This article is dedicated to the coolest of the cool things you can collect. This month isn’t really about something you can collect but of someone you can become. I had the privilege to speak with Robert Schumann, the founder and event coordinator, of a very special group of folks.
There’s people who wear costumes, there’s people who cosplay and then there’s the Umbrella Corp of Denver group. A couple times a year around Denver you will see a troupe all dressed in black and tactical gear. All their gear goes together and they are all wearing the same Umbrella Corp insignia. Their presence is menacing but their attitude is awesome! They are some of the most friendly people you will meet at Denver Comic Con or the Denver Zombie crawl.
They were founded in 2011. They do charity events and make any happening into a seriously awesome event. A couple of events they do throughout the year are…
To invite the Umbrella Corp Denver car or team to your event please contact Robert Schuman via firstname.lastname@example.org
Umbrella Corp tactical outfit
What it is:
One of the coolest cosplay outfits out there and if you are lucky enough and put in the effort, you might become part of the group!
How Much it Costs:
Costs vary depending on what gear you get but here’s an example of how much and where you can purchase such an outfit. (Read at the end of this article for Umbrella Corps of Denver Official list of gear). All prices are close estimates based on internet sites:
511 Black tactical pants: $50
Tactical knee pads $20
Tactical boots $75-130
Airsoft replica AR-15 $60-150
Tactical gloves with knuckle protection $40-60
Tactical elbow pads $20
511 tactical shirt $25
Tactical vest with MOLLE/loop platform $100-180
Sling for rifle: $20
Painters mask: $31
Tactical helmet: Replica $30/Real deal – $400-900
Is It Worth It?:
You can put together a similar outfit on a budget. Shop at Goodwill or Ross and you will find many bargains for this stuff:
Black shirt, long sleeve: $5
Black pants: $5
Find the best looking toy military style rifle at Target or goodwill(Might need some black paint): $10
Homemade insignia: Free
Cool sunglasses.: $5
Black surgical mask or bandana: $5-15
Goodwill black shoes or boots: $20
Prices are approximate but pretty close based on my own experience shopping at Goodwill. I shop at Goodwill a lot. 🙂
I can tell being in such an outfit would make you feel like a rockstar. So yeah it’s worth it.
What I though was really cool was how they are all treated like celebrities. Dozens of people coming up to get pictures. Every once and a while it’s exciting to feel important and like a celeb.
We use S10 gas masks or North Safety 7700 Series Half-Face Mask Respirator with North+ P100 Filter Cartridge
All other gear and equipment can either be found on the websites listed above, online, or at your local Army Surplus stores.
Umbrella corp Denver is a cosplay for charity group. Our mission is to support our local community and military veterans by providing costumed appearances at events, raising donation and volunteering for charity – and to have fun doing it.
Are we too plugged in? People are almost always staring at a screen of some kind, whether it be a phone, a tablet, or even an old fashioned laptop, believe it or not people still use them. Even in this wonderful world of comics, things are trending to the digital age. You can get any book you want and read it on any of your numerous electronic devices. A new creator owned comic, No Wonder, takes us to a world where we are jacked-in 24/7. I recently had the pleasure of asking No Wonder’s creator, Jeremy Hauck, some questions about his new project.
Hush Comics: When did you start the project? What was the most difficult process you found?
Jeremy Hauck: No Wonder actually started out as a TV script I wrote almost two years ago. The concept has drastically changed since then, but the message has remained the same.
As for the most difficult process, I’d say it was definitely building our world at an early stage. When most of our world’s population essentially knows “everything,” as a writer, you need to consider the repercussions that might have on a working society. There wouldn’t be any school, right? When there is nothing to teach, why would there be? What about the economy? How do you tackle internal conflict? These were difficult questions to answer, but they needed to be addressed if our audience was going to buy the concept.
HC: You have a full team for No Wonder. This isn’t so regular with small creator owned projects, especially picking up an editor and a web designer. What made you want to go all out with this? Was it hard assembling the right team?
JH: I knew that if I was actually going to attempt this and create my first comic book, I wasn’t going to half-ass it at any stage. Sure, the budget increases when more players join the collaboration, but that’s the sacrifice you make if you want to have a professional-looking, polished product. Luckily, I have an amazing team of polishers.
Finding a web designer was easy; he’s my best friend that happens to work in that field and has done an incredible job with our site so far. Finding our editor was easier since, well, she’s also my girlfriend. She has supported me since day one and I couldn’t have done this without her.
It took a few months to find our tremendously talented illustrator, Ellis Ray III, but he was well worth the wait. I brought Sean Callahan (our colorist) and Jamie Me (our letterer) into the fold after reviewing their extremely professional portfolios and, before I knew it, we had an actual team working on this project.
HC: In No Wonder, humanity is essentially wired together in a collective mind of sorts. Is this a virtual reality they all exist in?
JH: That was actually an idea I tossed around in No Wonder’s infancy, but when it started to feel too much like The Matrix, I decided against it. A.T.O.M isn’t virtual reality nor augmented. Think of it like this: before the user can even question about the dimensions of a table or ask how far Jupiter is from Earth, the answer is just…there; leapfrogging the learning process entirely.
I’ve done some research with how the mind works, and you’ll see that in later issues, but hopefully that answers your question because if I say anymore, we’ll be in Spoilertown.
HC: In the pages you’ve released we see the city streets being used as farmland. Obviously mankind still has to eat even if it’s plugged in 24/7. Who is planting, managing, and gathering the resources? How are they dispersed and administered to the populous?
JC: *Choo-choo* Next stop, Spoilertown.
I’d love to answer this because it’s such a good question, but I’m going to leave that one alone so the mystery remains. Besides, that’s what this comic is all about, right? Leaving you the opportunity to wonder instead of just giving you the answer?
HC: No Wonder stars Turner Lane, a teenager. What made you decide to have a younger protagonist? As a teenager, how naturally curious were you?
JH: Personally, I was pretty curious and skeptical as a teenager – questioning religion, fate, and what made the world tick on a day-to-day basis – but I don’t think that was unique to just me. Our teen years have always been depicted as the “developing age” of our lives. It’s a terrifying but exciting time for us because, although we’re developing, we don’t exactly know what we’re developing into. Turner’s age just felt like it should be right in the middle of that, especially since he’s being pulled away from a device that essentially fostered him through life.
There is also so much to wonder about when we were younger, so writing our protagonist as one of the youngest characters in our cast just made sense to me.
HC: Also something not often seen in comics is a Canadian setting. Why Vancouver?
JH: When I first looked into the process of creating a comic book, I was told early on that you should always “write what you know.” Growing up in Seattle, WA, Vancouver always felt like a Canadian cousin, geographically. You have a city near the water, surrounded by evergreen and mountains filling the background.
I also just really dug that town and the people I met when visiting. Vancouver deserves to be put in the spotlight, so I went with it.
HC: Webb looks like he’s been living off the grid for a while now. Has he ever been hooked up to A.T.O.M.?
JH: I love this question as well, but unfortunately, I can’t answer this one either, my friend.
What I can say is that Webb shows signs of being a Luddite in sequential issues.
HC: The custodians seem like a rather creepy group of people. Are they there to keep everyone in line? They seem like a Warriors-esque gang at first sight.
JH: Okay, I guess I can’t be “too” tight-lipped about everybody in our story, but I just don’t want to give too much away! It ruins the magic of our story as well as the message behind it.
I’ll tell you this about the Custodians: They are a religious group that established themselves in the wake of A.T.O.M going online.
That, and their design originally had no smiles. Ellis threw them in when we were working through our concept art when we first were getting started. When I say it, it just so creepy that I had to write in a reason as to why they have them in our world. Fortunately, I found an awesome one that just made sense to those characters.
HC: What’s your ultimate goal with No Wonder? Are you looking at publishers or just taking the reins on this project yourself?
JH: Right now, my focus is on our Kickstarter and actually funding the book. I’ve worked so hard to make this thing happen and it pretty much all comes down to the Kickstarter.
If our book is funded and we garner a bit of a following, I’ll definitely look into other publishers to help print/distribute more issues. It also helps, in my opinion, to have a finished product in your hand when introducing yourself to publishers. Hopefully Kickstarter will help make that a reality.
HC: Do you think as a society we’re too plugged in? No Wonder looks like it’s going to be a strong commentary on our digital existence.
JH: Absolutely; we have such a bizarre relationship to our electronic devices and the information consumed from them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a guy who loves technology, its growth, and the gadgets that derive from it. But when those gadgets stifle healthy social behavior, or distract you from an intimate moment you can only have outside of the screens we carry around, it’s definitely a bad habit most people need to kick. No Wonder will amplify that obsession we have with staying-up-to-date, and hopefully tell an entertaining story that people can relate to by doing so.
HC: Your Kickstarter starts November 5th. What are your plans if it’s not successful the first time around?
