Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Special Event: Alan Porter and Warren Spector at Austin Books

Image courtesy of Disney*Pixar

I have been slacking big time on the blog front, but for those of you in Austin or the nearby area, Alan Porter, who was kind enough to be interviewed for this blog, is signing at Austin Books next month and participating in a special screening of CARS 2!  Warren Spector was just recently announced as joining the signing as well!

Porter (@alanjporter) will be signing on Saturday, July 2 from 4-6pm at Austin Books (www.austinbooks.com).  There will be givaways, trivia and good times for all.  If anyone has been to an event similar to this at Austin Books in the past you know host quality events that are fun for all.  You can RSVP to the event at https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=203953259646437.  

Spector will also be signing on Saturday, July 2 with Porter.  Spector, creator of Epic Mickey on the Wii, recently released his debut Ducktales comic from Disney.

Then on Sunday, Alan will join the Austin Books crew at Regal Cinema for a special screening of CARS 2!  It will take place at 2:20 complete with givaways and fun!  RSVP here at https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=226001694093569.

Also, let me congratulate Alan for getting his CARS story "Rally Race" picked up by Disney for their new line of comics.  If you have read Alan's previous CARS comics, you understand why he would be featured first.

Unfortunately I will be out of town and miss this amazing event, but if you are in the area you should definitely check it out.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Free Comic Book Day = Success!

Image Courtesy of www.freecomicbookday.com

Free comic book day was a massive success!  The family all made the trip to Austin Books and we arrived just before 9am.  The line was around the building and local artists were busy sketching for the crowds that were out early to select their 10 free books.  You heard me, 10 free comics and Austin Books!

Henry stares down Sidekick Girl

While we were in line we enjoyed seeing fans dressed up in comic book gear and even got to enjoy a sighting of our favorite local superhero, Sidekick Girl.  Henry and Sidekick Girl had a good conversation and he got mad props for rocking his Johnny Boo shirt for the occasion.  After about 30 minutes in line (we were luck to get there early as the line for Austin Books only got longer throughout the day) we entered the tent to select our free comic books.

The Tent 'O Comics at Austin Books

Of the over 30 comics that my family was able to secure I decided that I would review the top 3 kids books and mention some honorable mentions.  I have to admit, I am a little surprised at my top 3, but this is based on what I read to Henry and what resonated with him.  Without further ado, the top 3.

#1 - Top Shelf Comics Kids Club
This was the original Free Comic Book Day book that got Henry hooked onto comics without any influence from nerdy old dad.  Owly, Johhny Boo and Korgi captivated his attention from early on and the book has only grown stronger with the addition of Okie Dokie Donuts, Pirate Penguin vs. Ninja Chicken, and Upside Down.  In my opinion, this is THE comic that all young readers should have picked up at Free Comic Book Day.  Kudos goes out to Top Shelf and their ever growing line of kids books.

#2 - Top 10 Deadliest Sharks/Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators
What little kid doesn't like dinosaurs and sharks. This book has a couple of fun, although a little bloody, tales of dinos and sharks along with some good information on sharks that Henry really enjoyed.  I wasn't expecting much of this book, but gave it a whirl and he has really liked it.  I look forward to the extended lines of these books which are due to hit this month.

#3 - Super Dinosaur
Super Dinosaur is about Derek Dynamo and his fried Wheel and Super Dinosaur (a Tyrannosaurus Rex).  When bad guys emerge to enter into inner earth to steal Dynore they step up to the plate.  What is there not to like about an 11 year old who has a friend who is a Super Dinosaur.  This book has the origin story and character bios that provide all of the information that you need to get hooked.

Honorable Mention:
I would suggest these books as well for your younger readers.  It was a great Free Comic Book Day and I hope that you all had a chance to scoop some good books as well.
1. The Dark Crystal/The Mouse Guard
2. Darkwing Duck/Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers
3. Young Justice/Batman the Brave and the Bold Super Sampler
4. Geronimo Stilton/The Smurfs
5. Rated Free for Everyone by the good folks at Oni Press

There were a lot of other books that we enjoyed as well, but these are the top.  I honestly can't recall a book that Henry didn't enjoy.  

