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Featured Comics For March, 1999

This issue: 'Something incredible is happening inside a modest little bi-monthly self-published comic...' Check out our main feature below, an analysis of the first 14-issue story arc of Carla Speed McNeil's phenomenal SF series FINDER!!


NEW PUBLISHERS: POINT-AND-CLICK PREMIERE

You point. You click. You type. You buy.

That's the ideal of streamlined online comics sales clamored for by advocates of the 'connect sales market'.

Now for the first time ever, a major new publisher has premiered their first book with point-and-click capability (called e-commerce by webheads) already in place.

The publisher is Pagan City Comics. The series is MYSTIC FOR HIRE, about a feisty but endearing conjurer in a world more fantastic than our own. Currently the illustrator of the Wolfrider storyline for ELFQUEST, artist Jeff Zugale considers MFH his first serious attempt at sequential art. Writer Chris Wichtendahl is cutting his teeth on this effort, fascinated by heroine Rachel Danara, who he calls 'sarcastic, impulsive, occasionally abrasive, and too damn smart for her own good.'

Scheduled for March release, MYSTIC FOR HIRE #1 has recently returned from the printer and is available now.

Says Zugale, 'Readers can order securely on-site using Visa, MasterCard, or American Express; credit sales service is provided by IBill, Inc. ( www.ibill.com ) for those in the United States and Canada; for those outside these countries (and those who don't trust online sales yet) a printable mail-in order form has been provided.'

Much like an actual in-store experience, the website provides full issue-browsing capability. 'While the entirety of the art is viewable online at the website,' says Zugale, 'the printed edition is of much higher quality and definitely worth picking up (you can see all the stuff I snuck into the backgrounds, heh).' Zugale adds, 'People seem to like having a comic book in their hands, even web-savvy people. I personally don't visit too many web comics, but I buy lots of paper ones.'

How do the creators feel about getting knee-deep into the e-commerce business? Says Zugale, 'Frankly, I want to do what I love -- draw -- and get paid for it. I love drawing comics (and other stuff) and I don't want to do anything else for a living. This requires that I make money drawing. Therefore, I'm going to want to try to maximize that income potential so someday I can have other things in life I want, like a house, wife, kids, vacation time, things like that. So I'm trying to learn to do business effectively as well.'

Having a great comic, and an effective business plan to back it, the future looks bright for Pagan City Comics.

Pagan City Comics
PO Box 6254,
Parsippany NJ 07054-6254
rachel@pagancity.com
www.pagancity.com


ESCAPO (Horse Press)

What a delight to see self-publishing visionary Paul Pope returning with yet another engaging, ambitious project! This one's 112 pages with 30 in full color!

THB fans will recall the jumbo-sized pages of the THB special a few years ago, in which the lead story was a strange romantic tale about a scar-faced escape artist and his doomed attraction to a beautiful tightrope walker. Reprinted, that story forms the core of a three-part epic that no doubt holds surprises for Pope's many fans.

Horse Press
Box 3112
Columbus, OH 43210-0112

Click here to preorder above from Top Secret Comics and Collectibles.


DAYDREAM LULLABIES: A BILLY DOGMA EXPERIENCE (Top Shelf)

Dean Haspiel's Billy Dogma, 'the last romantic anti-hero' is a true original, espousing bombastic philosophy while holding off the bad guys with brute strength and zap guns.

A born and bred New Yorker, Dino's experiences growing up in the mean streets of the ghetto have obviously warped him from here to hell and back! (Just kidding!) His comics have been in KEYHOLE (which he co-founded), TOP SHELF, NON, and THE NEW YORK HANGOVER. His most recent project is SLC PUNK! (Westhampton House), released in conjunction with the film of the same name. Upcoming projects are with DC and Dark Horse, and for Xmas '99, THE Y2-401-SPECIAL-K PROBLEM: A BILLY DOGMA EXPERIENCE!