JH:I’m not sure what will happen with No Wonder if we don’t meet our goal – I just don’t have that mentality right now. I’m probably blinded by the unbelievable support my family and friends have given me through this experience, but I think an optimistic outlook, blinded or not, is the best thing to have when taking on something like this. So for now, let’s just see what happens and hope for the best!
Exclusive! Here is a preview of some of the goodies you can get your hands on for pledging to the Kickstarter:
No Wonder is sure to make us turn a mirror to ourselves when it comes to our attachment to the digital age. With a younger protagonist I personally think this would be a great new book for a younger crowd, hopefully to inspire some to put down the phone and look at the world around them. No Wonder hits Kickstarter on November 5th. It only makes sense to get this one in paper form. You can check out their website, nowondercomic.com, or their Twitter page for all new updates. Check back for a link to their Kickstarter page once it goes live!
Fall is a very magical time of year if you ask me. The weather starts to get chilly, the skies are overcast, everything that was once green begins to die in the most beautiful fashion, and you can get pumpkin spice literally everything. I have always loved fall because I can feel a spark in the crisp air – a spark of something different, creepy and maybe even a little menacing. That spark is the impending joy that is Halloween. October is finally here and before we know it, we’ll be paying decent money to get the shit scared out of us at haunted houses and the trick-or-treaters will be at our doors. Halloween is a mind set, one that takes over most people for the entirety of the 10th month of the year and there is no better way to get yourself in the spirit than cuddling up with a good scary movie to excite and spook you.
There’s no time like the present to start gearing up for Halloween, so why not take this weekend off, stay home, and binge watch until you’re too scared to turn the lights off. Without further adieu, here I are the 10 best movies to watch on Netflix to get yourself in the Halloween spirit: (In no particular order)
1. Banshee Chapter (2013)
This is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in years. It is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s story From Beyond and bases that premise on the chemical experiments the government performed on American soldiers in the 1960’s. Banshee Chapter has genuinely terrifying jump out scare moments, a truly disturbing story, minimal gore and violence, and one of the creepiest songs I’ve ever heard in my life. This movie will stick with you after you’ve watched it, you won’t want to sleep alone and especially not in the dark.
2. Creep (2014)
Creep is not your typical horror movie, and it continues to dodge your expectations all the way to the very end. This one won’t leave you sleepless, but it will hold your attention and make you uncomfortable while your watching it because it preys on the part of you that wants to trust people and give them the benefit of the doubt. Creep should absolutely be added to your list of things to watch; it’s very well written and like no other movie I’ve seen. Not to mention it’s just plain Creep-y (you see what I did there?)
3. Mr. Jones (2013)
This is another “Not-your-typical-horror-movie” movie. It will captivate you even though at first glance it kind of just seems like another found footage movie. In fact, the director utilizes several different techniques, including handicam, interviews, and separated wide shots. Mr. Jones is thoughtful, and introduces you to very real characters that are impossible not to care about. There are moments of suspense, very creepy artwork imagery, and a plot culmination that is not only scary but sweet and dances on the lines of the fantastical.
4. You’re Next (2011)
Oh this movie is so much fun. It’s gory, but there’s nothing too outlandish and the writing is clever and at moments very cynical towards the human race. You’re Next felt like watching The Strangers, but with so much more character and a way better plot base and story arc. I didn’t have very high expectations going into this movie and I was blown away – I laughed, I screamed, I jumped and then I watched it again. You’re Next won’t keep you up at night, but it will leave you exhilarated.
5. V/H/S (2012) and V/H/S 2 (2013)
These movies are perfect for getting in the mood for Halloween. Each film is a combination of short films with the longest being around 20 minutes. The stories are fun – some are ridiculously cheesy and others have some real merit to them. Each story is unique and the subjects range from ghosts to monsters to doomsday cults and there’s even one about what it would look like if you were wearing a GoPro while getting attacked by/becoming a zombie. Each anthology goes by quick, and after I watched the first V/H/S I immediately put on the second one because I wanted more. There is a third movie in this series and I have to suggest that you avoid it at all costs. It was such a disappointment, and there wasn’t a single moment in it worth watching.
6. We Are What We Are (2013)
We Are What We Are made it’s way quietly through the indie circuit, receiving more and more critical praise and making it one of the most buzzed about horror movies of the last few years. It moves a little slow and spends a lot of time really developing the story and characters so if you are expecting to jump into 90 minutes of non-stop hack and slash action this is not the movie for you. Instead, We Are What We Are almost feels like the intellect’s horror movie as it focuses on a family that believe they are normal even though they do horrible things in the name of tradition. There is a twist at the end of this one that left most viewers stunned and disturbed, so be forewarned. It didn’t bother me at all, but I’m a weirdo.
7. Hellraiser (1987) and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
I know these movies came out 28 years ago (good god that makes me feel old) but I really believe they’ve held up over time. The Hellraiser movies are similar to the demonic possession movies that were all the rage a few years ago, but they take that fear to the darkest place possible. Full disclosure: these movies still scare the shit out of me. The gates of hell can be opened and what comes out is way scarier than whatever possessed Emily Rose. The Cenobites are still, hands down, some of the scariest and most compelling monsters in cinema history and they are at their best in the first two Hellraiser films. Even after all these years the plot holds up, the effects hold up, and these movies will leave you disturbed and frightened.
8. The Scream Movies
These movies are classics. I’m pretty sure I still know the words to every single phone call from the first and second movies, not to mention basically all the lines. The Scream series has style and was incredible in its time, the first film single handedly reinvented the slasher flick genre and gave it validity again. I never thought the Scream movies were scary, just freaking amazing, so watching the series won’t give you nightmares, but it will probably make you giddy with nostalgia and joy.
9. Deep in the Darkness (2014)
This movie is kind of like The Village, if the monsters were real and not just dumb people in dumb costumes. Deep in the Darkness has some pretty freaky looking creatures that live in the woods and down in a series of caves around a small town and if the residents don’t keep them happy they basically go berserk. The monster people things are really scary, the acting is good, and the plot has enough action to keep things going while never really landing in cheesy territory. This movie may leave you more uncomfortable than you expected once it’s over, and wondering who or what could be outside your window or underneath your floor boards.
10: The House at the End of Time (2013)
The House at the End of Time, or La Casa del fin de los Tiempos is easily one of the best horror movies on Netflix right now. It’s about a haunted/possessed house that a woman returns to once she is elderly to finally figure out the curse it holds that has ruined her entire life. This movie has excellent pace between the dramatic and terrifying moments and more than anything you’ll want Dulce to survive, succeed and find her peace. The House at the End of Time is scary and full of heart, which in this case will only make you more invested in it and more terrified as it unfolds.
“Gauntlet of the Geek” is a new featured article where two of our writers debate on hot button issues in today’s nerd industry. We’re not paid to kiss ass, so see what happens when the white gloves come off and we let you all know how we really feel. Let us know whom you agree with.
For the last 30-40 years in pop culture, one thing has remained constant – franchises survive. Think of your favorite fandoms – how many of them are new to the last twenty years? Star Wars, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Doctor Who, Disney…all of them have survived generations because of the way they replicate onto different mediums of consumption. Sure, tribal upbringing accounts for a fair amount of the influence, but these franchises, now corporations built off the blood money of thousands of parents desperate to immerse their offspring in the same stuff. And those blessed corporations care enough about we the consumer to keep putting out fresh material to relate one generation to the next, keeping these beloved fandoms alive. Where would TMNT be without the new Nickelodeon series? I’ll tell you where. In the retro section of a fucking Hot Topic, that’s where. Let’s not forget that the stuff kids find cool is only cool because television, movies, and toy stores tell them it’s cool. We’re just more accepting of it because we find it cool, too.
One of the best side effects of licensed comic books is the amount of pull and resources that it gives the creators. For example, the mountains of merchandising money that Disney and WB give Marvel and DC, respectively, have opened up the doors for them to take chances on titles for the lesser-known titles (like Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel – both of which have had HUGE success). It’s not so much making people who watch Iron Man want to pick up Extremis, but using the resources that the Iron Man movie’s exposure brings in to reallocate and try something new (which I admit is a doey-eyed way to look at the world. We all know these corporations don’t give a crap about us). Think of it as drug dealers buying winter clothing for local school children with their drug money.
I look at licensed comic books the same way I look at the honorary torch carrier at the Olympics. They shouldn’t be regarded with the elite status they once were. X-Files and Star Trek comic books should not be competing with Saga and D4VE, nor should they be marketed as such. Licensed comic books should be designed to engage readers to narrow the gaps between fandoms. One fan who loves comics but doesn’t know anything about Ghostbusters now has input to a conversation about those who love the movies but aren’t into comic books. It’s a beautiful thing when it happens.
