Interview: Nathan Hamill (Toy Designer, Artist, Nerd)

It’s almost time for San Diego Comic-Con 2014 and, like all of you nerds, I’m trying to figure out what I really want to spend my money on because, holy crap, there are always so many cool toys there! So, in my quest to find all the must-have releases this year, I decided to interview one of my friends and favorite toy designers, Nathan Hamill. I already own most of his figures, and since he keeps coming up with even cooler ones every year, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. So, if you’re one of the many lucky nerds attending the convention this year, make sure you don’t miss out on his awesome SDCC releases. Photos and info on where to buy below!

1) Most of us know you’re a ginormous nerd with a pretty solid toy collection that I often want to steal from, but how did you end up becoming a toy designer? What was your motivation to release Boris, your first vinyl figure?

I started with Boris when Patrick Geologo, who I once worked with at Toy Planet when I was in high school, was looking for artists to work with as U1Toy Arts was just starting out. Boris was originally a design for a cartoon called Animal Bandits. He’s a surly, suspicious little guy with a Napoleon complex. Like a Joe Pesci of the forest. And thanks for not stealing my toys. I know it can be hard not to.

2) What toys did you cherish most as a child? What are some of your favorite figures that you own now?

I carried a Darth Vader 3 3/4″ Kenner figure with me wherever I went. I had a vice like grip on that one. And currently it is Lavabear: Classic Ed., which I took all around Disney World on a recent trip. Some things never change.


3) You have some really cool releases coming up for SDCC. In particular, I’m excited about Lavabear and can’t wait to get one. What’s his story? Where did you get the inspiration to create him?

His backstory is inspired somewhat by the Gollum of Jewish lore and even a little by Tik-Tok of Oz, who was a protector of sorts too. There are obvious pop culture elements in the design but there are some that are more subtle and some that were subconsciously incorporated. I have no control of my pop culture soaked brain.


Lavabear: Classic Ed. Vinyl. 8 inches tall. Limited to 125 pieces. $80. SDCC 3DRetro Booth #5049

4) What about Octopup? How did you decide on all the different colorways? Were you trying to make me angry because I gotta catch them all?

Making you angry is always just a happy accident. As my first sofubi, I just chose color ways that would really pop. Stay tuned for some custom pieces from others artists soon.


Octopup: Octocrush Ed. Sofubi (Soft Japanese Vinyl). 2 inches. $10. SDCC 3DRetro Booth #5049

5) You also collaborated with Flat Bonnie and came up with a rad and squishy Octoplush version. Any future collaborations with her or other artists?

For SDCC, Flat Bonnie and I will have 3 Octoplush: Aquapup Ed. mini plushes as giveaways at the 3DRetro booth #5049. There will be 3 “Golden” tickets hidden inside the header cards of the Octopup: Octocrush Ed. sofubis. If you get a ticket, present it to 3DRetro and take home a free Octoplush.


SDCC 3DRetro Booth #5049

6) Your toys are awesome, but you’ve also released some fantastic art. What artists do you admire? Is there anything in particular you think influences your style?

There are too many to list if we’re talking about admiration and even influence whether big or small. But I think artists like Kozik, John K., Tim Burton and others that juxtapose cartoons with darker themes or underlying messages probably influenced me the most. I like taking a cute, large character and adding something subtly sinister or off to them. A friend once called my style “cute macabre”, and I’ll happily take that description.

7) “My Father, My Lord” might be my favorite print of yours because I’m a dark, emo nerd. For those of us who can’t even draw stick figures, can you talk about the process of coming up with a piece like this? Is this how you usually work?

I don’t ever really work the same way from one piece to the next.  It really depends on what it calls for and the mood I’m in. This one in particular came together really quickly. Once I had the concept, the rough was finished surprisingly fast. It’s something very dear to my heart, so it just came naturally. Then, it was just adding bits here and there and refining the whole thing.


8) Out of all the characters you’ve created, which one are you the most proud of?

Lavabear is my favorite hands down. It contains many elements that I’ve found myself using in other toys and resins. In addition to that, there are a few pop culture references too, one obvious and the rest were subconsciously incorporated. Bubbling up from my nerdy pop culture ladened brain.

9) What other exciting things can fans and collectors expect from Nathan Hamill in the future? Can you give us any spoilers?

2015 will be a great one. Lots to look forward to, but the one I’m most excited about will be very appropriate for the year. And, no, it’s not Star Wars!

Thanks, Nathan! And I’m totally getting one of your MimoPowerTubes while I’m at the con. So rad looking and practical!


Mimoco’s SDCC Booths #5245 and #2913M

Visit for the latest news on his current and future releases.

Interview: Justin Giddings and Ryan Welsh of OUTPOST (an Epic Sci-Fi Adventure).



Hey, Guys!

This week I was given the opportunity to gather some intel from Justin Giddings and Ryan Welsh, the co-writers and co-directors of OUTPOST, a new Sci-Fi film that is in the process of being made right at this very moment (literally, as you’re reading this). These fellows have promised space, love, and — get this — an outpost! Going with the futuristic trend, Justin and Ryan are taking the very modern approach to producing their film by raising the funds through a crowd-funding project set up on IndieGoGo, where they managed to raise ten-thousand dollars in a mere three days. I believe that is internet for “a lot of people believe in these dream and you should, too.”

In fact, to encourage you to donate, these guys have come up with some seriously fancy perks ranging from DVDs, top-secret internet parties, to a coffee and pie date (with both of them, I might add). Really, even if you don’t like Sci-Fi movies, you should donate just to get one of their ridiculously awesome perks.

For more details on OUTPOST and the fundraiser, or to donate: click here.


Now, here’s what these charming lads had to say about their super interesting film-in-progress:


1) If we could, I would like to start with any details that you would like to share with our audience, and an elaboration on the source of all of the passion that you guys are feeling for this project. Is this just a love of SciFi in general, or is this project in particular special to you?

