The Pull List 31/08/16

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Art Ops 11 (Vertigo Comics)

Guest artist Rob Davis pits the Art Ops team against a centuries old monster, from a legendary artist rumoured to have painted deaths very essence into a painting in “The Boy Who Painted Death”.

My interest in Vertigo’s Art Ops waned for a few issues when Mike Allred’s art was restricted to him contributing covers, and this months inclusion of Warhol’s Silver Clouds means two of my favourite pop artists in one. This might not be a problem for everyone, but I’m a sucker for Allred’s insane pop art style so the change was slightly jarring at first. Even with Brundage taking over full time art duties, bringing a much rougher hewn style to the page, Art Ops continues to be inventive both in it’s storytelling and visuals to bring us a true sleeper hit.

Howard The Duck 10 (Marvel Comics)

The penultimate issue before we have to say goodbye again to the avian detective and Chip Zdarksy’s hilarious run before he heads off to more cosmic affairs with Star Lord later this year. Last issue saw Howard deep in full meta commentary territory, with ratings chaser Mojo addressing his sporadic appearances in the Marvel Universe over the years. Issue ten promises the reveal of the mastermind behind the ducks most recent series of misadventures. A series that’s continued to be both hilarious and subversive, so let’s hope we aren’t waiting as long for another writer to realise Howard’s potential.

All New Wolverine Annual 1 (Marvel Comics)

In the wake of Logan’s death  readers saw Laura Kinney, formerly X-23 taking on the mantle of Wolverine, seeking out clones of herself and aiming to help them whenever possible. An exciting series from the start, Marvel have cemented her as the new Wolverine by embedding her deep into the post Secret Wars landscape with Laura joined by a number of allies this year from Doctor Strange, The Wasp and even Old Man Logan as she unravels the mystery behind her “sisters”. The first Wolverine Annual is no exception, with fan favourite Spider-Gwen swinging in for an all new Freaky Friday-esque story with the character find of the year, Jonathan: Actual Wolverine.

 

“I’m still working on taking my own ideas seriously”- Talking comics and body horror with artist Tessa Black

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One of the biggest pleasures for me reading and collecting comics this year has been the sheer volume of exciting and interesting anthologies that have been released thus far. Between the ones from the major publishers and kickstarters, it’s been really easy to find something inventive and interesting from complete newcomers to more well known names. I’ve sung it’s praises on here before, a lot I know, but for me Image comics Island is still one of most consistently inventive in terms of content and creators as well as being readily available in comic stores. One of the clear standouts for me so far has to be Tessa Black’s “Seawitch” which was featured way back in Islands third issue.A trans Designer, Illustrator and long time artist from Vancouver, Seawitch is surprisingly Black’s first foray into the world of comics and it’s instantly striking in how confident, fully formed and realised the idea and execution is.

Created over the course of a single weekend, this deliciously unnerving and thoughtful comic depicts a woman stood alone on a beach, before entering the ocean as she begins drifting down to the depths and slowly undressing in a slow build of body horror. Clothing and jewellery and even body parts discarded as she descends to the ocean floor.A long dead pilot the only silent observer on this arresting and quietly unnerving, yet intimate scene. Slowly transforming her body to match the environment around her it culminates on the final page with the Seawitch at ease in her new surroundings, undressed and comfortable in the silent watery depths. For me it’s the collection of smaller moments leading up to this. A series of panels depicts a figure gently pulling a pair of socks, each pulled down with the other foot. It’s an every day act but here it is oddly intimate, sensual but uncomfortable.Black reframes this almost crushingly mundane act and make it feel voyeuristic, a far too personal and intimate an act for us to be witness to.

With it’s clean fluid lines and coloured only in minimal blues it captures the solitude and coldness of the sea, adding in alien, oceanic textures to the figures body. Although it works on a surface level as a slow build body horror, after being lucky enough to  talk to Black over e-mail she also expertly uses her first comics creation to communicate her personal experiences of being trans, addressing the idea of clothing as performance and how environment and peoples ideas of us shapes both our identity and form to certain extents.

Before Islands and Seawitch, had you ever considered producing comics before? If so what ideas did you have and what prevented you from making them?

I’ve been around comic artists for a few years, but always felt the burden of their expectations or opinions of certain genres and approaches in the medium. I still don’t consider myself a comic book artist or even an avid reader, but it’d definitely something I’d like to explore.

Did you find yourself changing your approach to drawing a comic rather than single illustrations? How did the idea for the minimalist color palette come about?

I think you can definitely see the change in approach when you compare my regular art with the comic. I was pretty pressed for time, so I would have coloured it with flats in a limited palette if I’d had more time. I still intend to do so when I get some time, so I can re-release it anywhere else. I’d probably add in illustrations on the side, similar to to the work of William Stout, which inspired me greatly as a kid.

