Tag Archives: writing

Denver Comic Con 2014

13 Jun

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.

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Understanding the Undead: TACKLING “THE OTHER” IN THE WALKING DEAD

6 Nov

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I hear constant chatter that The Walking Dead (both the comic and its companion television series) is not about zombies at all, but about the struggle for survivors to retain their humanity. Robert Kirkman himself has confirmed this. Horror is used as a backdrop to the human condition. As a writer, this is a tactic I can relate to, and also one I have often employed in my own work.

However, I would like to push deeper into the philosophy of The Walking Dead, perhaps further than Kirkman ever intended. Though the story as a whole may not be “about” the zombies, their distinct presence is there for a reason, so it would be a great disservice to not acknowledge their thematic importance. Once a work of fiction has been released to a world of readers, it is open to endless interpretation, and this is one option that I have returned to when considering The Walking Dead’s artistic merit:

The zombie is The Other.

The idea of The Other is an ancient one, its themes expressed in all factions of art, gaining philosophical popularity in the 20th century when intellectual minds such as Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault developed it into a concept with the potential to impact all humans. Broken down into its simplest form, The Other refers to that which is different—a person who does not fit within the confines of society’s accepted box.

In The Walking Dead, people from all walks of life and racial backgrounds are forced to work together despite their differences or face extinction. One can easily see this theme at play in both the comic and the television series. Cooperation does not always prevail amongst these groups, but those who continue to survive the harsh conditions understand that there is no room for The Other in human society; everyone needs a role. As a result, the idea of The Other becomes displaced, shifting instead to the undead. To most humans, this is a convenient solution, one that does not cause any loss of sleep at night. Though the undead have faces and traces of identities from former lives, those have been abandoned in an infected world. Humans make the mistake of thinking that the zombies are not “us,” when they are in fact the lurking unrealized potential of humanity. From here it is just a short leap to labeling the undead as The Other; a zombie’s only instinct is to consume the living, which often results in the transformation of a living person into their ranks.

This is where a thick grey fog begins to gather over this particular theme of The Walking Dead. When a member of the undead horde is simply the shell of someone a character has never met, it is much simpler to dismiss the zombie as Other and destroy it in the name of survival. When someone a character has held conversation with or learned to love becomes infected, it then becomes much more difficult to view them as Other. Take the Governor for example. For all his terrible qualities and failures at humanity, he refuses to let his niece (or—in the television version—his daughter) Penny be known to the world as a zombie, and he cannot bring himself to kill her himself. He knows that death is the only fate for The Other in this new world. Not just rejection and isolation, but total eradication. The Governor does his best to treat her as close to normal as is possible, but the concepts of normalcy have been twisted. Was he insane, or was he able to acknowledge something human still lingering within Penny? And where exactly is this line drawn?

Once any human becomes referred to as “it” versus “he” or “she,” the label of The Other automatically transfers over. But at what point does this transition occur? When a zombie bites a man or woman, their death is imminent save for a lucky quick amputation such as when Dale is bitten on the leg (again, this differs slightly in the television series; it is Herschel who falls prey to this near demise). The victim is treated as sort of a Transition Other, often quarantined from the rest of the group and taken care of by those closest to him or her. More often than not, the bite victim receives a bullet through the head immediately after death takes them. This allows the once thriving human to avoid regressing into the undesirable Other. Before the apocalypse occurred, most humans wanted to know what existed—if anything—on the other side of death’s tunnel. In the new world, there is almost a unanimous decision to avoid this completely. A notable exception would be the character of Jim, whose comic and television personas both face the same sad fate—after being bitten, he wishes to be left alone to follow through with his transformation, hoping in some disturbed way that he will be able to reunite with his fallen family.

What would it be like to enter the psyche of the undead, if such a psyche even exists? It would take the hand of a careful writer with serious intentions to handle this idea. The recent film Warm Bodies was overall surprisingly successful in capturing a humorous take on this vision, though I am not familiar with the novel it was based on and to what depth it might explore this same idea. As much as I am fond of satirical approaches, I think the psyche of the undead deserves deeper examination. I often recommend the little seen 1998 film I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain, which features a decidedly more depressing take on the subject matter.