Great question, Daliya! It’s a combination of both, we’d say. For us, science fiction provides a way to step back from anything we currently know and allow our imaginations to set the scene for our characters. It allows us to make our own playground where we can have as many swings and slides as we want. Even the very laws of physics as we currently understand them are able to be set aside in order to tell a story about the human condition. So sci-fi itself definitely gets the creativity pumping, and that’s awesome.
But the passion runs deeper for a few reasons. First off, we’re really passionate about the story. When we set out to write this, we were determined to try to write a story that wasn’t based on a cool concept or the VFX, but was built around the intensity of the characters. Gordon and ARIA have such a deep love for each other, but it seems destined to fail and so they desperately try to ignore it – until something dangerous and otherworldly threatens them and they’re forced to face their fears. (Plus, the end is killer. I mean, we literally get misty-eyed when we read through it and we WROTE the darn thing.)
Another reason for the passion is very practical; despite having successful careers as actors, it’s a job where 10 people have to say yes before you get to work as a creative artist. Making our own work gives us creative control and to work on such a scale is such a blessing. Add to that being supported by our friends and family and it feels like we are not alone but part of an artistic movement together as we strive to share our creative voice and vision.
2) Your idea seems very unique and I’m not really mentally connecting it to anything else (maybe Mass Effect, but that’s a stretch), and I noticed that you two mentioned a lot of other SciFi films in your indiegogo video, so I was wondering if you had any specific film or book inspirations for this film’s story?
While the idea came to us pretty well-formed, films like Moon and The Abyss were a huge part of the stylistic inspiration. The idea of isolation, loneliness, and the danger being off-screen spoke to us because then the story remains a human story. Even with our “Beings” as we’re calling them, the focus has been on what they represent rather than their look or design. At one point, we had a pretty elaborate fight scene, but we soon realized there’s no way we could afford it and, when forced to consider a different path, we eventually landed on something we like more because the conflict doesn’t become about fighting off a big bad alien, but the threat they represent to Citizen Gordon and ARIA’s relationship. Moon is a movie set on the Moon, but it’s not about the moon. The Abyss is a constant looming threat/curiosity, but we watch the people dealing with it, not a bunch of CGI sequences. Another film we love is Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. That movie has beautiful imagery with a planet-ending threat looming over them, but the story is really about whether or not the crew will be able to stick together long enough to save humanity.
3) It seems that the relationship in this story is one of the main focal points. Should the audience expect a typical style of romance, or do you guys feel like you might be creating a new, original romantic image for your audience?
We don’t know that we’re creating a wholly new type of love story, just taking a slightly different perspective. Love is a courageous thing to do, especially when it’s not in a conventional way, or in a socially acceptable way – that’s something we wanted to explore with both these characters. The idea of a boy and his robot is a standard sci-fi trope, but it’s always felt like the differences were highlighted. We want to highlight the similarities. We’re also touching on a deeper question of what it means to be alive – the character of ARIA has only recently become fully sentient so her journey is particularly unique.
4) As stated in your video, you have a lot of big names working on your project. What brought your team together? 
Passion. From day one we have been passionate about this project and so we’ve attracted other passionate people who turn around and constantly inspire and surprise us. For example, in picking our cinematographer Idan Menin, we have a perfect story to illustrate what we’re talking about. Idan had found our project early on and had begun messaging us early in the process expressing his interest. We liked his reel, but we were months away from any sort of application process. As we got closer to the Indiegogo campaign, we knew we wanted an actual DP to shoot our pitch video, so I reached out to him with the script and a request for help. We set a date for a coffee meeting and when we show up to casually chat about an Indiegogo movie, he pulls out a digital look book and begins to paint an incredible vision of the film as he saw it. He was right on with the images in our heads and incredibly enthusiastic, so when we left, I (Justin) called Ryan and said, “Can we just hire him?” And we did!
5) Previously you said that it takes a good amount of people to get something like this off the ground and running. Do you feel like your entire team shares the same vision, or are you all bringing a collection of different ideas and perspectives together?
It’s shared. If we could magically wave a wand and create the exact movie we have in our heads, it would never be as good as a movie born of the creative collaboration of many talented artists. Every department head and the crew they bring with them are carefully chosen because we know they will have a signature on this film, too. If we had to brag, it would probably be that we are good at finding good people.
6) You said that you want to primarily focus on humanity and human emotions in a new setting. What, in your words, would you like the audience to take away from your film?
We’d love for our audience to leave really contemplating on Gordon’s dilemma – to fight for all of mankind, a mankind that is recognizably flawed and distant, or to fight for the singular thing that makes him a man – love of an individual. Moreover, it’s an individual he’s not supposed to love! Also, there’s some big Easter eggs in the short that hint at a much more complicated and layered story we hope to present in the feature and we’d love those questions to be burning in the audience as well.
7) You guys managed to get a great deal of funding in a short amount of time, which seems to show that plenty of people believe in this production. How does that make you guys feel? Did you expect a turnout like that?
The turnout so far has been incredibly encouraging. Despite months of preparation getting to our launch date, you never really know how the public is going to respond so it’s incredibly humbling to see people responding the way they are. We have a quote that has been our mantra of sorts: be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid. We know that $60,000 is a lot to raise, but we also know that passion is contagious. So much of what we see in the entertainment industry now is about the bottom line and I think people long for stories that are about more than that. We are boldly placing our film in the hands of the audience instead of the studios and trusting that they will carry us through. When they do, our obligation is then to entertain and inspire THEM instead of meet a bottom line.
8) Individually, what was the first SciFi film, show, or book that really started your passion for this genre?
Justin: This one is easy: Ender’s Game. I remember being a kid and reading that book and being in awe of the deftness with which that story was told. It manages to achieve exactly what I want to achieve in storytelling. The story of Ender’s Game isn’t about space or aliens or cool technology – it’s about Ender. How does a boy become a man? How do you deal with pressure when you simply have to and there’s no escaping it? What is it like for people to depend on you but they keep you isolated? See, these are all very human and universal problems. It just so happens to be set in space from the perspective of a young boy. In terms of film, Star Wars. I got started in acting doing voice overs as a kid and I would get these checks that no 11 year old should be receiving and I would go blow it all buying Star Wars toys and card games that I would leave in their packages so they would grow in value. I’m a nut.
Ryan: There have been many films over the years that have deeply impacted me and shaped my perception of the genre (The Abyss, Alien, Event Horizon, to name a few) but I think it was watching anime on Saturday mornings as a kid. The Sci-Fi Channel used to air an anime film everySaturday morning at 11AM – I was consistently awed by the worlds created in those films, whether sci-fi or fantasy. Those films did more to inspire imagination and creativity in me than probably anything else to date. Funny thing is, I hardly ever watched anime s I got older, but it created a foundation of appreciation for Science Fiction.
9) Obviously crowd-funding is a unique approach for film-making. Do you feel like you can produce something more specific to your image since you are in complete control of the production?
There are certainly pros and cons to the process. As you mentioned, creative control is a HUGE plus, but there is also a lot of uncertainty in the process that can be challenging. Even with Outpost, there are a number of things as it relates to producing the film that we simply cannot move forward on until we know what our working budget is – so that can be a challenge, the unknown as it were.  Honestly though, we think it’s a big win for everybody in the end; there just isn’t another way of making films right now that involves and connects you to your audience like crowd funding.
10) Given that you are in complete control of the production, do you guys feel that you might be able to make a SciFi film that caters more to the average person by bypassing the demands and limitations placed upon major film productions?
Yes – kind of. Ha! We had an investor who had seen our first film and offered to bank roll our second film. He eventually needed to step out for personal reasons, but during the process it was very educational to see that the moment you bring in a money person, certain expectations have to be met. With that element gone, we are able to be true to our vision. We want to tell a story that means something to us – we can only hope that if we tell it true, in a voice that’s true, that it will mean something to our audience. It is true that it allows us to tell the story without worrying about whether we’re blowing up enough stuff or how long since we’ve had a spot of nudity or a sex scene. Good news is, we still blow up some stuff in Outpost so I think it’ll satisfy that taste, too!
11) What are you guys the most excited about for this film?
Blowing stuff up, haha! We’re kidding, of course! What excites us beyond the story aspect is the scope and style of the film that we’re going to be able to achieve on a very small budget. We think people will look at this and be blown away by the visuals and style and be even more blown away when we tell them we got away with it for $60k. We’re so excited about how this film is going to look, we’ve started story boarding and working with our DP and VFX Supervisor and believe this film is going to be stunning. The best part is that it’s still in service of the heart of the film, the story of Gordon and Aria. And blowing stuff up…:)
12) If you could say one thing to a potential viewer to convince them to see your film, what would you say?
Outpost will satisfy on every level, it will stay with you. Plus, it’s frickin’ badass! Space! Love! Robots! Aliens! Explosions! A little something for everyone.
13) What do you want everyone to know about this film?
We can’t make it without you, the reader! When you help us out with a donation or a social media share, you are, in a very real way, becoming a part of this process. That’s not lip-service, that’s a simple statement of fact. So, when you sit back and watch this film, on some level you’ll know it’s there because you willed it so! You can point at a 60 foot screen, turn to your friend and say, “I made that.”
14) Give us your favorite nerdy saying or quote.
Ryan: [“You cannot pass,” he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.”] Seriously, one of the most badass things ever said.
Justin: I’ve got two choices: “Do or do not, there is no try.” and my second one is similar to Ryan’s: “Sir Ian Sir Ian Sir Ian ACTION Wizard You shall not pass CUT Sir Ian Sir Ian Sir Ian.

Aaaand, that’s a wrap.

If you’re not sold on Ryan and Justin’s new film by this point, you might actually have the heart of a Death Eater.
Assuming you’re not pure evil with a side of too-much-hair-product, you can donate and learn more about this project here.
Thanks again to Justin and Ryan for this wonderful interview. I hope you achieve your own version of cinematic perfection!
Daliya Risik

Book Review: The Ninja Mind

This review/interview has appeared on Bonzuko (aka Daily Cross-Swords)

I recently was given the honor of reviewing former colleague Kevin Casey’s new book The Ninja Mind. Enjoy the review below and the interview with Mr. Casey following.   ~Prof. Jenn


Book Review: The Ninja Mind by Kevin Casey

Martial arts centered books tend to slant in one of two directions: either the spiritual side of things (which makes many of them read like self-help books), or the physical side (which turns them into a how-to manual for instructional use). Casey manages to combine both sides in The Ninja Mind, along with a generous throughline of personal narrative. It’s difficult to define this book therefore: it’s part instruction, as he describes various exercises one can try on one’s own; part memoir, as he recounts memories of his earliest forays into the exploration of the kuji studies in his martial art; part ode to his instructor, which to be honest turns into a bit of a Stephen K. Hayes worship-fest; and part storytelling, with the ninjamindaddition of the Hanzo tale at the end of the book.

