Quirky Mysteries

Renowned fictional comic book artist Mike Mason and alternate universe former Vice-President Joe Biden have very little in common. The commonalty is listlessness and set into a life which needs a bit of excitement. That very little exists though and through it machinations propels both their lives into crazy mysteries with as many twists and turns as the Los Caracoles.

In Fred Van Lente’s THE CON ARTIST we get thrown into San Diego during its always tumultuous world of San Diego Comic Con AKA Comic Con International. We meet artists, writers, fans (crazy and normal), editors, publishers, criminals and even zombies (sort of). I mean what’s a comic convention without a zombie or two, and murder. Of course what is a murder mystery without a mysterious murder? Especially one that the protagonist finds himself wrapped into heavily by being a suspect themselves for many different reasons. While trying to prove his own innocence by solving the crime himself Mike Mason runs, jumps, parties, contrives and draws through the time at the convention. Littered with pop-culture references as well as original TV, movie and comic ideas, the novel takes you on what feels like an legitimate experience of the convention and all it entails, including visiting the Gaslamp district, seedy hotels, crazy after parties, the marina and more. There’s side kicks and neo-nazis, sexy cosplay players who also are pedicab drivers, and a one armed girl who is a huge fan of Mike Mason because one of his major creations is a one armed warrior. The book is even full of illustrations done by the excellent Tom Fowler meant to be from the sketchbook of Mike’s, which he describes through out as he tries to keep his sanity. The only thing truly missing is a visit to the San Diego Zoo, but most people are lucky to find time to do that when trying to enjoy, endure and survive the media explosion that is SDCC.

While over in Andrew Shaffer’s HOPE NEVER DIES we find ourselves on the other coast of the nation in Wilmington, Delaware. It is a town with a long political upheaval. A melting pot city broken up into structures of poverty and comfortable. There’s local police, small town diners, a local motorcycle gang, civil up-rest living side by side and it feeds directly into the Amtrak towards Washington, DC. Home to a long time senator who moved to the area in his early teens and by the 1970s was the senator for all of Delaware till his two terms serving under the President. In the narrative it’s been six months since the new regime had taken office in early 2016, Joe Biden is now living in a nice home with his wife and dog and no longer has protective service. He is just a citizen, till circumstances of a long time acquaintances death seem possibly mysterious, or at the very least leave questions open. The information and the strange evidence is brought to him by his best friend Barack Obama; and after Joe uses some finagling and his own resources getting more info he finds himself teaming with Barack to find out the truth behind this death. Along the way they encounter cops, secret service men, more evidence, red herrings, drugs, injuries and they both begin to remember that no matter what, in the battle, whatever it is, we keep going; we believe whatever we did on this life was enough and that title of the book isn’t just a saying, but a way of life.

Through these two books, both out today in bookstores and other places you buy books QUIRK continues to solidify it as a publisher with a very distinct curation. Seeking things that are different, but altogether familiar using pop-culture themes one can all identify with while presenting entertaining news stories which one could easily see adapted into comics, film, television or cartoon.

THE CON ARTIST by Fred Van Lente (published by Quirk Books) is priced at $14.99 and is available in paperback and e-book
https://www.quirkbooks.com/book/con-artist

HOPE NEVER DIES by Andrew Shaffer (published by Quirk Books) is priced at $14.99 and is available in paperback and e-book
https://www.quirkbooks.com/HopeNeverDies

I also recommend following both authors on Twitter (and other social media) as well as Quirk books:
@fredvanlente
@andrewtshaffer
@quirkbooks

Convention Season Catch-Up-Part One (Asbury Comic Con)

As you saw on this website prior to both the Asbury Comic Con and MoCCaFest I wrote preview articles, but I have yet to go back and actually do follow ups and I it’s high time I do that as best as I can.

On the train to Asbury I got lucky enough to end up sitting next to two guys who would actually be tabling with their comic FIRST LAW OF MAD SCIENCE. Co-writer Mike Isenberg gain me issue 1 gratis and like a good drug dealer who knows his product is quality I ended up buying issues 2 & 3 later on at the show and am on board for anymore they release.

When I arrived in Asbury I had no clue where to go so I followed a bunch of folks who were heading in the direction of the con. I knew they were headed to the con because I was following a bunch of cartoonists I knew from conventions. Once I had my bearings I decided to walk around Asbury itself and discover the place.

I saw a bunch of restaurants I wanted to try out if I ever come back. I also found the graffiti and a few stores, although most were closed. There’s also a pinball museum/arcade and a few abandoned spots. Asbury is just an amazing spot. It also has The Stone Pony, which I had totally forgotten.

After I had looked around for a reasonable time I headed over to the show. The Asbury Convention center is a nice sized place. I could see wrestling events, basketball games, concerts, etc, doing really well there. I never made it across the street to the bar where the panels were because the convention was way larger than I expected. It wasn’t just the main floor with vendors, indie folks and the legends together, but in what would be considered the hallways to reach the other levels, tables lined the walls of various indie artists and creators. There was a lot to experience in it all and it was quite exciting actually. I actually ended up buying way more books than I planned on and I got a lot of nice sketches and saw people I totally didn’t expect to.