Henry and Zelda followed up nap time with a brief appearance at a costume contest at Half Price Books.  Henry went as Captain America and Zelda was Supergirl.  The costume contest was geared towards adults, but they had a good time.  I hope your Free Comic Book Day was as eventful as ours and I can't wait until Free Comic Book Day 2012.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday!

Image courtesy of www.freecomicbookday.com

Hello friends.  Sorry for the lag between posts.  I guess working on a dissertation, looking for jobs and helping take care of 2 children has got the best of me.  I am going to do my best to post at least once a week from here on out.

Moving on...this Saturday is Free Comic Book Day!  Check out www.freecomicbook.com for participating retailers and previews of the books that you can get for FREE!  Henry went to his first free comic book day two years ago and it has really sparked an interest in reading for him and introduced him to some characters he has grown to love.  This year we will be going to Austin Books to enjoy their festivities in the morning and then to Half Price Books on South Lamar for the costume contest.  I am really looking forward to the day and will post pics.

This year some of the kid friendly books include Darkwing Duck, Sonic the Hedgehog, Avatar, Pep Comics Betty and Veronica,  Geronimo Stilton and the Smurfs, Kung Fu Panda, Mouse Guard Dark Crystal Flip Book, Bongo Comics Free for All, Inspector Gadget, Intrepid Escapegoat & Stuff of Legend, John Stanley's Summer Fun, Rated Free for Everyone, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mickey Mouse, Young Justice and Batman the Brave and the Bold Super Sampler and finally the Top Shelf Kids Club 2011.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Top Shelf Kids Club as Owly and Johnny Boo have become regulars for Henry.  I think Okie Dokie Donuts will move into a regular for him, but am curious what other books he plans on choosing.  In years past he would chose one or two and read them until the covers fall off.  Good times.  Hope to see some of you at Austin Books or Half Price Books here in Austin!

For those of you in the Austin Area, FCBD starts at 8am at Austin Books and they are allowing participants 10 comics each!  In addition, Chris Roberson will be signing his FCBD Elric comic from Boom! Studios.  That's not all!  The stormtroopers from the 501st legion will be there and Austin Books will give one lucky fan a $100 gift certificate.  They are pulling out all of the stops and it should be a great event!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: Owly and Wormy: Friends All Aflutter!

Image Courtesy of Top Shelf Productions

Andy Runton (www.andyrunton.com) has done it again.  In his most recent Owly book, Owly and Wormy, Friends All Aflutter, we finally get to see Owly and Wormy in full-color in a beautiful stand-alone volume.  This is how Owly and Wormy are meant to be enjoyed!  The crisp, vibrant colors jump off the page and had myself and Henry captivated as soon as we opened it.  Since we got our copy, I don't think a day has passed in which this book wasn't read at least twice.  Even Henry's little sister who just turned one has been drawn in by Andy's drawings and the brilliant use of color that this volume affords.

Published by Simon and Schuster, under the license of Top Shelf Productions (www.topshelfcomix.com), Andy weaves a tale of Owly and Wormy and their quest to befriend some butterflies.  With the help of the always friendly Raccoon, Owly and Wormy get the plant that they feel will bring their butterfly friends to their garden.  When only caterpillars are attracted to the plant, Owly and Wormy make the most of it, after Wormy settles down a little, and become close friends with the caterpillars.  When the caterpillars disappear Owly and Wormy are feeling a little down, only to be surprised at the end when their friends emerge from cocoons on the plant and are now beautiful butterflies.

As with all Owly stories, one of my favorite parts is how Andy utilizing pictures in the speech bubbles to allow the reader to tell their own story.  Henry already has applied his own spin on the story and as a parent, nothing brings me more joy then seeing his imagination shine.  Andy's method of story telling and the great cast of characters he provides really brings children into the art of storytelling and allows them to be an integral part.  Moments after reading this book before bed, Henry was playing a game in which he was Wormy and I was Owly.  We needed to find some butterflies before bed and I am pleased to say that we did!