This makes for an interesting mix, for sure, and each chapter is in bite-sized chunks, so anyone who is interested in the work can digest and manage each bit thoroughly before moving on to the next. It’s also a good move on Casey’s part to focus so much on his personal journey, as especially since he’s writing about a mental, spiritual practice (not mere physical technique), it perforce can’t really be explained other than on the individual level. His personal narration puts us there with him as he describes various fears, obstacles, and the overcoming of such.

The main problem with The Ninja Mind is the near-fawning over (albeit excellent martial arts teacher) Stephen K. Hayes. It of course makes sense that one would admire one’s teacher and, in the style of memoir, describe one’s impressions of him/experiences in learning, etc. But it goes just that much too far into putting Hayes on the demigod-guru-worship-pedestal, which tends to be off-putting in the midst of such sincere recounting of personal growth.

Bottom Line: If you can get past the teacher-worship and enjoy the personal narrative, The Ninja Mind is a detailed foray into one practitioner’s journey through the depth of martial arts spirituality in practice.



MinInterview: Kevin Casey

1) what made you choose To-Shin Do in the first place? What makes you stay with it as an art?

Unlike many of my friends that had followed ninja legends since youth, I seemed to stumble across this lineage as a series of random events. However, within just a couple of months, as a brand-new white belt in 1998, I realized that there were some larger forces at work that brought me to To-Shin Do. I had been looking for a very authentic and embodied spiritual path since early childhood. By the end of college, I had explored many different spiritual traditions and found them all to be either institutionally fossilized or irresponsibly unhinged. In frustration, I gave up on being part of a community of seekers and became determined to forge my own path to inner and outer spiritual truth. Just at that moment, I found To-Shin Do, and I was amazed to see that it already embodied so much of what I was trying to define for myself.


Kevin and Jenn, To Shin Do graduation, 2009.

Now I’ve moved past the validation stage of trying to determine whether the lineage is legitimate and I am worthy. I’ve had a chance to get oriented within the landscape of To-Shin Do and the massive backstory of the ninja tradition. With that framework in place, I can really explore and develop myself as an artist and a seeker. The advanced stages of ninja training are a conversation between teachers and students, helping the students evoke their own potential in the most authentic way. My teachers provide the support, experiences and wisdom to help me realize the inner vision that was a whisper in my heart from my earliest memories.

2) why did you include the Hattori Hanzo anecdote at the end of the book?

The fiction piece at the end of the story seems to polarize readers – they either immediately resonate with it, or find it strange and out of place.

I see three major ways of relating to spiritual reality. One way I call the mythical way, where we gather stories that give the emotion and energy of the spiritual lessons. The stories are usually fantastical, over-the-top, and bring the lessons vividly to life. They are usually understood not to be literally true or historical. The Hanzo fiction is an example of this.

The second way I call the rational way. This is where we study and explain spiritual experience. This is exemplified by psychological and social analysis of how spiritual experiences work and what benefits they give us. It’s very detailed and intellectual.

The third way I call the mystical way. The mystical way is an integration and transcendence of the mythical way and the rational way. It brings the observational precision and intelligence of the rational way, but it infuses our literal, living histories with spiritual significance and emotion like the mythical way. We are the heroes of our stories. This is ultimately what I would like to offer to my readers.

The difficulty is, the mystical way is hard to transmit.  Some will need a lot of explanation and data because they are rationally inclined. Others will need a lot of stories and emotion because they are mythically inclined. The Hanzo fiction is there to address that latter group.

I’ll teasingly half-share one more secret… the fiction is not entirely fiction. Fiction can be a place to record stories that are so outrageous that no one would believe they were true.

3) will there be more books addressing the other 8 kuji?

Indeed there will be. I have outlines developed for each of the other eight Kuji books, with lists of stories and examples from my life and others’. As my personal journey continues, I acquire more stories to fill in. An-Shu Hayes and I are having exciting discussions about Kuji book 2, and I have a first draft developed. I hope to submit something to my publisher next spring.

At this point, I feel I have something significant, clear and implementable to share about the first four Kuji powers (Strength, Energy, Dragon-Riding, and Healing). For Kuji five and six (Danger Sensing and Telepathy), I have great and clear stories, but not yet an organized platform for others to try it out.  For Kuji seven and beyond, I have amazing stories, but I need a great deal more research to understand them. Luckily, each book takes almost two years, so expect the Ninja Mind of Invisibility around 2029. I should have a little more information by then.

4) have you ever studied other martial arts? Spiritual arts? If so, how do they compare/contrast with To Shin Do? 

I have never been a committed long-term student of any other martial or spiritual systems.  I have done workshop

Kevin and Jenn in To Shin Do seminar, 2008.

Kevin and Jenn in To Shin Do seminar, 2008.

training in boxing, fencing, judo, karate, tae kwon do, muay thai, kyudo, and kung fu. I’ve stopped in at Zen centers, Shambhala training, Catholic monasteries, shamanic drumming circles, Wiccan study groups and Jewish temples. I’ve also spent a bit of time here and there with my “cousins” in other branches of the ninja tradition and in Japanese Tendai and Tibetan Buddhist lineages, without formally being a student in those organizations.

I enjoyed all of those explorations, and I found I was never tempted to leave my home in To-Shin Do. There were attributes I admired in other approaches, and because To-Shin Do is intentionally a living framework that evolves with the individual and the culture, I could incorporate those attributes into how I train and how I teach.

To-Shin Do, and its root art of ninjutsu, emphasizes adaptability. This seems to be in contrast to most tradition-oriented systems. Yes, of course, we want to leverage the wisdom and past experiences of our lineage, so in that sense there is a tradition of passed-down methods, but the real heart of the ninja tradition is an unrelenting focus on what works and a commitment to discovering that in changing conditions. As such, we study principles and concepts from history, and then seek to manifest those ideals in the most tangible, meaningful and effective way.

The result of that, when done well, is a profound sanity and capability. To-Shin Do is not immune to the organizational neuroses of every human endeavor, but our values eventually navigate us out of it, or navigate the neurotic out of To-Shin Do.

5) to the extent that you feel comfortable, express how your recent life upheavals have informed your practice as it is laid out in your book. 

This year was brutal. It was without a doubt the toughest year of my life so far, and I won’t be surprised if it stands as the toughest year of this lifetime.  I’ll tell some of my stories in Book 2.

These experiences forced me to look in the mirror long and hard. Are these practices real? Do they hold up under major crisis?

Although the practices are magical, they do not magically solve your problems. Although they increase confidence, focus, and personal power, they do not remove all suffering from life. In truth, you mostly still have to solve all your problems in fairly ordinary ways.

The difference is, with these practices, you’ll actually get around to it. A lot of the solutions in our life are obvious but difficult. Consider improving fitness and getting Body Sculpting Scottsdale for the best life that you can live. Fitness is such a big role in your life you cant ever neglect it, getting a better job, improving finances, or developing better relationships with loved ones. These are critical and life-impacting, and you can Google all kinds of valid advice for free. We struggle not to understand but to implement.

Sometimes we internalize that failure to implement as evidence of character flaw. We get depressed and seek escape. The truth is, though, the failure to implement is a failure of spirit, and spirit has to be developed and maintained through spiritual practice. However gnarly and unfair life can be – and I’ve recently been put in touch with a pretty intense level of it – the only solution is to pick yourself up one more time and do what is needed. You can’t do that just through hollow internal cheerleading. You need a real cultivated perspective of personal power through a set of exercises and practices.

At my worst moments this year, giving up and dying felt like a real option. My spiritual practice reminded me of why I might get up one more time. I made a real choice to survive, and that alone is empowering. I don’t have to be here, enduring this travesty. I am choosing to be here, because there is something greater that’s worth fighting for.

The fact that the ninja tradition acknowledges this dynamic – as opposed to engaging in the fantasy of an untouchable invulnerable super-being who never suffers – gives mere mortals like ourselves a real shot at heroism. When we struggle, endure, adapt, outlast and overcome, we are ninja.

