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AICN COMICS NEWS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER - This one has it all, news, a STAPLE! Con report, a 6 page preview and a contest!!!

@@@@RIP King of D&D@@@@Prof’s @$$Holes Abroad Report from the STAPLE! Expo@@@@Virgin Comics’ GAMEKEEPER V2 Contest & Preview@@@@

What’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER? Well, AICN COMICS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER is your weekly one stop shop for comic book news that’s dropped in the previous week. Thanks to Newsarama, CBR, Wizard, etc. for reporting it as it breaks. Click on the links for the original stories. This column cuts the crap to run down all the vital information for those of you who don’t follow it as it comes in, and serves it all up with that special ingredient of @$$y goodness. It’s also the place for interviews, previews, and special reports.
Greetings, @$$y believers! Stones Throw back with some more biting, gnashing, tetanus shot-requiring news from comic book-dom, detailed as follows:

@ Scott Sava’s Blue Dream Studios, publisher of THE DREAMLAND CHRONICLES, is to become part of IDW…
@ John Rogers leaves BLUE BEETLE in May…
@ INVINCIBLE’s Ryan Ottley wrote and drew a 21-page comic book in 24 hours which will be released as part of Image’s 24 Hour Comic Book Day. It’s called DEATH GRUB…
@ R.I.P. DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS creator < ahref=>Gary Gygax…
@ And the MARVEL ILLUSTRATED line continues with an adaptation of THE WIZARD OF OZ in June…

Well, that’s all I’ve got as far as news. But wait, we’ve got plenty more for you below!

Prof. Challenger’s @$$HOLES ABROAD Report from The STAPLE! Independent Media Expo March 1, 2008 in Austin, Texas

