Monday, April 25, 2011

Super Dinosaur - Robert Kirkman

The last couple of weeks have been pretty dead as far as my blogging goes.  I've been reading a ton of stuff, but most of it has been an attempting to catch up to current releases on the various comic series I follow.  I've also been reading an awesome novel that I should be finishing and posting about in a few days.  In the midst of all this reading, I had the opportunity to pick up a really great first issue of "Super Dinosaur," which just released this month.  I am a sucker for friend's recommendations, so when my friend Sunda recommended it, I knew it was bound for blog fame.  First of all, Sunda has purple hair, so really, how can you not value her opinion?  And second, this is a comic about dinosaurs.  Not just dinosaurs, but dinosaurs that wear robotic armor and fight each other.  If that doesn't do anything for you then you are probably this guy.  Keeping both of those facts in mind, I spent my four dollars, and headed home to dive into the adventure.

The story of "Super Dinosaur" revolves around a teenage boy named Derek Dynamo.  He is the son of Doctor Dynamo, a brilliant scientist.  Doctor Dynamo and his former partner Max Maximus co-discovered that under the Earth's surface is a place called "Inner Earth," which is the home to the dinosaurs!  Inner Earth also contains a rare material called "DynOre," which is basically solar power contained in rock form.  Soon after their discovery, the two scientists become enemies, with Maximus trying to take over the world, and Dynamo trying to protect it.  Doctor Dynamo recruits his son, his created robot "Wheels," and a giant T-Rex named Super Dinosaur, or "SD" for short.  Together, the four of them battle the forces of Max Maximus and protect Inner Earth from his evil plans of world domination.

If you are over the age of 12, then there might have been a few times in that last paragraph that you rolled your eyes.  When I first started reading this comic, I have to admit, I was a little turned off by some of the lackluster choices.  "Max Maximus?"  "Derek Dynamo"?  "DynOre?"  I mean, even the comic's title is a little..well, unoriginal.  This isn't exactly the complex Kirkman I've grown to love.  Where are the dark, gritty, emotionally taxing story lines?  The exploding zombies?  Where are all the things that made Kirkman a comic legend?  Then it hit me, Spielberg did "Saving Private Ryan," but he also did "E.T."  Maybe this new Kirkman is different, but that doesn't mean it's not worthy of praise. 

After reading "Super Dinosaur," it was pretty obvious that Kirkman was writing this book for younger audiences.  When asked about the series, Kirkman said, "I want it to be a true all-ages book in that it's appropriate for kids young enough but still able to read, and it's still something that my fan base will probably enjoy."

Honestly, when he puts it that way, he nailed it!  This is the perfect comic series for young readers.  It's got everything that kids love, action, adventure, fun artwork, it's simple to read, and...oh yeah, DINOSAURS!  It's a home run.  Not only would any kid gladly read this story, but Kirkman also did something that is truly rare in youth fiction – he made it appeal to older readers as well.  While I wasn't as captivated as I have been with some of his "Walking Dead" storylines, I have to admit, I had a lot of fun with "Super Dinosaur."  It was an enjoyable read, simple, fun, and entertaining.  When a book has all those characteristics, it doesn't matter if you are 12 or 29, it makes it worth the read.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Morning Glories - Nick Spencer

I have to admit, when I first heard about "Morning Glories" I was a little bit less than enthusiastic about reading it.  Reading a comic about six gifted kids at a prestigious prep school seemed about as appealing as a trip to the dentist.  I spent four years in high school, and believe me, I'm not in any rush to go back.  Unfortunately, every trip to my comic store had me passing "Morning Glories" on the shelf, trying to avoid eye contact.  It didn't help that everyone I talked to told me I needed to be reading it.  I was starting to have flashbacks to 1997 when "Titanic" came out and peer pressure led to one of the bigger mistakes of my twenty-nine years.  Was I really about to read something made for teenage girls, just because everyone said it was good? 