Book Review and Interview: Deep Six

I had the pleasure of reviewing yet another book by an old friend, Ian Healy, again in his Just Cause superhero-laden universe. I also had the chance to interview him using my patented (okay, not really) 5-question format. Below find the review of his latest Just Cause book, Deep Six, and the interview, both of which also have appeared on   ~ Prof. Jenn


Book Review: Deep Six by Ian Healy

What struck me about the first and second books I read in the Just Cause universe was how like Contemporary Realism they are–the only thing that makes the novels at all fantastical is the superpowers. They take place in the real, contemporary world, with such realistic history and backstory of the parahumans that one begins unable to differentiate between the real quotes from historical figures and those invented, from all the epigrams at the beginnings of chapters. These epigrams are well thought out as far as story structure–they function much like the loading screen of a video game: giving an extra framework to the story at hand.

Deep Six does something that no other super-hero story does: it focuses not on the heroes (or indeed on the villains) but places normal folks at the head of the story as our protagonists. Our main characters are wardens and workers in the prison built for parahumans gone bad, called Deep Six. They all have a touch of the parahuman about them, but none of them have any powers that are spectacular, or, well, powerful at all. Pitting these regular joes against the incrediblyDeepSixcoverB scary and powerful villain Misrule puts us readers on the edge of our seats.

When the almighty Misrule turns himself in to Deep Six, ultimate precautions are taken. The advanced technologies that Deep Six boasts, to keep the myriad villains under lock and key, are in place, superhero posse Just Cause is standing by, and the veteran wardens (plus our newbie protagonist) are ready to take him in. he says he’s terminally ill, and wants to do the right thing.

What could possibly go wrong?

The tension of the action is just as compelling as the realistically-drawn relationships, with only the barest touch of repetetiveneness towards the climax. I highly recommend Deep Six–and don’t worry, it stands alone just fine if you haven’t read any other Just Cause books. But of course, after reading this one, you will want to.

MinInterview: Ian Thomas Healy

1)   What are some particular challenges in writing about superheroes? What tropes do you embrace, and which do you eschew?
The biggest challenges for writing superheroes are the same challenges as writing in any other genre: the characters have to stand true as believable and three-dimensional, not just cliché cutouts. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen from other writers who write about superheroes is that they focus on the powers first and the characters second. Superpowers should only ever be an aspect of superheroes’ characters, not the defining characteristic. I like to think that my JCU tales would be almost as good without the powers (although most of the plots require them to move forward).

As far as tropes go, I embrace the colorful costumes and nicknames that have been in comic books since Day One, but I also try to make costumes a little more realistic with powers. In Just Cause, for example, I went into a little more detail on Sally’s costume, because I didn’t feel it was enough for her just to throw on a pair of red and yellow tights. Her boots, for example, were designed by a team of an Italian footwear designer and a JPL engineer to make them both comfortable, friction resistant, and to provide traction even when she’s running at five hundred miles per hour.

One thing I’ve rejected overall are the so-called “cosmic-level” powers. Most of the characters in the JCU are fairly down-to-earth as far as their abilities go. Other superhero universes have characters who can toss around planets, or are the offspring of gods, or can accomplish anything through the judicious application of will. There’s nobody in the JCU like that. Mustang Sally is actually one of the most powerful characters on the planet, given her ability to break the speed of sound on foot. She’s an elite-level hero, and doesn’t even really give any thought to that because her day-to-day life and problems are largely the same as anyone else’s.

2)   You have strong female characters in all your Just Cause Universe novels. Who are your influences in that area?
Naturally, it has to start with my mom, a strong woman who has overcome a tremendous amount of adversity in her life. I’ve always had a lot of female friends in my life, more so than male for the most part. Pretty much across the board, they are or have grown to become strong, forceful women who I’m proud to know. Some of them are mothers. Others are engineers, scientists, politicians, authors, actresses, and warriors. It’s pretty awesome company to keep, let me tell you. I write for them as much as I do for myself.

3)    What can we expect next from the Just Cause universe?
Next spring will see the release of another expansion novel of the JCU, calledJackrabbit. It’s about a character only AuthorPiccircuitously connected to the primary team, but who manages to pretty much single-handedly save the entire world from an interstellar menace. Also, he can jump real high. It’s a much more lighthearted approach to superheroing compared to some of the more gritty stuff I’ve done recently, like Day of the Destroyer and Deep Six. Next fall will be the next Mustang Sally book, called Champion. I’m planning to release some additional short stories over the next year and to collect them into an anthology. I’m starting to make plans for the next couple of JCU books to work on after wrapping up my current project load.

4)      Are you marketing these books for YA audiences, or adults, or are they pretty universal?
Given the youth of most of the narrative characters in the JCU, I think that they’re pretty universal in appeal. In Just Cause, Mustang Sally has just turned 18. The characters in Day of the Destroyer are all in their 20s. I don’t explicitly state Katie Malone’s age in Deep Six, but she’s roughly 30. I’m marketing stuff to whomever I can, though, because the more people who read JCU books, the more they’ll tell their friends about them.

5)      Leap up on your soapbox again for us about self-/online-publishing and traditional publishing.
I think anyone who says they are exclusively for traditional or exclusively for self-publishing is self-deluded. There are things that traditional publishing can accomplish that a self-publisher cannot without expending a tremendous amount of effort. And most self-publishers, like me, don’t have the luxury of time and capital to invest in the marketing and distribution reach that traditional publishers can do. On the other hand, I can bring a completed book to publication in only a couple of months (or less if I’m not going with print). I can make changes after publication if needed. I can respond to the vagaries of the industry faster than a traditional publisher. Also, I get paid faster than do authors through traditional publishers, although they receive advances (or should!) and my income trickles in via royalties. I’m not going to say one is better than the other, because there are positives and negatives to each side. I have a literary agent who is working on selling some of my work, and I hope she is very successful with it, because I’d really like to be working both sides of the publishing fence.
Ian can be found on Twitter (, Facebook (, Scenic, and on Amazon (

Deep Six releases worldwide in print and ebook formats on November 29, 2013. Preorders are available at. Check out the book trailer at

The Future of Gaming?

How many games do you have sitting your shelf that you’ve already played through, and barely even look at anymore? And how many games are there that you’ve been wanting to play – maybe even for years, you wanted to try some gambling games? Why not do it today and get your first coupon from BonusCode for free discounts. – but you just can’t justify the purchase of them, perhaps even because of the collection you already have?  Of course you can trade in old games to corporate companies like GameStop or Best Buy, and even purchase used games. But let’s be honest.. that’s kind of a rip. They don’t give you much for your trade-in, and turn around and sell it as used for more than twice as much. If you are looking for the best gambling experience visit DominoQQ online poker tables. At, you can take your sbobet88 indonesia
gaming experience with you, anywhere.

99gamersThis is exactly the conundrum a group of gamers was discussing over at Reddit a while back, and developed it into a solution. In addition in case you want to play bingo today, just click the link and start playing, one of the best online bingos you can play. 
BK- 99Gamers is a video game trading community. Members use 99Gamers as a platform to trade directly with each other. Members add their unwanted video games and sell them to other members for a virtual currency called ‘coins’ which are valued at $1 per coin. Members can then spend their earned coins on other games, and there are games like World of Warcraft where you can invest in gold as well. If you’re looking to be a WoW TBC Era player but recently switches to Classic. It is obviously more difficult in Classic for farming, so to save some time I bought WoW Classic Era Gold.

NiB- What is your role on the site?

BK- I’m one of the founders of 99Gamers with the other being my brother Jon.

NiB- I hear you got your start from a post on Reddit. Can you elaborate on that?

BK- I originally got the idea for a video game trading site when I came across a post on Reddit about how someone would shoot darts at their game collection to choose which game they would play next. I realized that this random person had a bunch of games that I would love to play but just haven’t had the chance to. I turned to my game collection and thought that this person would probably feel the same way about my game collection. 

I was also tired of getting ripped off by GameStop, knowing they would turn around and sell the game for double the next day. I knew other video game trading sites existed, but none of them were what I wanted them to be. Well you know, I love playing games, especially online casino games and betting, so I have come for search for betting websites uk and found some legit and fun sites I can bet on. You might want to check them out too.

I wasn’t sure how many people would be interested in something like this so I decided to post it to Reddit and see what the response was like. I was thinking maybe a few hundred people would see it and I’d be able to get some feedback on the idea, but within a few hours the post was at the top of r/gaming and even hit the front page for a while, resulting in thousands of signups. I then knew enough people felt the same way I did so I went forward with the site.

NiB- How can it help the gaming community? 

BK- First, we save people a lot of money. Trading on the site is completely free so you’ll really start to see the savings add up quickly. 99Gamers is built by gamers for gamers with the sole intention of getting more value out of your game collection. We are a platform for gamers to trade directly with each other so the middle man can be cut out. Many people feel like they get ripped off when using trade-in services so 99Gamers can be used as that alternative.