On your tumblr, have a run of insect girls, or people with insect parts. What about insects appeals to you? Is it there bodies mostly or also behaviours?

I really like insects for a whole host of reasons. Their anatomy is so different from ours, more similar overall to the things we make than the way we see ourselves as humans. Despite drawing sexy bug ladies, I’m more interested in conforming the layers and segments of insects to conform to a more familiar silhouette.

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Also a series brightly colored goo-girls.  What attracted you to draw them, the malleability of them or some other aspect?

I like goo girls and shape shifting in general. I’d like to play around with the idea of being able to fluidly present your own body based on subconscious thought. Having a form decided by the subconscious, without being predisposed by genetic or environmental (physical) pressures.

You also mentioned you went through a phase of drawing yourself, what broke this series of drawings, or was it just a desire to move onto something else?

I think I started drawing who I wanted to be just after starting my transition. A lot of folks recommended that to work towards feeling comfortable with my body or thinking about clothing styles. I tried being pretty realistic with how I expected to look, and that shape formed the basis for a lot of my exploration of erotic art.It all started with a fairly simple and cartoony bodies but adapted to become softer and more varied as I experienced changes in my own body. I also get bored of things pretty easy and dislike seeing repetition in themes or processes in my art. I never really had much of a signature style and I’m always much more interested in trying new things than sticking to old ways. It feels like the best way to learn is to shake things up and tackle new directions in art, but that’s just me!

THE PULL LIST 10/08/16

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Vision #10 (Marvel Comics)

Delivering emotional gut punches and shocking moments, King and Walta’s and heart achingly tale of family, conformity and identity hit’s it’s sure to be devastating endgame. The Visions mission for normality and a places in the world falls apart and promises the violence and inevitable confrontation with his fellow avengers that has been lurking in plain sight since the very first issue. Continually gripping and equally shocking, I can only imagine what the last three issues of what is sure to be known as a classic will bring for the Vision and his family.

Spidey: First Day (Marvel Comics)

Marvel hasn’t exactly left fans desperate for Spider-man related titles in the last few years with readers able to get their arachnid fix in Infamous, Amazing, 2099, Silk and Gwen flavors to name just a handful. Hearing about this new title I was skeptical at first especially in the high school setting the films still obsess over even now. The truth is despite the enduring Image of Peter, he only spent about thirty or so issues actually in High school, which makes it the perfect place to get some old school, no nonsense webslinger stories. This first volume collects writer Robbie Thompson (already a Spider-vetron having written Silk and Venom: Space Knight) and Wolverine and the X-Men Artist Nick Bradshaw. With Peter back in high school and his early career as the wallcrawler, the pair have been creating an essential re-tweaking of this time in our hero’s life. Even within the confines of a soft re-imagining they succeed in thrilling at every turn with the mix of high school drama and updated canonical appearances of classic Spidey villains like Doc Oc. The super detailed work on Bradshaw gives a much needed youthful energy to the book as he did with Wolverine and the X-men.

While I’m thrilled with the major character development and changes Peter Parker has had over the last few years it’s still great to see a book out there for an audience who wants fun, exciting old school Spidey tales.. With Peter back in high school and his early career as the wallcrawler, the pair have been creating an essential re-tweaking of this time in our hero’s life. Even within the confines of a soft re-imagining they succeed in thrilling at every turn with the mix of high school drama and updated canonical appearances of classic Spidey villains like Doc Oc. The super detailed work on Bradshaw gives a much needed youthful energy to the book as he did with Wolverine and the X-men.

While I’m thrilled with the major character development and changes Peter Parker has had over the last few years it’s still great to see a book out there for an audience who wants fun, exciting old school Spidey tales.

“A power pad is not a thermal blanket!”-Tim Weeks’ furry video game webcomic, Savestate!

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My relationship with games could be described as patchy, at best. As I kid I all but destroyed my much loved Megadrive from constant play, but beyond the warm nostalgic 16-bit fuzz I’ve rarely picked up a joypad since. I even had to ask my husband if ‘joypad’ was still a legitimate gaming term just now, deciding on it over ‘controller’. Having played only a handful of games since; Max Payne, Starfox Adventures, and Bit Trip Runner, a video game per generation give or take I’d defiantly not fit anyone’s idea of a gamer. Which is weird, considering that Tim Weeks’ Savestate is currently one of my favorite furry webcomics. In case the name didn’t give it away, the motley crew of Savestate really, really love their video games! Centering around siblings Nicole and Kade regularly joined by their friend Rick ,Elder god Harvey and the demonic entity, Ness on their gaming misadventures. Weeks’ artwork really shines when he draws his characters in the game worlds themselves, showing off well known favorites like Mario Kart in his own charming and polished style, even incorporating animation, such as his crossover with gaming webcomic, Gamercat.

