The wonderful folks at Print Ninja did a killer job on Volume 1 of Caustic Soda. Stoked to see this in print now!
Strolling the Indie Press section at WonderCon this past weekend I discovered Hex 11 by Venice, CA creative team, Lisa K. Weber and Kelly Sue Milano. Having tabled at Indie Press at SDCC 14 and DCC 14, I know how crazy hard it is to engage passers by. I’m extroverted so you can imagine how much of a challenge it is for me to be on either side of the table.
Duude, so glad I stopped.
The Hex Comix team looked me directly in the eye (all eight eyes staring at me) and hooked me with the perfect pitch for Hex 11:
“Hex 11 is a cross between Blade Runner and Harry Potter.”
Mmm. Yes. Take my monies…
Maybe I’ll have to rethink my pitch for Caustic Soda, “a cross between Twin Peaks, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Neuromancer.” Eh…
But it wasn’t just the initial pitch that had me intrigued, or the incredibly confident and articulate fab four comprised of Lisa K Weber (artist), Kelly Sue Milano (blue tooth speaker review writer by day), Lynly Forrest (editor/producer) and Samantha Carrasco (colorist) cliff-noting the entire series for me in perfect harmony.
Okay, not in a pitch perfect vocal harmony but I’m sure they could totally pull that off too.
The covers were gorgeous and reminded me of the Eisner nominated, Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson (writer) and Nate Bellegarde (penciller/inker). When I got home and began reading, I said God Damn!, just like Mia Wallace.
Strong female characters.
Bechdel test: PASS.
Hex 11 is definitely not a kids’ or YA comic. Adult themes and violence.
In the world of Hex 11, magic is discovered and treated as a new technology. It becomes commoditized and a system of value is placed on the control and distribution of magical elements and properties. Regular ho-hum humans can use magic, brilliantly evoked by the use of an aural implant-like piece of tech characters use to communicate with rather than smart phones. Those little subtle ideas percolate throughout the books, inspiring and frustrating. Inspiring because they are well executed and frustrating because I wish I had thought of it first: true signs of smart writing and great ideas working together.
The narrative follows Elanor, an intelligent young witch living in the near future, in the mega-slum known as The Hex. For the past five years she has been training under the tutelage of a veteran witch name Vera. Elanor is sent on an errand by her mentor and stumbles into a fight between a smuggler named Booth Chaplin and a demon named Osrick (working for the evil Omega Corp) over an esoteric piece of magic tech. When her life and the life of Booth are threatened during the melee, Elanor unknowingly unleashes a powerful binding spell and transports herself and the demon Osrick back to Vera’s apartment. During their interrogation of the demon and his mission, it is revealed that a demon murdered Elanor’s sister, Clara.
Vera sends Elanor to find Booth Chaplin to secure the device.
Meanwhile, Omega Corp sends an assassin named Faye (who is “cray-cray”) to find the demon Osrick, kill any witnesses or collaborators and retrieve the mystery device.
The dialog, while a bit expository at times (at least in issue 1 and 2, and understandably so, as they have a huge world to build) is snappy and smart. There are genetic threads of Whedon’s Buffy in the exchanges. The characters develop over the course of the 3 issues dynamically without being cliché.
Worthy of note is how the creative team of Hex 11 depicts magic and the use of magic. It is quite ingenious. Rather than what we’ve come to expect as visual representations of magic from the Potter film series or even American Horror Story Coven, magic in Hex 11 has a digital energy quality to it. Depicted as an energy flow/blast in neon of a PCB board. They take the Arthur C. Clark maxim “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” and mine it with wonderful effect.
The series is planned for 6 issues (fingers crossed for more). They are currently in production for issue 4. The art direction, character design, color and lettering are extremely well done.
They’ll have a booth at SDCC in the summer and issue 4 will be ready. I picked up 1 through 3 while I was there.
Issues 1 and 2 of Hex 11 are available on ComiXology pick ‘em up!