These questions are worth asking: Would a zombie, in fact, retain any sense of their former self and feel some dark regret that can never be mended? Would a reader ever be capable of experiencing some level of pathos for the undead instead of sheer disgust? It’s hard not to pity such a creature when the specifics of its existence are spelled out. Once a human with a family and dreams for the future now reduced to a cannibalistic ghoul with nothing left beyond instinct and hunger. How much of a stretch is this fate from those afflicted with terminal illnesses—their bodies wasting away into glorified mummies, or coma victims with no more to offer than common garden vegetables? Humans can only speculate about this. Much like we can never truly tap into the mind of non-human animals, it would be near impossible to do the same with a zombie. Of course, this entire angle may not even be applicable to The Walking Dead, but that does not make it any less fascinating to ruminate upon.

Perhaps I’m reaching too far within the themes of The Walking Dead, but I am a firm believer that any successful piece of horror art is worth analyzing beyond the surface. There are reasons why so many readers connect with this series; what those reasons are will forever be up for debate. For many—including myself—it is the characters. Without a core group of survivors to identify with, there is no hope to cling to and the entire story falls apart. The few that have managed to survive over the comic book’s entire arc often feel like distant family for the moments that I am turning the pages, so much so that it was crushing to witness my favorite character receive the most brutal death of all in issue #100 (I won’t spoil who that was for those who have not made it that far into the series, but if you aren’t emotionally demolished by that scene then it is possible that you have become a zombie yourself.).

Will we ever grasp the extent of death and the great beyond? At this point, the zombies are much closer to understanding this than humans ever will.

By Chad Stroup

Chad Stroup is currently pursuing his MFA in Fiction at San Diego State University. His work has most recently been featured in Fiction International, The Newer York, Coffin Catalogs, and an exciting new horror anthology titled Splatterlands. His blog, Subvertbia, is a showcase of some of his short fiction and poetry. http://subvertbia.blogspot.com/. Like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ChadStroupWriter.

Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Incal

9 Oct

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Today, we’re celebrating a legendary collaboration between visionary storyteller Alejandro Jodorowsky and acclaimed illustrator, Jean Giraud (R.I.P.). Better known under the pseudonym, Mœbius, Giraud was lauded for his creative talents by the likes of the inimitable Italian cinematic maestro, Fedirico Felini, super hero movie cameo-whore (I joke, I joke) named Stan ‘Excelsior’ Lee and Hayao Miyazaki, creator of parallel world eco-apocalypse anime, Princess Mononoke, among others.

Jodorowski, no slouch himself, managed to set the bar in the world of independent Avant film making and his approach to film making is evident in his approach to graphic narrative. It’s no surprise as both are visual story telling mediums. One informs the other and vice versa.

Similar to his Avant American contemporaries like Kenneth Anger, Terry Gilliam and David Lynch, Jodorowsky overturned the stones to get a look at all the things that crawled beneath. Occult. Eroticism. An mélange of psychedelic fever dream imagery. Dark satire. Check out his brain bubbler, The Holy Mountain (see preview clip below). Certainly, he is a visionary and like most artists of his caliber, he has often been copied but never duplicated.

The Incal is a satirical space opera that centers on the many (mis)adventures of private investigator, John Difool. Difool is given the light Incal from a Berg—which looks like one of Jim Hansen’s Skeksis from the film, The Dark Crystal—and is pursued to through the galaxy by a number of factions (Techno-Technos, Bergs, Amok and Anima) who want the Incal and the Incals power to use for themselves.

Many of Jodorwosky’s characters are associated with figures from the Tarot, rather than dive into that esoteric realm, suffice to say they are archetypal. DiFool is charged with saving the universe. The unauthorized “borrowing” of The Incal narrative and character arc can be seen in the film, The Fifth Element. This point is debatable, with outliers claiming Hollywood ripped off the maligned auteur Jodorowsky for a quick buck that basically ended up being Die Hard in Space with Aliens co-starring Smoky from Friday.

Look, I am a fan of the Fifth Element. Milla Jovovich is captivating and the SFX are pretty decent by late 90’s standards. 

The Humanoids hardbound version that I own went through a recoloring and unfortunately, subsequent nudity censoring prior to release. Aside from the puritanical imposition of North American standards on a work of art, the book is beautiful, the narrative engaging and well worth seeking out.

He recently screened his new magic-realist film, La Danza de la Realidad in Cannes.

Follow the 84-year-old director on Twitter @alejodorowsky

Pick up a copy on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/The-Incal-Alejandro-Jodorowsky/dp/1906838399

Aside

Hickman’s Secret – Gainful Employment

11 Sep

Jonathan Hickman is having a very good year.

One of Image Comics many gifted talents!

Between the schizoid homicidal scientist historical (sci)fiction series, Manhattan Projects and the vintage-modern spaghetti western, East of West, Hickman’s latest, Secret hit shelves recently.