Last year saw another major milestone for Savestate when it was nominated for the comic strip category of the Ursa Major Awards, which are voted upon yearly and intended to award and highlight “excellence in the furry arts”. Although Savestate ultimately came in second it was to Housepets, a comic that has itself been running four times as long and won the category for seven years, consecutively. Moving up from third place the previous year and vastly outstripping much more established furry webcomics, it’s a testament to how well the mix of humor, positivity and gaming culture has built up such a strong and loyal fan base in it’s first two years.

The very first strip found Kade porting over the now infamous glitch Pokemon, ‘MissingNo’ (the easiest glitch to catch, an integral part of Pokemon lore although still considered by Nintendo as simply “a programming quirk”) proving from day one how deeply passionate Weeks is about gaming culture and how central it is to his comic. This last months strips have seen Savestate returning to it’s roots somewhat with the rewed interest in the now 20 year old franchise that came the release of Pokemon GO has started, rekindling the franchise once more. As you’d expect Kade, the consummate gamer lives up to every online scare story by getting himself into places he shouldn’t in order to catch them all!

Again, the highest praise I can personally give Savestate is that even as someone who isn’t a gamer, at all, it still has me engrossed and eagerly awaiting a new strip every Wednesday. Playfully incorporating pop culture and gaming staples in new ways, the comic exudes Week’s passion for video games and why it has quickly become and furry favorite.

 
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Okay, so some basics first, what is your favorite game and console?

Game: Ocarina of Time. It was the smoothest transition from 2D to 3D ever and had a huge “wow” factor in terms of graphics and gameplay. Console: Either the Genesis or SNES, I love 16-bit games. If I had to pick one then SNES, with classics like Star Fox, Final Fantasy III (VI), Chrono Trigger it edges out the Genesis.

How did it feel to come 2nd place in the Ursa major awards, especially very close behind a comic that is now in it’s 8th year? Does it help knowing you’ve built a strong fanbase like this in such a short time, what do you think has captured furries and gamers about your comic?

That was crazy! I thought Savestate could avoid last place, but never to come in second on it’s second year. Now I’ve got to work extra hard to keep that second place. I don’t think anyone is going to dethrone Housepets until Rick chooses to decline his nomination. It’s amazing how quickly the Savestate fanbase grew. When I started the site I was getting something like 300 hits every time I posted a comic which seemed like a lot. What’s most impressive, to me, is that before Savestate I had never really posted any of my art online; so all the hype was generated purely by the comic itself.

I think gamers enjoy the comic because Kade embodies a more child-like sense of gaming. Back when it was more about showing your friends your Pokemon rather than trying to beat them in a battle.I think furries are drawn to the comic because of the art style. I tend to draw things in equal parts cute and cool. I also hope people are enjoying that the comic is PG (or maybe PG-13 when Harvey gets angry). There’s just so much adult material in the furry universe that it starts to drown everything else out. People seem to forget that the furry fandom really started with children’s characters like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny.

Is there any direct analogue of yourself in the comic in terms of characters, if not who do you think you identify with more?

Kade and Nicole are a split of my personality. Nicole was based on our family dog, Mandy. Any personalities I shared with Mandy went to Nicole and what was left over went to Kade. If you combine the two you basically get my messed up brain

.What drew you to using anthropomorphic characters in Savestate?

I’ve loved anthro since Rescue Rangers! Games like Sonic and TV shows like Swat Kats further embedded that fandom. I actually wasn’t even aware “furry” was a thing until I randomly found Havok, Inc in my local comic shop. Even then I thought Chester was a girl for the longest time. :3

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A lot of comics like yours heavily reference video games to the point of the characters being shown in the game.Visually are there any game genres of games you wouldn’t include in Savestate or would be too difficult to accomplish?

I won’t do anything adult, so AO rated games are out.  If I ever used something violent like Gears of War 4 I’d just limit myself to blood and leave the gore out.  I suppose the only other thing I wouldn’t do is a game with extremely simple stylized graphics, like Limbo.

What are your favorite game elements or characters to draw?

Sonic.  I could never count how many times I’ve drawn Sonic.I also like drawing the Savestate characters in different game character outfits.  It’s fun to try and modify clothes to fit a furry build.

 How did including animated elements in certain strips come about? Was it something you were familiar with before or learning as you went?

Animation has always interested me.  Mostly traditional animation or the old hand drawn 2D sprites.  I love doing facial expressions and animation let’s you really play with that. I’ve dabbled with various forms of animation over the years, but the idea to put in a web comic came from GaMERCaT.  That’s why I had to make sure the guest appearance with Gamercat was animated.

What was your experience like working on the recent Starfox strips for Nintendo Force?