Andy's characters just have that innate ability to captivate the imagination of his readers both old and young and this book is no exception.  Owly and Wormy, Friends All Aflutter finally allows Andy's art to shine in this large format with rich, full colors.  Appropriate for any age group, if you haven't already delved into Andy's world, this is the volume to make that jump.  After reading this you will be hard pressed not to pick up Owly's other books to see what other adventures Owly has with Wormy.  If you are interested in any of Owly's other adventures click here to learn more.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Preview: Okie Dokie Donuts (Story 1): Open for Business by Chris "Elio" Eliopoulos

Image Courtesy of Top Shelf Productions: ISBN 978-1-60309-068-1

I was able to get a preview copy of Okie Dokie Donuts (Story 1): Open for Business by Chris "Elio" Eliopoulos (@Eliohouse) published by Top Shelf Productions (www.topshelfcomix.com).  This delightfully fun book will be available this June and is available for pre-order here. It is a full-color, 48-page hardcover graphic novel.

Big Mama bakes donuts with love that her customers can't get enough of.  Whether you are looking for strawberry with banana blast or chocolate top with the sprinkle bubbles, Big Mama has the goods for you.  The book opens with a theme song that I can almost picture on a television on Saturday morning as I wake up early, fill up my bowl of cereal with Cap'n Crunch and park myself on the floor waiting to see what will happen to Big Mama this week.  With the help of her trusted employee, Henry (props for a good name choice!), Big Mama and Okie Dokie Donuts will hopefully be serving up the baked goods for future stories.

The first thing that grabs you attention with this title is Chris' unique art style and his whimsical character design.  His characters are very expressive and his art style lends itself to the slap-stick humor that permeates this book.  They capture my son's attention and really draw the eye from panel to panel.  My only complaint is that subtle touches that he places in the background are often overlooked because it is hard to look away from his characters.

In Open for Business, Big Mama is visited by Mr. Mayweather from the Great Cooks Cooking Corporation (GCCC) who has his latest and greatest invention, Mr. Baker, for Big Mama to try out.  Needless to say, the conflict that exists between Big Mama and her made with love philosophy and modern advances in kitchen technology leads to some humorous hijinks.

This book is sure to delight readers of any age and is appropriate for both young and old.  His writing is accessible to children as young as 2 or 3, and intelligent enough to be enjoyed by their parents.  Chris is no stranger to writing kids' comics (Henry also loves his book Gabba Ball) and he continues to hone his craft with this simple and humorous story that will be a regular read in our house when the print edition hits.  I can't wait to add this title to Henry's book shelf in June and I am sure that it will be a daily read for the little man.  Chris definitely left me hungering for more Okie Dokie Donuts and I hope that he includes a jelly donut for me in future volumes.  I will be careful not to squeeze though.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Interview with Alan J. Porter

Image courtesy of Alan J. Porter
I had a chance to meet Alan J. Porter, author of the CARS line of comics from Boom! at Staple a couple of weeks ago.  He was kind enough to volunteer and answer some questions for the blog and sign a copy of CARS: The Rookie for Henry.  It was Henry's first exposure to Alan's work and the CARS line of comics and he enjoyed it and is ready for more!

Alan has a broad and very impressive resume in comics and beyond.  For more on him visit http://alanjporter.com or follow him on Twitter at @alanjporter.

Given your diverse background in writing, what are the challenges and rewards writing for a younger audience with your CARS line?

In writing anything for younger audiences I just try an tell good stories that anyone, irrespective of age, would enjoy reading. While I try and keep the language age appropriate for the audience, I also like to make sure its something of a challenge too, not enough to block reading and enjoying the story, but have at least the occasional word that a young reader may not be familiar with but could figure out from the context of the story, or by reaching for a dictionary, or asking a parent. I learned a lot of my vocabulary as a kid from comics, and I'd like to pass something of that joy of discovering new words on.

The biggest challenge of writing CARS is that at first pass they are just that, cars. Writing for what are essentially two ton boxes of metal with limited movement can be a challenge. What I did before each script was put the movie back on, and lie down with my eyes shut and just listen to the dialog and interplay between the characters, that helped me visualize them as distinct personalities rather than objects. Plotting the action could also be a little tricky as cars basically just move in a horizontal plane, they can't really jump about too much, or go up and down stairs etc. So I got to play around with my die-cast CARS toy collection as I moved vehicles around my desk plotting out races moves, or action sequences. - Which was pretty cool - getting paid to play with toy cars!

The rewards? Oh they are numerous. Writing an all-ages comic has been a wonderful experience. The look on a kids face when they see a comic about one of their favorite characters is priceless. I also love hearing from parents who tell me they read the books to their kids as a way of sharing a love of reading. I've also been told about kids being spurred to want to learn to read because of  the CARS comics, and that is perhaps the greatest reward.