As I've already mentioned, "Morning Glories" takes place inside a prestigious prep school for gifted teens.  The story follows six new students as they arrive at school, get situated, and start to experience all that their new home has to offer.  Almost immediately they realize that things are not exactly what they expected.  They discover they all have the same birthday, which just happens to be on the exact day they were brought to Morning Glory Academy.  They also soon realize their past lives have been completely erased; not even their own parents remember them.  As panic sets in, the students are confronted with a harsh truth: they are prisoners in their own school!  The entire staff of Morning Glory Academy seems to have some dark ulterior motive for the students, but that motive is a complete mystery.  As this newly formed alliance of six begins to oppose the authority of their captors, they embark on a mission to reclaim one of their members from unknown horrors, and to try to answer the biggest mystery of them all – why were they brought here in the first place?

After reading through the first six issues in one sitting, I can tell you that I am in a much better mindset than when I exited the movie theater after "Titanic" in 1997.  The great thing about "Morning Glories" was that it shattered all of my preconceived notions.  I was expecting "The Breakfast Club," and instead I got a well written, beautifully illustrated, intricate, dark , sci-fi mystery, that just happened to take place in a high school.  There's no better feeling than when something goes above and beyond your expectations, and "Morning Glories" did just that.

The other thing that got me excited about "Morning Glories" is it's a fairly new series.  I believe they are on comic 8 or 9 right now, so catching up is really pretty easy.  As I mentioned in some of my other posts, trying to jump in on a well established series can sometimes be daunting, but that isn't a problem here.  The first six issues are available in paperback trade form for only TEN BUCKS!  That's a fantastic deal, and really allows you to check out this great series without much of an investment.  Although, if you are like me, that initial ten dollars might quickly turn into an extra four each month.  Whether you're a fan of high school or not, take a chance on "Morning Glories."  I think you'll find high school to be a lot more interesting this time around.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nonplayer - Nate Simpson

I usually like to wait to review comics until I can read at least the first trade (6+ issues), but this week I am making an exception.  It's been a while since I mentioned Jeff Wester in a blog post (hey, you can only name drop so much), but once again Jeff came through with the goods.  This week he posted about a new comic release called "Non Player" that was hitting store shelves.  Fortunately I spend way too much time on Facebook, so I saw his recommendation about 3.2 seconds after he posted it, and was soon standing outside Iguana Comics waiting for someone to open the shop.  Due to my lack of social life and quick speed-walking skills, I was soon in possession of a brand new copy of this amazing first issue.

"Non Player" takes place in two very different worlds.  The "real world"– a  technology-rich, futuristic setting – and an online fantasy world in which players become their alter ego and live the adventure.  The story centers around a young woman named Dana Stevens, who lives a very mundane lifestyle as a delivery girl, but takes every opportunity to live out her fantasy online.  Apparently as the story goes on, the lines between the two worlds will be blurred, making for an interesting concept, and hopefully some great story lines.

Obviously I can't say a whole heck of a lot about this book yet, because I've only read the first issue.  However, in my short four month obsession with comics, I haven't read anything yet that has me this excited for the next issue.  The concept is awesome, especially as an ex-WoW player, and the artwork is amazing.  This book has some of the most stunning artwork I have seen ANYWHERE, and is worth a purchase just based on that alone.  If I could afford it, I would wallpaper my room with this guy's art.

Artwork aside, I found the actual story line to be very engaging, and while there wasn't a whole ton of depth yet, I felt like it did a great job of drawing me in.  Really all we get to see is a pretty epic battle scene, followed by some "real world" dialogue and character interaction.  It definitely sets the scene for the next book, and gets the series off to a great start. 