I’ve also found that because you have access to such a large game library you are more inclined to try out games you may have not given a chance before. You are then more likely to purchase the sequel when it comes out. For example I hadn’t played the Dead Space series yet but after getting the games through 99Gamers I ended up buying Dead Space 3 new.

NiB- Have you gotten any backlash from corporate gaming companies?

BK- We haven’t received any backlash at all. We’re still fairly new and have been mostly underground so it’s doubtful they know about us yet.

NiB- From what I understand, you just came out of beta. How has membership grown since then?

BK- We came out of beta about two months ago and we’re starting to pick up momentum. Just last week, it was nine months since I originally posted about the idea on Reddit so I did a follow up post about our progress so far. We ended up hitting the front page again which resulted in us more than doubling our user base within 24 hours. We went from having 2,300 members to now almost 6,000. 

NiB- Has this project been received well by the gaming community?

BK- Yes, I believe it has been received quite well. Both Reddit posts reached the front page which shows many people share the same feelings of not wanting to get ripped off by trade-in offers. When members trade directly with one another games can be offered at a lower value and people tend to appreciate knowing that their games will be going to a good home.

NiB- Are there any particular games trending on the site right now? 

BK- Assassin’s Creed III and Far Cry 3 have been popular over the last few months. Now that the new Tomb Raider is out it usually gets picked up quite quickly. Pokémon games are of course always popular as everyone loves playing them. I’ve found people will often buy every game in a series together. The Mass Effect series has been very popular in the past. 

NiB- Are there any games you’re hoping get put up so you can nab them?

BK- I actually had a list of games I had wanted when I came up with the idea and wouldn’t allow myself to get them through anywhere but 99Gamers. A few I’ve gotten are Kingdom Hearts, Max Payne 3, Pokémon SoulSilver and Assassin’s Creed II.  One that I hadn’t yet received was Just Cause 2 but after the Reddit post last week I managed to grab it and it’s now on its way!

NiB- Any future project plans for the site?

BK- Up next we’ll be adding PC games and digital codes. The search, browse and profile pages are getting a much improved new look. These will help members discover new and interesting games faster.
Down the road we plan on adding consoles and gaming accessories into the mix as well as some more exciting features. Our main goal continues to make buying and selling games as easy as possible so our members can spend more time playing games.

You can visit 99Gamers here: – Hopefully you’ll find something you’ve been wanting. Let us know how it goes!

Interview With the Author: Ian Healy

Ian Thomas Healy Talks Candidly About The Archmage:


Tell us about your latest book.

 The Archmage is a sequel to the novel Just Cause, starring the super-speedy Mustang Sally along with the rest of the Just Cause superhero team. In it, I explore the use of magic in a superhero setting. In this case, a character named Wolfgang Frasier has been slaughtering other mages around the world and taking their power for himself. He’s gotten so powerful that there is only one other mage remaining besides him, the hero Stratocaster, who is a member of the Lucky Seven hero team that Sally trained with at the beginning of Just Cause. If Frasier manages to kill Stratocaster, his power becomes absolute and he could plunge the entire world into darkness, becoming its total ruler. This is, of course, his goal. Sally and the other heroes have no choice but to try to stop him, even though his power is so great that he can call armies of the dead out of the ground and turn anyone captured to his side. There’s a nifty bit of time travel thanks to magic going awry that sends the team back to the 1870s, and of course some great intrigue and epic, cinematic battles. At the same time, Sally’s relationship with Jason is growing much more complex and suffering growing pains all its own.

What is Local Hero Press?

LHP is an imprint I created specifically for the release of my novel-length work and collections. I didn’t want to simply release them under my own name as the publisher because with such a wide variety of genres under my belt, I wanted something to tie them all together. This way, if someone buys The Archmage, likes it, and looks to see what else LHP has to offer, they might discover Blood on the Ice or Pariah’s Moon or Troubleshooters.

You do write in a variety of genres. Tell us about some of them.

I don’t like to be pigeonholed, so I don’t force myself to stay in one genre, if I’m interested in writing in a different one. This goes against common wisdom of building a brand, from what I’ve seen on the internet, so I’m forming my own uncommon wisdom instead. That again ties back to the LHP imprint by creating a common thread beyond just my name. I follow my muse, so I’ve gone from superheroes (Just Cause, The Archmage) to funny science fiction (The Milkman), to cyberpunk (Troubleshooters), to fantasy/Western (Pariah’s Moon), to urban fantasy sports (Blood on the Ice), to religious symbolism (Hope and Undead Elvis) and even more. And if my agent sells The Guitarist, I can add “Mainstream Young Adult” to my genres.

 You have an agent?  I thought you were self-published.

 I do have an agent, Carly Watters of PS Literary Agency in Toronto. She represents my Young Adult work only, and when we discussed the possibility of her representing me, we both agreed that she could still effectively represent a portion of my work and I could still effectively release my speculative and adult fiction without interfering with one another. I am, in fact, searching for a second literary agent to represent The Oilman’s Daughter, the epic steampunk/space opera that I coauthored with my dear friend Allison M. Dickson.

 What’s it like working with another writer so closely on a project?

I’m not sure I have anything better to compare it to than a successful marriage. We worked very closely together on the project (two time zones separating us notwithstanding!). We had complete trust with each other, and were able to discuss what should have been extremely divisive and difficult issues not only with calm heads, but with a sense of joy that only two opposing viewpoints between dear friends can bring. The best thing about working with someone like that is going back through the manuscript and not being able to tell exactly who wrote which parts. That’s just awesome.

Prof. Jenn’s Custom Questions: 

How does this sequel to Just Cause continue the universe/make its characters grow? Will we enjoy it if we haven’t yet read Just Cause?

 I’ll answer the second part first. Yes, you’ll enjoy it. I have intentionally designed every Just Cause Universe book as a self-contained tale. Yes, it’s part of the larger universe, and there are storylines that carry over from the previous books, but not in such a way that a new reader will be lost. If you have read Just Cause, you’ll find the relationship between Sally and Jason growing and changing, like relationships tend to do. You’ll find Sally’s relationships with other members of her team changing as well. You’ll also see her maturing more, a process which began in Just Cause. She’s a young woman who’s still trying to find her place in the world, and that means a lot of growing pains.

Are there plans for more books in this universe? What direction/s will they take?

 I have tentatively planned 19 books for the Just Cause Universe. Yeah, that’s a lot. Besides The Archmage and Just Cause, I have three more novels completed. Some expand the other areas of the universe, focusing on characters only circuitously related to Just Cause. Others deal with prior incarnations of the team, set in the ‘70s, or ‘40s, for example. Remember that Sally is a third-generation superhero. Both her parents and her grandparents were involved in the Just Cause team, so that’s a lot of history to explore.

Any plans to branch out in comic versions/spinoffs?

If any artist reading this wants to talk to me about graphic novel adaptations of my work, feel free to contact me via my website ( At the moment, I’m not looking for any original JCU stories, although that’s certainly an option for the future.

Jump up on a soapbox about self e-publishing. What’s been your experience, and would you recommend it?

*boing* My experience has been almost uniformly positive. My goal has always been to make my work accessible and available for people to read, and it’s been a real boost to get so many positive reviews. That encourages me to continue with my work. That being said, I am still looking to break into traditional publishing via my agent or another avenue. Self-publishing is a slow road, and in spite of the rags-to-riches tales permeating the internet, you’re probably not going to be the one who starts selling a million copies a month. You’re probably not going to start selling a hundred copies a month either. My first month as an ebook publisher, I think I sold five copies total. Now I’m averaging about three copies sold at retail price per day across all platforms. Some of those are novels, others are short stories. I lump ‘em all together because it feels a lot better to me.

I do recommend self-publishing with the following caveats: Short stories, novellas, and cross-genre works make great fodder for self-publishing. If you have a completed novel that might be commercially viable, take the time and the effort to try to sell it traditionally first. If it doesn’t sell that way, then epublish it. Ignoring potential traditional sales and focusing solely on self-publishing (or vice versa) is like only shaving one leg and wearing shorts. And don’t cheat by self-publishing: you still need to do thorough editing and revision, and design (or pay for) a great cover. If your beta readers can’t tell you honestly that your work stands up on its own beside similar traditionally-published work, you need to head back to the editing table.