Nintendo Force is the spiritual successor of Nintendo Power and that comic was a lot of fun. Since the magazine is done by fans I could really do anything, like mention characters from the canceled SNES Star Fox 2 game. The original plan was to print the comic in the December issue which was going to be Star Fox themed to go along with the release of Star Fox Zero, but Nintendo pushed the game back a few months. Since the magazine is crowd funded we decided to print in the December issue anyway since there was no guarantee it would continue. Regardless, it was a lot of fun and I’m really excited that I got the chance to do it. My favorite part of EGM was reading Hsu and Chan. I really miss that comic.
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Savestate is updated every Wednesday. Tim also has a gallery of his other work over on his deviant art page and can also be found on twitter.

The Pull List 20/07/16

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She Wolf #2 (Image Comics) – Last month Rich Tommaso’s gorgeously illustrated and written take on the horror genre, She Wolf introduced us to gabby (her of the title) as her life was thrown into turmoil and intrigue after she is involved with the death of her boyfriend on the schools grounds. Reluctantly returning to classes under the cloud of the entire schools suspicion and fear, she tries to hide a bigger problem and the truth behind that night, lycanthropy.

That is if we are to believe the newly turned teenage shape shifter, as issue one delivered a story that blurs the diction between waking and dreaming, truth and lies. Tommaso’s She Wolf has a completely compelling narrative and structure as he begins to tell Gabby’s story through a dreamlike feverish flow of flashbacks and horrifying imagery. Soon neither reader nor Gabby can tell between the two, demonstrated by the beautifully drawn chase scene that incorporates this slip between states effortlessly. Hopefully issue two will build upon the first foundations as we begin to peel away the layers and discover the truth at the heart of the She Wolf‘s Tale.

Rumble #12 (Image Comics) – Arcudia, Harren and Stewart’s frenzied tale of the undead barbarian Rathraq rolls on into its third arc with its trademark nonstop action and it’s onslaught of punches both physical and emotional. Rumble is the sleeper hit of the year for sure with its frentic fight scenes and deep mythology, with Rathraq finding the modern world filled with shadows and grey moral areas as he fights on for his body and soul.

The Pull List 27/01/2016

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Island #6 (Image Comics) – Even with the ever so slightly reduced page count, you can still count on Island to be the greatest anthology out there in terms of casting its net far and wide to bring attention to new and unheard of comics talent on a monthly basis. The highlight this month is the story “Badge of Pride” featuring a group of young anthropomorphic guys as they navigate the social minefield of their local Pride event. Having followed his work on and off for years now it’s thrilling to see Onta’s work shown to a more mainstream audience and I was fortunate enough that he had time to answer a few of my questions last week about his new, more personal and story driven outing for Island.

This month also presents work from Gael B as well as a recoloured, reprinted sci-fi classic in the form of Fil Barlow’s Zooniverse.

Saga #33 (Image Comics) – Thirty Three issues in and Vaughan and Staples sci-fi epic shows no signs of slowing down as it continues to shock, thrill and delight in equal measures. Staples beautiful cover shows that the adorable journalistic couple Upsher and Doff are back after being warned off reporting on the story of Marko and Alana way back in the books second arc. While only briefly touched upon I look forward to seeing how Vaughan develops the relationship between the pair as they become embroiled deeper in conflict and conspiracy. It’s been briefly hinted that the pairs society doesn’t look kindly on same sex couples and it will be fascinating to see what the writer has to say on the subject in a series that really pulls no punches with its social commentary.

“Chasing something hungrily”-Taking a look back On Buster Wilde with creator Scot Zellman

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Whilst writing my recent post on the excellent Buster Wilde comics I found myself in the middle of a twitter conversation with writer and published Alex Vance and eventually asked him some more formal questions for the piece. Alex was responsible for the printed Buster Wilde collection a few years ago and I inquired if it might be possible for him to reach out to the man responsible for the strips Scot Zellman in the hope that he might answer a few lingering questions I had about his creation.

He graciously obliged but I honestly didn’t expect a reply, it has been over a decade after all. A few days later however Scot shot me back a message and took time out his schedule to indulge me with rather a long interview. I’d like to thank him again for taking the time to answer me and give a wonderful insight into what went into the making of a comics classic all those years ago.

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Jason Karlson: The first boring, obvious question a lot of people must have asked. Why did the Buster Wilde strips stop, was it simply a desire to move onto other projects, lack of time and interest in it or something else?

Scot Zellman: I think I lost interest mostly due to frustration. I’d hoped the strip would reach a wider gay audience, especially through the gay-interest newsweeklies I was sending copies to in the hopes they would run it, but I quickly found the strip and Buster character made a much bigger impression on a gay furry community. That was an education because at the time I had no idea there was such a thing as “furries” gay or straight.

My education in furry fandom was hard and fast and while the specific trappings were never of personal interest I certainly appreciated the enthusiastic response even if I did have to turn down a large number of requests for commissioned pieces featuring a much less G-rated version of Buster.