If you're looking to get in on the ground floor of a great new series, then get down to Iguana and reserve a copy of "Non Player."  Image just announced a second printing to come soon, which is great news for the series.  As an avid MMO fan, I'm hoping "Non Player" takes after World of Warcraft, and sticks around for many years to come.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dutch Bros. Freedom Fighters - Jeff Egli

If you've been anywhere in Oregon, you probably are familiar with Dutch Bros. coffee.  Down here it's all about the Dutch, and "that other brand" is almost a curse word.  What you might not know, is that they have a brand new comic series that just premiered this past week, and is available for FREE at any Dutch Bros. stand.  The comic represents a collaboration between two great local businesses here in Grants Pass, Dutch Bros. and Iguana Comics.  If you've been following my blog for any length of time you know how much I love Iguana Comics, so I was really excited to hear about this project.  Double bonus is that the comic is actually illustrated by all around great guy, and co-owner of Iguana Comics, Jeff Egli.  Over the past couple of months I've got to know Jeff a little bit, and recently he was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about the project, comics, and life in general.  Here's what he had to say...

How did you get involved in the Dutch Bros. comic project?  
Jeff:   Waaaay back in 1992 when I originally opened Iguana and Dutch Bros started up (they seem to have been a bit more successful with their business) my twelfth box subscriber was a skinny twelve-year-old kid named Brant Boersma.  I believe he signed up for X-Men adventures.  Fast forward to 2010 after re-opening Iguana after a 12-year hiatus, Brant comes in, all grown up, asked for his original box number and approached me with the idea. 

Comic books are quickly moving out of geek culture and into mainstream society. Why should someone unfamiliar with comics consider taking notice?
Jeff:  The main reason is that the majority of comic books are written by amazing writers with mature, well thought out and gripping storylines aimed at mature, smart, and witty readers...they're not just for kids these days.  The scripts are so good, they continue for years, sometimes with the same writer, the same artist, and then get developed into TV series and movies.  If you take the world's best writer and they collaborate with the world's best artist what you would get is the world's best comic book.  Now days, you see something like this happening, you have writers like Stephen King, Joe Hill, Bill Willingham, Robert Kirkman teaming up with artists with 20, 30 years of experience, they make amazing books!

What other projects can we look forward to seeing from you in the future? (Any more local collaborations?)
Jeff:   I just finished a kid's book with a local writing team, it should be available for purchase at Iguana on April 9th as well as online.  (You can see a bit more at  I am also working on a creator-owned project, as well as a few collaborations with other local talent.  Keep an eye at the web page and Iguana.  I have also been told there will be several more Dutch Bros comics.

What advice can you give to aspiring artists/comic writers?
Jeff:  If you truly want to break into the comic book world, simply write or draw as much as you're able.  The best advice I ever heard was:  Writers write, artists draw!

 If you could stop being Jeff Egli, and take on the identity of one character from the comic world, who would you be? Why?
 Jeff:  Superman...the father of all superheros.  He is one of the most powerful heroes of all time, plus, I would love to be able to fly!  Spiderman is one of my favorite superheroes to read, but it would be a lot easier to save people from a burning building as Superman.

What's the best thing about owning/running/being a part of Iguana Comics?
Jeff:  Our Customers!  Every week we see some of the most well-read, insightful, and downright fun people in the valley — that just plain rocks!

Any other amazing information you would like my readers to know?
Jeff:  Our one-year Anniversary party for Iguana will be April 9th, we'll have all kinds of great stuff going on at the shop including creator signings for the Dutch Bros book.  Don't forget to come by the shop for Free Comic Book day on May 7th plus....we're in the process of opening a second Iguana location in Medford, we will be opening on May 4th - Woot!

Thanks again Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions!  Congratulations on a great project, and I look forward to seeing more from you in the future!  

To all my readers, be sure to visit Iguana Comics here in Grants Pass.  It really is an awesome business, full of wonderful people.  Iguana also has a monthly comic book club that I am part of, and it's a great way to get introduced to some of the amazing books that are out there.  You can visit them at 329 NE 6th Street Grants Pass OR 97526, or online at their Facebook page!