What’s a favorite book you’re reading right now? 

Right now, I’m reading Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter. It’s a Victorian steampunk novel and I’m enjoying it.


The Archmage, book 2 of the Just Cause Universe series, launches from all online retailers on September 1, 2012. Exclusive signed editions can be purchased directly from Local Hero Press (

Find Ian on Twitter and follow Local Hero Press

On Facebook: and

Author website:

*This post originally appeared at Bonzuko.   ~Prof. Jenn


Martial Process Questions

A court martial is the term the military uses for criminal trials. The military has three levels of courts martial depending on the level of severity: Summary, Special and General, with General being the most serious level. The remainder of this article will focus on Special and General Courts Martial.  For a discussion about Summary Court Martial, go here.


A commander or commanding officer orders a criminal case to a court martial.  This is usually after an investigation has been completed and a the commander has received advice from a military attorney. Before a commander can order a case to a General court martial, that commander must first send the case to a hearing where the accused has the right to attend, with counsel, and present evidence in his or her defense. This hearing, called an Article 32 hearing, can be waived by the accused.


After an alleged crime has been committed, an investigation usually begins. During this investigation, if the commander believes that the accused will commit further misconduct or not appear at trial, the commander can order that the accused be placed in restriction or even pretrial confinement. Any pretrial confinement will be served in the military’s Brig or confinement facility.  If this happens, the accused has the right to a hearing before a neutral military officer to determine if the commander’s decision was reasonable. The accused has a right to have an attorney assist them at this hearing. If the accused does serve pretrial confinement and is later sentenced to any jail time, time served in pretrial confinement will be credited towards any sentence to jail.


No, there is no bail in the military criminal process.


These are the stages of a Special or General Court Martial. Each process is discussed in further detail below:

1. Assignment of Attorney

2. Arraignment

3. Discovery and investigation

4. Motions

5. Plea Negotiations

6. Trial

7. Appeals


After the investigation is concluded and the commander has ordered the case to a court martial, the local military legal office will assign an active duty military defense counsel to assist you for free. This free attorney is assigned to all active duty members ordered to court martial–rank or income does not matter.

Although most legal offices won’t provide you a free lawyer until after the court martial has been ordered, servicemembers who learn that they are under investigation should seek IMMEDIATE legal assistance before making any statements or decisions. Those under investigation can either go to the legal office and seek help or call a civilian military attorney. At King Military Law, we are available 24/7 to provide free initial assistance to those being investigated. If you ever get involved on a martial process don’t hesitate to get assistance from this professional court martial lawyer.


At arraignment, you will appear at a hearing before a military judge with your defense attorney where you will be formally notified of the charges against you and asked to enter a plea. In most cases, your defense attorney will advise you to plead “not guilty” and request a jury trial. You’ll have the chance to change your plea later, if you decide that is best. Until then, a “not guilty” plea preserves all of your rights and gives your legal team the chance to conduct their own investigation, review “discovery” and help you decide whether or not to go to trial.


“Discovery” is the process of getting evidence and information from the other side in a court case. Before trial, the prosecution is required to turn over all evidence it has against the accused or that it plans to use at trial. During this process, your defense team will receive the government’s investigation against you.

Independent of the discovery process, your legal team SHOULD explore whether you have any possible defenses. They will also explore other issues that could affect your case. A good defense investigation can often result in favorable evidence for use during negotiations with the commander or during trial and is a CRUCIAL aspect of your attorney’s job. The military defense offices employ some investigators and the military judge can order the government to assign an investigators to your case if your attorney can convince the judge that justice requires that. At King Military Law, we utilize seasoned private investigators who are recently retired law enforcement detectives and retired FBI agents. Any tests you need or experts to assist your defense will be paid for by the government.

The Wonderland Alphabet: Interview with Alethea Kontis & Janet K. Lee

Two weeks ago, a gorgeous new book was released from Archaia entitled The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABC’s and What She Found There, written by New York Times best-selling author Alethea Kontis (The Dark-Hunter Companion, Enchanted) and illustrated by Eisner Award-winning artist Janet K. Lee (Return of the Dapper Men, Emma).  It’s a little different from their typical graphic novels as it is more akin to an illustrated children’s book.  Regardless, it is delightful and beautifully illustrated and, as a result, appealing to any fan of comic art and/or Alice in Wonderland.  Archaia continuously releases top-of-the-line products (as is evident by their six 2012 Harvey Award nominations), and this book is no exception.  Kontis provides fun, whimsical poetry that meshes perfectly with Lee’s signature decoupage art style.  Even an adult who already knows his/her alphabet can appreciate and love the energy and quality of art (written & illustrated) exuded by this book.


I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak with Kontis & Lee about their new book.  Check out their responses below and when you’re done run out to your local comic book shop and pick it up!


1) First and foremost, congratulations on such a gorgeous book! How did this collaboration come about?

Janet: It all started because of a art show at a local (Nashville) gallery.

I was part of a group of gallery artists who aspired to be book illustrators. Shortly after Jim McCann and I got the green light from Archaia to do Return of the Dapper Men, I agreed to be part of a children’s-illustration-themed gallery show called “Protopulp: Classic Books of the Future”. The idea was that each artist would illustrate a children’s book and show (and sell) it’s pages at the gallery. Naively, I thought I could just show pages from Return, since that was the book I was working on. But of course, no. That can not happen before a book is published. So I was left to come up with a new book idea– and quickly!

During a long drive back from DragonCon in Atlanta, I suddenly thought: I don’t think anyone has ever done an Alice-in-Wonderland-themed alphabet book. (My incessant love affair with Lewis Carroll was at a fever pitch that year.) When I got home, I did some quick research, and sure enough, I was right! Then I did a Very Smart Thing: I asked my friend Alethea Kontis to help me. Alethea was already a published author of two alphabet books, AlphaOops and AlphaOops: Halloween as well and the New-York-Times-bestselling Dark Hunter Companion. Happily, she said yes!


2) Why Alice in Wonderland in particular?

Alethea: Alice is one of the very best fairy tales. It’s absurdism without incoherence. All my first favorite authors–Grimm, Andersen, Burgess, Nash, Shakespeare, Seuss–were dark, smart, and had a playful sense of whimsy–just like me. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were a natural progression in my literary development. Alice was also a little girl who had magical adventures all in her own head, so these books ere very personal. And Lewis Carroll had snuck puzzles into the book, as if somewhere inside every chapter was a secret message for me to find. This was all Very Important Stuff. (After the advent of Google, I discovered that Julia Margaret Cameron even took a famous photograph of Alice Liddell that is entitled “Alethea” — how crazy is that?)


Janet: I bought my first copy of Alice in Wonderland when I was seven. I think even then I had some grand plan that it was going to be part of a large library one day; the book was bound in red leather and there was gold on the edges of the pages. Like the Bible, or something! And inside there were the most beautiful, bizarre illustrations. John Tenniel remains one of my heroes.

And I’ve simply never grown tired of it. I think I’ve spent my whole life waiting for a White Rabbit with a pocket watch to hop by. I’m sure I’ll see him one day.


3) This year at NYCC I noticed a number of handouts that were focused on showing teachers and educators effective ways to use graphic novels and/or comic books in the classroom. Obviously, in addition to being a work of art on it’s own, The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABCs and What She Found There can be used for educational purposes with young children. What are your thoughts on this growing ‘genre’ of educational comic books/graphic novels? Do you have interest in doing more books like this?

Janet: Haha! Funny you should mention that! I actually am contributing a story to an anthology called The Graphic Textbook, which aims to use comics to teach kids national school curriculum. Beyond the many benefits to the students, comics in education provide a benefit to the comics community at large. Classroom use legitimizes comics in a way that’s never been done before, and it introduces kids to comics. Imagine what life would have been like if your teacher had handed you a copy of Superman to help teach you about onomatopoeia, or story sequencing. Imagine children being taught to read– and love–comics in school. The idea makes me a little giddy, and I’m absolutely up for more.


4) You both have such unique and talented artistic voices. Can you describe a little bit about your respective creative processes?

Alethea: Janet and I were just talking about this at HeroesCon actually–the fact that we don’t get our ideas from just one place, they come from EVERYWHERE. It all goes back to “writedraw what you know” eventually, but what we know comes from a million places and a million influences. Some are obvious, and some are not. That amalgam of completely seemingly random stuff is what gives us our voice or our style, and we embrace that. We are by no means breaking new ground, but instead presenting things from a fresh perspective.