However, the key is knowing when and how to bring some of the lesser-known books back into the spotlight. Unfortunately for us, there are some publishers out there who are filling nearly their entire catalog with 80’s franchises that just don’t fit in today, let alone in the comic book format. If you’re immediately thinking of IDW Publishing and Dynamite Entertainment, you’d be correct. A Django/Zorro crossover? A Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure 3? Escape From New York? Angry Birds?? You get the point. Since Image’s recent explosion of actual content in creator-owned titles, the smaller guys (BOOM!, IDW, Dynamite, Titan) have all resorted to making these kind of unnecessary branded titles part of their flagship titles, which can only end up giving the industry creative constipation.
With the successful integration of comic books into mainstream media, it’s only natural that these corporations would try to capitalize on the success of these franchises. Each of your favorite franchises began as a lowly “hopeful,” and while some of the crappier ones might be here for now, only the great ones remain. It’s how Buffyverse is still running. It’s how A Song of Ice and Fire will likely continue after George R. R. Martin ends the saga. Licensed comic books let creators continue telling stories even when they think nobody is listening anymore.
by Sherif Elkhatib
Let me get this out in the open right off the bat: licensed comics are terrible. It’s hard to pin down exactly why, but I’m going to see if I can narrow it down to a few easily observed facts. And before you get all uppity with me and shriek in your halting bat language, “But Montgomery! Don’t you semi-regularly gush about one or more Transformers comics?” I do. But that doesn’t mean the genre is redeemed, and it doesn’t make me a hero: it just means I’m weak, along with everyone else who bought Super Pro.
Perhaps the most glaring issue right from the start is the properties they insist on convincing us are worth reading. I referenced Super Pro, but have you ever actually seen it? This is taking up space on Marvel’s hard drives as we speak.I mean, as someone who takes football very seriously (read: I don’t take it seriously at all), this is the thing I buy to reassure myself that I can be taken seriously as a human who breathes air on this planet. I mean, check out those cute Puritan-influenced cleats he’s wearing. This is a man’s comic, no doubt. But seriously folks, more often than not, a licensed comic is nothing but a cynical cash grab from one giant corporation to another. There’s no love of either art going into it, and then you’re forced to ask: “Who’s supposed to want to buy this?” I mean, the love fans of football have for comics is legendary, and the stereotype of the football playing comic nerd is so old it’s almost worn out (not to editor: forgot my sarcasm tags). But it doesn’t stop there. Love the music of Kiss? Well now you can enjoy their nuanced aesthetic with none of their complicated rhyme scheme.
A misguided relative actually bought me Super Pro #1. I read it because what, am I actually going to play football? Hell to the no. It’s a story that’s nearly impossible to resurrect from the graveyard of my prepubescent memory, but one thing was painfully clear even to my eight year-old brain: this was a comic written neither for fans of football, nor fans of comics. And that’s a problem deeply inherent to the genre. Because, more often than not, the cross polinization of properties is just an attempt to capitalize on something that’s already profitable, the resultant product cannot be something the violates the spirit of either thing. It cannot offend the sensibilities of either fan base, but that almost curses it to appealing to neither fan base. Super Pro, if you care (which you almost certainly don’t) is the tragic story of a football player who gets injured nearly to death. He’s brought back from the brink courtesy of a mechanical football uniform so that he can continue… to… play football? But then realizes he’s more than just feetsballs throw man, and fights… crime? I mean, apart from about fifteen moments where I have to stop and ask, “Uh, why?”, that premise sounds like it comes straight from the mouth of that uncle we all have who hates comics and doesn’t respect us for our love. Because the end result shits on the heads of anyone who might possibly want it, every step toward that end result is just as insulting and just as steamy.Oh so, I guess I’ll just buy an adaptation of the thing I already have?!
Perhaps the most prevalent reason for licensed comics is the disease like pervasive presence of the “based on the hit movie” comic.Oh good, now I can be irritated, frustrated, and repulsed by one thing in two mediums.This is the point where I also have to stipulate that just because something sells, it does not mean it’s qualitatively good. I mean, everyone’s mom has a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey stashed under their mattress, but it’s not winning any awards any time soon. Right? God I hope not. I have to make that clear because comics are experiencing a sort of rebirth thanks to the herpes-like proliferation of comic book movies.
I guess on one hand I have to be thankful for terrible ideas like the Avengers movie tie-in comic, but why does such a thing exist in the first place? “Duh, Montgomery,” you might start, “because people who saw the movie might want to get into comics, and this is their way in, you dumb sack of crap,” you might finish. And very rudely, I might add. And in your very rude retort (seriously, guy), you’ve proven my point: they’ve already seen the movie. Who needs to buy this comic? Apart from the compulsive collector, is there really an audience of people who like the idea of an Avengers movie enough to buy a comic based on the movie, but not enough to buy the actual comics that have been running for 50 years or to spend the $10 to see the movie in the theater? It’s a bizarre monster we’ve lived with all our lives but haven’t really noticed.
There are other reasons why licensed comics are terrible. The fact that tie-ins are often made before the movie knows what they’re doing, so you wind up with weird anachronisms; the art is just the worst, like really, do they even care; the fact that the licensed property is fenced-in so fiercely that even if it were a good idea in the first place, they don’t have much space to play around in. Really, we could talk until all the oxygen is gone, but just these three reasons should be enough to convince you to put down that comic book prequel to Transformers 5: Planet of The Earth and invest in some stocks. Or something.
I’ve been a massive Supenatural fan for a little over a year now, but until last week I had never jumped into one of the fandom’s biggest projects. Misha Collins (Castiel) heads an international scavenger hunt for one week every year called “G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S.” or “The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.” It’s one week out of the year where normalcy is thrown out the window and your comfort zone kind of takes a hike. It’s also the number one contributor to Misha’s (he made me wear a swim suit on a glacier. We’re on a first name basis at this point,) charity “Random Acts,” which strives to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time. That’s really what GisHWheS (Misha has weird rules about how you’re supposed to spell this) is all about. Through the use of the weird and the kind, our team “Nerdfighters Who Eat Kale” made a lot of people smile last week.
The first day of the hunt, Misha let out an absolutely insane list of 200+ items each 15 member team was to attempt. There were crazy, what-the-hell-am-I-doing items, like climbing up to a glacier in your bathing suit (completed) or playing ping pong underwater with an egg for the ball (not completed. Kudos to those teams.) There were items that involved doing charity work like donating board games to a local shelter after throwing the game a going away party (completed). And there were inspiring items, like taking an elder to a place from their childhood and asking them to tell you a story about it (completed adorably.) Each item had a point value assigned to it which would be tallied up to win the grand prize: A trip to Costa Rica with Misha Collins. However, that really isn’t the point of the scavenger hunt and most teams don’t play to win. Our team just wanted to have fun and make an impact in our community and boy did we. Not only that, but GisHWheS impacted me on a personal level. Here’s what I learned during the crazy death-to-normalcy week I experienced the first week of August.
You are so much more capable than you think you are.
I have pretty bad depression, so sometimes just getting out of bed is a challenge. A week before the hunt I remember lying in bed thinking, “How am I going to pull this off? How am I going to keep motivated to do this crazy stuff? I’m going to let my team down. I should just pull out now.” But I didn’t and when the first day rolled around and our team sat down to deliberate the list, I felt scared, but invigorated. Every time I looked at an item I thought, “Well, I’m not doing that one. There’s no way,” but then I hunkered down and did it and it usually turned out better than I was expecting it to. If there’s one thing I learned from GisHWheS, it’s that if you have an idea, even a half assed idea, you can make something truly amazing.
Ask and you shall (usually) receive.
Some of the items on the list seemed absolutely impossible. A few actually were. But others felt impossible because it meant I had to ask for favors from complete strangers. One of the items was to combine drive thrus and Jeopardy. We had to get someone at a drive thru to guess our order using Jeopardy-like questions. I used to work at a drive thru Starbucks. They’re incredibly busy, the customers are rude, and everything has to get done impossibly fast or you might end up with scalding hot coffee in your face (very nearly happened to a friend of mine. He ducked.) I was nervous about asking for a favor that could potentially cause someone to have a harder day at work. However, with the spirit of GisHWheS poking and prodding at me, I made a call to my old Starbucks location and asked the manager (who I didn’t know) if they could help us out.
The girl was absolutely ecstatic. She could not wait for us to come over, but that day was very busy for them due to an event happening just across the street so we decided to meet the next day at a less busy time. My teammate and co-captain Ashlee and I drove over after completing another item (let’s just say the world is a safer place for Unicorns because of us) and bellied up to the bar. I was dressed as Dean Winchester and when I drove up to the speaker, someone I used to worked with answered. I panicked. I couldn’t remember his name and didn’t think he’d want to do the item. Luckily, I make a damn good dude and he didn’t recognize me through the drive thru camera. Nervous, I opened my mouth and said, “We’re doing a scavenger hunt and-” there was a scuffle and the sound of someone being elbowed out of the way and then the manager we’d spoken to came on the line. “Hi! I’m ready! Go ahead!” Before we knew it, I had a grande iced caramel macchiato, she had a big tip and our team had another item in the bag.