CHECK it out:
Hey friends and fans of Caustic Soda, we’ve had a great year thanks to you! Seems like it’s taking forever to get these issues done but I promise, you’ll like the results. Here’s a little something to tide you over until next year when we’ll have Issue 2 and 3 completed and ready for our super patient and amazing Kickstarters and fans. Happy New Year from me and Daniel Crosier! (Copies of Issue 1 are still available at https://causticsodanarcoromance.com/store/)
I recently learned that one of my mentors, David Riker, who made a big impression on me when I attended the NYFA program, has recently launched a Kickstarter to support a remastering of his brilliant film, La Ciudad.
Riker taught me about guerilla filmmaking, DIY art and how to work collaboratively.
He worked with Alex Rivera on the sci-fi film, Sleep Dealer, a film about jacked-in migrant humans robo-laboring north of a massive border wall in a dystopic future. Influential in context to the world of Caustic Soda, to be sure.
Riker also co-wrote the Jeremy Scahill film, Dirty Wars, a documentary (on Netflix) that examines the role of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
I remember when I saw La Ciudad and thinking about the possibilities of narrative storytelling and how it functions as a conduit to new possibilities.
About La Ciudad: “La Ciudad tells four stories about the lives of newly uprooted Latin American immigrants in New York City: a group of day laborers hired to clean bricks find themselves abandoned when tragedy strikes; a young man newly arrived from Mexico falls in love with a girl from his home village, only to lose her in the new and alien urban wilderness; a puppeteer, living with his daughter in a station wagon, dreams that she’ll one day learn to read; and a seamstress, desperate to send money home to her sick daughter, is forced to finally confront the injustice in the sweatshop where she labors.”
CHECK IT OUT http://kck.st/1nz1tvY
CAUSTIC SODA PRODUCTION UPDATE
Dan is deep into illustrating issue 2 but the going is slow. I’ve hired two associates to stand over his shoulder and menace him while he works but, obviously, that isn’t conducive to the creative process. Suffice to say he’s working his butt off.
Our plan is to have Issue 2 complete sometime in December, hopefully in time for your virtual stocking.
Issue 3 will be ready by March (digital issues to follow) and we’re on track to have the complete book done and ready to ship by June 2015.
Artist Daniel Obzejta has provided the cover art for Issue 3 and it is ridiculously amazing. Check it out below.
Thanks for your continued support and patience. My gratitude to all of you is unwavering.
The Auteur: LIKE A BAKED-OUT BOOGIE DOWN THE (FLUORESCENT) YELLOW BRICK ROAD, STREAKED WITH BLOOD, SWEAT, AND LESS APPROPRIATE BODILY FLUIDS28 Aug
Have you ever taken a chance with a new comic series—one devoid of any hype, one where you were previously unfamiliar with the creators—and instantly felt a disturbing connection with the mad minds behind the creation, as if they might be your long lost brethren birthed from the bowels of a humorous hell? Upon immersion into the first issue of The Auteur, released by Oni Press, I believe I have discovered some sickening soul mates in the forms of Rick Spears and James Callahan.
The Auteur is an absurd dark comedy mixed with psychedelic horror, set within a desperate story of love, lust, and the quest for artistic perfection at any cost. The main plot thread follows the (mis)adventures of—er—“acclaimed” director Nathan T. Rex on his quest for the perfect film that will breathe new life into his crippled career. Much like Eli Roth ingeniously created the now-legendary Thanksgiving trailer wedged between the theatrical release of Planet Terror and Death Proof, the brilliantly infantile protagonist of The Auteur decides to plunder another holiday that was somehow never utilized for an 80s slasher film: President’s Day. T. Rex is easily one of the most detestable, yet still engaging lead characters I have encountered in recent years; despite loathing nearly every cockamamie choice he makes, I still find myself rooting for him.