Top Shelf Productions, Inc.
PO Box 1282
Marietta, GA 30061-1282
staros@bellsouth.net
topshelf@europa.com
Click here to preorder above from Top Secret Comics and Collectibles.


THE COMICS INTERPRETER (Robert Young)

The debut issue of this 52-page, digest-sized zine features a brief, sad chat with Neil Gaiman, an extensive review of Frank Miller's 300 (#1-5), a lengthy piece on "Scripting For Comics", and a hilarious Press Release about Glenn (Verotika) Danzig's "Takeover" of Marvel Comics.

Also Black Market Fumetti Theatre, and reviews of Oni Double Feature, Wizard, Carpe Noctem, Dangerous Drawings, Comic Book Rebels, Frazetta's Fantasy Mag, and MUCH more!

$3 cash or money order c/o
Robert Young
5820 N. Murray Ave. D-12
Hanahan, SC 29406
Hive9@Yahoo.com

(Also seeking article submissions and comics to review.)


LUX AND ALBY (Slab-o-Concrete)

At 288 pages (for only $12.50!) this Martin Millar/ Simon Fraser graphic novel from the UK is definitely worth checking out!

"When Lux the Poet and Alby Starvation, famed inhabitants of South London's least salubrious areas, find themselves thrown together, the fabric of the universe starts to crumble. The arrival of Ruby, with her plans for total domination of the anarchist squatting group, leads them them into a fantastic (and quite upsetting) adventure featuring beautiful Goddesses, bicycle thieves, earth dragons, and a full scale assault on Nirvana."

Slab-O-Concrete
mail@slab-o-concrete.demon.co.uk
www.slab-o-concrete.demon.co.uk

Click here to preorder above from Top Secret Comics and Collectibles.


MORGAN STONE (Five Star Comics)

A demonic spaghetti western set in a deco/gothic modern day New York City unfolds as a "back-from-the-dead" Morgan Stone finds himself a reluctant sheriff of the occult. Mark A. Lester

ken@five-star.com
www.five-star.com

Click here to preorder above from Top Secret Comics and Collectibles.


THE SPUNGIFEEL PRIMER (Spungifeel Comics)

112-page compilation of T. wEieR's surreal, funny mini comix. $11.95 ppd US; add $3.00 everywhere else.

T. wEieR
P.O. Box 2412
Merrifield, VA 22116
somedaze@pop.erols.com.
www.erols.com/somedaze


RED PLANET PIONEER (Inesco LLC)

Alex Harris is a man in search of the dark truth about himself and the secretive Martian Company bent on breaking the founding consortium to reign over the Red Planet. Art by Ron Lim. Full color!

INESCO LLC rdphobos@gte.net
www.redplanetpioneer.com


MURDER BY CROWQUILL (Amazing Montage Press)

24 great comics creators with one thing on their minds-- 'Who am I gonna kill tonight?!?'

Amazing Montage Press announces the publication of MURDER BY CROWQUILL, a benefit project for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

MURDER BY CROWQUILL is an all-new anthology of comics by 24 of the best comics creators working today. What's unique about it is that all the comics will be exercises in the mystery genre-- in fact, at 180+ pages, MURDER BY CROWQUILL will be the largest anthology of mystery comics ever published!

The contributing cartoonists are a diverse group, and each tackles the assignment with their own unique approach! Classic whodunnits, bizaare paradoxes, hilarious pastiches, and compelling crime dramas-- MURDER BY CROWQUILL has it all!

Contributors include Tim Truman and Joe R. Lansdale (JONAH HEX), Batton Lash (WOLFF AND BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE), Mack White (VILLA OF THE MYSTERIES), and Alex Robinson (BOX OFFICE POISON).

Also contributing will be Jenni Gregory (DREAMWALKER), David Yurkovich (THRESHHOLD), Colin Upton (BUDDHA ON THE ROAD), Steve Conley (ASTOUNDING SPACE THRILLS), Ben Adams and John F. Polacek (PRISONOPOLIS), Joe Chiappetta (SILLY DADDY), Tony Consiglio (DOUBLE CROSS), Charles Dougherty, Robert Humble and Mort Castle (THREADS).