Believe it or not, people are usually willing to help you out if you ask politely. It might take a little bit of searching around (we had to go to two separate locations for a different item to find what we needed) but ultimately, people want to help each other.
Being kind doesn’t have a point value.
While there were a few items that had me thinking, “That’s worth a ton of points. We have to do that,” for the most part, the points system came second to the work I was doing. One of the items was to do something kind for someone who had sacrificed something for you. It was only worth 21 points. It didn’t have to be a big thing. Buying them a box of chocolate or taking them out to dinner would have sufficed. But I didn’t want to do that. My mother has been there for me, cleaning up my messes, helping me get back on my feet my entire life. Being a therapist with a child who has depression is very hard for her, as it means she never really gets a break from her job. On top of that, she has to do your typical mom stuff: cleaning, cooking, watering the plants etc. I could have just bought her something nice and spent the rest of the day doing items with higher point values, but instead I decided to give her a little bit of a break.
My mother feels best when her home is clean, but it takes a lot of time and effort to do the whole house, so she rarely gets to enjoy it. I decided to give her that. The moment she left for work, I went to town, dragging the vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs, cleaning all the dishes, dusting and scrubbing every square inch of the house. After six hours of cleaning, I was dripping with sweat. Just before my mother got home, I changed clothes and started making dinner, a package of bath bombs and a new Betty White book (my mother’s idol) ready to give her when she got home. The item was only worth a handful of points, but the look on her face was better than I could have hoped for. She was ecstatic all night long.
Quality over quantity is what matters.
As a writer and someone who often feels like I haven’t produced enough work, it’s important to remember that it’s not the quantity of a portfolio that makes an artist but the quality of the work that has been made. There was a moment at the end of the hunt when I felt the need to run around to try to pull something together just for the points, just to add another item to the pile. I decided against it, though, because the item I had in mind couldn’t be done well in the time I had left. There were definitely items our team made that were last minute and they were great, but for the bigger items, we took care to make them as awesome as we could. We took time to produce quality work. Making a small amount of really awesome stuff is always a lot more fun, and a lot more rewarding, than making a lot of mediocre items just to have more.
Don’t do the obvious. Push yourself to come up with something different.
There was one item that asked participants to make a video or image of what Supernatural Season 50 would look like. My immediate thought was to dress up as Castiel and stand in front of two tombstones, as Castiel is an angel and he’d outlive the brothers. However, I quickly realized that was too obvious a choice and decided to make a joke about Sam’s incredibly long hair, instead. I took time with it. I made my face look older and made both my friend and mine’s hair grey and set up the shot to make sure it was well composed. When we were finished, it looked great and was super funny.
Once the hunt was over and everyone was allowed to share their submissions, I was glad I hadn’t gone with my initial thought. There were tons of Castiel’s standing over graves. Had I gone for the obvious, it wouldn’t have stood out to the judges. Our submission would have just gotten lost in the sea of mourning angels. (Not that it’s a bad idea. Just a popular one.)
Never take the obvious route when you’re doing a project. The obvious isn’t interesting. Everyone is doing the obvious. Branch out. Think “Yeah, that’s the logical choice, but what could be funnier? What’s cooler than what everyone else is doing?” That’s where good art comes from.
When you don’t feel like making art, make art anyway.
Again, as someone with depression, it can be hard to continuously create. There were at least one or two days during the week when I didn’t have anything planned for that day and I felt terrible. I didn’t know what to make. I didn’t know what to do. I would look at the item list and feel incredibly overwhelmed. I felt resigned to not getting anything done one of those days, until I realized that not making art wasn’t going to make me feel better, either. Laying in bed and feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to help me or my team. Instead, I got up and tried to find an item that I did feel I could do. I didn’t listen to the voice in my head telling me, “That’s too hard. You can’t do that.” I jumped onto the item, pushed through the ennui and did it anyway. And you know what? It turned out pretty damn good. Had I just sat there and not done anything, I’d had felt terrible and we’d have one less item done.
Give yourself time to be less productive.
On the opposite end of things, sometimes you just need a moment to yourself. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Sometimes you just need curl up in bed with Netflix and a bowl of ice cream. Do that. We all need that. I needed that once last week and while I still made sure to get at least one item done, I decided it to be something I didn’t have to get out of my pajamas for if I didn’t want to. When you’re doing something as big as GisHWheS, it’s important to have one day where you don’t have to be super productive. You get one day off. Give it to yourself.
Have a plan even if it feels like you don’t need one.
Before I did GisHWheS, I figured we’d just get the list and go from there. I assumed things would fall into place and we’d communicate easily enough to get things done. Boy was I wrong. I’m incredibly grateful to Ashlee for being so damn organized last week. She put all of the items into a giant spreadsheet with columns for who was doing what, the description of the item and whether it had been completed or not. This made things incredibly easier when it came to completing items. It also made it easy to collaborate. Even if someone had called an item, it was easy to simply message them and ask if you could help out. Having a plan made things a lot less hectic and left more time for item creation and less time trying to figure out who was doing what.
We also had quite a few meetings before the hunt, one on the first day and an open GroupMe chat that continuously updated us on what was going on. This gave us a good way of figuring out how we wanted to operate and plan for when and where to meet up for multiple person items. Our Facebook group also made it super easy to get feedback and make sure we weren’t breaking any rules.
It might seem like a project is just something you do, but really the more you plan, the easier it is to get everything done. This is especially true when you have 15 people to worry about and several of those people live out of state. If it weren’t for the tons of planning and organizing we did, our team wouldn’t have gotten nearly as many items done.
Doing strange things with weird people is the best way to live your life.
My teammates are some of the most wonderful people I have ever meet. There’s few individuals who would feed you cake blindfolded in a fancy restaurant with your hands behind your back, or hike up a rocky terrain to a icy glacier just to take a photo with you in their swim suits. Before this hunt, I didn’t think anyone would help make “Save the Unicorn” t-shirts and convince people to sign a fake petition with me, or spend three hours helping me construct a Campbells Tomato Soup Can cosplay. This week we did all of that weird shit and more and we had an absolute blast doing it. After a while, I got so used to doing strange things that it came as second nature. Now that I’m back in the “real world,” I don’t really know what to do with my life. My solution to this? Continue to do strange things. Always challenge normalcy and do it with the people you love.
If you’re looking to do something fun, something different, something you’ll remember until you’re old and grey, GisHWheS is the best way to spend your week. I learned a lot and had a ton of fun. No one normal ever made change in this world. Do something weird with your life. Death to normalcy!
Wes Craig: Well I was a kid who always wanted to make comic books. I used to write and draw my own superhero stories in grade school. In my teens I made a comic called “J.D.” that was kind of based on me and my friends. I also did other comics like a Viking story, and a story about a man who meets the devil in a bar.
When I graduated from high school I took a three-year course in Illustration & Design. While I was in there I started mailing away samples of work to DC and Marvel Comics. A had a few years of doing that, sending away samples, getting rejection letters. I got really close to a job when a DC editor called me and told me I was on the right track, I kept sending samples with no real response and then a year later I got a call from the same editor basically telling me the same thing but he’d forgotten that he called me the year before. Hahaha.
I went to conventions and pitched ideas to Image Comics too, but I wasn’t quite ready yet so they never got green lit. Eventually I got a gig on a DC Comics title as my first paid gig [Ed Note: Wes’ first title was DC Comics’ Touch]. It got cancelled after only six issues. But my foot was in the door. Since then I’ve worked for DC and Marvel on a bunch of their titles – Guardians of the Galaxy was what I was most known for. When the offers weren’t coming in, I’d take jobs in video games, doing storyboards or character design, and work on my own comics.
Then one day, Rick Remender emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in working with him, I was a fan of his work so I was into it. And that brings us to Deadly Class.
HC: You have a very specific style. Which artists did you draw inspiration from when you were learning how to draw? Who continues to inspire you?
WC: It doesn’t feel like I do have a specific style honestly, but that’s probably something that a lot of artists feel. Anyway, when I was learning to draw I was a big fan of George Perez, his work on Teen Titans was the first comic I collected. Will Eisner’s The Spirit was a big one, I used to pick up black and white reprints of that from Kitchen Sink Press.
I remember the first time I saw Moebius. Katsuhiro Otomo and Masamune Shirow. Brian Bolland. The Image guys like McFarlane were an influence early on. I still go back to a lot of Eisner, Moebius, and Otomo. I love anything from Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly. Jeff Smith. Paul Pope, David Lapham, David Mazzuchelli and a lot of the indie artists these days, people like Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Emily Carrol, Eleanore Davis. The Hernandez brothers. There’s a lot of great stuff out there.
