Art by Chris Kohler. Design by Paul Schmitt.
2016: A Noticeable Lack Of Flying CarsThis far into the future I expected to see George Jetson carpet bombing his kids from a hover car. I expected virtual reality or maybe even to be able to high five a Vulcan. Instead, I get Goliath F-4 tornadoes in winter, torrential rain in June and people fascinated by celluar phones to the point of total immersion - such as a man who walked off a cliff in San Diego while staring intently at his telephone.
In the past year, we all lived through a less-than-fantastic 4 movie, got hyped about Sergio Aragones Groo vs Conan, dug The Sock Monkey Treasury from Tony Millionaire and huzzah'ed over Stan Saki's new Usagi Yojimbo from Dark Horse. There was a fairly awesome return to television by Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell and a Game Of Thrones season that included spoilers, Jim the Others massacre at Hardhome, Cersei's comeuppance and Jon Snow's bitter end (it's OK - he probably went under a dumpster next to Glenn). End spoilers.
There were ugly attacks by maniacs in France at Charlie Hedbo, over cartoons and then at The Eagles of Death Metal show in Paris. There was an attack in the US at the oldest black church in South Carolina, at Mother Emanuel, and then in San Bernadino. Each left us confused and angry.
There was Hell periodically erupting all over, somehow. No one could explain it, understand it or stop it.
Then, just last December, the first of the new Star Wars movies came out. I saw it in 3d w/3d glasses that looked suspiciously like director JJ Abraham's own black, horn-rimmed glasses. I don't know how but - he didn't screw it up. At all. When Solo told Rey and Finn about the Force and "all of it" being real I felt like I got drop-kicked by a Rancor.
The growth of comic and gaming stores across the country also found it's way into my sleepy part of the American Midwest. Marvel's Mark Waid opened a new shop just down the street in Muncie, Indiana. His new shop is called Aw Yeah Comics. There was also steady growth for the three locations of Downtown Comics in Indianapolis and a swanky gaming store called Saltire that popped up on the North West side.
If you lived through this year with me then, even though we didn't get HAL 9000, it was historic. If you know some of the gang that we lost last year - God bless ya and 1,000 super-Bosses be with you.
Welcome New MembersOfficial business, next, guys. 21 new artists have joined since November 2015. Welcome to: centrifugalstories, papaphinks, eddstubb, Crowdel, despreocupabloart, SAFEEZSTUDIO, zugaikotsu-no-joo, NitroGoblin, NandoCruzArt, Maddie-Maze, DragonBlitzStudios, AhogeDoge, Suki262, graphiciran, spunkbrat, ComicFace, Iduna-Haya, OrokanaKiti, crypticgimmick, KiRi-Nasa and 3452te.
We now have 925 members. We are in real danger of reaching 1,000 members by the end of this year. Thanks for joining up.
Indie Comic FeaturesAt the end of last year an extremely well put together Kickstarter book got 113% funded. Vast Expanse #1 is a four part anthology from artist/writer Jeremy Scott Nichols' new publishing company: Township. This book includes the Daniel Clowes influenced "100% WEIRD" and "Ain't Afraid Of Nobody" with art by Brooklyn based MCAD alum Anthony Pugh. All four stories are written by Nichols himself.
What comes from the sleepy rural byways of Indiana? Apparently, drop dead awesome comics.The trend of excellent books coming from Indiana is not isolated to one series. This also includes Bloomington based artist Nate Powell and his work on the March series from Top Cow and the excellent "Swallow Me Whole" which won an Eisner Award for Best Graphic Novel in 2009.
Moving on to our main feature now. We're going to focus in on one artist/author and his long-running series. We are very happy to present to you: Phineus by Barry Linck.
Phineus Magician For Hire
When you order directly from a self-publisher you enter an amazing world of Bonus Rounds.Barry Linck has more experience in self-publishing comics than many of the rest of us combined. Since high school, Linck has been dedicated to fully realizing his own original creation, Phineus. Recently, I had the opportunity to read the first of his two 500 page collections The Phineus Omnibus Volume One along with a custom table top RPG he designed and some new comics. The caption above is no lie - when you order from Linck he makes a point of exceeding your expectations!
The Omnibus book starts with his first five comics published from 1991 to 1996. First off, let me say it takes a lot of guts to put out your early books. It takes even more guts to place them in a large TPB next to more developed and recent work. The effect of doing it shows just how far that an artist has come from where they started.
The books collected open with author notes on where and when Linck was when he put them together. Being made in the early 90's there is a strong Wildstorm Comics (Jim Lee) influence combined with a strong, traditional cartooning style. The hottest artists from Marvel like Rob Liefeld also seem to be a touchstone in the first two books.
The first volume of books show Linck's signature humor, a kind of a wise-cracking and absurd Sam Raimi style, as it develops around Phineus facing off against aggravated demons that range from drooling bullies to silent, brutal golems. By book four and five, published in 1996 and '97, his art style improves radically. Book four could easily have been published as part of an underground comics collection in the late 1960's or 1980's along with the likes of S. Clay Wilson.