Puck & Wendigo from behind by Mike Dawson, inspired by his Ink Panthers broadcast

Eventually I felt con exhaustion hit me and I wanted to explore Asbury a bit more as well and since I was going to get a ride back into Manhattan, I had to grab the 2 hour trip back on the train.

Next year they’re planning on making Asbury 2 days. I hope they see about it maybe being during the summer months as well maybe. I could totally see myself coming in on a Friday afternoon and leaving Sunday with a fully full Asbury experience. Hopefully shared with a special someone.

New York Comic Con 2012: Day 1

I arrived at Jacobs Javits with time to spare on Thursday evening’s preview ensuring my press badge and getting on line to hit the show floor for a bit before heading down to the panel rooms for my one and only panel I had definitely scheduled for myself to be on.

I must state that the show did open with lots of confusion and clusterf**k of a mess up as a volunteer accidentally told regular 4 day passes to get on the same line as Press & Pros. In the long run this didn’t end up affecting me as I was in and on the floor show perfectly and happily by 3:01, but for the fans this was just a wreck and a mess for a short while. The staff did their best to correct it, but man was it insanity and not well connected at first. These messes and confusion happened all weekend, and staff tried their darnedest to stay on top of it, but security measures, crowd control and obvious fire hazards became completely out of control. I am sure many people walked away from NYCC saying “What a gyp” as those who walked away with the greatest experience of their lives. I’ll admit for me personally it was just that, an amazing great experience, but as a member of the press and a person who believes in New York Comic Con, I am saddened by the lack of control this year’s show had especially since last year things felt much more organized and people from staff, to volunteers to security were much better prepared and in power of keeping the con sane and safe.

That all said we shall get into my own adventures and I’ll leave complaints, feelings and suggestions to a letter to Reedpop which will also be filled with praise, but lots of vitriol on behalf of fans everywhere.

I had a rule to myself about photos this year, especially considering cosplay and that was “rare or unusual” or just so damn gorgeous I must have a photo. Early on I actually got one of those nice rarities in a full on Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka costume. The photo will appear in an a special edition of PCS called NYCC Rare Cosplay.

The area I rushed for quickly was where all the book publishers are. I grabbed whatever galleys were of interest to me (like I need more books) and got schedules for when other handouts were happenings, as well as signings so I could try to add them to my schedule. My walkthroughs here ended up garnering lots of great swag. Best thing I got at this time which I’ll talk about more soon was a MADEFIRE bag of goodies and printed material. I also ended up making my first of only four purchases when I got issue #5 of The Misadventures of ELECTROLYTE and The Justice Purveyors, an excellent comic by Patrick Reilly and art by Renato Grampa Jr. which I first discovered at New York Comic Con and have been happy to see a new issue when there has been one over the last few years.

I continued walking the show floor a bit looking at so much exciting things before heading down to the panel room a little late, but not too late to catch a TON of the Leaping Tall Buildings panel. A separate article is coming on that and I have ideas for titles, but the main one is “Christopher Irving would marry Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe”. It was an entertaining and informative panel with great quotes and a great moderator. I hope you folks enjoy reading that when the article is up.

I went back to the show floor and got to have some fun with a little of this and that. I tried to get a HALO dude made out of Megablocks to blow my brains out, but no go there. I got to play some of Ni no Kuni – Wrath of the White Witch as well as a bit of stealth awesomeness Hitman: Absolution. I didn’t do very good with either of them, but I blame that on the fact of being on the game floor trying to game. Although that doesn’t then explain that I zoomed through the absolutely enthralling beta demo of TOMB RAIDER. That thing just blew my mind away. I seriously want to play that game right now!

Other booths were checked out including Lego which almost stole the show with their Hobbit lego display and Playstation had a multiplayer demo of the new God of War game. I stopped by Marvel where there were some cool exclusives and Craftsman to get a print copy of that silly, but cool DC comic they did with them.

I had a per-arranged appointment with upcoming awesome comics and books app company NARR8. This indeed will be another separate article detailing some of the particulars of this awesome concept that will be free to use at first and has great comics and magazines all for the iPad and eventually Android and iPhone. Go look at the website for now, but promise better further details here on Pop-Culture Spectrum soon.

Eventually I felt it was time to get off the show floor after a bit more exploring, acquiring more swag and enjoying myself, cause I had to get over to Ben Folds Five in the IGN theater.

I was able to find myself a fairly comfortable spot to enjoy the concert despite the giant in the front row who probably had a VIP or Ultimate access badge. I recorded almost the entire ONE HOUR AND FORTY MINUTE concert (to make a best of montage of 20-30 min) which featured only about 3-4 songs off of the new album and the rest was songs from their three albums prior including “Brick”, “Rock This Bitch”, “Uncle Walter”, “Underground”, “Song for the Dumped” and much more. It was seriously like getting a full on Ben Folds Five concert for free on top of Comic Con. Absolutely mind-blowing and completely and totally awesome. The concert let out at around 10 PM, and yet there was still the convention starting the next day at 10 AM or earlier. I stopped in a diner, got a quality dinner which I couldn’t finish so it became my breakfast and headed home and crashed hard after making sure all was ready for the next day.