At times, the story reads like a premonition of an acid trip that never actually occurred because the trip turned out to be real life instead. Make sense? Exactly. Spears takes an “anything goes” approach to the plot, yet still attempts to ground it in some sort of pseudo-reality. He somehow succeeds at this near-impossible feat, and the results are enough to give the Tasmanian Devil a case of vertigo. Callahan must find some depraved joy in utilizing outrageous gore and twisting it into beautiful art, like a Saturday Morning Cartoon gone horribly wrong. He pushes the boundaries of “good taste,” choosing to not shy away from expressions of nudity, both the sublime and the grotesque (that’s right, discerning readers, this comic is definitely not for the kiddies). The creative team also makes some innovative panel choices that sometimes even aid in the storytelling—in the first issue alone there is an inside-of-mouth POV and a two page spread of a television plummeting to its doom from atop a tall building (while simultaneously telling us a lot about how T. Rex has ended up right where he is in the present). Even the “normal” panels give the impression of a well-executed cult film. Plot points include— but are not limited to—enlisting a behemoth of a serial killer as a consultant, a hilarious bastardization of the judicial system, disposing of casualties from the set, and an obsessive pursuit of a buxom woman who could have been an extra in a 70s Pam Grier flick (with the attitude to match). I also adore that each issue comes with a centerfold poster of each of T. Rex’s films…it’s a subversive move that pours salt into Hollywood’s wound and it just sucks me further into the mad world of The Auteur.
Colorists rarely get much glory for their work in comics, certainly not as much as pencillers. Sad as it may be, the only other colorist I can name from memory is Laura Allred (also deserved of endless praise, but let’s leave that for another time), but Luigi Anderson is one who deserves major accolades for his work on this book. He attacks his rainbow world as if the images are negatives from a long lost Dario Argento film, where the colors nearly become a separate, yet crucial, character in the story. The combination of this rebellious abuse of the color spectrum with Callahan’s distinct art is pure eye candy for those of us who delighted in going to the newsstand to peruse the new issues of Gorezone and Fangoria at the tender age of 5 (oh, wait, that was probably just me). In black and white, The Auteur would still be a fantastic book worthy of much praise, but the coloring pushes it over the edge into surreal phenomenality.
With the “Fin” at the end of issue number 5, I feared that arguably the coolest comic of the last few years was coming to a premature end. I was prepared to sit and pout in my room since I do not work for Oni Press and therefore I have no say in the matter, but an extreme emotional reaction is preferable to indifference, yes? I have since found out the positive scoop from Oni: The Auteur is still alive and well, with more wild tales to come in the second story arc. Sometimes the world is a kind and just place.
However, sometimes the world is cruel and cold. In a perfect universe, The Auteur would be outselling any men-in-spandex comic on the shelves, and fanatical fiends would be clamoring for the latest issue at their local shop, only to be disappointed that the large order has already sold out. But they’d find it eventually, hidden away in the back issue section of some shop off the beaten path. And it would be well worth the search.
Chad Stroup received his MFA in Fiction from San Diego State University. His work has recently been featured in the Grey Mater Press anthology Splatterlands, and the inaugural Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase. His blog, Subvertbia, is a showcase of some of his short fiction and poetry. http://subvertbia.blogspot.com/. https://www.facebook.com/ChadStroupWriter.
Caustic Soda Issue 1 will make it’s “Con” debut this weekend during Denver Comic Con. The books illustrator, Dan Crosier and writer Shane Roeschlein will be at Booth 933.
We’ll have prints of the mag-sized, limited run, Caustic Soda – A Year Future Narco Romance Issue 1. This is part 1 in a three part series titled, Hello, the War is Here and will be collected into a 72-page graphic novel, set for release in 2015. The issue features (pictured below) a skate-punk themed cover by artist Joe Triscari of Moonlight Speed.
If you are at DCC this weekend, stop by booth 933 and say hello. We’d love to meet you. We’ll have copies of Caustic Soda issue 1 available along with prints of the limited run, Caustic Soda t shirt.
Or if you can’t make it into the city for DCC, join us Saturday, June 14 at 3 Kings Tavern for a launch party with bands, Blackaciddevil, Throttlebomb and a performance by Show Devils featuring Enigma and Serana Rose.