I saw the strip as a slapsticky, funny animal, Warner Bros.-style cartoon antidote to the gay strips I was seeing at the time, most of which looked and sounded the same and featured no talking animals, something mainstream comic strips were full of. It was pretty easy, actually, to end the strip. I needed to focus on my “real” job and I wasn’t really interested in being a niche cartoonist with a small audience. After a couple years I thought “Okay, playtime’s over. Time to move on.”

 

JK: It’s unusual you made the comic and it caught on with furs, an audience you didn’t even know was out there, did it lead you to look into what other anthro comics were popular with them or artists who considered themselves furs?

 SZ: I did look around a bit, especially when I’d get fan mail from other artists or from folks who’d recommend other artist/cartoonist sites.  The only anthro comic/character I really eventually found interesting and still follow these days is the Blacksad series. And that’s mostly because I love hard-boiled detective stories and film noir. Plus, the artwork is beautiful.
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JK: Why do you think the gay weeklies and such were so reluctant to run the comics? The comic itself or partly the attitude towards LGBT at the time?SZ: Most gay weeklies weren’t really reluctant to run the strip, they were reluctant to pay me to run the strip.  I think the ones that were reluctant to run it for non-financial reasons wanted something a little less slapsticky and a little more mature and thoughtful (Dykes To Watch Out For, Curbside, and The Mostly Unfabulous Life of Ethan Green were big back then.) Or whoever was in charge of picking the comics to run just didn’t think it was funny. That happens, too.

JK: The comic debuted around 1997, was it difficult working with the limitations of the internet back then in terms of storage and bandwith?

I know nothing of computer tech and wouldn’t know where to begin in setting up my own website, especially in 1997. I had a tech-savvy friend do all that for me. I had been a cartoonist for my college daily newspaper, so I was well-versed in the process of keeping artwork looking good when it’s reproduced/reduced for the printed page.  As for the original website, I supplied my webmaster with good-sized, pristine copies and let him do his best with the internet limitations of the time. 

JK: What attracted you to the idea of showcasing Buster Wilde online as a webcomic? What was the reaction of other artist or those around you to adopting such a new medium in terms of comics?

I never really heard from others about the novelty of being online. Mostly people sent me emails telling me how much they liked Buster and the strip. I actually forget sometimes that the strip is still online these days. I usually just think of it as a book.

JK: What was the audience and there reaction like at the comics peak? Was it difficult to find an audience in a time when comics online were not as recognised

The reaction was uniformly positive. In fact, I can’t remember getting any negative email at all.  As for my expectations, I had none.  I assumed people were seeing it and the ones who really loved it were the folks sending me the fan mail.

JK: Buster Wilde now seems like a snapshot of, albeit a humorous exaggerated one, gay club culture at the time. Is that how you saw it and how do you think the strips might differ if they were coming out now? Would any characters differ or just settings and such?

I haven’t been out clubbing in ages, but I don’t imagine things have changed too much. Going out will always be about the same things:  fun, excitement, adventure, and the giddy hope you’ll meet someone thrilled to meet you no matter how sceptical or clumsy or overexcited or over it all you may be.

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JK: The printed book shows a few iterations of Buster before the one you settled on. What was the original idea and how did that develop into what you eventually drew? What was the eureka moment when it all fit together?

SZ: I was trying to come up with a gay-themed “funny animal” comic strip for my local gay paper and at one point I thought that a straight man who turned into a gay werewolf would be funny and allow for a lot of opportunities to poke fun at both gay and straight people. The eureka moment came when, after some time trying to come up with a name for the character, the name “Buster Wilde” popped into my head after Oscar Wilde, of course. Once I had “Buster Wilde” the rest just poured out of me.

JK: How do you feel about webcomics becoming a lot more established since Buster Wilde and do you ever follow any at the moment? Do you think you would have an easier time building an audience now?

It’s a logical technological progression, so I’m not surprised and it certainly makes it easier to get your work “out there.” I still worry that books will be marginalized to the point being hard to find or disappeared entirely. That said, I do have the book versions of my favourite online strips. I follow Bob the Angry Flower, Poorly Drawn Lines, Scenes from a Multiverse, and Doonesbury regularly. That’s about it.

I don’t know. Probably, but I’m still pretty disconnected from what’s going on online.

JK: Are there comics that inspired the humour and structure in the Buster Wilde strips? Are any of the events (obviously not the lycanthropy) inspired by real events or people?

I’d say the primary inspiration were the old Warner Bros. cartoons, especially the Chuck Jones Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote and Daffy Duck cartoons. Plus, I’ve always just loved slapstick and pratfalls.

The personal inspiration was just my years going out, my friends, and my love of good-natured, accepting straight people who are easily unnerved and exasperated by gay people.

