of Jack Parsons. You know, Jack Parsons, founder of Aerojet Engineering, rocket propulsion designer, ladies man, and oh yeah, black magician in 1940s Los Angeles. I’m not making this up. He’s a fascinating character. Looking forward to getting to dig into this biography, having read the wonderful SEX AND ROCKETS from Feral House a couple years back.

Landed a copy of FRANCIS SHARP IN THE GRIP OF THE UNCANNY, (by B. Sabo and A. Bratton) which was apparently a Xeric Grant recipient last year. Liked what I saw of the art which was part whimsical and part horrible (as in the genre, not the quality) and it looks like something my son will want to read after having polished off THE UNSINKABLE WALKER BEAN.

Along similar lines, grabbed a book called FROM SCRATCH which looks like a fantastic take on the 1920s/gangster lore. Apparently I’m on a fantasy kick and I didn’t even know it.

And please don’t expect reviews anytime soon. I’ve finally come to grips with the fact that my reading pile is officially Out Of Control and I probably shouldn’t buy any more trades until I begin to carve it down to size. I know, that first step is the hardest one right? But these were things that I couldn’t put down simply because I haven’t seen ‘em anywhere else.

I did pick up a couple of minis, actually, which I don’t often do. The first of these is CRYPTOZOOLOGY: A PRAGMATIST’S GUIDE by Reid Psaltis. Hard to resist his charming ink rendering style. I think it was the entry about the Rat King that won me over, actually. Anyways, a treat for all cryptid fans everywhere. The other mini was a book called DANGER COUNTRY which is very much a D&D-inspired fantasy that recalls many hours of poring over the MONSTER MANUAL, but more than that, it’s a beautifully minimal and often dreamlike book. It’s by artist Levon Jinanian, who I don’t know much about other than he was splitting a table with Tom Neely. Probably worth further investigation, for reformed RPG geeks like myself.

Okay, more tomorrow.