Personally, I’m always asking myself a million questions. Why did X happen and Why did P happen really? What’s the story behind the story? How can I fill in the blanks and have this fairy tale or this alphabet make sense?


Janet: If possible, I like to have at least a day to mull over a script before jumping into thumbnails. Honestly, if the story speaks to me, I “see” what the images should be and how they fit on the page and their layers. If I’m having difficulty envisioning a page, I will often just doodle. Draw little sketches. Sometimes they work with the page; sometimes they generate a whole new story idea. Either way, they always help the difficult page to flow.


5) Who are some of your favorite artists/writers out there right now? Who are some of your biggest influences/role models?

Alethea: I am a huge artist fangirl. I love KY Craft, John Jude Palencar, Michael Whelan, Wendy Pini, Charles Vess, and Janet Lee. (But you probably didn’t want me to answer the artist portion of that question.) My writing influences are very heavily old school: Shakespeare, Austen, and Voltaire. In poetry: Ogden Nash, Gelett Burgess, and Dr. Seuss. In fantasy: Diana Wynne Jones, Jane Yolen, Robin McKinley, Anne McCaffrey, Lloyd Alexander, Tamora Pierce…and pretty much every other author in the Juvenile section of the Richland County Public Library in Columbia, South Carolina. Personally/professionally: Sherrilyn Kenyon, John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Janet Lee.


Janet: Favorites out there now: Shaun Tan (The Arrival), David Peterson (Mouse Guard), Jim McCann/Esquejo (Mind the Gap), Layman/Guillory (Chew), Hill/Rodriguez (Locke & Key), Perez (Tale of Sand).

Biggest influences: Winsor McCay, John Tenniel, David Weisel, Chris Van Allsburg, Mo Willems, Mucha, Jon Muth. But it goes on and on. I’m influenced by everything I’ve seen or read.


6) What new projects do you have coming up?

Alethea: My first novel, a young adult fairy tale called Enchanted, launched in May of this year and was just nominated for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list. (hooray!) The paperback edition of AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First will be coming to bookstores in July. Right now I am working on the sequel to Enchanted, tentatively entitled: Hero.


Janet: Well, as I mentioned, I have a story in the upcoming Graphic Textbook and I’m also working on the sequel to Return of the Dapper Men. I’ve also got three other projects in the wings that I can’t talk about yet. But soon…


7) Last question (and perhaps most important): Favorite Alice in Wonderland character and why.

Alethea: The Cook! In a production of Alice in Wonderland in high school, my best friend Casey (a small blonde) got to play the lead role of Alice. For successfully fake-sneezing to cue a scene during audition, my horrid, vengeful drama teacher cast me in the no-lines role of The Cook. I was to stir a pot, throw Frisbee-plates left-handed under a curtain (I am not left-handed!), and mumble “Pepper!” while Alice and the Duchess were talking about axis and axes. I stole the scene every time. On purpose. There are small parts and small players, and I’m not ashamed to say that for that particular production, I WAS BOTH. For that reason, The Cook has always held a special place in my heart.


Janet: Artistically? It would have to be the Duchess. She is creepy and a little scary and so angry. Love the giant head. Love the baby who turns into a pig. But favorite character would have to be the Cheshire Cat. So puzzling and mysterious. He’s also the only once who actually listens to Alice and, though his advise is contrary, speaks to her rather than at her.


5 Questions: Mike Oeming

5 Questions: Mike Oeming
by Prof. Jenn

It was my great pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Mike Oeming, of multiple comics fame. His latest new project is called Victories (one issue of which I reviewed here). Below is the interview. Enjoy!  ~Prof. Jenn

1) One of the most striking things about your bio is the fact that your first job in comics happened when you were only 14 years old. How on earth did that happen? I mean, you’re obviously a very talented artist, and no doubt were even then, but…14?? Please explain.

As soon as I started reading comics and was drawing, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had started out with a lot of tracing, and when I learned about inking, it felt like a great way to learn to draw, inking over my favorite artists using a vellum overlay. I was sending out my work to editors, mostly looking for feedback when an indie publisher wanted me to work for them. It was Innovation comics. I probably could have continued inking for them, but it didn’t occur to me to ask for more work because I was so young and inexperienced. But that’s a good thing, I needed to learn lots more about inking and drawing before working. But it was super cool.

2) How do you see the world of comics having changed since you started, and what do you foresee in the medium’s future?

Wow, it’s crazy how much things have changed. Back then, in order to get work, you would have to make photocopies and mail out your work to editors and assistant editors, mostly blindly. Then you’d wait weeks for some response in the mail with the SASE you sent with your work unless you were lucky enough to actually get a call. From what I understand, you can’t even mail your work in now, there are standing policies to not even look at it. Everything is web based or meetings at shows.

Back in early 90s there were almost no web comics, and what was there was certainly not much of a scene. Then, if you wanted to be an indie creator, you had to solicit your work to be published, having no idea if you would even have enough orders to go ahead and publish. Now, with web comics and the internet, not only can you put your work out without any printing costs/risks, there was multiple ways of creating income from your creations. Back then it was all about orders to cover your printing costs.

Also back then, comics were labeled as a “dying Market” and that was 20 years ago.

3) Tell us nerds a little bit about working with Valve. How is your process different when working for a large company than when doing an independent project such as Powers?

It’s been completely different on every level. I had never worked in an office before, I’ve never worked in a studio setting even other then sharing some space with other artists like Adam Hughes or my wife, Taki Soma. This was not only a proper office setting, but a business, and a very unique one at that. They are like a giant creator owned company. They own all of their work work and control their own distribution. Working in the offices was lots of fun, it was the only time I made comics with the writers and colorists all working together, basically shoulder to shoulder, reworking the story and art as we went along. We do that on Powers, but there is usually a few weeks before any changes- at Valve we could make changes and adjustments as we were making it. Often a project, a joke or story would change dramatically from where it started into something completely different.

Oh, and there is free candy and soda at the office, so there’s that.

4) I too am a mythology geek, so I commiserate with you on being influenced by Old Story whenever I write. Are there particular pantheon/s that influenced Victories? Would you ever consider making a comic just of “straight” mythology, and if so, where would you start?

In the Victories, I haven’t purposefully dipped into Mythology, but I’m sure that theme will come up if we continue to do other stories. I definitely have more plans to do lots more work with mythology, and yes, I do have one that is a return to pretty hardcore Norse Mythology.

5) You are a writer just as much as an artist. Which role do you enjoy more? Which did you come to first as a creator, and how does your writing process influence your art (and vice versa)?

I can’t say which I enjoy more because 90% of my work is creator owned, so I’m always involved in either writing or co writing the work I do. I love coming up with ideas, and breaking down the story. Dialogue is something I struggle with more, sometimes I think it’s because it takes the longest. Writing the Victories has been great in getting me back into writing full scripts, which I haven’t done in a long time. I write with Brian on Powers, but it’s mostly in outline form broken down from the stories we come up with together. Also, in the Victories, I had to write full proper scripts for my editor Scott Allie to read, it couldn’t be done in a shorthand kind of script I usually do for myself.

Interview with the creators of WE Comics: Comics for Everyone Else

After being frustrated for far too long with the comics companies writing to a young, male audience, Jason Enright and Mairghread Scott decided to do something unexpected, they started their own comics company, WE Comics. Long-time supporters of geeky gals everywhere, Jason and Mairghread are both extremely talented and extraordinarily passionate. I was lucky enough to sit down with them to discuss how WE Comics got its start, what they think about the current state of the comics industry, their first few projects and finally, how they’re planning on taking the industry by storm in the future. Read on and make sure to check out their new website and follow them on FB and Twitter


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First off, congratulations to you for the release of your first comic, How I Spent My Summer Invasion (available online and in stores) and the upcoming Jimmy Brass: 2nd Grade Detective (a 5-page preview is available online now). They are both incredibly charming and made me laugh out loud multiple times. Tell me a little bit about how WE Comics got started.

Jason Enright: I manage a comic store and comics are pretty much my life. It had started to annoy me that a majority of the comics seemed aimed at 18-34 year old males and pretty much no one else. I have a lot of female friends and a lot of friends with children, and I felt like there was very little I could recommend to my friends to read. Then this awesome book, Womanthology was announced, it’s like 300 pages of comics created by women, and although it is a great read for everyone, it is kind of aimed at women too. At a Womanthology Panel at Comikaze, I was stating my concerns to the panelists. Bonnie Burton just looked me dead in the eye, and said “Stop complaining and make your own comic!” It was tough love but it inspired me to create WE Comics.