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JK: The Unfinished strips included in the print version have a more experimental panel layout than the other strips, would this have been something we would have seen more of if the strips had continued? Did you ever find the regular format limiting in any way?

SZ: That was an experiment in longer-form  storytelling told in a comic book page format that, because I’m a comic book reader, thought I’d try just for fun.  The regular format I’d already been working with didn’t feel limiting in any way since I felt like I could do whatever the gag called for.  That said, I do like the inherent restrictions of the “Sunday comics” format.
 JK: Did you have an overarching story or a direction the strips were going in?

 SZ: Sort of, but not really. The goal was to cram as much humor into each “episode” as I could without overloading it to the point of incomprehensibility. As for the overarching story, I just knew that the character’s stories would continue to unfold and more characters and adventures would be introduced as time went by.

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JK: Are you surprised that people like myself, still talk about and hold it in such high regard after all this time and Do you have a favourite strip out of the bunch?

Not really. Once people find something they love it usually sticks with them. I’m the same way with older comic strips, TV shows, movies, comic books. The ear-piercing strip. The bare minimum amount of dialogue, the right amount of slapstick, and a funny the turnaround/topper.  The strip still makes me LOL as they say.

JK: Overall what do you think the appeal of Buster is?

The exact same appeal of the friendliest, sweetest Golden Retriever you’ve ever met. He’s just happy all the time and you’re his best friend

 

JK: Raspberry Flan. Are there any other suitable bathroom foods?

Baked Alaska Flambe.

Buster Wilde can be read in it’s entirety here. The printed version can also be purchased here or from amazon.

“This weirdo parade”-Furry artist makes it ‘Onta’ the cover of Island issue 6

anthro, anthropomorphic, artist spotlight, interview, Uncategorized

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New to readers of the Island anthology, but well known in the Furry subculture, is an artist usually featured in Hard Blush; a series releasing extensively gay furry comics, Onta. Whilst he’s associated more with pornographic and adult comics, his entry into Graham and Rios’ anthology series Badge of Pride will be a more slice of life offering, as the artist delves deeper into the lives of his cast of characters. Marty, Taylor, Jessie and Mu show their wildly different experiences and expressions of sexuality during a local gay pride parade. Showing that even now Pride is an important part of LGBT life, meaning different thing to each person, whether they love it or loathe it.

I found myself drawn to, and feeling sympathetic towards, the quiet and retiring lion, Jess portrayed as finding it particularly difficult to identify with the more flamboyant carnival atmosphere he finds himself caught up in. He bemoans “I can’t relate to any of this shit” and finds himself “sulking like an idiot” while others throw themselves into the party with more ease and gusto.

With Island issue 6 out next week I finally got a chance to ask Onta a few questions about his newest comic.

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Marfed: How did you first discover the furry subculture and were you already drawing by this point? What lead you to want to draw comics, especially furry ones?

Onta: I discovered it as many do, through erotica. Specifically Japanese gay kemono artist. There where many inspiration but Aoi Takayuki and Poju’s entry where a really big deal for my entry into furry.

I had slacked around for a while trying to commit to various projects but could never fully commit to something. I felt if I created a persona and boxed myself into a small limited area my mind would do better. I had been trying to make comics for years and had failed quite often. Miu asking me to do a page for the first edition of Cocktails was really my first major completed comic’s work which was pretty late in my career as an artist. I didn’t have fully formed characters and story, even if only porn prior so it gave me a big boost. I felt very weird after completing it as it was a new sensation.

M: How did working on Brandon and Emma’s Island anthology come about? Were you a fan of either of their work before hand and have you been following the issues of Island up to now?

Onta: Brandon approached me a year and some change ago. I believe he was introduce to my work through Fangdangler (Adriel Forsythe). I used to be pretty big into indie comics back in the day following Derek Kirk Kim and similar artists and I gradually fell out of that sort of thing as work in animation industry and later games industry took over. I have become a fan of both Brandon and Emma since my involvement.

M: Can you tell us a little bit behind the story you have in Island and what lead you to write it? What was the best part of working on this story for Island? How did you tackle including characters from your previous work that readers might be unfamiliar with?

The creation of this story was not simple and actually require a lot of outside help including reviews and feedback cycles. Understand that although I’ve made quite a few comics they all heavily rely on adult scenes to fill out the whole thing. Having to make a story that relies nearly 100% on interactions is new territory for me. , I’m having to introduce my characters to new readers meaning I couldn’t rely on previously established character elements. I wrote the story and somewhat over emphasized their characters as to catch everyone up with this entry hopefully it pays off and people get the archetypes. As for the story itself I wanted something that would both satisfy furry fans and attempt to mirror gay acceptance with furry acceptance. Hopefully the irony of hating furries but enjoying the message of gay tolerance isn’t lost on most readers. I also had to work on facial construction on Jessee as his face has always been a loose cannon as far as structures go.