And the list goes on! Gary Dumm (AMERICAN SPLENDOR), Scott Gilbert (TRUE ARTIST TALES), Michael Neno (THIS ETERNAL FLAW), Josh Neufeld (KEYHOLE), Jesse Reklaw (CONCAVE UP), and Joe Zabel (THE TRESPASSERS).

Stephen Blue (Image's THE AWAKENING) is doing the cover. The introduction is by Don McGregor (DETECTIVES INC.); book design will be by Steve Conley. The anthology is edited by Joe Zabel.

MURDER BY CROWQUILL is being solicited in PREVIEWS' March issue. It will ship to stores in May, 1999. Cover price for the book will be $9.95.

Benefits from the book above printing costs will be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which provides much-needed support for the legal defense of artists, publishers, and retailers.

Amazing Montage Press
P. O. Box 18959
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118-0959
joezabel@hotmail.com
www.geocities.com/SoHo/Atrium/8576/mbc.html

Click here to preorder above from Top Secret Comics and Collectibles.

Another earthshaking benefits event is the offering of the two legendary SPX anthologies (1997 and 1998) in a tempting value pack-- 312 pages for only $6.95! Includes groundbreaking work by James Kochalka, and Frank Cho's poetically athletic rendition of Bud Root's CAVE GIRL!

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
P.O. Box 693
Northampton, MA 01061
cbldf@compuserve.com
(413) 586-6967
800-99-CBLDF
413-582-9046 -fax
www.cbldf.org

Click here to preorder above from Top Secret Comics and Collectibles.


Main Feature

UNDER A CRACKED SUPERDOME

Something incredible is happening inside a modest little bi-monthly self-published comic. A whole world is being created, peopled by flesh-and-blood characters as passionate and compelling as life itself.

FINDER, by Carla Speed McNeil, has recently completed it's first story arc, with a 14-issue epic that launches McNeil into the first rank of contemporary comics artists.

FINDER describes an incredibly detailed and complex imaginary world, a mixture of cyberpunk, tribal myth, and contemporary American references. The setting is the city of Anvard, an immense metropolis with an astonishing history and an inexhaustable diversity. It houses museums where ancient mysteries still exert their fascination on mankind, and chic salons where the latest technological fads are hard-sold to naive consumers. Built under a fractured and deteriorating superdome of vast dimensions and unknown origins, the city's architecture combines elegant classicism with modern utilitarianism in an ever-shifting vista.

One scene marvelously sums up the experience of Anvard: An actress in a video is lecturing to the viewer. We recognize her as the hostess of the Anvard walking tour, with view screens displayed throughout the city. But this time, as she describes the city's crime problem, our viewpoint pulls back, and we discover that the view screen she's appearing on is being carried off by a gang of looters!

Anvard houses a very strange society dominated by rival clans of genetically distinct races of humankind. The citizens embrace a mixture of traditional values and modern, democratic attitudes; a class structure both within and outside of the clans is evident. While often striking different, the society reflects the diversity of modern America to a great degree, or at least how we'd imagine America if it were transported to another time and planet amidst mysteries we can barely fathom.

In most SF sagas, the story is driven by technological problems, or large historical movements. Individual characters are irrelevant to the story, or get lost in the crowd.

But McNeil understands that the disintegration of a single family can be just as dramatic as a world-wide cataclysm. The characters in FINDER are masters of their own fates, and authors of their own undoings.

The central character of the series is Jaeger, a handsome young ex-soldier. He is the Finder of the title, a tribal role akin to an Indian scout. Just getting across town is an adventure for this young daredevil, who'd rather dive from a tower and swim across a polluted canal than use public transportation.

Barely civilized himself, Jaeger maintains a hip skepticism about modern culture. In one hilarious scene, he preaches to passers-by about the evils of commercialism, and talks consumers into letting him smash their newly-acquired gadgets with a sledge hammer. He acquires a massive pile of demolished technology this way, and at the end of the day makes a tidy profit selling it for scrap.