The really interesting stuff happens when Linck seems to find his own voice in the myriad of styles that he as been influenced by. The use of subtle perspective and asymmetry begins to show up. That's hard to translate with cartooning. Cartooning works by simplifying and generalizing subjects. Illustration works by focusing on the realistic aspects of subjects. Comic art takes the best of both fields. Linck fuses them togther starting here.
Starting in issues four and five, his own carefully drawn style finds that "regular irregularity" (consistency of unique forms) and exaggerates it in way that is incredibly fun to read.
"Attention Earth-based magic-user, we've come to turn your planet into a 3rd class dump." The "Radon Farting Bastard Aliens From Hell" Special Edition of Phineus published in 2008.After Linck hits his stride at the end the first volume of Phineus, we flash forward to volume two that begins in 2002. With guest writer Bryan Babyok handling the plotting, Linck fleshes out Phineus's world a bit more. His art refines the characters into more distinctive people in more fascinating settings. Settings like a Lovecraftian hellscape beneath an abandoned subway system, for example.
Volume two issue one opens with, instead of Phineus or his wife Sara blundering into a bad situation, another team of netherworld explorers. The differences in the team dynamic are a good contrast to Phineus's good guy style. This group is led by two fairly committed Satanists. One of which is Phineus former classmate, Josefat Rotwang. The other is Derek, a real boner, who likes pentagram tattoos and has no problems slaughtering small animals for his own spells.
The reason that the B-Team is the main action is that Phineus has just been released from the hospital due to a heart condition. He's in a funk and his paranormal investigation business is in an extreme state of neglect. I like this this angle. It humanizes the hero in a way that Marvel used to do so well with the Claremont X-Men and early Iron Man arcs. Tony Stark is, under armor, an alcoholic with a bum ticker. Sure, he's got the strength of a tank and is near invulnerable but he's got issues. It's the humanizing element that offsets the super-powers that make a good character (Spidey, Bat Man, Professor X, Wolvie and The Maxx).
Where Marvel's Doc Strange and Golden Era DC failed is the lack of flaws. We don't need porcelain statues that we can't relate to. It reads as phony. We need a good guy with bad problems.
After the opening of issue one (volume two), Phineus dusts off his Misfits t-shirt, magicks off his hipster beard and attempts to track down the B-Team who have gone missing. After finding them in a Cthulu-esque hellscape (mostly in bloody bits) he roasts the slimy demons who've turned most of the B-Team into shish-ka-bob - and then has a heart attack.
This issue felt like it got warmed up very well and then was forced to end a page later with Phineus almost fully recuperated and his flunkie former classmate, Josefat, safe and firmly tucked back under his wing.
A Sarlacc Pit-faced Dune Worm wanders into Eastern Pennsylvania in "Worm Sign" published in 2010.Issue Two, has a great deal of imagination summed up in three words: Giant Nazi Robot. The Nazis-On-The-Moon myth periodically comes to the forefront. There have been two excellent B movies with A level effects on the subject. Iron Sky (2012) and it's forthcoming sequel set for a 2016 release (made possible by 600k in Crowdfunding) each tap into facts surrounding Werner von Braun and NASA. In Linck's 2002 issue he uses WWII era storm troopers w/jetpacks and machine guns to full effect as they descend from a flying saucer.
The Omnibus also covers three mini-comics (one with a D&D-style Beholder) and issue three. Linck's line work gets very good. His toning and character depiction each come into a sharper focus. By volume 2 issue four, titled The Terror Of Leap Castle - the book is fully realized. The art and story move very well. The monster design is also very appealing and well-rendered from here on out.
In issue four, an ethereal ghost and a terrible beast materialize and de-materialize through an Irish castle. The designs for both monsters and the backgrounds are great.
One of the most solid stories in the Omnibus is an imaginative Christmas tale. In issue five, Santa is a Norse Kris Kringle and the leader of a rogue pack of Agardian dwarves - who are decidedly not elves. These dwarves are locked in a life-or-death battle against Frost Giants who plan on delivering them to none other than Loki and destroying Christmas in the process.
Linck includes several more goodies in his first of two Omnibuses. There is a teenage version of Phin and an out-standing Sara One Shot that is incredibly well-drawn.
The Crawling Chaos, originally created by legendary writer H.P. Lovecraft, recieves an unkind performance review from Our Hero.In 2014, Linck created an RPG based on his own characters. This is not a short book but a spiral bound edition. The 5th edition D&D guides could learn something from this. My Player's Handbook is two weeks old but the spine is heavily creased to a few critical sections! But, I seem to have digressed.
In the Phineus RPG Sourcebook from Linck and writer John Burris (Backwaters of Mysticism) players are given some impressive choices. The player races include: Elves, Dwarves, Werewolves, Vampires, Half-Demons or Half-Angels. Each one has a wide array of innate abilities that are specific for each race.
The game includes something that the modern D&D character sheets do not. That is: a detailed body diagram of the character. There are also detailed descriptions of combat types and restrictions as well as a spell-casting system that takes into account the time spent learning new spells instead of instant promotions on level ups.
16 more books, original art and sketch cards are available at Linck's publisher Old Dying Kitty Comics. Pick some up from this dedicated self-publisher either online or at a con appearance!