The best part was honestly getting it done. It was very, very hard work. I think this is the most professional I’ve even been on a project because I feel these characters are on the end of their lifecycle with me so a lot of pushing was needed to get the story out.

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M: Not only are you in the issue, you drew the cover too. How did that come about and how does it feel that in January Marty and company will be rubbing shoulders with the likes Spider-man and Batman on comic shelves?

Once again that came out of the blue when I was asked. To be frank again, it was just a “do the work and make it nice” scenario. I think 21 year old me would be handling all of this a lot differently. As an older feller I feel It’s more of a “do a good job and don’t fuck up” feeling.

M: Are there any other furry artists’ work you could see fitting into Island in future issues?

Onta: I definitely think Miu (creator of duo Peaches and Cream), Seel and Rikose would do great in Island.

M: Were you at all worried about the perception of your work with a non furry audience with a lot of it being very adult in its art and themes?

I’m only worried about Brandon book doing well or not and I’ll be working hard to get furry fans to purchase and offset sales slump from those uninterested. I’m in too deep to worry if people will respect me or my art or the adult themes. I never anticipated any serious published work ever so it showing up out of the blue is a nice treat but it’s so far off from my mind I’m in it to do the work and hopefully make Brandon happy. If it does well and people like I’m excited but I have zero expectations from my work in Island beyond doing a good job for my employer.

M: Do you feel that furry is slowly becoming more mainstream and the public more accepting of works like yours that would at one time have been considered exclusively for a furry audience?

Onta: I think as time goes by and people deal with the fact that everything is up for grabs as far as sexualizing stuff, people will learn to deal with furry as two distinct things. The Disney movie coming out won’t hurt and will probably spawn a huge new group of furries.

M: I found myself identifying with Jess a lot and his feeling of not fitting in with the rest of the Pride attendees or the typical Gay identity. Is this something you that comes from direct experience yourself or from other people you have met? Which character, if any do you feel you identify with the most?

Onta: I think the majority of gay people are completely underrepresented. I also believe there is a strong “Full gay or get out” sort of mentality from both the gay scene and in general. No one wants anything but very clear sexual labels and it just doesn’t work that way. I think Jess’s position is the first baby steps for a lot of people. Someone who doesn’t aggressively hide their sexuality but also doesn’t reveal or revel in it.

Each character represents a part of me. Not equally or even in the same way. Some characters represent desire or wishful thinking others are more mirroring my personality or thoughts.

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M: The idea of Jess coming to terms with his own sexuality has been subtly hinted at in your adult work, what made you want to pick up on this thread again? What interests you about it?
Onta: I think the furry fandom has a unique appeal to people who are taking their first steps into exploring the sexuality as gay males. Furry’s and furry conventions are sort of a microcosm. A lot of niches, interest and kinks sort of converge under this one major theme and since Anthro fans are pretty much used to being social pariahs, grouping with similar folk sort of soften how much you stick out from normal everyday life.

Since my work is directed at the furry fandom to some extent I felt I should include a swathe of personality types with varying levels of sexual and emotional maturity. Jess, although my least popular character and more popular with woman was the best angle to allow new readers and furry fans in general entry into the story I wanted to present without alienating them.

M: Do you still think Pride is important even in 2016 and why?
Onta: I’m not sure. The internet is doing a lot of good (and some bad) where visibility is concerned. I think pride is more of an event for many people then a social cause at this point as it’s often presented with some level of showmanship over any real attempt to present or solve issues that non-hetero folks deal with. I wanted to present something a bit more realistic with the way I’ve noticed the crowds interact with the parade without getting too catty/snide about it.

M: Badge of Pride raises some interesting points as well as being fun, could you see yourself doing more works of this type for a mainstream audience that deal with topics like sexuality and identity as well as your adult work?
Onta: This comic took a lot out of me. I don’t know. I didn’t want to indulge in a dark, self-hatred, depressive style slice of life comic though was my first kneejerk response when asked to make a story. I felt I should focus on entertaining the people first and get my messages across somewhat subtly. I have people who have read the script and given feedback to thank for that. If the reception is good and people genuinely like it and Image doesn’t get mad and numbers are good on sales it would be a good serious consideration.

Island issue 6 featuring the ‘Badge of Pride” by Onta is released on January 27th while his adult works can be found in pages of Hard Blush available here.

The Pull list 20/01/16

Uncategorized

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Top Pick: Silver Surfer #1 (Marvel) – Anywhere and everywhere, hang on! Slott’s Surfer definitely lives up to this promise in every way as the once lone sentinel of the starways continues his universe panning, reality hopping adventures with Dawn and Toomee. One of the few series to continue throughout Secret Wars, it was surprising how much it tugged in the heart strings last year despite not having a strictly ‘Last Days’ story like most other series. In the past comic fans have talked about Slott’s bold and very divisive Spider-Man writing, but for my money some of his best stories are right here with the Surfer. It continues to deliver everything a reader could want from a space bound adventure series and after the last arcs jaw dropping Mobius strip issue I’m left wondering where Slott and the Allred’s will take the trio next as they begin with a new number one this month.