Secret appears to be more refined and subtle, subject-wise, than the other two titles. It focuses on the minutiae of a private security organization and the relationships of it’s members and the family at the heart of it all.

This collab with artist Ryan Bodenheim is climbing my year’s best of list. I’ve reread 1-3 twice already.

It’s a mystery-thriller with some incredibly rendered panels. Check out this panel from Secret #3 – The System.

Three panels in one. Brilliantly composed.

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Color is used quite effectively throughout to denote flashback or some other sequence of events that have some significance in the ‘present’ narrative.

If you’re trying to figure out a new monthly to get into or you missed out on Image Comics associate and Walking Dead scribe Robert Kirkman’s Thief of Thieves series, then this title comes with my highest recommendation.

Style Focus On Barry Windsor-Smith

28 Aug

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Barry Windsor-Smith was one of the first mainstream comic artists to bring a fine art sensibility to his craft. Starting with his work in the early 1970’s for Marvel, his attention to detail as manifested through his ornate, retro-art deco style and innovative panel layouts announced him as a singularly expressive talent. From his work on the fledging Conan the Barbarian comic to his current book Storyteller, Windsor-Smith has sought to maintain consistently high standards, and now in his late 60’s, feels he is doing his best work ever.

It’s hard to convey the impact his artistry had on the comic book world. Windsor-Smith, along with a few then-contemporary iconoclasts like Neil Adams,  redefined comics in terms of what could and could not be done, laying bare the established conventions of comic book imagery as brutish, trite and fundamentally uninteresting. Some of his strongest work involves no dialog or narration, the story conveyed solely through the sequence of deeply immersive images. His re-envisioning of Conan as a figure of almost feline grace and strength challenged Frank Frazetta’s muscle-bound depictions, and his conception of Robert E. Howard’s pre-historical civilization is invested with a deep sense of narrative space and of the image rendered in its moment of narrative conception. The art of Barry Windsor-Smith is in the image in motion brought to life in the light of the imagination, a phenomena unique to comics in their latent potential for narrative movement. This is where he made his home as an artist.

You can read a remarkably candid review with Barry Windsor-Smith here:

http://www.tcj.com/the-barry-windsor-smith-interview/

Samples of his art can be found here:

http://barrywindsor-smith.com/

– Gary Lain

 

Gary Lain is the editor of Caustic Soda. He lives in San Diego, CA. He has published fiction and non-fiction in Fiction International, Review of Contemporary Fiction, American Book Review, Brooklyn Rail, Texas Review, Belphegor, Crash Test, Journal of Experimental Fiction.

Matz and Jacamon’s The Killer – Comic Book Wednesday

7 Aug

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Happy #comicbookwednesday! The Killer by writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon follows a nameless kill-for-hire assassin in the twilight of his career. I picked up the Omnibus edition at #SDCC while spending hours (and $$$) in the Archaia Entertainment booth.

The protagonist narrates the story as he attempts to collect the debt owed him by his employer. His musings on life and death are fascinating. Admittedly, he prefers silence and distance to complete a job. He also mediates on his own reptilian tendencies and how he fits in with the rest of the human species but these never suffer from sentimentality and he deftly avoids moralizing. It’s this singular focus that keeps The Killer from spiraling into pathos. One can’t help but cheer for the guy. While on ‘one last job’ he begins assessing his life’s work of dealing death when something goes awry. We follow him as he investigates the betrayal.

The art is arresting. Cinematic. Its no wonder David Fincher optioned the story and is currently in pre-production on a filmic version of The Killer. The female characters are exquisitely rendered, vibrant and exotic though mostly one-dimensional with the exception of The Killer’s love interest. An exotic and beguiling beauty he meets while vacationing in South America.

If you love hard-boiled, noir-style narratives, I highly recommend Matz and Jacamon’s The Killer. 

Successfully Funded!

7 Aug

We are thrilled to celebrate a milestone in a creative endeavor in the making for nearly five years. Successfully funding Caustic Soda – A Year Future Narco Romance is as much a victory for us as it is for you, our fans, kickstarter backers, friends, family and new fans. 

In just thirty days we’ve accomplished something difficult and tangible and for that you have our sincerest gratitude. In the next few weeks we’ll be sending out a survey. Please take a look and respond at your earliest convenience, as we’ll need to begin coordinating the production of the rewards. As a backer exclusive, we intend to have the 12-page preview ready by this Fall (‘round Oct) and available for download! 

 – Also, you can follow us on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/causticsodanarcoromance