But Jaeger has a much more serious side, which grows from his involvement with the family of his ex-commander, Brigham Grosvenor. He's maintained an ongoing affair with the wife, Emma, and may be the father of two of the children. Jaeger's whole lifestyle is shaped by his passionate love of freedom, but we're forced to question if he's taking enough responsibility for his loved ones.

Indeed, they need protecting-- from the former head of the household! Separated from the family but recently freed from jail, Brigham is at once sympathetic and horrifying. In the past, his obsessions led him to imprison his family in an underground bunker, shielding them from a war long after it had ended. Now his psychosis threatens the family once again.

The Grosvenor family members are each fascinating in their own ways. Marcie, the youngest daughter, is a sad and timid child, taken to peering at Jaeger through a crack in her bedroom door. When the family moves from their old apartment, she has a temper tantrum that reveals her pathetic need for something permanent and reliable to hold onto.

The oldest daughter, Rachel, is playfully flirtatious with Jaeger, hiding a serious romantic obsession with him. In many ways she is the head of the family, filling a vacuum left by the detached mother, Emma, who tends to slip into comatose states.

The middle child, Lynne, is perhaps the most fascinating of all-- a victim both of his disfunctional family and his own genes. He is male, but has inherited the Llaverac clan characteristics of his mother's side which produce androgenous males. A member of the dark, masculine Medawar clan, Brigham had decreed in contempt that the boy would be raised as a girl.

The relationship between Lynne and Jaegar (who may be Lynne's real father) is filled with tension. It builds up to a climactic moment, beautifully realized, in which Jaegar discovers that Lynne has committed a shocking and heinous act. Jaegar confronts him, and slaps him across the face. 'That's for doing it half-assed!' he says. This single act has so many meanings-- Jaegar recognizes and respects Lynne's masculine identity; he is accepting Lynne's goal, and forging an alliance with him; he may even be finally assuming his roll as the boy's real father.

Carla Speed McNeil's narrative style doesn't always make it easy for the reader. She has so much ground to cover that she's forced to use a kind of shorthand, dropping references to something in conversation, and filling in the details later. But this only increases the reader's involvement-- we feel like strangers in a strange land, picking up bits and pieces and trying to fit them together.

Her art style is wonderfully detailed and very satisfying. Her sense of design is extraordinary, employing a wide range of influence, from Japanese prints to Steve Gallaci's anthropomorphisms. The brightly-colored covers of FINDER are particularly striking-- carefully balanced compositions rich in symbolism.

FINDER is a superb example of the self-published comic as personal expression. Says Speed, 'Where do I get my ideas? Well, I was dropped on my head as a child, and they just keep infesting me... no joke, ask me about it and I'll show you the dent in my skull.' Hence the cracked superdome? You decide!

Hey, Speed-- this one's for NOT doing it half-assed! --JZ

FINDER MILESTONE PACK LIMITED TO 21 COPIES!

Having completed the first story arc of FINDER with issue #14, Carla Speed McNeil has announced a special backissue offer:

'I plan to mark the occasion of the completion of my first big story by compiling the first fourteen issues into one hunking big pack, plus footnotes, a little full-color print, maybe some scribbly production art. This thang will be called a Milestone pack, and exists only because while digging in my inventory I found a measly twenty-four copies of #2. Three went to prior obligations, and twenty-one will make up the Milestone packs. Twenty-one, that's all; if I'd had any sense I would've deliberately hung onto more so's I could use them to finance the trade. Or would that just look like a swine-piggy snort-snort kind of tactic? Believe me, I scoured my locker to the walls looking for more!'

The pack is available now, and sells for $50 plus $2 postage. Readers interested in ordering the Milestone pack should contact Speed at speed@lightspeedpress.com

Lightspeed Press
P.O. Box 448
Annapolis Junction, MD, 20701
www.lightspeedpress.com