My wife points out as she reads over my shoulder that Dwight Williams just posted the 2,500th comment on the site. Thanks for all your feedback and support, everyone! Dwight, your prize is immortality via this blog post.
You know how I feel about Christopher Mills from my write-up of Perils on Planet X on Monday. I told Christopher recently through the power of Facebook, and meant it, that if we lived closer, we’d probably be best friends. To recap: anything that Christopher Mills writes, edits, or otherwise has a hand in creating is likely to get my stamp of approval.
Now, let me take this opportunity to tell you a little about Rick Burchett. If there were a movie made of my life, I would get the actor Stephen Root to play Rick, and my instructions to him would be simple: “You are incredibly, incredibly talented, but you are also the single humblest person on the planet.” This is true: if you try to compliment Rick, as Greg and I do every week during our weekly phone call, that compliment will instantly find itself sucked into a black hole of diffidence and disappear forever. There is no form of praise that Rick will not somehow diffuse, deflect or defer into an argument of, “Well, I could’ve done it better like so….”
Greg had been discussing the idea of doing a webcomic for awhile before the groundwork for Lady Sabre was laid. The initial plan was a different story, different characters, with a different artist. That artist had a commitment, and so one day I got a call from Greg that the webcomic was going in a different direction, and that Rick would be onboard to illustrate. I try my damnedest to supress my fannish tendencies around my professional partners, but sometimes it’s difficult. But this is also true, though Rick doesn’t believe me: when Greg called to tell me Rick was going to be drawing the webcomic, I’d just finish purchasing a run of his work on Blackhawk, and that stack of comics was literally sitting in front of me as Greg broke the news.
Rick drew the picture of The Question that for many years was my avatar on every comic book forum on which I was a member. The series it was taken from, Huntress: Cry For Blood (written by Greg), was one of the comics that got me back into reading during college. When I met Rick in person for the first time at New York Comic Con (when we also met some of you), like a fanboy, I brought comics for him to sign. I get to see his art in high-res every week, and I’m still astounded by the privilege that luck and circumstance has afforded me.
I’m not doing a good job of supressing my fannishness right now, but that’s OK. What I’m trying to get across is that long, long before Lady Sabre, I was a big fan of Rick’s. If you only know Rick from our webcomic here, you’re missing out on a wealth of quality storytelling. One such effort, a webcomic-turned-paperback for which I long advocated, has been re-launched again as a webcomic updating every Monday: Gravedigger. I will forgive you if you stop reading now and just follow that link. Go ahead.
If you still need the hard sell, Gravedigger refers to “Digger” McCrae, a professional criminal in for a heist that doesn’t quite come off as planned. I haven’t checked with Chris or Rick, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Parker novels, or at least the John Boorman adaptation Point Blank were an influence on the book. Digger could be the founding member of The Sons of Lee Marvin. Digger’s world is populated by characters who operate in the grey zone of morality. Personal codes don’t necessarily reflect a traditional sense of right and wrong. Some betrayals are more severe than others.
In any other story, Digger would be the villain — a cold-hearted sum’bitch who pulls no punches — but through the first-person, boiled-harder-than-stone narration, we’re invited inside to live out our tough-guy fantasies vicariously as Digger charges violently through a series of double and triple crosses with his eyes fixed on the ends that best serve him.
As I said, this first story, “The Scavengers,” first appeared as a webcomic, and then was published by Rorschach Entertainment. That edition has gone out of print, I believe, and I cherish my copy. If you’ve never read Gravedigger before, this is an excellent opportunity to get in on the ground floor with an exceptional crime comic.
If, like me, you’re already a fan, the exciting news is that, after “Scavengers,” Chris and Rick will also be serializing the sequel, “The Predators,” which I’ve been wanting to see since it was first hinted at a few years back. The first Digger story features a very clean style, similar to Rick’s work for DC. The sequel, however, sees some experimentation with grey values, evoking the feel of 70s-era Warren magazines (like Blazing Combat #3, which is maybe the best single issue of an anthology comic ever made). I’ve purposefully resisted asking Rick to share this one with me, because I want to enjoy the comic as it comes out. But every time I see the previews, I get a little impatient.
What the heck are you waiting for? Go read Gravedigger!
Hey, all -
We are finally putting together quotes for a run of our first trade, which will collect Chapters One through Five of this, our First Book of Sabre. Eric, Rick, and I have been preparing the document and we’ve begun seeking out printers to get quotes on the run. Once we’ve gotten a few (or more than a few, honestly) bids in, we’ll be moving to Kickstarter. Our plan is to make this edition a Kickstarter/by-hand only book, meaning that it’ll only be available through the Kickstarter, or from Eric, Rick, and myself at conventions.
We’re trying to keep the price reasonable for what is looking to be a 192-page hardcover; ideally, we’ll be able to offer the book for $25/copy.