But it’s also funny because some of the stuff you don’t like as a kid can turn into your greatest influence. When I was young I didn’t like Jack Kirby or Mike Mignola. Now they’re two of my favourite artists of all time. I just didn’t get it back then. But that’s a lesson to me as an adult, too; just because you don’t like something right away, don’t automatically reject it – maybe it’s the “shock of the new” and your brain just isn’t willing to accept it yet.
HC: What supplies do you prefer to use? Do you like traditional or digital tools more?
WC: I prefer traditional. I have friends who tell me how fast digital is, but I like the feeling of paper and ink. I use digital too, though. Especially in later stages of Blackhand Comics to adjust colors.
For Deadly Class, it’s deadline driven so I use standard bristol board and Sakura Calligraphy pens and brushes. Those get the job done the fastest for me.
But for Blackhand or other personal stuff I like to change it up and try new things.
HC: What is your process when you sit down to create? Does this change when depending on what role you’re taking on for the project (writer vs artist)? Which is hardest for you?
WC: When I’m drawing Deadly Class, Rick and I usually get on the phone and talk out ideas a bit. Then I’ll get the script (page and panel breakdowns with basic description and dialogue). I usually have ideas for how I want the story to flow, changing page compositions and stuff, and Rick’s always very open to that. The final dialogue is done after I finish all the art. That’s one of my favourite aspects of Deadly Class, it feels very alive the whole time it’s being produced. When I’m doing my own work I tend to plan it to death at the beginning so when I’m doing the actual drawing it’s kind of boring, paint by numbers. So I’m trying to leave more room for improvisation now.
When I write and draw my own comics, I write description, dialogue, and do rough little thumbnail panels all at the same time, then I’ll compose it into a page and go over the dialogue and try to make it work together. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle to try and make it feel like something real is happening on the page, but that’s the challenge.
So yeah, the process changes completely depending on your role. I find writing and drawing my own stuff the hardest, but also the most rewarding.
Creating something and seeing it through the whole way kind of IS comics at it’s purest for me.
HC:I noticed that on your Twitter feed, you love sharing your recent sketches with followers – not just Deadly Class and Blackhand material, but a lot of experimentation with techniques and content. Is there any specific experimental stuff you’ve been wanting to fit into your upcoming books?
WC: Yeah, I have a lot of little experiments I’d love to try out. The thing about it, though, is it has to fit the story. I don’t want to shoehorn anything in that doesn’t belong. But yeah, lots of ideas on layering and “cut-up,” for lack of a better word.
“Layering” has to do with looking at the page and the images as a three dimensional space, layering images and panels on top of each other. Quietly did this very affectively in We3.
And “cut-up” just has to do with how comics work, were actions and sentences are broken up, and it creates this staccato effect. Those are two areas I’d like to explore a lot more.
HC: Is Rick Remender really the biggest asshole in the industry? I know you guys like to give each other a hard time; do you have any stories that would give us an insight as to how your relationship works?
WC: Mr. Remender’s lawyers have informed me that I am to answer all such questions with nothing but glowing praise.
He is a saint.
HC: You, Rick and Lou are probably the best team in comic books right now. Are there any other creative teams in the business that you admire?
WC: Sure. Like I’ve said mostly I’m a fan of cartoonists that do the whole thing themselves but there are a few creative teams that work so well together you’d think it was one person.
I think we’ve worked well together and gotten that effect sometimes. Unfortunately, Lee won’t be working with us going forward, but you can see his work on a bunch of other great Image series like Southern Cross and Wolf. But we have Jordan Boyd working with us now and he’s amazing, and I think we’ve managed to keep things very unified. Also, Rus Wooton on letters really helps bring it all together. That’s my favourite part of the process: seeing a page where we’re all coming together seamlessly.
Anyway, I think Ed Brubaker, Sean Philips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser are great. Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly, too.
HC: Why Image Comics? What about working with them do you enjoy?
WC: Working with Rick was a big draw, but so was working through Image. They’re just really strong right now, they’re making a lot of good decisions and publishing a lot of good books.
HC: If you could clone yourself and jump on to do art for another title in the industry, what would it be?
WC: Honestly, I’d just do more of my own stuff. Blackhand Comics, and other projects I have in mind for the future. I try and get as much of that done between issues of Deadly Class as I can, but it’s tough.
HC: Deadly Class comments on homelessness and the lengths one will go for security. How do you think we can help our homeless population, especially our homeless youth?
WC: Well, I think affordable housing is the thing that stands out the most for me. Cities never invest enough in that kind of thing; they say they will then they just keep building condos for the rich.
Really, I think the best thing is to ask homeless people what they think. But my thoughts on it are that people need dignity and a purpose. They don’t need to be coddled and treated like they’re incapable, they just need a little help, a leg up. And shelter where they can feel secure and human.
HC: Deadly Class seems to be a lightning rod for teenage angst and rebellion. Do you feel the book has transcended to something beyond the book’s stories?
WC: Well, we hope so. It seems to have reached older people who can relive those experiences with some adult perspective. and younger people who are growing up now, and see things they can relate to. The letters we get really blow me away, how passionate people are about it.
That connection people have, I think that’s the part I’m most proud of. It’s a really violent series, but underneath there’s a lot of heart and real feelings. And we try not to treat the assassin angle like it’s “cool.” Killing is a terrible thing, so when it happens, it’s not some victorious moment; it makes the character physically sick, or it damages something inside of them. I don’t know if I’ve always put that across to the audience, but that’s what I try to do.
HC: If you had to choose one of your books’ worlds to live in, which would you choose and why? Who would you want as an ally?
WC: Man, definitely not Deadly Class, that school is terrible. I guess that short story in Blackhand I did called “Circus Day.” That place seemed pretty harmless. I’d just hand out with the clowns and the freaks all day.
HC: You’ve got a T-Shirt on the way, and I’ve been trying to get my hands on a skateboard deck for months now. Do you see Deadly Class ever being branded the way The Walking Dead is one day?
WC: If we ended up with a TV show or a movie, I’d imagine there’d be some more merchandising. Right now, I’d like to keep it pretty simple, though.
HC:You have announced some new Blackhand stories, with more coming soon. How will these differ from the first published volume?
WC: I keep going back and forth on that. I have an overall concept in mind for a second volume, a kind of apocalyptic theme. But there’s other ideas I have too, sometimes I think I’ll just do the first volume and that’s it, other times I want to do it more than anything. So we’ll see.
Right now it’s looking like I’ll be going ahead with it though.There would be a lot more stories in a second volume and a more standard format. But like the first volume, a lot of dark, pulpy weirdness.
Today the world stood still in the town of Aurora, Colorado. It’s not the biggest city in the state. People who don’t live here may have never heard of it before 2012, but it’s my hometown and it holds some of my best memories. For many people, though, it holds some of their worst.
On July 20th, 2012, James Holmes walked into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and he set off tear gas grenades and opened fire just as the film began. Many patrons were unsure if it was a publicity stunt that was part of the show, or if they should be alarmed. James Holmes killed 12 people that night, and injured 70 others. News outlets covered the crime 24 hours a day for many days, questioning why and how someone could do this, and for the first few hours updating the death toll. No one could understand why he would do something like that. Holmes was dressed in tactical gear and had his hair colored as a homage to the Batman villain the Joker, who appeared in the previous film. He was arrested at the scene, and since then a debate has raged on as to whether or not he should pay for his crimes due to mental illness and insanity.
Since Holmes’ crime, our nation has suffered through several more unwarranted mass shootings and the issue of mental illness has become a hot topic. It’s no secret that there are not always resources available to those who suffer from mental illness, and way too many people fall through the cracks and are left with no other options than to succumb to their illness. I am not here to argue the validity of an insanity plea in this case. My goal is not to sway opinions or cause an argument or debate. As the prosecution said in their closing arguments, what matters here is that James Holmes walked into that theater on July 20, 2012 intending to kill every person in there.
As I mentioned earlier, Aurora is my hometown. I went to high school maybe a few miles away from the Century 16 Movie Theater, and I saw countless movies there in my youth. I should also mention that I suffer from mental illness, and have for many years. It has brought me to some very dark places – drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, unhealthy relationships, self-harm, and even attempted suicide. It makes me feel incredibly vulnerable to share that with the world, but now finally feels like a good time to open up about my struggles. It took me many years to come to terms with my condition, I self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, convinced myself I was fine without meds for many years, and hit some very scary all time lows that lasted for years at a time before I finally accepted that I needed help. I am in control of my illness now, but the ongoing debates about whether or not people like me can be trusted, or held responsible for our actions when we do something wrong always hits very close to home for me. Yesterday, at 4:15 p.m. James Holmes was found guilty of murder in the first degree for all twelve deaths, as well as every count of attempted murder and I couldn’t be happier. Now let me explain to you why.