Mairghread W Scott: Growing up, my mother used to buy books for everyone, no matter who they were or what the event. She said there was no such thing as a person who didn’t like books, they just hadn’t found the right book yet. When I started reading comics in college, I kept coming across stories that I knew my mother would love, but she insisted that she just wasn’t a comic book person (something I hear a lot). Well, I refused to believe that and (after years of trying) my mother is a devote Wednesday comic book woman, but with less and less diversity on the shelves (in terms of story-type, characters, art style, all of it) I could see why she felt locked out for so long. WE Comics is our way of getting more stories (and more kinds of stories) out there. Our motto is: there’s no such thing as “not a comic book reader,” they just haven’t read our books yet.


It never occurred to me to even enter a comic book shop until a couple of years ago. Why do you think that comics and gaming have been so focused on men?

JE: I think it’s because the comic business is so tough right now. Print books are dying and comics are one of the last mainstays of the print industry. I think it’s considered good business by the big wigs to look at what is currently selling and only make more books like that. They are dead wrong. Sure, for most of comics history grown up men have been your readers, but with all these comic movies and TV shows coming out, there is much renewed interest in comics. The main problem right now is when a woman or a mom who just took her kids to see the Avengers, walk into a comic book store, there’s very little on the shelf for them. We hope to change that.

MWS: This may sound harsh, but I don’t care why, and frankly it’s not my job too. It’s not any woman’s job to and I am so frustrated as a female reader with having to explain over and over why I matter. My job is to read good comics, write good comics and sell good comics and if someone’s business model wants to give up on the over 70% of the population that isn’t men 18-35, then more for WE. I’ve learned to speak with my dollars. I loved Womanthology so I hired/begged Candace Ellis, a wonderful Womanthology artist, to draw my book. If you like it, buy it; tell your friends to buy it. Dress up as Opal from Jimmy Brass and tell the world you love our books. I can’t say what other companies will do in the future or what they think of your opinions, but I can guarantee at WE Comics if enough people buy a book, we’ll print more and if people tell us they have a problem, we’ll do everything we can to fix it. Period.


What comics to you have in the works right now? Are you going to have more adult-oriented products?

JE: Right now, we are working on 3 books. “How I Spent My Summer Invasion” written by Patrick Rieger and illustrated by Mark Sean Wilson, is a crazy story about two kids on summer break who stumble upon a vacation resort run by aliens. “Jimmy Brass, Second Grade Detective” written by Jake Dickerman and illustrated by Jason Pruett, is about a 2nd grader who solves mysteries for a dollar and his best friend Opal, a kindergartner who keeps him out of trouble. These two books are All Ages stories meant to be for kids, but also very entertaining to adults. Mairghread is doing our first, I guess, grown up book. I’d say it’s for teens and up. Mairghread do you want to tell them about your book?

MWS: Thanks! Triage is the story of a Los Angeles EMT who gets sucked into an underground, super-powered gang war. But it’s also the story about how a woman named Cassie (who’s pretty average) goes from 9-5 job to wanted vigilante, because that’s such a crazy life-choice, I had to explore it. Candace Ellis brings a wonderful expressiveness with the art of Triage and her panels really suck you in. It brings a realism to the story that helps ground it. Good thing too, because you won’t believe how crazy things get.


How have you been choosing your writers and artists? If someone is interested in working with you, are you accepting submissions?

JE: Well, right now we’ve mostly been working with friends. Jake went to school with Mairghread. Patrick, we know through some writers’ groups we’re a part of. Our artists we’ve found at conventions, or through Twitter.

MWS: As a new company, it’s been really important for us to start strong and we’ve been blessed to know some dedicated, wonderful people who’ve shared our dream.

JE: Eventually I’d love to take submissions. We really have to see how this first round of books goes. If all goes well, we will be expanding the line. My plan is to do 5 issue story arcs, then have an off season. Sort of like a TV show. So we’d do Jimmy Brass for 5 months, take 2 months off, and then do another 5 issues. So that way, we always have product out, though I will need to shuffle the series, so as Jimmy is wrapping up, a new series will start. Then as that ends the new season of Jimmy Brass will come back. Right now, other than the 3 current series, we only have one other in the works. So I guess I will have to take submissions eventually.


What are your short-term goals and if those go well, what are some of your ultimate, long-term goals?

JE: Well, right now we are putting out one issue of each book and testing the market. If those go well and get a fair reaction, we will probably have to turn to Kickstarter to fund the rest of the first arcs. My hope would be that each of these series go at least for 5 issues and a graphic novel collecting the 5. Our long term goals would be to write comics for the rest of our lives. I know Mairghread has much more Triage to tell beyond the first 5 issues, and Jake and I have plotted Jimmy Brass stories for at least 3 graphic novels, maybe more.

MWS: Okay, my secret long-term goal: write a holodeck story. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve loved the idea of a fully explorable, immersive story since I watched Next Generation on my mother’s knee. Honestly, with video games and digital/animated comics, I really think we can do it fairly soon (not the hologram part, though, that’s above WE’s pay grade). I’d love to do the third arc of Triage on an app that lets you see the story from multiple character’s viewpoints or change the ending. I’d love to make a Jimmy Brass issue that you can color in on your iPad or solve the mystery on your own. These things are possible and I (or should I say WE) intend to do them.


I’ve been hearing from long-term comics’ fans that even they are starting to purchase most of their comics digitally. How is your new company going to adjust to this new digital sales realm?

JE: For right now we are selling digital comics digitally through our website. Eventually I’d love to get on Comixology, the iTunes store and everywhere else. The thing that I find interesting is that we actually release our books digitally first. As a small company, if the printer is going to take 2 weeks or more, and I can start making money on the comic now by selling it digitally on my site right now, then why would I wait? So for now, digital will be a strong part of our future and we hope to make our digital selections better and offered on more apps and formats as we grow.

MWS: There will always be a place for print at WE, especially with our kids lines (because I’d love to add activities on our kids books and I can’t read my iPad in the tub), but digital is truly our best friend. It lets anyone in the world try out our books instantly for a minimal fee. It saves paper; it saves us money and if everyone bought WE Comics online, we’d be happy as clams.


What do you think the major comic companies could do to attract more women readers? Are your comics going to be aimed specifically at women and children or just at a broader base than most mainstream comics?

JE: If DC and Marvel want more women readers, they need to hire more women, and write better women characters. DC has a few great female-friendly books right now in Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Batwoman, and Supergirl, but that’s 4 titles out of 52. That’s 7%, not good enough. Also, why not give Justice League to fan favorite female creators like Gail Simone and Renae de Liz? Don’t just let women write or draw women, let them work on the guys too.

Our tagline is Comics for Everyone Else. So maybe you are not a child or a woman, maybe you’re like me, a 26 year-old dude who wants something new to read. I consider myself part of Everyone Else. I hope eventually we’re writing tons of comics, but for now when we had to pick 3 ideas to produce, we chose to focus on women and kids. We even had another funny tagline we didn’t go with, what was it Mairghread? Women and Children First? But it sounded like what they’d yell as the Titanic sunk.

MWS: I know that when we looked into it, we found that the biggest thing women wanted in comics (besides physically possible body types) was thought-out, character-driven stories where people changed and actions had consequences. They responded much more to stories about people dealing with each other, rather than just fighting random monsters, and they hated being ret-conned every six months. Honestly, (and maybe it’s because I’m a woman) this is just good story-telling to me.  For kids, the feeling was that they wanted a story that was single-issue sized, but didn’t talk down to them. So that’s what we’re doing. Our children’s comics are aimed at children in the sense that a Pixar movie is aimed at children. Obviously, there are stories that are not appropriate to tell, but the stories we do tell are still going to be told in the best way possible and we think everyone can related to them. As sad as it, is our “female-focus” is us writing 3-dimensional women and having more than one of them per title. Cassie in Triage is like Ripley in Alien: an awesome woman in an awesome story that anyone can enjoy. The only thing we’re doing especially for women is reaching out to them and letting them know WE Comics is here. Like I said, there’s no such thing as “not a comic book person” and WE wants to help everyone find the right book.

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