Amidst all these preparations and various attempts to understand just what it is we’re about to get ourselves into, we’ve also discussed some of the premiums we’d like to offer as part of the Kickstarter campaign, and this brings me to you lovely folks. We have lots of ideas, and we’ve gotten lots of advice from creators who’ve been down this road ahead of us, but we’re curious: What would you like to see offered in the Kickstarter, aside from the book?
Please share your thoughts! This matters a great deal to us – we’ve got a lot riding on doing this right!
If you’ve been a reader for long, you might know that I have a 17-month-old son named Henry. You might also be aware, if you’re a parent yourself, that having a child of Henry’s age means few opportunities to go to the movie theater. I love movies. And so I cherish every opportunity I have to sneak away to the cinema, hoarding the hours for which I’d pay a babysitter for only the films I’m really excited to see on a big screen.
One of the handful of films I saw in theaters last year was
A Princess of Mars John Carter of Mars John Carter, the unfairly maligned planetary romance from Andrew Stanton. I, like Greg and Rick, am a big fan of fun, and on this front, John Carter undoubtedly delivered. It’s been years since I read, in the midst of a thunderstorm and wide-eyed at the descriptions of Dejah Thoris, the Edgar Rice Burroughs work that sourced it, but the film seemed to capture much of the spirit of what I loved about the book — a sense of adventure, exoticism, wonder, and imagination that I frankly see a dearth of in most modern entertainment.
I had high hopes for John Carter, not just as a film, but as a touchstone that might help ignite a new renaissance of adventure films and space operas (following the disappointment of the Star Wars prequels — that franchise
stole pilfered homaged many of its successes from Burroughs, after all, and got worse as they got further from that material). Where are the high adventures of today? Where are the sci-fi films that involve, not faceless hordes of space marines slaughtering aliens with giant lasers, but swashbuckling and royalty and noble heroism?
Comics hold the answer. Specifically, a (sort-of) new comic from Christopher Mills and Gene Gonzales, Perils on Planet X. I know Mills from a history of seeing his name on genre projects I’ve enjoyed, whether they be hard-boiled detective comics with art by Joe Staton, or blogs about 60s spy shows and movies. In whatever he works on, Mills seems to tick one of the obscure boxes of my own interests (for Pete’s sake, he even wrote a Kolchak: The Night Stalker comic!), and he does it well. His name alone is an assurance of quality for me.
Sweetening the deal is some amazing artwork by Gene Gonzales, whose work I hadn’t previously encountered. Gonzales has a clean art style and a bold use of colors that serve well the fantastic worlds and characters he’s introducing. He’s also a solid craftsman storyteller — the action on each page is clear and compelling, the characters are fascinating in their appearance, and the world of Planet X strikes the perfect balance between familiar, exotic, and futuristic.
Our narrator is Colonel Donovan Hawke, a 21st-Century astronaut whose craft is lost after passing through a space anomaly and crashing on a foreign planet. He quickly finds himself fighting strange creatures, being held captive by a human-like people whose language he doesn’t understand, and, of course, falling in love. The set-up is very much in keeping with the classics of the genre, and, as Mills writes, this is purposeful:
Perils on Planet X is unapologetically a planetary romance. It is not a reinvention, reimagining or deconstruction of the genre. Nor is it strictly pastiche, although there’s definitely aspects of that in there. It follows firmly in the literary footsteps of authors I greatly admire and enjoy: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline, Leigh Brackett, Lin Carter, Michael Moorcock, Gardner Fox, and the stargods know how many others. If Perils differs significantly in any respect, it’s only because it has been written and drawn in the 21st Century instead of the 20th, and it cannot help but reflect that.
I’m trying desperately not to give too much away here, but Mills’ love of the genre shows through as regularly as his mastery of it. The clarity and form of Gonzales’ artwork falls somewhere between the adventure comics artists of the 30s whose works like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon are undeniably an influence on this effort, and Scott McCloud’s Zot, one of the great unsung sci-fi comics of the last century. Action sweeps across every page, and each has a fantastic balance of questions answered and questions asked. Plus there’s a red-headed pirate queen, and you know we have a special place in our heart for ladies of that ilk.
The first installment of Perils on Planet X went up this past Friday, and a new one will appear weekly. I’ve had the pleasure of reading months into the future of this strip, and will testify that the quality holds fast. I’m jealous that you still have all of this reading in front of you.
This is the second time Perils on Planet X has debuted as a webcomic, following an earlier effort with artist Jon Plante. One hopes that for Mills and Gonzales the second time is the charm, because Perils on Planet X is a handsome, well-scripted addition to the world of adventure webcomics, and it definitely fulfills my desire for space-bound swashbuckling Give it a read!
This Thursday, I’ll be covering another effort by Mills and an artist with whom you’re already quite familiar. In the meantime, that mystery comic debuted today, so go read that one too!