First of all, part of dealing with my illness as an adult is understanding that there are some things about myself I cannot help, but I have to try every day to overcome my demons. In turn, when I fail at defeating the monsters inside I alone am solely responsible for what I’ve done because as a human I have a choice everyday on how I handle myself. Yes, on many days it is harder for me to do the reasonable thing, but I am still the one in power – not my illness. Whether or not I’m on my meds, that will always be the cold hard truth.
Second, when James Holmes attacked the patrons of that theater – a bunch of excited movie and comic buffs eagerly awaiting their first glimpse of the highly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises – he attacked my peers. Not just my peers, my family. I am part of a close-knit group of, shall we say, geeks or nerds. We’re fanatic; we’re easily excitable about the things we love and the people in that theater were likely in a state of pure elation until Holmes took everything from them. I’ve gone to those midnight openings, my friends have gone to them and other than the fact that I had to work the next day there was no reason that my husband and I wouldn’t have been at that theater with all the other fans. Those victims are people I relate to; they’re people that I have shared experiences with. Seeing the midnight release of a film is a fun and exhilarating experience for fans. It used to be a sacred rite for the truly devoted, and on that night, James Holmes demolished that joy for a population and turned it into pain. He attacked my community – my friends, my family, my fellow Batman and movie fanatics, but it goes even deeper than that.
When James Holmes walked into that theater he attacked people, he attacked human kind. He tried to take innocence and bliss from well intentioned human beings that had done nothing to warrant such an unjustified act. He tried to instill fear and terror into the world, to remind us that there was no safe place and he succeeded. Movie theaters now run PSAs before films informing people of how to quickly and safely escape should another armed lunatic try to attack. James Holmes changed our community and he changed our world for the worst. Our children will grow up in a society where knowing that there is no safety from armed maniacs is just a part of life, and that is just too fucked up for me to wrap my head around.
For a long time, something inside of myself rejected learning Holmes’ name – I called him John Holmes (famed 70’s porn star who died of AIDS) for at least a year because I refused to give him the name recognition he so obviously craved. It was never on purpose; it just kind of happened. But I know his name now – he is a convicted murderer and domestic terrorist James Holmes. He took so much from us that we will never get back. He was found guilty almost exactly three years after that fateful night, but watching the coverage certainly doesn’t make it feel like any time has passed at all.
As someone who suffers from mental illness, I completely understand the tragedy of a person being found guilty because they were unable to get help in time. That being said, I am also someone who understands that when that kind of darkness starts to creep into your mind you have a choice – and James Holmes chose to let that darkness take him. When he gave in, he changed the world forever and he took something from all of us. He destroyed countless lives and families and he turned something that should have been so fun into something horrific. Aurora, Colorado is my home and I will never be the same after seeing how something so horrible could happen to my peers, in my community, in my own backyard. Justice was served today, James Holmes deserves to be punished for what he did. It will never give anyone back what they’ve lost, nothing can ever do that. At least this way there will closure for a community that was forever changed.
Fresh from Denver Comic Con, we met up with Denver comic book artist Zak Kinsella about his work, what inspired him as a kid, his views on how Denver is changing, and what’s next for him. Artist and writer on books like Midspace,” King Maul, and Outré Veil, Kinsella’s wit, expression and honesty is what draws readers to his work. He has also worked for the Westword and The New York Times and has some exciting news about where he might be headed next.
Hush Comics: What made you want to be an artist?
Zak Kinsella: I think it really popped into me in junior high. I was always drawing beforehand. My mom’s an artist… Mostly it was just getting back into comics when I was in junior high, like X-Men. That really popped for me. I thought, “I’m going to start drawing these things. These comic books.”
HC: Did you start with drawing those characters?
ZK: Yeah. I had been used to drawing before so drawing outside in the real world, like life drawing, [I thought] “well, let’s try drawing some muscly dudes.” And then I realized I love it.
HC: How did you get started doing that professionally?
ZK: I decided I wanted to. I started putting out my own books and before I was an illustrator— a pretty successful one, too— and I’m a pretty successful one right now, too, but you get to a point in the road where you think, “Man, illustration’s really cool and I’ve done cool work but it’s still not comic books.” They have this really weird grasp on you. They’re really the road less taken and they’re way more fun than drawing for Men’s Health or something like that or even New York Times, which I’ve done before. I mean, that’s big name stuff but it’s still not [as] fun [as] comics. I didn’t want to be one of those people that was stuck in what they hated doing.
HC: What about comics inspires you most? What about X-Men inspired you as a kid?
ZK: I moved around a lot as a kid, but we grew up in Texas and I don’t like football, I don’t play sports [except for] swim team… so that’s kind of like the outcast. If you’re not playing football, you’re not accepted. [Reading] the X-Men as a kid it was like, “These guys are always getting crapped on while they’re trying to do a good job at something.” And that was like, “I’m on the swim team!” “Oh, great job. You don’t play football. Let’s punch you…” A lot of those themes are repeated throughout the X-Men, plus, with those comics they’re exciting because they’re not like a lot of the other mainstream comics. They deal with a lot of progressive feminism and acceptance and love and stuff that’s just really cool while all at the same time [there’s] dudes in tights punching each other. It made progressive-ism accessible to a young man. It’s not your typical power struggle fantasy. It straddles those boundaries but if you look at their best character Storm. I mean, she was punk rock Storm.
HC: Is she your favorite character?
ZK: No, I was actually more of a Nightcrawler [fan] and more than anything else I was a Cyclops fan. Everyone’s like, “Okaaaay,” but I love that guy. He gets the job done. Everyone thinks he’s a tool but tools get the job done.
HC: You seem to illustrate for a lot of projects in the science fiction vein. What do you like most about that genre that keeps you coming back for more?
ZK: It’s what I grew up on. X-Files was a big thing for me, but also growing up as a kid I used to read these things called, Time Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown. They were just these dumb books about the outer limits. Twilight Zone was a big thing [for me and so was] In Search Of with Leonard Nimoy. All those things and then, a healthy dose of British science fiction on PBS. I lot of these things came from my mom, honestly. We’d watch Doctor Who thirty years before anyone followed it. [We thought,] “Oh, Doctor Who sounds pretty cool.” [I also liked] the obvious stuff like Star Wars. A lot of that stuff is influential. Science Fiction does such a great job of critiquing humanity while being like, “Hey, this takes places with robots in outer space.” It’s just cool.
I feel like [in my own work] I feel like I have much more of a creative license. I can make stuff up. “I have no idea what this planet would look like. Let’s just make it up. What the hell.” I also find space to be a very romantic backdrop. Like in The Final Frontier, there is so much space unexplored. You can’t even believe what we’re going to run into out there and that leaves infinite possibilities for storytelling.
HC: What’s it like working with a comic book writer? Can you explain that collaborative dynamic?
ZK: I’ve had a couple of good experiences and a couple of bad experiences. Sometimes their excitement can bleed into anxiousness and then they’re always bugging you…
HC: Kind of feels like they’re nagging you?
ZK: Yeah. I mean, it’s exciting and it’s something we’re both stoked to work on together, but I have to balance the book I’m working on right now with freelance work… But it has to be a collaboration or that sort of thing just sort of starts to grow like a cancer in a friendship and kills it. I had a really trying experience with that last year. I had to walk off a book, and I have no regrets about that. It was just too much for me.
HC: It’s a lot to deal with. You both are sort of demanding on each other.
ZK: Well, yeah because you want it to be the best and put your best foot forward, otherwise what’s the point? But, you have to set boundaries. I’ve left a couple of books like that where I’ve said, “Look, this isn’t working unless we figure this stuff out. We gotta put our big boy pants on and deal with this.” I generally like working with writers, but I’ve also come to realize that I’m pretty good at writing myself, so that’s why I’ve started branching out. I wouldn’t not recommend [working with a writer.] “Never work with a writer,” that’s dumb!
HC: What’s your favorite type of collaboration? What dynamic do you prefer?
ZK: Last year when I worked on King Maul I worked with a guy who used to be an editor for Marvel and it was a great experience because he knew when to lay off and when to put the pressure on… Someone who knows what they want to do and is free to let me experiment a little and find my own voice in the mix [is what I prefer] because I find that if it starts off as collaboration and then ends up with me just getting told what to do then it’s like, “Well this kind of sucks. I don’t have control over how the story’s going to look. I’m not trying to change plot parts of it really, but I like to have some sort of input into where it’s going.” That’s really the best part of it. If you’re just going to be a gun for hire, then I don’t see the point. You need to have room to spread your wings. I’ve known a lot of guys who get in there and do big books for big companies and it just leaves them emotionally drained and they’re like, ‘I want time to do my own book but I can’t afford that,’ so they kind of paint themselves into a corner. But it’s changing, so that’s good.