I spent the afternoon at STAPLE! here in Austin and I couldn’t wait to get back here to my computer to share with the world what a mighty fine experience it was! I mean, check out this stash of comics I came home with –
Now, sure, the modern mega-super-giganto-comic convention has its place, but well-run, laid back, and entertaining opportunities like STAPLE! that offer a chance for the up-and-coming, the off-kilter, the bizarre, and all things out of step with the mainstream to get featured is something I can really get behind. All, or at least nearly all, of us @$$holes here at AICN are ourselves involved with the small press/independent media to some extent and I suspect that a large portion of our reading audience out there is as well. There’s just something so appealing to me about an event like this that honors and recognizes just a small portion of the throngs of creative artists out there who are working their tails off because their artistic souls demand it (and their pragmatic intellect says there’s that slight chance of $$$$ someday from their efforts). Many of whom are featured in this stash of business cards and promotionals that I came home with –
Some of the work showcased at STAPLE! is so small press that it constitutes little more than a folded over black and white copy – but it’s panels and stories, i.e., it’s a comic. A lot of the work available here has first seen the light of day on the web and a lot of it has yet to be published by anyone yet.
STAPLE! took place this year at a location known as the Monarch Event Center here in Austin. It’s essentially a renovated old multi-screen movie theater, and they’ve retained one screened auditorium, which is where the panels were held. I actually have a memory of the theater way back when it was the Lincoln Village Cinema and I was standing in the lobby with a sellout crowd on opening night of STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER. Yep. What I remember so vividly is standing there waiting to go in when the crowd from the previous showing was exiting and they all walked out in unison flailing their arms our directions crying “Go Home!! Go Home!!!”
They, of course, were right.
Back to STAPLE! though. The first person I encountered when I entered was a red-shirted henchman for Austin’s very own real live super-villain Lord Vile, who was recruiting new minions and henchmen for his gang. Lord Vile is devious and evil with dark plans to take over the world – without breaking any laws! That way when he’s enthroned in power nobody will have cause to take him down. MOOHOOHAWHAWHAW!!!!
And yes, say hello to Prof. Challenger, the newest card-carrying henchman of Lord Vile
Pictured is a copy of my card and then a shot of me with Lord Vile, his comely female assistant and some of my fellow henchmen.
Once I entered the two big auditoriums devoted to writers, artists, and publishers I was surprised by how many people were there but also by how intimate the event seemed. I was fascinated by the wide variety of works and perspectives available out there. I spent hours just walking slowly from creative artist to creative artist and asking them to tell me about their work, to which they were more than happy to engage me and I nearly always found something that I could purchase to help support them in their efforts to make a living doing what they love.
I don’t have enough room in this column to do justice to every person I talked to, but I will feature a few that are nicely representative of the whole. The first person I talked to was Josh Boulet who has a super-hero called the Green Reefer who stars in his own webcomic presenting marijuana in a “positive” light. Josh had little mini-comics printed of the Green Reefer which are quite subversively funny. He also contributed a great story to Josh Howard’s SASQUATCH anthology last year and it turns out he was a fellow pin-up contributor (along with me) to Javier Grillo-Marxuach’s first MIDDLEMAN collection. Some other folks who captured my interests were Joe Eisma, the illustrator of A DUMMY’S GUIDE TO DANGER , Flea Circus which seems to be a couple of local female avant garde artists fostering a new community of graphic artists with a modern and off-kilter sensibility, Hopper Comics whose mission is to keep young people interested in reading and stimulate their minds (and the sketchbook I bought featured a graphic cover of somebody’s head being blown off by a gun – go figure), and webcomic artists Jeff Bent , a Canadian transplant, and Zach Taylor creator of Moon Man and other web and min-comics.
I enjoyed the enthusiasm and commitment to an artistic worldview that sets these creative individuals apart from the usual and the expected. Moving on through the event, I met and visited with a few guys from the Austin Sketch Group , one of whom is featured below visiting with a rather striking woman from the Louisiana based Voodoo Maverick Publishing table.
Also featured was another Austin-based networking group for artists called Dr. Sketchy who meet regularly to drink beer and do live figure drawing with a burlesque dancer/model. I was completely smitten by the salesmanship of the young son of the guy who produces a hardcore degenerate bloody pulp-fiction inspired graphic series of fiction and non-fiction called OUT OF THE GUTTER . It’s the type of thing completely outside of my personal interests, but the proud son hawking his daddy’s books and art was immensely charming and almost convinced me to plunk down $10 for a copy. The gay and lesbian community was represented by Prism Comics and our troops overseas were supported by Heroes 4 Heroes that supplies our servicemen with comics, games, and other media. Artist Kristin Hogan completely perplexed me with her Dead Squirrel Girl stuff. Kristin was away from her table when I came by but all of her stuff focused on a blond girl with a dead squirrel on her head and these bizarre squid cartoons – including some handmade stuffed squids. It was one of those things that made me think “Only in Austin” but God bless her for doing it because it’s creative and looks entertaining. I enjoyed flipping through artist Jason Chalker’s electronic gallery while visiting with him. He calls his art “Manly Art” because it’s a beautiful throwback to the classic style of pulp cover art that I love. One of my favorite discoveries was premiered here at STAPLE! and is called COMIC BOOK COMICS #1 which is the beginning of a graphic history of the Comic Book history told in comic book format.
I met David Hopkins a couple of years back while in Dallas, not long after I had written a glowing review of his EMILY EDISON graphic novel (of which I will reiterate it’s merits right here!). David, pictured here on the left along with EMILY EDISON artist Brock Rizy, is an incredibly nice individual and excellent writer of many essays as well as comics such as KARMA INCORPORATED and ASTRONAUT DAD .
We visited a little bit and I checked out some pages from his latest work in progress that looks to be as interesting and fun as EMILY EDISON but a bit more complex and with a more classic cartooning style. I’m not sure if he’d want me to give out too many details but I do know he’s not settled on a publisher yet, so anyone who might be interested give him a shout.
Pictured in the photo below are creators Keith Quinn of Hurm Comics and Anthony Rezendes, Creative Director of Cranium Comics .
Keith is the creator of a web to physical comic called LOCAL HEROES which is an all-ages super-hero comic where the heroes are organized similarly to unions. I picked up Keith’s LOCAL HEROES #1, which is reproduced directly from his pencils, and I have to say I think he is simply an outstanding cartoonist. Really very good. Anthony’s nice, moody art was featured on the cover of Cranium Comics’ new BRAWN #1 which I thought was a decent adventure comic about a dock worker, of all things, who suddenly finds one arm and one leg replaced by super strong metal limbs instead. No costumes or supervillains, but instead a thriller and mystery built around a very average guy suddenly cursed with these physical changes. The setup was good and has potential.
Next up, let me mention writer Michael S. Moore of Azteca Productions and independent artist John Cboins , most recently artist on Image’s GRAVESLINGER series. Michael was really nice and supplied me with a number of issues of Azteca’s series EL GATO NEGRO: NOCTURNAL WARRIOR, which gives a Mexican spin on your basic American super-hero setup. John’s art was a highlight for me of the entire day. He’s got a lot of experience under his belt doing design work for the gaming industry, but where he hooked me was with his illustration work for Image’s GRAVESLINGER series, a graphic adaptation of SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON and some preview art for an original idea that he hasn’t even come up with a title for yet. His work is a very appealing blend of loose pencil work and digital coloring that looks incredibly like watercolor work. Beyond his amazing artwork, I found John to be as nice and engaging an artist as you can imagine. He gained a fan.
As a Libertarian-leaning Conservative (or is that Conservative-leaning Libertarian?) I found myself spending a lot of time hanging around the Big Head Press table. Big Head Press publishes a wide range of comic books but their emphasis is on works that are consistent with a Libertarian philosophy and generally avoids the super-hero genre. I haven’t had a chance to dig into it yet, but the folks at Big Head Press provided me with a copy of their Prometheus award-winning ode to Libertarianism, THE PROBABILITY BREACH graphic novel by writer L. Neil Smith and artist Scott Bieser. Frank Bieser (pictured below with the Big Head Press logo sign) informed me that the next book going to press is a title called ROSWELL, TEXAS also by L. Neil Smith and Scott Bieser.
Like all of Big Head’s titles, ROSWELL is available to check out online where (as best I understand it) they feature their books by publishing a page or two each week until the entire book is up. Once the entire book has made it up then they go to press with the physical edition. The biggest and most pleasant surprise of the day for me happened while chatting up the guys at Big Head Press. I was looking at one of Big Head’s most bizarre concepts, THE ARCHITECT, a horror graphic novel loosely based on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright and written by legendary comic writer Mike Baron (with art by Andie Tong) and chatting politics with the guy at the table. The surprise was that I didn’t even realize at first that the guy I was talking politics with was Mike Baron himself. Once I did, I couldn’t quit gushing. The guy’s one of the writers whose NEXUS introduced me to the concept of independent comics back when I was a teenager. Needless to say I picked up a copy of the latest NEXUS and THE ARCHITECT. I’ll probably write up a review of the NEXUS comic in the next week or two but I can tell you right now that THE ARCHITECT is a blast. I read it through last night and it’s damn good and interesting. It follows all the standard setups for a modern horror story but it gets into some high-thinking concepts but all rolled up in a nice splash of blood and gore with a cherry on top. I loved it and the whole bit with a house built into the natural surroundings turned into a modern creepy haunted house was a tasty treat of terror. Hats off to Mike for keeping comics fun even when geared toward the mature audience.
After chatting with Mike for probably more than he appreciated, I’ve got to say that he’s definitely the comic creator I’d most like to sit back with over lunch and talk. What a great guest.
The biggest names at STAPLE! this year (other than Mike of course) were Brian Wood (DMZ, LOCAL, and NORTHLANDERS) and Eric Powell (THE GOON, ACTION COMICS, DEVIL DINOSAUR). Hard to keep thinking of these two as “independent” creators anymore, but really, after listening to them at their respective panel discussions, it is clear that they still see themselves as outside the mainstream. Regardless of the widespread appeal of their work, both still produce their work primarily for themselves and continue to be surprised that others want to read it. Pictured below is Brian laughing it up with the large throng of gushing fans that paraded by his table.
My prized treasure of the day was provided by Eric Powell, who was nice enough to sign my son’s Goon action figure (pictured below). It was a great surprise for my son because he didn’t even know I’d swiped it from his room. Eric was a fun guest, not the most talkative guy in the world, but quite snarky and funny when he did speak. Most of the time he had a bemused expression on his face – kind of like he still can’t believe this is happening to him.
All in all, STAPLE! was one of the coolest convention-type experiences I’ve ever had. (Although I DID apparently miss Ruby Rocket’s appearance. @#$%^&*!!!) The freedom to visit and chat with the guests reminded me of conventions from 20 years ago. There was no sense at all of a separation of invited guests and paying attendees. There was just a relaxed camaraderie, like a family reunion -- but with people you might actually want to talk to. My hat is off to Chris “Uncle Staple” Nicholas , Randy Lander , Scott Hinze , and everyone else who helped put this event together. As soon as the date is locked in for next year, I’m putting it on my calendar. My personal thanks to STAPLE! for this wonderful opportunity and support of creative artists in the independent media.
Prof. Challenger is actually Henchman 0460 of Lord Vile's evil legion. Based in the Austin Metro area, he operates in the shadows and sometimes updates his own website at