As CARS  is a beloved and well-known franchise, did you feel a lot of pressure to please the loyal fans of CARS? Did the fact that the characters were well-established help or hinder your creative process?

I didn't really feel too much pressure at the start, but then I discovered there's this whole CARS collectors sub-culture. The collector community were great in welcoming me in, and very appreciative of the work I did. But when I saw a blog post on a CARS forum discussing what had basically been a throw-away gag in one panel, I realized just how closely they were reading the books. 

I'm a big fan of the movie myself, as well as a gear-head in general, so I always tried to stay true to the characters, as well as to the motor sports aspects of the story, and the various ways that things work in the CARS world. I took it all very seriously as the slightest deviation would be picked up.

While the characters were well established within the confines of the movie, there are still a lot of stories you can tell using them. I have a habit, that when watching a movie, of asking myself how did a particular character get there in the first place, or what happened next to them? That can be a springboard for a lot of ideas. For instance in the CARS movie, Lightning McQueen is often referred to as "The Rookie Sensation of the Year." Wanting to know why he was called that, lead to the ideas that formed the first CARS comic story arc "The Rookie."

If you had complete creative control, what direction would you like to take the CARS line?

Wow, that's a big question. I would want to expand the motor-sports part of the world, and bring in cars from other series (as they seem to be doing in the new movie), but also follow the revival of Radiator Springs - maybe have some of the old residents return. I'd also thought about doing something where as the town grows and prospers, the old-time residents start to see the new prosperity of something of a double edged sword as the influx of new residents means that they start to lose that feeling of community that kept them together.

I like the fact that they are doing an adventure spin on the movie too (I actually did a small four-page Mater spy story in one of my comics), and I think Mater's fantasy life (as shown in the Tall tales shorts) would be fun to explore more.

If you could write a comic about any character from your youth that inspired you, who would that be and why?

Doctor Who. Growing up in the UK, Doctor Who was a constant inspiration both on TV and in the various British adventure comics I read. The great thing about writing stories for The Doctor is that they can be about anything, and set at anytime. Science fiction, historical, whatever you want.

Do you have any other items in the works for your history of comics line?

I have had discussions with the publishers for a couple of other ideas to follow the James Bond and Star Trek comics history books, and it looks like we are close to an agreement on what the next project will be; but contracts aren't signed yet. 

On the comics front it looks like I will be doing some work on another licensed all-ages book later this year, and I'm looking forward to that.

And of course it's fantastic news that the new Disney*Pixar Presents magazine to be distributed by Marvel will be kicking off with some of my CARS stories. I have also been talking to them about some new story ideas, so hopefully I might get the chance to return to Radiator Springs at some point in the future.


Monday, March 14, 2011

SXSWi Screenburn Arcade

When I saw that Wizard World (http://www.wizardworld.com/) was going to have a booth at the SXSWi Screenburn Arcade (http://sxsw.com/interactive/screenburn/arcade), I didn't anticipate that I would get a blog post out of it.  It has become an annual tradition for our family to see some video games and people watch and this year was no different.

Tucked in the mix of giant bean bags, social media booths, game developer tools and a boxing ring, the Wizard World booth was setting up.  Henry walked up where inker Rodney Ramos was setting up some books and they were prepping a prize wheel.  He started to grab at some of the books until he was instructed to look with his eyes when Rodney asked Henry what he was up to.  Henry said that he was looking for a prize and asked Rodney for one.  Rodney was taken aback, but handled it like a pro.  He realized that his books were not age appropriate for a 3 and a half year old, and told Henry to hold tight.  Rodney then found a scrap of paper and drew a quick sketch of Batman telling Henry to listen to his parents.  It was a very special moment for Henry and our family and we were thrilled with the kindness of Rodney and how much this quick sketch meant to us.  That type of prize is more then Henry could have possibly asked for.  Thanks for making this year's Screenburn Arcade the best ever!

I wish I could have afforded a SXSWi badge to attend some of the comic panels and social media panels, but our free experience was great and we walked away with a unique memento that we will keep with us always!  Thanks SXSW, thanks Wizard World and most of all thanks Rodney!  Hope your time in Austin was great!