HC: How do you feel like it’s changing?
ZK: I can kind of trace it to Image [Comics], really. All that Walking Dead money? They’re like, “Yeah, let’s put out some cool stuff and get some real big creators in to do it.”
HC: They do a lot of indie stuff.
ZK: [Laughing] But not like “sad-bastard-depressed indie.” To put it subtly. That kind of indie is good too, but… They’re like a television station that’s not like Syfy… You’ve got a variety of things.
HC: There’s an Image comic for everyone.
ZK: I’d say so.
HC: You say on your website that you sketch and ink by hand and color digitally. Why do you prefer that method?
ZK: I like to make a mess. No Wacom stylus is ever going to give me the same feeling that a brush does. Really with art, whatever tool works for you, good, you know? If you’re going to use Manga Studios to make your comics, cool. That’s awesome. It’s just not for me… I use a lead holder and that helps give me brush lines with my pencil. My pencils aren’t too tight anymore, either. The brushes do the heavy lifting. I would have to change my pencil style if I ever got an inker. I just love the feel of the brush. That’s honestly all it is. With coloring digitally, I’ve been using a lot of watercolor lately and ink wash and graphite. You can manipulate those in different ways to get different types of texture with your digital coloring as well… Digital also allows me a physical piece I can sell to someone afterwards and I do sell a pretty decent amount of work at conventions and online.
HC: I love your “Disappearing Denver” piece. What struck you personally about Five Points that inspired you to draw that?
ZK: When I first moved there a couple of years ago it was still pretty grim and gritty, if I can relate it to comic book terminology. But the thing about that place is it had so much class. A lot of the buildings are just beautiful. It reminded me a living in the South.
HC: How so?
ZK: Just the architecture style and the fact that’s it’s not all white washed [but] now it’s becoming gentrified.
HC: I really hate a lot of modern architecture.
ZK: I do as well. I find it to be absolutely ugly, lego, Chipotle architecture with only mutual colors. I think a bigger part of it is people come in and they don’t respect the culture of the area. I chose that neighborhood because the rent wasn’t too expensive at the time and… I used to go to a lot of warehouse shows and Larimer Lounge shows. Monkey Mania was over there. That place was cool. I was so sick of being in Highlands Ranch or Littleton and the only person of color you’d see if mowing a lawn, you know? It’s like, “Dude this place f***ing sucks, man.”
Now…it’s just a breeding ground for violence with people coming out of the Rockies games drunk… My neighbor’s been there since 1942. His family has been in that house next door and some of the stories he has of the neighborhood changing over the last 60 years is just gonzo. So, you start to lose that sense of history and love and culture. That’s what brought it around for me. I just thought it was sad… And that’s the cool part about comics is that I can make a comic about that and have it speak as loud as anything else out there… Art should be a pipe bomb… A lot of people who complimented that strip said, “Wow, this is what’s going on. This is exactly what’s going on.”
HC: I read an article in Westword that mentioned your involvement with a comedy show called “Picture This.” Can you talk a little bit about that collaboration?
ZK: It was really cool. They’re a touring comedy troupe. They’ll do a set of standup comedians and have an artist pair up with each of them and they animate their set live. I did really quick sketches. I had the opportunity to work with Adam Cayton-Holland… I love standup. It’s awesome. I think comic book artists and comedians share some of the same— not saying great qualities but— we love this and it doesn’t pay a lot… but it’s what we’re going to do… A comedian has a totally different set of tools [than I do] and they have to be up in front of people doing it, which is…[ He shakes his head, his eyes wide with faux fear.] Nope, nope, nope…. Adam did like ten minutes of standup while I was drawing right behind him to kind of mimic that. We were rifting off each other. It was pretty cool. We have very similar senses of humor and tastes…
HC: Was that nerve-racking to be in front of people?
ZK: No, I was off in the corner. He would point out to me and he’d ask me [something] and I’d draw in response. It’s so cool because [Holland] has a TV show on True TV now… and he’s from here. It’s freaking awesome… That was a lot of fun. I can’t wait to do it again, actually. It was a little nerve-racking but at the same time it was pretty cool. I just worked at Rock Comic Con drawing live in front of crowds so that doesn’t bother me anymore. [It’s the] same thing with conventions. I’ll do commissions while talking to people. I have no problem drawing anywhere at any time anymore.
HC: Why do you think most of your audience is female?
ZK: I’m not afraid to talk to people without that judgmental tone, like “You haven’t read Superman #238 where he rides a robot?” Like, who cares?
HC: I feel like a lot of nerds try to play gatekeeper. Like, “shut up. There was a time when you didn’t know anything about this, that or the other thing.”
ZK: Right, and that’s the thing with gatekeepers… [There was] that kid who had [a] Doctor Strange thing who was saying, ‘Oh man! They’re making a Doctor Strange movie! Awesome!’ and the dealer kicked him out of his booth because he didn’t know anything. Like, what kind of a short sighted dipshit are you to say [that?] Instead, “Oh, you want to know more about him? I’ve got 40,000 books about Doctor Strange. Dip in on this, bro.” [He said something like,] “Ugh. Get out of my booth you unworthy maggot!”… If I was at that convention I would have gone and taken a dump in that guy’s booth. “F*** your elitism.” Right? I won’t deal with it.
HC: I’ve been told you have some exciting news. What’s next for you?
ZK: [He hesitates.]
HC: Are you not allowed to give away any big news yet?
ZK: I guess I can talk about my experiences with what I’m working on right now. I went to Emerald City Comic Con and Vertigo was giving out appointment times. They were like, “Hey, come pitch to us. We’re looking for new people,” basically. I got one by the end of the show and at the end of the show I went there and I pitched something that I’m working on right now called Outré Veil… and they liked it a lot so they gave me their card to follow up with them. For the last three months you can go through a workshop process with the pitch. Ends up Vertigo decided not to do Science Fiction. They were like, “We’re going to pass on this. However, we might want to use you as an artist here soon, and we’re open to more ideas from you.” So I’m working on another one with them right now. But I’ve got some buddies who want to do some books for me as well, too so I’m working on a pitch for another company right now and that one I definitely can’t talk about. That one’s pretty exciting. It’s going to be really cool.
I just want to get Outré Veil done and I’m working on a book about my uncle, too… I had never done comics [that are] autobiographical because I was like, “This is a bunch of sad sack of shit.” I respect it, but it’s not for me. And then I went through- it wasn’t a bad breakup but it was really tough because it kind of came out of nowhere. I was like, “This sucks.” So, I started going to Denver Drink and Draw and one of my buddies there was like, “Why don’t you make a comic out of this?” and it just came out of [that.] I love that group because we challenge each other. And it’s always an open environment. There’s no real shaming [or] judging… So I put out a short comic just trying to work out my feelings and it went over really well. If you think putting your artwork out there that’s about chimpanzees in space… it’s nothing compared to putting something out about someone you have a breakup with… It was a huge, huge thing to do. But when I put it out, I got a lot of, “Wow, this is awesome. What’s next?”
And then it just kind of hit me, “Man, I should make a book about [my uncle] Dan.” You’re just trying to suss out your feelings about things. Growing up, he had a lot of issues like ADHD and drug addiction, you know? And finally, as he was cleaning up his life- spoiler alert- he dies in a motorcycle accident. He died instantly, which was kind of nice. I always decided to do it in a sketchbook format. It’s tiny. I come here [to City ‘o City] and I work with Noah Van Sciver a lot. He’s been doing all his comics that size so I thought, ‘Why don’t I do them like that?’ It’s been really good.
HC: I feel like creative non-fiction affords a lot to both the author and the reader.
ZK: Yeah. I’ve been thinking of doing more personal ones not so much about death as well but dating right now is such a shit show with all the apps and being broken up with over text and stuff like that. Are you all just devolving? What’s going on? I’m trying to make it so it’s not whiney and awful.
HC: Honest but not “Woe is me!”
ZK: Right, because you read so many comics that are like that on the alternative press. It would be nice to have something that’s indicative of the times right now that someone can look at 50 or 40 years back and think “Alright. That’s how it was.” Separating the ego from the artist can be an uphill battle. It’s like reading a Hemingway novel. It can be like walking through mud, reading that guy’s prose. It’s just tough.
HC: A lot of literature romanticizes pain. A lot of authors don’t have a bullshit detector. That’s why I like stuff like The Fault in Our Stars or Juno. It talks about heavy stuff but it doesn’t romanticize it.
ZK: There’s nothing romantic about this. It just kind of sucks. How do you make this point of “this is hurting. This sucks,” but also to be optimistic? To be like, “Look, it’s not always like this,” and I’m having a lot of fun [drawing about pain] but holy shit, this can be draining. And that’s how comics are. This is tough, man.