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with an AICN exclusive 6 page preview (plus 2 covers!) of Guy Ritchie’s GAMEKEEPER Volume 2 #1 from Virgin Comics. This issue takes off right from the end of the first @$$Hole-Approved miniseries. I found that first mini to be a tense and straight-forward action yarn in the tradition of FIRST BLOOD and DEATH HUNT (a personal favorite of mine). Word has it that Ritchie just signed a deal to make his GAMEKEEPER story into a motion picture with Warner Brothers Studios with Joel Silver to produce. If the first issue of this second miniseries is any indication, Guy Ritchie has another thrilling tale to tell. This time he brought AGENTS OF A.T.L.A.S. writer Jeff Parker along for the ride to make his vision crystal clear in comic book form. Enjoy the preview.

Nice stuff. This issue is a slow burner, but trust me, it really pays off in the end. We’re running a contest that will benefit three lucky Talkbackers who email me here with the most original and BRIEF(!!!!!!!!!) suggestion of who should star in a GAMEKEEPER motion picture and why. Three winners will receive some seriously cool GAMEKEEPER schwag (a GAMEKEEPER V1 Trade Paperback, GAMEKEEPER #3 Limited Edition, and an assortment of other trades from Virgin Comics’ Director’s Cut Imprint, a prize totaling close to $75.00 per winner!!!). The three lucky readers will be announced in next Friday’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER column. Submissions won’t be republished or seen by any representative of Virgin Comics (but I can’t stop you from posting your suggestions in the Talkbacks). You have until Sunday midnight central time (March 9th, 2008) to send me your submissions (keep ‘em brief, people!) and DON’T FORGET A MAILING ADDRESS!!!
Good luck to all (did I mention to keep the emails brief?).

Readers Talkback
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