 

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Patsy Walker aka Hellcat #2 (Marvel) – After hearing her speak about creating fictional worlds at Thought Bubble last year (and then chickening out of speaking to her outside, sigh!) I’d give any series by Leth a chance but was particularly delighted to see her picking up one of the members from Soule’s interesting cast of She Hulk characters, Hellcat! Beyond the recent Soule series I was a little in the dark about Patsy’s history, but Leth effortlessly gets the reader up to speed in the first issue and captures her impulsive and headstrong character. Along with adorable art from Brittney L. Williams the pair are carving out their own unique little queer space in the Marvel Universe, adding more texture and diversity, with Patsy and newcomer Ian’s visit to ‘Burly Books’ in the first issue being one of many wonderful moments with the whole book harking back to the characters roots in romance comics.

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Wolf #5 (Image Comics) – Kot’s supernatural noir thriller continues, picking up five years after the last issue and with a previous Zero collaborator Ricardo Lopez Ortiz taking up the art duties from Matt Taylor. Kot’s comics always make or a challenging and intriguing read, and although a little slow to start it finally felt last issue like the pieces were starting to gel together as the writer hits his stride with his newest series. Fans still hurting over the loss of the original John Constantine might find themselves with a new favorite series to fill that Hellblazer shaped hole in their hearts and bookshelves.

Also posted on Graphic Policy

 

“Truly, My life is a low budget horror movie”- Scott Zelman’s wilde and much missed webcomic

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“Don’t be scared! He doesn’t bite. That’d be gauche”

Scot Zellman’s Buster Wilde first appeared on-line around the mid-nineties back in the prehistoric days of the internet. Following the exploits of our eponymous hero, lover and maybe most importantly, gay lycanthrope as we quickly discover the he twist in the familiar folk tale and pop culture staple. Sinewy, flamboyant party animal by night at sunrise Buster switches back to his beleaguered alter ego, Bernard. Stressed, uptight and again most importantly, straight. As Buster humorously and enthusiastically throws himself into his new life, navigating the gay club scene with its drama and clichés, Bernard struggles with a double life he doesn’t remember and more often than not waking up in other guys beds. It was among one of the first web comics I discovered when I finally got on-line and I quickly made my way through every strip on the now broken and mostly forgotten geocities site.

You heard that right, Geocities. It’s been around fourteen years since the final strip was posted and it’s a testament to both the quality of the strips and Zellman’s considerable skills as a writer and gifted cartoonist that those who saw it at the time still hold it in such high regard over a decade later. Apart from one of two references that date them (Buffy, who Buster declares is a bitch because of her treatment of fellow werewolf Oz) the Buster Wilde strips have a timeless quick paced humour to them that’s still as funny today as when they were first conceived.

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They continued sporadically for four years and fifty two strips until one day they just, stopped. One last strip with the energetic Buster switching the word ‘fetch’ with ‘felch’ and then, nothing. The site was never updated again and still remains, albeit a little bit more broken. If anything it reminds me how easy it was in the early days before social media and constantly online presences for people to simply disappear from the surface of the digital world. Details are still frustratingly few. Beyond a few mentions on forums here and there, the odd broken link, I feel confident in saying this post will be the most ever written about it. In the last few years web comics have really come into their own as something unique and separate from other comics, gaining a lot more attention and exposure in the process. It’s a real shame that in being an early example of the medium that it’s fallen through the cracks when it comes to wider recognition and it feels bizarre to be the first one writing about so many moons later.

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My understanding from what I could gleam from a question here and there on twitter is that Zellman simply moved onto other projects, before eventually retiring from comics completely. It was a pleasant surprise a few years ago to find that a print version of the Buster strips existed, released by Furplanet who now helpfully host copies of the originals online. Alex Vance, writer of the Heathen Cities series and also a fan had reached out to Zellman with the offer to touch up the original artwork and release them on paper and ink “There was a new generation in the furry community and when I was still in publishing I reached out to him and developed scans of his originals into a book,” says Vance on giving Buster a second chance in the spotlight  “They represented a significant work. Drawn and lettered entirely by hand, a vanishing art”. The volume collects all of the original comics, promotional artwork, a fascinating artists sketchbook giving a glimpse into the creative process of the comic. Most tantalisingly it features two partly inked, mostly  unfinished strips both in a larger format with more experimental layouts. One of these featuring Busters strange toilet habits is now among my favourites and gives a fleeting glimpse of what could have been.

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Buster Wilde can be read in it’s entirety here. The printed version can also be purchased here or from amazon.

&nb