In commemoration of the X-Men ’92 series hitting stands today, we’ve taken some time to share our Top 10 list of things we loved about the original animated series that inspired the book:
1. Serious plot points and continuity among shows that had none.
X-Men: The Animated Series was one of the first shows to hold plot continutity for nearly the whole series. Due to production taking place in multiple studios, and some episodes being finished before others, in later seasons episodes were shown in the order they were finished instead of how they were written, but thankfully we have the power of DVD today, where everything fits together much better as one full story.
2. The series is heavily inspired by the comics
This series covered almost every major X-Men event up to the time the series started, giving up 1/4 to almost half of a season to cover certain stories. This happened most heavily with The Phoenix Saga, but we also got to see Days of Future Past, The Phalanx Covenant, The Legacy Virus, and Episode 3 is an adaption of X-Men #1 where we first saw our heroes.
3. The use of the most obscure characters of all X-Men and Marvel
This series had small camoes, from big names like Spider-Man and War Machine, and then a whole episode of Wolverine and Captain America, but Beast was seen wearing a Howard the Duck shirt in an episode. Even some of the most obscure X-Men show up, like: Longshot, Domino, Shadow King and Alpha Flight!
4. Tackling heavy subjects while not shoving them into your face constantly
This series covered a lot of heavy topics – not just for kids, but adults, too. There was an episode focused on religion that showed viewers conflicting views of both belief and non-belief. There were multiple episodes based on duty, friendship, family, social, economic and even heavy political issues. Then there’s the one issue we are humans still haven’t gotten the hang of – equality.
5. Plot points started from episode 1 end in episode 76
This stems from the character of Morph “dying” in the first few episodes, only to show up later, resurrected by Mr. Sinister as his evil henchman. He later rejoins the X-Men, but after realizing that he is affected by some crippling PSTD, leaves the team to be alone. His reappearance near the end of the whole series as a current student of Xavier’s School leaves Morph fans from episode one pleasantly pleased at his story by the end, despite seeing him seemingly die before we even got to a second episode.
6. The complete Phoenix Saga is 9 episodes long – over 10% of the whole series!
The Phoenix Saga is a massive story within X-Men lore and quite possibly the most iconic. The amount of episodes definitely is smaller than the amount of comic issues, but this is the closet adaptation we will ever get of this story in any cinematic form… we all saw how they worked it into the movies; it didn’t end up well.
7. Delving into Professor X and Magneto’s friendship.
Professor X and Magneto get some side stories together that really give you the impression that these two revolutionaries are friends, first and foremost; even the darkest forces could not split up the best of friends. That is not to say Magneto is not a antagonistic adversary for most of the series, but seeing how close these two are gave kids the first glimpse into that anyone can be a good person, even the maddest of men.
8. Not afraid to make viewers dislike our heroes and give them faults.
The series made sure our heroes were not one-dimensional, exploring the wrong had done in the past. From delving into Wolverine killing Lady Deathstrike’s father, Gambit and his thief past, Rogue conflicting with curing herself, Angel’s fall to the dark side (thanks to Apocalypse) where he becomes Archangel; many others have their faults as well. It was great for kids to see that even with mistakes and wrong doings, anyone can be a hero.
9. One could almost say X-Men: The Last Stand is loosely X-Men: The Animated Series, the movie.
The third film of the X-Men franchise heavily explores The Phoenix Saga, a sizable part of this series, but this series also was the first time we saw the mutant cure as a viable option. Despite being very different (Rogue wanting the cure? Really), we got to see Leech a lot, who was the catalyst for the cure in the film. So much of the important plots for X-Men: The Last Stand are what made this series great. Too bad those amazing stories didn’t keep the film from sucking.
10. A kid’s show filled with diversity and meaning.
Science-Fiction and fantasy are usually well-known for diversity, but the X-Men are the team in comics and cinema that pioneered it. Storm, who is second in command after Cyclops in most incarnations, was one of the first main members of any team to be African-American, let alone a female African American. The X-Men saw people of all backgrounds across the entire United States; not only this, but with the addition of Colossus, Nightcrawler, Banshee, Shadow King, Silver Samurai, and many more, fans got to see all parts of the world represented in a mere 47 episodes. While some of these characters may be evil, this series never strayed from this fact: we are all equal no matter what our differences. If that isn’t the best message for an action cartoon, I don’t know what is.
Bonus: The X-Men Theme Song
Of all the classic TV show theme songs to make it out of the 90’s, there are few that have had the longevity of the X-Men series. If ringtone’s were a thing in 1992, this jam would have set the record. It’s probably stuck in your head right now, isn’t it? Diddly-diddly-DOO-do-do-do, Diddly-diddly-DOO-do-do-doon, DEE doon- Doot-DO. Or something like that… Anyway, you can thank Ron Wasserman for that. Wasserman is also responsible for the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers‘ theme, and a ton of other Power Rangers, Dragon Ball Z, and VR Troopers stuff. If you had two ears connected to a brain in the 90’s, you know his work.
Denver-based comic book creator Ryan Wise is bringing the zombie apocalypse right to our own back doors with 8:15. The zombie outbreak is global, happening simultaneously around the world. 8:15 focuses on the outbreak in Denver which is not a usual setting for most comics. As Ryan or any good writer will tell you, you have to write what you know. With a good cast of characters leading 8:15, Ryan is looking to make a big splash in a genre that sometimes seems overrun. I had a chance to ask him some questions about 8:15 recently.
Hush Comics: So the zombie apocalypse comes to Denver? Why did you choose to focus your story in Denver? Ryan Wise: One of the key points in 8:15 is the fact that the zombie event occurs around the entire globe at the same time: 8:15pm GMT. This is the the “outbreak getting out of control” scenario we have all become used to. Since the z-day event is global, we had the freedom to choose to set our story pretty much anywhere in the world. It became a matter of writing what you know and loving where you are. We try to source as much of our production process locally and that include the story and setting.
HC: We’ve seen an up-tick in horror comics recently. Why did you want to go with zombies? RW: I, too, have noticed the increase in horror comic releases, but I do not think it is a bad thing. In fact, I feel like it reflects an increase in the amount of interest and demand for products like that, and that makes me very optimistic for 8:15. I knew that when we decided to write a zombie story we were entering a crowded genre. We felt like we would be able to cut through the noise and create something that zombie fans can really enjoy. With the release of Part 2, we can finally give people a glimpse of how thought-out and deep our zombie scenario is. Zombies provide a perfect medium for complex story telling like that.
HC: You have a pretty good size cast of characters. Was it always the plan to have a larger group? Why not do a smaller cast? RW: When 8:15 was first conceptualized, it had a pretty small cast consisting of only the characters necessary to drive the main plot forward. As the idea was developed, more and more characters had to be added in order to allow us to highlight themes. Those newly conceived characters, developed well into the writing process, have ranged from mere zombie fodder to one character, Jordan, that has become a major force in the 8:15 universe.
HC: How difficult was it to get 8:15 up and running? What was it like going from concept to product? RW: The most difficult part of getting 8:15 up and running was not the logistics or product development; those things can be easily overcome with persistence and effort. The hardest part was learning how to change the way I think and plan. Producing 8:15 was a process that requires many people and months to complete. By the time Part 1 was released on April 17th, 2015, I had learned that planning months and years into the future is something I needed to do to ensure the future and what 8:15 Comics wants to do, tell stories.
HC: It looks like a took a couple of tries to be successfully kickstarted; did you ever get discouraged? RW: I did have a hard time initially getting funded on Kickstater.com, but I never got discouraged. I knew that in order to be successful anywhere, including Kickstarter.com, you need to have supporters and you need to have a strategy. It took me a few tries to develop both. Plus the experience I gained from those failed attempts was critical to my future success. It taught me to market and reach out to my audience in more effective ways.
HC: How far to plan on taking 8:15? Do you have a stopping point planned out? RW: I am asked all the time, “Do you have the whole story written out?,” and I absolutely love this question!! Growing up in the 90’s, I was inundated with incomplete stories and season by season writing. Even contemporary programming falls into this trap. 8:15 is written out and an ending is planned! This was always a key principal while developing the story.
HC: What’s your ultimate goal with 8:15? RW: The ultimate goal of 8:15 is to contribute to the overall success of 8:15 Comics and to help the company develop a fan base to help in the future success of our many forthcoming series and projects.
With zombie and horror books really becoming a mass market thanks to the success of The Walking Dead it’s sometimes hard for anything new to make any headway. 8:15 is a different feel than most zombie stories. With its strong cast of characters and very unique art style 8:15 should be a power voice on a crowded stage. You can check out their website, 815comics.com, or their Facebook page for all new updates including new Kickstarter campaigns as new issues are ready to come out.